Kurt Helin

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Can Thunder win 60 games?

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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are healthy — just how good will the Thunder be?

The bold prediction in this PBT Extra preview with Jenna Corrado is that the Thunder will win 60 games, something they have not yet done. I wouldn’t bet on them hitting that number — with a new coach, and them making sure Durant and Westbrook get rest coming off injuries, plus the fact they’re in the deep West, that number may be high.

I think they have a better chance to come out of the West than win 60 games. I think they have a good shot to come out of the West.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.

Lowry scores 40 points in Raptors’ preseason win

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 40 points to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-105 on Monday night.

Lowry, who broke the franchise record for points in a preseason game set by Vince Carter (38), hit six 3-pointers and was 13 for 18 from the field.

“I’ve felt pretty comfortable every game. For me it’s about maintaining, start off well, finish well,” Lowry said. “It’s only pre-season.”

Cory Joseph added 14 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and Luis Scola 12.

Andrew Wiggins, the reigning NBA rookie of the year led the Wolves (0-3) with 21 points in 18 minutes. His older brother Nick, who was signed by Minnesota last month, scored four points in the final five minutes. He almost had six, but his final shot at the buzzer was waived off after originally being declared good.

The game was a homecoming, not just for Wiggins, who purchased 16 courtside seats for the game, but for Joseph and Anthony Bennett – both were playing their first games in Toronto for their hometown team.

“I was excited to play in front of my family, fans, friends,” Joseph said. “Thanksgiving, so happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there. We had our Thanksgiving the other night, they came out here to support me. A lot of love floating around here.”

Bennett, whose defense has been impressive thus far, had five rebounds to go with three points in 19 minutes.

The Raptors and Wolves meet again in Ottawa on Wednesday as part of the NBA’s Canada Series, which featured sold out games in Winnipeg and Vancouver, and then Ottawa and Montreal. The Raptors play the Washington Wizards in Montreal to cap the series on Oct. 23.

Rose could be cleared for activity within a week

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CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose may be cleared to begin activity within a week, and be able to practice shortly thereafter, Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Monday.

The Bulls haven’t ruled Rose out for the opening game of the regular season against Cleveland Oct. 27. He had surgery Sept. 30 on a fractured left orbital bone suffered in practice a day earlier.

“Derrick, hopefully in another week, will be able to start getting active again, and then hopefully start practicing shortly thereafter,” Hoiberg said.

Rose was at the United Center for the Bulls’ preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night, but likely wouldn’t be on the bench, Hoiberg said.

“He’s still getting a little bit of blurred vision, so I feel it’s best for him to watch the game in the back,” Hoiberg said. “But I know he’s excited to be here and be with the guys in the locker room.”