Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five

NBA Schedule released, here are your highlights

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This NBA season is shaping up to be a fun one.

Yes, we know, we know… IF there is an NBA season. But deep down we want to believe that the owners and players are too smart to piss away all the momentum the league has built up. For today we’re going to move ahead with the assumption the entire NBA schedule is going to be played. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

So here are your schedule highlights.

Opening Night, Tuesday Nov. 1: Chicago at the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, which means a banner gets raised and players get their rings (or whatever); also Oklahoma City against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nov. 2, the New York Knicks christen the renovated Madison Square Garden with a season opener against the Miami Heat. Also, Mark Jackson gets to start his coaching career at home as Golden State catches a Lakers team on a back-to-back.

Nov. 3, Orlando Magic on the road against the Miami Heat, and Andre Miller and his new Nuggets teammates take on his old team in Portland.

Nov. 13, the Chicago Bulls start their annual circus trip, on the road for eight straight games while clowns fill the United Center. No, not Vinny Del Negro, actual clowns.

Nov. 16, Carmelo Anthony makes his return to Denver as a member of the Knicks.

Also, the Boston Celtics travel to Miami to face the Heat. Little Miami Heat note here, they start the season off with 9 of 12 at home and 25 home games in the first three months of the season, then just 16 the last three months.

Nov. 18, Miami comes to Cleveland and while the rest of the nation has moved on there’s still some anger in that city.

Nov. 24, Thanksgiving, Philadelphia at Atlanta and the New Orleans Hornets take on Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Lakers at the Miami Heat.

Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Dallas and try not to be embarrassed again.

Dec. 25, Christmas, just three games on the schedule that day: Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas in a finals rematch, and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jan. 6, Milwaukee travels to Phoenix — the Bucks have not won in Phoenix since 1987.

Jan. 12, Sacramento at Utah, also known as the Jimmer Fredette homecoming game.

Jan. 14, Deron Williams returns to Utah as the Nets come to visit.

Feb. 6, San Antonio Spurs start their nine-game rodeo road trip staring against the Wizards (a rodeo takes over the Spurs arena for a couple weeks).

Feb. 9, the Los Angeles Lakers come to Boston, and not just to see the Bill Russell statue.

Feb. 26, NBA All-Star game in Orlando… the perfect family-friendly city for an event filled with wild parties and debauchery.

March 11, Boston comes to Los Angeles to see the Lakers and not just Jack Nicholson.

March 29, Dallas finally comes back to Miami for a finals rematch.

April 1, a rematch of one of the best playoff series, Memphis at San Antonio.

April 17, Spurs at Lakers — these two old rivals play two of the final four games of the season against each other.

Team USA has sing-along on plane leaving Chicago. Well, except for ‘Melo.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during player intro duction prior to playing the China Men's National Team in a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Team USA had their “Tiny Dancer” moment.

Like “Stillwater” in Almost Famous, Team USA’s Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving were leading a sing-along of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the team plane out of Chicago to Houston for the USA’s final exhibition game. Hat tip Alysha Tsuji who pulled the snapchats.

Everyone was loving it… except for Carmelo Anthony, according to DeMar DeRozan.

Melo ain't having it…😂

A video posted by DeMar DeRozan (@demar_derozan) on

Watch Kyle Lowry’s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler in USA win

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There were a lot of ugly things for Team USA in its exhibition win over Venezuela — the 4-of-25 shooting from three comes to mind. There was more, it was not a strong offensive performance from Team USA.

But like usual, we can overwhelm teams with athleticism, and that means wins and highlights. Like Kyle Lowry‘s tip-pass alley-oop to Jimmy Butler.

Or DeMar DeRozan‘s late-game windmill dunk.

Kyrie Irving helps USA to ugly 80-45 win over Venezuela

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  Kyrie Irving #10 of the United States Men's National Team looks to make a move with the ball against the China Men's National Team during the first half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 13 points, DeMarcus Cousins powered a dominant performance in the paint, and the United States pulled away from Venezuela for an ugly 80-45 exhibition victory Friday night.

Coming off three straight flashy victories in Las Vegas and California, the United States shot 42.4 percent from the field and committed 13 turnovers in by far its worst offensive performance of its five-city tour in preparation for next week’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But the Americans used their superior athleticism to limit Venezuela to 24 percent shooting and owned the interior with a 54-29 rebounding advantage.

Returning to Chicago for the first time with the U.S. national team, Bulls star Jimmy Butler was cheered every time he was announced at the United Center. He had four points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes in his first start with Team USA.

Butler had one of the few electric plays for the U.S. when he ran out on the break and dunked Kyle Lowry‘s tip pass in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Jordan also had a vicious dunk off a lob from Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan drew chants of “USA! USA!” with a windmill jam in the final minutes.

Klay Thompson also scored 13 points, and Cousins finished with seven points and 12 rebounds. Durant had nine points of 3-of-9 shooting.

John Cox scored 14 points for Venezuela, which will play the U.S. again on Aug. 8 in the Olympics.

Irving and company were greeted with a round of hearty cheers when they came out for pregame warmups. Fans lined the side of the court where the Americans had their layup line, and Anthony and Durant posed for pictures with a couple of eager boys.

Before Butler’s introduction drew the most applause of the night, former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau received a thunderous ovation when he was announced with the U.S. coaching staff. Thibodeau took a year off after he was fired by the Bulls in May 2015, and then was hired as Minnesota’s coach and president of basketball operations in April.

The star power also extended to the sideline near the U.S. bench, where former Olympians Scottie Pippen and Dwyane Wade watched the action attentively. Wade was joined by his wife, actress Gabriel Union, hours after he held his introductory press conference for his new contract with his hometown Bulls.

Pippen played on the 1992 Dream Team that rolled to gold in Barcelona, and also helped the U.S. win gold in 1996. Wade was on the Americans’ gold medal-winning teams at each of the last two Olympics.

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.