Nowitzki says he has reached out to Dwight Howard already

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The Dallas Mavericks remain on Dwight Howard’s short list, if reports are to be believed.

Mark Cuban has built an organization guys want to play for, and while he would share the spotlight with Dirk Nowitzki for a year or two Howard would be the alpha dog in Dallas. This would be his team; it would be rebuilt around him.

Nowitzki is already tampering… er, helping to recruit Howard to Dallas, he told the Star-Telegram.

“I reached out to him and told him we’d love to have him,” Nowitzki said. “It’s not like we call each other every day. I didn’t write him a letter. We just had a little phone contact. That’s about it….

“To me, when he’s healthy he’s the most dominant big man in the league,” Nowitzki said of Howard. “He’s shown that at the end of the season when he was right what he can still do.

“He can dominate on both ends of the floor if he feels healthy, he can still use his athleticism. He’s a beast on both ends of the floor.”

But sure Lakers fans, good riddance to him. He can easily be replaced, right?

Howard came back from back surgery too fast last season and wasn’t right, and that combined with the coaching change to a radically different philosophy, and the injuries to Steve Nash and eventually Kobe Bryant, doomed the Lakers season.

But Howard is still the best center in the game when healthy. He can be a force at both ends of the floor (although he needs to accept he should be used more in the pick-and-roll than the post). Wherever he lands that team is either a contender or on the cusp of it.

So the smart play is to have your star reach out and say he wants Howard on the team.

I’d rather predict the moods of a 14-year-old girl than what Dwight Howard wants to do in free agency or what he will say July 10. But Dallas is in the mix and Dirk helps that cause.

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?