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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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Davis scores 50, records historic stat line in loss to Nuggets


Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans recorded his second career 50-point game Wednesday in the Pels’ season-opening 107-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Davis finished with 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, and four blocks – coming up one swat short of a rare 5-by-5.

Davis was 16-of-17 from the free-throw line and became only the fourth player in NBA history to score 50-plus points in a season opener, joining names such as Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor. Three of the four performances have now come in losses.

The next-highest scorer for the Pelicans was Tim Frazier with 15.

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Valanciunas enjoys career-night in Raps' win over Pistons


Jonas Valanciunas didn’t have the greatest summer, and came into this season hearing questions yet again about his status as the Toronto Raptors‘ center of the present and future.

He cast those doubts aside Wednesday, scoring a career-high 32 points in Toronto’s season-opening 109-91 win over the Detroit Pistons. Adding to his monster offensive night, Valanciunas grabbed 11 rebounds and shot 10-of-15 from the floor.

Related: Raptors’ Valanciunas posterizes 7-foot-3 Boban

Alongside DeMar DeRozan, who flirted with his career high and finished with 40 points, the pair became the first teammates in NBA history to record a 40- and 30-point performance in a season opener, according to Elias Sports.

By Valanciunas’ own description, he was bad playing for his native Lithuania in this summer’s Olympics, a tournament that ended in a quarterfinal loss to Australia. On Wednesday he was loose again, happy about his performance.

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Harden posts 34-point, 17-assist performance in point guard debut


His Houston Rockets didn’t get the win, but James Harden showed just how special he can be in Mike D’Antoni’s offense on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-5 guard erupted in the Rockets’ opener, collecting 34 points and 17 assists in a 120-114 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden's stat line is one of the most impressive displays by a guard in a decade, with the 27-year-old posting just the third 34-point, 17-assist, eight-rebound performance in 32 years. Baron Davis and Magic Johnson own the other two.

Not only did Harden set a career-high in assists, but he realistically could’ve finished with a much higher total had his teammates done a better job of knocking down their open looks. The seven-year veteran seemingly found a way to break down the Lakers’ defense at will, leading to a number of uncontested layups and alley-oop jams throughout the contest.

While it was a positive performance overall, Harden’s recklessness plagued the Rockets at time, as he also collected seven turnovers and five fouls in the defeat. Harden’s offensive load and 37 minutes played appeared to take a toll late in the game, as he tallied just six points and one assist in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets will look to bounce back on Thursday, when they’ll take on the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

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