Today is Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
|Wednesday, October 26, 2016|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Hornets||vs.||Bucks||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Lots of questions as Bucks open vs. Hornets
Wednesday, October 26 at 2:29 AM (EDT)
MILWAUKEE -- There were a lot of questions facing the Milwaukee Bucks as they prepared to open training camp. Now, on the eve of the 2016-17 season opener, there are even more.
Last season was a forgettable one for the Bucks, who were fresh off the heels of a surprise surge into the playoffs but plummeted back into the realm of lottery participants with a 33-39 record.
Milwaukee struggled in all aspects of the game, but it was the Bucks' defensive effort that was most concerning. Among the best in the NBA in 2015-16, the Bucks finished 17th in both points per game (103.2) and defensive shooting percentage (45.4 percent).
A lot of that drop-off had to do with Milwaukee's reliance on younger players; veterans Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia were shipped elsewhere last season, leaving the Bucks' collection of young -- but long -- talent to learn on the fly.
"It's being able to use our length, deflections, rebounding the ball," coach Jason Kidd said. "I thought in preseason we had some halves or quarters where we didn't (play strong defense); but, as a whole, the different combinations we had were positive ones."
The team also struggled to score -- especially from beyond the 3-point arc, where the Bucks were among the league's worst in attempts, makes and percentage.
So when shooting guard Khris Middleton went down on the eve of training camp with an ACL injury, there was reason for concern. But the Bucks are confident that the offseason additions of Matthew Dellavadova, Mirza Teletovich, Jason Terry and Tony Snell will complement Milwaukee forwards Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will handle the bulk of the Bucks' ballhandling duties.
"It's the balance, being able to finish in the paint, and we create a lot of threes," Kidd said. "We have to be able to make them. Tony (Snell), Mirza, Delly. Now, Giannis and Jabari are shooting more. You have Jason Terry and Malcolm."
They'll have their work cut out for them right off the bat, as the Charlotte Hornets come to town looking to build off a breakout 48-victory campaign that culminated in a hard-fought, seven-game playoff series with the Miami Heat.
Charlotte returns much of the same group from last season but will have to deal with some depth issues early on.
A bone bruise in his right knee kept Cody Zeller out of action for a majority of Charlotte's preseason; as a result, he will see limited minutes to start the season.
Power forward Marvin Williams is expected to start Wednesday despite suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left middle finger. But his primary backup, 7-footer Frank Kaminsky, has battled a sprained foot and is listed as questionable.
"Marvin is fine, so he'll start," coach Steve Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. "In these first two games, they downsize a lot anyway, so (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) could play some there. Also, Spencer (Hawes) can play some (at power forward)."
Charlotte won the 2015-16 season series, 3-1. Kemba Walker averaged 19.3 points and 4.8 assists in those four games to lead the Hornets while Parker paced the Bucks with 15.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.
After facing the Bucks, the Hornets travel to Miami on Friday for a rematch with the Heat before opening the home portion of their schedule Saturday night against the Boston Celtics.
Milwaukee will return to action Saturday, at home against Brooklyn, before heading to Detroit on Sunday for the first road contest of the season.
|Nuggets||vs.||Pelicans||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Injuries still a concern as Pelicans open vs. Nuggets
Wednesday, October 26 at 3:43 AM (EDT)
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Pelicans were a MASH unit last season, so riddled with injuries that their players missed a combined total of 351 games, forcing coach Alvin Gentry to use 42 starting lineup combinations.
Now that the calendar has flipped to the 2016-17 season -- with the home opener Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets at Smoothie King Center -- Gentry wouldn't be blamed if he enlisted the aid of a French Quarter voodoo priestess as a way of ensuring the good health of his players, especially All-Star forward Anthony Davis.
Davis, the first overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, never missed a game in his 40-game, NCAA championship, freshman season at Kentucky. But, in four NBA seasons, the Pelicans' franchise player has missed 68 games with injuries. A medical flow chart indicates he has injured 13 body parts.
Davis' porcelain reputation can be explained in part by his pedal-to-the-metal style and his penchant for throwing his body into the expensive seats chasing down loose balls. But after Davis' season-ending knee injury last March, which required arthroscopic surgery, forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic team, he spent the summer fully rehabbing and continuing to add muscle to his athletic frame.
Then, with the Pelicans playing in China on Oct. 12, Davis stepped on the foot of Houston Nene's foot and suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. But Davis returned for the preseason finale on Friday and is scheduled to start Wednesday.
"It doesn't concern me," Davis, who averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last year, said about his recent injury history. "It's basketball. Injuries are part of basketball."
It just seems that the Pelicans have more than most other teams. General manager Dell Demps said Tuesday he does not expect guard Tyreke Evans (knee) to hit the floor until December. Forward Quincy Pondexter (knee), who has not played since April 2015, has had a few setbacks in his recovery and "is probably going to take a little bit longer."
