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Thread: Cnotes 2018 nba previews - news - notes - projections !

  1. #16
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    Talent-rich C's embracing expectations
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    CANTON, Mass. (AP) Last summer, new Boston Celtics arrivals Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward beamed just imagining what it would be like to share the court together.

    Those dreams lasted all of five minutes before Hayward was lost for the season to a gruesome leg injury on the opening night of the season.

    The Celtics somehow survived it and had set themselves up to make a run at the Eastern Conference title when Irving was lost for the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs following a pair of knee surgeries.

    But four months after a season with so much potential was tossed into the ''what might have been'' basket and following an offseason conference shake-up that saw LeBron James head west to Los Angeles, Boston again finds itself in the spotlight heading into training camp.

    Irving and Hayward are back and healthy. And they are flanked by a loaded roster of veterans and talented young players who are hungry for another shot at the franchise's 18th championship.

    Irving said last season taught him not to take anything for granted.

    ''I missed it so much and for it to be taken away the way it did, with the timing and everything, it just wasn't ideal,'' Irving said. ''It was hurtful, honestly, because it was an uncontrollable thing. To go through it was a learning experience, but it only helped my evolution as a person.''

    Hayward, who is playing without restrictions following a more than 10-month rehab process, played 5-on-5 earlier this month for the first time since his injury.

    He said going through the preseason will help him feel 100 percent healthy.

    ''When you don't play basketball for a year, those things happen. I have to find my rhythm, find my groove a little bit,'' Hayward said.

    Though he feels like a newcomer to this team in some ways, he said he doesn't feel any pressure.

    ''I don't think I necessarily have anything to prove,'' he said. ''But internally I want to be the best version of myself.''

    If there was one positive thing that resulted from the absence of Irving and Hayward late last season, it was the emergence of second-year Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum.

    Thrust into starting roles late in the season, both emerged as members of the NBA's next generation of All-Star-caliber players.

    Brown proved the athleticism and defensive ability he showed in his first season were no fluke. And at age 19, Tatum played fearlessly in the postseason, averaging 18.5 points per game.

    What was once thought to be Boston's new Big Three of Irving, Hayward and Al Horford, has quickly been recast as a Big Five.

    It's left coach Brad Stevens with the enviable but delicate challenge of getting the projecting starting five of Irving, Hayward, Horford, Brown and Tatum to jell while also integrating a talented bench that includes Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis.

    Rozier made the most of starter minutes when Irving was sidelined, and Smart and Morris were defensive cogs on a team that pushed the Cavaliers to seven games in the conference finals.

    ''We have a long way to go. That being said, we clearly have a lot of good players,'' Stevens said.

    Morris said the first task for this group will be leaving their egos in the locker room.

    ''A blind person can see that we have a lot of talent,'' Morris said. ''So obviously we all know that there is some type of sacrifice that we have to take for the betterment of this team.''

    Figuring out how to use the talent they have will be the fun part, Tatum said.

    ''Everybody's gonna have a different role, just with the loaded roster that we have,'' he said. ''Whatever it takes to win. That's what we care about. Winning takes care of everything.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Blazers look to shake off 2018 ending
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The Trail Blazers head into fall camp still stinging from last season's first-round playoff sweep by New Orleans.

    The trick now is not to overcorrect.

    ''You run the risk of overreacting to defeats, and maybe being blinded by victories,'' coach Terry Stotts said. ''I think it's important that we learn from it, I don't want our team to forget about it. I don't want our team to forget about the feeling we had, not just after the series was over, but what we had to live through over the summer, and keep that edge. Hopefully, we use it as a learning experience.''

    Portland returns the nucleus - Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic - of a team that went 49-33 last season. Apart from the early postseason exit, it was mostly considered a success.

    Boosted by a 13-game winning streak that started with a victory over the Golden State Warriors just before the All-Star break, the Blazers secured the third seed in the Western Conference. They clinched the Northwest Division title for the seventh time in franchise history and went to the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

    Lillard again drove the team's success. In March he averaged 27.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He also set a franchise record by making 64 straight free throws. But New Orleans contained him in the playoffs. He averaged 18.5 points during the series, after scoring 26.9 per game during the regular season.

    Lillard tried in the offseason to balance the positives and the negatives.

    ''I think I do a good job of placing my energy in the right place,'' Lillard said. ''I always look back and say, `I made another All-Star game, I was first-team All-NBA,' that means I was one of the five best players last season. A lot went into that. .. It didn't make up for it (the sweep) but it's important that you acknowledge those other things.''

    No sixth seed had ever swept a No. 3 in a best-of-seven series.

    McCollum is focused on the future.

    ''You have to move on from it but it sticks in the back of your mind. It's healthy to be upset. It's healthy to go through that process of figuring out what you could have done better and watching film,'' McCollum said. ''And then you have to remove yourself from it because it's the past.''

    CONTINUITY: The Blazers have been an incredibly steady team over the past three years. Two seasons ago, they returned 10 players, last year it was 12 and this season it's 11, including the starting lineup.

    ''The disappointing thing for me is that the last two years we haven't gotten off to good starts. In January, we're below .500. So it hasn't manifested itself into early-season success, which you would think that having that carryover, it would,'' Stotts said. ''We don't have that luxury this year.''

    PORTLAND'S CURRY:
    One of the additions this summer was guard Seth Curry, who was signed to a two-year deal. The 6-foot-2 younger brother of Steph Curry didn't play last season because of a leg injury, but the season before he averaged 12.8 points and 2.7 assists in 70 games with the Dallas Mavericks.

    ED'S EXIT: The biggest absence this year is undoubtedly Ed Davis, who was effective off the bench and popular in the locker room. Davis averaged 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds for Portland last season. A free agent, Davis went to the Brooklyn Nets. Portland also lost reserves Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton.

