Kurt Helin

Top 10 plays of preseason by rookies (VIDEO)

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It’s hard to read much into the preseason — Cleveland was 1-6, Charlotte was 7-1, you going to take the Hornets to finish with the better record?

But one thing that is fun to watch is the rookies grow and start to find their footing a little. Of course, in this video segment you just get to see a lot of dunks — that’s fun, too — but the growth will come.

It’s hard to knock Larry Nance Jr. in the top spot, but I like Justin Anderson‘s dunk just as much.

LeBron says if needed he will take time off to rest in season again

LeBron James

Last season in late December, LeBron James took an anti-inflammatory shot in his back to help deal with issues. He missed a little over two weeks and eight games.

He’ll do the same thing this season if he needs to.

LeBron got the same shot during training camp and is expected to play when the season tips off Tuesday night (and the Cavs take on the Bulls), but in talking about it he said he’ll do it again if needed, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“But it’s always been in the works, and if it happens again where I need to sit down for another week for the better of the team, then [that will be] in the works as well.”

LeBron has been an iron man throughout his career — he had never missed more than seven games in a season before the last one. However, as his body ages and he feels the toll of all those miles (including hard driving playoff miles) he’s approaching the season differently.

As he should. He has his eyes on June, not December. And remember that after his return last season LeBron played much better. MVP level better.

Expect the Cavaliers and coach David Blatt to go the full Popovich this season — LeBron, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and everyone else will get plenty of time off. Even if it means they are not the top seed in the East during the regular season. They know full well if they are healthy and rested for the playoffs, nobody in the East can touch them.

Damian Lillard’s 2015-16 goal: Get to the free throw line more

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James Harden had a free throw attempt for every .561 shot attempts last season (called free throw rate). Russell Westbrook was at .445, Isaiah Thomas at .437, LeBron James .413, Dwyane Wade .341.

Damian Lillard was at .293.

This season, with the entire Portland offense basically on his shoulders, Lillard wants to move up into the category with the elite foul drawing players, as he told Jason Quick at CSNNW.com (video above).

“In the past I was trying to beat guys to the rim and get the ball on the glass,” Lillard said. “This year, in the summer, I worked a lot on getting into people’s body, drawing contact. And (work on) my balance, using angles, and getting to spots on the floor.”

The preseason is a small sample size and notoriously unreliable predictor, but his free throw rate jumped to .352. Or, if you prefer some old-fashioned stats, that was 7.4 free throws a game, which would be a career high by a couple per game if he can sustain it over the course of the season.

Portland GM Neil Olshey did a good job of putting big men who can score on the roster as pick-and-roll partners for Lillard, with the bigs drawing defenders he should have a little more room to operate. Besides getting to the line, he needs to continue his improved efficiency finishing at the rim (64.2 percent last season, a big step up for him).

Lillard is one of those players known for throwing his body around on drives, which takes a large toll on him. If he can lessen that and get to the line more, he’ll be in a better position.

Report: Pelicans’ want to sign Ish Smith but Sixers may claim him

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The New Orleans Pelicans are banged up at the point guard spot. Jrue Holiday is playing but on a 15 minutes a game limit until January, reserve point guard Norris Cole is out with a high ankle sprain, and Tyreke Evans just underwent knee surgery and is out six to eight weeks.

That leaves Nate Robinson and… Ish Smith.

That may be the case soon, reports Scott Kushner of the Advocate

However, that’s if they get the chance.

Smith has bounced around the NBA in recent years having played for the Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors, Magic, Bucks, Suns, Thunder and Sixers. What he brings is quickness. Crazy speed. That makes him being a solid pick-and-roll defender, plus he gets you steals. However, that quickness has never translated on the offensive end where he struggles with his shot (career .421 true shooting percentage and 25 percent from three) plus he turns the ball over a lot more than you want out of a point guard.

He’d make a solid third point guard on a roster, but right now the Pelicans need him and will give him some run. The Sixers have arguably the worst point guard rotation in the NBA (them or the Nets) and Smith could help there as well.

The Pelicans could claim Smith off waivers (the Wizards just released him), but the Sixers would have first shot. If Smith clears waivers the Pelicans can give him their own deal, possibly a multi-year deal with team options.

NBA “looking in to” Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes dust up

Derek Fisher

This much we know: Matt Barnes went over to the home of his estranged wife, where Derek Fisher was with other friends as the Knicks’ coach is seeing Barnes’ ex, and the two got into a fight. Barnes said he went over because his children complained, but apparently texted friends he kicked Fisher’s a**. Regardless of how it went down, it wasn’t pretty, but no criminal charges will be filed in the case.

Still, the NBA is looking into it.

Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about it Friday and kept his answer short and tight (hat tip New York Daily News).

I don’t have a time frame and we are looking into it.”

If there are suspensions or fines, I would expect them to be short or small. As much as this looks bad for a league trying to look tough on domestic violence — Barnes storming over to his ex-wife’s and beating up her new boyfriend, still attempting to control her life — what the league wants is for this just to go away. Sweep it under the rug.

Barnes is now a member of the Grizzlies, where his three-point shooting and irritant style on the court should be a good fit with the “grit and grind” team.