John Wall writing “playoffs” on all his game shoes this season

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We’ve done multiple stories about the Wizards and their playoffs or bust mantra for this season (except the bust is a deep lottery). Everyone from Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has talked about it.

John Wall is the key to this — he generates the offense on this team. With him on the court last season the Wizards had a passable (read: average) offense but when he was out injured they were the worst in the NBA.

How seriously is Wall taking his role of leading this team to the playoffs for the first time in five years? Wall explained it to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.

When the Washington Wizards open the season Oct. 30 in Detroit, Wall will take the court with the word “playoffs” scribbled on his shoes. He will repeat the exercise every day, through 82 games, lest he or anyone else lose sight of the goal.

“You will see it on all my shoes,” Wall said last week. “Every game pair is going to have `playoffs’ on it. That’s my main determination.”

If Wall actually writes “playoffs” on 82 pairs of shoes — if he is healthy every game — the Wizards might make the playoffs in the East.

With him last season they were a .500 team last season (25-24), and a lot of years something in that ballpark would be good enough. To beat out teams like Detroit, Atlanta and Cleveland (which has its own star point guard) they may have to be a little better than that.

To make that happen, the Wizards need more than Wall. They need Bradley Beal to take a step up in his second season. Then they need Nene to stay healthy and lock down the middle, with him eventually getting some help when Emeka Okafor gets healthy. The Wizards need more than just Wall.

But they need a lot of Wall.

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?