    PROTEST:
    Outside the Moda Center on Monday a group of demonstrators displayed companion banners that read ''Blazers Yes'' and ''Warcrimes No.'' The signs were part of an ongoing protest of the team's relationship with Leupold & Stevens, an Oregon-based company that manufactures rifle scopes and binoculars. The protest targets the company's deal in 2017 to supply scopes for the ground arm of the Israel Defense Forces. The company sponsors a ''Hometown Hero'' award at each home game.

    OPENING NIGHT: Portland's opening night game is set for Oct. 18 against LeBron James and his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

    ''I think it's similar to when he came back to Cleveland, it takes time,'' Lillard said. ''Anytime you bring guys in and they join a young team, a new team, I think it just takes time to gel, being on the floor together, learning each other, learning how to win together. So I think it's good that we get them early.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Rockets hope 'Melo can help them win
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press

    HOUSTON (AP) Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta didn't waste any time telling Carmelo Anthony why he wanted him on his team.

    ''I'll tell you exactly what I told him,'' Fertitta said Monday. ''`We couldn't win a championship without you last year. And if we win a championship with you this year you're going to be the guy that got us over there. So, it's all up to you.'''

    Anthony, who joined the Rockets this offseason after one disappointing season in Oklahoma City, chuckled when asked about that phone call. He was vacationing in South Africa with his family when the phone rang, and Fertitta delivered the message.

    ''He put a lot of pressure on me,'' Anthony said. ''I'm not even going to lie.''

    Anthony signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Rockets in August after he was traded from the Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks in July before the Hawks released him.

    Fertitta and the rest of the Rockets believe that the 10-time All-Star could be the piece that will help them win their first NBA title since capturing back-to-back championships in 1994-95. But there are questions about how Anthony will fit in with a team that stars last year's MVP James Harden and fellow star Chris Paul.

    His tenure in Oklahoma City seemed to start going wrong before it even got started. He became a meme after the Thunder's media day last year when he was asked about how he'd feel about coming off the bench and he responded with: ''Who, me?''

    He laughed about that exchange Monday but he and coach Mike D'Antoni skirted questions about exactly what his role would be in Houston.

    ''All the questions of coming off the bench, I don't even want to answer those questions,'' Anthony said. ''At the end of the day whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship then that's what's going to be done.''

    Harden and Paul both seem thrilled to have the 34-year-old Anthony on their team. Harden had a simple answer when asked why he thought Anthony would be successful in Houston after struggling to fit in elsewhere.

    ''He's playing alongside me and Chris,'' Harden said.

    General manager Daryl Morey has admired Anthony for years and tried to land him in the past before finally convincing him to join the Rockets this year. He believes Anthony will be a good fit in Houston.

    ''Even if in recent past maybe they've had some bumpy roads where the fit maybe hasn't been good. We feel like our players, Chris Paul and James Harden and our coaching staff can really get the most out of guys with talent,'' Morey said. ''We really look for players who they have talent in other places that maybe people aren't appreciating but will work better when they're here.''

    Anthony averaged a career-low 16.2 points in 78 games last season for the Thunder. The third overall pick in the 2003 draft has averaged 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3 assists in a 15-year career that also included stints with the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks, but many feel he has never lived up to his potential.

    Though Anthony tries not to let those who doubt him bring him down he did admit that the excitement everyone from Ferttita on down expressed when he signed with the team made him feel good.

    ''I think everybody loves that feeling. We all need that feeling,'' Anthony said. ''We all need that validation of the hard work that we put in people see that and people recognize that and people to want you to be a part of what they've got going on. And also, they want to be part of what you have going on, too.''

    After plenty of ups and downs over the past few years, the veteran wants to put the past behind him and is only looking ahead to how he can help this team get over the hump.

    ''I look at this as almost a clean slate for me and like a fresh start to get out there and have a new team, live in a new city, embrace new fans and also have fun playing basketball again,'' Anthony said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Nets focused on taking 'small steps'
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    NEW YORK (AP) For the Brooklyn Nets, familiarity breeds continuity.

    They hope that will lead to a few more wins.

    Growth was the overarching theme during media day at the Nets' practice facility Monday. Entering its third season under general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn has won 48 of 164 games. In the first season under the new regime, the Nets won 20 games. Last year, that number increased to 28.

    So the goal for this season is progression.

    ''Knowing how the rebuild process goes, we're going to have to slowly get back,'' Jarrett Allen said. ''It's just small steps we're taking.''

    Ten of the 19 players the Nets have on their preseason roster have five or fewer years of NBA experience, including five rookies.

    But there are questions about how long and how many of the Nets' young pieces will remain in Brooklyn. The Nets will have plenty of money for free agency next summer, but they may not want to wait if they could trade for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler or another All-Star player.

    Spencer Dinwiddie, who emerged as the Nets' top player last season while point guards D'Angelo Russell and the since-departed Jeremy Lin were injured, knows he could be moved, after his name was linked to some trade chatter in the offseason.

    ''Being in trade rumors all summer I guess is two pieces: I want to be here. I love being here. I'm happy that they didn't (trade me). On the flip side, the spectrum of teams calling me (meant) obviously I played well,'' Dinwiddie said. ''I've been on the other side of the situation where obviously nobody really cared what I was doing. It's cool in that respect. I guess mildly stressful, but at the same time, I can't control it, so it doesn't too much matter.''

    Butler did not participate in Minnesota's media day Monday and Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said the team would make a deal if it made sense for the organization.

    Brooklyn likely will have the salary cap space to afford Butler, who will be a free agent after this season. The Nets could have anywhere from $50 million to $70 million in cap space next year, and possess their first-round draft pick next year and Denver's, should it fall between 13 and 30, along with potentially two second-round picks.

