Tagged in: preseason

Los Angeles Lakers debut LeBron James-Anthony Davis-Russell Westbrook combo in preseason loss to Golden State Warriors

The Lakers’ brand-new Big Three made its preseason debut in a 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. And while the result of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first court time together was another defeat to drop L.A.’s record to 0-5 in its exhibition calendar, the postgame message echoed by the stars was one asking for patience but exuding positivity.

“It’s going to take a minute for us to become the team that we know we are going to be capable of being,” stated James, who put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 turnovers. “We’re going to have moments where we’re not quite right there. We may take steps backwards. But that’s all part of … I think nothing is worth having if it’s not worth working for.”

Westbrook, who worked his way to the Lakers in the offseason by convincing the Washington Wizards to seek a deal, looked the best he has yet in purple and gold — which isn’t saying much, considering he combined to shoot 4-for-19 with 16 turnovers in his first two outings. But his speed in the open court when flanked by so much talent will be a difference-maker this season.

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“We had some good spurts,” Westbrook said after finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turnovers. “Obviously, it’s the first game. But there are some good things we can take from it. … We can be a little encouraged by it.”

For James, who comes into the season seeking a fifth ring that would tie his career total with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, moral victories mean little. Yet the 19-year veteran pledged to guide his group through its nascent stages.

“Me, as a leader, my job is for myself not to get frustrated,” he said. “If I don’t get frustrated, I think it will trickle down to everyone else. I’ve never been a person that’s OK with not being excellent. But I understand things take time as well. As long as I keep the main thing the main thing, stay even keel throughout whatever is going on with our ballclub, then we’ll be fine.”

Davis was more than fine versus Golden State, leading the Lakers with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was encouraged by his first glimpse of L.A.’s new-look lineup with him starting at the 5, along with James, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore.

“We saw some great things with me, Bron and Russ in action,” Davis said. “There’s endless possibilities, the things we can run and we can do. … And even though there were good things, a lot of things that we can do better.”

The Lakers close out the preseason Thursday on the road versus the Sacramento Kings and have a week until the regular season opens up, back home against the Warriors again.

There is plenty of more work to do before the Lakers come close to a final product, starting with getting all their players healthy. 

Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) is expected to miss at least two months; Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb surgery) will be sidelined around a month; and Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) both sat out Tuesday, along with Malik Monk (groin), who will be out about another week.

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Ben Simmons reports to Philadelphia 76ers

After staying away for the first two weeks of the preseason, 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday night, sources told ESPN.

As the Sixers played the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons took a COVID-19 test in the arena, sources said. The initial test starts several days of testing required by the NBA to clear him for a return to the team.

Simmons’ arrival settled several weeks of discussions between the organization and Simmons’ representative, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, to get Simmons back into the marketplace, sources said.

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Simmons had held out in hopes of accelerating a trade. However, under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, for each preseason game he missed, he lost roughly $360,000 for failing to show up — totaling more than $1 million for the three games that he missed.

In addition, the 76ers could fine Simmons for missed practices: $2,500 for the first, $5,000 for the second, $7,500 for the third and for every practice after that it being left to the discretion of the team, with the ability to go up to $50,000.

Simmons, 25, has four years and $147 million left on his contract.

Simmons hadn’t spoken directly to team officials since a late August meeting in Los Angeles in which he reiterated his desire for a trade, sources said.

He had recently become more open-minded about the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, but the next step will be him committing to not just a return to the city — but returning the team on the court.

The Sixers have canvassed the league throughout the offseason for trades but have been unable to find a deal that would bring them a comparable star they’d want to continue to build a championship contender around All-NBA center Joel Embiid, sources said.

Those trade talks would likely continue with a Simmons return, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers are hopeful to keep working to convince Simmons on remaining long-term with the franchise, sources said.

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron ‘heartbroken’ after right knee injury in preseason defeat

Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback AJ McCarron left the game in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 37-17 defeat to the Dolphins with a right knee injury at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

While Falcons coach Arthur Smith didn’t want to speculate on the exact nature of McCarron’s injury until after the veteran has an MRI, he did not sound encouraged by the possible prognosis.

“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” Smith said. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.

“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”

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The injury came with 10 minutes left in the first half.

McCarron handed the ball off to running back Qadree Ollison and as he came out of his typical movement following the handoff he grabbed his right knee.

McCarron tried to walk toward the sideline but couldn’t initially get there. Falcons medical staff came to examine him and he walked off to the sideline. Minutes later, McCarron walked slowly to the Atlanta locker room. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 43 yards and had one run for seven yards versus the Dolphins. The run came a play before he hurt his knee.

Smith stated he wasn’t sure whether that play had anything to do with McCarron’s injury. McCarron was replaced by undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks, who he had been battling with for the No. 2 position throughout training camp. Franks, who was initially projected to play the second half, entered the game with 10 minutes left in the first half instead.

Franks completed 4-of-9 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns and one interception while also rushing three times for 32 yards. He was sacked four times.

