NBA Schedule released, here are your highlights

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This NBA season is shaping up to be a fun one.

Yes, we know, we know… IF there is an NBA season. But deep down we want to believe that the owners and players are too smart to piss away all the momentum the league has built up. For today we’re going to move ahead with the assumption the entire NBA schedule is going to be played. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

So here are your schedule highlights.

Opening Night, Tuesday Nov. 1: Chicago at the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, which means a banner gets raised and players get their rings (or whatever); also Oklahoma City against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nov. 2, the New York Knicks christen the renovated Madison Square Garden with a season opener against the Miami Heat. Also, Mark Jackson gets to start his coaching career at home as Golden State catches a Lakers team on a back-to-back.

Nov. 3, Orlando Magic on the road against the Miami Heat, and Andre Miller and his new Nuggets teammates take on his old team in Portland.

Nov. 13, the Chicago Bulls start their annual circus trip, on the road for eight straight games while clowns fill the United Center. No, not Vinny Del Negro, actual clowns.

Nov. 16, Carmelo Anthony makes his return to Denver as a member of the Knicks.

Also, the Boston Celtics travel to Miami to face the Heat. Little Miami Heat note here, they start the season off with 9 of 12 at home and 25 home games in the first three months of the season, then just 16 the last three months.

Nov. 18, Miami comes to Cleveland and while the rest of the nation has moved on there’s still some anger in that city.

Nov. 24, Thanksgiving, Philadelphia at Atlanta and the New Orleans Hornets take on Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Lakers at the Miami Heat.

Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Lakers travel to Dallas and try not to be embarrassed again.

Dec. 25, Christmas, just three games on the schedule that day: Boston at New York, Miami at Dallas in a finals rematch, and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jan. 6, Milwaukee travels to Phoenix — the Bucks have not won in Phoenix since 1987.

Jan. 12, Sacramento at Utah, also known as the Jimmer Fredette homecoming game.

Jan. 14, Deron Williams returns to Utah as the Nets come to visit.

Feb. 6, San Antonio Spurs start their nine-game rodeo road trip staring against the Wizards (a rodeo takes over the Spurs arena for a couple weeks).

Feb. 9, the Los Angeles Lakers come to Boston, and not just to see the Bill Russell statue.

Feb. 26, NBA All-Star game in Orlando… the perfect family-friendly city for an event filled with wild parties and debauchery.

March 11, Boston comes to Los Angeles to see the Lakers and not just Jack Nicholson.

March 29, Dallas finally comes back to Miami for a finals rematch.

April 1, a rematch of one of the best playoff series, Memphis at San Antonio.

April 17, Spurs at Lakers — these two old rivals play two of the final four games of the season against each other.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.