    ''Jimmy Butler is a phenomenal player. Who wouldn't want to add him to their roster?'' Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. ''I feel like we have a lot of good pieces, a lot of good assets here. (That's not a) knock on Jimmy if he comes. We'd love to have him.''

    But the Nets aren't exactly waiting around for next summer. Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley and Shabazz Napier were all signed or acquired in the offseason, veteran players who will bolster the young roster.

    ''If you look at us, there's no star player here, no someone here saving the game,'' Dudley said. ''Some players on the team make other players better.''

    Adding Butler would cost the Nets some of the assets Marks has stockpiled since becoming general manager. Under previous GM Billy King, the Nets traded first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, the right to swap first-round picks in 2017, plus Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and Keith Bogans to Boston for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White in 2013.

    Garnett played 96 games spanning two seasons with the Nets. Pierce spent one season in Brooklyn. Terry played in only 35 games as a Net, while White never played. Celtics GM Danny Ainge turned the picks into Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving.

    While Butler, 29, is not as old as Garnett (37) and Pierce (35) were when the Nets acquired them, a trade would fundamentally change the state of the organization's rebuild.

    ''At the end of the day you have to know that it's a business, you have to know decisions have to be made for the betterment of the organization,'' Hollis-Jefferson said. ''Jimmy's human. We know he's really talented and does a lot of things well. At the end of the day, we (are) all human, we all connect in some way. So we find out who he is and how he is as a person, and make the best of it at the end of the day.''

    ---
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    OKC stopper Roberson closer to return
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder defensive stopper Andre Roberson is inching closer to being able to play.

    The Oklahoma City swingman missed the second half of last season with a ruptured left patellar tendon. He expects to be cleared for contact soon and back to full speed ''around December.''

    ''There's a return to basketball and there's a return to performance, being back to my elite self on the defensive end and me just being cleared to play basketball is two different things,'' he said Monday at media day. ''And it's going to be a process to kind of get back to where I was, just me being comfortable with my leg again and me getting back into the rhythm of basketball sitting out so long.''

    General manager Sam Presti shied away from a timetable when asked about Roberson last week.

    ''I can't tell you exactly when that's going to be,'' Presti said. ''We don't think we're going to be without him very long, but again, this is medicine. This is human performance. This is body. So sitting up here saying, `This is when that's going to happen,' I can't tell you.''

    The 6-foot-7 Roberson was an all-defense second-team selection two seasons ago. In 39 games last season, he averaged 5.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals. Without him, the Thunder struggled to handle Utah's Donovan Mitchell in a first-round series loss.

    Star Russell Westbrook looks forward to Roberson's return.

    ''I think it's important, but there's no rush, man,'' Westbrook said. '''Dre, once he gets back, he'll be back and ready to go. It's the start of a new year for us, and we have a lot of different guys at different positions that have to be ready to step up and make things happen. But once `Dre comes back, we pick him up right where he left off.''

    Roberson was able to walk normally to and from the podium Monday, and even walked backward some down a hallway after he spoke.

    ''Just doing regular standing stuff, to bending knees, dribbling, shooting free throws, and extending my range to the 3-pointer,'' he said. ''Just slowly progressing. Just fundamentals of the basketball game. It's just good to kind of touch the ball and keep it in my hands.''

    Roberson struggled at times with the process. He took trips to Hawaii, Spain and Mexico to keep his mind off it at times.

    ''I dreaded it, but I've come to peace with myself now that I accept what is, and everything happens for a reason, and you've got to twist it in your favor to make it a positive light,'' he said. ''That's what I've done along the way to help me accept it a little better.''

    When he comes back, he'll be on a team that was able to keep both Paul George and Jerami Grant in the offseason. The Thunder also added Dennis Schroeder in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The former Atlanta Hawks guard averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists last season.

    ''I feel like we're a lot more versatile team this year,'' Roberson said. ''The game of basketball is changing in a way, and everybody is trying to adapt, and I feel like we've got a lot of pieces.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Giannis, Bucks are all smiles with change
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    MILWAUKEE (AP) Giannis Antetokounmpo was all smiles but had no jokes.

    The Milwaukee Bucks' All-Star forward was more business this time around: While he didn't indulge reporters by opening his media day session on Monday with a gag, as he had done in previous years, Antetokounmpo still flashed an infectious grin.

    Things are looking up for the Milwaukee Bucks as they move into a new arena this fall, with a new coach leading a team headlined by one of the NBA's bright, young stars.

    The organization once had billboards around the city that read ''Own the Future.'' That future is here.

    ''You could make an argument that we're number 1, 2, 3, or 4'' in the Eastern Conference, co-owner Marc Lasry said when asked about where the Bucks might fit in the conference picture. ''I mean I think if we stay healthy and we play to our potential, we'd be one of the top two or three teams, so I think we're there.''

    The Bucks have made slow, steady progress since an ownership group including Lasry bought the team in 2014. They've made the playoffs three of the last four seasons. They've finished above .500 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2000-01.

    The Bucks hope they've positioned themselves to take another step forward in a more wide-open East, with LeBron James having left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors sporting a new look.

    Milwaukee didn't re-sign forward Jabari Parker, who left for the Chicago Bulls. They added big man Brook Lopez, while sharpshooter Ersan Ilyasova is back for another stint with the team at forward.

    The team also signed guard Pat Connaughton and drafted guard Donte DiVincenzo in the first round out of Villanova. Ilyasova, Connaughton and DiVincenzo could each with long-range shooting, a problem area last season for the team.

    But the Bucks' biggest change in the offseason was the hiring of Mike Budenholzer to take over as head coach. The relationship between Budenholzer and Antetokounmpo may be paramount to the success of the team.

    It looks like they're off to a good start.

    ''Coach (Budenholzer) has been amazing. He's letting us play, He's letting us be basketball players. What he's putting out on offense and the way we're going to play this year is going to be free,'' Antetokounmpo said.

