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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.

Report: If Andre Iguodala gets bought out Clippers, Lakers frontrunners to land him

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Right now, Andre Iguodala is at home working out; not with the Grizzlies, the team that traded for him this summer. That is by mutual consent, Iguodala agreed to wait it out — likely until close to the Feb. 6 trade deadline — while the Grizzlies looked for a trade partner willing to take on the veteran.

After the February deadline, if Memphis keeps him, they likely buy Iguodala out. If Memphis trades him, it’s possible that team will buy him out.

If Iguodala gets bought out, expect him to land in Los Angeles with the Clippers or Lakers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on an ESPN NBA preview show.

“It’s the two LA teams. It’s the Lakers and it’s the Clippers. If there is a buyout at some point and if Memphis can’t trade him, that’s where that will come down to those two teams…

“Iguodala’s fine with seeing what the landscape looks like and then jumping in on the season a little later [during the season].”

Iguodala would help either of those teams, he’s still a high-level wing defender for the postseason — he’s proven that against LeBron James, and in the West perimeter defenders will be at a premium in the postseason — plus he plays a smart game and can hit big shots. Both the Lakers and Clippers would jump at the chance to have him, but Iguodala has the advantage of sitting back for half the season and seeing which of those teams appeals to him and be a better fit.

Iguodala ended up in Memphis because the Warriors were making moves to revamp their roster last summer and they needed to clear some cap space. So they traded Andre Iguodala to Memphis and sent the Grizzlies a first-round pick in the deal. Iguodala understood the business side of the trade, but he also doesn’t want to play for the rebuilding Grizzlies. Memphis doesn’t want to buy him out — unless he’s giving back a healthy chunk of the $17.2 million he is owed, which Iguodala will not do — instead, the Grizzlies hope to trade him for young players or picks to be part of their rebuilding process. Right now there is no deal to be had, so the two sides reached an agreement and Iguodala is on the roster but not with the team, he’s working out at home while Memphis looks for a trade.

That could be a while.

It’s unlikely a trade happens before Dec. 15 (the day players signed this summer can be traded), and if any deal is made it likely will be closer to the Feb. 6 trade deadline. A team in the deep West that feels it is a player away may make a move to trade for Iguodala, but more than likely he will be bought out one way or another.

When that happens, Iguodala may be on his move to Los Angeles.

Kevin Durant says Thunder blowing 3-1 lead to Warriors doesn’t rank in top five of career losses

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How could Kevin Durant leave the Thunder for the Warriors, who had just beaten Oklahoma City in the playoffs?

Maybe because he never believed the Thunder held more than a puncher’s chance that postseason.

Golden State won an NBA-record 73 games in 2015-16. The Spurs had an even better than net rating than the Warriors that season. And the eventual-champion Cavaliers loomed with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Oklahoma City beat San Antonio in the second round then blew a 3-1 lead to Golden State in the Western Conference finals. (The Warriors then blew their own 3-1 lead to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.)

Where does that loss to the Warriors rank among the hardest to deal with in Durant’s career?

Durant on Hot 97:

It doesn’t rank in the top five.

We lost Game 2 at home in 2012 to Miami. That was a tough loss. We lost Game 5 against Memphis at home. It was a 2-2 series. They went up 3-2. Those are tough losses to me. I really, really, really felt like we had an opportunity. We had some momentum.

We’re playing against 73-win team in the Warriors and the Spurs, who were a 67-win team that year. And then the Cavs were the best team in the league, most-talented team. So, I’m like, “We’ve got an uphill climb. Let’s just see what we can do.”

But these other seasons, I felt like…

“You actually had it?” a host asked.

Durant:

Yeah.

Durant named two other losses, not five. Not top-five might have been hyperbole.

But he’s clearly downplaying the significance of the Golden State loss to him.

Maybe that’s how he feels. I can’t know exactly how he feels, and I certainly wouldn’t tell him how should feel. He has indicated how much faith he was losing in the Thunder. Maybe he truly didn’t get his hopes up high enough in 2016 to feel burned by blowing that lead.

This seems dubious, though.

The young Thunder might have believed they would win the 2012 NBA Finals against the Heat, but Oklahoma City still appeared destined for a dynasty after that loss.

Yes, the Thunder lost Game 5 to the Grizzlies in the 2014 first round. But Oklahoma City rallied to win the series in seven. How badly could that loss have stung? Not enough to undermine a comeback.

The 2016 Thunder reached an incredibly high level against Golden State. Their length and athleticism tormented the Warriors, and Oklahoma City also brought plenty of skill. Golden State really had to elevate its own play to win three straight. Those Thunder looked like a championship-caliber team to me – though maybe not to Durant.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Durant is retconning an explanation for his 2016 free agency. He received immense criticism for leaving for the team that just beat him. Downplaying the personal significance of that series could be an attempt to change the narrative.

So, maybe this explains why Durant signed with the Warriors.

Or maybe it shows more about how Durant wants to frame that decision after the fact.

Steve Kerr responds to Donald Trump calling him a ‘little boy’ (VIDEO)

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NBA players and coaches have been vocal about domestic social issues affecting them for several years. People like LeBron James, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr have all led the charge, Using their platform to speak about what they see as in Justice.

The recent backlash about Daryl Morey’s tweet in China has led for some conservative pundits to criticize what they see as silence on the issue by major NBA figures. Donald Trump went so far as to call Kerr “a little boy” recently, an oddity as the leader of the free world took time out of his day to reference the Warriors coach unprovoked.

For his part, Kerr responded by joking about how he should have come out to the media on Thursday riding a tricycle and wearing a propeller beanie. Kerr lamented the condition and lack of dignity in the oval office in his remarks, and said what he felt was reasonable: that he doesn’t have all the information, or cultural perspective to make strong judgements on China and Hong Kong, without further research.

In contrast, Kerr said he does speak directly on domestic matters specifically because he does have context, experience, and felt knowledgeable about the subjects he’s spoken on, such as gun violence in America. Kerr says he’s part of several gun safety groups.

Via Twitter:

The China debate has brought out the worst in everyone. It’s no surprise that Trump has tried to use it against Kerr, and that’s perhaps the most depressing part.