Paul Pierce doesn’t want Deron Williams to return until he’s 100 percent

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The plan all along was for Deron Williams to miss the majority of the preseason for the Nets after suffering a sprained ankle, but to be ready to go by the time the regular season begins on October 30.

But Williams has been slow to recover, and after dealing with ankle issues that limited him for much of last season, Brooklyn isn’t in any hurry to rush him back.

Jason Kidd has already broached the possibility that Williams may not be ready for opening night, and one of the Nets’ newest veterans, Paul Pierce, doesn’t want to see his teammate try to come back before he’s feeling 100 percent.

From Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

The question now is: Will Williams go forward enough to play in a game this week, or in the season opener next week? That remains to be seen. When he spoke to reporters Friday, Williams said part of what has allowed him to remain patient has been conversations with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry about understanding that it’s how he feels in May and June that matters, as opposed to October and November.

For Pierce, after seeing the Celtics suffer at least one significant injury each year since winning the title in 2008, it’s a message he has learned from experience.

“Why come back when you’re only 75, 80 percent? Then you come back and you go back down to 50 percent,” Pierce said. “We’d rather see a guy take all the rest that he needs and get to 100 percent so he’s ready to go.”

We seem to be hearing this line of thinking more and more from teams that plan on contending for a title, or at the very least have aspirations of making a bit of a run in the postseason.

There’s no reason at all to come back early less than healthy if you’re a key player on a team slated to make the playoffs. The regular season is a long grind, and the teams that are the healthiest at the end are often the ones who see the most positive results.

The Nets will continue to play it smart where Williams is concerned, and Pierce made it clear that his new veteran teammates will support that decision.

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?