D’Antoni on Kobe playing opening night: “No. I don’t think so.”

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It always seemed pretty much impossible that Kobe Bryant would be back from his ruptured Achilles tendon in April in time for the NBA’s opening night. But because he’s Kobe Bryant we all looked at it differently — this guy played with a broken finger on his shooting hand and just adjusted his shot to make it work. He’s the Black Knight from Monty Python (‘Tis a flesh wound) and you just couldn’t write him off.

Now, it seems Mike D’Antoni is writing him off from opening night. Almost.

At his postgame press conference in Beijing after the Lakers fell to Golden State Tuesday morning, D’Antoni was asked about the chances of Kobe playing opening night Oct. 29 against the Clippers and he was honest in his response (via Zach Harper at Eye on Basketball).

“No. I don’t think so. We’ll see. I think it’s an ongoing process but that would be tough.”

That first reaction — “no” — is what Mike D’Antoni really thinks. That second comment about “process” and it “would be tough” is D’Antoni remembering Kobe is the guy with the power in their relationship and he wants that door open.

Kobe has yet to practice with the team. He is running — he ran around the arena in Beijing while his teammates practiced — but that is very different from sharp stops, cutting and all that comes with playing in a basketball game.

Like a hamstring, an Achilles needs to be fully healed and not pushed too much after an injury because it is prone to setbacks. It is not a situation where it is as simple as “if Kobe just works harder and ignores the pain he’ll be fine.” If it were a matter of will he’d be back.

The Lakers need him back but more importantly the Lakers need him back right — any hopes of a playoff spot in the West hinge on him not only returning early in the season but also being pretty close to his old self. This Lakers team is not one with a lot of margin for error. They can wait a few weeks to get him right.

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?