Anthony Davis

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Report: Anthony Davis’ thumb sprain initially diagnosed as Grade 1, MRI Sunday

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In the first quarter of the Lakers’ preseason game against the Nets, Anthony Davis blocked a shot but sprained his thumb in the process. Soon after, he was taken out of the game and he had his hand iced.

The injury didn’t appear severe at the time, and it looks like it will be a mild sprain, according to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, there are concerns around the team that the injury is more severe than we realize:

Brees’ injury didn’t look like much at the time, either. Hopefully for the Lakers, that is not what happened to Davis.

If the MRI comes back clean, there are a range of recovery times within Grade 1 sprains. With treatment and a wrap on his hand Davis likely could play opening night — in 10 days against the Clippers — or at worst not long after that.

The MRI Sunday will make things more conclusive, and the Lakers will — and should — be cautious with Davis and his health. They also can’t afford for him to be out long with an injury.

Anthony Davis suffers sprained thumb in Lakers’ exhibition loss to Nets in China

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This doesn’t appear to be too serious, but the Lakers wisely were cautious — this was just a preseason game in China, after all.

Anthony Davis sprained his thumb on a first-quarter blocked shot against the Nets. Soon after he was taken out, got ice on it, and the team medical staff will look at more closely when the Lakers get home from China. Laker reporter Mike Trudell described what happened this way.

Hopefully, for Davis and the Lakers, this is nothing serious and he’s ready to go in 10 days when the Lakers’ season tips off against the Clippers at Staples Center.

Brooklyn beat the Lakers 91-77 in a game where both teams looked tired and lethargic after a week in China. LeBron James and Davis played one quarter, Kyrie Irving did not play at all after his facial injury in the first game between these teams. Caris LeVert led the Nets with 22 points.

Utah has talent, but how far can they go without a superstar?

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This story is part of our NBCSports.com’s 2019-20 NBA season preview coverage. Every day between now and when the season opens Oct. 22 we will have at least one story focused on the upcoming season and the biggest questions heading into it. In addition, there will be podcasts, video and more. Come back every day and get ready for a wide-open NBA season.

Everybody is hot on teams in the Western Conference this year. The Los Angeles Clippers have several superstars. LeBron James finally has Anthony Davis with the Lakers. The Denver Nuggets are back and as deep as ever. The Houston Rockets are trying something new with Russell Westbrook. The Portland Trail Blazers have revamped much of their roster. That’s not left much room for the Utah Jazz, one of the favorites to dominate the regular season this year.

But the Jazz, who are moving forward with Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Ed Davis to go with much of the same team they fielded last year, are a team without a superstar. Depth and cohesiveness will be the weapon that Utah tries to wield against its rivals in West this season, and based on the personalities in play, there is real hope they can do just that.

At the core of this hope is one of the league’s best defenses. According to Cleaning the Glass, Utah was first in the NBA in opponent points per possession, effective field-goal percentage, and offensive rebounding rate. The Jazz were also stingy when giving up shooting fouls, and that perhaps made up for some of their inconsistencies on offense.

In 2018-19, Utah was a decent enough 3-point shooting team and a great squad at attacking the rim in terms of percentage. But the Jazz struggled on corner threes, where they took the second-most shots of any team in the NBA. This was coupled with some of the issues in how the Jazz offense ran. With Ricky Rubio at the helm — and in one of his better years, no less — the team lacked a dynamism at times when they needed it most. Without a team effort, it was often difficult for Utah to get something on the board in critical situations.

That’s the same worry that will present itself this season. Both Conley and Davis are great players, but they aren’t the type that will take over a game consistently in clutch moments. The hope is that Donovan Mitchell will be more comfortable in a role he filled last season, playing off the ball as a combo-guard much in the vein of CJ McCollum.

At age 23, there is lots of room to grow for Mitchell. Hyped as a rookie, opinion has started to turn on the Jazz third-year player. Last season for Utah, Mitchell failed to curb his turnover issues. He also didn’t create offense based off of his usage percentage in a way that was more efficient and it had been as a rookie. Mitchell shot 37 percent from 3-point line last year, which was in the 67th percentile for his position according to Cleaning the Glass. It will be massively helpful if Mitchell can continue to grow his game from beyond the arc this season.