In addition, starting point guard Jrue Holiday is healthy but is caring for wife Lauren, who last month gave birth and then underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. The Pelicans have placed no timetable on when Holiday will return to the team.
Evans' injury and Holiday's unavailability contribute to the Pelicans' decision to keep guard-forward Lance Stephenson, releasing Alonzo Gee even though Gee had a $1.2 million guaranteed contract.
"With the injuries to Tyreke and Jrue not being with the team, we felt we needed a little more playmaking," Demps said. ("Lance) can go out and create and make plays for others."
"Anybody would be disappointed, but it's just a part of it," Gentry said. "You hope that everybody gets better."
While much of the NBA seems to be enamored with small ball, the Nuggets appear to be getting bigger. Coach Mike Malone paired big men Jusuf Nurkic (7-0) and Nikola Jokic (6-11) during the preseason and appears ready to give it a try for real.
Nurkic has shown the ability to draw fouls as the Nuggets work their offense through him, and he is strong on the offensive glass and finishing near the basket. Jokic has been a cog in the Nuggets' high-post offense and has shown the ability to pick and pop. Both are considered capable passers.
"There's definitely some Balkan buddy ball going on with those two guys," Malone said. "They do look for each other, which is great. They're so skilled, and the great thing about Nikola is that he can space the floor, so it's not like we have two guys that are stuck on the block, which takes away driving lanes from our perimeter players. The floor is open."
|Thunder||vs.||76ers||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Westbrook, Thunder start post-Durant Era vs. 76ers
Tuesday, October 25 at 2:46 PM (EDT)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are starting over without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka and the Philadelphia 76ers are starting over with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.
Philadelphia, however, will have to wait a while longer for top overall draft pick Ben Simmons.
The two teams square off in an NBA season opener Wednesday night in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The Thunder went 55-27 last season, but lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals after building a 3-1 lead. Oklahoma City traded Ibaka, a veteran forward, to the Orlando Magic and saw Durant, a perennial All-Star, sign a free agent contract with Golden State.
That would appear to put the bulk of the offensive burden on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who averaged 23.4 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season.
"It's not totally up to me how we play," Westbrook told USA Today. "We have to adjust to how guys play. My job is to be able to adjust to Steven (Adams) and (Andre) Roberson; those guys have gotten better. We have to be able to adjust to the team you have, adjust on a night-in, night-out basis how you want to play."
Adams, a rugged 7-foot center from New Zealand, is expected to improve upon last season's averages of 8.0 points and 6.7 rebounds after playing well in the playoffs. Roberson, known for his defense, scored at a 4.8 point-per-game clip last season.
Westbrook's supporting cast also includes guard Victor Oladipo, who came over from Orlando in the Ibaka trade after averaging 16 points a game last year from the Magic. Rookie forward Domantas Sabonis, who was also part of that deal, is expected to contribute off the bench.
The Sixers, whose 10-72 record last season fell one loss short of equaling the all-time record for futility, will finally unveil Embiid and Saric.
The third pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid has missed the last two seasons as a result of two foot surgeries.
Saric, who was acquired in a draft-day deal from Orlando in 2014, played overseas.
Both showed promise in the preseason. Embiid, a native of Cameroon, averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 14.7 minutes a game while Saric, a Croatian, averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds over 21.1 minutes.
"I can't wait (for Wednesday's game)," Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "That's going to be my first official NBA game. I just went through the preseason. I thought I got better game-by-game. I'm looking to finally get that first game."
Simmons, a forward from LSU, fractured his right foot in training camp and underwent surgery in early October. He will be out until at least January.
The Sixers will also be without guard Jerryd Bayless (right wrist ligament damage) for at least two weeks, and center/forward Nerlens Noel (left knee surgery) for three to five weeks.
Center Jahlil Okafor was also limited to a single preseason game because of a sore right knee.
|Timberwolves||vs.||Grizzlies||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
New coaches lead Wolves, Grizzlies in opener
Wednesday, October 26 at 1:40 AM (EDT)
The Memphis Grizzlies hope to build off last year's playoff appearance. The Minnesota Timberwolves are just hoping to get to the playoffs for the first time in years.
Those two teams will open their 2016-17 seasons on Wednesday in Memphis. And they'll each do so with new coaches.
Memphis' David Fizdale is in his first year as an NBA head coach. Fizdale, 42, spent the last six seasons as an assistant with the Miami Heat. He inherits a club that finished 42-40 last season, which was good enough for the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
Fizdale has said he hopes to instill a balanced system in Memphis, with Mike Conley Jr. as the focal point. The Grizzlies also have weapons in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and new addition Chandler Parsons.
"When you know that the offense isn't just predicated on one guy and that every movement you make gives you a chance to be a part of the action, to make you a weapon, it's empowering," Fizdale told Sports Illustrated.
