George Karl has noticed the maturity in Carmelo Anthony’s game

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Carmelo Anthony used to frustrate George Karl, and it wasn’t just a fondness for 20-foot contested jumpers.

Karl needed Anthony to be a true leader on both ends of the floor. He needed Anthony’s focus on offense to translate to defense. He needed Anthony to do the little things that leaders do to push their team to the next level.

Say, like being willing to risk injury diving for a loose ball out of bounds. Like he did the other day. Anthony returned from that finger injury to beat Karl and his Nuggets and Karl told the New York Times he has seen the change in Anthony’s game.

“I’ve said I feel that Carmelo is going to win a championship someday,” Karl said. “He’s going to figure out that the numbers and the stats sheets aren’t important. It’s the scoreboard and the intangibles that make winners champions.”

Anthony is scoring 26.8 points per game, which is close to his career high, and he is hitting a career high from three of 43 percent. But it’s the little things that have driven his PER up to a career high of 24.

Anthony came back from the Olympics this summer with a more mature outlook and game, something he got after hanging around with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and other guys with rings on Team USA at the London Olympics. But Kobe and LeBron both had a learning curve to become true leaders, and Karl said that and what Anthony has done is the norm. Players are not born to lead right out of the gate.

“I can say that about everybody I’ve coached, except Chauncey Billups or Nate McMillan, in my career,” Karl said. “I can say that about Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and a lot of great young guys.”

At this point of the season, about a quarter of the way in, is when you can start to tell if the mirages we saw early in the season are reality or not. The change in Anthony doesn’t seem to be a mirage. There are tests still ahead for the Knicks (hello Amare Stoudemire) but now we get to see how far the new Anthony can take the Knicks.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

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 Celtics 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. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s 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.