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Celtics-Rockets Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:44:51 PDT)
After getting referred to as "soft" in a quiet season opener, Dwight Howard is feeling good heading into the Houston Rockets' first home game following a bounce-back effort. The Boston Celtics hope to spoil Houston's home opener after Rajon Rondo returned to spark a victory in their debut. With Howard and the Rockets seeking their second straight 3-0 start, Rondo and the Celtics will try to open the season with consecutive wins for the first time in five years on Saturday night. Cameras caught Kobe Bryant calling Howard "soft" - among other things - as the two jawed at one another in Houston's 108-90 season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Nowitzki, Mavs top Jazz 120-102 in home opener (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:20:19 PDT)
Tyson Chandler pumped up the crowd with three alley-oop dunks in the first quarter. All J.J. Barea had to do to get a standing ovation was enter the game off the bench. A couple of key pieces from the only championship team in Dallas franchise history were finally wearing the same uniform as Dirk Nowitzki again. Nowitzki scored 21 points and the Mavericks celebrated the return of Chandler and Barea with a 120-102 victory over the Utah Jazz in their home opener Thursday night.

Lakers' Randle has surgery, likely out for year (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:41:29 PDT)
Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his broken right leg. The seventh overall pick out of Kentucky broke his leg in the fourth quarter of his NBA debut in Los Angeles' season-opening loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. Randle was strapped to a wheeled stretcher and taken off the Staples Center court after colliding with two Rockets and landing awkwardly with 6:46 to play. Before Wednesday's game at Phoenix, the Lakers announced that Randle's injury was just as serious as it appeared.

Jazz-Mavericks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 22:35:59 PDT)
While the Dallas Mavericks began their season with a narrow defeat to the reigning NBA champs, they should have an easier time in Thursday night's home opener. Dallas goes for a 20th win in 22 home matchups against the Utah Jazz, who are hoping to quickly regroup after dropping their first game. Monta Ellis had 26 points and Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 but Dallas (0-1) came up just short in Tuesday's 101-100 loss at San Antonio. Chandler Parsons missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from 28 feet out with one second to go.

Rockets spoil Snyder's NBA coaching debut (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:50:03 PDT)
Kobe Bryant might have called Dwight Howard ''soft'' but, just like the Lakers, the Utah Jazz had no one who could stop him. Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds and the Houston Rockets beat the Jazz 104-93 on Wednesday night to spoil Quin Snyder's NBA coaching debut. James Harden added 18 points and 10 assists, and Trevor Ariza had 20 points for the Rockets, who opened the season Tuesday night in Los Angeles with a 108-90 victory over the Lakers.

Gasol powers Memphis past Minnesota 105-101 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:25:51 PDT)
The Grizzlies are 1-0 for the first time in a long, long time. Marc Gasol scored a career-high 32 points, and the Grizzlies beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-101 on Wednesday night for the franchise's first victory in a season opener since 2000, the year before the team moved to Memphis. ''It's an unbelievable thought.'' Zach Randolph added 25 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis, which had dropped its last 13 openers. ''That was a good game to start the season,'' Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 17:15:56 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - LeBron James and team owner Dan Gilbert, both commenting on the eve of the Cleveland Cavaliers' season opener, are on the same page about their relationship with the same common goal in mind. "I think it's really good," James said Wednesday when asked about his relationship with the Cavs owner. Gilbert described their relationship as "very good, very solid." Their relationship turned cold four years ago when James left Cleveland for Miami. ...

Lakers lose injured rookie Randle for season
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:09:48 PDT)
Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle had surgery Wednesday to repair a broken right leg and will likely miss the rest of the NBA season, the team said. "Randle is expected to make a full recovery, although it is anticipated that he will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season," the Lakers said in a statement posted on their website. It was a bitter start to the season for the Lakers, who saw Randle go down with a broken tibia as they were beaten 108-90 by the Houston Rockets on opening night. Randle, the seventh overall pick in the NBA entry draft in June, was playing in his first regular-season game and went down hard after a drive to the lane with less than seven minutes left in the contest.

