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Michael Porter says he has no beef with Luka Doncic, entire incident an ‘accident’

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It looked like we could have a beef starting between two rookiesLuka Doncic and Michael Porter Jr. Two players both with the potential to star in the NBA but both with questions about if they will be able to fulfill that promise.

Everything started when Porter liked an Instagram post saying Doncic — the EuroLeague MVP last season at age 19 — was “overrated.” Doncic’s former Real Madrid teammate Dino Radoncic‏ stuck up for Doncic:

In an interview with ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, Porter said this all started with an accident and he reached out to Doncic to calm things down.

“So what’s crazy is that blew up,” Porter said. “Believe it or not, I’m scrolling through [a post about] the Rookie of the Year odds and I accidentally like a comment. This is the EuroLeague MVP and I got nothing but respect for him. I was like, ‘Man, I didn’t want to come off like that.’

“I reached out to [Doncic], told him it was 100 percent accident and I told him, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do in the league.’ I wasn’t worried about what fans thought, but I wanted to let him know instantly. It was 100 percent accident.”

Was it really? Decide for yourself, I’ll take the rookie at his word (even if some of the reports out of Missouri that scared teams off at the draft was about Porter’s ego and need to be a focal point).

Porter had back surgery this offseason and likely will miss the start of the coming season, and maybe more as the Nuggets have a playoff-level team in the West and will be looking to win games, not spend a lot of minutes easing Porter back in and developing him slowly. Because of his injury, Porter is a project, but one with a potentially huge payoff for the Nuggets. Porter fell surprisingly far in the draft and the Nuggets nabbing him at 14 could end up being a steal for them.

 

Doncic likely will be starting for Dallas opening night, feeding the ball to Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow, throwing lobs to a rolling DeAndre Jordan, and working with backcourt partner Dennis Smith Jr. to make the Mavericks dangerous. If he fulfills his potential, Dallas will have the next cornerstone for the franchise (and the Hawks are never going to hear the end of it after trading his rights away for Trae Young).

20 must-watch NBA regular season games

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The NBA season is a marathon, one that runs from mid-October through mid-April with 1,230 games in between. All that before the drama of the playoffs start.

Throughout that grind, there are highlights. Games that must be watched, ones where you block out the night and head to the local bar, or just get a bag of old-school nacho cheese Doritos and sit on the couch for a good show. Those kick off opening night and run through the entire season.

Here are 20 must-watch games from this NBA season, ones that could give us a real glimpse of what will come in the postseason.

• The Battle for the East starts early on opening night, Oct. 16: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics: While Toronto will have its say this season (and maybe the Bucks down the line), this renewed rivalry will be the battle for superiority in the East for years to come, and it’s a perfect way to kick off the season. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are back, taking on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and company get their rings while Russell Westbrook and Paul George fume, Oct. 16, Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors: For the second year in a row the Warriors will hoist a banner up to the rafters in Oracle Arena. Warriors GM Bob Myers said last season was the toughest one for the Warriors because they went from a honeymoon with Durant to a marriage. This season is going to be even harder, and it starts with a tough test.

• The debut of Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic, Oct. 17: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns: This game is all about the rookies (sorry Dirk). The No. 1 overall pick was a man-child at Summer League and showed the potential to be a beast when paired with players who know how to get him the rock. His first game is against DeAndre Jordan, as athletic a big man as the league has, providing a great test. Doncic is the most decorated player to enter the NBA out of Europe, he’s going to be good, but just how good is the question. We start to see that on the second night of the season.

LeBron James’ home debut, Oct. 20, Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron wears the purple and gold for the first time at Staples Center, and he has to go up against the powerhouse of James Harden, Chris Paul, (and I guess Carmelo Anthony) and the Rockets. Both of these teams will be feeling out new lineups and rotations, but the Lakers’ certainly have more of that to do.

• The Raptors make their case for the East, Oct. 30, Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors: The NBA schedule makers are leaning heavily on the Boston vs. Philly rivalry and matchup as if that’s the battle for supremacy in the East, but Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors will have something to say about that. Are the Raptors the team best suited to beat the Celtics in the East? They will start to make their case the day before Halloween.

• Just how much better can Mike Budenholzer make Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, Nov. 1, Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics: With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back and added to a core that made the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics are the team to beat in the East. The Bucks have felt like a sleeping giant for years, can new coach Mike Budenholzer awaken the beast? (Plus, any chance you get to watch the Greek Freak you should take.)

• Kawhi Leonard comes to Los Angeles and the Lakers fans try to recruit him, Nov. 4, Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers. Sources around the league still see Kawhi Leonard as a rental in Toronto, most expect he will come to Los Angeles next summer as a free agent. Lakers management (which signed veterans to one-year contracts) and Lakers fans are banking on it, expect a recruitment effort from the L.A. faithful.

