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Anthony Davis-led Pelicans thrash Rockets in opener

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HOUSTON (AP) — Anthony Davis couldn’t help but notice James Harden‘s freshly minted MVP trophy sitting at midcourt before a ceremony during warmups on Wednesday night.

After Harden hoisted the trophy for the first time before the Toyota Center home crowd and received a few MVP chants throughout the night, Davis began to make an MVP case of his own.

Davis had 32 points, 16 rebounds and a career-high eight assists while Nikola Mirotic scored 30 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 131-112 win over the Houston Rockets in their season opener.

“When it was sitting there before the game, I glanced at it, and then I had to lock back in for the game,” Davis said. “That stuff will take care of itself. As long as we keep doing what we’re doing as a team, the rest will come on its own.”

Davis added three blocks and three steals, while Mirotic shot a sizzling 6 of 8 from 3-point range, and Julius Randle had 25 points off the bench.

“We moved the basketball and we made shots, but we put our hats on and defended,” Davis said. “To come out with a win against a team like that after the season they had and coming off the season we had, we wanted to come out and set a tempo for ourselves.”

Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 21 points off the bench, while P.J. Tucker and Chris Paul both added 19 points. James Harden had 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

“A little bit of legs and non-communication and giving them easy points, easy opportunities — a little bit of everything,” Harden said. “But first game, you just continue to build those good habits and continue to get better every single game. We’ll be all right.”

The Pelicans dominated the first half, taking an early lead and never relinquished it as they hammered the undersized Rockets in the paint. New Orleans led 71-54 at the break and led by 29 points in the second half. The Pelicans outrebounded the Rockets 54-37.

“It was a good win for us, but to be honest, we feel like if we play at the level we’re supposed to — we’re not surprised,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We played exactly how we have to in order to beat that team.”

New Orleans dominated Houston in paint scoring, 76-44, and also shot 40 percent on 10 of 25 shooting from 3, compared with a rusty 33.3 percent (16 of 48) from the Rockets.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t seem overly alarmed by the defensive display, praising New Orleans’ energy.

“They played harder, longer and did a better job,” D’Antoni said. “They played great, but at the same time, there was a period in there where we got really tired and then trying to figure things out, being tired doesn’t work, and we didn’t have the energy and we kind of let go of the rope at the end of the first half. We obviously have some things to work on, we’ve got to get our legs and then go after it.”

Coming off the bench for Houston with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, Rockets offseason pickup Carmelo Anthony received a standing ovation when he entered the game wearing his trademark headband and the No. 7. Anthony made his first two shot attempts, the first, from 3, and finished 3-of-10 shooting for nine points in 27 minutes.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: C Jahlil Okafor (right ankle sprain) entered the game late in the fourth quarter, playing less than two minutes.

Rockets: PG Michael Carter-Williams (left knee soreness) played on a minutes restriction as a precaution, with D’Antoni setting the cap around 15 minutes. Carter-Williams played 16 minutes and had 10 points. … Centers Nene (right calf tightness) and Zhou Qi (left knee sprain) did not play.

MOMENT OF SILENCE

Before the game, the Rockets honored the life of late Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen on the big screen wearing a Portland hat, offering a tribute and moment of silence. Allen, a Microsoft co-founder who also owned the Seattle Seahawks, died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to his company Vulcan Inc. He was 65.

A PERFECT 10

Elfrid Payton‘s minimalist triple-double made him the first player to record exactly 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a single game since March 2, 2013 when Kyle Lowry did it for Toronto. It was Payton’s 11th career triple-double.

HE SAID IT

“For all you analytics guys, we’re not winning 82 (games) this year. That’s done, that’s all about how it’s been proven.” – D’Antoni.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Host Kings on Friday.

Rockets: At Lakers on Saturday.

Dejounte Murray says he’s not thinking about extension with Spurs yet

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Dejounte Murray was supposed to be a big deal for the San Antonio Spurs last season. Unfortunately, Murray’s knee injury sidelined those plans until 2019-20.

Now Murray is back on the sidelines for Gregg Popovich and his Spurs, and he’s expected to take a great leap forward, pushing San Antonio to another playoff appearance. Meanwhile, Murray is fast approaching the end of his rookie deal, and an extension is within reach. Still, Murray has said he is not thinking about his contract, and is instead of looking forward to trying to make his team better

Via Tom Osborn:

If Murray and Poeltl don’t sign extensions, they would enter the restricted free agent market in July 2020.

“My mind is not on that at all,” Murray said after practice Monday. “Obviously, I want to be here for as long as I can, but those are things I can’t control. What I can control is getting better, learning and being a great person, being Dejounte Murray.

