Mark Jackson not happy with George Karl over ‘disrespectful’ comment he made about Festus Ezeli

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The war of words between Mark Jackson and George Karl is heating up in advance of Thursday night’s Game 6 between the Nuggets and the Warriors.

The entire series has been a physical one, with players on both sides getting in their fair share of shots. But Jackson took exception to the way Denver defended Stephen Curry in holding him to a series low 15 points, and (as seen in the video clip above) made his feelings known publicly afterward.

“There were some dirty plays early,” Jackson said. “It’s playoff basketball. That’s alright. We own it. But make no mistake about it, we went up 3-1 playing hard, physical, clean basketball, not trying to hurt anybody.”

“The screen on Curry by the foul line is a shot at his ankle, clearly,” Jackson said. “That can’t be debated. I’ve got inside information that some people don’t like that brand of basketball, and they clearly didn’t co-sign it. So they wanted to let me know that they had no parts in what was taking place.”

Somewhat predictably, George Karl didn’t exactly see it that way.

“I’m just trying to figure out what movie he’s watching,” Karl said. “Because it’s not the one I’m watching.”

But Karl also used a phrase to describe Warriors big man Festus Ezeli that Jackson took exception to.

From Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News:

Asked about Ezeli’s improvement Wednesday, Karl said that had “blossomed into an elbow and a–hole guy,” a common expression about players who create havoc in the key. Jackson didn’t like it, though, and said so at the team’s shootaround Thursday morning.

“That statement is disrespectful,” said the Warriors coach. “I’ve got a lot of respect for George Karl, the job that he’s done and who he is. But that statement is disrespectful. I wonder what he thinks of his players — Kenyon Martin, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, (Kosta) Koufos. I wonder what he thinks of those guys.”

Karl’s comments can be seen and heard here.

Both Jackson and Karl are trying to make sure that their players are protected, but they’re also doing some public lobbying to the officials in hopes that their respective team is the one receiving the benefit of the whistles in a critical Game 6.

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.