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Rest: Frowned upon when NBA games count, not in preseason

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MIAMI (AP) — There is no NBA mandate urging teams to not rest players in the preseason.

Good thing.

The dog days of the exhibition schedule have arrived, with plenty of stars sitting out Monday night’s games. Among those getting the night off to rest: Boston stars Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, Miami’s Goran Dragic and the Orlando trio of Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Bismack Biyombo. Indiana rested a half-dozen players, as did Sacramento – including Vince Carter, George Hill and Zach Randolph.

“It’s hard to play 14 guys,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said.

Houston’s Chris Paul didn’t play in New York because of a right shoulder contusion, the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis (hip) and Frank Ntilikina (knee) sat out that same game with soreness, Detroit’s Avery Bradley was sidelined by a turned ankle and Orlando’s Evan Fournier (ankle) and Terrence Ross (hamstring) also didn’t play because of minor injuries. Sacramento’s De'Aaron Fox was out with a sore back.

When the regular season starts next week, resting players who are healthy enough to play will be officially frowned upon by a new NBA policy. But for now, it just makes sense for clubs to either limit minutes or not take unnecessary risks.

That being said, teams are still working. Joerger knows his team needs a day off – but the Kings are practicing Tuesday anyway.

“We have way too much stuff to do, and not just for opening night,” Joerger said.

In Dragic’s case, Miami is being smart since he played for two months this summer, helping Slovenia win the European championship and returning to Miami just two days before the first practice of training camp. He hasn’t played much in the preseason.

“This is all relatively part of the plan I had sketched out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I wanted him to be in training camp … and he really wanted to be there too, just to establish the right tone out of camp. We want to try to strike that balance of keeping him in shape and making sure he’s peaking for the first game, not going the other way. I think we’re headed that way.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the lineup he went with Monday allows him to take a good look at what will be Boston’s second unit.

“I feel really good about where we are, considering we’re 13 days in,” Stevens said. “I don’t think we’re by any means a finished product and I think we can get better.”

 

 

Report: Lakers eager to use LeBron James at center flanked by top four young players

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Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.

What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.

LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.

But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.

I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?

LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.

But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.

Report: Nuggets lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. undergoes another back surgery

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Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.

The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.

Nuggets release:

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.

Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.

But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

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Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

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The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.