ROMO INJURED JUST AFTER 3 PLAYS IN PRESEASON

SEATTLE — Despite playing in only three snaps of Thursday’s 27-17 preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo came away encouraged that his surgically repaired back is stronger than ever.

Romo immediately reached for his lower back after getting sacked from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril, who jammed Romo’s back into the turf in the first quarter.

“Whenever you take a hit, that was a perfect timed situation,” Romo said. “I was going into a slide. But in a weird way, I feel good about the fact that was probably as tough of a hit I’ve taken on the back as I’ve had in the last five years. From that regard, I feel very lucky that it can hold up and I can keep going.”

Romo was held out of the rest of the game by coach Jason Garrett after lobbying to return. Romo did not have any X-rays, but he spent the second half of the game in the locker room.

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“Initially I think he was in a little bit of shock,” Garrett said. “He didn’t feel real good. But once a little time went by, I think he was feeling better, better and better. We don’t think there is anything serious.”

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones was able to joke that he was spending the night in a Seattle hospital to have his heart tested after seeing his quarterback go down. Romo had his back operated on twice in 2013, and he missed one game in 2014 with two transverse process fractures. Last season, he missed 12 games with a twice-broken left collarbone that required offseason surgery.

The Cowboys are 15-4 with Romo as the starter the past two seasons and 1-12 without him.

Jones said the back soreness would not limit Romo’s ability to be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.

“I just think, we, everyone had a scare,” Jones said. “He was not hurt and he said he wasn’t hurt. He wanted to go back in. He could have gone back in and played.

“But I praise Jason. It was his decision. After that, you couldn’t afford for him to get hurt. You would’ve lost everybody had he walked back out there and gotten hurt, whether it was as a result of the first one or not. That was the smart thing to do for the team, for everybody involved here, is to call it a night for him. Certainly nothing at stake there.”
Tony Romo had two back surgeries in 2013. He had a cyst removed in the offseason that year and missed the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles after undergoing a discectomy. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
Romo has played only 16 snaps in the preseason. The Cowboys close the preseason Sept. 1 against the Houston Texans, but Romo has not played in a preseason finale since 2006. In two preseason games this summer, Romo has completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards.

“At the moment when you go down, you crunch so your back gets squished, I guess you could say,” Romo said in describing the feeling of the hit. “You almost feel a sensation as if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder. It just feels hot for a second. That dissipates after a minute and you’re OK. All of those things you felt before with back injuries, those are all fine. Then you’re strength comes back and you’re like OK. It just takes a little bit.”

Garrett was non-committal as to whether Romo would play against the Texans. Jones said he has liked what Romo has done in the limited work.

“He’s looked really good and of course the real way to evaluate how he looks is out at practice and how he’s moving around,” Jones said.

Since 2013, Romo’s preseason snaps have diminished each year. He played 69 snaps in three games in 2013, 50 in two games in 2014 and 24 in two games in 2015.

“I felt great for camp. I felt great going into the game last week, same this week,” Romo said. “I feel very comfortable whether I’m done playing or whatever. It’s coach’s call. I just know my job is to get ready to play in the game, and I feel very good about our football team and our offense going forward. I think you guys can see that we have a chance to be a good unit.”

ARIZONA CARDINALS COACH HOSPITALIZED IN SAN DIEGO

SAN DIEGO — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was taken to a San Diego-area hospital by ambulance before Tuesday night’s practice against the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

According to a Cardinals spokesman through a tweet, Arians alerted the team’s medical staff that he wasn’t feeling well and was “experiencing stomach pain.” After being evaluated by medical staff at the stadium, Arians was transported to the hospital before the start of the 9 p.m. ET practice.

After undergoing testing, Arians will remain hospitalized overnight, and his condition will be updated Wednesday.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was taken to a hospital prior to Tuesday night’s joint practice with the Chargers in San Diego. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
The two teams huddled together before the start of practice and appeared to be addressed by Chargers coach Mike McCoy.