Spurs kick off title defence by edging Mavericks
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 02:41:51 PDT)
The San Antonio Spurs picked up right where they left off, collecting their championship rings before beginning their title defence Tuesday with a 101-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs, despite their superb record in ring ceremony games, needed every minute of the contest to hold off their Texas-state rivals, who gave them their most difficult challenge of last year's playoffs. "We moved the ball much better in the second half," said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who came off the bench to score 20 points in one of three opening-night NBA contests. The Spurs rolled to their fifth NBA title in June by dismantling the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.

Hornets hope Stephenson takes them to next level (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 00:59:57 PDT)
Lance Stephenson could be the missing piece to the championship puzzle Michael Jordan is trying to build in Charlotte. At least the Hornets owner believes Stephenson gives his team a fighting chance. Jordan believes the Eastern Conference title goes through LeBron James - now in Cleveland - and he was impressed with how Stephenson battled James in Miami last year when Stephenson was with Indiana. The Hornets initially went after restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, but the Utah Jazz matched their $64 million offer sheet.

Rockets-Jazz Preview (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 00:03:15 PDT)
After finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz are hoping to take a big step forward in 2014-15 under new coach Quin Snyder. They should get an idea as to how they stack up in Wednesday night's opener against the visiting Houston Rockets, who kicked off their season with an easy win. "We just have to be ready to play and see where we stand," said Snyder, who replaced Tyrone Corbin following last season's 25-57 campaign. Those are the two things if we can get every night, that gives us a chance to get better and be competitive." While veterans Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson are gone, the Jazz return several good young pieces in Trey Burke (21), Rudy Gobert (22), Derrick Favors (23) and Gordon Hayward (24).

Rockets rout Lakers 108-90 in Kobe's return (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:56:56 PDT)
After Lakers rookie Julius Randle left his NBA debut strapped to a wheeled stretcher with a broken right leg, every player at Staples Center gained a sober perspective on the season opener. James Harden scored 32 points, Howard added 13 points and 11 rebounds before getting into an exchange with Bryant, and the Rockets spoiled Bryant's return to the Lakers with a 108-90 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Lakers rookie Randle breaks leg in NBA debut
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:32:43 PDT)
Injury woes mounted for the Los Angeles Lakers as rookie forward Julius Randle broke his leg in his first National Basketball Association game. With just under seven minutes to play in a blowout 108-90 Houston Rockets win Tuesday night, Randle fell hard after a drive to the lane, breaking his tibia, the Lakers announced. The Lakers, who lost Kobe Bryant to injury for all but six games of last season, had already been hit with injuries even before Randle got hurt. Future hall of famer Steve Nash is expected to miss the entire season, possibly ending his career with a back injury.

