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Altman: 'No idea' if Dillon Brooks will be ready for Oregon opener


Oregon may not have its best player available for the start of the season.

Ducks forward Dillon Brooks still isn’t practicing after undergoing foot surgery this summer and head coach Dana Altman is unsure when his star player will return to the floor.

“I have no idea,” Altman told Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports. “He’s out of the boot and he’s doing some non-contact stuff, but we still don’t know. He has another meeting scheduled with the doctor next week and we’ll go from there.”

Brooks led the Ducks to an Elite Eight appearance last season, averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

“He’s obviously a big part of what we want to do,” Altman said. “It’s been hard not having him available.”

The Ducks open the season against Army on Nov. 11, but don't kick off conference play until late December.

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Billy Donovan: Embiid's 'got a lot of Olajuwon in him'


Philadelphia 76ers fans weren't the only ones who came away impressed and optimistic after Joel Embiid's long-awaited, much-anticipated NBA regular-season debut Wednesday.

While the Sixers faithful serenaded him with "M-V-P" chants, Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan was watching him from the sideline and being reminded of the guy who won the award 23 years ago.

“He’s hard to guard,” Donovan told reporters after the game, according to Philly.com’s Keith Pompey. “He’s herky-jerky. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuwon in him.”

The comparison isn't novel, and of course, Embiid has a long, long, long way to go to approach the feats of Olajuwon, whose Hall of Fame career featured, among other things, 12 All-NBA teams, nine All-Defensive teams, two championships, two Finals MVPs, and the aforementioned regular-season MVP.

But the 22-year-old got off to a fine start with a 20-point, seven-rebound, two-block performance under a strict minutes cap in his debut. He flashed agility, shooting touch, and nifty moves on the block. After missing his first two seasons due to a foot fracture that refused to heal, he arrived looking almost fully formed. If he can stay on the court, those facetious chants may one day be chanted in earnest.

“To see him arrive now and tonight is a special night,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “I’m so proud of him.”

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Tyler Johnson vomited after receiving $50M offer sheet


In the Miami Heat's season-opening win Wednesday, guard Tyler Johnson took his first step toward validating the four-year, $50-million contract he signed this past offseason, coming off the bench to score 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), with six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Johnson, who went undrafted out of Fresno State in 2014, before latching on with the Heat’s D-League affiliate and ultimately earning a minimum contract last season, has had to get used to the idea of himself as an eight-figure-a-year player.

It was the Brooklyn Nets who came through with the $50-million offer sheet, one the Heat had the ability to match because Johnson was a restricted free agent. When Johnson was first presented with the offer, he was literally sick with emotion.

Johnson promptly left his agent's office, returned to his hotel room across the street, called his mother to say "We did it," and then threw up twice, according to ESPN's Pablo Torre.

"We hadn't even come to a decision yet, but I didn't know how to react," Johnson said.

The seemingly outsized contract was the product of a confluence of circumstances, namely the salary cap jumping $24 million as Johnson – who lost more than half of last season to injury, and averaged 8.7 points in 24 minutes when he played – hit free agency.

“People were like, ‘Who is this guy? I have to look his name up on Google,'” Johnson said. “They don’t look at me and see $50 million, necessarily.”

Johnson accepts that some may view him as overpaid – the beneficiary of both a system that caps salaries, and of a wild summer in which there was too much money to spend and not enough players to spend it on.

“I have no complaints,” Johnson said. “It worked out in my favor.”

That doesn’t mean he isn’t motivated to earn every cent of his contract and then some. The Heat will give him plenty of opportunity to do so. By waiving two prospective backup point guards after the preseason, they nominally handed the role to Johnson, even though he profiles more naturally as a shooting guard. If the first game of the 2016-17 campaign was any indication, he looks ready to reward the team’s faith.

“My goal in the NBA wasn’t to make a bunch of money,” Johnson explained. “When it’s all said and done? I just want people to say, ‘Man, that kid could play.'”

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Russell: Lakers opener 'felt like a home game' without Kobe fanfare


The San Antonio Spurs adjusted to a season opener without Tim Duncan on Tuesday in Oakland, and on Wednesday, a little further south, the Los Angeles Lakers made their own adjustments at home.

The Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 120-114 without Kobe Bryant. Bryant retired after spending his entire 20-year career in L.A., and the farewell tour and all the Staples Center fanfare that came with it is over. Guard D'Angelo Russell doesn't appear to miss it.

"I'll tell you what it felt like: It felt like a home game," Russell told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. "Last year, we had Kobe and the fans. We had some die-hard Lakers fans, and Kobe fans. But we had so many guys who didn't have identities for the fans to recognize. But today, it felt like a home game.

"You go to Utah, or Houston – and they're rooting for their team. Here, this is the home of the NBA. People come to the see the show, too. Don't get me wrong: They're all Lakers fans, they're incredible, but they want to see the show, too."

As Wojnarowski notes, the 20-year-old Russell is one of several young players tasked with making the Lakers a team Angelenos will cheer for, along with Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, who scored 18 and 25 points, respectively, on Wednesday. It wasn't quite Showtime basketball, but there's promise for the young core.

