LeBron says he should be Defensive Player of the Year

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It’s going to be Roy Hibbert. If you were going to bet on one sure thing out of the NBA’s awards this season, you should bet on Roy Hibbert being named Defensive Player of the Year. More than Durant as MVP or Michael Carter-Williams as Rookie of the Year, Hibbert is a lock for DPOY.

Unless LeBron James gets to decide.

He doesn’t (it’s voted on by media members) but LeBron said he deserves a little love in the category after he showcased his defensive skills against the Clippers, as reported by Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel.

Wednesday night was one of those times, with James guarding everyone from fleet point guard Darren Collison to imposing center DeAndre Jordan, along the way also taking turns on exponentially improving Clippers forward Blake Griffin.

“That’s why I should be Defensive Player of the Year,” he said with a smile, but also a touch of candor. “One-through-five. Started off on DeAndre, guarded Darren Collison that one possession, so, you know. No one has ever done this before.

“That’s why I’m sitting here with nine bags of ice.”

The DPOY Award often goes to a big man because we can see them clean up the messes made by guys on the perimeter — Hibbert, Dwight Howard and last year’s (deserving) winner Marc Gasol radically change their teams’ defensive fortunes by how they patrol the paint and take away easy buckets.

The versatility of what James does is not as easy to point to, but he’s right in the sense that his contributions on that end can get overlooked. LeBron is a unique physical talent in the league and guys who can guard multiple positions have real value — and nobody is as versatile on that end as LeBron. He should be high on every voter’s ballot this season.

But the award is still deservingly going to Hibbert, the anchor for the best defensive team in the NBA.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come 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.