Lakers rookie Julius Randle out for season after fracturing right tibia during NBA debut (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:17:11 PDT)
UPDATE, 3:40 p.m. ET, 10/29/14: The scenario many Lakers fans feared was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon: Julius Randle underwent surgery this morning and is expected to make a full recovery from his broken leg. He won't return this season. — Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 29, 2014 It's a crushing diagnosis for both the 19-year-old Randle, whom many expected to contend for Rookie of the Year honors in L.A. this year, and it's a heartbreaking loss for a Lakers team desperate for infusions of youth, talent and energy in the here and now, and desperate for foundational pieces around which to construct the next competitive iteration of the purple and gold in the future. All the Lakers organization and its fans, and the rest of us who just hate to see young players (or old players, or any players) waylaid like this, can hope for now is Randle making that "full recovery" and returning for an impressive second pass at his rookie season, like Blake Griffin did after suffering a broken left kneecap during the 2009 preseason. The Lakers, wounded and coming off an opening night pasting at the hands of James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets, will play the second game of a back-to-back against the go-go Phoenix Suns in Arizona on Wednesday. *** With the Los Angeles Lakers likely facing a difficult season as they try to compete in a tough Western Conference, many Lakers fans had identified rookie forward Julius Randle as one of the few potential bright spots to focus on for the campaign ahead. That bright spot dimmed Tuesday, as the former Kentucky star and No. 7 overall pick suffered a broken right tibia during the fourth quarter of the Lakers' opening night loss to the Houston Rockets. With just under seven minutes remaining in a game the Rockets led comfortably, Randle faced up against Rockets big man Donatas Motiejunas at the right elbow and drove right to the basket. As he leaped to attempt a shot, his left foot hit the back of his right leg; Randle collided with Rockets center Tarik Black in mid-air, lost the ball in the process, and appeared to be favoring his right leg before he even came down. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] As play moved down to the other end of the court, Randle stayed seated in pain on the baseline beneath the L.A. basket. Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti rushed over to tend to the 19-year-old, and star guard Kobe Bryant — who's had enough experience with this sort of thing in the past two years to last a lifetime — leaned down to try to calm the panicked rookie. Kobe consoling Randle. The rookie was in a lot of pain. pic.twitter.com/R7wQaOGOW4 — Beto Duran (@DuranSports) October 29, 2014 The medical staff immobilized Randle's right leg in an air cast as players from both teams gathered around. Shortly thereafter, Randle's teammates lifted him off the court onto a stretcher, and he was carried off the floor. Rachel Nichols reported during TNT's broadcast that the Lakers feared Randle had broken his right leg . After the game, and after Randle had undergone X-rays on the right leg, Lakers head coach Byron Scott confirmed the tibia fracture. "Obviously, the last four or five minutes of the game were not very important to us," Scott told Nichols in a post-game interview. "It was more important to kind of really feel where he was and how he felt. I had the chance to talk to him briefly. We just all feel bad, you know? A young, promising player, and unfortunately, the first game of the season, he gets an injury." Asked what Randle said when Scott spoke with him, the coach had little to offer. "You know what, he didn't say anything. He was just kind of crying a little bit," Scott said. "I just told him it was going to be OK, to stay strong. He's going to be a great player in this league. It's just going to make him have to work harder, and he has that in him. We'll just wait for him to get back." Randle had scored two points on 1 for 3 shooting in 13 1/2 minutes in his NBA debut before suffering his injury. When he'll play his second NBA game, sadly, remains very much an open question. Randle will be re-evaluated Wednesday, with an update on his status to follow, according to the Lakers . Word from #Lakers on Julius Randle - Fractured right tibia, will be transported to hospital, no decision on surgery, but likely. — Jaime Maggio (@jaimemaggio) October 29, 2014 Virtually as soon as TNT's cameras captured Randle in pain on the floor, well wishes began pouring in via social media: Praying for the best and a speedy recovery for Julius Randle! Never want to see that happen to anybody…. — Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) October 29, 2014 Our thoughts and well-wishes are with @J30_RANDLE . — NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 29, 2014 Prayers up for Julius Randle.. — Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) October 29, 2014 Prayers go out to Julius Randle. Great kid with a hellava future. #stayprayedup — Mo Williams (@mowilliams) October 29, 2014 I don't know Julius randle personally....but I hope he has a speedy recovery! Stay strong bro. — Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25) October 29, 2014 Our thoughts go out to Julius Randle. We've had our scuffles with LA tonight, but don't wish injury on any one. Here's to a speedy recovery. — Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 29, 2014 Randle's injury provided an exceptionally grim conclusion to an already dismal night for Lakers fans in which a late-game scuffle between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard constituted just about the only highlight. More than that, though, it slows the development of one of the Lakers' most important young pieces, and places a difficult and substantial roadblock in the path of a young man who had only just begun to realize his NBA dream. Here's hoping that Randle's prognosis is as favorable as it can be, and that he's able to return to the court to resume the promising career that was so depressingly interrupted on opening night. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard tussle late in Lakers-Rockets opener (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:58:49 PDT)