Mitchell is more athletic and explosive than some of the other combo guards we’ve seen come through the NBA as of late, and the real question will be whether he can put aside his first instinct and play smarter next year. Jazz fans are hoping for just that, and perhaps having an older mentor in Conley will help push him in the right direction.

To that end, there are some interesting players on the Jazz roster that clash with the idea that this is a “team only” squad. Emmanuel Mudiay, Dante Exum, and Jeff Green are all players who can attack and play outside of the scheme of normal, boring Quin Snyder offense.

Of course, Utah’s strength will still be its team-oriented style. Joe Ingles is now paired with Bogdanovic in the frontcourt, and that should boost the Jazz 3-point shooting numbers significantly. Last year for the Indiana Pacers, Bogdanovic shot a whopping 52% on all corner threes. He also shot 42% on threes in total, and that should boost the Utah offense as both Conley and Mitchell create opportunities on the drive.

In this same concern is the idea that Conley, a significant upgrade over Rubio, can actually shoot the 3-pointer. The former Memphis Grizzlies star is a 37% career 3-point shooter, far better than Rubio’s mark of 31%. That should stretch the geometry of how opposing defenses try to contain Utah, and give everyone on the floor more opportunities to score efficiently.

The Jazz are a team without a superstar, and that’s cause for concern in today’s NBA. Utah’s defense will once again be great — Rudy Gobert will see to that. But when we talk about lacking stars, we’re really asking questions about a team’s ability to create outside of a team perspective. If the Jazz are going to pick a year to test the team-first theory, this would be the one to do it in the Western Conference. Utah should still be a favorite to make it into the playoffs, but how deep they will go will depend on if their new additions can galvanize in time to withstand attacks from opposing rivals.

NBA plays preseason game in China without typical media availability, reportedly at behest of Chinese government

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Kyrie Irving left the game with a facial injury. LeBron James scored 20 points. The Brooklyn Nets beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-111.

But you won’t hear directly from any of them about it from Shanghai.

In response to the NBA defending Daryl Morey’s freedom of speech, Chinese officials took it away from the Lakers and Nets.

All of the usual media sessions surrounding the Lakers-Nets preseason game in Shanghai on Thursday — including a scheduled news conference from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and postgame news conferences with the teams — were canceled. It’s the latest salvo in the rift between the league and China stemming from a since-deleted tweet posted last week by Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets.

“There will be no media availabilities for tonight’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers,” the NBA said in a statement Thursday, released a few hours before the game.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The stipulation, sources said, was at the behest of the Chinese government, which also had a hand in canceling two NBA Cares events, an NBA 2K League logo unveiling and a fan appreciation event in the days leading up to the game, causing many to question if the Lakers and Nets would make the lengthy trek and never even get a chance to face one another.

The game was held as scheduled, with Lakers forward James and Irving getting loud ovations when they were introduced as starters. But neither national anthem was played before the game, and no players addressed the crowd before tip-off in a departure from tradition before such international games. Fans arriving at the arena to watch — many of them donning NBA jerseys — were handed small Chinese flags to carry with them inside, and at least one person carried a sign critical of Silver.

“I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech,” Silver said at a news conference in Tokyo earlier this week. “We will have to live with those consequences.”

And this move was one of those consequences.

Most seats were filled, and fans reacted as they would normally — oohs and aahs for good plays, applause for baskets, the loudest cheers coming whenever James touched the ball. Some fans may be upset with the NBA, but they still seem to have their favorite players.

“If we have to choose, we will choose to support our country,” said fan Ma Shipeng, who brought 900 flags to hand out to fellow fans. “We only like some particular basketball players, but we don’t like NBA anymore. I give away Chinese flags tonight, as I hope people to put the national interest in front of following NBA. I will continue to support James. But none of our Chinese people would accept what Morey and Silver said.”

Morey’s tweet expressed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and sparked fallout that has completely overshadowed the NBA’s annual trip to China — which typically takes on a celebratory tone.

