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Carmelo Anthony makes return to Oklahoma City wearing Rockets’ red

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Carmelo Anthony laughed a year ago when he was asked about the possibility of coming off the bench for his new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After a season of struggles with the Thunder, Anthony returns to Oklahoma City with his new team, the Houston Rockets, on Thursday when the teams meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The 16-year veteran is adjusting to his role coming off the bench for the Rockets.

Anthony never quite found a rhythm with the Thunder, shooting a career-low 40.4 percent from the field and averaging a career-low 16.2 points per game, starting 78 games.

Through nine games this season — seven off the bench — Anthony is averaging 14.7 points and shooting 36.2 percent from behind the 3-point line. That’s a slight improvement from his outside shooting performance for the Thunder.

A year ago, Anthony didn’t have much time to process things after being traded from the New York Knicks to the Thunder in a package that included Enes Kanter just before training camp started.

This time, Anthony had some time to adjust after a late July trade sent him to Atlanta before the Hawks bought him out and Anthony signed with Houston.

“I never really had the opportunity to kind of just sit back and take everything in and decompress a little bit,” Anthony told reporters Wednesday. “Last year in OKC, I went there before media day, turn around and do media day, turn around and do training camp and then get right into it.”

Oklahoma City is hoping Russell Westbrook will be ready to go against the Rockets. Westbrook missed Wednesday’s first game of the back-to-back with a sprained ankle suffered late in Monday’s win over New Orleans.

In Westbrook’s absence, point guard Dennis Schroder — who was the main piece of the Thunder’s return in the Anthony trade to Atlanta — scored a season-high 28 points in Wednesday’s win.

The teams both seem to have turned a corner after rough starts.

Houston started 1-5 before winning its first three games on the current five-game road trip.

Anthony has helped the Rockets during the winning streak, averaging 17.7 points per game and 39.1 percent from behind the arc. In a 28-point performance in the first win over the streak, Friday in Brooklyn, Anthony hit six 3-pointers and finished with 28 points.

Oklahoma City has won six consecutive games since starting the season 0-4.

“Everybody’s on the same page,” Paul George said. “We come out here (and) we have an expectation of the level we want to play at. Regardless of how the game goes we find a way to take it to the next level. We’re getting the job done.”

While things didn’t go well for Anthony in Oklahoma City, he’s looking forward to making his return.

“Going back to OKC, that (holds) a special place because that was the kind of organization, the team, the community that opened their arms up to me last year, brought me in, took me in,” Anthony said. “I really felt part of that community last year.”

Report: NBA referees will live-tweet Warriors, Sixers games next week

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The one rule of Twitter is something that NBA officials are apparently willing to sidestep. That rule?

Never tweet.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, NBA referees will tweet from their official Twitter account during NBA games this season and hold back-and-forth conversations with fans about calls during games.

It seems like something that would immediately go wrong, but officials have done this before. They held Twitter conversations during last season’s Finals and they apparently feel as though they went well enough to do this sort of thing again.

Via ESPN:

This season, the NBA league office has agreed to work in collaboration with the referee union on this project. As part of the deal, the tweeting referees will have access to the league’s replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey, just like the officials who are on duty that evening, so they can have all the angles available to answer questions.

The union and the NBA plan a series of these games over the next few months, including some playoff games.

You will be able to tweet at @OfficialNBARefs or use #RefWatchParty during Monday’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, or Wednesday’s matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be interesting to monitor this thing and see where it goes. Even the most inane opinions can be shot down by the twittersphere so watching actual NBA referees try to defend themselves against the hordes could get wild.

Raptors’ Pascal Siakam beats Suns with incredible drive at the buzzer

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Pascal Siakam has been an important part of the Toronto Raptors organization for a couple of seasons now. Siakam has been a target in requested trades with the Raptors, but general manager Masai Ujiri wants to hang on to the burgeoning Cameroonian forward.

That’s probably wise.

As time wound down in Thursday night’s game between the Raptors and Phoenix Suns, Siakam found himself with the ball at the top of the arc and the game on the line. Siakam had Mikal Bridges isolated up top, and wound up going to his left to score the game-winning shot as time expired.

Via Twitter:

Siakam finished the game with just 10 points but grabbed 12 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks.

Raptors are now just a half-game back of the Milwaukee Bucks with a record of 34-13.

Raptors promo Kawhi Leonard for ASG with faux-vintage action figure commercial

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The Toronto Raptors have been pushing Kawhi Leonard for the All-Star Game since 2018. The angle the team has decided to take is with Leonard being a “man of action” as opposed to a man of words.

Teams come up with some pretty good ideas about how to promote their star players for the All-Star Game. The Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum did the Vote for Pedro dance from “Napoleon Dynamite” to ask people to vote for buddy Damian Lillard.

The Raptors took a shot at a viral video of their own this week by releasing a fake 1990s-style action figure commercial for Leonard.

The result was pretty good:

At least with a Kawhi Leonard action figure you wouldn’t need to have a speaker and a button that plays catch phrases on it.

Reports: Mavericks, Dennis Smith Jr. could look to reconcile differences

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Things might not be over between Dennis Smith Jr. and the Dallas Mavericks.

The sophomore guard and the Mavericks have apparently been on the outs with each other as the season approaches the midway point. It was rumored that Smith was on the trading block, and that several teams were interested in his services.

But reports on Thursday surfaced saying Dallas and Smith could be heading for a reconciliation, and that conversations between the two sides have been positive as of late.

Via Twitter and ESPN:

The Mavs have shopped Smith, 21, throughout the season but haven’t received any offers that have tempted them to pull the trigger on trading a player whom the Dallas front office still believes has potential to develop into a star, sources said.

“Plan A is still to fix this,” a team source told ESPN.

Smith has not been that good this season, but his advanced numbers suggest that he is on a slow rise upward. It perhaps isn’t the jump Mavericks fans were looking for in the second season for a Top 10 pick, but if they can salvage their relationship it’s probably best for both sides at this juncture.