Stephen Curry plans to improve defensively next season

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Stephen Curry had a monster year for the Warriors offensively, running the point and putting up big scoring numbers while helping to lead his team to the second round of the playoffs.

Next season, he expects his game to improve on the defensive end of the floor.

From Marcus Thompson of the San Jose Mercury News:

Q: Is it possible to be good on defense for an entire season with the offensive load you carry?

A: No excuses. It’s definitely possible. When I’m in the game, I’m not really thinking, ‘I’m tired. Let me milk it on defense.’ I’ve just got to dig deep. That’s what you prepare in the summer for, to battle through fatigue like that. So I think it is possible. I’m not going to be defensive player of the year. But hopefully I can be top 10 (among point guards) and be able to disrupt some of the best point guards in the world.

Q: How does it make you feel when people say you can’t play defense?

A: I don’t really care. I know I can. I know I’m capable of it. I know I’ve shown it. I’m not a liability on the defensive end at all, I don’t think.

Curry is far from a liability defensively, and in fact, his head coach Mark Jackson called him an elite defender as recently as December of last season.

Where Curry needs to improve is really only from an effort standpoint, and he seems to be well aware of that based on his comments. Carrying the load offensively at times can surely be taxing, but that doesn’t mean you can take possessions off on the defensive end of the floor — either consciously or otherwise.

The fact that Curry is focusing on this aspect of his game might be enough for him to see marked improvement in this area next season.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

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 Celtics 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. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s 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.