Popovich says don't leave Spurs out of title mix

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gpopovich.jpgThe Spurs won 50 games last season, something you barely noticed because it’s expected of them, and they should be better this season. Tony Parker should be healthy, George Hill’s game should take another stride forward, Tiago Splitter will be a boost.

Yet you do not hear “San Antonio Spurs, Western Conference contenders.” In part because it’s hard to put any name but “Los Angeles Lakers” in that sentence, but in part because people are looking past the Spurs.

In a conversation with reporters today, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says the Spurs should be in that conversation. Here are some tweets from Jeff McDonald, San Antonio News Express Spurs reporter.

More Pop on offseason: “We think they have the potential to be fantastic – and fantastic means have an opportunity to win a championship.”

Pop worked out RJ individually this summer: “His dedication and development are going to be one of the most important things for our success

Pop on Tim Duncan’s shape: “I think he’s even slimmer than he was last year. He’s serious about this.”

Pop on Splitter: “He’s a really, solid player who’s going to have a great NBA career, but he’s not going to lead us in scoring.”

I am high on Tiago Splitter, but with this roster he should not be leading them in scoring, or anywhere close. Around 7 points a game, 8 or more rebounds, solid defense and just some smart play and he’ll be an upgrade for them as a guy they can stick along side Tim Duncan on the front line.

And Popovich is right, Richard Jefferson will be a key. But winning a championship… well he kind of have to say that right now, doesn’t he? Doesn’t mean we have to believe it either. But they will be good, and overlooked.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?