Kobe Bryant has not gotten along terribly well with a number of teammates during his 19 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, but few have earned as much media attention as his spat with current Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard. When the Lakers traded for Howard in the summer of 2012, they appeared to have acquired their superstar of the future. Yet Howard and Bryant did not mesh well, with various reports (most of them anonymously sourced) stating that Dwight felt Kobe demanded too much of him. It eventually came as little surprise when Howard left for Houston as a free agent in 2013, and reports since have indicated that the difficulties of playing with Kobe were the primary reason for his decision. The two former teammates managed to turn their war of (largely veiled) words into a minor physical altercation during Tuesday's season opener at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With the Rockets in complete control up 99-74 at the 7:07 mark of the fourth quarter, Howard grabbed a defensive rebound following a miss from Carlos Boozer. Bryant pressured Howard immediately and earned a defensive foul, which caused Howard to swing some elbows to create space. The second of them caught Bryant on the chin, which caused him to fire back with a few words. Howard responded with some comments of his own before Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley stepped in to play peacemaker. Both stars continued their chatter, but there was very little threat of violence. Check it out below: Referees assessed the play via video review and handed technical fouls to both players and a flagrant-1 to Howard for the elbow that struck Bryant. Howard hit both free throws issued for Kobe's defensive foul, after which both players were subbed out for the remainder of the game. In isolation, the tussle wasn't especially severe — Howard didn't hit Bryant especially hard and may have done so inadvertently, while no one really got in the other's face in a way that suggested an imminent fight. When it was all over, Dwight looked amused on the bench: "You mad, Bro? pic.twitter.com/2t1Put7AoA — CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 29, 2014 But Bryant and Howard have a long, much-documented history, so this incident demands more attention than others involving similar activities. For instance, it doesn't just matter that Kobe could be seen shouting the word "soft" at Howard: GIF: Kobe Bryant to Dwight Howard after tussle: "Try Me" http://t.co/lzgVr20L4P — Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 29, 2014 Howard's critics have often said that the candy-loving big man doesn't necessarily have the desire required to win NBA titles, a quality that Kobe has in excess. Kobe's apparent words on the court only adds to the belief that he and Howard couldn't get along because of a perceived difference in priorities . Plus, there have been reports of fights between Bryant and Howard before. Reports surfaced in January 2013 that the two had nearly fought after a New Year's Day loss to the Denver Nuggets, which they attempted to laugh off with this joking picture involving head coach Mike D'Antoni: The mamba vs d12 !! It's on lol pic.twitter.com/cZQO5Avf — Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 7, 2013 The report of that fight was shot down immediately by virtually everyone attached to the Lakers at the time, but it was difficult not to think of it in the aftermath of Tuesday's incident. It's also possible that this interaction between Bryant and Howard loomed large simply because the Lakers have little to get excited about this season. They looked like one of the NBA's worst teams even before Tuesday's 108-90 blowout (that was not as close as the final score indicates) and the broken leg suffered by rookie Julius Randle (one of the few reasons for hope on the roster) just a few minutes after Howard and Bryant's shouting match. With a losing season on the horizon, dramatic moments and displays of strength from Kobe could be the high points of the campaign. The Rockets and Lakers next play on November 19 in a nationally televised game at Houston. Tune in if you want to see some fireworks. A competitive game is not necessarily included. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Spurs edge Mavs in San Antonio to open title defense
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:52:15 PDT)
(Reuters) - The San Antonio Spurs raised their championship banner then elevated their game when it mattered to edge the Dallas Mavericks 101-100 in a season-opening win on Tuesday. Tony Parker swished a three-pointer to give the Spurs a one-point lead with about a minute to go and the reigning champions celebrated last season's success with a triumph in front of their home crowd. Dallas had a chance to crash the San Antonio party but Chandler Parsons missed a three-pointer in the last seconds and their final full-court heave misfired. ...