    Having a 6-foot-11 forward with generational type-talent like Antetokounmpo can help bail out a team too when all else fails. Budenholzer has seen glimpses of Antetokounmpo's work ethic while watching him at pickup games and having offseason conversations.

    ''One of the things you always hear about Giannis whenever you're talking about him and fortunate enough to be put in this position, is his work ethic,'' Budenholzer said. ''I would say it's met or exceeded all of my expectations. He wants to be great, he puts in the time and effort.''

    Budenholzer had a winning record during a five-year head-coaching stint in Atlanta, including a 60-win season in 2014-15. He's also a former assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, one of the league's standard-bearers for long-term success.

    The first practice is Tuesday at the Bucks' state-of-the-art training facility, which just opened a year ago. It's located across the street from the gleaming, new Fiserv Forum, which replaced the three decade-old Bradley Center.

    ''With Bud and with Giannis, I feel like we truly have a path. With Giannis you can pick a style of play, you know the type of players that fit, the type of culture you want to create in the locker room,'' general manager Jon Horst said. ''We have a direction and a path that we can follow and can take us to success.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Isaiah Thomas looks to help Nuggets
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    DENVER (AP) The debates have been so lively inside the Denver Nuggets locker room recently that coach Michael Malone wanders in to make sure everything's all right.

    Just the enthusiasm of guard Isaiah Thomas bubbling to the surface. He's turning up the intensity with his booming voice in what's been a rather quiet room.

    Think he's chatty now, wait until he's fully cleared after undergoing hip surgery in March. That's when he will do his real talking - with his play.

    Thomas hopes to provide another spark to a Nuggets team that hasn't reached the postseason since 2012-13. Last season, the team went down to the wire, with the Nuggets losing out on the No. 8 seed to Minnesota in the final game - a stinging 112-106 overtime defeat.

    ''We just have to be more consistent and take things more serious and I think that's what I'm here for,'' said Thomas, who signed a $2 million, one-year deal in the offseason to prove his hip is healthy and worth a more lucrative contract. ''I'm not saying I'm the guy that's going to change everything around here, but I know how to win and I know how to lead. I can help these guys take the next step.''

    The Nuggets have taken a leap forward in every season under Malone - from 33 wins in 2015-16, to 40 in '16-17 and 46 last season. The team went 6-1 down the stretch, but it proved too late.

    Lesson learned.

    ''The sense of urgency needs to be there for as close to 82 games as possible,'' Malone said.

    One thing they're banking on: Nikola Jokic taking his game to another level. That's why the team signed the 6-foot-10, 250-pound center over the summer to a max contract worth around $147 million for five seasons.

    ''Sometimes I don't think he realizes how good he is and how great of a player he is,'' Malone said. ''There were times last year, and we would talk about other big men in the NBA and he's like, `Oh, I don't think I'm as good as this guy or that guy.' I look at him, `Are you crazy?'

    ''At the end of the season, after the disappointment of not making the playoffs went away a little bit, you look back on the season and he says, `You know what: I'm a pretty good player.'''

    By his estimation, Jokic ran thousands of sprints to take his game to another level. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.1 assists and 10.7 rebounds last season.

    ''I'm bigger. I'm better. I'm stronger,'' Jokic said. ''We're going to see on the court what's going to happen.''

    In addition to Jokic, the team also locked up guard Will Barton with a four-year deal that could earn him more than $50 million.

    Just when Thomas will return to the court remains uncertain, but the team won't rush him. Same with rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who had a second back procedure in July.

    ''I'm only going to go out on the court when I'm able to produce on a high level,'' Thomas said. ''We're not worried about the right now, we're worried about April and the playoffs and me being as healthy as I possibly can going into that stretch.''

    Thomas' voice radiates throughout any room he enters. Always up for a good debate, his recent topic was how many points Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson would average if he were on another team (Thomas' answer: More than 25 points).

    ''I'm making people talk,'' Thomas said. ''We've gotten into some arguments over basketball. They're fun arguments. It's all fun and games.''

    Paul Millsap believes the Nuggets will have plenty of fun on the court this season, especially with his left wrist nearly healed, sharpshooter Jamal Murray adding 15 pounds of muscle to drive to the hoop with more force, Jokic being Jokic, Gary Harris taking another step in his development and Thomas stepping in when he's healthy.

    ''Within our own right, we have our own super-team,'' said Millsap, who missed 44 games after tearing a wrist ligament last November. ''Go down the line and the names that we have on this team are big-time names. We have a lot of players who can play. I consider us a super-team.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Grizzlies ready to erase painful memories
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies want to make very clear that what happened last season was an aberration.

    Conley and the rest of the Grizzlies - yes even oft-injured Chandler Parsons - are reporting for training camp healthy and ready to erase the memories of that painful and ugly 60-loss season.

    ''Now we're back both feet planted, and we give ourselves just as good of a shot as anybody,'' Conley said Monday.

    The Grizzlies have been through a whirlwind of changes since wrapping up that 22-60 season.

    J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over on an interim basis after David Fizdale was fired last November, starts training camp Tuesday as a head coach at the beginning of a season for the first time in his career. Conley has been cleared with no restrictions with his sore left heel finally fixed surgically after limiting him to just 12 games last season.

    Memphis also has a handful of new faces on the roster trying to keep pace in an ever tougher Western Conference.

    The Grizzlies drafted Jaren Jackson Jr., a star of the NBA summer league, at No. 4 overall out of Michigan State. They also signed restricted free agent Kyle Anderson away from San Antonio with a four-year, $37.2 million offer sheet and added veterans like Garrett Temple , Shelvin Mack and Omri Casspi through trades and signings.

