NBA schedule released, some big games on the front end

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Would you look at that, a full 82 game schedule. Haven’t seen one of those in a while. Kind of missed it.

The NBA released the full season schedule on Thursday and clearly they had some marketing in mind. Some fans liked the big splash when the league opened on Christmas Day last year after the lockout, so the NBA put some splash up front to try and appease them. It can be hard for the NBA to make a dent in October and November, when the NFL and college football are in full swing, but they certainly are trying.

The games kick off Oct. 30 with one highlight matchup. Here are some schedule highlights at first glance.

Oct. 30 (opening night):
Wizards at Cavaliers (John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving)
Celtics at Heat
Mavericks at Lakers

The highlight of that schedule is Celtics at Heat — Boston has to go into Miami and watch them raise a banner and get their rings. Then they have to play against Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett is fired up for that game today. After that we get to see Steve Nash against one of the teams he spurned this summer.

Oct. 31
Spurs at Hornets

No. 1 pick Anthony Davis makes his NBA debut against Tim Duncan. Not a bad career trajectory if you are looking to follow one.

Nov. 1
Knicks at Nets
Thunder at Spurs

We told you about this one before, Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks take the 2 line/Seventh Avenue Express over to Brooklyn to help the Deron Williams and the Nets open the new Barclays Center. (Sure, Amare Stoudemire would take the subway to a game, why not?) Biggest question, what’s the ration of Nets to Knicks fans for this one? About 70/30?

Dec. 17
Rockets at Knicks

Jeremy Lin returns to New York.

Dec. 25 (Christmas)
Celtics at Nets
Knicks at Lakers
Thunder at Heat
Rockets at Bulls
Nuggets at Clippers

Obviously the finals rematch is the marquee game and the Knicks vs. Lakers will be fun (Knicks fans can get Nash envy). But the real sleeper on that card is Nuggets at Clippers, which should be entertaining. Staples Center double-header that day.

Jan. 30
Lakers at Suns

Steve Nash returns to Phoenix. I think most Suns fans were at peace with him leaving to chase a ring — until he went to the hated Lakers. Interesting to see how they great him.

March 18
Miami at Boston

Ray Allen will hear a new sound from his beloved Celtics fans at this game.

Other notes from a first glance at the schedule:

• The Brooklyn Nets open the Barclays Center with six of eight games at home.

• Joe Johnson returns to Atlanta on Jan. 16. No bad blood there, though, even Hawks fans wanted to get rid of his contract.

• Speaking of returns, Jason Terry returns to Dallas March 22. Again, no real bad blood there.

• Soft start for the Clippers, who have 7 of first 9 at home and one “away” game against the Lakers. They will pay for that later when the Grammys kick them out of town for a couple weeks.

• The Lakers visit the Celtics Feb. 7, and Boston comes out to L.A. a couple weeks later on Feb. 20.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).