Lakers rookie Randle leaves court on stretcher (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:36:01 PDT)
Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle has left his NBA debut on a stretcher after injuring his right leg in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. TNT reported Randle has a broken leg. The seventh overall pick out of Kentucky had his right leg immobilized as he left the court, casting a pall over the Lakers' season opener against the Houston Rockets. The 19-year-old Randle was injured when he collided with two Houston players under the Lakers' basket midway through the final period.

Report: Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé has pitched a 4-on-5 defense, 'leaving one player to cherry-pick' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:19:45 PDT)

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: All 30 team previews, collected in one spot (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 08:42:41 PDT)
It's been 136 days since the San Antonio Spurs put the finishing touches on their five-game demolition of the Miami Heat to win the 2013-14 NBA championship. Since then, we've seen a new decision that knocked over the dominoes that shifted the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, a foot fracture that could tilt the brutal West, a long overdue change in L.A., and more movement — of players, coaches, front-office staffers and everything else — than you can shake a stick at ... except in San Antonio, of course, where the Spurs brought back their entire O'Brien-winning roster in pursuit of the repeat title that's thus far eluded them. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] It's been a long summer and early fall, and our seemingly interminable wait is now over. The 2014-15 NBA season tips off tonight, with looming monster /2014 FIBA World Cup star Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans hosting the Orlando Magic, the Spurs (and their fans ) getting their rings before taking on the retooled Dallas Mavericks, and Dwight Howard leading the Houston Rockets back to Hollywood to square off with the once-again-healthy Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. It ought to be a pretty fun night. We've spent the last month preparing for tonight, putting together in-depth looks at all 30 NBA teams — how we left them last season, what they did on their summer vacations, their big moves, big questions and all the storylines and subplots to keep an eye on this coming season. They're all collected here, in case you missed any, would like to take another look, or just want to study up before the opening buzzer. You can also find our predictions for the season ahead — our picks for the 2014-15 champion, who'll win each major individual award and more — right here . The links below point to each team's season preview, along with predicted records and playoff seeding.* Dig in, enjoy, and feel free to tell us where you think we've gone wrong — today, tomorrow, all season long and always — on Twitter , Facebook and Tumblr . * NOTE: A few of the Western Conference records listed below differ from those that appear in the team-by-team previews, many of which were published before Kevin Durant suffered the Jones fracture that will keep him out for the first six or so weeks of the season. That, as you might expect, led us to juggle a few things. Now, let's get to it: EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlantic Division 1. Toronto Raptors — 50-32 2. Brooklyn Nets — 38-44 3. New York Knicks — 37-45 4. Boston Celtics — 28-54 5. Philadelphia 76ers — 15-67 Central Division 1. Cleveland Cavaliers — 60-22 2. Chicago Bulls — 57-25 3. Detroit Pistons — 32-50 4. Indiana Pacers — 28-54 5. Milwaukee Bucks — 20-62 Southeast Division 1. Washington Wizards — 48-34 2. Charlotte Hornets — 46-36 3. Miami Heat — 43-39 4. Atlanta Hawks — 41-41 5. Orlando Magic — 25-57 Which would mean, playoffs-wise ... 1. Cleveland 2. Chicago 3. Toronto 4. Washington 5. Charlotte 6. Miami 7. Atlanta 8. Brooklyn WESTERN CONFERENCE Northwest Division 1.** Oklahoma City Thunder — 55-27 2.** Portland Trail Blazers — 55-27 4. Denver Nuggets — 36-46 4. Utah Jazz — 24-58 5. Minnesota Timberwolves — 20-62 Pacific Division 1. Los Angeles Clippers — 59-23 2. Golden State Warriors — 58-24 3. Phoenix Suns — 47-35 4. Sacramento Kings — 35-47 5. Los Angeles Lakers — 27-55 Southwest Division 1. San Antonio Spurs — 57-25 2.** Dallas Mavericks — 50-32 3.** Houston Rockets — 50-32 4. Memphis Grizzlies — 45-37 5. New Orleans Pelicans — 44-38 Which would mean, playoffs-wise ... 1. L.A. Clippers 2. Golden State 3. San Antonio 4. Oklahoma City/Portland** 5. Portland/Oklahoma City** 6. Dallas/Houston** 7. Houston/Dallas** 8. Phoenix ** depending on tiebreakers More NBA coverage:

Dose: NBA Opening Night! (Rotoworld)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:03:00 PDT)
It's opening day in the NBA and Dr. A is here to get you ready for three games today and a full slate with Greg Monroe suspended on Wednesday.

