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2016-17 NBA Regular Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 03:16 pm
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lobo316



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Washington Wizards big man Marcin Gortat might regret publicizing his thoughts on Wednesday's home opener right about now.

After Washington started the season 0-2, Gortat proclaimed Wednesday's game against the Toronto Raptors a "must-win." "We can't dig a hole and start the season 0-3," Gortat told reporters, according to The Washington Post's Candace Buckner.

And yet that's exactly what the Wizards have done following a 113-103 loss.

Washington built a 12-point first-quarter lead that quickly evaporated, and battled back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to even the game midway through the final frame, but were outscored 21-11 over the game's final 6:20.

Gortat posted 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal in the loss.


Since Washington swept Toronto in the first round of the 2015 postseason, the franchises have gone in opposite directions. The Raptors won a franchise-record 56 games last season before advancing to the Eastern Conference final, while the Wizards finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs. In addition, Toronto has won all five meetings since their humiliating 2015 playoff exit.

If Wednesday's game was internally viewed as a must-win - a label rarely reserved for November basketball - it'll be interesting to see how tense the Wizards are heading into Friday's contest against the division-rival Hawks, especially considering Washington's desire to start the season well following last year's disappointment.

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 Posted: Fri Nov 4th, 2016 09:48 pm
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The Toronto Raptors are among teams that have expressed interest in Philadelphia 76ers big man Nerlens Noel, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

Noel is widely known to be on the trading block despite being sidelined after minor knee surgery. The Raptors are in need of an upgrade at power forward with Jared Sullinger injured, but sources tell Stein their preference is for the status quo of rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl to fill the void.

So far, that has worked for the most part.

Noel has been part of a logjam in the Philly frontcourt for two seasons now, which is further exacerbated with the emergence of Joel Embiid. A defensive stud, Noel's drawbacks come from his injury history and limited offensive game.

Noel will become a restricted free agent next summer.

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 Posted: Fri Nov 4th, 2016 09:49 pm
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Cm Punk Throwing Shots At Bandwagon Fan Lebron James pic.twitter.com/gHSGZ2touV

— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) November 4, 2016
Despite cheering on the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, LeBron James hasn't abandoned his New York Yankees fandom.

That didn't stop UFC fighter CM Punk from going in on the Cavaliers star during the Chicago Cubs' victory parade Friday, though.

"Let's talk about LeBron James for a second here," said Punk, who's a Cubs fan. "He's a guy who was criticized because, maybe six months ago, he's at an Indians game and he's wearing a New York Yankees hat. Proudly. Takes it off his head and he shows everybody. Like, I don't know what he's thinking."

Punk then suggested James may have jinxed the Indians by giving the Golden State Warriors a hard time for blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals:

Cm Punk Say Lebron James Jinx The Cleveland Indians For Going Hard At Warriors Losing 3-1 Lead pic.twitter.com/VXWY8hPKxV

— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) November 4, 2016

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 Posted: Sat Nov 5th, 2016 10:42 pm
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The modern-day master of mid-range shot equaled a feat by the original mid-range maestro.

DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points against the Miami Heat on Friday for his fifth-straight 30-plus-point outing to start the season. That matches a feat last accomplished by Michael Jordan in 1986.

Like DeRozan, Jordan happened to be a shooting guard who thrived in both the post and mid-range area - the so-called dead zone in today's era of pace-and-space offenses. Jordan is obviously in a class of his own, and the similarities end there with regards to their styles, but for the moment, DeRozan's throwback game has worked beautifully.

DeRozan, who leads the league in scoring at nearly 36 per contest, put forth yet another efficient outing on Friday. He hit 14-of-26 from the field and drained all six of his free throws while also adding four rebounds and four assists.

The 26-year-old also came up huge down the stretch. He made or assisted on the last four baskets for the Raptors as they closed out the Heat to improve to 4-1 this season.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2016 02:19 am
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The New Orleans Pelicans will waive the injured Lance Stephenson in order to bring aboard a healthy body in free-agent guard Archie Goodwin, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania.

The development comes following a report that Stephenson will miss a significant amount of time with a groin injury.