Arizona is in San Diego for the week to practice with the Chargers ahead of Friday’s preseason matchup.

A two-time coach of the year winner, the 63-year-old Arians is entering his fourth year as the Cardinals’ head coach.

Arians has a history of health issues.

In 2013, as the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive coordinator, he was hospitalized before the Colts’ wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens and was unable to coach in the game. A source said at the time that Arians had an inner-ear infection, and the team said doctors kept him in the hospital while they worked to stabilize his blood pressure.

He also was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 and had surgery. He has been cancer free ever since.

Arians has said that when he was the head coach at Temple University from 1983 to 1988, he used to get migraines that would land him in the hospital.

After practice, Arians was on the minds of his players.

“He’s going to be fine,” said Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as he ran off the field. “We got the toughest coach in the business.”

Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu took to Twitter to extend his best wishes to Arians.
“It’s scary; anytime he can’t be out here at practice where you know he wants to be, it’s difficult,” Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton said. “Our prayers are with him, and hopefully he’ll be back out here tomorrow.

“From what I had heard, he kind of fought tooth and nail to go in the hospital but finally made a decision that’s probably in his best interest. That’s more important right now.”

Arizona general manager Steve Keim walked past reporters without answering questions about Arians. The Cardinals have media availability at 2 p.m. ET, when quarterback Carson Palmer is scheduled to hold a news conference.

CHARLES BARKLEY RIPS U.S MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM

As the United States men’s Olympic basketball team has struggled by its own lofty standards in Rio de Janeiro, former NBA player and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley said the team’s woes are rooted in the construction of its roster.

“It’s not a good team to put together,” Barkley, 53, told Sports360AZ.com. “If you take away DeAndre Jordan, every guy on that team is a ball-dominant guy. You see them playing a lot of one-on-one basketball.

“That’s the thing I’ve noticed more than anything. Like, you have to understand when you put a team together like that, you have to have some role players.”
According to Charles Barkley, the U.S. roster features too many isolation scorers and could benefit from adding role players: “When they put that team together in the future, they have to realize we can’t have just really, really great offensive players.” Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Barkley, who played on the 1992 Dream Team and also won gold in 1996, said Team USA is too reliant on isolation scorers and could benefit from the addition of more role players.

“You take a guy like Kyle Lowry, who is a hell of a player, he wants to score. Kyrie [Irving] wants to score. Kevin [Durant] wants to score. DeMar [DeRozan] wants to score. So, I think they have been really stagnant offensively.

“When they put that team together in the future, they have to realize we can’t have just really, really great offensive players. They gotta have players that if they don’t get a shot, they’re not just gonna stand around and mope.”

While the U.S. is the only undefeated team left in the tournament at 5-0, its victories against Australia, Serbia and France in the previous three games have come by a mere 16 points combined.

Team USA faces Argentina on Wednesday in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last month’s exhibition in Las Vegas. While the Americans throttled Argentina by 37 points in that July 18 tuneup, their road to the gold-medal game will force them to see off the most seasoned competition they could have drawn just for the chance to play for the championship in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s farewell tournament.

BREAKING NEWS: ESPN’S JOHN SAUNDERS DIES AT AGE 61

John Saunders, one of the familiar on-air faces of ESPN for nearly 30 years, has died. He was 61.

Saunders hosted studio and play-by-play programming. He covered college football, basketball and the NHL for the network, in addition to anchoring SportsCenter. He was also host of The Sports Reporters.

Born in Canada, Saunders was an all-star defenseman in the junior hockey leagues of Montreal and played at Western Michigan before becoming one of the most prominent broadcasters of his time.

Saunders was a founding member of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and served on the board of directors.