    Parsons has played only 70 games combined over the past two seasons since signing a four-year, $94 million contract. But he said he feels good and ready to play as needed.

    All the offseason changes has general manager Chris Wallace believing the Grizzlies got better as well after missing the postseason for the first time in eight seasons.

    ''I'm very confident we'll be back in the thick of things in the Western Conference, and we've had a lot of success against these teams over the years,'' Wallace said. ''We've done well in the playoffs against some of the top teams in the West. I think we can continue that after a year on the sidelines. We're raring to get back into the playoffs and be a real factor again.''

    Bickerstaff finally got to put together his own coaching staff and put together his own plan for a season after finishing two seasons as interim coach first in Houston and last season with Memphis. He embraces the idea of finding a different way to compete in the All-Star filled Western Conference.

    ''Let's be out on a limb a little bit, take a little bit of risk and see what happens,'' Bickerstaff said.

    Not only is Conley back, but center Marc Gasol remains a cornerstone for Memphis as well.

    The 7-foot-1 Gasol, who will be 34 in January, can opt out of his contract after this season. Gasol, with Conley's help, organized a minicamp of sorts for all the Grizzlies in Los Angeles to help everyone get to know each other outside of the grind of a season or training camp.

    ''That's why we've been in contact all summer with everyone and why we set up the little minicamp in L.A.,'' Gasol said. ''It's because I'm excited, and I think we have an important job this season coming up.''

    Conley noted teams trying to rebuild often jettison the older players. He's been with Memphis 11 seasons and Gasol 10. Both veterans like the changes the front office made.

    ''We're a team that can get right back in the mix of things,'' Conley said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    DeMarcus Cousins back on the court
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) DeMarcus Cousins has progressed in his recovery from surgery for a torn left Achilles tendon and is doing light shooting and other skill work on the court and will be able to do some noncontact work as the Warriors' training camp begins.

    Golden State general manager Bob Myers said anyone who thinks the two-time defending champions plan to ''save DeMarcus for the playoffs, I think that's inaccurate, when he can play he'll play.''

    That doesn't mean Cousins will be pushed to return too soon. He was re-examined last week by Dr. Richard Ferkel, the surgeon who performed his procedure, and all was positive. Myers said Cousins would be evaluated again in four weeks.

    ''We won't rush him but we also won't hold him back,'' Myers said at Monday's media day.

    Cousins injured his Achilles in late January and it prematurely ended his season with the Pelicans. Before the injury, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 48 games.

    He said he's encouraged to be running full-court, playing 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 - and Cousins said he will be a new player when he returns, ''I'm seriously like a mad man right now.''

    ''It's been hard. I would be lying if I told you anything different. It's been an absolute grind,'' Cousins said of his recovery. ''It's taken a lot of dedication, a lot of commitment. ... It's probably one of the hardest things physically and mentally I've been through in my career so far.''

    When Boogie is back, Golden State will have five 2018 All-Stars in coach Steve Kerr's starting lineup.

    ''Then you get to see DeMarcus Cousins, once he's healthy. How does he fit into the team? And how does the team grow as a whole?'' Kerr said. ''I think it will be fun as a coach and for fans. And by the end of the season we'll be clicking and ready to roll in the playoffs.''

    Jordan Bell would like to see the fiery Cousins, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green get into it. Bell figures a little healthy scrapping on the practice floor might be good fuel for Golden State as it goes for a third straight title after winning three of the past four championships.

    ''I hope they fight this year, I would love ... I just want to see the fades go up, that's all I want to see is KD and him catching a friendly one, him and Draymond catching one,'' Bell said. ''Everybody just catch a friendly one, I want to record it. Just to make sure everybody's good, no hostility. I don't know when, I just hope it happens. I'm very excited about that. I'm going to be right there in front commentating, egging, gas `em, do all that.''

    Green would much prefer that Bell take on Boogie.

    ''He's a young guy. He should be the one wanting to fight,'' Green said. ''I'm getting old, so he can have that.''

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Warriors would be the first team since Boston in 1975-76 to play five All-Stars from the previous season at the same time. That group was Jo Jo White, Charlie Scott, Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek.

    The 28-year-old Cousins' imposing presence will mean so much.

    ''Obviously DeMarcus is one of the most talented players in our league. Most people see, `Oh, man, DeMarcus went to the Warriors, they won,' and it ain't that easy,'' Green said. ''Like that's 26 points a game you're working into the lineup. It's tough. But that's the fun part. The fun part is making it work. I think back to when KD came here, everybody, `Oh, man, they've got Kevin Durant, they won 73 games, it's over.' And honestly the fun part wasn't winning the championship. The fun part was during the year figuring that out, how we was going to make that work. And I'm looking forward to the same thing with DeMarcus.''

    NOTES: Warriors coaching and front office promotions include adding Kerr's son, Nick, to the video staff after he spent last season with the Spurs. Bruce Fraser - Stephen Curry's regular shooting guru - is now an assistant coach and Chris DeMarco is an assistant coach and director of player development. ''He's a catalyst with who we are as a team and our identity,'' Curry said of Fraser. ''He does way more than quote-un-quote coach.'' ... Golden State signed free agent G Tyler Ulis. ... Myers said there have been talks with G Patrick McCaw's representatives and ''conversations have been cordial,'' the GM said. ''We're going to keep talking and hopefully we'll reach a resolution that works for him and us.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Pacers out to prove they weren't a fluke
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana point guard Darren Collison made his position clear: The Pacers haven't done anything yet.

    Sure, they surprised everyone last season by posting a winning record, making the playoffs and forcing eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland to a seven-game series. They also think others around the league believe it could have been a fluke.

    ''I guess you'd kind of say we're still going under the radar,'' Collison said during the team's annual media day Monday. ''People still think we haven't really accomplished anything yet, and we haven't, really. We made the playoffs, which is a good plus for a team that just got together. But at the same time, to have some success you've got to go further in the playoffs and I think that's where we're at right now.''