“If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. My main goal is to help this team get to the playoffs and do big things.”

It’s sort of an interesting question about whether Murray should be given extension, and for how much. On one hand, he has lots of potential and the NBA is a leauge that does pay on what future bounties might bring — just ask Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

But Murray did suffer a catastrophic injury, and so he doesn’t have the resume that some of his other compatiots bring to the table. That may actually play to San Antonio’s advantage, given they can talk him down from his initial number because of his lack of raw statistics.

Tony Parker was shipped out of Texas and ended up playing for the Charlotte Hornets because Murray is thought of as the point guard of the future for the Spurs. How much of that position will pay based off of Murray’s resume is another question altogether, and it looks like we will have to wait for that answer.

David Fizdale says RJ Barrett will spend time playing point guard

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New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett is sure to be a Rookie of the Year candidate, although most projections of the start of the Season predict that New Orleans Pelicans star and No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson will take home that award.

Still, folks expect that Barrett will be a high-scoring opportunity for a Knicks squad that is looking to rebuild in the coming season. To that end, it appears that NY coach David Fizdale is trying to get some more time on the ball, perhaps allow him to shine.

Speaking to reporters this week, Fizdale said that Barrett will be spending some time at point guard.

Via Twitter:

This could be just to get Barrett some more time handling the rock, which we know is important in today’s NBA. But it also could be an experiment in vain of Justise Winslow in Miami, where the Heat decided that a non-traditional player could actually thrive in a ball-handling situation.

New York doesn’t have that many skill the players, and they are sort of trying to figure out what works for them moving forward. Why not take a chance with Barrett at the point guard spot to see if a scoring threat exists with the potential to distribute the ball as well?

If Barrett thrives, it could be an interesting race toward the Rookie of the Year.

Jusuf Nurkic reportedly signs with Rich Paul, Klutch Sports

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Jusuf Nurkic just signed a new contract last summer, but he is already changing agents. Although Nurkic will not be back to start the 2019-20 NBA season, he is already angling for something new by signing with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul.

According to a report from Chris Haynes. Nurkic has signed with Rich Paul in anticipation for his free agency in the summer of 2022. Nurkic has a partial guarantee of $12 million — a deal for the Blazers — in 2021-22.

Via Twitter:

It’s not clear what kind of impact that Nurkic will have on this Blazers roster, or whether he would even be in Portland once things shake out over the next couple of seasons. Portland has to figure out what they’re going to do in the absence of the Golden State Warriors being a top of the Western Conference, and the Blazers have a chance this season to go deep in the playoffs yet again.

Nurkic’s health will be a big part of that, and with his injury, he isn’t a lock to be a huge impact player for Portland until the playoffs. Even still, we don’t know what kind of longevity Nurkic will have given that he’s already broken his leg in addition to his most recent injury.

Signing with Paul is a good idea in terms of trying to get the most out of his potential as a 20-something-year-old, but this might not be the best news for Blazers fans. Paul has a habit of getting the most out of negotiations he can, and often times that means his players end up switching teams.

For now, we will have to watch how Nurkic recovers in his rehabilitation, and how he plays coming back in anticipation or his next contract in a couple of seasons.

Kevin Durant is not a fan of looking at graphs in NBA analysis

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Kevin Durant is known to be Very Online as far as NBA players go, and the newest Brooklyn Nets superstar will have time to spend on Twitter now that we know it’s unlikely he will join his team for the 2019-20 NBA season.

Durant has gotten in trouble by being online in the past, but that hasn’t held him back from tweeting as of late. With advanced analytics still being the bane of the existence of many regular fans, Durant decided to tweet something apparently against the very thought of using statistics to prove one’s point when it comes to NBA basketball.

Specifically, Durant said he didn’t want to look at any graphs when thinking about pro basketball. This came as part of a conversation with Action Network’s Matt Moore, one of the father’s of the modern NBA blogosphere.

Via Twitter:

This isn’t anything new: folks who play the game often seem to feel threatened by the idea of statistics in the NBA. It’s not clear why, given that most people who use statistics to prove a point in professional basketball use both film study and analytic analysis to come to a conclusion. It’s never unilaterally a numbers game, although talking head goobers on afternoon ESPN shows like to prop it up as such.

But numbers are scary, and remain the boogeyman in the NBA. It’s not surprising that a person like Durant — despite his mathematical supremacy over other players — would be weirded out by stats and charts.

If anything, this feels like a direct attack at our own Dan Feldman. Stay strong, Dan-O. Keep doing you. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, won’t be partaking in any hardcore numbers analysis.