Conley begins this season on the heels of the largest contract in NBA history. This past offseason, the Grizzlies signed Conley to a five-year, $153 million deal to keep the point guard in Memphis. That will put an added weight on the shoulders of the nine-year NBA veteran.
"As far as the pressure, it's hard to really gauge that because I put pressure on myself to perform regardless," Conley told ESPN.com this offseason. "The amount of money I make is not going to change how I approach the game."
Like Memphis, Minnesota enters the season with a new coach and high expectations. Tom Thibodeau, former Chicago Bulls coach, takes over after the Timberwolves let interim coach Sam Mitchell go following last year's 29-win season.
Thibodeau begins his first year in Minnesota with a pair of Rookies of the Year at his disposal. Karl-Anthony Towns emerged for a stellar rookie campaign last season, averaging a double-double (18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds). His honor as the top rookie came one year after Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins earned the award. Wiggins led the team with 20.7 points per game last season.
Minnesota has been starved for a winning team for years. The Timberwolves haven't finished above .500 since the 2004-05 season and had the fifth-worst record in the league last year.
Thibodeau never had a losing season in five years as the Bulls' coach and was ousted after going 50-32 two years ago. A record like that in Minnesota this year would be a huge step forward for the young Timberwolves.
But even Thibodeau knows Minnesota has a ways to go in order to be competitive in the West.
"We don't want to fool ourselves," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We're a 29-win team. We want to close the gap."
These same two teams faced off in the preseason, with the Timberwolves topping the Grizzlies 101-94 in Minneapolis a week ago.
|Kings||vs.||Suns||10:00 (EDT) Preview|
Suns set to reveal defined backcourt vs. Kings
Wednesday, October 26 at 2:54 AM (EDT)
PHOENIX -- After a season of injuries and indecision, the Phoenix Suns hope they have tweaked their young roster correctly as they open the 2016-17 season against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Two years ago, the Suns' best three guards (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas) all played the same position. But the logjam at point guard quickly went from unworkable to untenable, beginning a spiral that forced a reboot to the Suns' rebuilding plans.
Now the Suns kick off the 2016-17 season with three guards with defined positions and roles.
Bledsoe is the survivor of the purge and the undisputed point guard, hoping to rebound from injuries that forced him to watch most of last season's 23-59 disaster from the sideline.
Devin Booker, who rose from the ashes of a terrible season, is now the starting shooting guard and face of the franchise a few days shy of his 20th birthday. He became the fourth-youngest player in league history (behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant) to score 1,000 points in a season.
Brandon Knight, plagued by injuries and inconsistency but an undeniable offensive force, will come off the bench as a sixth man who will see major playing time in coach Earl Watson's rotation that now includes former Suns Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley and a host of promising but unproven talent.
With Bledsoe, Booker, Knight and Barbosa heading up the guard rotation, the Suns waived Archie Goodwin on Monday and opted to keep John Jenkins and Tyler Ulis at the end of the bench. Goodwin had several highlight-reel moments during his three seasons with the Suns but never enough to warrant serious playing time.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Goodwin had requested a change of scenery.
"We felt like we got down to 16 really good, quality NBA players. Archie and his agents for the last few months asked us to accommodate a trade request," McDonough said. "With that in mind, we told Archie and his agent we'd try to help him move to a team where he'd have an opportunity and play. Unfortunately, we weren't able to work out a deal. This time of a year, it's hard."
Forward P.J. Tucker, who underwent back surgery in September, was cleared to play on Tuesday and will come off the bench. T.J. Warren, coming off season-ending foot surgery himself, will start at forward with Dudley and Tyson Chandler at center.
While the Suns have missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, the Kings are trying to break a 10-year postseason drought. Despite an explosive season from center DeMarcus Cousins, who ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring at 26.9 points per game, the Kings won only 33 games -- the most in Cousins' six season in Sacramento.
The Kings won three out of four meetings with the Suns last season, and Cousins was a big reason.
Sacramento will start the season without starting point guard Darren Collison, who will begin an eight-game suspension due to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. Ty Lawson will start at the point for the Kings, looking to rebound after two poor seasons and two DUI arrests in 2015.
The Kings will open the season with 11 games in the first 17 days. Most of those games will be with Lawson as the only true point guard on the roster.
"It's going to be a rough stretch," Lawson told the Sacramento Bee. "If things go bad, we've just got to stick together. We can't pull apart. Things are going to happen, but I feel like if we stay positive and stick together, we'll be able to get through it."
Former Sun and new King Matt Barnes will miss his first game with the Kings due to rib and knee problems.
|Rockets||vs.||Lakers||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
D'Antoni returns to LA as Walton takes over Lakers
Wednesday, October 26 at 3:09 AM (EDT)
LOS ANGELES -- Another chapter of storylines unfolds when the Los Angeles Lakers tip off their 2016-17 campaign Wednesday night.
Last season, it was Kobe Bryant's final year that grabbed the headlines, punctuated by a 60-point performance in his last game and a rare Lakers win.