    All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and promising center Myles Turner understand questions remain, too. Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has even heard similar sentiments expressed during chats with other decision-makers around the league.

    Those conversations have everyone inside the organization intent on proving the outsiders wrong and showing they can contend in the suddenly wide-open East.

    ''I don't know if people think we're Milli Vanilli, a one-hit wonder, but I think there's a little bit of that, I do,'' Pritchard said. ''I think people think we're a solid team that overachieved last season and now we've got to prove it again.''

    The Pacers believe they have a solid foundation in place.

    Oladipo wants to show his breakout season was just a start after being acquired in the Paul George trade. A buffed-up Turner has focused on becoming a better rebounder and a more consistent defender while embracing the opportunity to play more minutes with Indiana's other big man, Domantas Sabonis. Collison spent the summer refining his shooting prowess after leading the league in 3-point percentage (46.8).

    In all, Indiana returns its entire starting lineup and its two most frequently used backups - Sabonis and Cory Joseph.

    They also hope to get additional scoring from guard Tyreke Evans and forward Doug McDermott, both free-agent signees, as well as forward T.J. Leaf and guard Aaron Holiday - their last two first-round draft picks.

    While it's enough to make the Pacers look better on paper, nobody inside the organization intends to rely on talent alone.

    So Oladipo this summer gathered his teammates, old and new, for a sort of mini-camp workout in Miami to get everyone acclimated to the revamped roster. Coach Nate McMillan, Pritchard and Pacers players said they've never seen anything quite like it.

    Oladipo did it for one essential reason - he's eager to start winning playoff series to show the detractors last year was just the beginning.

    ''It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,'' he said of the chip on his shoulder. ''To be honest with you, it was only one year - and that's the criticism, it was just one year. Can he do it again, can they do it again is what they say.''

    It's a question the Pacers expect to hear all season, or at least until proving they're capable of challenging conference favorites Boston and Toronto.

    Yes, one season was a nice start. But McMillan knows it's going to at least a second strong season for the Pacers to establish themselves as a legitimate contender.

    ''There's a buzz, which is good, about our team and some of the things we did,'' McMillan said. ''But we've flipped the page on that. It's over, it's done and we have to create that atmosphere all over again.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Parker, Walker eager to build Hornets
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tony Parker is excited about finishing his impressive NBA career with the Hornets after 17 seasons with the Spurs. Kemba Walker said he wants to stay in Charlotte, too.

    The two point guards are at vastly different stages of their careers, but both share the same goal - to make Charlotte a perennial playoff team.

    Parker expects no less.

    He's already told his new teammates, ''Don't mess with my playoff streak.''

    The 36-year-old Parker has never missed the playoffs, winning four NBA championships along the way. Walker has become a two-time All-Star despite playing on a Hornets team that hasn't won a playoff series since Parker's rookie season in 2001-02.

    Walker, 28, will become a highly sought after free agent next season but said he emphatically Monday that he has no desire to join a so-called super team.

    ''I don't want to be nowhere else,'' said Walker, the Hornets' all-time leading scorer. ''You see guys who are on elite teams. I don't want to do that. I want to create something special here in Charlotte, something that we have never had here before. I want to create some consistency.''

    Walker said he's ''confident'' the Hornets will try to resign him next summer, adding ''I just have that feeling.''

    Parker's decision to leave the Spurs for the Hornets shocked many around the NBA world given his loyalty to coach Gregg Popovich, but not fellow Frenchman and close friend Nicolas Batum.

    They've played together for years with the French national team and have formed such a close relationship over the years that they consider each other brothers. Batum, the Hornets small forward, said he and Parker discussed the prospect of coming to Charlotte before it came to fruition.

    Along with playing alongside Batum again, Parker liked the idea of playing for new Hornets coach James Borrego, a former Spurs assistant, and owner Michael Jordan.

    ''Growing up, Michael Jordan was my idol,'' said Parker, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Charlotte. ''I would wake up at 3 in the morning (in France) to watch all of his games. So for me it is like coming full circle to play the last couple of years for his team. It's a great honor.''

    Parker will have to make adjustments though.

    Outside of an injury-plagued season a year ago, he's always been a starter.

    But this year he will have to take a backseat to Walker, a role he said he's ready to accept.

    However, Borrego said Walker and Parker will often be paired together in the backcourt in the fourth quarter of tight games.

    ''Tony is very comfortable in fourth quarter situations,'' Borrego said. ''We will be in that fourth quarter situation a ton this year - and we have to close. Now it's up to me and my staff to figure out how to close with those guys on the floor.''

    Parker said it doesn't matter what his role is with the Hornets, saying ''I'm up for anything.''

    ''If I finish games, great. If I don't, that's fine too,'' Parker said. ''... Kemba needs to be that leader on the court. I will help him out being a different type of leader.''

    Parker said that means helping Walker take the next step in his progression as a point guard, particularly improving as a ball distributor.

    ''I was in the same spot as him once. I was a good scorer. But to be a great point guard you have to do both,'' Parker said. ''You have to know when to score and when to pass and involve your teammates. He's made the last two All-Star games, but I told him, `Hey, All-Stars is great, but it's better to win and have success in the playoffs.'''

    Walker couldn't agree more.

    ''I just want to win,'' Walker said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Porzingis rehabbing conservatively
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) Kristaps Porzingis is a one-of-a-kind player, a 7-foot-3 package strong enough to pound in the paint but with plenty of speed and shooting to play on the perimeter.

    That's ideal for the basketball court.

    Not so much for rehabbing a serious knee injury.

    Porzingis said Monday his size has necessitated a slow recovery from a torn left ACL and prevents him or the New York Knicks from establishing a timetable for his return to action.

