Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says Dallas looked to lose as much as it could once the team was out of postseason contention this season.
“Once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything possible to lose games,” Cuban said on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday.
Cuban said the primary way to ensure the Mavericks would lose was to play their young players, including Yogi Ferrell, Nerlens Noel and Dorian Finney-Smith — three players with less than three years of experience who averaged more than 20 minutes per game for Dallas this season.
The Mavericks owner acknowledged that it wasn’t the players who were throwing games.
“Once a guy walks on the court, they’re going to play their heart out,” Cuban said. “Particularly the young guys because they have something to prove.”
Dallas started an injury-marred season 3-15 and never got closer than eight games below .500.
The Mavericks were officially eliminated from the playoffs April 1. They went 2-5 after that to finish 33-49 on the season.
They weren’t able to cash in on their 6.1 percent odds of landing a top-three pick through the lottery and will select ninth overall in next month’s draft.
Cuban didn’t give a ringing endorsement to the lottery system in his comments to Patrick.
“It works well enough, I guess,” Cuban said of the lottery. “It obviously creates some misincentives toward the end of the season for teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs. Until you come up with a better solution, that’s what we’ve got.”
According to The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to sign Ding Yanyuhang in early July, so the swingman can play for their Summer League team.
Ding plays in the Chinese Basketball Association with the Shandong Golden Stars, and this season he won the MVP award for the league. In 39 CBA games, Ding averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
The Mavericks had five rookies on the roster this season as they are looking to develop young players, so having Ding join them in July makes sense. According to Eddie Sefko, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said the Mavericks might sign Ding, 23, to the new “Two-Way” rule, which allows NBA teams to have up to two more players on the roster who can go back-and-forth between the NBA and D-League.
Should Ding sign with Dallas, he will be the second player from China to be on the roster. The first was Wang ZhiZhi, who the Mavericks selected with the No. 36 pick in the 1999 NBA draft.
The Dallas Mavericks will know their position in the first round of the 2017 June draft when the NBA holds the lottery on Tuesday night. Whether the Mavericks move into the top three, stay put at No. 9, or move down, they are planning to keep their lottery pick instead of trading it for an established veteran, a source tells The Dallas Morning News.
Eddie Sefko writes: “The reasoning? They have begun the youth movement, and once you start, there’s no going back. Plus, assuming they remain at ninth, whatever player they might be able to acquire for that pick isn’t going to put them over the top this coming season.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban mentioned the need to upgrade the backcourt when speaking to the media at the beginning of April.
“We have to get better at point, there’s no question,” Cuban said. “If we can’t do it in the draft, we’ll look at free agency and see what we can do. Yogi Ferrell is going to get better. Seth Curry will continue to get better. I’d love to see Nico Brussino play some point forward and see how that works. He’s probably one of our best passers.
“We’ll have depth, but we have to get that one pass-first point guard. That’s what we don’t have.”
The 2017 NBA draft will feature as many as five point guards selected in the top-10 picks, and the Mavericks could take one of them. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Dallas selecting French point guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 9 in his Mock Draft 4.1. Ford writes: “In a draft less loaded with point guards, he could be a top-five pick. He’s skilled, tough and a good shooter. He would have a great shot at being the Mavs’ point guard of the future to run with young players like Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel.”
Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said re-signing forward/center Nerlens Noel is a top priority for the team this offseason. Noel becomes a restricted free agent once the 2017-18 salary-cap year begins July 1.
“Noel is going to be a guy that we’ve got to get signed,” Carlisle told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He’s an exciting young talent and I do think he can expand his game, but we’ve got to be careful about doing too much too soon.
“So much of the success in this league is really geared toward a group of guys being tied together in the locker room and having a set of definable skills. We want there to be an element of positive predictability within the team so that everybody knows what everybody can do.”
The Mavericks acquired Noel on Feb. 23 in a trade that sent Andrew Bogut and Justin Anderson to the Philadelphia 76ers. In 22 games, including 12 starts, with the Mavericks, Noel averaged 8.5 points (57.5 percent from the field) and 6.8 rebounds.
Always Dreaming’s victory was only part of the attraction at Churchill Downs on Saturday. As usual, this year’s Kentucky Derby overflowed with celebrities in pastels and bonnets donning their loudest spring fashions, including some of the nation’s most distinguished athletes.
Boston Sports legends Tom Brady and David Ortiz were among the most notable sightings at the track. Here’s our favorite athlete fashions from Saturday’s race:
Dallas Mavericks’ Tunisian center Salah Mejri talks to KweséESPN about his second NBA season, both on and off the court, and reflects on the highs and lows of life in the league, from angry exchanges, to dips in form, and finding his feet in Texas.
KweséESPN: Before the season began, you participated in an NBA Africa camp in Tunisia and did Basketball Without Borders too. How did those go?
Salah Mejri: We had a couple of camps back home; I had three camps with the NBA and it was really successful for the first time in Tunisia, and then we went to Basketball Without Borders in Angola with the NBA. It was a great experience for me. I like to be there working with the kids … it’s always fun. In Tunisia we had two kids, maybe three, that we hooked up with a university here (in the USA) to give them scholarships to finish their studies and play basketball at the same time. We have a couple of kids who are young, 14 or 15 years old, but they are very tall so we will come back and see them this summer too and keep an eye on them.