“John was an extraordinary talent and his friendly, informative style has been a warm welcome to sports fans for decades,” said John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, in a statement. “His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen. More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes, as evidenced by his long-standing efforts as a passionate board member for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

“He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”
John Saunders on the set of College GameDay prior to the 2013 BCS national championship game. Allen Kee/ESPN Images
Saunders joined ESPN in December 1986 to anchor SportsCenter. But he became a voice on college basketball, the WNBA and hosted ESPN’s coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs from 1993-2004. He also worked on coverage of the World Series and Major League Baseball All-Star game.

Saunders is survived by wife Wanda and daughters Aleah and Jenna.

ADAM SILVER MAKES A BOLD MOVE IN PULLING THE 2017 ALL-STAR GAME FROM CHARLOTTE

In an unprecedented and monumental decision, the NBA will move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, N.C. to another state because of North Carolina’s controversial anti-LGBT law called House Bill 2.

“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement Thursday.

It is an issue NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league have wrestled with since North Carolina lawmakers passed House Bill 2. The law, which was passed during a special session in March, bans local municipalities from enacting non-discriminatory ordinances designed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The league said Charlotte will play host to the 2019 All-Star Game “provided there is an appropriate resolution to this matter.”

The NBA’s decision to relocate – a new site for 2017 has not been determined – was met with support from individuals, businesses and advocacy groups and disappointment in state leaders.

Because of the political and social divide over the issue, not everyone backed the NBA’s decision, including Gov. Pat McCrory who blamed “the sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media.”

“American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process,” he said in a statement.

Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, released this statement:

“As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I’m extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All-Star Game from North Carolina. Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society. The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow.”
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Cyd Zeigler of Outsports told USA TODAY Sports, “The NBA set an example for other leagues to follow. This is a stark contrast to how the NFL has handled its issues, such as the Super Bowl in Houston or its owner meeting in Charlotte. The NFL prints money essentially, but doesn’t prioritize LGBT inclusion. The NBA, with its corporate culture and leadership, took a major stand against discrimination.”

North Carolina general assembly representative and executive director of Equality NC Chris Sgro fought to repeal the bill or change the law. He feared the NBA would relocate if the state did not make significant changes to the law.

“The alarm bells have been going off for three months now at the incredibly economic harm of HB 2 and the NBA has expressed its concern over the safety, security and comfort of all fans,” Sgro told USA TODAY Sports. “We understand that concern, and I just cannot believe that Gov. McCrory is so negligent as to let to the city of Charlotte and state of North Carolina to lose the NBA All-Star Game.”
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The All-Star Game was expected to generate $100 million of revenue for the state, according to Athlete Ally, and since the law was passed, the state has lost $329 million in business, according to Equality NC.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “Enter the real world I would say to some states. I agree with the league and … everybody else who pulled out.”

The NBA expressed its disappointment and concern about the bill in March, and Silver was consistent in his message: if the law wasn’t changed, he had a difficult time envisioning the All-Star Game in a state where all fans didn’t feel included.

Three months ago at the Associated Press Sports Editors meeting, Silver said, “We’ve been, I think, crystal clear a change in the law is necessary for us to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event.”
Silver had hoped the league could help effect change by working with state government and private businesses.

The state’s general assembly had a chance to revise or repeal the bill before adjourning for the year but did not make changes that could have appeased the NBA. The league had received assurances from the city of Charlotte and local businesses that all fans would be welcome. But that wasn’t enough.

As recently as July 12, Silver said, “The question for us becomes in this situation, given the controversy, given the amount of discussion, given how hardened the views are there, is this the place we should be in February 2017 as the epicenter of global basketball where we can go and celebrate our game and our values?”

The league found its answer.

Contributing: Scott Gleeson, Tonya Maxwell, Asheville Citizen-Times

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter at @JeffZillgitt.

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DRAYMOND GREEN ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was arrested Sunday on assault charges in East Lansing, Michigan.

Police told ESPN that Green was arrested at an East Lansing restaurant, Conrad’s Grill, and that the victim was a man.
Draymond Green averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 34.7 minutes per game in 2015-16. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
“It was basically an altercation between two guys,” police said. “There’s no injuries. He was released with a $200 bond on Sunday.”

