NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Durant in regular-season form vs. Nuggets — Don’t tell Kevin Durant that preseason games don’t count. And don’t ask the Denver Nuggets if he plays like they don’t count. Durant looked like he was in midseason form last night, pouring in 36 points against Denver and making it look all-too easy at times as well. The always excellent Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has plenty of great nuggets on Durant’s monster game (and we’ve got the highlights of his night below, too):
Kevin Durant is starting to make it look easy. Easier? Too easy?? The way he’s controlling the game and downright dominating with such confidence is incredible. He’s been hailed the second best player in the world for a while now. But something about the way he’s carrying himself now leaves no doubt. Perhaps it’s Russell Westbrook’s absence. How KD is now taking patchwork lineups and carrying them while his team thumps opponents. Maybe he’s just that much better at the start of Year 6. Either way, this is shaping up to be a fun, fun season. Forget what you heard.
Durant posted 36 points in 23 minutes. He made 13 of 20 shots, half of his eight 3-pointers and six of seven free throws. For good measure, he added six boards, four assists, a steal, a blocked shot and turned it over only once.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s now a 12-assist game (really 11) and a 36-pointer for KD this preseason. Think he knows these games don’t count?
No. 2: Burke’s surgery may lead to Tinsley’s return — Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke had successful surgery to repair a fractured finger he suffered in a preseason loss to the Clippers. While Burke will miss the next 8-12 weeks while the injury heals and he goes through the rehabilitation process, Utah is looking to round out its guard corps while he’s out. Veteran Jamaal Tinsley spent his last two seasons with the Jazz and could be an option for Utah, writes Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune:
Burke’s injured finger has been placed in a “cast/splint,” the Jazz said in a statement. His condition will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Utah opens the regular season Oct. 30 against Oklahoma City. With Burke out, the Jazz have talked to veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley about a return to the team.
Tinsley, 35, spent the past two seasons in Utah. He played in 103 games, including 33 starts.
“There has been mutual interest,” Raymond Brothers, Tinsley’s agent, told The Tribune. Said coach Tyrone Corbin: “He has some interest, we have some interest. … He’s a guy who knows our system.”
Burke’s injury could provide Scott Machado the chance to make an impact in Utah. Depending on what the Jazz do with their roster while Burke is out, Machado might not only make the team but he could inherit a significant role.
“I came in fighting for life,” Machado said. “… It’s so bad something like that had to happen [to Burke]. But when the opportunity shows, I have to take advantage of it.”
Machado spent most of last season in the NBA Development League, but he also played briefly with Houston and spent time with Golden State.
“I feel like I know how to lead a team,” he said. “I know how to help a team get a good shot. … [I] just try to run a team as well as possible.”
No. 3: J.R. Smith OK with reserve role again, but … — The reigning Sixth Man of the Year winner, J.R. Smith of the Knicks, isn’t likely to be a starter for New York as coach Mike Woodson is likely going with Raymond Felton at point guard and Iman Shumpert or Pablo Prigioni as his backcourt tandem. That means Smith will again start the season in a reserve role, which he is fine with, but tells ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley he’d be more than fine with a starting role, too:
“I’ve always wanted to start. Everybody knows that,” Smith said. “I won the Sixth Man [Award] last year, so I felt as though there’s nothing left to prove at the sixth-man spot. But at the same time, if that’s what my team needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do. If Coach wants me to be a sixth man, I’ll be a sixth man. If he wants me to start, I’ll start. That’s up to him.”
Smith will compete with third-year guard Iman Shumpert for the starting shooting guard spot in Mike Woodson’s lineup.
Shumpert, though, has an early edge because Smith is sidelined due to offseason knee surgery.
Smith has missed the Knicks’ first three preseason games and hopes to play in the final preseason contest on Oct. 25. He ran on the practice floor Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in July to repair his left patella tendon and a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee.
Smith, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Knicks shortly before his surgery, has yet to face contact in practice.
Once Smith is deemed healthy enough to return to the floor by team doctors and an independent doctor appointed by the NBA, he will serve a five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug ban. If Smith plays in the Knicks’ final preseason game, he can start serving his suspension when the Knicks open the regular season.
Woodson has made it clear that both players will have an equal chance to win the job once Smith returns to the floor.
“When [Woodson] decides to make the choice we both have to live with it, between myself and Shump,” Smith said. “It’s a competition at this point, he’s winning. He’s healthy, he’s able to play. When I’m back ready, I’ll be ready.”
No. 4: Kings’ new arena may have less seats, more standing room — Undoubtedly, fans and followers of the Sacramento Kings are excited for the day when the team’s new arena will open three years from now. But details about the new building are emerging, some of which may be taken as a good-and-bad news scenario. According to The Sacramento Bee‘s Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler, the new arena may have fewer seats than the Kings’ current home, Sleep Train Arena. But on the good news side of things, there may be special standing-room only areas for fans to enjoy:
Still three years away from its planned opening, Sacramento’s proposed downtown arena is drawing attention from fans for several innovative design ideas, but also drew a potentially tough new opponent Tuesday.
Speaking at a series of recent public arena planning workshops, Kings President Chris Granger dropped the surprise news that the $448 million Downtown Plaza facility may have far fewer seats than originally proposed, possibly fewer than at old Sleep Train Arena, but could pack more patrons in, nonetheless, by offering special standing-room-only ticket sections and a dramatic outdoor plaza seating area.
Sleep Train, with 17,317 seats, is among the smallest arenas in the National Basketball Association. Most NBA arenas have seating numbers ranging from 18,000 to 20,000. Notably, though, the league’s newest arena, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, has only 17,732, the first arena in years to be built with fewer than 18,000 seats.
Granger said the team and its architecture firm, AECOM, believe limited seating would create intimacy and allow designers to add elements no other arena has. That doesn’t mean there would be fewer fans, he said. The Kings are talking about offering a number of standing-room-only tickets for fans to watch the game in open areas behind the arena’s lower seating bowl or on what officials say would be a dramatic “bridgeway” over one end of the arena, offering bar seating, couches, and a railing overlooking the event floor.
Overall, the new arena is expected to be 50 percent larger in square footage than Sleep Train, allowing event-goers more leg room, wider seats, and wider concourses.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Veteran Corey Maggette among those recently released by the Spurs … Cavs big man Andrew Bynum showed up at practice, but didn’t do anything there … Former prep-to-pro New York phenom Sebastian Telfair signed with a team in China … Royce White is still shaking the rust off his game in Philly
ICYMI Of The Night: The Celtics’ Jeff Green had one of the dunks of the season in 2012-13 (victimizing Al Jefferson). He’s starting early this season, getting one over on Reggie Evans of the Nets …