This time it's Luke Walton stepping into the spotlight as he begins his first season as coach when the Lakers face the Houston Rockets at Staples Center in the season opener for both clubs.
Walton replaces Byron Scott, who was dismissed after a franchise-worst 17-65 run last season. While Scott was known as a taskmaster and clashed with players, Walton brings a laid-back approach that the Lakers believe suits his young club well.
"I like leading by love," Walton said, according to the L.A. Times. "But I had hippie parents so that's to be expected. It's the way I was raised."
Walton, formerly the top assistant at Golden State under Steve Kerr, rose as a hot coaching property last season by guiding the Warriors to a 39-4 mark and winning an NBA-record 24 in a row to open the season as interim coach during Kerr's absence for health reasons.
Walton already was on the radar of up-and-coming assistants destined for NBA coaching jobs, but that successful stretch expedited his elevation.
Obviously, the Lakers' job has major challenges. Walton will attempt to mix a crop of young talent (D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and rookie No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram) and blend it with a core of veterans (Lou Williams, Luol Deng, Jose Calderon, Timofey Mozgov and Nick Young).
"There's no better guy to lead a franchise and teach a franchise from a youthful perspective that he brings to the game with maturity and knowledge," Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson told the Orange County Register recently. "He sees the game on a different level. There's so many levels at this game. There's so many games within a game. Few can see it with substance the way that he does."
Mike D'Antoni will return for the first time as a head coach since he quit the Lakers' job after the 2013-14 season because the club refused to extend him a long-term deal.
James Harden, the NBA's second-leading scorer at 29 points per game last season, leads a Rockets team that will play for the first time in three campaigns without center Dwight Howard, who bolted to Atlanta as a free agent.
"I think everybody is excited, everybody's ready to get going. We've had a good preseason," said D'Antoni, whose club finished 5-2 in exhibitions. "We've got still a lot of growth that's got to going on and we've got to get a lot better, but I think we're at a reasonably good point."
The Rockets will play without guard Patrick Beverly, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. Beverly is expected to miss at least three weeks.
"We have to have a couple of guys (who) are going to step up without Pat," D'Antoni said.
In addition to Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene are among those players expected to carry to the load.
|Heat||vs.||Magic||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Magic, Heat sport different looks to open season
Wednesday, October 26 at 12:30 AM (EDT)
Everything changed for the Orlando Magic on draft night in 2016.
It was then the franchise shifted its direction, moving away from the methodical draft-based rebuild and into a win-now mode.
The team traded away former second overall pick Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. They continued their remodeling with a massive free agent spending spree that included signing in another rim-protecting center in Bismack Biyombo. All this with a new coach in Frank Vogel, hired after Scott Skiles' sudden resignation.
The Magic team that takes the Amway Center court Wednesday in the season opener against the visiting Miami Heat is going to be hardly recognizable to the team that finished in April. Orlando has seven new players and heightened expectations after a four-year playoff drought.
"Everybody is ready," Magic forward Aaron Gordon said. "Offseason is great, but this is what we live for. This is what we live to do. It's so much fun. We know we can do something special and we are looking to seize that opportunity."
The Magic remain one of the league's biggest mysteries entering the season, but things have changed drastically in Miami too.
The Heat's championship dynasty is completely gone. Dwyane Wade surprisingly left for the Chicago Bulls after 13 years in Miami. LeBron James left two seasons ago for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the Heat have not cleared Chris Bosh to play after continuing heart problems keep him on the sideline.
Miami must rely on a multi-faceted versatile offensive attack and balanced scoring to succeed.
"A big strength of our roster is versatility, depth," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "And that we have multiple guys that can have nights, where it's not one or two guys dominant. And that's a strength."
It is certainly a different situation for Miami, which does not have the superstar players or the sure path to the postseason. They are relying more heavily on young players -- including Hassan Whiteside, whom the Heat signed to a fresh four-year, $98.4 million deal.
The Heat have always been good about mining role players and will need their support more than ever to defy the odds and reach the playoffs. But they still have the steady hand of veteran point guard Goran Dragic running with Whiteside to help fill that void.
As the teams battle changes and adjustments to new rosters and new teammates, the Magic and the Heat will be trying to feel comfortable in their new skins.
"It's going to be an 82-game process," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "Ideally, you hit the ground running. But you don't want to overreact if you don't. If things aren't working early, you're really just learning about your team. You are able to make adjustments either by improving what you're doing or changing what you're doing."
|Mavericks||vs.||Pacers||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
New-look Pacers welcome Barnes, Mavericks in opener
Tuesday, October 25 at 11:27 AM (EDT)
INDIANAPOLIS - The NBA season kicks off on Wednesday night for the Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks.
New faces in both places breed renewed optimism entering the 2016-17 season.