Green is scheduled for arraignment on July 20. If convicted, he would face a maximum of 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Lt. Scott Wrigglesworth from the East Lansing Police Department told ESPN that he couldn’t confirm whether the assault was a punch or a slap but it was “not a shove.” He also said police were not called to the scene, but were already there as part of their normal patrol.

In a statement, the Warriors said they are “aware of news” involving Green.

“At this point, we are collecting information and will have no further comment until we have a better understanding of the situation,” the team said.

In a text to ESPN, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said, “We are still awaiting details. No comment at this time.”

Green, 26, appeared in 81 games for the Warriors last season and started 23 games in Golden State’s playoff run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games. He missed Game 5 of the Finals for an accumulation of flagrant fouls throughout the postseason.

He played four seasons for Michigan State under coach Tom Izzo. Green is set to join Team USA in August at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

TIM DUNCAN OF SAN ANTONIO SPURS RETIRES AFTER 19 YEARS

Tim Duncan never wanted the spotlight, only the trophies. He never wanted the endorsements, only the camaraderie. He never wanted the accolades, only the collective achievement.

So when one of the most understated superstars in sports decided to finally call it a career after nearly two decades of excellence, he made the announcement with a 15-foot bank shot and not a boisterous slam dunk.

No big news conference. No victory lap. Not even a canned quote in the press release. Just a simple goodbye on Monday from the quiet anchor at the foundation of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty.

Just as he has for so much of his 19 seasons — after five NBA titles, two NBA MVP awards, 15 All-­Star appearances and a spot on many lists as the greatest power forward of all time — the 40-year-old Duncan let others do the talking for him.
Duncan’s final game ended up being a 113-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 12. Quiet for much of the series, Duncan showed flashes of his All-Star form in what turned out to be his career finale, with 19 points, five rebounds and a block in 34 minutes.

With the Spurs getting blown out in Game 6 and the fourth quarter set to begin, coach Gregg Popovich and his veteran star had a brief conversation on the bench. Duncan then played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter without coming out for a rest, perhaps soaking up every second he could in the final game he would ever play.

When the game was over, Duncan waved to the visiting crowd and pointed a finger toward the roof as he headed to the locker room, a rare signal from one of the league’s most stoic superstars.

Spur for Life

Spurs forward Tim Duncan announced Monday that he will retire after 19 seasons with the organization. Only Kobe Bryant had played longer with one team.
SEASONS TEAM
Kobe Bryant 20 Lakers
Tim Duncan 19 Spurs
John Stockton 19 Jazz
Dirk Nowitzki 18* Mavericks
Karl Malone 18 Jazz
Reggie Miller 18 Pacers
* Does not include 2016-17
–ESPN Stats & Information
“Timmy’s never been a very outspoken or emoting sort of individual on the court,” Popovich said earlier this year. “Everybody does it differently.”

Duncan partnered with Popovich to post the most wins by a player and coach in NBA history with 1,001. The Spurs coach will discuss Duncan’s decision to retire at a news conference Tuesday. There are no plans for Duncan to address the media.

“More cutthroat than people give him credit for,” Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant told ESPN’s Marc Stein on Monday upon learning of Duncan’s retirement. “I loved everything about him on the court.”

Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement about Duncan’s announcement, saying, “Tim Duncan is one of the most dominant players in NBA history. His devotion to excellence and mastery of the game led to five NBA championships, two regular-season MVP awards and a place among the all-time greats, while his understated selflessness made him the ultimate teammate.

“For two decades Tim represented the Spurs, the city of San Antonio and the league with passion and class. All of us in the NBA family thank him for his profound impact on the game.”

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Since drafting Duncan, the Spurs posted a 1,072-438 regular-season record. That is the best 19-year stretch in NBA history and tops in the four major U.S. sports over the past 19 years.

“Man, he’s meant a lot, a great amount,” said Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson, one of Duncan’s 140 teammates over the years. “When you have Timmy on the floor and you’re out there, it’s so easy to give all your effort because you know he’s just out there talking, he’s out there making sure everybody’s playing hard.

