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NBA Notes: Clippers strip Doc Rivers of role as team president

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NBA Notes: Clippers strip Doc Rivers of role as team president

LOS ANGELES -- Doc Rivers is losing his dual roles with the Los Angeles Clippers, keeping his position as coach while Lawrence Frank takes over Rivers' responsibility for basketball operations.

The team announced the changes Friday, saying the moves are "aimed at bringing the team to a new level of excellence by creating separate roles." The team says the change came as a result of discussions between Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer.

Rivers and Frank will be equals in the Clippers' power structure, with each reporting directly to Ballmer.

Last year, Frank was promoted to oversee day-to-day operations of the front office although Rivers retained his title as president of basketball operations. Frank and Rivers have a strong relationship and they worked together to make hires and changes in the front office structure.

Frank has had previous NBA head coaching jobs in New Jersey and Detroit.

"Doc knows how to win championships. That is what we prioritize, and that is what Doc will focus on," Ballmer said. "Lawrence is someone I learn from every single time I hear him talk. He gets recruiting, talent development and identification, salary cap strategy -- he gets it all. With these two guys at the helm, we will have great success" (see full story).

Wizards: Wall says ‘no point in testing free agency
WASHINGTON -- John Wall wants to win a championship, but he doesn't plan to bounce around the NBA chasing a ring.

After signing a $170 million, four-year extension with the Washington Wizards that keeps him under contract through 2022-23, Wall said he wants to watch two banners rise to the rafters in Washington: one for a title and another with his No. 2 jersey.

"There's no point in testing free agency if I know where I want to be," Wall said Friday. "I have the ultimate goal what I want to do here. I know what team I want to play for my whole career."

Wall turns 27 in September, so he'll only be 32 when this contract expires or 31 if he opts out in 2022. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal and swingman Otto Porter Jr. are signed to max contracts through 2021, giving the Wizards several seasons to try to win with this core.

In an era of players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant taking their talents elsewhere, Wall put his money where his mouth is by agreeing to another contract.

"It's critical that your star players want to stay and play for the team. That's not always the case," said Scott Brooks, who previously coached Durant in Oklahoma City. "We have our three players that we drafted all want to stay here and stay long term. It's good because if you don't have your best players want to stay here, nobody wants to stay here" (see full story).

Pistons: Drummond acknowledges need to improve
The Detroit Pistons are coming off a disappointing season -- one that raised significant questions about whether Andre Drummond is the type of player they envisioned when they gave him a massive contract.

Drummond admits 2016-17 wasn't good enough.

"It was like a roller coaster ride for me," Drummond said. "Just an inconsistent year for us as an organization."

The Pistons went 37-45 and missed the playoffs after making it in 2016. There were plenty of reasons for the team's decline -- particularly an injury-riddled season for point guard Reggie Jackson -- but Drummond is the player who may be under the most pressure to improve when the Pistons move into their new downtown arena later this year.

Drummond is set to play in Saturday's NBA Africa Game in South Africa, and he took part in a conference call this week. It's been an eventful year for the 23-year-old big man, who received a $130 million, five-year contract from the Pistons last offseason.

Less than a season after finalizing that deal, Drummond was already the subject of trade speculation.

"I never had to deal with that before," he said. "I wasn't playing the way I was supposed to play" (see full story).

Knicks: Oakley accepts deal to dismiss MSG charges
NEW YORK (AP) -- Former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley has reached a deal with prosecutors who charged him with striking a security guard at Madison Square Garden.

The Daily News reports that charges against Oakley will be dismissed and sealed after six months of good behavior.

Oakley said Friday that a trial would waste time and money that should be used to "keep the streets better for kids."

His lawyer says Oakley didn't need a trial to prove his innocence.

Oakley was a Knicks fan favorite from 1988 to 1998. But he's had a falling out with the organization.

On Feb. 8, he sat a few rows from Knicks owner James Dolan at a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Security approached and a fracas ensued. Oakley was ejected and handcuffed.

Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener vs. Celtcis

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Sixers-Celtics thoughts: Blockbuster trade subjects highlight home opener vs. Celtcis

Sixers (0-1) vs. Celtics (0-2)
7 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live at 6. 

The Sixers (0-1) lost their season opener to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in a fashion that has become quite familiar in reason years.

The Sixers stood toe-to-toe with the Wiz for most of the night, fell behind late, and then made a run in the final minutes only to come up short in a 120-115 defeat.

While an admirable effort against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, JJ Redick made it clear that moral victories are no longer acceptable (see story).

Now the Sixers are ready to host the Boston Celtics in front of what is expected to be a raucous crowd for their home opener at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

• What was all that chatter about a minutes restriction? Joel Embiid went well over what was expected to be his allotted time limit in the season opener when he played 26:57.

Afterward, both Embiid and Sixers head coach Brett Brown explained that this season, the center’s minutes will be within more of a “range” and follow a “plan.” Essentially, how much the big man plays will depend on his stamina and the flow of the game.

Embiid managed 18 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in the opener. However, he admitted there were areas that need improvement (he did commit four turnovers and was late on some defensive rotations).

• You had to like what you saw from Ben Simmons against the Wizards. He scored 18 points on 7 of 15 shooting to go along with 10 boards, five assists, two steals, one block and a single turnover.

More importantly, the point guard played with poise and conviction as he set up the Sixers’ offense.

Sixers fans might not like the fact that several of the team’s young players have missed what would have been their rookie seasons. However, there is something to be said about the advancement of a guy that has been around an NBA team for an entire year before playing a game.

• Before we get any further, let’s hope for a speedy and healthy recovery for Gordon Hayward.

By now you know the All-Star forward suffered a gruesome leg injury just minutes into his Celtics' debut.