Not this year. Most events in advance of the game, such as NBA Cares events to benefit educational causes and the Special Olympics, were called off, as was a “fan night” where Lakers and Nets players were to interact directly with some Chinese ticketholders. Signage in Shanghai to promote the game — huge photos of James, Anthony Davis, Irving and other players — was ripped down, and mentions of the game were scrubbed from the arena website.

All that comes as many Chinese corporations suspended their business ties to the NBA. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was not going to show the Lakers-Nets games on Thursday or in Shenzhen on Saturday, and NBA broadcast partner Tencent also said it was changing its coverage plans for the league.

Silver said earlier this week that Rockets great Yao Ming, a Basketball Hall of Famer and now the president of the Chinese Basketball Association — which has also suspended its ties with Houston as part of the Morey tweet fallout — is angry as well.

“I’m not sure he quite accepts sort of how we are operating our business right now, and again, I accept that we have a difference of opinion,” Silver said. “I also think that as part of our core values, tolerance is one of those as well. I think tolerance for differing societies’ approaches, tolerance for differing points of view and the ability to listen. Certainly I don’t come here, either as the commissioner of the NBA or as an American, to tell others how they should run their governments.”

In the U.S., there was governmental reaction as well leading up to the game.

On Wednesday in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including the rare alignment of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — sent a letter to Silver saying the NBA should show the “courage and integrity” to stand up to the Chinese government. They asked the NBA to, among other things, suspend activities in China until what they called the selective treatment against the Rockets ends.

“You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chinese government’s targets and should have the courage and integrity to use it,” the lawmakers told Silver.

The Rockets were extremely popular in China, largely because of Yao. But the team’s merchandise has been taken off e-commerce sites and out of stores selling NBA apparel in the country, murals featuring the team’s stars and logo were painted over and even the Chinese consulate office in Houston expressed major displeasure with Morey and the Rockets.

Morey has been silent on the matter since a tweet Sunday where he attempted to make some sort of amends with the Chinese.

“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention,” he wrote Sunday. “My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

Saturday’s game between the Lakers and Nets in Shenzhen also remains on as scheduled.

While playing for Pelicans, Kendrick Perkins sold Anthony Davis on LeBron James, Rich Paul

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The Pelicans signed Alexis Ajinca to a four-year, $20 million contract. They signed Solomon Hill to a four-year, $48 million contract. They signed Omer Asik to a five-year, $60 million contract.

But their worst signing might have been giving Kendrick Perkins a one-year, minimum-salary contract in 2015.

Perkins came from Cleveland, where he made a strong impression on LeBron James. Apparently, the feeling was mutual – as Perkins eagerly shared with Anthony Davis.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

BACK IN 2015, NBA journeyman center Kendrick Perkins landed in New Orleans, where he would play one season alongside Davis on the Pelicans. On the road, the two would frequently break bread together, and their dinner conversations would often turn toward James, whom Perkins had played with on the AAU circuit as a teenager. They were also teammates in Cleveland during James’ second stint with the Cavs. During those dinners, Perkins would gush about the four-time MVP’s focus and preparation.

“I used to brag about Bron a lot with him,” Perkins says. “He really didn’t have to ask me [about James]. I was doing more of the talking.”

In the summer of 2018, when word got out that Davis could be looking for a new agent, it was Perkins who introduced Davis to Klutch Sports.

Of course, Davis signed with Rich Paul then requested a trade. Paul steered Davis to LeBron’s Lakers.

To be fair, Perkins isn’t solely responsible. The Pelicans repeatedly failed to build a winner around Davis. They also play in small-market New Orleans, which makes it more difficult to retain stars. Davis is responsible for his own choices.

Still, it’s easy to see Perkins planting a seed. And to think the Pelicans paid him to do so! Veteran mentorship is rarely what it’s cracked up to be. Everyone has their own interests, and those don’t always neatly align with their current team’s goals.

Though the Pelicans would’ve obviously preferred to keep Davis, they still got a haul from Los Angeles. Coupled with landing No. 1 pick Zion Williamson, New Orleans is in good shape.

Otherwise, this story would’ve stung even more.