Chris Paul still pissed about Pau Gasol’s pat on the head

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First thing: You should go read the entire Chris Paul feature in GQ because it’s a good insight into one of the more grounded NBA superstars you’re going to come across. He is as competitive as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, but he doesn’t let that fire consume him to the point he doesn’t play smart. He’s always calm.

Which is why it was odd to see Paul lose it a little last season when, after a tough game where the Lakers beat Paul’s Clippers, Pau Gasol made what he thought was an innocent gesture and patted Paul on the head. Gasol thought it friendly, but Paul took it another way.

And months after the incident, Paul still sounded ticked when GQ’s Steve Marsh brought it up.

“We call that sonnin’, ” he explains to me. “Like when I take Li’l Chris to the bathroom, I’ll walk with my hand on his head. That’s my son. You know what I mean? I understand that Gasol is that tall, but don’t do to me what I do to my son.”

But that was followed by a moment of honest refection.

Then CP3 says something I’ve never heard any man, let alone a basketball player, say before: “I’ve been fortunate to be short my entire life.” I look puzzled, and he explains. “There’s only one position I’ve ever had to play, and that’s point guard. So I’ve always had to be that leader. And that was my job: you know, to talk.” CP3 is looking me straight in the eye. “I’m a big-time people person, too. Like, I love people. I hate to be by myself.” He repeats the phrase to himself, quieter each time: “I hate to be by myself. I hate to be by myself. I hate to be by myself.”

Paul is going to have a lot of people pulling at him this season — he is a free agent next summer, and while the Clippers may be in the driver’s seat to keep him nothing is certain. Paul likes Los Angeles, but he’s not Hollywood. He’s going to make the decision next summer that is best for his family first and him as well.

Really, just go read the GQ piece and you’ll get a sense of the man and how he’s going to handle free agency with a calm precision. Just like he does on the court.

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?