J.R. Smith confirms he is close to deal with Knicks

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UPDATE 7:03 pm: Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld spoke with J.R. Smith himself and tweeted this:

I just spoke to J.R. Smith. He confirmed that he’s nearing a deal with the New York Knicks.

This echoes what we have been hearing all day, that it is just a matter of hammering out the contract details and Smith will be a Knick. The question for Mike D’Antoni is do you start him or keep Landry Fields as the starter and make Smith a deadly sixth man?

2:17 pm: This comes out of the New York media, so it should be consumed with a few grains of salt. That said, this is the outcome we all have been expecting.

J.R. Smith has chosen the Knicks and is close to a deal with them, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, met with Garden Chairman James Dolan following Wednesday’s Knicks’ win over Sacramento to finalize a contract. It is believed that Smith, who has also attracted the interest of the Clippers, will receive the Knicks’ $2.5 million exception. Rose also represents Carmelo Anthony, who has lobbied the club to add Smith, an explosive scorer who can also be erratic at times. He has averaged 12.5 points per game over seven NBA seasons.

This deal is not finalized, but it is close. And it is a great pickup for the Knicks, who beat out the Clippers (and Chris Paul’s recruiting efforts) for Smith’s services as he returns from a season in China.

The Knicks were considered the favorite because they could plug him into the starting lineup and give him big minutes — plus they could give him more money. It’s always about the money. New York can offer a pro-rated share of their $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception, plus they can give him a player option for a second year at that price. The best the Clippers can offer is the pro-rated share of the veteran’s minimum for only this season.

If and when Smith signs on the dotted line, Linsanity will have the ultimate test and opportunity. Anthony and Smith are unrepentant gunners who can fill it up but need to follow Jeremy Lin’s lead, stay within the offense and pick their spots. Run in transition, move off the ball, don’t just wait for a chance to go iso. With a starting five that includes Amare Stoudemire, ‘Melo, Smith and Tyson Chandler around Lin, the Knicks look like the third best team in the East. If D’Antoni and Lin can keep their gunners in line.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

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.