D'Angelo Russell

Nets’ Jeremy Lin out for season

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The fears for Nets point guard Jeremy Lin have been realized.

Nets release:

Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin has been diagnosed with a ruptured patella tendon of the right knee.  The injury occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game at Indiana. Lin is expected to miss the entire 2017-18 season.

This is obviously a devastating setback for Lin, who missed 46 games last season in his first year with Brooklyn. The Nets’ already-slim playoff chances fade further with the loss of arguably their best player, though fellow point guard D'Angelo Russell shined in his Brooklyn debut with 30 points.

The trickle-down effects of this injury are perhaps more intriguing.

This makes the Nets’ first-round pick – owned by the Cavaliers – more valuable. Does that make LeBron James more likely to re-sign with Cleveland next summer (either because the Cavs add a top-flight rookie or trade the selection for a valuable veteran)? Does that alter long-term plans in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere?

Lin’s injury doesn’t just sting in Brooklyn. It could alter the entire landscape of the NBA.

Three Things to Know: Giannis Antetokounmpo spoils Boston home opener

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Every night in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, especially on this, the real opening night of the NBA with 22 teams in action. Every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Tonight, that includes a few historic numbers… good and bad.

1) Brad Stevens, Celtics have no answer on how to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo either. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re getting mentioned in the record books with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you’re doing something very right. Monday night, the Greek Freak was rolling to the rim and finishing alley-oops over defenders, hitting floaters and leaners in the lane, and generally using his length to get any shot he wanted against the Celtics on his way to a 37-point, 13 rebound night in Boston. The only other Buck to have an opening night of at least 35 and 10? Yup, one Mr. Abdul-Jabbar.

Put a smaller defender on Antetokounmpo and he shoots right over them. Put a bigger defender on him and he goes around them — or just over them too. Brad Stevens tried a lot of things on defense, and while Al Horford had a little first-half success slowing him nobody did all game as he shot 59.1 percent on his way to dropping 37.

Notice all those shots are close to the rim. Antetokounmpo was a ridiculous 10-of-12 at the rim and 12-of-18 in the paint overall, but just 1-of-4 outside the key. It’s easy to say “make him a jump shooter” but good luck finding anyone who can stay in front of him, or that he can’t just finish over. The man was dunking over Aron Baynes, how do you get anyone much bigger in front of him?

Boston was up four points entering the fourth quarter when the second night of a back-to-back seemed to hit them, they scored just 20 points on 8-of-25 shooting in the final frame, 4-of-21 outside the restricted area. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo went off for 16 in the fourth as he ramped up his aggressiveness and Brad Stevens and the Celtics had no answer. Marcus Smart was fiery and got into it with Matthew Dellavedova, that may have exemplified Boston’s spirit, but Celtics looked physically and emotionally worn down by the end. Hard to blame them.

Rough start to the season for Boston, who lost Gordon Hayward just minutes into the opener (he’s out for the season), they fell to the Celtics Tuesday night and now are off to an 0-2 start. They will bounce back, but just now how the team with all these new players thought things would start.

2) Jeremy Lin injures knee and there is “tremendous” concern it is serious. Midway through the fourth quarter against the Pacers, Jeremy Lin drove the lane and finished a layup at the rim that looked ordinary — except when he landed he went to the ground grabbing his knee and did not get back up.

This isn’t good. Neither were the reports during and after the play.

Brooklyn was counting on Lin to help stabilize the point guard position and the backcourt with D'Angelo Russell (who had 30 on the night in a losing effort). If Lin is done for all or most of the season, it’s a huge setback for a team that, while bad, was expected to be a little better than in previous seasons. Remember, the Cavaliers have Brooklyn’s first-round pick this season unprotected (part of the Kyrie Irving trade from Boston).

• While we’re on the injury front, Boston’s Gordon Hayward underwent surgery on his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia on Wednesday, and according to his agent he is “unlikely” to return this season. Hayward did send a video message to Celtics fans thanking them. Boston will try to move on, but it’s been a difficult and emotional start to the season for the Celtics.

3) Suns’ season opening performance wasn’t just bad, it was the worst ever. The record for worst opening night loss in NBA history belonged to the 1987 Los Angeles Clippers coached by Gene Shue, who were blown out by Denver by 46 points.

No more. That record now belongs to the Phoenix Suns, who fell at home to the Portland Trail Blazers 124-76 — a 48 point loss. The Suns shot 31.5 percent as a team — Devin Booker was 6-of-17 and didn’t hit a three, Eric Bledsoe was sloppy and reckless all night and finished 5-of-18 with five turnovers and three assists, while Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss combined to go 1-of-10 off the bench. The Phoenix offense was about as in synch as the left shark, and many possessions ended with a terrible shot being jacked up because, well, somebody had to shoot it.

