Metta World Peace: “The Lakers are going to go to the NBA Finals”

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This is why there is drug testing in the NBA.

Not that Metta World Peace is on drugs or needs them to say something outrageous. Never has and never will.

He was certainly excessively boastful of what the Lakers could and would do when he was a member of that team. This summer the Lakers decided to amnesty him but that doesn’t mean he’s given up the over-the-top Lakers predictions — he made another one to ESPNNewYork.com.

“I think the Lakers are going to go to the NBA Finals,” World Peace said during a signing for his children’s book “Metta’s Bedtime Stories” in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

“I think Kobe [Bryant’s] gonna be healthy, they’re gonna get Pau [Gasol]. The Lakers are gonna make a big trade like they always do. They’re gonna get another good player, boom, boom, and they’re gonna go to the Finals. I believe it. Kobe’s gonna come back, he’s gonna play team ball, and Pau’s gonna play well.”

There has certainly been plenty of schadenfreude around the league watching the Lakers struggle last season. That said, a number of executives around the league also will tell you the Lakers have the advantage of being in Los Angeles and next summer they should have some money to spend, which can lead to a rapid rise from the ashes of things go their way.

But this season… not so much.

If the Lakers are going to make a big trade it is going to involve Pau Gasol going out, because he is the only asset they have that could draw that kind of return. Not Steve Nash, not Chris Kaman, not Jodie Meeks. And Kobe Bryant isn’t getting moved.

If Kobe comes back healthy, if Nash and Gasol can stay healthy, if they run Mike D’Antoni’s system closer to how it is intended, they could be better than some predict. They have the potential of making the playoffs (one of the last couple of slots in the West). But if all that goes right they are still first round fodder this season.

Lakers fans need to focus on the fun of this season, not the outcome, then wait for what will be an interesting next summer in Los Angeles.

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.