Pelicans’ lose center Jason Smith for season after knee surgery

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Jason Smith has not been the ideal complement to Anthony Davis along the front line in New Orleans this season — when the two were on the court together this season the Pelicans were -1 point per 100 possessions (and both the team’s offensive and defensive ratings were pretty close to the season averages overall for New Orleans).

However, he may have been the best option coach Monty Williams had — when Davis is paired with Alexis Ajinca the Pelicans are -11.5, when paired with Greg Stiemsma the Pelicans’ offense goes into the tank. (There is promise with Jeff Withey and Davis, they are +9.1 per 100, but the two have only played 71 minutes together all season.)

Notice we said had in that last paragraph — Smith is lost for the season in New Orleans following knee surgery, the team announced Monday. The surgery was to “remove a loose piece of articular cartilage in the non-weight bearing area of his right knee” and he should be back next season.

Smith had not played since Jan. 15 because of the knee. He averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

With the loss of Smith and Ryan Anderson for the season the Pelicans have been without two key cogs in their frontcourt — Davis and Anderson were showing real potential as a frontcourt pairing (+6 per 100 possessions).

At 20-26 the Pelicans are six games out of the playoffs in the West and not likely at all to make up the ground. Which maybe means it’s time to really see what Withey can do and let him learn some on the job. Aside that look for some Ajinca and Stiemsma, who have both played a lot of minutes up front in recent games.

The Pelicans have a nice team on paper but injuries just never really let it get a flow 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.

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?