Pau Gasol feels ready to be a “beast” for Olympics, Lakers

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Pau Gasol, the “beast?”

Gasol has been called a lot of things, like “the most skilled big man in the game” or four-time All-Star. He is a finesse player, which some people (a subset of Lakers fans in particular) mislabel as soft. Those same fans didn’t think he was soft when he held Dwight Howard in check in the 2009 NBA finals, but people have short memories if something doesn’t fit their preconceived ideas. Gasol is not Shaquille O’Neal circa 2001, in reality he is a four asked often to play the five in the NBA. But calling him soft is about as smart as calling Dirk Nowitzki soft because he’s a seven footer who likes to play on the perimeter.

However “beast?” Nobody is really calling him a beast.

Well, except Pau Gasol himself, according to Reuters.

Pau Gasol said on Thursday he felt like a “beast” after working hard to prepare for his pivotal role in Spain’s bid for Olympic hardware in basketball.

“I have been preparing myself and working to get better this summer,” (said) Gasol… “First for the Olympics and to perform at a high level to be able to achieve our goal, and then when the Olympics are over, take a little break and continue to prepare myself for what’s going to be a very demanding (NBA) season, a season where we (the Lakers) want to get back on top as a team.”

Gasol looked good against Team USA when playing out of the low post, something Lakers coach Mike Brown needs to get him back to rather than just letting Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant dominate that space and using Gasol as a glorified stretch four. Having Steve Nash on the roster should help.

Heck, Nash might even get Gasol to look like a beast inside… nah. Not going to happen.

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?