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Maryland, Turgeon agree to 4-year extension


Maryland announced Thursday it has signed head coach Mark Turgeon to a four-year contract extension that keeps him locked up through the 2022-23 campaign.

“Mark has built a program that we are incredibly proud of as he continues to lead the great tradition that is Maryland Basketball,” athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a statement.

Under Turgeon, who's entering his sixth year in the program he inherited from longtime coach Gary Williams, Maryland is coming off one of the best two-year stretches in school history. The Terrapins won 55 games over that period, and last year reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

Maryland has also begun to expand its NBA presence, as the Terps had two players selected in the 2016 draft. Point guard Melo Trimble could be a first-round pick in 2017 if he’s able to bounce back from a tough end to last season.

The Terps open the 2016-17 schedule Nov. 11 against American.

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Bulls players eat snacks with adorable kid reporter


The Chicago Bulls have introduced a new video series for the 2016-17 season called “Late Night Snack with Henry,” in which players chat and eat snacks with a young reporter named Henry. It’s adorable.

In the first episode, Henry teaches Robin Lopez how not to eat fruit roll-ups like a "crazy man" and keeps his cool while Dwyane Wade steals all his apple sauce.

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What it's like to play for 'maniacal' Stan Van Gundy


Maybe it's the effortless way he pulled off a flat-brimmed cap and sweatsuit bicycle gear, or his brutally honest midgame interviews.

Perhaps it was the way he nonchalantly sipped his Diet Pepsi, Kermit-style, while tensions in Orlando were coming to a boil, or how he once instructed his team to "form a f—ing wall."

Or maybe it was all those things that earned Stan Van Gundy a reputation among rival coaches as a "bad motherf—–."

Whatever the case, the veteran coach has become a fan favorite for both his animated sideline demeanor and his ability to maximize the talent around him. Here's what it's like to play for Van Gundy, as described by a couple of his current Detroit Pistons players before Wednesday's season-opening loss in Toronto.

Van Gundy has abundant sideline energy

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: “Sometimes we can feed off his energy. He’s always very high energy, and he’s a great coach to be around because of it.”

Reggie Jackson: “He’s demanding. He wants the best out of you. He’s not afraid to let you know what that is and push players’ limits. He tries to push me to limits that even I thought I might not be able to push.”

He understands when to lay into players and when to lay off

Caldwell-Pope: “He knows when and when not to. He’s been coaching for a long time so he knows how to talk to players and when to get their feedback.”

Jackson: “You’ve got to find a balance, know who you’re dealing with, and know the overall character of your team. I think we have some tough-minded individuals who can deal with his coaching.”

He has unparalleled passion for the game

Jackson: “I’ve always admired how dedicated he is. He’s probably the first coach I’ve met who’s as maniacal about the game as I am – who really spends almost every waking hour thinking about it, conversing about it, and trying to dissect and find a way to be the best that he can. Not only for himself, but for those on the journey with him – his 15 players, his coaching staff, and the whole organization.

"I know he spends every waking hour thinking about how to be the best, as do I. At times, guys are gonna bump heads. You're not always going to see the same way, but you can take constructive criticism from him and use it to better yourself and the team because there's not too much he's missing. He's constantly watching film and trying to gain knowledge of the game."

Do his passion and intensity ever become comical?

Caldwell-Pope: “Not really. He’s pretty much focused and serious most of the time.”

Jackson: “I wish I could’ve been here for ‘build an effing wall’ (Jackson was traded from OKC to Detroit a month later). That would’ve been amazing. I know the team joked about it. We had shirts, and I was traded here in time to get one of those shirts. I think everyone’s seen the lack of us shaking hands when I came out of the game. I think that was probably due to his intensity and focus on the game. That might be my funny story right now, but hopefully we have a lot of years together and I get to experience some more of those.”

The infamous "wall" huddle wasn't funny at the time

Caldwell-Pope (laughing): “Nah, that’s what he actually wanted us to do. That was the game plan. At that point, it was the last minute of the game and we needed that stop, so we weren’t laughing about it.”

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Watch: Turner puts exclamation point on Pacers' win over Mavs


Myles Turner's performance Wednesday night exemplified why many picked the 6-foot-11 center to be this year's Most Improved Player.

The Indiana Pacers big man finished with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, putting an exclamation point on his dazzling performance with a breakaway dunk in overtime.

If Turner finds a way to put together performances like this on a regular basis, the Pacers should see a large increase over last year's win total.

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Cubs take ruthless shot at Frank Kaminsky


The Chicago Cubs aren’t done with Frank Kaminsky.

As the Cubbies jumped to a 5-1 lead over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday, Chicago's Twitter handle made sure the Charlotte Hornets' player heard it.

Kaminsky did his best to jinx the Cubs before the World Series, wearing a Steve Bartman jersey when the Hornets played in Chicago during preseason.

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Watch: Fans serenade Embiid with MVP chants during NBA debut


Joel Embiid has officially won the hearts of Philadelphia 76ers fans.

The 7-foot rookie received some true Philly love as he went to the line during the third quarter of Wednesday night's contest, getting serenaded with MVP chants as he calmly sank both free throws.

Embiid finished the contest with 20 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks in a 103-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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