NBA Wrap: Rose hurts right knee in Bulls' loss

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NBA Wrap: Rose hurts right knee in Bulls' loss

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Derrick Rose injured his right knee Friday night and the Chicago Bulls star, who sat out last season following surgery on his other knee, did not return during a 98-95 loss to the streaking Portland Trail Blazers.

Wesley Matthews had a season-high 28 points and Damian Lillard added 20 to help the Trail Blazers run their winning streak to nine games.

Rose led the Bulls with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists but was assisted to the locker room with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter. The 2011 NBA MVP tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs and missed last season while recovering from surgery.

Carlos Boozer had 16 points and Luol Deng added 15 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago (see full recap).

Love, T-Wolves dominate Nets
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett had stepped on the court against his former franchise seven times. He had walked away a winner each time after imposing his unyielding will on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

All the past success didn't matter one bit Friday night. Garnett and the star-studded Brooklyn Nets are finding out their reputations will get them nowhere this season.

Kevin Love had 17 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in just 28 minutes, and the Timberwolves beat Garnett for the first time since he left Minnesota in a 111-81 victory over the woeful Nets on Friday night.

Garnett finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes and these aging, banged-up Nets were no match for the younger, faster Timberwolves. Mikhail Prokhorov's $190 million team has lost four in a row and seven of its last eight to fall to 3-9 (see full recap).

George scores 27, Pacers improve to 11-1
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics played a sloppy second half and the Indiana Pacers made them pay.

Down by eight points at halftime, the Pacers charged back for a 97-82 win Friday night behind 27 points from Paul George to improve the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana (11-1) trailed at halftime in nine of its games. Its latest comeback was helped by Boston's 16 turnovers in the second half, leading to 23 points.

"Our starters, as a unit, have a gear defensively that they can reach that's pretty special," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They hit that in the third and took control of the game."

The Pacers shut down Jordan Crawford after he made all eight of his field goal attempts and scored 19 points in the first half. He finished with a season-high 24 (see full recap).

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent – hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in – he’ll try to put me in – to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel the only one of the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.