    ''We've done things differently because there is no protocol for a 7-3 guy,'' Porzingis said. ''There is no timetable for my type of body, my size and all that. So we've done things differently. We've been really conservative and at the same time I've been killing myself working, so we're just going to have to keep moving forward and keep progressing and then see when is the right time for me to be back.''

    Porzingis was injured after a dunk in a Feb. 6 loss to Milwaukee, just before he was set to play in his first All-Star Game. He is doing light running and shooting but is not cleared to do anything serious enough to make an early season return likely.

    ''It's already been 7+ months so obviously I'm getting itchy and want to be back on the court as soon as possible, but it won't happen until I am 110 percent and I'm medically cleared,'' Porzingis said.

    There is no reason to rush. The Knicks are a young team unlikely to challenge for a playoff spot, so they can prioritize their franchise player's health even if it means sitting Porzingis for most or all of the season.

    He didn't rule that out, though he wants to play, and it would certainly help the Knicks attract free agents next summer if Porzingis can get back on the floor and show his array of skills that led Kevin Durant - potentially one of those free agents - to nickname him a unicorn.

    Porzingis spent most of his summer in Europe so he could be near his home in Latvia, where he was visited by new Knicks coach David Fizdale. Porzingis, who played professionally in Spain before the Knicks drafted him with the No. 4 pick in 2015, did his rehabilitation with Real Madrid, saying those were the best facilities available. He said he's pleased with where he's at in his recovery - even though doctors who have worked on similar injuries can't say where exactly that is.

    ''Yeah, but they haven't done it on a 7-3 guy,'' said Porzingis, whose weight is listed at 240 pounds. ''So I think it's something new for everybody and as I said we're trying to just be conservative and doing the right thing without pushing it too much.''

    He said all his energy is on his recovery, so he hasn't thought much about the contract extension he is eligible to sign before the season. It's unclear if the Knicks even intend to offer one, with both sides possibly feeling it's better to wait until next summer.

    In the meantime, he intends to be around his Knicks teammates as much as possible, though he doesn't know if he will travel with them. But whenever he is around will be a benefit.

    ''We know he's not going to play beginning of the season, but at the same time we know that he's still going to be out there, giving us his insight, giving us his ideas of what he sees out there on the floor that can help the team throughout the way,'' swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. said. ''So until he gets back we're going to hold down the fort.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Wade's last dance with Heat begins
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade doesn't know how this whole notion of his final season being called ''The Last Dance'' even started.

    Fun fact: He can't dance.

    But the three-time champion and 12-time All-Star can still play, and the Miami Heat are hoping - and expecting - Wade to still be extremely valuable in this, his 16th and last season in the NBA. And at Heat media day Monday, Wade said that even he doesn't know what to fully expect from what will be the last months of his playing career.

    ''I have no idea what I want out of this year,'' Wade said. ''We're going to be able to figure this thing out as the year goes on. It's going to take on a life of its own. ... To me, that is the beauty of it, is that I do not know and we do not know.''

    Starting Tuesday, the story starts getting told.

    Wade and the Heat head about 45 minutes north to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida for training camp - five straight days of workouts preceding Sunday's preseason opener at San Antonio. Decisions will have to be made quickly about playing time and roles, and part of that formula is figuring out how Wade best fits into coach Erik Spoelstra's plan.

    ''Most pro athletes, unfortunately, they don't get to know when the end is - or at least they're the last ones to know and it's certainly not on their terms,'' Spoelstra said. ''He has this incredible blessing to know when that finish line will be and be able to have the perspective to make every day matter. It's the right player, the right organization, the right coaching staff, the right timing for all of this.''

    Wade said one of the reasons why he's back is to fulfill a promise to Udonis Haslem that they would end their careers together. Later Monday, Haslem - also entering his 16th season with Miami - confirmed that he is retiring when this season ends.

    ''I don't have a video,'' Haslem deadpanned after climbing - without a ladder - atop a backboard on the Heat practice floor.

    Wade announced his decision in a 10-minute video released on Sept. 16 that he was coming back for a final season, after at one time leaning about ''90 percent'' toward retirement over the summer. He agreed to a minimum contract worth $2.4 million, or roughly about $200,000 less than he made in his rookie season after the Heat took the Marquette guard with the No. 5 pick in the 2003 draft.

    ''At the end of the day, he's a Hall of Famer,'' Heat point guard Goran Dragic said. ''He still can produce. He showed that last year. He can still take over a game at any time. And just to have him on the court is special. His ability, his aura, his presence on the floor, it influences everyone. It's contagious, know what I mean? His confidence spreads, his ability, it's a feeling that's so good for us.''

    Wade returned to the Heat in a trade last February, after spending the 2016-17 season with Chicago and the start of last season with Cleveland. For his career, he's a 22.5-point scorer and the Heat all-time leader in points, assists, steals and games played.

    ''He has more to give this game,'' Spoelstra said.

    Wade enters this season 113 points shy of Clyde Drexler for No. 30 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. The legacy was secured long ago. That's not why he's still on the court. Wade has turned much of his basketball attention already to his son Zaire, a rising high school junior who has Division I offers and will surely be getting more.

    Before he becomes a full-timer in the bleachers at his kid's games, there's the last dance.

    ''I'm going to continue to be very uncomfortable with this whole thing,'' Wade said. ''The farewell tour is not something I wanted. I think people around me know I really, really, really didn't want this. So I just look at it as this is me just saying `goodbye' more than anything.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Howard could miss start of Wizards camp
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    WASHINGTON (AP) Dwight Howard joked Monday about the sore back that's expected to keep him out for the start of training camp with the Washington Wizards.

    Coach Scott Brooks downplayed the significance of the injury, too. Still, it's not ideal that the team needs to put off incorporating its one offseason addition to the starting lineup.

