Scottie Pippen writes open motivational letter to Bulls

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You may have given up on the Bulls with Derrick Rose out — not in this round against the Sixers, but their title hopes — but Scottie Pippen hasn’t.

Which makes total sense because when the best player on those 1990s Bulls teams went away for a couple years the Bulls didn’t slow down or quit, they kept right on… oh, wait.

Still, Pippen is trying to rally the troops with an open letter to the team on Bulls.com.

With what happened to Derrick in Game 1, it would be easy to hang your heads right now. You could lose sight of the ultimate goal and give up before the rest of the games have even been played. But I know that’s not even a consideration for this group. And that’s exactly why you’ll make me, Derrick, the organization, and the city of Chicago so proud.

To a man, it’s time for each of you to take a look in the mirror. Decide who you really are and what you represent as a basketball player. Reflect on what you have brought to the table for your team all season long and why you’re a valuable member of the Bulls. Because all of you have contributed to this team’s incredible success. Ask yourself what you can do for the team moving forward. Whether it’s through your verbal leadership or diving on the floor after a loose ball, it’s going to be all about grinding it out moving forward. If there is one piece of advice I can offer you, it’s to put every last ounce of effort you have out there to make everyone proud—Derrick, the fans, and first and foremost, yourself….

Just go out there and play hard. Play your best. Leave everything you’ve got on the floor. Yes, you lost one of your brothers—a warrior in every sense of the word—but I know and you know you’ve still got a lot of fight left. You’re still the best team in the NBA until an opponent proves otherwise. So go out there and play like it. You’ve earned that much with Derrick along the way, but you also won a lot of games without him. It’s time to meet the challenge.

Nice words. Beating the Sixers is one thing. Getting past the Celtics or Hawks because you still have an advantage along the front line and good defense is possible. But when it comes to the Heat…

But cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, Pippen has your back, Bulls.

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?