The Pelicans will sign the 22-year-old Goodwin to a two-year contract, according to Charania, which is double the length of Stephenson's deal inked back in September. In fact, only $100,000 of Stephenson's contract with New Orleans is reported to be guaranteed.

The Pelicans, like last season, have been ravaged by injuries in the early going. They could still potentially qualify for the NBA's hardship exception, which allows a 16th player on the roster - something they did last year at the earliest point in NBA history, when they added Jimmer Fredette on Nov. 10.

Goodwin was waived by the Phoenix Suns out of training camp last month, and has averaged 6.2 points and 1.2 assists across 150 career NBA games at both guard spots.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2016 01:37 pm
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DeMar DeRozan failed to reach 30 points in a game for the first time this season as the Toronto Raptors fell 96-91 to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.

The 6-foot-7 shooting guard finished the contest with 23 points on 7-of-20 shooting, adding four rebounds and three assists in the defeat. It was the second time this season that the USC product failed to shoot over 50 percent in a game.

DeRozan entered Sunday's contest scoring at a ridiculous pace, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan to start a season with five straight 30-point games following his 34-point explosion on Friday night.

Even after Sunday's performance, DeRozan should be a strong candidate to take home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, totaling 130 points over four contests.

The Raptors will look to bounce back on Wednesday when they take on Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2016 10:02 pm
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LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and George Hill of the Utah Jazz have been named NBA Players of the Week in the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively.

James put up a near-triple double over three undefeated games, at 24.7 points, 11.3 assists, and 9.3 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors currently leads the league in scoring with 33.7 points per game, but had an average outing in Sunday's loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Hill has been the early-season catalyst for the Jazz, leading the team in scoring, assists, and steals during Gordon Hayward's absence. He had 23 points and nine assists in Sunday's win over the New York Knicks, injuring his thumb in the process.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2016 10:04 pm
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The King moved past The Dream.

LeBron James surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon for 10th all time in NBA scoring with an early transition layup against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

It took Olajuwon 18 seasons to put up 26,946 points, on an average of 21.8 per game. James, meanwhile, holds a career scoring average of 27.2, in the midst of his 14th year.

With Olajuwon in the rearview mirror, James can set sights on another Houston Rockets great in Elvin Hayes, who has 27,131 points to his name. At his current pace, it should take James around 15 games to move into ninth on the list.

Should James stay healthy, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him soar into seventh past Moses Malone (27,409) and Shaquille O'Neal (28,596).

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 Posted: Mon Nov 7th, 2016 10:05 pm
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's barring of ESPN reporters Marc Stein and Tim MacMahon extends to all ESPN.com writers wishing to cover the team's home games, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Art Garcia.

It emerged late Sunday that Stein and MacMahon - both Dallas-based national NBA multi-platform journalists for ESPN - had seen their season credentials revoked. Cuban engaged with critics of the decision on Twitter, but only offered a vague suggestion of an issue with the sports media giant:

@TimCowlishaw @LandryLocker you are right about your business acumen . There is no shifting. Feel free to ask ESPN mgmt what the issue is

— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) November 7, 2016
The situation is sure to invite awkwardness. The holder of the Mavs' radio broadcast rights is in fact ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM. Furthermore, the NBA has a longstanding national television contract - believed to be worth $2.7 billion per year - with ESPN/ABC.

Garcia reported Sunday that Cuban said of the ESPN writers, "they're not banned from the building. They can still buy a ticket."

It's likely at this point the league gets involved with the dispute.

"We are in communication with both ESPN and Mark Cuban about this matter," NBA spokesman Michael Bass said.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 8th, 2016 02:07 pm
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Donyell Marshall had a good run, but Steph Curry no longer has to share the NBA's single-game 3-point throne.

On Monday night, the Golden State Warriors point guard broke an NBA record he always seemed destined to break, nailing 13 3-pointers against the New Orleans Pelicans to best the single-game mark he previously shared with Marshall and Kobe Bryant. Curry equaled their record in memorable fashion last season.

Curry's historic night was made all the more incredible because it came immediately after one of the worst shooting performances of his career, a game in which he went 0-for-10 from long range to end a 157-game streak with at least one 3-ball.