The Pacers parted with head coach Frank Vogel after last season, and team president Larry Bird said he wanted to redefine the way his team plays. The overhaul also brought point guard Jeff Teague, power forward Thaddeus Young and center Al Jefferson to the Pacers, who tout superior athleticism and depth than previous seasons.
Indiana's franchise player Paul George is looking forward to testing the new-look team in the regular season.
"I don't want to jump the gun and say this is the best team I've been on, but it's shaping up to be," George said. "I've got a new group with unbelievable talent."
The Pacers face another of their former coaches, Rick Carlisle, who is entering his ninth season with the Mavericks. Indiana's new coach, Nate McMillan brings a style of play to the franchise that might not be recognized.
"I think our roster puts us in a position to play any style," McMillan said. "We want to play with a lot more ball movement. Our guys have to commit to running."
There's a lot of talk about George, Myles Turner and the new Pacer players, but former Maverick Monta Ellis will have a lot to say about the team's success this season after his most diligent offseason in several years.
"I rededicated myself this summer in the gym," Ellis told NBA.com. "Last year was tough. I let the team down. It's a new beginning and I wanted to be part of that."
Ellis is hoping to help the Pacers defeat his former team on opening night. Last season, he averaged 18.0 points per game against the Mavericks.
For Dallas, the new faces on the team include two NBA champions from Golden State- Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks haven't made it out of the first round of the playoffs since winning a championship in 2011, and they will be relying heavily on these new additions to get over that hump.
"They're champions," said Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. "They're great players and they're part of a championship team, so they know how to play and they know how to win."
A lot of eyes will be on Barnes in particular after signing a $94 million contract. His preseason performance brought heaps of criticism in Dallas.
"There's going to be bigger expectations and I'll have a larger role on this team," Barnes told ESPN.com. "But the biggest thing I've learned in my four years I've been in the league is that winning is the biggest priority."
One of the issues for the Mavericks moving forward will be the aging point guards. Despite the talent, Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea are all on the wrong side of 30. As the NBA continues to play a faster game, the Mavs could struggle keeping up at that position.
Last year, the Mavericks and Pacers had identical offensive numbers.
Dallas averaged 102.3 points per game, while the Pacers averaged 102.2. In Wednesday's matchup, look for a high scoring contest as each team will try to get out and run on opening night.
The Pacers won both games against the Mavericks last season.
|Nets||vs.||Celtics||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Celtics host Nets in Horford's Boston debut
Wednesday, October 26 at 2:17 AM (EDT)
BOSTON -- With expectations raised after the signing of free agent Al Horford, the Boston Celtics open the season with a home game against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.
That's the Nets -- the gift that just keeps on giving for the Celtics after the monster trade between the teams in 2013.
"Part of the reason I came here was because -- and I had a good situation in Atlanta like we've established before -- but when I looked at the guys who were here, I was like: 'It would be great to play with those guys,'" Horford said as he and his new team prepped for the opener. "We can build out from there."
Signing a four-year, $113 million contract that surprised the basketball world and made him the biggest free agent signing ever for the tradition-rich Celtics, Horford left his Atlanta home and also left a Hawks team that eliminated the Celtics in the first round of last year's playoffs.
But when he looked at Boston, he saw a team that went from 25 to 40 to 48 wins in the three years under coach Brad Stevens. He saw a team with depth. And he saw a team that even had a bright drafting future -- and that is where the Nets come in.
Back in 2013, the Celtics sent aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in a mega-deal that brought Boston all kinds of draft picks from what turned out to be a bad Nets team.
The haul got them the No. 3 pick in the most recent draft, and the Celtics used that selection to take athlete Jaylen Brown. After this season, which doesn't figure to see the Nets suddenly spring into the playoff picture, the Celtics have the right to swap picks with Brooklyn. That would put Boston back in the lottery regardless of where the Celtics finish -- and the Celtics also have the Nets' top pick in 2018.
Asked about the future selections, Celtics offensive leader Isaiah Thomas shrugged it off, saying, "I worry about scoring the ball, getting my teammates involved and winning games. I don't know nothing about those first-round picks. And I wasn't a first-round pick, so I don't care about first-rounders."
Even without what awaits down the line as the building continues, the Celtics, still looking for their first playoff-series win under Stevens, are in the discussion regarding the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They should at least improve on last year's 48 wins.
Kenny Atkinson is the new Nets coach, and he has his team firing 3-pointers, something that won't help low-post center Brook Lopez a whole lot. But that is the current plan.
"I think we can (make the playoffs)," swingman Bojan Bogdanovic told the New York Post. "They can write what they want. ... But we're going to work hard to give it our best. When we get in a game, we have a chance to beat anybody. It's going to be tough, but if we play like we practice, we have a chance."
Atkinson was instrumental in bringing Lin-sanity back to New York, where Jeremy Lin became a phenomenon for the Knicks and now runs the show in Brooklyn.
The Celtics come into the opener without Kelly Olynyk (recovering from shoulder surgery) and Marcus Smart (sprained ankle). They cut R.J. Hunter and draft pick Ben Bentil, keeping James Young, and they also signed 6-foot-11 Ryan Kelly, who starts the season with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League.
