Three Stars of the Night

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Basketball is back! Hockey? Well, not so much. That doesn’t mean we can’t pay homage to the guys on ice by handing out the Three Stars of the Night, basketball style. Tonight’s stars feature a few familiar faces in new places, and a player who did something that hasn’t been done in 25 years:

Third Star: Ray Allen

Highly anticipated opening acts are usually a bit of a flop, but Ray Allen’s debut exceeded expectations. Allen did exactly what he was brought in to do – spread the floor and pace the bench when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were off the court –and he did it to the tune of a very efficient 19 points on just 7 shots. Allen won’t be this good every night, but it’s an illustration of how scary the Heat’s offense can be at full strength when the ball is being peppered around the horn. Who can you leave open when Miami has their best lineup on the floor? Here’s a hint: it ain’t Allen.

Second Star: Darren Collison

Remember when tonight was supposed to be about a tempo dictating point guard and a monster center getting acclimated to their new team? Well, it was – it was just Collison and Eddy Curry stealing the roles. Collison pitched a near perfect game all things considered. He set the tone with his patented brand of annoying on ball defense, making Nash work for things that are typically granted to him. On the other end, Collison was aggressive in pushing the Mavs up the floor throughout the game, helping to create easy opportunities on the run for a Mavericks offense void of any real halfcourt threat. And when everything broke down? Collison smoked Nash off the dribble and rendered him an afterthought.

First Star: Anderson Varejao

Here’s a fun fact: By grabbing a ridiculous 12 offensive rebounds and also dropping 9 assists, Varejao became the first player since Charles Barkley way back in 1987 (!) to put up those numbers in a game. A healthy Varejao with all his energy and smarts is a scary thing, but the Wizards may have actually been a little more frightening. Washington nearly allowed more offensive rebounds (18) than the defensive rebounds they collected (21). They also shot 35 percent from the field, and had only two players score in double-digits. Maybe Varejao’s First Star should come with an asterisk considering the competition, but that would just look like two stars and confuse everyone, so we’ll let it stand.

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.