“He’s like, I don’t want to say a father figure out there, but he’s like a big brother out there. I love Timmy. He’s been a great teammate.”

The retirement also brings an end to the Duncan-Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili Big Three that ranked as one of the most prolific trios in NBA history.

No group won more regular-season or playoff games than those three. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they were the first set of three or more teammates to win four titles together since Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Kurt Rambis of the Lakers.

Ginobili tweeted that it was an honor to play with Duncan.
Former rivals were effusive in their praise of Duncan upon learning of his decision to step away from the game.

“Greatest power forward of all time,” Shaquille O’Neal told Stein. “Unbreakable power forward. No [elbow] could break him. No loss of a championship could break him. Nothing could break him.”

LeBron James, who lost to the Spurs in his first trip to the Finals, took to Twitter to praise Duncan.
Kerr, the Golden State Warriors’ coach who played with Duncan for four seasons, told Stein it will be strange not to see Duncan on the court.

“When you think of a Spurs game, you think of the opening tip and Timmy cradling the ball and looking down at Pop and Manu and Tony,” Kerr said. “The four of them really kind of define who they are. But Tim is the main guy obviously.

“They’ll still be the Spurs based on what they’ve built. And maybe that’s Timmy’s lasting legacy. He helped build something so strong that’s still going after he leaves.”

A four-year star at Wake Forest, Duncan was the No. 1 overall pick by the Spurs in the 1997 draft and made an immediate impact, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award and earning All-NBA First-Team honors, the first of 10 selections in his career. He led the Spurs to a championship in his second season, in 1999, and was named Finals MVP.

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He would go on to win four more titles, in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014, and was named Finals MVP twice more, in 2003 and 2005. San Antonio posted a win percentage of at least .600 in 19 straight seasons with Duncan, the longest such run in NBA history.

Duncan finishes his career with averages of 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 blocks per game. He ranks 14th all time in points (26,496), sixth in rebounds (15,091) and fifth in blocks (3,020).

Duncan made the NBA All‐Defensive First Team eight times. He is only the third player in NBA history to win 1,000 career regular-season games. Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish are the only players with more career victories.

With the retirements of Duncan and Bryant, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett is the final player in the NBA who played in 1997-98. Garnett, 40, joined the league in 1995 and is signed through next season.

D WADE COMING HOME!!! WILL SIGN WITH THE CHICAGO BULLS

MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade is going home, making what he called “an extremely emotional and tough decision” on Wednesday night to leave the Miami Heat after 13 seasons and sign with the Chicago Bulls.

Wade will sign a two-year deal with the Bulls, one that will pay him about $47 million. Miami offered $40 million over two years for Wade to stay in the uniform that he’s worn his entire career, the one in which he was an All-Star 12 times, a champion three times and the NBA Finals MVP in 2006 when his rise to superstardom was just truly beginning.

And he’s taken that uniform off now for the final time.

“This was not an easy decision, but I feel I have made the right choice for myself and my family,” Wade wrote in a letter to Miami, released to The Associated Press.
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It ends a second consecutive summer of will-he-or-won’t-he talk and worry in Miami, which was able to keep him last summer after contentious negotiations led to a $20 million, one-year deal. The Heat spoke with him on Wednesday in New York in an effort to keep him, the same day that Wade also took meetings with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Denver Nuggets.

Whether Chicago ever got into the same room with Wade was unclear on Wednesday night. What was clear was that whatever the Bulls said, and however they said it, was enough to get him out of Miami this time, after they missed on him twice before.

And even more clear was that the lure of home — just as it was for Wade’s close friend LeBron James two years ago, when he left Miami to go back to northeast Ohio and rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers — was too strong this time to ignore.

