Stan Van Gundy defends Dwight Howard, invites fine from Stern

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That’s going to cost Stan Van Gundy.

He probably thinks it’s money well spent. Monday, before Dwight Howard sat out the Magic’s loss due to a suspension for his 16th technical of the season, Magic coach Van Gundy came to Howard’s defense.

Van Gundy went with the argument that has been used for Shaq, Kareem, probably George Mikan back in the day, saying they take a lot more punishment than most players. The Orlando Sentinel gives us the goods.

Citing a statistic he credited to the Elias Sports Bureau, Van Gundy said Howard has been fouled 593 times this season and that none of the opponents who committed those infractions has received a flagrant foul on any of those plays.

“You guys can estimate how many of those were hard hits and how many of those were above the shoulders,” Van Gundy said to reporters after the Magic completed their shootaround.

“And for him to retaliate as few times as he has? By the way, not one of those 593 hits, with so many of those being above the shoulders and hard, not one has been deemed a flagrant foul. Not one. Five hundred and ninety-three. Amazing restraint for those guys to hit him that hard and not go over the line and get a flagrant foul. Getting no protection from the referees, he’s only retaliated from that a handful of times.”

Van Gundy went on and on about beating up people on a treadmill to make his point. He kind of started to lose us there.

He really lost us with this quote, from the Associated Press, where Van Gundy gets in his dig at Stern.

“This is the system David Stern and his minions like it,” Van Gundy said. “So that’s the system you have…I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot or leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything. So I’m not really allowed to have an opinion. So it’s up to him.”

“He decides and he likes the system he has.”

Um, okay, you lost me. I’m not Stern’s biggest fan, but to compare him to power hungry Middle Eastern dictators who kill the opposition? That’s too far. David Stern is not Moammar Gadhafi.

That will get your fined. But your point about Howard is taken.

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?