NBA releases 2013-14 schedule, here are your opening night and Christmas Day matchups

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After several notable leaks over the past couple of weeks, we finally have the official version of the 2013-14 NBA schedule. Let’s get right to it by taking a look at the slate for some of the key dates in the season.

OPENING NIGHT: Tuesday, October 29

MAGIC at PACERS: The first game of the season tips off at 7 p.m. ET, and will be available on League Pass only. But true junkies can see a loaded Pacers squad face a feisty, rebuilding Magic team that features rookie Victor Oladipo. It’ll kill an hour before the main event, if nothing else.

BULLS at HEAT: It’s ring night in Miami for the second straight season, but with apologies to Heat fans, seeing Derrick Rose and his likely return to the court to play a game that counts for the first time in over 18 months is going to be the leading storyline.

CLIPPERS at LAKERS: We don’t know yet if Kobe Bryant will be recovered from his torn Achilles injury in time to open the season, but we do know that the Clippers are loaded with talent, and with new head coach Doc Rivers the expectations are at an all-time high for L.A.’s historically junior squad.

CHRISTMAS DAY: Wednesday, December 25

The NBA stacks its Christmas Day lineup, and with good reason. Most casual fans don’t start paying attention to the league until then, and with the NFL season coming to an end it’s the perfect time to remind those not fully committed of exactly what they’ve been missing.

BULLS at NETS: Chicago with a healthy Derrick Rose should be one of the East’s elite, as should a Nets team that added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the offseason. We’ll get an early indication of who has the upper hand in what should be an excellent matchup.

THUNDER at KNICKS: New York won a thriller in Oklahoma City late last season, and the league is hoping for a repeat performance — at least in terms of entertainment value — at Madison Square Garden next year.

HEAT at LAKERS: This is the day’s main event, and should feature LeBron James facing off against Kobe Bryant. Doesn’t matter if this is expected to be a down year for the Lakers — when Kobe and LeBron get together, it’s always a must-see event.

ROCKETS at SPURS: San Antonio was seconds from winning a title in Game 6 of the Finals, and the Rockets added Dwight Howard in the offseason. It’s sort of an old versus new matchup in terms of Texas-based powers, so it’ll be interesting to see how much Houston has come together against a veteran and tested Spurs team at this relatively early point in the season.

CLIPPERS at WARRIORS: The night cap to what appears to be a promising slate of games can be described in one simple word: Fun. This game should be tons of fun to watch.

We’ll have more on some of the must-see games of the season, but here are a few that should immediately pique your interest:

– Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will return to Boston with the Nets for the first time on January 26.

– Former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers returns to Boston with the Clippers on December 11.

– The Lakers will face Dwight Howard and the Rockets in Houston on November 7, while Howard will make his first appearance at Staples Center to play the Lakers on February 19.

– Andrew Bynum will return to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on January 14 as a member of the Cavaliers.

– Greg Oden will return to Portland with the Heat for the first time on December 28.

Russell Westbrook triple-double keys OKC in 3OT thriller vs 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and Oklahoma City and the Philadelphia 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.

Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for NBA game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.

Embiid scored 34 points in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.

Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.

Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.

Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George‘s 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.

Round 2 was just as fun.

Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT.

Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when Steve Adams fouled out of the game.

But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there’s no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.

The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers’ related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.

“I’m not a fan,” coach Brett Brown said. “I like living behind closed doors.”

But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.

Embiid’s health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.

 

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.