Rajon Rondo will play for Celtics in season opener against Nets

BOSTON — It’s official: Rajon Rondo is back. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced Wednesday that Rondo will in fact be in the lineup for Boston opens its regular season against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden. Rondo will start in his usual point guard spot after missing the entire preseason with a broken hand. Had he not been able to go, rookie Marcus Smart would have gotten the nod. Smart should be the first point guard off the bench for the Celtics, and Evan Turner and Phil Pressey could see time at the position, as well. Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will round out the starting five against the Nets.Filed under: Boston Celtics, Top Stories, Zack Cox

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Stephenson practices, expect to play vs. Bucks (Yahoo Sports)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets guard Lance Stephenson has returned to practice and says nothing will keep out of the season opener Wednesday night against Milwaukee.

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Rondo: Garnett could play ‘another two or three years’

WALTHAM, Mass. —  There will come a day, not so far into the future, that Kevin Garnett will hang up his sneakers for good. Rajon Rondo will believe that when he sees it. Rondo said one day before his Boston Celtics were set to open the regular season against Garnett’s Brooklyn Nets that he believes his former teammate still has plenty left in the tank. “I just appreciate the years I played with him, not that this might be his last year, because each year, people say it’s his last year,” Rondo said Tuesday at Celtics practice. “You can never challenge his heart or count him out. He might play another two, three more years. He takes very good care of his body. It’s just a matter of if he wants to play or not.” Garnett is entering his 20th NBA season, having played 12 years for the Minnesota Timberwolves and six for the Celtics before landing in Brooklyn ahead of the 2013-14 campaign. For comparison’s sake, Rondo was 9 years old when Garnett was drafted way back in 1995, and current Celtic

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Carmelo Anthony Disputes Notion That He Doesn’t Want to Play with Kobe Bryant

Carmelo Anthony may ultimately have spurned the Los Angeles Lakers during his foray into free agency this offseason, choosing to re-sign with the New York Knicks rather than move across the country and throw on a purple-and-gold uniform. However, his decision didn’t have to do with avoiding Kobe Bryant

“If I thought that was the right situation for me from an overall perspective as far as having a team there, then I would have looked at that situation more in-depth,” the oft-shooting forward told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk. “I just felt more comfortable staying here in New York. But as far as playing with him…I’m here now but I would always love to play with Kobe.”

The justification is only necessary because of an ESPN the Magazine piece on Bryant, one that sparked up plenty of conversations after anonymous inside figures were quoted as saying the superstar shooting guard was driving away potential free-agent signings. 

Mitch [Kupchak] did his homework,” an unnamed NBA executive told Henry Abbott for that article. “He can’t get a marquee player to play alongside Kobe, cap space be damned.” 

And how about this one from a source close to Lakers decision-makers: 

He wants to win. But only as long as he’s the reason we’re winning, as long as the performance is not affecting his numbers. No one works harder than Kobe. And no one sabotages his own efforts more. He’s scaring off the free agents we’re trying to get. We’re trying to surround you with talent and your ego is getting in the way.

The piece led to quite a few rebuttals from central figures and journalists around the basketball-watching world. Even Phil Jackson, who coached Bryant during his three-peat runs and is now working in the New York front office that re-signed Anthony, is getting involved:

Now, Anthony is the latest to explain that his decision had other motivating factors, ones like the Knicks being a better fit for him. And while he won’t directly say it, the five-year, $124 million contract he signed probably had quite a bit to do with his choice as well. 

The Lakers were the only other team to offer Anthony a full maximum-level contract,” Shelburne and Youngmisuk explain. “Due to the rules of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, their offer could only be for four years and $95 million—one year and $29 million less than the Knicks signed Anthony to.”

There were just other factors, as Sean Highkin detailed for NBC Sports

Indeed, it’s hard to pin Anthony’s decision on Bryant. Signing with the Lakers never really made sense for him, and all along it seemed like he let them make their pitch more as a courtesy than out of any serious intention of going there. The two most viable contenders in the Melo sweepstakes both offered something the Lakers couldn’t. The Bulls had the best roster and the clearest path to immediate contention for a championship out of any of the teams vying for his services. The Knicks could offer him more money than anyone else, as well as a fifth year on his contract and long-term security for his family. The Lakers, coming off a disappointing year and figuring to be a lottery team again this season, could offer neither. Melo chose the money, and it’s hard to blame him for it.

