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Latest NBA Headlines

    Kentucky opponents have trouble agreeing on what it takes to topple a program that annually brings in multiple future first-round NBA picks. Yet a few Southeastern Conference teams may have stumbled across a winning formula the last couple of years. Experience matters against the talented, but young Wildcats. 'I'd take five first-round picks every day of the week, but not all of us get to have five first-round picks on our team,' South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. 'Those of us that don't, we have to depend on experience.' The right kind of experience — that comes with some toughness and talent in its own right — can be Kentucky's kryptonite. The Wildcats are the preseason favorite to finish first in the SEC after winning at least a share of the league's last three regular-season titles. They're the favorites again despite losing three first-round draft pick from last year's squad: De'Aaron Fox, Marcus Monk and Bam Adebayo. 'Kentucky's No. 1 because they've earned the right to be No. 1 as long as John Calipari is still at the helm,' Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. 'People don't even really know who their players are (but) they know they're going to be good and they know he's going to have them ready.' They also know they're going to be young. Last season's South Carolina squad and the 2015-16 Texas A&M team countered Kentucky's freshman firepower with senior-laden rosters. SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell led South Carolina to the Final Four last season. Texas A&M tied Kentucky for the 2015-16 SEC regular-season title with a lineup that featured seniors Danuel House, Jalen Jones, Alex Caruso and Anthony Collins. 'Those four seniors were grown men,' Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. 'We knew what we were going to get every day and every night.' Plenty of SEC programs are hoping their own senior guards can enable them to challenge Kentucky for league supremacy. Arkansas has six seniors, including the backcourt duo of Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Florida's Chris Chiozza, who made one of the most memorable shots of last year's NCAA Tournament with a buzzer beater to defeat Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, is back along with junior preseason all-SEC selection KeVaughn Allen. Mississippi added Memphis graduate transfer Markel Crawford to join a backcourt already featuring senior Deandre Burnett and junior Terence Davis. Vanderbilt has four-year starter Riley LaChance at point guard. 'I was a lot different as a 22-year-old than as an 18-year-old mentally, physically, emotionally a lot different,' Martin said. 'There's a difference there - a big, big difference. When you deal with 22-year-olds who have been through it, they handle moments differently than the 18-year-olds.' But experience alone won't get it done. 'If you say, 'OK, would you rather have talent or experience,' I want talent,' Kennedy said. Kentucky has plenty of the latter. The Wildcats signed seven of the nation's top 31 prospects in the 2017 class according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports : Hamidou Diallo (No. 10), Kevin Knox (No. 11), Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 12), P.J. Washington (No. 15), Nick Richards (No. 18), Quade Green (No. 26) and Shai Gilgeouos-Alexander (No. 31). 'Growing up, I always liked to be around players that compete and be around the best of the best,' Diallo said. 'When I found out a couple of the great players in my class were going there, I wanted to join them and wanted to help us all make our goals possible. That's what drove me to Kentucky.' That's why the teams that have challenged Kentucky lately have some potential NBA talent to go along with experience. Thornwell, a second-round draft pick, is on the Los Angeles Clippers' roster after his standout senior season with South Carolina. Texas A&M's 2015-16 team relied heavily on seniors but also featured Tyler Davis, a former top-35 recruit who was a freshman that year. Missouri's Cuonzo Martin cites another trait possessed by most conference title contenders. 'For me, one of the biggest things is you got to have a level of toughness,' he said. 'Of course talent is what it is, but you can kind of gauge talent what fits what you're trying to do. But I think you have to have a level of toughness.' Martin inherits a Missouri program that finished in the SEC basement each of the last three years. He appears to be mimicking the Kentucky approach in trying to help Missouri regain relevance. Missouri signed a heralded freshman class that includes Michael Porter Jr., ranked second in his class by the 247Sports Composite. Of course, LSU showed two years ago having the nation's top recruit isn't a sure thing when the Tigers failed to reach the NCAA Tournament despite having Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft . Perhaps the person with the best insight on competing with Kentucky in the SEC is Calipari himself. He said any team that wants to win the SEC must have plenty of talent and toughness. Then he added one more factor. 'You can't be a team that scores 50-60 points a game in this league and do well in this league,' Calipari said. 'You've got to be a team that scores 70 or more in this league to have a chance to win games, because the other team's going to score that much, whether you're really good defensively or not.' Experience was not on Calipari's list. ___ More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org ___ Follow Steve Megargee at www.twitter.com/stevemegargee
