[+] EnlargeLeBron James and Stephen Curry
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesStephen Curry has passed LeBron James atop the NBA's most popular jersey list.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry has surpassed LeBron James for the most popular jersey in the NBA.

The Golden State Warriors star and league MVP topped the list of jersey sales in the NBA for the first time Tuesday. With teammates Klay Thompson ranking fifth and Draymond Green at No. 15, the Warriors also led the team merchandise sales list during the playoffs.

James, who held the top spot at the end of the regular season, dropped to second. Derrick Rose is third and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is fourth.

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Free agent DeAndre Jordan is likely looking to sign a four-year deal that allows him to opt out after three seasons, which would nullify the Los Angeles Clippers' advantage in keeping the center, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The Clippers could offer Jordan a deal that includes a fifth year worth $27 million.

Sources, though, told ESPN that Jordan wants a bigger role in the offense and is tired of being a third wheel behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with the team.

Jordan will meet with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and the Clippers once free agency begins Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. ET, sources told ESPN.

Sources had told ESPN.com earlier this week that the Mavericks are considered the likeliest team to persuade Jordan to leave the Clippers, and a source close to the situation told ESPN on Tuesday that it's "50/50" between the two teams.

Jordan finished first in the league in field goal percentage (.710) and rebounds per game (15.0) in 2014-15. He was the first player to do so in back-to-back seasons since Wilt Chamberlain in 1971-72 and 1972-73. Jordan's field goal percentage was the second highest in NBA history behind Chamberlain's .727 in 1972-73.

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The Chicago Bulls offered Jimmy Butler a maximum five-year, $90 million contract Monday, leading the restricted free agent to postpone meetings with several others teams as he decides how many years to re-sign with the Bulls for, sources said.

Butler could do a four-year deal with a player option after three years to capitalize on new salary-cap money. The Bulls also offered him a one-year qualifying offer of $4.5 million, sources said.

Under rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls' two offers mean if Butler were inclined to sign with another team, the minimum length of that contract would be three years.

After receiving the max offer Monday, Butler postponed meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, sources said.

Butler had one of the biggest breakout seasons in recent memory this past season for the Bulls, becoming an All-Star for the first time, while averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game. He became one of the best two-way players in the game and guarded the opposition's best perimeter player on a nightly basis.

Bulls executive vice president John Paxson was already on record as saying the team would match any offer sheet Butler would sign this summer, but the hope within the organization was that it could work out a deal beforehand.

Free agency starts Wednesday.

ESPN.com's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets will get the first opportunities to meet with LaMarcus Aldridge shortly after the free-agency period officially begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Wednesday.

Aldridge also will meet with the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and with the New York Knicks on Thursday, league sources told ESPN.com.

According to one source, the chance of Aldridge staying with the Portland Trail Blazers is "very unlikely."

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has already called Aldridge, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

The Knicks will emphasize that in the Eastern Conference, the road to becoming an All-Star and a playoff team is much less clogged than in the West.

ESPN.com reported in May that the Spurs and Mavericks strongly believe they'll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas. But sources said last week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Lakers.

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A half hour before D'Angelo Russell was introduced to local media at the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility here Monday, the team's No. 2 overall pick in last week's draft stood in the second-floor office of team president Jeanie Buss.

There, the former Ohio State standout marveled at the 10 Larry O'Brien Championship trophies lining her window that overlooks the practice court, each one from a title the organization has won since it moved to Los Angeles.

The promising 19-year-old guard stared at them, touched them and posed for pictures alongside them, at one point stretching his nearly 6-foot-10 wingspan across seven of the glistening gold trophies as he smiled for the cameras.

"I've never seen the trophy," he told ESPN.com. "The big guy that everybody wants to play for, I've never seen it. Never touched it. So I wanted to take advantage of it. It's something that I definitely want to be apart of -- getting a new one up there. There's room."

Winning a title is an annual expectation for the storied franchise, and there are already equally enormous expectations for Russell, the team's highest draft pick since taking James Worthy No. 1 overall in 1982.

