Kurt Helin

NBA schedule is out, here are some highlights

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The NBA schedule is out for next season.

There are 1230 games over the course of an NBA season, and technically they all count the same. However, some you want to make sure you watch more than others. Here are a few highlights from this season’s schedule.

Opening night, Oct. 25: New York at Cleveland. Carmelo Anthony and crew get to watch LeBron James hoist the first championship banner to go up in Cleveland in 52 years.

Opening night, Oct. 25: San Antonio at Golden State. The other opening night game is Kevin Durant’s first official one in Warriors uniform. These are likely the two top teams in the West next season, and both come in with different looks (Tim Duncan is out, and Pau Gasol is in for the Spurs).

Oct. 27: Boston at Chicago. Al Horford in a Celtics uniform vs. Dwyane Wade in a Bulls uniform.

Oct. 27: San Antonio at Sacramento. The Spurs will be in town for the Kings’ first regular season home game in their new arena.

Oct. 28: Cleveland at Toronto. A rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Raptors trying to prove last season’s playoff success was no fluke.

Nov. 3: Oklahoma City at Golden State. The first time Durant takes on Russell Westbrook and the rest of his former team.

Nov. 10: Chicago at Miami. Wade returns to South Beach wearing a Bulls uniform. Expect Heat fans to boo him, after they show up in the second quarter.

Dec. 9: Toronto at Boston. These may well be the second and third best teams in the East (Indiana might have something to say about that), and all their meetings should be interesting.

Dec. 25, Christmas Day: This is the NBA’s unofficial second opening night, and they have stacked it with the biggest names and brands. The games in order are:

Boston at New York
Golden State at Cleveland
Chicago at San Antonio
Minnesota at Oklahoma City
L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers

Jan. 13, Boston at Atlanta. It’s almost halfway through the season before Horford makes his return to Atlanta wearing Celtics’ green.

Jan. 16, MLK Day: This is one of the NBA’s other big holidays, and they lined up four quality games:

Atlanta at New York
New Orleans at Indiana
Cleveland at Golden State
Oklahoma City at L.A. Clippers

Jan. 19: Minnesota at L.A. Clippers. The Timberwolves are one of the up-and-coming teams in the West. The Clippers are a team trying one more time to win with a lineup that hasn’t gotten out of the second round. This is an excellent mid-season measuring stick for both.

Feb 11: Golden State at Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant returns to OKC wearing a Warriors uniform and playing the villain.

March 11: Golden State at San Antonio. These still are likely the two top teams in the West, and they face off late in the season.

April 12: The final night of the NBA season, and a few of these matchups could have playoff implications.

Detroit at Orlando
Toronto at Cleveland
Milwaukee at Boston
Dallas at Memphis
Minnesota at Houston
San Antonio at Utah
New Orleans at Portland

LeBron makes it official, signs three-year, $100 million deal to stay with Cavaliers

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LeBron James said he was staying in Cleveland after the Cavaliers won the franchise’s first NBA title. The only question was for how many years and on what kind of contract, there were a lot of options.

We have the answer — LeBron is about to be the highest paid player in the NBA. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the story.

LeBron himself later confirmed the signing.

We don’t know officially if and when LeBron has an option in this deal.

Only two other players in NBA history have made $30 million or more in a season: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

LeBron has earned being the highest paid player in the league, and the Cavaliers have a core around him — Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, etc. — that will have them contending for a title every season. With LeBron, the Cavaliers remain the clear favorites in the Eastern Conference.

Report: Celtics still have “high level of interest” in Nerlens Noel, but not close to deal

Associated Press
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There is still a sense around the league that the Sixers will want to move a big man, likely Nerlens Noel. Philadelphia’s dream future is Joel Embiid at the five and Ben Simmons as a point-forward at the four, surrounded by quality shooters. Plus they want to fit Dario Saric in that mix. With Noel and Jahlil Okafor having value, a lot of other teams expect the Sixers to pull the trigger on a deal. Eventually.

The Celtics are still interested in Noel, but that doesn’t mean anything is about to happen, reports A. Sherrod Blakely at CSNNE.com.

Noel has not asked for a trade, but multiple league sources told CSNNE.com that he is “very open” to being traded if the Sixers decide to make that decision.

Another league source contacted by CSNNE.com on Thursday morning indicated that the Celtics still have a high level of interest in Noel but no deal is imminent.

Safe to say Noel would be good with a trade to his hometown.

Most likely the Celtics will head into training camp expecting to start Al Horford at Center and Amir Johnson at the four. Noel would allow Horford to move to the four spot and provide some rim protection at the five. You can see why Boston is interested.

The question is the cost.

Right now the Sixers are getting crap offers for their bigs because everyone around the league knows they want to move one — GM Bryan Colangelo said as much. You can bet Celtics GM Danny Ainge — known as a tough negotiator — is one of the guys trying to steal Noel on the cheap. Colangelo isn’t going to do that, he wants a decent return. And so things are stalled. For now.

When Noel eventually does move, don’t be shocked if Boston is the destination.

Watch highlights of Team USA’s win over Australia

Associated Press
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Australia is legit.

Team USA players gave lip service to that going into their showdown with the Aussies on Wednesday, but they quickly learned just how real it was when the game tipped off. Australia has NBA players — Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills — and more than that they executed and moved off the ball brilliantly.

But it wasn’t enough, the USA still got the win. Check out the highlights.

Carmelo Anthony led the way for the USA with 31, and during the game he passed LeBron James for most points by an American in the Olympics.

Utah’s Dante Exum says he is fully recovered, wishes he could be in Rio with Australian teammates

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It was just more than a year ago that Dante Exum tore his ACL while playing for the Australian national team. The injury forced him to miss the entire NBA season, and he is not with the Boomers in Rio (where they take on the USA Wednesday).

But good news for Jazz fans, Exum says he is fully recovered and will be ready to roll next season. He talked about that, the Australian national team, the new players union digs and more in this video.

Exum and George Hill are going to split time at the point for Utah. The Jazz were an up-and-coming team in the West already before Hill and Joe Johnson were added to the backcourt this summer. With Gordon Hayward playing for his next contract, this Jazz team looks headed to the playoffs next season.