Rockets coach Kevin McHale explains the difference between good and bad players

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The Rockets were on the wrong end of brilliant performances from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard in their Game 1 loss to the Blazers on Sunday, and lost a winnable game by blowing a 10-point lead at home with just four minutes left in regulation.

Sunday was an eternity ago by NBA standards, and with James Harden coming off an 8-for-28 shooting performance over 45 minutes of action, he sounds beyond ready for Wednesday night’s chance at redemption.

“This is a must-win for us,” James Harden said after the morning shoot-around [via CSN Houston]. “Must-win Game 2. Like I said, we had Game 1 under our belt and we let some silly mistakes in the fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter, which we don’t usually do, slip away. But we’re confident. We’re ready to go for Game 2.”

Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, however, is taking a bit of a lighter approach.

The grind of talking to the media daily can get old for coaches, especially with so many days between games. And McHale in particular isn’t always all that interested in fulfilling this duty — in fact, one time I witnessed him come out for a pregame session at a visiting arena during the regular season, and when he saw only two reporters there (none of whom were regulars that traveled with the team), he turned right around and went back into the locker room, skipping the interview entirely.

McHale has a great sense of humor, however, so in the rare moments when the mood is right, he’ll definitely open up. And when asked some questions about Harden’s subpar Game 1, he explained in very basic terms the difference between good and bad players.

Reporter: “[Harden] has had some of his bigger games in the ones after some of his lesser games …”

McHale: “That’s usually the sign of a good player. The sign of a bad player is that he strings a bunch of bad plays, bad games together and then they become a bad player.”

Thanks for the clarification, coach.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.