Veteran shooting guard Randy Foye will miss the opener for the Nets due to a mild hamstring pull, but Brooklyn comes in with a positive attitude.
"If you've got a lot of guys working hard every day, it's contagious," veteran forward Luis Scola said.
|Pistons||vs.||Raptors||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Raptors look to build on last season, host Pistons
Wednesday, October 26 at 12:52 AM (EDT)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors tip-off the 2016-17 season Wednesday night when they host the Detroit Pistons.
The Raptors enter the season following their most successful campaign in franchise history. Last year, Toronto set a club record for wins (56), won their third straight Atlantic Division title and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in team history.
"Last year is last year. Every year is a new year," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We've got to come out, scratch, execute, have the same mentality that we've got to be the hardest working team on the court that night to win. If we come out and just try to show our press clippings on the floor, it's not going to work.
"We've got to have that hard-work mentality and that hard hat mentality to be successful in the Eastern Conference."
Toronto returns 11 players from last year's team, including All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Detroit starts the season without starting point guard Reggie Jackson, who will miss at least the first month because of tendonitis in his left knee.
The Pistons ended a six-year playoff drought last season, finishing with a 44-38 record good for eighth in the Eastern Conference. They were swept by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round.
Detroit, in its second season under Stan Van Gundy, finished 15th out of 30 in points scored per possession and 13th in points allowed per possession.
In order to continue improving, general manager Jeff Bower went out and added to his club's depth in the offseason giving 27-year-old power forward Jon Leuer a four-year deal in free agency, signed Boban Marjanovic away from the San Antonio Spurs via an offer sheet and added veteran point guard Ish Smith.
"To me what you don't want to do is have a ceiling on this group," Van Gundy told the Oakland Press. "I look at it and say I have great respect out there for the other teams, I think the East has gotten better again. ... I get it, all but at the same time I look at it and say, 'Why not us? Why not?'
"If we're willing to do what it takes, and people take a step forward and we commit more defensively, why not us. Why does there have to be a ceiling on us. Why can't we be that team, contenders. I think the guys have high expectations."
On Monday, the Pistons made a move to bolster its lineup claiming guard Beno Udrih off waivers from the Miami Heat and released guard Ray McCallum. Udrih is a 12-year veteran who averages 8.5 points and 3.4 assists in his career.
The 6-foot-4 Slovenian played for the Heat and Memphis Grizzlies last season, averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists.
|Tuesday, October 25, 2016|
|National Basketball Assoc.|
|Jazz||104||vs.||113||Trail Blazers||Final Recap|
Lillard powers Blazers' comeback vs. Jazz
Wednesday, October 26 at 1:54 AM (EDT)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Asked Sunday about personal goals this season, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said he had one: claiming the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award.
On Tuesday night, the All-Star played like an MVP, scoring 16 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter as the Blazers rallied for a 113-104 victory over the Utah Jazz at the Moda Center in the regular-season opener for both teams.
"The best way to show that I mean that is by going out and playing like it," said Lillard, who also had nine rebounds and six assists in a sterling 35-minute performance. "Tonight was a good start."
Backcourt mate CJ McCollum added 25 points for the Blazers, who outscored Utah 14-2 over the final four minutes to pull out the victory. Allen Crabbe had 18 points off the bench for Portland.
The Blazers extended their NBA record for winning home openers to 16 games dating to 2001.
Joe Johnson scored 29 points and Rodney Hood contributed 26 for the Jazz, who also got 19 points from George Hill and 12 points and 13 rebounds from Rudy Gobert.
Lillard sank 13 of 20 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line.
"Dame had a good flow offensively and made big plays for us down the stretch," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "He played in a really good rhythm all night. That's the way he played in preseason. He's healthy. He feels good. His stat line speaks for itself."
The Blazers shot superbly -- 52 percent (39 of 75) from the field, 68.4 percent (13 of 19) from the 3-point arc and a perfect 22 of 22 at the foul line. But Utah put together a 37-point third quarter on 15-of-20 shooting to take an 83-77 advantage into the final period.
The Jazz cooled off down the stretch, and Portland outscored them 36-21 over the final 12 minutes, making 10 of 17 from the field, 5 of 6 on 3-point tries and 11 of 11 from the line.
"I'm glad we defended the way did in the fourth quarter," Stotts said. "We have to be consistently better defensively than we were tonight.
"Winning at home is going to be important, and winning a game against a division team is important. It feels good."
Utah was playing without three rotation players, including starting forwards Gordon Hayward (finger) and Derrick Favors (knee) and reserve guard Alec Burks (knee).
"We really competed," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "We wanted to try to control everything we could, but we didn't do that on the defensive end. We had breakdowns. Without (Hayward, Favors and Burks), our margin for error just isn't very large."