When Russell was drafted, Lakers coach Byron Scott said Russell had the potential to be a "superstar" and mentioned him in the same breath as Magic Johnson (whom Scott played alongside) and Chris Paul (whom Scott has coached).

And when Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak called Russell on the night he was drafted, Kupchak referenced the retired jerseys hanging in the Lakers' facility and said he hoped Russell would one day join them.

Indeed, there's pressure on Russell to not only live up to the hype but to help the franchise rebound after missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons and finishing a franchise-worst 21-61 last season.

Russell, the team's most dynamic point guard since Johnson, feels the pressure, too.

"Definitely," he said. "It's a whirlwind. These guys aren't used to losing, so for them to pick me and pick these other guys, you know they're ready to start the rebuilding process over. We don't know how much Kobe [Bryant] has left in the tank, but he's a part of it. He's a leader of it. For us to learn under him and all these young guys we have, it's something that can really get going quick."

Russell comprises a young core that includes fellow first-round pick Larry Nance Jr.

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers first-round draft pick Larry Nance Jr. said he was "terrified" of his new teammate Kobe Bryant's potential reaction to a tweet Nance sent in 2012 that referred to a sexual assault case involving Bryant.

"You hear all the stories about how Kobe, or Mr. Bryant, is so intense and just always on edge," Nance said when he and the team's other draft picks were introduced at the Lakers' practice facility on Monday.

"I was nervous to send him a long message and then just get an 'Okay,' or not a response at all. I'm just so, so glad he handled that in the manner he did. I still could be up here with a stomach in my knot, or a knot in my stomach. But he did a terrific job and I can't thank him enough for forgiving me."

Speaking at the BET Experience at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill, Bryant said "there's no need" for any further discussion about the matter with Nance, the Lakers' 27th overall pick out of the University of Wyoming.

"The kid figured it out himself," Bryant said. "He's a kid, man. He actually sent me a great message [Friday], which is really funny. I looked at it [the message], and it was like, 'This is when you know it's about time to hang these things up, when your teammate writes you, Hi, Mr. Bryant.'

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Monday afternoon, four days after D'Angelo Russell was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, minutes after he held up his gold No. 1 jersey in front of the Lakers-logoed backdrop to provide all the tangible evidence he needed, Russell still said he was "shocked" that the whole thing happened at all.

We were shocked too, shocked that the Lakers would stray from history and pass up a big man like Jahlil Okafor to take a point guard. Except it shouldn't be shocking. Not at all. The Lakers' history of winning with big men, from Mikan to Wilt to Kareem to Shaq to Pau, is the very reason they needed to grab a great point guard.

Supreme centers have been easy to come by for this franchise. Point guards have been more elusive. Here's the list of everyone who has spent time as the Lakers' primary point guard for at least one season since Earvin "Magic" Johnson retired on Nov. 7, 1991:

Sedale Threatt • Nick Van Exel • Derek Harper • Derek Fisher • Ron Harper • Lindsey Hunter • Gary PaytonChucky AtkinsSmush Parker • Steve Nash • Kendall Marshall • Jordan Clarkson

That averages out to a new point guard every couple of years. Yes, Payton is in the Hall of Fame and Nash is on his way, but their time in Lakerland was much like Smokey Robinson and Patti LaBelle on the mike at Sunday's BET Awards show: more of an acknowledgment for what they'd done in the past than a recognition of current contributions. Fisher had the longest and most productive time of those on the list, contributing to five championship teams. His success also came in the triangle offensive scheme that did not emphasize point guards.

No point guard has represented the Lakers in an All-Star Game since Van Exel in 1998. Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol

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The Los Angeles Lakers will not be picking up their $9 million team option on forward Jordan Hill, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have an interest in re-signing Hill during free agency, but the move was made at the moment to help add salary-cap space as the Lakers enter free agency in pursuit of several big-name players, sources said.

Hill was in a tight spot, as the Lakers face a logjam at the forward position with Julius RandleLarry Nance Jr.Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly currently on their roster. There is also Ed Davis, who declined his $1.1 million player option for a longer, more lucrative deal.