• Western Conference Finals rematch time, Nov. 15, Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets: Last season these were the two best teams in the NBA and the Rockets had a real shot to knock off the Warriors before the Chris Paul injury. They could be the two best teams again (with all due respect to Boston). Every meeting between these teams will be must-watch, this is the first one.

• LeBron James returns to Cleveland, Nov. 21, Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers: While there may be a smattering of boos, expect LeBron to get a warm welcome from the Cavaliers faithful — he brought them a title as promised. Also, expect LeBron to be on the better team but the Cavs to put up a fight.

• A battle of Western powers to watch after opening presents, Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: We know the Rockets are good. As good as last season? That’s up for debate (they probably are not), but very good. The Thunder with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and a strong defense are one of the teams it feels you can trust to make the playoffs in the West. Can the Rockets’ defense slow Westbrook on Christmas? Does it matter because Houston’s offense is just that good?

• The NBA’s marquee still features LeBron vs. Curry, Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors. The NBA’s marquee Christmas game is traditionally a rematch of the previous Finals, and that’s essentially what this is — LeBron was the Cavaliers, now he is the Lakers. The talent level and fit of the players around him is in question, just like before. But he always gets up for the big tests, and the Warriors are always up for LeBron.

• You should watch more Donovan Mitchell and Utah this season, Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz: These are two teams that are fun to watch, play smart basketball, and do not get enough national attention or eyeballs. This is a great way to close out the Christmas slate, and by the way, a fantastic offense vs. defense chess match when the Blazers have the ball.

• Lakers fans tell Paul George what they think of his choice, Jan. 2, 2019, Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers: A year ago everyone thought Paul George was a rental in OKC and would come to the Lakers next summer. Except, he ended up loving it where he was and this summer signed to stay with the Thunder. Lakers fans will let him know they were not fond of that decision.

• Kawhi Leonard returns to San Antonio, Jan. 3 2019, San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors: Leonard is not going to get a warm reception from the Spurs faithful, and not because he once told me the tacos in San Diego (where he went to college) were better than the ones in San Antonio. He is the first big name to walk away from the Spurs, and he will hear about it. As a side note, the Raptors did not get nearly as much national television exposure as they expected.

Tony Parker returns to San Antonio, Jan. 14, 2019, Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs: While there are a few things that will look strange this season (LeBron in Laker gear, Dwight Howard with Washington across his chest), nothing will be as odd as Tony Parker in Hornets teal. Parker will be greeted with a hero’s welcome when he returns to Charlotte.

• College football is over and the NBA takes over Saturday nights, Jan. 19, 2019, Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets. When the NBA’s television package was renewed, there was a scramble over the Saturday night games after college football ended (FOX and others wanted in), but ABC’s bid took over that slot. They open with a big draw of LeBron and the Lakers against Harden and the Rockets.

• Martin Luther King Jr. Day highlight game, Jan. 21, 2019, Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers: By this point the Warriors may well have DeMarcus Cousins back in the rotation, because opponents didn’t have enough to worry about. For years, the Warriors got up to crush the Clippers (in the CP3/Griffin era), with LeBron in town will they bring that focus to the other L.A. team?

Blake Griffin returns to play the Clippers for the first time, Feb. 2, 2019, Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers: Los Angeles traded away the one top draft pick the franchise has ever nailed at the trade deadline last February, but he never returned in his new Pistons uniform to take on his old team. That happens this February, although the Clippers don’t look anything like the team he led for many years.

• Fun NBA showdown to draw an audience before the Super Bowl kicks off, Feb. 3, 2019, Oklahoma City Thunder at Boston Celtics. The Super Bowl will own this day, but the NBA will try to grab a little of the spotlight with a fun showdown beforehand on ABC with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder attacking the stout defense of the Boston Celtics.

DeMar DeRozan returns to Toronto, Feb. 22, 2019, San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors: Unlike Leonard’s return to San Antonio, DeRozan will get a hero’s welcome from the Toronto faithful. The Spurs won 47 games and should be better with DeRozan playing this season, but the Raptors won 59 last season and may be better as well.

Matt Barnes on what held Chris Paul, Blake Griffin Clippers back: ‘Egos’

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There was a stretch of time, from 2012 through 2016 (maybe 2017) when the Los Angeles Clippers looked like contenders. In Doc Rivers first four seasons coaching Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, plus J.J. Redick and the rest of a solid core, they had a top-four point differential in the league three times (and were sixth the other year). These were outstanding teams that showed so much potential.

Then never got past the second round.

Matt Barnes was on some of those Clippers teams, then later went on to the Warriors where he won a ring. Barnes was on the “Lunchtime with Roggin and Rodney” show on AM 570 LA Sports (a show featuring Los Angeles sports broadcasting legend Fred Roggin and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete) and was honest about the downfall of that team.