Maybe Anthony wanted to play with Bryant, and nothing else about the situation in Tinseltown made sense for him. Maybe he wasn’t completely sold on sharing the rock with another shot-happy superstar, and that factored into his decision. Maybe he didn’t want to play with Anthony, purely for basketball reasons. 

But the notion that Bryant drove off Anthony and scared him away from choosing the Lakers as the next location for his basketball talents? 

The Knicks star won’t agree with that. 

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Kings’ Gay, McLemore cleared to play in opener (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay and guard Ben McLemore have been cleared to play in the team’s season opener this week.

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Jeanie Buss: Only losers afraid to play with Kobe

The Lakers president was asked about a report that free agents were reluctant to play with him.

      
 

 

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NBA 2K15: Indiana Pacers Star Paul George to Play Fans Online on Opening Night

The Indiana Pacers Paul George can’t be with his team this season due to the unfortunate leg injury he suffered during exhibition games with Team USA, but he can still ball out on NBA 2K15.

He’ll do just that on Tuesday night as the NBA season opens with three games. At approximately 7 pm ET, George will hop online to play in the game’s MyPark mode to play against fans.

For those who aren’t aware of the MyPark mode, it allows gamers to take their created likenesses to street courts and the fictional Jordan Rec Center to team up and play against other members of the NBA 2K community.

On Tuesday, George will be in that number.

With three games on tap on opening night, NBA 2K/NBA fans can start their hoops day an hour early. The Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs games tip off at 8 pm ET. So that gives fans an hour to ball with George before flipping to the real action.

Obviously, everyone won’t be able to play with George, but you can still watch the game live on 2K Sports’ Twitch channel. It is expected to be a packed virtual house, so 2K is asking fans who are interested in watching to RSVP for the event here.

Game play should be smooth for the event as a patch to fix stability in the mode was released on Friday.

I spoke with social media manager Ronnie Singh aka “Ronnie 2K,” and he indicated that George’s in-game character would look exactly like him during the live stream. We’ll soon find out how much virtual game George has.

 

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UNC Basketball: Will Tar Heels Go Undefeated in 2014-15 Nonconference Play?

The beauty of the college basketball regular season—as opposed to its football counterpart—for the top teams is that an early loss or two does not ruin their long-term goals. That means powerhouses like North Carolina are incentivized to schedule marquee nonconference games to prepare for March, and the fans are given a real treat before ACC play begins.

The Tar Heels certainly won’t have to worry about strength of schedule numbers come Selection Sunday given their daunting nonconference slate. Just because they can afford an early loss, though, doesn’t mean they want one.

With that in mind, what are the chances North Carolina runs through its nonconference schedule without a loss before it makes a run at the ACC title?

It is important to point out those chances aren’t high simply because it is a difficult schedule. Head coach Roy Williams suggested as much, via C.L. Brown of ESPN.com:

If you have some success, you can say that I am more prepared than just about anybody to get into conference play and that’s what we are trying to do. In the pre-conference, get ready for conference play, but also to play some of those national-type games to measure yourself to see how you can do outside the league as well. It is planned to try and get better, get better, get better so that you are hopefully playing your best basketball at the end of the season, when it’s the most important.

Before we dig into the schedule game by game, it is worth recapping exactly what North Carolina brings to the table. After all, if the Tar Heels didn’t have legitimate talent, the possibility of an undefeated nonconference run wouldn’t even be a conversation.

Marcus Paige is an absolute superstar and a legitimate candidate for ACC Player of the Year and perhaps even National Player of the Year if he takes another jump. He can drill it from three-point range, attack the basket off the dribble and set up teammates with crisp passes, which helped him carry the Tar Heels a number of times last year.

While he became the first North Carolina player since 1995-96 to lead his team in scoring and assists, he won’t have to carry quite the same load this year.

J.P. Tokoto will anchor the defense with his length and athleticism, Joel Berry will take some of the backcourt pressure off Paige with his shooting ability and Brice Johnson could be the most improved player in the conference if he stays out of foul trouble on a consistent basis. In fact, Johnson has the talent to be a double-double machine every night this season.

Throw in Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, and this is a deeper and more talented team than a year ago.

It’s clear the pieces are in place to win a lot of games, but can North Carolina really win all of them before ACC play begins?

There are a number of nonconference tilts we can simply assume the Tar Heels are going to handle just by rolling the basketballs out on the floor given their status as a Top 10 team.

North Carolina plays N.C. Central at home, Robert Morris at home, Davidson in Charlotte, East Carolina at home, UNC Greensboro in Greensboro, UAB at home and William and Mary at home.

