PBT’s preseason predictions: Yes, expect Heat vs. Lakers final

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It’s that time of year again, when we NBA writers make predictions we will wince at in a few months. When you can read our predictions and use those as evidence that we clearly hate your favorite team (pick a team, any team).

What follows are the ProBasketballTalk predictions for the 2012-13 season by myself plus writers D.J. Foster and Darius Soriano. Yes, we all see the same NBA finals. I really want to predict something other than the obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason. Anyway, here are our picks.

Eastern Conference Standings:
Kurt  Helin                       D.J. Foster              Darius Soriano
1. Miami Heat                 1. Miami Heat              1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics             2. Boston Celtics         2. Boston Celtics
3. Indiana Pacers           3. Indiana Pacers       3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New York Knicks       4. Brooklyn Nets         4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Brooklyn Nets             5. Atlanta Hawks       5. Indiana Pacers
6. Philadelphia 76ers    6. Chicago Bulls         6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Atlanta Hawks           7. New York Knicks   7. New York Knicks
8. Chicago Bulls             8. Toronto Raptors     8. Chicago Bulls

Western Conference Standings:
Kurt  Helin                                       D.J. Foster                                 Darius Soriano
1. Los Angeles Lakers                   1. Oklahoma City Thunder       1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Oklahoma City Thunder          2. Los Angeles Lakers               2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. San Antonio Spurs                    3. San Antonio Spurs                 3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Los Angeles Clippers                4. Denver Nuggets                      4. Denver Nuggets
5. Denver Nuggets                          5. Los Angeles Clippers            5. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Memphis Grizzlies                    6. Memphis Grizzlies                  6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. Utah Jazz                                    7. Utah Jazz                                    7. Utah Jazz
8. Minnesota Timberwolves        8. Houston Rockets                     8. Minnesota Timberwolves

Eastern Conference Finals:
Kurt Helin: Heat over Pacers
D.J. Foster: Heat over Celtics
Darius Soriano: Heat over Celtics

Western Conference Finals:
Kurt Helin: Lakers over Thunder
D.J. Foster: Lakers over Thunder
Darius Soriano: Lakers over Thunder

NBA Finals:
Kurt Helin: Heat over Lakers
D.J. Foster: Heat over Lakers
Darius Soriano: Lakers over Heat

MVP Winner:
Kurt Helin: Kevin Durant
D.J. Foster: Kevin Durant
Darius Soriano: Kevin Durant

Rookie of the Year winner:
Kurt Helin: Damian Lillard
D.J. Foster: Anthony Davis
Darius Soriano: Anthony Davis

Most Disappointing NBA Team:
Kurt Helin: Dallas Mavericks
D.J. Foster: Philadelphia 76ers
Darius Soriano: Dallas Mavericks

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?