L.A. GM Kupchak reiterates Lakers will not be making trade

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You can’t completely trust what a general manager says this time of year, because even if they mean it when they say “we’re not making a trade” things could change in a couple of weeks. An offer they cannot refuse could fall in their laps.

But I believe Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak when he says the Lakers are not going to make a trade.

Kupchak (a Long Island native) spoke to Newsday and really couldn’t have been clearer about his intentions.

“We will not make a trade. We will not trade Dwight Howard. We have no intention of making a trade. It’s unlikely that we’ll make any trade with any of our principal players. To make another change at this time of the year being behind the eight-ball like we are, I think that would just make it more difficult. The talent is there. We have to find our way.”

Kupchak is right — after a season of changes the Lakers are just now starting to figure out how to get their stars to play together and make it work. Whether they can maintain it and whether they figured it out in time remain to be seen, but the last thing the team needs now is some sort of major shakeup.

And the Lakers are not trading Howard. Under no circumstances. They want to re-sign him this summer as the player who will anchor the team after Kobe leaves. Any talk of trading him has been wishful thinking and speculation from other teams. And the teams that did call the Lakers to inquire about Howard pretty much were hung up on. Kupchak is too polite to do that directly, but it’s pretty much it.

Don’t be shocked if the Lakers make a move or three this summer, including possibly a Pau Gasol trade (although that is complex and the Lakers will not want to take long-term money back). They Lakers need more athletes for the D’Antoni system but they need stability more. But for now, what you see is what the Lakers will have to try and make a push to the playoffs.

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?