League says officiating this season no different than last year

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Mark Cuban came out and said what many have whispered this season — the officiating is worse. Then Cuban got fined for it and you realized why others were whispering it.

But in a season of sloppy play and games by the players, the officials felt like they were part of that trend. Nobody is getting enough rest, everything is compacted and everybody is missing plays. Or in this case, calls.

But the league disputes that, as they told David Aldridge of NBA.com.

“There has been no material change from last year in incorrect calls,” NBA President of League and Basketball Operations Joel Litvin said by telephone Sunday. “I think the total number of fouls called per game has gone down slightly. Accuracy wise, we’re monitoring that. It has not changed. Compared to prior seasons, season to date, it’s the same. I haven’t compared it to end of season. They’re not complaining about it much, and at a game (more) per month, it’s not a big difference. And fortunately we haven’t had the uptick in injuries that we’ve seen on the players’ side.”

According to Litvin, officials are working, on a four-week average, approximately 10.8 games, up slightly from the average of 9.6 games per four weeks they worked last season. (On average, teams are playing about two games more per week in the 66-games-in-four-months schedule.)

Some of this is always eye of the beholder — one day people think the refs are great, the next day terrible, all on how some borderline calls went at the end of the game. It’s the way of the world. To me things have seemed rougher around the edges with the officials this season, but I don’t have hard and fast data to back that up.

But the league looks at everything and they are defending their guys.

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?