The C’s will certainly miss his production and leadership this season.

• With Hayward now sidelined, there has been even more attention focused on Kyrie Irving’s transition to the Celtics. 

The star point guard started with a much-hyped return to face his former Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving played well in that one with a double-double of 22 points and 10 assists, but he couldn’t connect on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.

Irving followed that effort up with a dud in a loss to the Bucks. He scored 17 points on a rough 7 of 25 shooting, in addition to just three assists and three turnovers.

The Sixers can expect the scoring machine to try and regain his offensive rhythm right from the opening tip.

• Hey, remember when the Sixers and Celtics made a blockbuster trade involving multiple first-round picks and it was all anyone could talk about? Yeah, seems like forever ago now.

Just before June’s draft, the Sixers sent the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder to the Celtics in exchange for the No. 1 selection. The Sixers took that opportunity to select Markelle Fultz while Boston snagged Jayson Tatum, and the rest is history.

Well, much-scrutinized history. The two rookies will forever be linked and their production compared.

After an injury-filled offseason and camp, Fultz acquitted himself well in his debut. He shot 5 for 9 from the field for 10 points with three rebounds, an assist and a highlight block. Of course, there were also those awkward looking free throws (see story).

On the other side, Tatum has had it about as rough as possible in his first pair of NBA games when it comes to matchups. He started off with LeBron James in the Celtics’ opener before coming back the next night and facing Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

That hasn’t been the best experience defensively, as both James and Antetokounmpo went off. But few men on the planet can handle those players.

Tatum has been productive in his first two games, particularly on the backboard. He’s gobbled up an impressive 22 rebounds to pair with 22 points in two games.

With Fultz playing limited minutes off the bench, it would appear Tatum has the upper hand when it comes to opportunity. But we’ll see what the No. 1 pick has in store for his first regular-season game in front of the home fans.

• Robert Covington made sure that you won’t forget about him this season.

In search of a contract extension, Covington opened the 2017-18 season with a 29-point outburst against the Wizards that included seven threes. 

We’ll see what he can do for an encore.

• The Sixers took one of the four matchups last season with the top-seeded Celtics. Their lone win came in the final meeting, a 105-99 victory on March 19. Dario Saric led the way in that one with 23 points.

Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

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Best of NBA: Clippers spoil Lonzo Ball's debut in rout of Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin scored 29 points, DeAndre Jordan added 14 points and 24 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Lonzo Ball's quiet NBA debut with a 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Lou Williams added 12 points in the Clippers' first game since Chris Paul spurned the perennial playoff team after six years and forced an offseason trade to Houston. The Clippers will have a new look this season, but they were still miles ahead of their Staples Center co-tenants in both teams' season openers.

Ball had three points, four assists and nine rebounds in 29 minutes during the first game for the No. 2 overall pick from UCLA.

The Los Angeles-area native is expected to revitalize his hometown team this season, but the rookie started out with all the nerves and mistakes that might be expected from any 19-year-old point guard with the weight of a 16-time NBA champion franchise on his slender shoulders. Along with a handful of good-looking passes and a 3-pointer late in the first half, he went 1 for 6 from the field and committed two turnovers.

Brook Lopez scored 20 points in his debut for the Lakers, and Jordan Clarkson added 18.

Patrick Beverley, acquired in Paul's trade to the Rockets, had 10 points in his Clippers debut while introducing Ball to high-level NBA defense (see full recap).

Thunder debut new Big 3 in win over Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had a triple-double and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the New York Knicks 105-84 on Thursday night in their first regular-season game with All-Star additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony

Westbrook, the NBA MVP last season when he averaged a triple-double, had with 21 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

Paul George, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers, led the Thunder with 28 points. Anthony, who was traded from the Knicks to the Thunder right before training camp began, had 22 points against his former team.

Kristaps Porzingis had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks. Enes Kanter, who joined the Knicks in the deal that sent Anthony to the Thunder, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. No other New York players scored in double figures.

George broke away for a dunk as time expired in the first half to give the Thunder a 53-42 lead. Porzingis scored 19 points before the break to keep the Knicks in it.

Kanter made three buckets early in the third quarter to keep the Knicks in it, but Westbrook found Steven Adams and Andre Roberson for back-to-back alley-oop dunks to give the Thunder a 69-52 lead.

After that, it was time for the Westbrook triple-double watch. He reached double digits in points and assists midway through the third quarter. He grabbed his 10th rebound with about four minutes remaining in the game (see full recap).

Raptors cruise past Bulls in season opener
TORONTO -- Jonas Valanciunas had 23 points and 15 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 22 points in his Toronto debut and the Raptors beat the short-handed Chicago Bulls 117-101 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

Norman Powell added 15 points, Delon Wright had 13, and Kyle Lowry 12.

The Raptors, who intend to shoot more 3-pointers and move the ball more this season, were 13 of 29 from long range and had 26 assists on 39 baskets. Lowry had nine assists, and DeMar DeRozan and Wright each had five.

Miles was 6 for 9 from 3-point range and had five rebounds.

Playmaking proved an effective avenue for DeRozan on a night when he made just two of nine field goals and did not attempt a 3-pointer. DeRozan finished with 11 points, going 7 for 8 at the free throw line, and had six rebounds.

Chicago center Robin Lopez scored 18 points, rookie Lauri Markkanen had 17 in his NBA debut, and Justin Holiday added 15.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said forward Nikola Mirotic is doing OK but is still sore two days after suffering facial fractures and a concussion in a practice fight with teammate Bobby Portis. Chicago suspended Portis for eight games following the altercation. Mirotic is expected to be out from four to six weeks (see full recap).