Harden is recruiting players to come join him in Houston

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In Oklahoma City, James Harden didn’t have all the responsibilities of being the face of the franchise. There were fewer demands on his time off the court, and fewer touches on it.

Now the Rockets’ future is tied to him. That means on the court where he will be the focal point of the offense and he has to both score and get others involved.

And off the court, where he needs to help recruit talent to go around him. It matters in today’s NBA — Wade helped recruit LeBron and Bosh to Miami, then did the same with Ray Allen. Kobe Bryant helped recruit and sell Dwight Howard on the Lakers (but in his own Kobe way).

Harden told KGOW in Houston he is recruiting, (via Sports Radio Interviews):

“Of course. I’ve been starting that recruiting process. One player is not going to win a championship. Nowadays you need two or maybe more. I’ve definitely started the recruiting process. We need more guys to come over here, so we can win. For right now we are going to stick with the players we have and try to run with that.”

The Rockets have some guys who could be good role players on an elite team on their roster already — Omer Asik is a good defensive big man, guys like Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson can get the job done.

Then there is Jeremy Lin, who would be lit up on the back pages in New York for his play this year but in reality has looked like a guy learning to be a point guard in the NBA. Which he is, Harden noted.

“He’s done a great job. It’s his first year, too, as a starting point guard, and starting the year off as a point guard, so we both have a lot to learn together. He’s a great player. He can create on the ball and shoot the ball as well. He’s a great point guard.”

There’s a lot of work for Rockets GM Daryl Morey to do still. A lot. He has some tradable assets and some cap space the next couple years to try and do it.

But he’s not going to do it without Harden being the salesman.

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?