This was your second season in the NBA and with the Dallas Mavericks. How do you feel it went?
It was hard. I don’t think there is any season for any player in the NBA that seems easy. You play a lot of games, a lot of traveling. For me it’s easier and clearer now because last year was a bit crazy for me. Go to D-League, come back from the D-League, play, don’t play, dressing, not dressing … everything was new for me. But I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning, of course. I felt more comfortable with the season. I’m happy, but I’m not happy that we are not in the playoffs (they ended 11th in the Western Conference). Nobody is happy with how the season ended up for us but that’s sports … we have to get everything together for next season.
What adjustments did you make from your first season to your second?
Now I know what the coach wants from me, what my teammates want from me. I know I have to be focused and be more than professional to gain minutes, to play, to compete. I learned how to travel – with my height it’s so hard to sit in an airplane for three hours! When I speak to some people from back home, I say, “Oh I’m going to LA.” They say, “Oh wow you’re going to LA, you’re very lucky.” It’s not like that because you will get to the hotel, you have dinner, you sleep, the next day you have to practice in the morning, then you go to nap, eat, sleep, game, leave. It’s not for fun. I’m not going to LA to have fun.
Have you adjusted to coach Rick Carlisle’s system – his offensive style and the defensive philosophy?
This year I got more comfortable with the team. I understand what the coach wants from me, when he wants to use me, when he doesn’t want to use me, because lots of people are asking me, “Some nights you are playing 20 minutes, 25, some nights you don’t play at all.” I’m a professional player, I have to be ready whenever the coach needs me. I will go in and play as hard as I can for one minute or for 20 minutes. That’s the thing coaches or anybody else can’t complain about me … whether I’m playing hard. Maybe I play bad, but I will play hard!
Who on the team has helped you the most in terms of adjustment on and off the court?
Mike Procopio, the coach of player development, he’s been helping me a lot. “Don’t give up, don’t worry.” It’s hard when you come from a country where you play a lot and then you come here you go to D-League, you don’t play too much, you don’t know when your name will be called. I was ready, he made me stay ready. Zaza [Pachulia] last year, with Golden State now, was helping me a lot on the court, Andrew Bogut too. Wesley [Matthews] has a lot of confidence in me, he’s always pushing me, trying to help me with a lot of things. Dirk [Nowitzki], JJ [Barea], Dwight [Powell] … even though he doesn’t have a lot more experience than me in the NBA, he knows things that I don’t know. Just talking in practice, Wes talks to me: “Okay, we need you, don’t get defocused, tomorrow is this player or that player that we need you to guard.” And 82 games is a lot of games. One night you are good, one night you are bad. One night you don’t play. You just have to stay with it and think about the next game.
Maybe one bad thing that hurt me a little bit was the fight with Ariza. It went out of control, to the next level that I didn’t want to go there. Like we had some blah blah blah on the court, [but] it should end on the court. He said that I said bad things about his family, his little kids, about his mom. I never did. I’m not that kind of player. I will trash talk, for sure, with any player that trash talks to me. If you start it then you have to take it from me. I’m not sitting down or backing up from anybody.
I hear you’re going to Germany to work with shooting coach Holger Geschwinder?
I may go work with him for a couple of weeks. I talked to Dirk [Nowitzki] about it already and he said he will be there during the summer. I have a clear role here: blocking shots, running, energy … it’s not about shooting because we have two players who can shoot the ball. When I played in Europe I was shooting a lot. But to be a more successful shooter, I have to work on it with one of the best coaches who made Dirk a legend. I’m gonna do it and if it’s gonna help then it could be perfect; if not then I’m not losing anything.
I am speechless when it comes to Dirk. This is his 19th season and he still treats this thing as seriously as his early years. He comes here first, he leaves here last, he takes care of his body. He will do extra work, he will do extra shooting. He is a very funny dude, very humble, very down to earth. He’s sixth on the all-time scoring list. One of only six players who have 30 000 points. He will talk to every player in this locker room equally, he will treat everybody the same. He is a great person and a legend.
Is there a player you’ve tried to model your game on?
I like the way Kevin Garnett plays; I always wanted to play like him. He is very intense, very aggressive. Fight for the ball, block shots, fight for the game. Maybe I don’t have as much talent as him, but that’s the type of player I am – blocking shots, energy, agitator, try to be everywhere and do anything that can change the game.
What are your off-season plans?
I’m going home to Tunisia to visit my family. Then there is the AfroBasket [in August]. I have to see how my knee is [he had surgery on it before the current season]. Here I’ve been playing 12 minutes a game, averaging 14 or whatever. If I go to the national team I have to play 35 maybe 40 minutes, so I don’t know if that will be healthy for me. I still need to talk about that with the team and see if I can play or not.
Talking about your national team, Tunisia have been a little inconsistent over the years in AfroBasket. A gold medal one year, ninth place another year …
For this generation basketball is new … we started 2009 I think. Then we won it in Madagascar [in 2011] then we finish 9th in 2013; it was a big upset for us. Everybody thought we were gonna win it, but during that summer we played too much, I think. We didn’t take any rest, we kept just playing and that was tiring for us and that made the difference that year. Then in Tunisia [hosts in 2015], I got hurt. I played little bit in the semifinal but I couldn’t play anymore. We finished third. I think that’s a good result when your best player gets hurt.