Nets, Raptors about to tip off in London as Olympics precursor

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The NBA is in London. Right now.

The land of HP Sauce and The Kings Speech is getting a real NBA game. Well, it’s not like they are getting the NBA’s best product, they are getting the Nets against the Raptors (tip off at 3 p.m. Eastern Friday on NBA TV). They did not get Manchester United against Arsenal. This is more Blackburn against Birmingham. I’m mot sure what kind of crowd that would draw if those two English Premiere League teams played in New York.

But London will sell out the O2 Arena to see Deron Williams against Andrea Bargnani. It is part of the NBA’s effort to create a global brand as the elite basketball league on the planet. It is part of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s plan to make his team more international.

But Doug Smith of the Toronto Star makes another good point (via Ball Don’t Lie).

Basketball is one of the marquee events of any Summer Olympics — especially with the presence of the globally popular NBAers who dot many of the national team rosters — but the game has no real grassroots appeal in London.

So part of the reason for the NBA games here is to increase awareness and, potentially, increase attention during the London Games so that organizers aren’t left scrambling to sell tickets to what’s normally a virtual sellout event.

No doubt basketball will sell out, and we here in the states will get to see all of it we want (right here on NBC). But this will not be the biggest sport with the locals. It’s not what they will be talking about in the pubs. And sending the Nets and Raptors isn’t really going to change that. It’s a baby step, if any kind of step at all.

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?