George Karl thinks he has the stopper he needs in Iguodala

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The Denver Nuggets can score. That was never really the question. They finished last season with the third best efficient offense in the NBA and they played at the second fastest pace. Points were not the issue.

Stops, that’s another story. The Nuggets were 19th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) and when they needed a stop they couldn’t get it. Like in the playoffs.

Which is why George Karl is so excited about Andre Iguodala being in house — the guy Coach K counted on as a stopper on Team USA is now a go-to guy for the Nuggets. Karl is rightfully excited, speaking to the Denver Post.

“With Andre Iguodala, I think we have a stopper,” Karl said of his new starting shooting guard, an all-star last season. “I don’t think we’re going to be statistically high in a lot of traditional defensive categories. But I think differential is the key for us — field-goal differential, points differential, turnover differential. How we control the other team. Can we have moments of defensive momentum rather than offensive momentum? Can we have moments when we intimidate with our presence on the defensive end on the court?

“And, in the fourth quarter, I still believe you win most games with stops, extra possessions, offensive rebounds, making free throws. I just think defensively you win so many close games with intimidation.”

With their offense, the Nuggets don’t have to be a great defensive team, just good. Just better than average.

That falls to more than Iguodala. It’s about JaVale McGee being focused and defending the paint. It’s about Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari and a team buy in to the defensive principles.

But Karl has got a stopper. And the Nuggets could be a very good team this season.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

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.