Lance Stephenson says LeBron’s trash talk in Game 3 is ‘a sign of weakness’

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Lance Stephenson has made a habit of talking to LeBron James on the court, but for the most part, James has let those words go unrecognized.

In Miami’s Game 3 win over the Pacers, however, James responded early and often. It seemed to begin during the second quarter after he was called for a charge on Stephenson, when LeBron stood over him as he sat on the floor, before shadowing him as closely as possible on the way back down the court.

Stephenson knows just how unusual it is to have James respond to his constant jabbering, and he believes he may have finally cracked the armor of the game’s best player.

From Shandel Richardson of the Miami Sun-Sentinel:

“To me, I think it’s a sign of weakness because he never used to say nothing to me,” Stephenson said. “I always used to be the one who used to be the one that say, `I’m going to get under you. I’m going to do something to get you mad’ Now he’s trying to do it to me. I feel like it’s a weakness.”‘ …

“I’m doing something right and I’m getting under his skin,” Stephenson said. “I definitely have to keep stepping up to the plate and be aggressive when he does that.” …

“One thing I’m not going to do is give y’all a storyline with LeBron and Stephenson,” James said. “I’m not going to do that. It’s the Pacers versus the Heat. I’m not going to get involved in that … I’ve already been involved in a LeBron vs. Stevenson in my playoff career.”

LeBron was of course referring to DeShawn Stevenson, who similarly engaged James when he played for the Cavaliers and DeShawn played for the Wizards during the 2008 season.

James is wise not to get into it with Lance through the media, but as far as responding on the court, a player can only take so much. And as long as it’s not a distraction to LeBron — who finished Game 3 with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, four steals and a victory — he can say whatever he wants.

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.