He's back: Kobe adds intrigue to Opening Night (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 23:53:26 PDT)
Opening night in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs get their rings and show off their fifth championship banner. Kobe Bryant's return will only add more. Bryant's 19th season gets started Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers open at home against the Houston Rockets.

Mavericks-Spurs Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:36:06 PDT)
While the San Antonio Spurs are looking forward to defending their title with last season's team virtually intact, they'll have to get by without a key piece in Tuesday night's opener. The Dallas Mavericks enter 2014-15 with championship aspirations of their own after a couple big moves this summer. Kawhi Leonard won't be available as San Antonio kicks things off against Dallas in a rematch of last season's first-round playoff series. Not skipping steps," coach Gregg Popovich said.

Kobe Bryant is ready to return: This season's challenge is personal (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:37:00 PDT)
Kobe Bryant will play in his first NBA regular-season game in more than 10 months when the Lakers open against the Rockets.

Sources: Blazers to let Thomas Robinson become free agent after season (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:29:51 PDT)
The Trail Blazers have declined to pick up Thomas Robinson's fourth-year option.

Rockets-Lakers Preview (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:07:35 PDT)
Coming off their worst season since moving to Los Angeles 54 years ago, the Lakers might not be much better this time around. Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets certainly wouldn't mind handing them their first loss. Expectations are exceedingly low for Kobe Bryant and talent-thin Los Angeles, but that's not the case for a Rockets team that hopes to start erasing the sting of last season's playoff exit Tuesday night as Howard plays his second road game against the Lakers since bolting via free agency. Achilles and knee problems limited Bryant to 83 points in six games last season as Los Angeles recorded a franchise-record 55 losses, finished with the second-worst winning percentage (.329) in club history and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05.

