Tyson Chandler among Bulls refuting claim that members of 2002-03 team smoked pot before games

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In an excellent New York Times piece that was published over the weekend, former Duke basketball standout and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams recounted his experience dealing with the aftermath of a motorcycle injury that ended his professional basketball career.

It was a powerful story, one that included Williams discussing his feelings at his lowest point, which had him considering suicide.

There was another nugget in there, however, that’s now gaining some national attention, thanks to the way it’s affecting some of Williams’ former teammates he played with while he was a member of the Chicago Bulls during the 2002-03 season.

From Greg Bishop of the Times:

“I didn’t know how to handle it at first,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how to be around it. Guys were on the bench, trying to kick it to girls in the stands, having ball boys run over. I mean, some guys were high.”

Asked to clarify, Williams said: “There were guys smoking weed before games. Guys asking in the middle of the game, ‘Do you smell popcorn?’ ”

He noticed the nervous laughter around the kitchen table. “You think I’m playing,” Williams said. “Can you imagine! Guys are gambling. They’re playing dice in the back of the plane for money. Like, we just lost by 30 tonight! And we’ve got a game tomorrow! It bugged me out.”

Players “smoking weed before games” is a strong statement, and it must have been at least perceived to be true by Williams for him to even broach the subject.

But the fact that he mentioned it at all, and did so without naming names, is leaving his ex-teammates scrambling to explain.

Tyson Chandler, who now plays for the Knicks and earned his first selection to the All-Star team this season, was on that 2002-03 team with Williams. And not surprisingly, he’s not letting that claim from Williams go without a response.

From Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork:

“I don’t know why he would say something like that. I think that’s ridiculous that he would come out and say something. I don’t remember that to be honest with you. And it’s unfortunate that he would make that kind of statement about our game,” Chandler said at the team’s charity bowling event to support Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Other Bulls on that team, including Donyell Marshall and Rick Brunson, similarly took exception to Williams’ assertion.

Williams released a statement Monday essentially saying he was done talking about the issue.

“I gave an honest account of my struggles and observations during a specific time in my life; that was one small element. It was a long time ago and I am not looking to make it a bigger issue,” he said.

The interview Williams gave was so wide-ranging that it might not have even occurred to him at the time the gravity of what he was saying. If he had thought it through a little bit before making those comments, he might have realized how many people were going to be affected by such a serious accusation.

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?