10 NBA games this season you don’t want to miss

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There are a lot of interesting things in the just released NBA schedule. The Spurs have two long road trips, not just the one “rodeo trip.” The Lakers “Grammys trip” includes games against Boston and closes in Miami. And the list goes on and on.

But after combing threw it for a few hours, here are the 10 days and games you should circle on the calendar. Or set the DVR for. Note, there are no Bulls games, but if you are psychic and know the date of Derrick Rose’s return add that as a bonus.

Oct. 30, Celtics at Heat:
One of the NBA’s better rivalries right now. They went seven games in the Eastern Conference finals and then both teams made moves to get better in the offseason — including Ray Allen taking less money to go to Miami over staying in Boston. The Celtics should be seething by the time they see the banner and the rings Miami has.

Nov. 1, Knicks at Nets:
The Nets requested the league give them the Knicks to open the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn, and once again what Jay-Z wants Jay-Z gets. This should be a monster, start-studded affair. And with two teams that will put a lot of points on the board the game should be entertaining, too.

Nov. 2, Nuggets at Magic:
How much you want to watch this game depends on one thing — do the Magic trade Dwight Howard before the start of the season? If the answer is no this is their home opener and you can bet the usually laid-back fans of Orlando will boo Howard lustily.

Dec. 17, Rockets at Knicks:
This is simple — Jeremy Lin returns to New York. If Lin puts up big numbers and outplays Raymond Felton, the tabloids are going to have fodder for weeks.

Dec. 25, Thunder at Heat:
While it ended in five games, this was a hard-fought finals last year (four of the games were very close). Both of the teams got a little better in the off-season, and we may have another NBA finals preview on our hands.

Jan. 17, Heat at Lakers:
Or, this could be a finals preview. The Lakers need more outside shooting and we’ll have to see how Mike Brown blends some diverse offensive talents, but the Lakers are back in the conversation. Plus, LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant.

Jan. 27, Heat at Celtics:
Ray Allen returns to Boston. He will receive a hero’s welcome… or, something like that. There will be salutes, we just don’t know how many fingers will be involved.

Jan. 30, Lakers at Suns:
Steve Nash returns to Phoenix. Nash handled his departure from Phoenix about as well and professionally as he could and Suns fans forgave him… until he chose to go to the Lakers. It will be interesting to see the fan’s reactions.

Feb. 7, Lakers at Celtics:
Always a classic. Still the NBA’s best rivalry.

March 13, Knicks at Denver:
Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver. Seriously, he has never been back to Denver as a Knick. Not in the second half of the season he was traded, not in the lockout shortened season, and now not for the first four months of this coming season. My guess is the people in Denver have not forgotten him and how that relationship ended.

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis lead way, Bulls blow out Kyrie-less Celtics 108-85

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CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.

Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.

Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.

But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

 

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.