I’d like to say this was a good omen for the Trail Blazers’ defense, but really it’s impossible to judge how good it was against this offense. It was still a win the Blazers will gladly take, Damian Lillard had 24 points while Pat Connaughton came off the bench for 22.

Report: Nets to sign center Tyler Zeller to two-year contract

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A couple years ago, Tyler Zeller was a regular part of the Celtics rotation, and while his game had slipped as of Monday morning he still was one of PBT’s 10 best free agents still on the market.

He’s not on the market anymore.

He will join Timofey Mozgov and Jarrett Allen in the big man rotation in Brooklyn reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The second year of the deal is not guaranteed.

This is another of the smart gamble moves by the Nets, taking a chance on a player who didn’t fit elsewhere but has some potential (like D'Angelo Russell). Zeller is fairly athletic and moves well for a big man, but he is not efficient on offense and struggles to defend in space. He has a midrange game, but if he could get some easy buckets at the rim he’d be much more efficient.

He will get his chance with the Nets to prove he still has a role in the NBA.

Report: Cavaliers get calls, listen to trade offers for Brooklyn Nets pick

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While all the talk has been about Isaiah Thomas and his hip, and Jae Crowder being a good fit with the Cavs (I think Bill Simmons undersells him in his latest podcast, like a true Celtics fan), the real selling point in this trade was Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

If LeBron James leaves next summer this pick is a good piece to help start the rebuild.

Also, it can be a huge trade chip if the Cavaliers want to go all in on pushing the Warriors for a ring this year in an effort to keep LeBron. Other teams are calling about the pick, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

As owners of Brooklyn’s No. 1 pick, which could be a top-five pick in next year’s draft, Cleveland has fielded numerous calls already about a potential trade. It could be a part of a major trade package for the Cavs later this year, or, conceivably, the Cavs could make that pick next June. Cleveland also has its own first-round pick in 2018, which it can trade.

Exactly where that Brooklyn pick lands is an interesting question. Brooklyn is going to be bad, but the Vegas under/over odds has them tied for 3-5th worst in the league. Plenty of people around the league think they will be slightly better than that (5-7th I keep hearing), especially if Jeremy Lin stays healthy and if D'Angelo Russell starts really playing for his next contract. Brooklyn doesn’t have its pick this year, so unlike Chicago/Indiana/Phoenix and others it has no reason to start tanking.

Still, that’s a high lottery pick in a draft thought to be deep with good big men, that could bring real help to Cleveland via a trade.

Smart money, however, is on the Cavs keeping it. They may not want to surrender something that can help jump-start a rebuild.

 

Rumor: Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because he shares agent with LeBron James

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The Lakers are gearing up for 2018 free agency – when LeBron James, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins will be available. The Lakers also don’t have their own 2018 draft pick.

That made their mission this summer clear: Preserve and clear 2018 cap space while upgrading the team for 2017-18 as much as possible.

Brook Lopez, acquired in the Timofey Mozgov salary dump that sent D'Angelo Russell to the Nets, was an ideal fit. Lopez will help the Lakers establish credibility this season, and his contract expires afterward.

Likewise, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope emerged as a partner in a mutually beneficial relationship with the Lakers. He unexpectedly became an unrestricted free agent onlu after many teams spent their cap space. Rather than lock into a long-term discount, he sought a one-year deal to get back on the market again next year. He was the best shooting guard the Lakers could have gotten on a one-year contract.

Plus…

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Multiple league sources suggested to ESPN that a major motivating factor in the Lakers’ signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal this offseason was because Caldwell-Pope is repped by Rich Paul, the same agent as James.

It’s fun to speculate about all things LeBron-Los Angeles, and I think that drives a lot of these rumors.

Show me a plan for the Lakers better than signing Caldwell-Pope, even if he had a different agent. Caldwell-Pope’s transition speed, defense against both guard spots and spot-up 3-point shooting make him a nice fit with rookie point guard Lonzo Ball. (If only Caldwell-Pope could create in the halfcourt, it’d be a perfect pairing.) And the Lakers upgraded at shooting guard without any long-term commitment.

The chance to impress Paul is a bonus, but it’s not as if even that gives the Lakers carte blanche to discuss LeBron with him. After all, the Lakers were just fined for communications with George’s agent, who also represents current Laker Julius Randle and just-traded Russell.

If the Lakers do well by their players – including Caldwell-Pope – that will eventually get back to LeBron, anyway. The lines of communication can just be a little more direct now.