“We really had one of the most talented teams that never won a championship in L.A. and I think it was our own fault. We were in our own way. Just too many egos, young acting. We thought we were going to be the Warriors right up until they won the championship. We knocked them out of the playoffs the year before they came back and won, so we had a very talented team. We just couldn’t get on the same page. It was crazy. We were all cool off the court and I was like ‘how are we cool off the court and can’t get it together on the court?’ That was our… our mental toughness was what kept us from winning championships for the Clippers.”

Why couldn’t they get it together?

“Egos. Egos. And now looking back on it from my perspective, because I was fortunate enough to go to the Warriors with a whole handful of superstars and there was no egos. Everyone left their ego… the only thing that mattered in Golden State was to win and winning the championship. If we had that mentality with the Clippers we would have won a championship.”

Nobody wins a ring in the NBA without talent, that is first and foremost. A team has to be one of the most talented in the league to have a shot. But it’s more than that — it’s about sacrifice. It’s about putting aside what is best for you to do what is best for the team. Some guys do that effortlessly — Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, others — and some guys have trouble learning that lesson.

Still others never figure it out. Those Clippers never did, and they missed their window.

Report: Rockets trade Chinanu Onuaku, cash to Mavericks for second-round swap

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The Rockets have been active in trade talks.

Unloading Chinanu Onuaku – who’s guaranteed $1,544,951 – could help Houston facilitate a deal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Well over the luxury tax, Houston is probably covering most, if not all, of Onuaku’s salary. By trading him rather than waiving him, the Rockets avoid paying luxury tax on his salary.

This doesn’t mean the Rockets will make another trade. They could just want to add another minimum-salary player (beyond Carmelo Anthony, who’s so Houston-bound, he’s already accounted for).

Or the Rockets could just leave the roster spot open, saving money.

Houston already has a strong starting center in Clint Capela, and Nene is a capable backup. Ryan Anderson will also play center in some matchups. Isaiah Hartenstein and Zhou Qi are projects at the position.

Onuaku got squeezed out. Best known for shooting free throws underhanded, the 21-year-old Onuaku was the No. 37 pick in the 2016 draft. He has spent most of his career in the NBA’s minor league – rebounding, protecting the rim, finishing inside, being way too sloppy with the ball and once pushing a referee.

The Mavericks now have 16 players – one more than the regular-season standard-roster limit – with guaranteed salaries. There’s no guarantee Onuaku sticks, but he’s worth taking a flier on – especially with Houston covering most, if not all, the cost. Dallas has more room for center depth, behind DeAndre Jordan and Salah Mejri.

Stat of interest: Half of 2017 NBA All-Stars have since changed teams

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Why does the NBA win the offseason every summer?

Because star players switch teams. A lot.

The combination of shorter contracts (something owners pushed for in recent CBAs to save themselves from themselves because they didn’t want to get locked into six-year deals they regretted) and elite players taking more control of their own destiny has led to a boom of player movement. That’s something fans find more interesting than the games themselves (just check any web site’s traffic numbers, and not just for basketball). In the end, the NBA wins.

How much player movement is there in the NBA: Marc Stein of the New York Times put out this stat in his must-read weekly newsletter, via the brilliant Tom Haberstroh:

In the 18 months since the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans, 12 of the 24 players who participated in that game have switched teams.

He’s the full list:

DeMarcus Cousins. He was traded pretty much during that 2017 All-Star game from Sacramento to New Orleans. He signed this summer with Golden State.

LeBron James. He left Cleveland this summer as a free agent to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Paul George. Traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City, where this summer he re-signed.

Kawhi Leonard. He forced a trade from San Antonio and ended up in Toronto.

DeMar DeRozan. Traded from Toronto to San Antonio as part of the Leonard deal.

• Carmelo Anthony. He was a Knick at the 2017 All-Star Game, was traded to Oklahoma City before last season. This season he was traded to Atlanta, which bought him out, and within hours of this story going up he will sign with the Houston Rockets.

Jimmy Butler. Traded from Chicago to Minnesota (and former coach Tom Thibodeau).

Gordon Hayward. Left Utah as a free agent and signed with Boston (and his college coach Brad Stevens).

Kyrie Irving. Forced a trade out of Cleveland, was sent to the Boston Celtics.

Isaiah Thomas. Traded from Boston to Cleveland in the Irving deal, then traded again at the deadline from Cleveland to the Los Angeles Lakers. This summer he signed with Denver as a free agent.

DeAndre Jordan. Left the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent, signing with Dallas.

Paul Millsap. Left Atlanta as a free agent, signed with Denver.

If you thought this summer was wild, wait until next summer when two-thirds of the league’s teams will have more than $20 million in cap space and nearly half the players in the league will be free agents.