“Watching the Bulls growing up inspired me at an early age to pursue my dream of becoming a basketball player,” Wade wrote in the letter. “My most treasured memories were watching my dad play basketball on the courts of Fermi Elementary School and developing my game at the Blue Island Recreation Center. I have never forgotten where I came from and I am thankful to have an opportunity to play for the team that first fueled my love of the game.”

He was beloved in South Florida, where the county was even once renamed “Miami-Wade County” instead of Miami-Dade for a time in 2010 during the summer when Wade managed to convince Chris Bosh and James to join him and build a team that would go to the NBA Finals four consecutive times. His jersey has been one of the NBA’s biggest sellers for years, even though he never changed cities or numbers. It was always Heat on the front, 3 on the back.

That is, until now.

“Thank you @DwyaneWade for a great 13 yrs!” Heat managing general partner Micky Arison wrote on Twitter. “You’ve had a tremendous impact on our community and our organization. We wish you all the best.”
Wade — who averaged 19 points last season — felt he was not getting the respect he deserved last summer when he opened talks with the Heat. And then this offseason, the Heat prioritized contract talks with Hassan Whiteside (who has agreed to a $98 million, four-year deal) and went on an ultimately futile pursuit of Kevin Durant.

The 34-year-old Wade joins a Bulls team that has a new point guard in Rajon Rondo — who Wade has had some on-court heated moments with in the past — and All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler. The Bulls have plenty of time to figure out how to make it work, and made two deals on Wednesday night to clear the cap space that will be necessary to sign Wade when the NBA’s offseason moratorium on player movement ends Thursday.

The Bulls sent guard Jose Calderon and two future second-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the rights to an undetermined player who isn’t currently in the NBA, and also traded Mike Dunleavy to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both trades were confirmed to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not immediately finalized.

The Heat surely had a Plan B in case Wade left, but clearly won’t be the same team.

Bosh still faces a most uncertain future because of the blood clots that ended his season at the All-Star break in each of the past two years. Udonis Haslem, Wade’s teammate and co-captain in Miami for all 13 of their pro seasons, may move elsewhere as well. Of the 14 players who appeared in the 2014 NBA Finals for Miami, only Bosh is under contract with the Heat for next season.

It’s a new day for Wade, which he obviously wanted.

It’s a new era for the Heat, one they surely weren’t ready to see start quite yet. They have young talent in Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson to surround Whiteside with, but it’s hard to envision a Heat team without Wade.

For example, the last time the Heat played a game when Wade wasn’t on the roster, Winslow was 7.

“Never thought I’d see the day DWade wasn’t in Miami. Crazy,” Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin, who played his college basketball at the University of Miami, wrote on Twitter.

Wade is Miami’s career leader in games, minutes, field goals, field goal attempts, free throws, free throw attempts, assists, steals and points. He’s even second in blocked shots, perhaps the most impressive stat of all considering Wade is listed at 6-foot-4 — which is generous.

He did a popular Gatorade ad in 2007 built around a poem he wrote to the game. “From Robbins, Illinois,” is how Wade began that ode, referring to the Chicago suburb where he endured a difficult upbringing and used basketball as his hope for a better life.

Wade found himself writing again Wednesday, this time to say farewell.

“I started my NBA career with the Miami Heat in 2003 and it has been an honor to have played with them and help build a winning franchise with three NBA championships,” Wade wrote in the letter released Wednesday. “I look back with pride and amazement at all we have accomplished together. I want to express my gratitude to the Arison family, Pat Riley, Coach Erik Spoelstra, the coaching staff, and the entire Miami Heat organization.

“From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Miami community.”

___

AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis and AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

KEVIN DURANT JOINS THE GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Kevin Durant is joining the Golden State Warriors.

Saying he has experienced “by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life,” Durant announced his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in a post on The Players’ Tribune.

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Durant is expected to sign a two-year, $54.3 million contract, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein. The deal will include a player option after the first year.

“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote. “But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.

“With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”

After Durant signs with Golden State, two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry will be the fourth-highest paid player on the Warriors. Durant will be No. 1, followed by Klay Thompson ($16.6 million), Draymond Green ($15.3 million) and Curry ($12.1 million), who can become a free agent after next season.

