Tagged in: preseason

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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