Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

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Steve Nash will play alongside Kobe Bryant

From Comcast SportsNet
PHOENIX (AP) -- Steve Nash is going to the Los Angeles Lakers, a Pacific Division rival the two-time MVP point guard tried so hard to beat, with little success, in his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns. At Nash's request, the Lakers and Suns reached a sign-and-trade deal, with Los Angeles using the trade exception it got when it sent Lamar Odom to Dallas to facilitate the transaction. The 38-year-old Nash, who spent the past eight seasons with the Suns, was a free agent but a sign-and-trade agreement was necessary for the Lakers to afford him. He agreed to a three-year, 27 million contract. In return, the Suns get four draft picks -- first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014. Nash's agent Bill Duffy said the deal was finalized Wednesday. In a statement released by the agent, Nash said that after he and the Suns agreed to part ways, he re-approached them to ask to pursue a sign-and-trade deal with Los Angeles "because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family," who live in Phoenix. "They were very apprehensive and didn't want to do it," Nash said. "Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better." There had been sign-and-trade talks with New York and a lucrative free agent offer from Toronto. The deal will put Nash on the floor with the team he tried so hard to unseat as a Western Conference power, teaming him with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and at least for now, Pau Gasol. The Suns at least get something in the loss of their longtime leader and one of the city's most popular athletes, although no one to help immediately, unless some or all of the picks are used in future trades. Nash's Phoenix teammate, Jared Dudley, tweeted that Nash "has not only been the best but the most unselfish player I ever played with. I only wish him the best. He deserves everything. Steve Nash has made many players millions. Only fitting to trade to a team that has a chance to win the ship and pay what he deserves." Nash has never made it to the NBA Finals. He was last in the Western Conference finals against the Lakers in 2010, when the Suns lost in six games and Los Angeles went on to win the NBA title. The sign-and-trade agreement first was reported by sports personality John Gambadoro of KTAR radio. The Suns drafted Nash in 1998 but traded him to Dallas after two seasons because Phoenix already had Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd at the position. Nash played six seasons for Dallas but bolted when owner Mark Cuban declined to spend big money to keep him. Then-Suns owner Jerry Colangelo brought a plane load of team players and officials to Dallas to woo Nash. Nash thrived in Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system, earning MVP honors in 2005, when he averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists, and again in 2006, when he averaged a career-high 18.8 points and 10.5 assists. Nash averaged fewer than 10 assists only once, 9.7 in 2008-09, and topped 11 per game five times in his eight years with Phoenix. Despite his age and the fact his team failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, Nash was second in the NBA in assists last season at 10.7 and averaged 12.7 points. His 53 percent shooting rate was a career high. He is one of the most accurate free throw shooters in NBA history at 90.4 percent. His 9,916 assists rank him fifth in NBA history behind, in order, John Stockton, Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. The Suns resisted trading Nash during his final season and insisted they were interested in bringing him back, but they never seriously were in the discussion. Toronto and New York dominated the talk until the Lakers came on with a flash on Tuesday. Nash's arrival should rejuvenate the Lakers, who lost in the second round for the second straight postseason after their back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers struggled to move from departed coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense to new coach Mike Brown's system during the lockout-shortened season, with four-time All-Star forward Gasol particularly failing to fit in while getting pushed to the third option on offense most nights. Nash's peerless playmaking abilities and veteran presence could smooth over those problems, particularly after a full training camp to define the Lakers' roles in Brown's offense. Los Angeles hasn't had an elite point guard alongside Bryant for several seasons, failing to address Derek Fisher's gradual decline while the rest of the West got better. The Lakers got sub-par play last season from the 37-year-old Fisher, who was traded to Houston at the deadline. The five-time NBA champion was replaced in the starting lineup by journeyman Ramon Sessions, who provided speed and scoring but struggled badly in his first career playoff run, nearly disappearing from the Lakers' lineup. Sessions' decision last month to decline his player option for next season means his career with the Lakers is finished unless he's interested in returning as a backup, an unlikely prospect. The draft picks probably don't mean too much to the Lakers, who have traded away their first-round picks the past three seasons. They haven't drafted a regular starter since 2005.

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Projection:
Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.

 

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.