Green told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in a text message that he was ecstatic the Warriors were able to land Durant. He also took to Twitter to express his enthusiasm about his new teammate.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to add one of the best players in the world to our team and welcome him to our brotherhood! This will be some of the best times of our life, and I’m looking forward to it,” he wrote.

Warriors’ odds jump with Durant
After Kevin Durant’s announcement that he will join Golden State, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has moved the Warriors’ odds to win next season’s title from 3-2 to 4-5, making them an overwhelming favorite.
The Thunder’s odds dropped from 8-1 to 30-1 at the Westgate.
The SuperBook also opened the Warriors’ season win total for the 2016-17 campaign at 68.5.
Best odds to win 2016-17 NBA championship
TEAM CURRENT OPENED
Warriors 4-5 3-2
Cavaliers 3-1 5-2
Spurs 8-1 6-1
Clippers 20-1 16-1
Celtics 20-1 20-1
Thunder 30-1 8-1
— Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Durant’s contract can be finalized July 7, when the league-wide moratorium on signings and trades is lifted.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was in Hawaii and said he learned about Durant’s decision to join Golden State via The Players’ Tribune, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported.

The Warriors plan to renounce their rights to Harrison Barnes, sources told Stein, to help clear the salary-cap space needed to sign Durant. That will make Barnes an unrestricted free agent July 7. Barnes, sources told Stein, remains on course to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, who reached a verbal agreement with the 24-year-old on a four-year max deal worth $94.4 million, no matter what happened with Durant.

The Mavericks also have agreed to a trade with the Warriors to acquire center Andrew Bogut and his 2016-17 contract, with a base value of just over $11 million. Just before Durant’s Players’ Tribune post, Bogut removed references to the Warriors from his Twitter page.

Golden State will renounce its rights to center Festus Ezeli, which will make him an unrestricted free agent, but guard Shaun Livingston was told by the Warriors that he won’t be traded, sources told Spears. Golden State also agreed to a one-year, $2.9 million deal with Zaza Pachulia, according to a report by The Vertical.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti expressed his team’s disappointment over Durant’s departure in a statement.

“Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise,” Presti said. “We can’t adequately articulate what he meant to the foundation of this franchise and our success. While clearly disappointing that he has chosen to move on, the core values that he helped establish only lead to us thanking him for the many tangible and intangible ways that he helped our program.”

Presti later said the team had a pretty good idea Durant was moving on even before their final meeting with him in the Hamptons on Sunday.

“Even when we were relatively sure it probably wasn’t going to go our way, eight staff members and our owner stayed overnight in New York just to be there and to kind of finish it out,” Presti said at a news conference in Oklahoma City Monday evening.

“We’ve been there for every first in his career, and we wanted to finish it out the right way by being present whenever that decision was made, regardless of how it turned out.”

Presti said he was alerted to Durant’s final choice in a phone call from Durant Monday morning a few minutes before the announcement.

“It was disappointing, it was hurtful; but at the end of the day, it was what he felt was best for him,” Presti said.

The Thunder will take some time before making any roster decisions, particularly related to All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook’s future, sources told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

The biggest catch on the free-agent market, Durant met with six teams over the past three days: Oklahoma City, Golden State, San Antonio, Boston, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Warriors held their meeting with Durant on Friday.

On Saturday, Durant spoke with NBA legend Jerry West, a member of the Warriors’ executive board, on the phone, sources told ESPN’s Chris Broussard. West outlined the reasons he thought Golden State would be the ideal fit for the superstar forward.
Kevin Durant is joining the Warriors after his Thunder took Golden State to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals last season. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Durant, 27, has spent all nine seasons of his career with the Thunder organization. He won the MVP in 2014, has been named first-­team All-­NBA five times and has made seven All-­Star teams. He has appeared in four Western Conference finals and one NBA Finals, in which he lost in five games to the Heat in 2012.