    ''I've been having to do a lot of traveling with shoe companies and stuff like that in China. So just from training, traveling - and airplanes weren't made for tall people. ... It kind of sucks to fly 15 hours curled up in the fetal position,'' said Howard, a 6-foot-11 center entering his 15th NBA season.

    ''So just a minor setback. It shouldn't take that long for me to get back on the court,'' he added. ''I've been feeling great all summer. Just something that we'll have to deal with, and it shouldn't keep me out too long.''

    The Wizards traded away starting center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers and added Howard, who'll turn 33 in December, on a two-year, $11 million contract with a player option. He averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds last season for a Charlotte Hornets team that missed the playoffs and now is with his fourth team in four years.

    That means adjusting yet again - to new teammates, to a new coach, to a new system.

    In Washington, everything revolves around the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

    Last season, when Wall appeared in only 41 of 82 games, the Wizards went 43-39 and were eighth in the Eastern Conference, losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Toronto Raptors.

    Howard, an eight-time All-Star, said that he has not had a chance to get on a court with Wall and Beal to start getting a feel for one another.

    ''But one thing that I have done is I've watched a lot of film to really learn the tendencies of my teammates. Where they like the ball. Where they like to get screened at. Just things that will really help them get to their sweet spots,'' Howard said. ''A lot of times, the best way to really understand your teammate is by watching film.''

    Brooks, Beal and others said all the right things at Monday's media day about Howard.

    ''He's going to make my job a lot easier. He's going to make everybody's job a lot easier on both ends of the floor, because you still have to respect his ability at the rim. He averaged 16 and 13 last year. Those are great numbers, you know? In our system, those can increase, easily,'' said Beal, who led Washington in scoring by averaging 22.6 points and was an All-Star for the first time.

    ''Watching him, if you don't hit him, it's over. He's going to dunk on you. And I love it. Because I think that's going to get me hyped - just being able to have a big who'll just flush it on you every time and somebody who will block some shots if you get beat on defense,'' Beal said. ''He's a threat on both ends of the floor.''

    Now it's just a matter of getting Howard out on that floor with the rest of the Wizards.

    ''We're just going to be careful. Not sure if he will practice tomorrow'' when camp opens, Brooks said at the club's media day.

    Brooks listed Howard's status as ''day-to-day,'' saying he wasn't ''overly concerned.''

    ''But we're not going to rush him to get back,'' the coach said.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Nets focused on taking 'small steps'
    September 24, 2018
    By The Associated Press


    NEW YORK (AP) For the Brooklyn Nets, familiarity breeds continuity.

    They hope that will lead to a few more wins.

    Growth was the overarching theme during media day at the Nets' practice facility Monday. Entering its third season under general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn has won 48 of 164 games. In the first season under the new regime, the Nets won 20 games. Last year, that number increased to 28.

    So the goal for this season is progression.

    ''Knowing how the rebuild process goes, we're going to have to slowly get back,'' Jarrett Allen said. ''It's just small steps we're taking.''

    Ten of the 19 players the Nets have on their preseason roster have five or fewer years of NBA experience, including five rookies.

    But there are questions about how long and how many of the Nets' young pieces will remain in Brooklyn. The Nets will have plenty of money for free agency next summer, but they may not want to wait if they could trade for Minnesota's Jimmy Butler or another All-Star player.

    Spencer Dinwiddie, who emerged as the Nets' top player last season while point guards D'Angelo Russell and the since-departed Jeremy Lin were injured, knows he could be moved, after his name was linked to some trade chatter in the offseason.

    ''Being in trade rumors all summer I guess is two pieces: I want to be here. I love being here. I'm happy that they didn't (trade me). On the flip side, the spectrum of teams calling me (meant) obviously I played well,'' Dinwiddie said. ''I've been on the other side of the situation where obviously nobody really cared what I was doing. It's cool in that respect. I guess mildly stressful, but at the same time, I can't control it, so it doesn't too much matter.''

    Butler did not participate in Minnesota's media day Monday and Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau said the team would make a deal if it made sense for the organization.

    Brooklyn likely will have the salary cap space to afford Butler, who will be a free agent after this season. The Nets could have anywhere from $50 million to $70 million in cap space next year, and possess their first-round draft pick next year and Denver's, should it fall between 13 and 30, along with potentially two second-round picks.

    ''Jimmy Butler is a phenomenal player. Who wouldn't want to add him to their roster?'' Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. ''I feel like we have a lot of good pieces, a lot of good assets here. (That's not a) knock on Jimmy if he comes. We'd love to have him.''

    But the Nets aren't exactly waiting around for next summer. Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley and Shabazz Napier were all signed or acquired in the offseason, veteran players who will bolster the young roster.

    ''If you look at us, there's no star player here, no someone here saving the game,'' Dudley said. ''Some players on the team make other players better.''

    Adding Butler would cost the Nets some of the assets Marks has stockpiled since becoming general manager. Under previous GM Billy King, the Nets traded first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, the right to swap first-round picks in 2017, plus Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and Keith Bogans to Boston for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White in 2013.

    Garnett played 96 games spanning two seasons with the Nets. Pierce spent one season in Brooklyn. Terry played in only 35 games as a Net, while White never played. Celtics GM Danny Ainge turned the picks into Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving.

    While Butler, 29, is not as old as Garnett (37) and Pierce (35) were when the Nets acquired them, a trade would fundamentally change the state of the organization's rebuild.

    ''At the end of the day you have to know that it's a business, you have to know decisions have to be made for the betterment of the organization,'' Hollis-Jefferson said. ''Jimmy's human. We know he's really talented and does a lot of things well. At the end of the day, we (are) all human, we all connect in some way. So we find out who he is and how he is as a person, and make the best of it at the end of the day.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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