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward sent a video message from his hospital bed before the team's home opener on Wednesday night, telling Boston fans: 'It's hurting me that I can't be there.' The crowd at the TD Garden for the Celtics' game against the Milwaukee Bucks cheered when Marcus Smart directed fans' attention to the scoreboard, where Hayward appeared wearing a hospital gown and sitting up in bed. The arena hushed to hear the brief message, then erupted in another cheer when it was over. 'What's up, everybody? Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's had me in their thoughts and prayers,' Hayward said in the 30-second message, which was also sent out by the team on Twitter . 'I'm going to be all right,' Hayward said. 'It's hurting me that I can't be there for the home opener. I want nothing more than to be with my teammates and walk out on that floor tonight. But I'll be supporting you guys from here, and wishing you the best of luck.' After signing with Boston in the offseason as a free agent, Hayward was injured in the sixth minute of his first game for the Celtics, crumpling to the floor Tuesday in Cleveland with a gruesome ankle injury. Players on both teams reacted in horror on at the site of Hayward's leg bent unnaturally, but coach Brad Stevens said he did not see the injury live and has avoided watching replays. 'Having known him as long as I've known him, it's tough to see him go through this,' said Stevens, who was also Hayward's college coach at Butler. 'We'll make sure he knows that we've got our arms around him.' Stevens said doctors confirmed that Hayward has a dislocated left ankle and broken tibia. Surgery will be necessary but it hadn't been scheduled, Stevens said. Hayward was expected to make a full recovery, but the coach did not know if it would be this season. 'It's definitely been tough,' said rookie forward Jayson Tatum. 'We're just keeping Gordon in our prayers, hoping everything is all right.' Fans who never got to see Hayward in a Celtics uniform lined up before Wednesday night's game to sign a banner imploring him to get better and 'come back stronger than ever' from the injury. Other fans held up hand-made signs wishing him well. Celtics forward Daniel Theis wrote 'GH20' on his shoe, and a fair number of Hayward's No. 20 jerseys were visible in the crowd, which began chanting his name late in the first half. After playing his first seven years with the Utah Jazz, Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million contract this offseason to rejoin Stevens in Boston — part of a near-complete roster overhaul for the team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. The team also traded fan favorite Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland for fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving and shipped out regular starters Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. In all, just four players on the roster finished last season with the team. Taking Hayward's minutes, Smart scored 12 points and had nine rebounds on Tuesday night. Smart moved into the starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Bucks. 'He put a lot of effort into starting his career well in Boston,' Stevens said of Hayward. 'This is a setback, but there's going to be a full recovery.' ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann saw Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward's broken left ankle and immediately felt a kind of empathy few could. Theismann says he's available to chat with Hayward if the NBA player wants. 'It sickens me every time I see a young man get hurt. It's just such a shame,' Theismann said in a telephone interview Wednesday, the day after Hayward was hurt in the first quarter of his first game with Boston. 'And I seem to be the guy they compare everything to when it comes to that sort of injury.' When Theismann tweeted , 'Felt so bad for Hayward,' it resonated in a different way than the thoughts expressed by so many others. On Nov. 18, 1985, Washington Redskins quarterback Theismann's right leg was broken when he was sacked by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in the second quarter of a game on 'Monday Night Football.' Theismann was 36 at the time and didn't appear in another NFL game. The TV replay, aired over and over, showed Theismann's leg bending unnaturally — much like photos and video of Hayward's injury. Theismann watched the sequence involving the 27-year-old Hayward in Boston's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the NBA's opening night Tuesday just once. 'I'm like most people — curious as to what has happened, and then I look away,' Theismann said. 'I don't look at it again.' Theismann understands why, on such occasions, folks think of what happened to him all those decades ago. He also is willing to share his thoughts about dealing with this type of injury. The former QB said, for example, that he had a conversation, and traded texts, with Kevin Ware, the Louisville basketball player who broke his leg during an NCAA tournament game in 2013. Theismann also mentioned a doctor who contacted him after a skiing accident. 'It doesn't bother me, because I hope that, in some way, shape or form, if someone reaches out to me, I hope I can help with the physical and psychological challenges that take place. You try to take what can be a really negative experience and make something positive out of it. There are doubts for any athlete. For a basketball player: Will I be able to cut? Will I be able to jump? What happens when I land?' Theismann said. 