No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

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Kyrie Irving was ruled out for Cleveland’s Game 2 matchup with the Hawks, and just how healthy he can be later in these playoffs will go a long way in determining the Cavaliers’ championship chances.

But for one night, against an Atlanta team dealing with injury issues of its own, LeBron James was more than enough for Cleveland to get the job done.

James finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Cavaliers to an easy 94-82 win, one that put Cleveland up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

The best player for the Hawks in the postseason has been DeMarre Carroll, but his status was in doubt for this one after leaving Game 1 with a knee injury. He started and played 34 minutes, but was tentative offensively, and looked uncharacteristically awkward at times while trying to defend James.

With Irving’s absence and Carroll’s injury, James asserted himself from the opening tip. He scored 13 first quarter points to get things going, before moving into more of a facilitator role as the game went on — and his teammates rewarded him by knocking down shots.

Iman Shumpert and James Jones combined for 17 points in the second quarter, and LeBron’s first seven assists all resulted in makes from three-point distance.

The Hawks were able to hang around, however, and trailed by just four early in the third despite it never really feeling like they posed a credible threat to take the Cavaliers out. Cleveland made that perception a reality by putting together a 19-4 run that lasted almost six minutes, and extended the lead to 20 points late in the period. Atlanta never challenged the rest of the way, and the fourth quarter was, for the most part, extended garbage time.

Things got even worse for the Hawks when they lost two more key players with injuries. Kyle Korver left in the third with what the team was calling an ankle sprain, after Matthew Dellavedova rolled onto his leg during a scramble for a loose ball. A short time later, Al Horford was helped off the floor with a knee injury, but he returned after being examined on the bench.

Injuries weren’t the reason the Hawks were so overmatched, however, and they weren’t a factor for the victorious Cavaliers.

Atlanta hasn’t been dominant for quite some time; the Hawks won 40 of their first 48 games of the season, before finishing just 20-14, and losing twice in the first round of the playoffs to a 38-win Brooklyn Nets squad. Winning 60 games in the watered-down Eastern Conference isn’t as impressive as it may have seemed on the surface, and the Cavaliers, even without Kyrie Irving, were able to expose the Hawks for what they are, and are likely to continue to do so for the two more games it will take to wrap up this series.

Harrison and Brittany Barnes to pay for funeral of Atataina Jefferson

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Harrison Barnes now plays for the Sacramento Kings, but he and wife Brittany still have ties back in Texas. Barnes played for two-and-a-half seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, and now the couple is stepping in to help the community back in Dallas in a big way.

According to multiple reports, the Barneses have offered to pay for the funeral of Atatiana Jefferson, a Texas woman shot and killed by a Forth Worth Police Department officer last week.

That officer, Aaron Dean, has since resigned and been charged with Jefferson’s murder.

Via Twitter:

Jefferson was reportedly watching her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called in a welfare check to the non-emergency police line. The neighbor noticed her door was open, and police responded at 2:25 a.m.

From NBC News:

Body camera footage shows the perspective of the officer outside the home, peering inside a window using a flashlight, spotting someone inside standing near a window and telling her, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before shooting seconds later. At no point does he identify himself as an officer.

This is extremely generous on the part of the Barnes family and another example of how players can come to grow close to the places they play in.

Lakers exercise 4th-year contract option on Kyle Kuzma

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their contract option on forward Kyle Kuzma for the 2020-21 season.

The Lakers made the move Thursday on Kuzma, who is currently out with a foot injury suffered while playing for USA Basketball during the summer.

Kuzma was the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Utah. He has become a solid NBA scorer, putting up 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while starting 68 games for the Lakers.

Kuzma will make over $3.56 million next season in the fourth-year option of his rookie contract. He is making $1.97 million this season.

The Lakers expect Kuzma to return to action soon. He has been cleared for noncontact basketball activities.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-NBA

John Wall will be an assistant coach for the Wizards this season

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John Wall won’t be playing for the Washington Wizards of this season, but he will have a chance to do something for the team that’s helpful. With Bradley Beal back on board after signing a 2-year, max-level extension, Wall will be helping coach Scott Brooks from the sidelines.

According to a new story from NBC Sports Washington, Wall will be helping Brooks this season in an assistant coaching role. For his part, Wall has said that he is excited about the opportunity, and that it’s a chance to see what his life after basketball might hold when it comes to potentially getting into coaching.

Via NBC Sports Washington:

“I think this year will tell me whether I can be a coach or not,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington on the Wizards Talk podcast.

“I think you have to have a lot of patience and you’ve gotta know how to interact with every player. Every player’s attitudes and character and mood swings are totally different. I learned from when a coach tried to coach me when I was young and I wasn’t the guy to coach.”

This is a good idea to keep Wall around the team and engaged. It would be sort of weird if Wall just wasn’t around while he did rehab, then expected to come back as the top dog next season.

He may never be the player he was before his injury, but if Wall remains with Brooks on the sideline for the remainder of the season it would mean he’s at least committed to taking the culture seriously in D.C. That, or he doesn’t want Beal to usurp his throne.

Fans plan to give out pro-Hong Kong t-shirts at Lakers, Raptors opening nights

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We are not yet out of the thick of things regarding the NBA and China. There are murmurings about how upset people are up with Daryl Morey back here domestically, and the beginning of the season will start with a sort of weird pall over it. NBA fans, perhaps the most socially progressive in major American sports, won’t soon forget responses from Adam Silver and LeBron James on the matter, which they’ve seen as limp-wristed.

To that end, there are two fan groups who are looking to spread pro-Hong Kong t-shirts during opening night games in the NBA next week.

Folks at Staples Center in Los Angeles should expect to see t-shirts in solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong being handed out as the Lakers take on the Clippers on Oct. 22. A reddit user going by the pseudonym Sun Lared posted to the Lakers subreddit about printing up t-shirts, and their GoFundMe reached a reported $43,000 before donations were disabled, according to LA Mag.

Via Twitter:

Inspired by Lared, another GoFundMe has reached $34,000 as of publication to hand out free t-shirts as the New Orleans Pelicans travel to Ontario to take on the Toronto Raptors on October 22nd.

Mother these t-shirts make it onto the backs of fans, and whether they make it inside the arenas for those basketball games is another thing altogether. It certainly will be an interesting PR debacle if the NBA continues to confiscate pro-Hong Kong t-shirts and signs the way they’ve done during the preseason already.

This isn’t going away any time soon.