Mike Miller still likely gone in Miami, amnesty casualty

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In an ideal world, the Miami Heat would like to keep Mike Miller around, because if he does bounce back from last season’s injuries and this summer’s surgeries, he is a perfect fit. He can stretch the floor with his shot, is a solid team defender and can rebound.

But alas, the math of the new NBA collective bargaining agreement likely sends him packing as one of the early amnesty casualties.

Miller has four years, $23.6 million left on his deal and that likely will be too rich for the Heat’s blood, reports Brian Windhorst at ESPN. The reason is the Heat need to free up some salary room because they want to use their mid-level exception to bring in a defensive center.

In layman’s terms, it means that if the Heat use the mid-level exception they cannot spend over $74.3 million this season. In effect, this is a hard salary cap even though neither the union nor the league sold it that way. Simply, the Heat need to add some free agents and they can’t keep themselves under that threshold with Miller’s $5.4 million on their books.

Once the Heat sign rookie point guard Norris Cole, their payroll will be about $67 million… That gives them a roughly $7 million window to spend on the rest of the team if they use their mid-level exception. They probably just can’t get there.

It shakes out like this — the Heat need a big man in the middle and the likely target is Samuel Dalembert (Nene and Tyson Chandler are too expensive). If they keep Miller they can only offer the tax-payers mid-level of $3 million, but without Miller they can offer the full mid-level at $5 million. Already that is below what Dalembert will get offered somewhere else (almost certainly) but he might take it for the chance to get a ring. Pat Riley is good at selling those kinds of things. Nobody is selling Dalembert on $3 million.

(And for the record, Dalembert is a huge upgrade over Joel Anthony. Better rebounder, much better on offense, defends the rim just about as well.)

But it’s going to take the full MLE — and no Miller — to make that happen. So even though the Heat can keep him around….

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?