It would be dangerous for the players and coaching staff to overlook games, especially the one against Davidson, but fans and commentators can safely assume North Carolina will win these ones. After all, we are talking about the No. 6 team in the country in the initial USA Today Coaches Poll, and Stephen Curry isn’t walking through any doors for Davidson.

That leaves the difficult games on the nonconference schedule.

North Carolina is playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis from Nov. 26-28 in the Bahamas and will start off with Butler. After that, it will play UCLA or Oklahoma and finally finish against UAB, Florida, Georgetown or Wisconsin. It is obviously difficult to project how the Tar Heels will do in these three games because playing UAB is a lot different than playing national championship contenders like Wisconsin or Florida.

Let’s assume, though, for argument’s sake that North Carolina gets past Butler and UCLA/Oklahoma (easier said than done, but none of those teams is as talented as the Tar Heels on paper) and runs into the Badgers or Florida in the last game.

In terms of the experience and talent combination, there may not be a better team in the country than Wisconsin. The Badgers should have plenty of confidence after last year’s Final Four run and return star center Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser and Bronson Koenig.

The frontcourt alone is rather imposing with Kaminsky as one of the country’s best centers, Hayes as a rapidly improving presence and Dekker as a potential first-round NBA draft pick down the line.

Florida may pose a slightly less daunting challenge, but it is still the No. 7 team in the country even though it lost four senior starters from a year ago.

Sharpshooter Michael Frazier II, athletic Dorian Finney-Smith and potential superstar Chris Walker give the Gators a formidable core, and Kasey Hill is an ideal pass-first point guard to get them each the ball. Florida is once again a serious candidate for a Final Four run.

Outside of the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Tar Heels have a matchup with perennially underrated Iowa in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Aaron White led the Hawkeyes to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 last year, and they should contend for a top-four seed in the Big Ten in 2014-15.

At least that one is in Chapel Hill.

Speaking of Big Ten teams, North Carolina plays Ohio State in December at the United Center in Chicago as part of the CBS Sports Classic with Kentucky and UCLA. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 20 in the country and have a solid mix of returning veterans and talented freshmen.

Shannon Scott anchors a potentially stout defense, guard D’Angelo Russell is the highest-regarded newcomer because of his scoring ability and overall quickness and guys like Sam Thompson, Marc Loving, Anthony Lee, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate and Amir Williams give Thad Matta plenty of depth.

This will be more challenging than the No. 20 next to Ohio State’s name indicates because the Buckeyes are quite athletic and will use defensive pressure to attempt to rattle Paige.

Finally, North Carolina’s premier nonconference showdown comes against Kentucky in Lexington in front of what should be one of the most raucous crowds in all of college basketball this season.

The Wildcats are No. 1 for a reason and have returnees Willie Cauley-Stein, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress to help another loaded recruiting class get accustomed to the college game. Among the freshmen are potential superstars in Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis.

That is a lot of McDonald’s All-Americans to deal with on the road for the Tar Heels. 

This team is so deep that we could see a radical strategy from John Calipari, via ESPN College Basketball:

North Carolina is incredibly talented and has the exact right idea with this schedule. Playing this many difficult games before ACC play begins will have the Tar Heels ready to go when Duke and Syracuse are on the other end of the floor.

However, playing Iowa at Chapel Hill and Ohio State, Wisconsin/Florida and Kentucky all away from home is not a recipe for an undefeated nonconference run. It’s just not realistic to expect a win in every one of those games, especially against the Wildcats, because the Tar Heels would have to play at their best every night out. 

It will be more important if the Tar Heels use this daunting stretch of games to prepare themselves to go undefeated in March.

 

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Buss: Any FA who won’t play with Kobe ‘probably a loser’

When Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss made her first comments in reaction to the scathing “ESPN The Magazine” piece by Henry Abbott regarding her team’s veteran superstar, she didn’t merely defend Kobe Bryant, she went on an aggressive offensive. Unlike others who chose to directly criticize Abbott and the magazine over the content of…Read More
The post Lakers boss Jeanie Buss: Any free agent who won’t play with Kobe is ‘probably a loser’ appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Jeanie Buss: I’ll fire anyone who said free agents don’t want to play with Kobe

Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanne Buss on made some strong comments on Thursday in response to the recent ESPN the Magazine story that was written about Kobe Bryant. For starters, Buss said that any team employee who contributed to the feature — which claimed Bryant deters free agents from signing with the Lakers — will…Read More

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