'For me, if I can help somebody through the experience that I had, then I don't mind at all.' ___ For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL ___ For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Confetti began to fall and the Golden State Warriors thought they had pulled off a wild opening-night win. The Houston Rockets emphatically signaled otherwise — insisting that Kevin Durant's baseline jumper had swished through the net after the buzzer. After one official got hurt, two remaining referees reviewed the play and ruled the Rockets had escaped with a 122-121 victory Tuesday on the night the Warriors received their championship rings. 'I thought it had a chance but I knew it was a little late. I knew I was cutting it close,' Durant said. 'Tough loss. First game of 82, we've definitely got to move on. We've got to get better.' The Warriors got the ball for one final chance with 10.6 seconds left and Durant came up with the ball after Stephen Curry had missed. 'I didn't think it counted,' Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. 'When I saw it, it looked to me like it was a little late. Didn't surprise me it was overturned.' Trevor Ariza's 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining pulled Houston within 119-118 then Patrick McCaw hit a baseline jumper immediately after Golden State's timeout. James Harden made a layup and PJ Tucker hit two free throws with 44.1 to make it 122-121. Nick Young came off the bench to hit six 3-pointers and score 23 points in a brilliant Warriors debut, Curry scored 22 points and Durant had 20 after a slow start. Klay Thompson added 16 points. Chris Paul had four points on 2-for-9 shooting in his Rockets debut, while Harden scored 27 points, Eric Gordon 24 and Tucker 20 for the Rockets. Houston opened the fourth with a 9-0 run to get back in it. 'It's very encouraging to be able to beat a great team like that on a huge night for them,' Anderson said. The Warriors found their rhythm early but couldn't close it out after an abbreviated preseason in terms of practice time given their recent trip to China for a pair of games against Minnesota. Draymond Green exited in the second half with a strained left knee after he contributed nine points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. 'When we're lacking conditioning like we are right now you have to have your high-energy guys,' Kerr said. 'It doesn't matter what it's because of, we just have to get in better shape.' Still, this opener was a far cry for the forgettable 129-100 defeat at home to San Antonio in Durant's Warriors debut a year ago when Golden State came off a record 73-win season and runner-up finish to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals. 'I just remember the last game of the season we played,' Durant said of the Game 5 Finals clincher in June. Young found his stroke right away, hitting his first four 3s and five shots overall. It's exactly what the Warriors want him to do: shoot every time he has a good look. His six 3-pointers set a franchise record for anyone in their Warriors debut and also in a season opener. Durant had one spectacular sequence in the third when he blocked Anderson's shot on one end then converted a three-point play moments later on the other, slapping hands with a lucky boy fan on the baseline. Houston acquired Paul from the Clippers to give them a 1-2 backcourt punch to try to gain ground on Golden State in the Western Conference. 'They came out and threw their best punch and it took us a while to adjust,' Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. 'The last quarter we held them to 20. We're not going to do much better than that.' RING CEREMONY Kerr planned to pay extra attention as veterans Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West each received a championship ring for the first time in their careers. 'Basketball accomplishments to me now are just what they are,' Durant said after morning shootaround. 'I can kind of separate the two now. I feel like it's more so just cool as hell more than anything. It's like getting a prize possession that you're just really excited about versus getting something that's going to change your life. ... I'll be more so just really giddy and happy more so than emotional. I won't be a mess.' BEAT-UP DUBS Key backup and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala missed the game with a back strain, while Omri Casspi — who had been questionable with a mild right ankle sprain — appeared in his 500th career game making his debut with the Warriors. He then tweaked the ankle again. Iguodala is expected to return for the upcoming road trip. INJURED OFFICIAL Referee Tre Maddox, accompanied by medical personnel, left midway through the fourth quarter after a collision with David West and hard hit. The NBA said after the game Maddox sustained an abdominal wall strain. TIP-INS Rockets: Tucker earned a flagrant 1 foul for his hard hit on Durant in the second. ... D'Antoni joked 'We're going to go to the In-N-Out burger' during the pregame festivities, opting to keep his team in the locker room. 'They deserve it,' he said. 