After declining Hill's option, the Lakers will have about $23 million in spending power as they target several frontcourt players in free agency, including Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Memphis' Marc Gasol, the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, Cleveland's Kevin Love and Detroit's Greg Monroe.

Hill was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2014-15 season for the Lakers.

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Chris Broussard says Grizzlies center Marc Gasol will be the first big man to sign because he believes Gasol will stay in Memphis. Broussard thinks Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge will be the first domino to fall in free agency.

The Dallas Mavericks are widely considered the likeliest team in the league to persuade free-agent center DeAndre Jordan to leave the Los Angeles Clippers, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks are the team feared most by the Clippers even though Jordan is expected to meet with at least two more teams: the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons, who regards himself to be Dallas' lead recruiter on free agent matters, visited Jordan in Houston last weekend and traveled to Los Angeles immediately after Thursday's draft to spend more time with the big man.

Both Parsons and Jordan are represented by L.A.-based Relativity Sports and agent Dan Fegan. Parsons helped recruit Dwight Howard, another Fegan client, to Houston two years ago.

The Milwaukee Bucks, sources say, are also among teams hoping to get a meeting with Jordan, who was an All-NBA third team selection this past season after leading the league in both field goal percentage (71.3) and rebounding (15.0 per game).

But sources close to the situation said Sunday night that Jordan's decision most likely will come down to the Clippers and the Mavericks.

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Kobe's advice to Lakers rookies: 'Ask why'

June, 27, 2015
Jun 27
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

Two days after the NBA draft, during which the Los Angeles Lakers selected three players, Kobe Bryant said he has one thing he wants them to do.

“Ask why -- why did things happen?” Bryant said Saturday night at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill.

“I think players nowadays have become conditioned to do x, y and z. So you have coaches at the high-school level, college level, then the professional level, they tell you, ‘Do this, do that, do this, do that,’ as opposed to teaching players what questions to ask.

“So when you’re watching the game or playing the game, and he runs a pick-and-roll and all of the sudden the man is open in the corner and he hits the man in the corner and he knocks down a shot, you don’t want to just have that thing happen on accident. You want to know why that happened.

“So you want to be able to read defensive packages and say, ‘OK, when I come off the screen-and-roll, the big did this, the weak side did that, therefore that’s open. And if I come here, now they make an adjustment; now that’s not open and that’s why that’s open, but now that’s not open and that means this one is open.’ It’s to get them thinking why things happen. I think that’s the most important thing for young players to understand."

The Lakers drafted Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell second overall, University of Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. 27th overall and Stanford wing Anthony Brown 34th overall.

Kobe still undecided about when he'll retire

June, 27, 2015
Jun 27
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

The 2015-16 season will mark the final year of Kobe Bryant's current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, during which he’ll be paid a league-high $25 million.

But it remains unclear if Bryant, who will be 37 when next season begins, will want to play beyond that, even though Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said that Bryant has indicated to him that next season will be his last with the team.

“It might be,” Bryant said Saturday night at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill.

“You gotta retire sometime," he said. "I’m not Benjamin Button, man.”

Bryant said he has yet to make a decision about his future in the NBA beyond 2015-16.

“At the end of the season, if I feel like going through this again and doing it all over again, I will. If I feel like, I don’t, I won’t,” he said. “I won’t make a big deal about it or whatever. I’ll be ready to move on. I’ll be ready to do something else.

“I’ll be ready to take on that challenge and try to show athletes, listen, we are more than this. I think that’s the challenge that I’m ready to take on, too. It’s like, we can do more than play basketball. We can do more than simply sit here and be puppets for brands and for an industry and this that and the other. We can build our own s--t. When that time comes, I’ll be ready to do that.”

What will a retired Kobe Bryant do?

“Work,” he said. “I love the concept of storytelling. I love inspiring. I love trying to help people reach their full potential ... I think there’s a myriad of businesses where storytelling can then connect to because it’s all centered around that ... It’s all storytelling.”



Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.2