Grant Hill could return from knee injury next week

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The Suns are trying to making a late push for the postseason, but have had to do so without Grant Hill, the team’s best defensive player, for the last eight games. He may, however, be ready to rejoin them for the final six of the regular season.

Hill had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a meniscus tear back on March 30, but he could be back for next Monday’s home game versus the Blazers — or even sooner, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

If Hill had it his way, it might even be earlier, but the athletic trainers will be cautious with his return date as they monitor his reactions to daily increases in his workouts. Hill went through a rigorous pregame workout Monday night of plyometics, sprints and shooting that had him drenched in sweat. Earlier Monday, Hill did a workout of lateral basketball movements for the first time.

Phoenix has gone 5-3 with Hill sidelined, and has won five of its last six. Despite the recent success, the Suns are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in as of today, sitting a game behind Dallas and Denver for one of the final two spots in the West.

After the home game against Portland that Hill is targeting for his return, Phoenix plays four of its final five games on the road, and does so against some of the league’s stronger teams — Oklahoma City, Denver, the L.A. Clippers, and San Antonio are among those stops.

Sneaking into the playoffs with that schedule is going to be extremely tough, but Grant Hill’s return will certainly help the cause.

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?