Kobe Bryant can run again, but is a long way from playing

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You will not be seeing the Black Mamba much for the remainder of the season. As Kobe Bryant coninues to deal with a painful shin injury, the Lakers are expected to be extremely cautious with him in advance of the NBA playoffs. What had started as a relatively minor injury has brought up talk that Bryant could have played his last regular season game, though the possibility is remote. In fact, as the L.A. Times reports, Bryant is only just now moving to the phase where he can run without pain.

Bryant will now begin running again, and if that is pain-free, can begin drills that involve jumping. If there is no discomfort at that point, he will be cleared to play.

There’s a chance he will miss the rest of the regular season, though it is considered a longshot.

Bryant sitting out 10 consecutive games to end the regular season?

“I don’t think so,” Brown said before the game. “We knew it was going to be a process. We knew it

was an injury where we didn’t want to rush him back. But he is making progress.”

via Lakers turn to B-team to beat Nuggets, clinch playoff berth – latimes.com.

The Lakers have actually flourished without Bryant. Not because of his absence, don’t get worked up, Kobe fans. But because of the impetus for supporting players to step up has caused an increase in confidence and production from Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, and others. If they can integrate Bryant successfully back into the fold without losing the chemistry they’ve developed on the floor, the Lakers could have something serious come playoff time.

Of course that’s a big if. It certainly sounds as if Bryant won’t be back until the very least another week, giving him only a couple of games to get back into full motion. Then again, considering Bryant’s experience in the playoffs, it’s hard to see him having trouble ramping up his gear to the right level. It’s awkward timing, but assuming the process heals the injury right, it shouldn’t be an area of a concern for the Lakers, and actually a welcome opportunity to rest the rest of Bryant’s body.

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?