'They won it, we didn't.' ... The Rockets hit 22 3-pointers in three preseason games and didn't allow more than 106 points, holding opponents to 93.8. ... Houston also opened the season vs. the Warriors in 2009 and '10. ... Warriors: The Warriors are auctioning signed shooting shirts worn for the pregame festivities to benefit fire relief efforts in the North Bay. ... Thompson has hit a 3 in 55 straight games, second-longest active streak. UP NEXT Rockets: At Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento's season opener. Warriors: At New Orleans on Friday to start a three-game road trip. ___ More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock. Of all the juicy subplots for this hyped homecoming and a season opener between heated rivals, a serious injury to Hayward wasn't on the list. Boston's season changed in a gruesome instant Tuesday night. Hayward, one of the new Celtics who was going to help them close the gap on Cleveland, broke his left ankle just five minutes into his debut, and Boston was beaten 102-99 on Tuesday night by LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Hayward's horrific injury overshadowed Kyrie Irving's return to Cleveland and re-directed Boston's immediate future and potential. After the 27-year-old was wheeled from Quicken Loans Arena on a stretcher , offering a thumbs-up on his way to the ambulance, the Celtics rallied but came up short. The outcome, though, hardly mattered. 'You hurt for him,' Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward, his former star at Butler. 'It's a tough, tough deal, but I guess that's part of the risk of injury. I really feel for him.' James scored 29 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — in his most extensive action in three weeks because of a sprained left ankle. The superstar also fed Kevin Love for a critical 3-pointer with 46.3 seconds left to put the Cavs up 102-98. Irving, who asked to be traded this summer after six seasons in Cleveland, had a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer at the horn but his shot was short. As the crowd exhaled, Irving shared a warm handshake and embrace with James, his teammate for three seasons and the one he wanted to get away from by demanding a trade this summer. Jaylen Brown scored 25 and Irving 22 and 10 assists for the Celtics, who overcame an 18-point deficit in the third and led with 2:04 left. Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract with the Celtics this summer, was bumped by James while trying to catch an alley-oop pass with 6:45 left in the first quarter. The forward's leg got twisted underneath him as he came back to the floor and snapped his ankle grotesquely, his foot pointing awkwardly to one side. The 27-year-old sat up, looked at his foot and yelled while some players covered their mouths and others turned their heads. James said seeing Hayward get hurt reminded him of grisly injuries to Paul George, Shaun Livingston and Louisville's Kevin Ware. 'My thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon's family. Hope for a speedy recovery, a healthy recovery,' James said. 'Those are the injuries that you never see coming, you never want to happen, no matter who it is, no matter what the stature, no matter how much competitive nature that you have. It's just very unfortunate.' Hayward's injury changed the tenor of the highly anticipated matchup, and will alter the direction of Boston's season. Hayward will require surgery and need months to recover. Stevens said Hayward will be taken directly to the hospital in Boston once the Celtics' plane lands The Celtics were understandably shaken at halftime, and went to the locker room down 16. However, they battled back and were still leading 98-97 when James, who only played in one exhibition after spraining his ankle on Sept. 27, spun in the lane and made a layup to put Cleveland up by one. On Boston's next possession, James cut off Marcus Smart and deflected the ball off the guard's leg and out of bounds. James then made a crosscourt pass to a wide-open Love, who drained his 3 to give the Cavs a four-point cushion. 'I just found a familiar face and Kevin was in the right place at the right time,' James said. Irving's free throw made it 102-99, and the Celtics had two late chances but both Brown and Irving missed late 3s. Love had 15 and Derrick Rose 14 in his debut for the Cavs, who are trying to blend new faces and big egos quickly. 'We've got some things we need to figure out,' James said. 'It's a work in progress, for sure.' After the final horn, James and Irving, who spent part of the summer making subtle jabs at each other following the blockbuster trade, completed their signature handshake and the All-Star point guard greeted several former teammates. He may still have a ways to go with Cleveland's crowd, which booed him every time he touched the ball. Irving heard it from the moment he took the floor as Cleveland fans got their first chance to voice their displeasure toward him for demanding to be traded this summer despite three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and one title. 'It's a really hard game for a guy to play, especially the first game of the season with all the emotion you have to go through,' Stevens said. 'How he can play at that level is beyond me.' PEP TALK At halftime, Stevens tried to calm his players. 'I don't have any magic words for that,' he said. 'We're all feeling for him. I'm not going to try to take the human element out of it.' NEW GUYS In his Cleveland debut, Dwyane Wade scored eight points on 3 of 10 shooting in 28 minutes. Boston rookie Jayson Tatum had 14 points and 10 rebounds. TIP-INS Celtics: Stevens has been impressed with Irving's basketball acumen and how quickly he has picked up Boston's system. 'He's spent a lot of time watching film, a lot of extra time talking about it. He has good insights,' Stevens said. 'Guys like that can fit in anywhere. It's about how do we all put our strengths together.' ... Marcus Morris (sore right knee) took part in pregame drills but is out for a week or more. Cavaliers: James (28,816) passed numerous Hall of Famers while jumping to No. 7 on the career scoring list last season. He came in nearly 1,500 points behind Dirk Nowitzki at No. 6. ... Although it may take some time for the Cavs to find their on-court chemistry, coach Tyronn Lue said that doesn't change his early expectations. 