Utah erased what was an eight-point halftime deficit and took a 71-68 lead on a Johnson 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Johnson had 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first nine minutes of the quarter.
The Jazz's lead was eight points early in the fourth quarter, but Portland used an 8-0 run to tie it at 85-85 with nine minutes remaining. The Jazz led 102-99 with four minutes left before the Blazers scored 10 in a row for a 99-92 lead. Utah got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Lillard scored 16 points and McCollum 12 to stake Portland to a 54-46 halftime edge. The Blazers knocked down their first seven shots from 3-point range and finished the half 7 for 8 from beyond the arc. Hood had 15 first-half points and Hill 14 for the Jazz.
Utah made its first five shots from the field to take a 17-10 lead five minutes into the game. Portland, which hit its first four 3-point shots, used a 10-0 run to go in front 20-17. The first quarter ended in a 26-26 tie.
The Blazers, with Crabbe catching fire, began the second quarter with a 15-2 spurt to take a 41-28 advantage.
NOTES: It was the third time since records have been kept (1963) that neither team missed a free throw. Portland was 22 of 22; Utah made 16 in a row. The last time it happened was in January 2012, when Milwaukee and Detroit combined to go 41 of 41. ... Tuesday's matchup was the third meeting between the teams this month. Portland won a pair of preseason contests. The Blazers won three of four games against the Jazz during the 2015-16 regular season. ... Portland was without reserve C Festus Ezeli (knee). ... Portland F Noah Vonleh came off the bench to go 5 of 5 from the field and score 11 points in 16 minutes.
Spurs dominate Warriors in Durant's debut
Wednesday, October 26 at 2:34 AM (EDT)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It usually isn't a surprise when the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA's most successful franchise over the past two decades, win a basketball game.
But opening the season without Tim Duncan for the first time in 20 years and going on the road against the two-time Western Conference champions on a night when the Golden State Warriors were welcoming the addition of Kevin Durant might have been one of those occasions.
Defying expectations, the Spurs emerged with a blowout victory.
Kawhi Leonard poured in a career-best 35 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge put together a 26-point, 14-rebound double-double Tuesday night as the Spurs stunned Golden State 129-100 in Durant's regular-season debut for the Warriors.
Jonathon Simmons (20 points), Patty Mills (11) and Manu Ginobili (10) provided double-figure scoring off the bench, helping the Spurs use their own strength in numbers to easily beat the West representative in the last two NBA Finals.
"I'm just staying ready for my opportunity and taking advantage," said Simmons, a University of Houston product signed by the Spurs last summer after he went undrafted. "Now that I know these guys, it makes it a little easier."
Durant hit 11 of 18 shots en route to 27 points, and Stephen Curry totaled 26 for the Warriors, who won an NBA-record 73 games last season and didn't take their first loss until Dec. 12 after a 24-game winning streak to open the year.
"It's a nice slap in the face," Curry said. "Our offense wasn't really an issue tonight. We have to shore up the other end."
Down 18 at the half, the Warriors crept within 68-58 in the first 3:04 of the third period before Leonard and Aldridge took charge, combining for 16 points in an 18-8 burst that opened the night's first 20-point advantage and set up a comfortable finish.
"He has a green light," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Leonard. "He's making threes or he's driving it. He's just really more confident, more aggressive, more hungry to score than in the past."
Leonard and Aldridge scored 13 points apiece in the third quarter for the Spurs, who set a franchise record of their own with 67 wins last season.
The Warriors were never closer than 20 in the final period.
"San Antonio was great," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "They played a phenomenal game. We saw their best stuff. That's a great team. That's a team that exposed some of our weaknesses."
In topping 30 points for the fifth time in his career, Leonard connected on 10 of 21 from the field and all 15 of his free throws, helping him eclipse the 33 points he scored against the Toronto Raptors last April.
Simmons, who averaged only six points a game last season, was a surprise element with 8-for-14 shooting and three 3-pointers off the bench.
The Spurs enjoyed a 54-16 edge in reserve scoring against a Warriors team that had to cut ties with several players, including big men Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, in order to fit Durant's two-year, $54.3 million deal under the NBA salary cap.
The Spurs outrebounded Golden State 55-35.
"We cannot get outrebounded like that, lose the turnover battle (16-14) and get beat at the free-throw line (23-13)," Kerr said. "Those are all things that are going to kill us if we do that every game."
Durant, who had 10 rebounds, and Draymond Green (18 points, 12 rebounds) finished with double-doubles for the Warriors.
Klay Thompson was held to 11 points on 1-for-6 3-point shooting, and Curry was just 3-for-10 from beyond the arc, as the Warriors unsuccessfully attempted to offset San Antonio's interior dominance with a 7-for-33 (21.2 percent) night on 3-point tries.
San Antonio hit half of its 24 3-point attempts and shot 48 percent overall.
