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NBA free agency opens Thursday, so let the deal-making begin

Jalen Brunson is expected to leave Dallas and become the new point guard for the Knicks.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Let the talking begin. The trading, too, and eventually the signing.

Free agency opens Thursday in the NBA, with teams able to begin negotiating at 6 p.m. with players who are not under contract. Some deals will be struck quickly, others not for weeks, and in almost all circumstances those new contracts won’t be able to be signed until July 6 at the earliest.

Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook already have made their decisions; both could have been free agents this summer and found a combined 84 million reasons not to hit the open market — $47 million for Westbrook to opt-in for the last year of his deal with the Lakers, and nearly $37 million for Irving to do the same with the Nets.

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Jalen Brunson will be in demand early, with the expectation that he’ll quickly agree to leave Dallas and become the new point guard in New York. And there will be players who might decide to look elsewhere, or accept huge $200-million-plus deals with their current teams — opportunities that are presenting themselves to Zach LaVine with Chicago and Bradley Beal with Washington.

Is Jalen Brunson headed for New York?Ezra Shaw/Getty

The biggest deal of the next few days won’t have anything to do with a free agent: All signs point to two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic being offered a supermax extension in the $260 million range by the Nuggets. The only question there will be how quickly he finds a pen to put to that paper.

Minnesota can give Karl-Anthony Towns a supermax of about $210 million this summer, as can Phoenix with Devin Booker.

Other players are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams will have the right to match offers from other clubs. The most notable name on that list is Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix center who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft but watched others in his draft class get their first extensions last summer.

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Some players will be free agents in name only. John Wall, for example, will get $41 million in a buyout from the Rockets, and has already decided he wants to play for the Clippers next season. The Clippers are expected to use a $6.4 million exception to sign Wall, and that figure matches the money that Wall gave back to make the buyout of what would have been the final year of his contract happen.

And, of course, there is a LeBron James angle: The Lakers were a disaster last season and will aim to revamp their roster, plus can give James a two-year extension in August worth nearly $100 million. But before he signs, they have far more pressing concerns.

Officially, it all starts Thursday. A new season is already here.

Nuggets, Wizards in four-player swap

The Nuggets agreed to a deal that would send guards Will Barton and Monte Morris to the Wizards for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Wednesday.

The trade becomes the latest move by Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth to reshape the lineup around Jokic. Barton and Morris were starters last season on a Nuggets team that was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by eventual champion Golden State.

Timberwolves to bring back Prince

Taurean Prince landed a two-year extension from Minnesota.Brandon Dill/Associated Press

The Timberwolves are bringing back reserve forward Taurean Prince, who became a vital part of the second unit in his first season with the club. Prince and the Timberwolves have agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract extension, according to a person with knowledge of the deal ... The Lakers exercised their team options for next season on Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel.

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Curry to host The Espys

Fresh off helping the win the NBA championship, Stephen Curry will host The ESPYS.

The show, which honors the past year’s top athletes and moments in sports, airs live on ABC July 20 from Los Angeles.

Curry, who was named the Finals MVP, is nominated for three awards, including best male athlete.