J.R. Smith set to make season debut for Knicks on Sunday

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It was an interesting offseason for J.R. Smith, and perhaps a more eventful one than the team would have liked it to be.

The reigning Sixth Man of the Year re-signed in New York as a free agent on a deal that will pay him $18 million over three years, and that was about the going rate for someone of his offensive skill set and checkered off the court history.

But two other details surfaced over the summer that impacted Smith’s reputation. He admitted to waiting to have knee surgery until his guaranteed contract was signed, and more importantly, he was suspended for the first five games of the regular season for a repeated violation of the league’s drug policy.

It could be argued that the former isn’t that big of a deal, and that many of us in the same situation may have made a similar decision. But the latter infraction impacts Smith’s ability to earn those guaranteed dollars, as well as produce on the floor for his teammates.

All of that is behind Smith for the moment, and with the suspension over with, he has been cleared to make his season debut for New York against the Spurs on Sunday.

From Ian Begley of ESPN New York:

New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith will make his debut on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs after serving a five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson says Smith, the reigning Sixth Man Award winner, will come off the bench.

“We’ve just got to make sure that mentally he’s there,” Woodson said. “And I can’t burn him physically.” …

Smith said on Saturday that he still lacks explosiveness in his knee and needs to work on his conditioning.

“I have good days and bad days,” the 28-year-old said.

The Knicks need Smith’s offense, because once you look past Carmelo Anthony and his 24.6 points per game average, the next four Knicks in scoring average between 10.8 and 13.6 points per game, with no one else on the team consistently in double figures.

DeMar DeRozan with classy goodbye to Toronto fans

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DeMar DeRozan did not want to be traded from the Raptors.

He will eventually warm to San Antonio and the Spurs, but for a franchise that has seen star after star push their way out of town — Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Damon Stoudamire, and on down the list — DeRozan was the one guy who embraced the city, repped it, and not only said he wanted to stay but did just that. DeRozan was all in on Toronto and loyal, and they shipped him out anyway. It may well have been the right basketball move, but it was cold. And a lot of Raptors fans were not happy about how it went down.

DeRozan, classy as always, thanked the Raptors fans in a heartfelt Instagram post.

Someday they will retire DeRozan’s jersey in Toronto. Deservedly so.

LeBron James loves fan made NBA 2K video of him playing with son for Lakers

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LeBron James has been up front about this before: He wants to play with his son LeBron Jr. for a couple of years in the NBA before retiring. That son, about to enter ninth grade, would graduate in 2022 — the year the NBA is expected to go back to allowing teams to draft players out of high school, and the year LeBron’s Laker contract ends.

(Does LeBron Jr. want this? Of course he’ll say publicly he does, but would you want your dad with you in the locker room and on the road with you when you’re an NBA rookie finally out of the house and able to explore life a little?)

Taking that to the next step, Twitter user @Shady00018 pieced together an NBA 2K mixtape of LeBron playing with his son. LeBron saw it and LOVED it.

We’re a long way from that, but you know LeBron wants it to happen.

Here’s a first look at Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan in new jerseys, via NBA 2K

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Kawhi Leonard is a member of the Toronto Raptors now. There’s no way of getting around it. Even with rumors swirling about whether or not he will be happy in Canada, the truth is that we have already seen some embrace of Leonard in the six.

Likewise, DeMar DeRozan is a member of the San Antonio Spurs whether he likes it or not. Now, each have been seen for the first time in their new jerseys.

The only catch? It’s via a video game.

2K Games decided to tweet out new rendered images of both players in their respective jerseys. To be honest, I don’t think they look all that bad.

Via Twitter:

It’s going to feel a bit like a real life franchise mode of NBA 2K19 when we see these guys on the court in their new kits next season. But eventually we will get used to it, much in the way we will no doubt get used to LeBron James in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey or Tony Parker in a Charlotte Hornets jersey.

We’re going to have the matchup between the Raptors and the Spurs circled on our calendar next year. That is, if Leonard ends up playing in it. There still might be some doubts in that department.

Another LeBron James mural vandalized in Los Angeles

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Most of Los Angeles — and the vast majority of Lakers fans — are fired up that LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. They see a return to glory for the franchise (well, once they get the rest of the roster right… sorry Lance Stephenson).

However, there is a segment — particularly the die-hard Kobe fans — who are having trouble assimilating to the new reality.

So when an artist did a LeBron James mural near Venice in Los Angeles recently — a really well-done tribute — it was quickly vandalized. Then eventually covered up.

This week another artist did another impressive LeBron/Lakers mural — this one with LeBron looking up at the Lakers’ legends — and once again, it was vandalized.

I’m not shocked by any of this, but it is depressing. If you’re vandalizing art, you are a cowardly buffoon.

There’s no way to really know the motivation behind the second attack, although the smart money is on it being the same as the first one — a few people think they are protecting the Lakers’ brand by not welcoming the best player on the planet to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but frankly flawed logic has become trendy in recent years, it can get you elected to all kinds of offices.

Credit real Lakers fans who showed up to help fix this.