'We still expect to win,' he said. 'We still expect to play hard and play the right way.' UP NEXT Celtics: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday. Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Friday. ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Just five minutes into his Boston career, new Celtics star forward Gordon Hayward gruesomely broke his left ankle, an injury that may end his season. Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract this summer, went up for an alley-oop pass midway through the first quarter and collided with LeBron James. Hayward's leg twisted underneath him as he came back to the floor. The 27-year-old collapsed under the basket and looked in horror as his left foot was pointing outward. He put his hands to his face and dropped back to the floor as a hush fell over the charged sellout crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena, which had come to boo Kyrie Irving in his return to Cleveland after being traded to Boston this summer. Hayward's new teammates huddled in prayer at their bench as a distressed James covered his mouth and several Cleveland players nearby looked away. Hayward had his leg placed in an air cast, and James came over and consoled him before the he was pushed from the floor on a stretcher and taken for treatment. Cleveland's crowd gave Hayward a roaring ovation as he left. The Celtics later confirmed that Hawyard's left ankle was broken. It's a devastating blow for the Celtics, who had overhauled their roster with the signing of Hayward and acquisition of Irving in hopes of closing the gap on the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. Now, they will be without Hayward for an extended period as he will likely need surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. Hayward spent the past six seasons with the Utah Jazz before signing with Boston, where he was reunited with Brad Stevens, who coached him at Butler. Not long after Hayward went down, Oklahoma City All-Star Paul George sent encouragement to him on Twitter , asking for prayers. George overcame a similar injury when he broke his leg while playing for the U.S. national team. ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • LeBron James made it back for the season opener. No surprise. Limited for nearly three weeks by a sprained left ankle that sidelined him in practice and the preseason, James is playing in Cleveland's opener Tuesday night against former sidekick Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics. James, who hurt his ankle on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition, arrived at Quicken Loans Arena almost four hours before the opening tip to test his ankle and get treatment. After his workout, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the 32-year-old told him he would give it a go. 'He feels pretty good, so he's going to play,' Lue said. The 32-year-old has never missed an NBA opener — or any first game — in his career and he wasn't going to miss this one with Irving back in town for his Boston debut following this summer's blockbuster trade between the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Lue said James will not have his minutes restricted. 'He's going to be tired anyway,' Lue joked. 'He's going to take himself out.' James rolled his ankle during practice last month when he stepped on rookie Cedi Osman's foot. He sat out Cleveland's first three exhibitions before playing last week and scoring 17 points with eight turnovers in a loss to Chicago. James aggravated his ankle while making a spin move in that game, which put his status for the opener in question. However, with a chance to face Irving, who has made some veiled comments about his relationship with James, the three-time champion will be on the floor. James' injury has prevented him from building much on-court chemistry with some of his new teammates. Dwayne Wade, who has been reunited with his close friend in Cleveland, said it may take some time for the Cavs to start clicking. 'Obviously LeBron is still making his way, feeling himself out, trying to make sure he's healthy enough,' Wade said. 'So we haven't had a lot of time together with that unit but it's not an excuse. We got to be ready to play. Everybody is excited about opening night around the world. We just got to be ready to play. If we make mistakes, we'll figure it out. But we're all excited. We're excited to see him back on the court.' ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • LeBron James has never missed a season opener in the NBA — or at any level. His streak is in jeopardy. James remains questionable for Tuesday night's game against the Boston Celtics and former teammate Kyrie Irving because of a sprained left ankle that has bothered him for three weeks. James, who injured his ankle in practice on Sept. 27 and played in just one exhibition game, participated in the team's morning shootaround but did not speak to reporters afterward. A team spokesman said it will be a game-time decision whether James faces the Celtics and Irving, who was traded to Boston this summer after six seasons in Cleveland. The 32-year-old James took some outside shots but did very little lateral movement when the media was permitted to watch the Cavaliers work out. Dwyane Wade believes James will do everything he can to play given the buildup to the matchup with Irving. 'Everyone around expects him to play because that's what he does,' said Wade, who has been reunited with James in Cleveland after playing four seasons together in Miami. 