The Spurs' superior depth helped the visitors explode into a 33-20 lead in the second minute of the second quarter after the game had been tied at 18.
Ginobili, Mills and Simmons had 3-pointers and fellow reserve David Lee added four points in the 15-2 burst that provided the Spurs a cushion they retained the rest of the night.
NOTES: The last time the Spurs opened a season without F Tim Duncan in the starting lineup, they started F Carl Herrera (scoreless in 12 minutes) in an 82-78 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 1, 1996. Seventeen games later, Bob Hill was fired as coach and replaced by Gregg Popovich. ... Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard's 15 free throws were a career best, surpassing the 12 he made Feb. 6, 2016, against the Los Angeles Lakers. ... The 27 points by SF Kevin Durant were the fourth most in a Warriors debut, trailing C Wilt Chamberlain (43), SF Stephen Jackson (29) and PG Danny Finn (28). ... PF Draymond Green, the league leader in technical fouls last season with 21, got his first of 2016-17 for taunting after a third-quarter dunk. ... The Warriors honored TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager and his fight against leukemia by giving everyone in attendance a "Sager-Strong" T-shirt. Sager hopes to return to work later this season. ... The Spurs played without SG Danny Green, who is expected to miss the first three weeks due to a strained left quad.
Banner night for LeBron, Cavs in rout of Knicks
Tuesday, October 25 at 11:41 PM (EDT)
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James led his pack of teammates toward the banner this city waited 52 years to see. Then he laid his newly minted ring finger on the wine-colored banner before it was raised to the sky.
The Cavaliers superstar delivered on his mission to bring a title to Cleveland. He didn't waste long getting back to work on delivering another one.
James celebrated the Cavaliers' championship with 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his 43rd career triple-double, and Cleveland opened defense of the franchise's first title by smashing the new-look New York Knicks 117-88 Tuesday night.
It was his second-triple double in as many games. He also recorded one in the championship-clinching victory in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in June when the Cavs became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a championship, beating the Golden State Warriors.
"I just picked up where I left off," James said. "Back-to-back triple-doubles. I'm fine with that."
Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, and Kevin Love contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who capped an electrifying day with an emotional victory.
Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points, Derrick Rose added 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting in his Knicks debut and Kristaps Porzingis had 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Knicks overhauled their roster over the summer by adding Rose and Joakim Noah, who went scoreless and grabbed six rebounds, but discovered Tuesday how far they still have to go to catch the defending champions. James had six dunks and improved to 3-0 on ring nights, including his titles with the Miami Heat.
"Tonight left a bad taste in everybody's mouth," Rose said. "We've got to put people down. We've got to foul. Not put them down, but for sure we have to foul them in the open court to make sure (James) doesn't get the crowd into the game. Little things like that, we just have to learn."
Fueled by adrenaline, the Cavaliers blew open a close game at the half with a dominating third quarter. They ended the night shooting 13 of 35 on 3-pointers, but the Knicks made just one field goal over a five-minute stretch in the third quarter, allowing the Cavs to extend a five-point lead to 69-53 on a night that was all about Cleveland from start to finish.
As James wiped away tears and fiddled with his new ring that is stuffed with 216 diamonds -- representing Cleveland's 216 area code -- the Cleveland Indians hosted the Chicago Cubs across the street in Game 1 of the World Series. This city with so little to cheer for so many decades is suddenly overflowing with riches.
"At this point, if you're not from here, live here, play here ... then it makes no sense for you to live at this point," James told a sold-out crowd that roared louder with his every word. "Cleveland against the world."
The Cavs have been swept up in Indians fever. The World Series was on in the locker room after the game, and the Cavs plan on attending Game 2 on Wednesday together after already attending two games as a team earlier in the baseball playoffs. As James was addressing reporters in the locker room Tuesday, he interrupted himself midsentence when Andrew Miller fired a strikeout.
"He struck him out? That's great," James smiled. "It's Miller time, baby."
Cleveland has plenty to smile about these days. And with the league's highest payroll again and all the key pieces back from last season, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is looking for more.
"This is for you," Gilbert told the crowd before the banner was raised. "Words can't thank you enough. When this thing is over and that banner goes up, there's only one thing left to do: repeat."
NOTES: WWE superstar Undertaker was a pregame guest after LeBron James wore his T-shirt last year prior to Game 5 of the Finals. ... G J.R. Smith, who was traded from New York to the Cavs two seasons ago, said he didn't get any added joy from the fact the Knicks were in town when he received his ring. "I'm trying to live my life a different way and not try to focus on vendettas and trying to get back at people. So that's one of the last things I'm thinking about," he said. ... Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is hopeful G Kay Felder (concussion) will be available this weekend. ... The Knicks remained in the locker room during the rings ceremony. ... Knicks C Joakim Noah has a long-running feud with Cleveland after he ripped the city in 2010. "Congratulations to Cleveland," he said. "Even though it's not a vacation spot, you guys got your championship. It's well-deserved."