Curry went into the fourth quarter sitting on 10 made threes, and he stayed there until just three-and-a-half minutes remained in regulation. Then he canned three straight triples on three straight possessions to make it a baker's dozen, each more difficult than the one before.

Curry finished 13-of-17 from distance and 16-of-26 from the field overall for a game-high 46 points, and the Warriors needed nearly all of them. For all the reigning MVP's theatrics, the Pelicans managed to keep things uncomfortably close until Curry's final onslaught put things out of reach.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 8th, 2016 02:08 pm
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The Washington Wizards came into this season hoping to wash out the bitter taste of a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, but six games in, they only seem to have squirmed their way deeper into the quicksand.

A 114-106 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Monday night dropped the Wizards to 1-5, and had shooting guard Bradley Beal looking to diagnose his team's mystifying struggles.

"We did not expect it to be like this," Beal told reporters after the game, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

"We got to get our toughness back, our identity back. We're playing with no toughness, no swag. We got to pick each other up. We've got to get something going."

If there's a silver lining for the Wizards it's that they've been right there going into the fourth quarter of every game. But time after time, they've collapsed in crunch time, their offense growing harried and their defense coming apart at the seams. They took a 95-94 lead with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in regulation Monday, and then the Rockets went on a 12-0 run in the span of three minutes and the Wizards never threatened again.

The game ended on an ugly note, with a decidedly frustrated John Wall getting ejected for allegedly hurling vulgarities at an official.

"By this point everybody got to look themselves in the mirror and come back and go to the drawing board (to see) what we got to do to get wins and get stops," said Otto Porter.

"We don’t want to be 1-5 right now," said Beal, who, after the Wizards' 0-3 start, said he felt they should've been 3-0.

"Everybody's frustrated. Everybody's mad."

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 Posted: Tue Nov 8th, 2016 02:11 pm
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It's just seven games into the NBA season, but there's trouble brewing in the Hoosier State.

After surrendering 122 points in a blowout road loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night, the Indiana Pacers were left staring in the mirror, and their star player didn't much like what he saw.

"We're just not tied together," Paul George told reporters after the game, according to Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. "We're allowing the home teams to have the advantage of being home."

The Pacers got behind early and never made any kind of serious push. They took their last lead 90 seconds into the game. They allowed Charlotte to score 43 points in the first quarter, as many as any team has scored in any quarter so far this season. They couldn't keep the Hornets off the line, or out of the paint. They couldn't stop turning the ball over. They got their tails beat in almost every conceivable way.

"We're all out of whack," George said. "There's no trust, there's no chemistry, there's no belief. We're kind of just lifeless right now."

The Pacers have been one of the league's most confounding, Jekyll-and-Hyde outfits early this season. Their drubbing at the hands of the Hornets came on the heels of an impressive 17-point win over the Chicago Bulls, which itself followed an 18-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. They came into Monday's game ranked 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, after finishing third last season.

George may have a point about "allowing the home teams to have the advantage of being home," truism be damned. On home soil this season, the Pacers are 3-0, outscoring opponents by an average of 11 points per game. On the road they're now 0-4, with an average margin of defeat of 16.5.

Veteran forward Thaddeus Young knows his team needs to figure things out before the schedule gets even tougher on them.

"We obviously know we're better at home, but on the road we have to get some of these games," Young said. "The crazy thing is we haven't really played the toughest teams. When those teams come around, they're not going to play around with us."

Fortunately for the Pacers, nine of their next 11 games will be played in Indiana. But at some point, they'll need to find a cure for their homesickness.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 9th, 2016 11:23 pm
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With a few rare exceptions, the NBA populace typically leans Democrat, which partially explains why the predominant response to Republican nominee Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election has been one of disappointment.

Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan tried to couch his thoughts on the election when approached by reporters Wednesday, but he couldn't hold back.

"Ah, I'm not about to speak on that, hell nah," DeRozan said according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, before adding that, "It's a mockery. It's a joke."

DeRozan's head coach Dwane Casey, a lifelong Democrat, was also disappointed but ultimately supported the will of the American populace.

"I'm disappointed but I'm also an American. I respect the position of the presidency and whoever it is I'm going to support it," Casey said.