Healthy and more mature, Dwight Howard is ready to carry Houston to NBA’s elite (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 07:24:15 PDT)
It seems as if everyone in and around the league has an opinion about Dwight Howard and the Rockets. Some would describe Howard’s first year in Houston as a success, with the Rockets finishing fourth in the Western Conference and with a 54-28 record in the regular season, which was the third-highest win total in team history and most since 2007-08. Others would say a roster that was loaded with young talent including Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons should have made it further than the Western Conference quarterfinals, where they lost in six games to the Portland Trailblazers. This summer, looking to take the next step toward a championship, Houston nearly signed Chris Bosh in the aftermath of LeBron James' return to Cleveland. The Rockets seemed to be on the verge of creating a Big Three of their own, but instead, when Bosh re-signed with Miami, Houston was not only left empty-handed, but it also lost Parsons to cross-state rival Dallas and traded Jeremy Lin to the Lakers. With those departures, and the June trade of Omer Asik, Houston’s roster may not look as flashy and talented as it did this time last year, but Howard seems confident in the Rockets’ ability to contend for a title now. “We know how good we can be,” Howard told Yahoo Sports while promoting the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare video game. “We work extremely hard on a daily basis to make sure that we make it to that [championship-caliber] level. We want to contend for the title and we feel we have the same opportunity as every other team in the NBA.” In an earlier interview with Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Howard admitted that he spent a portion of last season easing into his role with Houston and playing alongside James Harden. This year, his confidence level could not be any higher and he is ready to step into a bigger leadership position, knowing that a good portion of the team’s successes and failures will fall on his massive shoulders. The NBA started to see Howard’s transformation into a team leader – and maybe into his old, dominant self – last season when he averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game against Portland in the playoffs. “I just have to go play and control the paint, control what I can control,” Howard said. “Last year’s playoffs was great for me, I had a great playoff run, I tried to do whatever I can to get ready for the season this summer. Hopefully I have another great year. The main thing I want to do is help all of the young guys on our team grow as players and continue to grow myself and try and get better every day.” After forcing his way out of Orlando and spending a tumultuous year in Los Angeles, Howard became an easy target for writers and media members to pick on, an incredible talent whose personality and off-court issues loomed as large as his 6-foot-11 frame does in the post. The criticism and barbs have continued to follow him, with former teammate Kobe Bryant calling Howard’s departure in free agency following the 2012-13 season “a positive,” according to a report from CBS Sports . But Howard isn’t out for blood when it comes to the Lakers, who Houston opens the season against on Oct. 28. “People make big deals about playing against your former team and stuff like that but there are 82 games and we want to make sure that we get better every day, we want to start the season off on a good note,” Howard said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, my mindset is always going to be the same and that is to dominate.” Howard isn’t the only Rockets player targeted by basketball pundits, however. Harden, the team’s leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, has dealt with heavy criticism of his defensive play during his time with Houston. “Not everybody is going to like you,” Howard said. “They’re going to assume they know things about you as a player and a person depending on what they read or what they might hear on TV. We both know who we are as players and who we are as men, so it doesn’t matter what is said about us.” Howard’s responses to questions about how he is portrayed show a new maturity for the 28-year-old star. While he once searched for the spotlight and attempted to become one of the game’s media darlings – similar to LeBron James and Kevin Durant – Howard now let’s everything roll off his back. “I always try to find the positive in every situation,” Howard said. “If anybody says something negative about me, I always listen to what they’re saying, see if there’s any truth to it and if there isn’t any, I let it go in one ear and out the other. If there may be some truth, I do some soul-searching. Things happen, people say stuff but it’s not a concern at all.” Having a more mature approach to life doesn’t mean Howard doesn’t have his fun though. Howard touts himself as an avid gamer in the offseason and in his downtime, admitting that he has his own personal Xbox and can sit for hours playing Call of Duty with his friends and fans. “I have my own clan that I play with. I talk to them and I play with them a lot. I’m pretty good, it was something that I play with a lot of people online,” Howard said. “Once you start playing, it’s the best thing in life; I can sit down and play for hours.” And in a weird way, while his main focus is always on basketball, playing Call of Duty is something that keeps him grounded and not thinking about what others have to say about him or the Rockets. “It’s something that’s fun, it keeps me motivated and something that’s amazing to do,” Howard said. “Coming home, eating, watching film and then playing the game, it’s just something that clears my head, it’s good for me.”

Harden helps Rockets beat Spurs 96-87 in preseason (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:41:44 PDT)
The Houston Rockets finished off the preseason with a solid defensive effort against the San Antonio Spurs. James Harden scored 25 points, and Houston used a big run before halftime to beat San Antonio 96-87 on Friday night. The Rockets held the Spurs to 41 percent shooting. They also forced 16 San Antonio turnovers, 13 in the first half.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Sacramento Kings (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:30:00 PDT)

Brief profiles of Western Conference teams
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:22:59 PDT)
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's Western Conference ahead of the2014-15 season. NORTHWEST DIVISION DENVER NUGGETS Founded: 1967 NBA titles: None Head coach: Brian Shaw 2013-14 record: 36-46 (Finished fourth in division, did not make playoffs) After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003, the Nuggets are hoping to take a step forward with second-year coach Brian Shaw and some key acquisitions. ...

Five storylines to watch for this NBA season
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:19:23 PDT)
(Reuters) - Five storylines to follow during the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season: I'M COMING HOME: All seems in harmony again in the basketball universe as LeBron James returns home to gritty Cleveland and the Cavaliers after a four-year run with the Miami Heat that included two NBA crowns. Public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland after going on national TV in 2010 to say he was "taking my talents to South Beach," James received a hero's homecoming when he re-signed with the Cavs, ready to deliver the NBA title he failed to do during his first stint with the team. ...

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