“I’m from Washington D.C. originally, but Oklahoma City truly raised me,” Durant wrote. “It taught me so much about family, as well as what it means to be a man. There are no words to express what the organization and the community mean to me and what they will represent in my life and in my heart forever. The memories and friendships are something that go far beyond the game. Those invaluable relationships are what made this deliberation so challenging.
“It really pains me to know that I will disappoint so many people with this choice, but I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career.”

Durant bounced back last season to earn second­-team All-NBA honors after undergoing three surgeries to repair a Jones fracture on his right foot suffered prior to the 2014-­15 season, in which he was limited to 27 games before undergoing a season-­ending bone graft procedure in March. Without Durant, the Thunder missed the postseason.

With Durant back for 72 games last season, the Thunder improved to 55-27 and finished third in the West. The Thunder beat the Dallas Mavericks in five games in the opening round, upset the 67-­win Spurs in six games in the second round and pushed the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference finals.

Durant averaged 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists last season, and he scored at least 20 points in 67 straight games. In nine seasons, Durant has averaged 27.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Golden State set an NBA regular-season record with 73 wins and led the league in scoring last season, but the Warriors fell just short of a repeat NBA title and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games.

WHITESIDE DECIDES TO STAY WITH THE MIAMI HEAT

Hassan Whiteside is staying with the Miami Heat.

A person familiar with the terms of the agreement tells The Associated Press that Whiteside will be signing a four-year contract worth the maximum amount the Heat could offer, roughly $98 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be finalized and signed before July 7.

Whiteside made his announcement Friday on Snapchat and through a post on The Players’ Tribune, a few hours after he met with the Heat and the Dallas Mavericks in New York to hear their sales pitches. He went into those meetings leaning toward the Heat, and apparently emerged even more convinced that staying with the franchise that helped him resuscitate his career was the best move.

“I’ve played on eight teams since college — from Reno to Sioux Falls to Sichuan, China,” Whiteside wrote on Players Tribune. “I am not ready for there to be a ninth. I have decided to re-sign with Miami. I just wanted to take this time to tell all the fans how much you mean to this team, and to me. Can’t wait to get back to work and try to bring another championship to Miami.”
Hassan Whiteside averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks during the 2015-16 regular season. Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
It is life-changing money after a breakout season. Whiteside will be signing a contract worth roughly 100 times more than what he made this past season, when he averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and a league-best 3.7 blocked shots per game. His career path is well-known, taking him to less-than-glamorous leagues in Lebanon and China, stints in the NBA Development League and even getting cut from teams at that level.

The Heat signed him in November 2014, and less than two years later Whiteside has become one of the game’s most dominant centers — and one of the highest-paid players in Miami franchise history.

Part of that is simply because of the enormous jump in the salary cap this summer, but part of that is because of the potential the Heat see in Whiteside. What he did this past season left such an impression on Heat President Pat Riley that the nine-time NBA champion went into this summer stating publicly that keeping Whiteside was Miami’s No. 1 priority.

If that truly was the case, then keeping Dwyane Wade had to be priority No. 1A. It took a $20 million deal for the Heat to keep Wade this past season, and negotiations on a new deal haven’t gone particularly well so far.

But Whiteside is staying and made his announcement with flair.

On his Snapchat video, someone asks Whiteside, “Hey cuz, where you gonna sign?”

Whiteside replies, “Miami,” — as Will Smith’s hit “Welcome to Miami” plays and the words “Heatnation it is” appear on the screen.

For the Mavericks, it’s the second consecutive year where they fell short on the chase for a marquee center.

Dallas had a commitment from DeAndre Jordan last summer, in what seemed like a huge move for the Mavs before it turned into a peculiar farce. In the days between that non-binding verbal agreement being reached and the end of the league’s summer moratorium on player movement — meaning when a contract could actually be signed — Jordan had a change of heart and decided to return to the Los Angeles Clippers.