"But disappointed being a Democrat and being for the other side, but at the end of the day, like we asked when Barack Obama was elected, let's pull behind the president and hopefully that's what we are going to do as a nation."

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 Posted: Wed Nov 9th, 2016 11:24 pm
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It's no secret the majority of the NBA didn't get the result it hoped for in Tuesday's presidential election. The fallout was naturally a hot topic at league practices and shootarounds Wednesday, and Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy offered a blunt assessment.

"We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus," Van Gundy said, according to MLive's Aaron McMann. "I don't think anybody can deny (Donald Trump) is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic."

The reaction of NBA players to Trump's election as the nation's 45th president has been near-universally negative. Trump will take office Jan. 20 for a four-year term. Van Gundy is known for his plain outspokenness, and hasn't been afraid to wade into political waters before.

"It's just, we have said - and my daughters, the three of them - our society has said, 'No, we think you should be second-class citizens. We want you to be second-class citizens'," Van Gundy continued. "And we embrace a guy who is openly misogynist as a our leader. I don't know how we get past that."

The coach then took aim at so-called evangelical Christians - who polled at 81 percent in favor of Trump, according to The Washington Post - as well as "red state" residents.

"I'm not a religious guy, but what the hell Bible are they reading? ... there are a lot of different groups we can be upset at. But you're Christians," he said. "You're supposed to be - at least you pride yourself on being the moral compass of our society - and you said, 'Yeah, the guy can talk about women like that. I'm fine with that.'

"He can disparage every ethnic group, and 'I'm fine with that'. It's embarrassing. I have been ashamed of a lot of things that have happened in this country, but I can't say I've ever been ashamed of our country until today.

"I'm going to walk into (Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix) and realize that - especially in this state - most of these people voted for the guy. Like, (expletive), I don't have any respect for that. I don't."

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 Posted: Wed Nov 9th, 2016 11:25 pm
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James Harden is as confident as ever.

He's thriving in his new role running the Houston Rockets' fourth-ranked offense as a "points guard" and is currently first in the league in assists and second in scoring.

Asked by Michael Lee of The Vertical who's the best player at his position, Harden responded:

"Best point guard or best player?"

Either one.

"I am," the 27-year-old replied.

He's easily one of the best players when it comes to creating scoring opportunities for both himself and his teammates. He's averaging 31.6 points on a career-high true shooting percentage of 66.5 percent, while also contributing 12.7 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.3 steals.

The veteran's put up robust numbers before, however. Despite the fact that nobody scored more points than him last year, Harden didn't make any of the three All-NBA teams because the Rockets were mediocre, squeaking into the playoffs at .500 and bowing out in the first round.

Team success also factors into the MVP race, so with all those aspects in mind, Harden's priority is to do whatever he can to ensure his squad racks up Ws.

"I just want to win. I don't really think about doing all that other stuff," he said.

The organization made some moves over the offseason in hopes of helping his cause. They added a head coach in Mike D'Antoni - who's known for crafting offenses centered on pace and ball movement - and players like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, who can knock down shots off Harden's drive and kicks.

Related: D'Antoni excited to coach Harden: His game is 'just like, wow'

Seven games into 2016-17, the four-time All-Star's already noticing a difference in Houston's chemistry and offense.

"A lot more space. A lot more opportunity for me to get to the basket, for me to find guys," he said. "Previously, it was a little bit more crowded. You've got to respect our shooters and you've got to be able to find them and know where they are at all times, or you're going to pay for it."

There are two ends of the court, though, so in order for Harden to truly be considered the game's top player, he must be able to stop his opponents. Though he has the physical tools to be a good defender, that's long been the glaring weakness in his game. It's a challenge of mentality and effort that he's committed to overcome.

"Just being locked in," Harden said. "It's my job to go out there and play both ends of the floor at a high level. We're all going to make mistakes, but we have each other's backs and we compete."

Related: Harden promises improved defense: 'I'm more than capable'

The 4-3 Rockets are currently 27th in defensive efficiency. Fortunately, they have some time to get it together, and if Harden is as good as he says he is, he'll help make that happen.

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