Greg Oden cleared for full practice, could play for Heat in preseason

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source: AP

When Miami took a chance on signing Greg Oden this offseason, the plan was to bring him along slowly, with the hope that he’d be healthy enough to contribute at some point before the postseason run to a third straight title began.

All indications now are that he’ll be ready much, much sooner than was expected.

From Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

Greg Oden is likely to be cleared for full practice work with the Miami Heat next week and could see his first NBA action in four years during one of their final preseason games, sources told ESPN.com on Saturday. …

“The next step for me now is just doing some five-on-five work and just getting out there,” Oden told ESPN.com. “Every little step for me, I just get excited. I just want to get out there and do more and more, get my wind back, get my legs back under me. I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to get a couple of minutes out there.”

The Heat publicly remain cautious and continue to take the long view in their approach to Oden’s comeback. But there were promising signs last week when Oden went through a pair of four-on-four scrimmage sessions and responded without any unexpected concerns with his knees.

We obviously have no idea the level at which Oden will be able to contribute when he makes it back to the court, or if the knees that have caused him so many problems will hold up for any type of regular workload throughout the regular season or the playoffs.

But should Oden turn into even a serviceable center, he’d be a major asset to a Heat team that will likely have to go through Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers at some point in order to make it back to a fourth straight Finals.

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?