'But at the same time the decision's on him. He's going to make the right decision for what he feels is best for the long haul season. 'We've been preparing like he's going to be in there, we also have to be ready if he's not. That's how we have to be.' Coach Tyronn Lue said Monday that if James doesn't start, J.R. Smith will take his place. It's hard to imagine James missing the chance to play against Irving, who demanded to be traded this summer because he wanted to be the focal point of his own team. James and Irving had a sometimes rocky relationship during three seasons together, but they made it to three straight NBA Finals and won the title in 2016. On Monday night, James tweeted about the opener, saying, 'hopefully I can be ready to get it going.' James tested his ankle last week in a preseason game against Chicago. He played 30 minutes but may have aggravated the injury on a spin move. He may not want to risk injuring himself further and missing more time. James' injury has deprived the Cavs from blending together several new players, including Wade and Derrick Rose, who has taken Irving's point guard spot. Wade said it's been challenging to develop chemistry with such a major piece like James limited. 'Obviously LeBron is still making his way, feeling himself out, trying to make sure he's healthy enough,' Wade said. 'So we haven't had a lot of time together with that unit but it's not an excuse. We got to be ready to play. Everybody is excited about opening night around the world. We just got to be ready to play. If we make mistakes, we'll figure it out. But we're all excited. We're excited to see him back on the court.' ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word. 'Who's Jefferson?' the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice. Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million. After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster. 'Teams are always trying to find ways to improve in any way, shape or form,' said Malone, whose squad opens the season Wednesday in Utah. 'If our front office deemed it necessary to make a move prior to the start of the regular season, that's something I fully support and they have my 1,000 percent belief in what they're trying to do. 'We embrace whoever else comes in and we make the most of it. I don't foresee if any changes are made, there being any negative effects to that.' The 37-year-old Jefferson spent two seasons with the Cavaliers and played a big role off the bench during the team's 2016 championship season. He appeared in 79 games last season, averaging 5.7 points in 20.4 minutes. Jefferson also has played for the Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks over his 16-year career. Malone and Jefferson's paths actually crossed a few years ago when both were with Golden State. Malone has nothing but respect for Jefferson the player. 'He's the consummate professional, stays ready,' Malone said. 'Anytime you can be around a player that has a resume like Richard does, I think you're better off for it. I wish Richard the best of luck wherever he lands.' In Denver, Jefferson figures to back up Wilson Chandler at small forward and provide another veteran voice on a Nuggets squad that many predict to be in the playoff race after narrowly missing a spot a year ago. The team hasn't been to the postseason since 2012-13. 'Anytime you come to the season with high expectations, it raises your level of play and intensity,' said Will Barton, whose ankle has quickly mended after he rolled it during practice Monday. 'With us having high expectations, we all want to prove that we're as good as we think we are. It's a good thing. We don't want to come into the season with people saying we're going to (stink).' Heading into the season opener, Denver's starting lineup looks like this: Paul Millsap at power forward, Chandler, Nikola Jokic in the middle and Gary Harris at shooting guard. The point guard situation remains up in the air. ESPN reported that Denver plans to waive veteran Jameer Nelson and he wasn't at practice Tuesday. That leaves youngsters Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay to play the position. The only hint Malone would provide about who would start at the point was that his last name began with 'M'' and 'U.' Hmm — not all that helpful. As for Nelson, Malone didn't talk about the possible release of his veteran floor leader, only what he's meant to the team. 'His ability to mentor and help young players is something that people didn't hear enough about,' Malone said. 'Jameer has a great basketball mind and passion for the game.' Asked if this sort of move signals a growing faith in Mudiay, Malone played it coy. 'I'm not going to speak to anything,' Malone said. 'I love our team and trust (the front office) to do whatever they feel is in our best interest to have our best team possible.' ___ AP Basketball Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report. ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
  • San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has called President Donald Trump 'a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others' in response to Trump's comment Monday that former President Barack Obama and other commanders in chief 'didn't make calls' to families of fallen soldiers. Former Obama staffers and a spokesman for former President George W. Bush pushed back on Trump's comments. The White House press secretary said that Trump wasn't criticizing his predecessors. Popovich has been an outspoken critic of Trump, but tells The Nation magazine that Trump's comments Monday were 'beyond the pale' and 'as low as it gets.' He calls Trump 'a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it.