From Comcast SportsNetPORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- This was not the start the Los Angeles Lakers envisioned.The talent-laden Lakers have dropped two straight to open the season -- their opener at home against the Dallas Mavericks followed by a 116-106 thumping by the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.To make matters worse, two-time MVP Steve Nash, brought in by the Lakers in the offseason along with six-time All-Star Dwight Howard, was injured late in the first half against Portland."We've got to learn how to play together," said Howard, who had 33 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to Portland. "You've got to be good before you can be great."The Lakers' stockpile of stars lacked a sense of urgency against the Blazers, who led by as many as 19 points. Nicolas Batum had 26 points and Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, had 22 points and 11 assists in his NBA debut.Kobe Bryant had 30 points and Howard's output Wednesday night was a vast improvement over his debut the night before against the Mavs, when he had 19 points and 10 rebounds but made just three of 14 free throws before fouling out. The Lakers lost that one 99-91.But it was apparent for the second night in a row that the Lakers were still getting used to each other. The starters rarely played together during an 0-8 preseason."We didn't expect to just come together and be awesome," Howard said. "It's always a process. We've got to stick with it so that at the end of the year we can have a trophy."Nash collided with Lillard and limped to the locker room. Although the team initially reported he was fine, Nash struggled when he returned for the second half and left the game for good a short time later.The team said he had a bruised left leg. He said after the game he hopes to play Friday when the Lakers host the Clippers."We're not sharp," Nash said. "I think the guys are trying, we just didn't live up to what we're trying to do."The Blazers, who finished 28-38 last season and out of the playoffs, opened their season with eight newcomers on the roster after an offseason rebuilding effort around All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Batum."People probably didn't expect us to come out and beat that type of team, but we've been competing very hard in practice, and we did that same thing tonight," Lillard said. "We were flying around, lots of energy. I think our activity kind of wore on them."Portland pulled out to a 30-26 lead late in the first quarter after Matthews' 3-pointer. Lillard extended the lead to 35-26 with a running bank shot in traffic.J.J. Hickson's jumper made it 41-34 for Portland, but Bryant answered for the Lakers with a 3-pointer. Batum's fast-break jam gave the Blazers a 46-40 lead and Portland went into halftime with a 62-57 lead.Portland took its momentum into the second half, going up 72-64 on another dunk by Batum. Sasha Pavlovic's 3-pointer gave the Blazers an 88-76 lead just before Howard was called for his fourth foul.Matthews' jumper made it 102-83 in the fourth quarter. Batum had a 3-pointer to make it 108-94 as the game slipped out of reach for the Lakers.Batum's opener comes after an uncertain offseason as a restricted free agent. The Blazers got into a poker match with the Timberwolves over the 23-year-old Frenchman, eventually matching Minnesota's four-year offer sheet worth more than 45 million.Batum, like the rest of the Blazers, was trying to keep the victory low-key."This was just one game, just one game," he said. "It was a really good win, but we've got to focus on the next game on the road."Portland visits Oklahoma City on Friday night.The Blazers wore new red uniforms for the opener and encouraged fans to wear red, but the crowd was nonetheless sprinkled with plenty of Lakers gold. Among them was a fan that lifted a sign reading, "I love Steve Nash.""The morale is fine, but nobody wants to lose," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "We've just got to focus on what it will take for us to get a win. That's defense, first, and then, obviously, we've got to take care of the basketball."NOTES:The Blazers declined team options for next season on guards Elliott Williams and Nolan Smith, and forward Luke Babbitt, to maintain salary cap flexibility. All three will become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, but the Blazers will retain their Bird rights. ... Portland added 10 players to the roster of the team's NBA D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, including training camp participants Coby Karl, Justin Holiday and Dallas Lauderdale.
PHOENIX -- Robert Kraft drew some scoffs from the media horde surrounding him on Monday when he relayed Tom Brady's intentions for the remainder of his playing career.
"As recently as two, three days ago, he assured me he'd be willing to play six, seven more years," Kraft said. "At the level he performed, there's no one that would be happier than I . . . and our fan base."
Brady put together an MVP-caliber season in 2016 at the age of 39, and he figures to be one of the best at his position during his age 40 season. And judging by his comments during Day 2 of the league meetings here, Kraft wouldn't be surprised if Brady could keep things going well into his mid-40s -- unprecedented as that would be.
"In some ways, you think about, I think there's one player at the age of 40 who had one good year. Favre for the Vikings. But he didn't do so well before," Kraft said. "I think Tommy's sustained excellence is just unbelievable. It's a lifestyle. He's in training now. It's not like he's stopped. He works out.
"I remember after our first Super Bowl in , going down to the training room in the old Foxboro Stadium, three days after we won, and he's in there with the music blaring, working out.
"He's really dedicated and the thing that's amazing about him, to this day, he hasn't changed as a human being in terms of how he relates to people, but also in terms of how he works out. The only thing that's probably changed is how he eats, his diet. I'm not sure avocado ice cream is right for me, but if I could look like him and perform half as well, I guess I'd do it."
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, with crunch time coming in the NHL.
*Jack Todd says that the Hall of Fame needs to reserve a spot for Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov. Is he Hall of Fame material, or Hall of Very Good material?
*The playoff streak is coming to an end for Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings finish out a lost season.
*Thanks to PHT writer James O’Brien for providing the kind of relaxing hockey moment that any dog lover could appreciate.
*Boston College standout Colin White has signed an amateur tryout deal with the Senators, but it remains to be seen if the entry level contract is coming.
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick offers his hot takes about the Canadiens after a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
*The US men’s hockey team may join the women’s team in boycotting the world championships if there isn’t a resolution soon.
*A group of longtime Leafs writers share some of their best stories from the press box.
*In the shameless interest of self-promotion, here’s my hit with Toucher and Rich this morning talking about riding the hot hand with Anton Khudobin.
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Tracey Myers wonders if a lopsided loss will snap the Blackhawks out of their malaise.
*Sidney Crosby fires back at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk after he called the NHL star a whiner recently.
*For something completely different: getting to know new CSNPhilly.com baseball analyst John Kruk, who we all should know pretty well at this point.