Gilbert Arenas admits he feared being booed

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Gilbert Arenas always came off as a guy above it, a guy who didn’t care what you think. He was playing the game, his way, you could love it or leave it. Agent Zero was footloose and care free.

Except that’s not the case, especially after last season’s gun suspension. He missed a home game this preseason not because of a sore knee (what he told the team) or because he wanted Nick Young to get some burn (what he told reporters and got fined for), his real concern was the crowd reaction, he tells Sports Illustrated.

“I was really scared of getting booed,” says Arenas. “It’s a little crazy because I was here with Kwame Brown when Kwame was scared to go out there. I used to be like, Man, it’s just boos. Now here I was six years later, and I was him. I was scared to go out there.”

You can buy this version of the story or not. To me, it seems the most plausible, and makes Arenas the most accessible. Nobody wants to be booed by 18,000 people. Not even Kobe (although he’ll just grind it up into hate fuel).

The fantastic piece by Chris Manix in SI shows a lot of sides of Arenas, including the one who is sure he and Wall will blend perfectly.

“I said to my friends that I wish (Wall getting drafted to the Wiz) happened four years ago,” says Arenas, 28. “I wish it happened before the knee injuries, because this team would have been fabulous. I always kept saying I wanted another two guard that can take on the scoring or for them to bring in a point guard so I can go to the two. When they drafted him, I thought it was the smartest idea.”

Really, go read the whole piece. Arenas is not a two-dimensional character, he’s real and flawed but seems to have grown through it all.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

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.