With smile on his face, Cuban fires back at Deron Williams

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Mark Cuban loves this kind of through-the-media banter. Just ask Phil Jackson. Or Shaq. Or a host of others. Cuban is very good at saying something with a smile on his face but with a knife in his hands.

So when Deron Williams fired a shot at Mark Cuban saying the fact Cuban was off filming “Shark Tank” on the day Williams met with the Mavs sealed the deal he was going to the Nets, you knew Cuban would eventually fire back.

And he did, speaking to the media in Barcelona where his Mavs were about to lose a preseason game to FC Barcelona, via the Dallas Morning News.

“I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference,’’ Cuban said before the Mavericks’ exhibition game against FC Barcelona Regal. “I would have expected him to say – like I’d expect one of our guys to say – ‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’…

“He’s a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. That’s the important thing, to try to win championships.

“I’m flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets’ management did.’’

Nice.

To be clear, Cuban could have been there and brought Kate Hudson to pour glasses of Cristal and D-Will still probably would have chosen the Nets. That is where he was leaning. And he saw what the Nets were doing and heard what their long-term plans were. (Apparently those plans were to go over the cap and lock themselves into basically this roster for years, but it’s a plan.)

What Williams said was he had questions about the long-range plans in Dallas that GM Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t satisfactorily answer. Sounds to me like Williams really threw those two under the bus.

And of course, if you are building a team, step one is to get a couple of superstars together, like Williams and, oh, I don’t know, maybe… Dirk Nowitizki? Someone like that.

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?