Report: Trail Blazers interested in Lakers’ Kupchak as GM

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The whispers have been all over Staples Center — Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is not happy and wants out of working with Jim Buss. Kupchak is also the ultimate team player and would never say that publicly and disparage ownership. I’ll say I’ve heard the same rumors of his unhappiness from a couple second hand sources (not something I would write on its own, but I tend to believe them).

Now comes the report from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard that confirms reports Kupchak is unhappy and that Portland wants to target Kupchak for its vacant general manager position.

Kupchak is one of the Blazers’ top targets, sources told ESPN.com, in their quest to land an executive with experience running a franchise’s basketball operations.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the Lakers would be willing to grant Portland permission to speak to Kupchak, who has spent more than 25 years in L.A.’s front office…. Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Kupchak’s latest contract with the Lakers is a lucrative multiyear deal. But Jim Buss — son of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss — is widely perceived to have the deciding vote on basketball matters with the Lakers and is regarded as the driving force not only behind the drafting of Andrew Bynum in 2005 but also L.A.’s decision to hire Mike Brown as Phil Jackson’s replacement over Rick Adelman.

Portland would not comment on the report to the Associated Press, but team president Larry Miller did say he he has not reached out to Mitch Kupchak or asked the Lakers for permission to speak with him. (Of course, those things are never done through formal channels first anyway.)

Make no mistake, the Jim Buss is steering the Lakers ship right now. That said, he told ESPN that he has a good relationship with Kupchak and everything is fine with the two of them.

The question is would Kupchak have real interest in a Portland job where two good GMs — Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho — were let go because they couldn’t get along well enough with owner Paul Allen? Kupchak is a loyal company man, so maybe that relationship works better.

It’s something to watch, but one way or another the Kupchak era may be coming to an end with the Lakers in the next couple of years.

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 Cavaliers 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. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his 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.

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.