“The one thing that Feleipe has shown is that he can extend plays,” Smith said. “I thought he threw the ball a little bit better tonight at times. Still got to push him where he’s had a lot of growth and will continue to grow.”

Smith said in order to develop quarterbacks, you have to play them and that was the philosophy with Franks over the first two preseason matches. Smith said unfortunately the situation Franks faced Saturday — being forced to play earlier than expected due to injury — is what his role would be as a backup quarterback sometimes.

The Falcons signed McCarron to a one-year deal for more than $1.21 million on April 30 — hours prior to the second day of the NFL draft — to be No. 2 on the depth chart. A fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2014 by Cincinnati, McCarron has played in 17 games, starting four and completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Harden returns to Rockets, scores 12 in preseason debut

James Harden was back in a Houston uniform.

It’s still uncertain how many more times that’ll happen.

The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his preseason debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, after practicing only one time with his team following a late arrival to training camp amid incessant trade speculation. Harden scored 12 points in 21 minutes and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He checked out for the final time with 5:02 left in the third quarter, having missed his final four shots.

John Wall and Ben McLemore each had 15 points for the Rockets, who got 11 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins. Lonnie Walker IV scored 17 for the Spurs, who got 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Dejounte Murray. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell each added 11 for San Antonio.

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Harden seemed anything but disinterested to start his first live game action of the season.

He stood immediately to the right of new Rockets coach Stephen Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at whatever Silas was sketching up before taking the floor.

His first shot was a made straightaway 3-pointer, his second attempt led to him getting fouled from beyond the arc and making three free throws.

So, his shooting touch was there, at least at the outset — as was his touch on passes. He connected with Danuel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, timing clearly not much of an issue after a couple months off.

Harden went 3 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

The Rockets lost guard Chris Clemons with 9:58 left, after he was taken off the court in a wheelchair. Clemons made a 3-pointer for an 87-74 Houston lead, and after retreating to the defensive end for the ensuing possession, appeared to take a bad step and immediately started reaching for his right Achilles area.

There was no immediate diagnosis of Clemons’ injury. There are four matches Wednesday, followed by seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three in the preseason finales Saturday. The regular season starts on Dec. 22.

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NFL shortens preseason to just two weeks as league continues to plot its 2020 strategy

The NFL has taken its next step in adjusting its calendar to prepare for a return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic

The NFL has shortened its 2020 preseason to two games, a source said, part of a larger acclimatization plan for players following an unprecedented virtual offseason program during the coronavirus pandemic.

In essence, the league canceled Weeks 1 and 4 of its original preseason calendar. It had previously canceled its Aug. 8 Hall of Fame game. Most players will still report to training camp on July 28, but the first preseason matches won’t be played until Aug. 20-24. The second week of preseason games are scheduled for Aug. 27-31. Each team will play one home game and one on the road.

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Teams that travel will depart on the day before games.

The primary driver for restructuring the preseason was a consensus between the NFL and NFL Players Association that players will need more time than normal to get in football shape this summer.

No teams were able to practice on the field during the offseason, and many gyms and other conditioning settings have been closed. The NFL’s standard preseason has been four games since it was shortened from six games in 1978. It is expected to be cut further when owners activate a provision in the collective bargaining agreement to extend the regular season to 17 games, which they can do as early as 2021.

When that happens, the preseason would shrink to no more than three games for each team. Of more immediate worry, however, is the health of players during training camp in 2020.

The NFL/NFLPA committee will soon issue a set of guidelines that spells out an acclimatization program for the 23 days of training camp prior to the first preseason game.

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Zion Williamson to miss Pelicans’ preseason finale with knee soreness

The New Orleans Pelicans stated Thursday that rookie Zion Williamson will miss his team’s final preseason game versus the New York Knicks on Friday.

The forward is dealing with knee soreness, but this will give him an opportunity to rest up for the regular season, which initiates for the Pelicans next Tuesday on the road versus the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

Williamson enters his first season with high expectations as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, and so far he hasn’t disappointed.

After scoring 16 points in his preseason debut versus the Atlanta Hawks this month, the Duke product has been on fire. Williamson has appeared in all four of the Pelicans’ preseason games, averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing 27.3 minutes. He also shot an extremely impressive 71.4 percent from the floor. 

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On a team featuring veteran players like Jrue Holiday and JJ Redick as well as other promising players like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, Williamson is already establishing himself as a go-to option offensively.

However, the latest knee problem could raise concerns if it forces him to miss more time. The 19-year-old didn’t travel with the team and is set to undergo further testing, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Nicolo Melli, a 29-year-old rookie and nine-year Euroleague veteran, could see extra playing time with Williamson unavailable.

Williamson hadn’t missed any time in training camp and was seen walking around Pelicans practice on Wednesday afternoon.

While at Duke last season, Williamson suffered a mild right knee sprain when his sneaker gave out seconds into a game versus North Carolina. He missed six games total. New Orleans opens the regular season Tuesday in Toronto versus the defending champs.

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