Tag Archives: Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks finally show signs of getting their season going after 2-14 start

2:21 AM ET

DALLAS — How does a last-place team suddenly look so good?

“We’ve just been playing how we’re supposed to play,” Wesley Matthews said after the Dallas Mavericks’ 97-81 win Saturday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder. “If we play that way, we’ve got enough talent and enough skill to win games more often than not.”

The Mavs barely won at all during the first month of the season. Dallas dug itself a 2-14 hole that very well might be too deep to climb out of, in terms of fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But they sure are putting their shovels to work.

The rout of the star-studded Thunder, whose 8-11 record makes them the NBA’s most disappointing team so far this season, marked the Mavs’ third win over the past four games. Even the lone loss in that stretch was somewhat impressive, as Dallas built a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Boston Celtics staged a rally to extend their winning streak to 16 games.

For better or worse, the Mavs have experience in this sort of situation. They stumbled out of the gate to a 4-17 start last season and managed to give themselves a slim chance of sneaking into the playoffs until being eliminated in April.

“That’s what gave us the hope that if we continue to fight, we can turn this thing around,” said Harrison Barnes, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds Saturday, a couple of nights after hitting a buzzer-beater to sink the Memphis Grizzlies. “But if we gave in and threw in the towel, this can get really ugly. It’s just a commendable job of everyone in this locker room of just continuing to fight.”

Mavs fans and Dallas sports-talk radio hosts can debate about whether these battles are in the best interests of the franchise’s long-term future. Would it be the worst thing if the Mavs bottomed out this season and earned a top-five lottery ticket to pick a potential star to pair with point guard Dennis Smith Jr.? Would it really benefit Dallas to be competitive for most of the season after being so awful for the first month? Aren’t the playoffs still a pipe dream?

Those discussions won’t be had in the Dallas locker room.

“We’ve put ourselves in such a hole that we don’t really have the luxury to think of big picture,” said Matthews, who had 12 points in the win over the Thunder and was a major factor in Paul George‘s poor night (2 points, 1-of-12 shooting). “Our big picture is the next day.”

Added Smith, who celebrated his 20th birthday by scoring 15 points in a win over Russell Westbrook: “Nobody likes to lose. We’ve got a team full of winners. Regardless of what our record says, we’ve got a team full of winners.”

The biggest winner of all the Mavs, of course, is Dirk Nowitzki. He’ll never again return to 2011 NBA Finals MVP form, but the 20-year veteran has played a significant role in the Mavs’ sudden turnaround.

Nowitzki is a team-best plus-59 over the past four games, averaging 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in that span, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point range. He was plus-26 in only 22 minutes against the Thunder, scoring a season-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

“My legs feel stronger. My stamina is better,” the 39-year-old Nowitzki said. “It just took me a while to get going into the season. Eleven games in 18 days didn’t help against a lot of great, great opponents, but I feel better now and I’m going to keep working.”

The Mavs’ other native of Wurzburg, Germany also has played an important role in the recent improvement. Rookie power forward Maxi Kleber hasn’t put up big numbers as a starter (3.6 points, 3.2 rebounds per game), but the Mavs are 3-2 since including him in the starting frontcourt with Nowitzki and Barnes.

Barnes has benefited from shifting back to small forward in the starting lineup, significantly reducing the banging burden on the Mavs’ go-to guy.

“I definitely appreciate him being in that lineup,” said Barnes, who is averaging 20.2 points and 8.0 rebounds over the past five games.

The Mavs still have much work to do to make themselves relevant. At 5-15, they still have the West’s worst record. But they also have their first winning streak of the season and more wins in the past four games than they had in their first 16.

“It is a little bit of momentum,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, “and it is precious.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/dallas-mavericks/post/_/id/4706774/mavericks-suddenly-dont-look-so-bad-for-a-last-place-team

Rumor Central: Mavericks’ starting center position to remain unsettled?

The Dallas Mavericks have played 17 games so far in the 2017-18 NBA regular season, and Dirk Nowitzki has started all of them. Nowitzki is listed as starting 10 games at center, although a few he may have actually been the power forward, which would increase the number from seven for the position.

Rumor CentralIn addition to Nowitzki, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has also played Nerlens Noel (six starts), Salah Mejri (one start), Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey at center. Will this position remain unsettled for the duration of the 2017-18 season? According to Carlisle, the answer appears to be yes.

“The guys got to roll with it and understand the things they do may only fit in certain stretches,” Carlisle told The Dallas Morning News. “We don’t have the luxury of a rotation right now in indelible ink so far. Which is OK. Sometimes that can keep a team on its toes. It keeps coaches on their toes, too.”

Carlisle’s answer was expected, as his options are very limited since management has not provided him with a starting-caliber center this season. The Mavericks need many upgrades to the roster in the 2018 offseason, and the starting center position should be near the top of the list.

Currently, Noel (unrestricted) and Mejri (restricted) are set to be free agents in 2018. Powell is signed through 2019-20, while Withey has two seasons left, which are not guaranteed. The Mavericks own a team option on Nowitzki for 2018-19.

— Nick Silva

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/nba/rumors/post/_/id/46190/rumor-central-mavericks-starting-center-position-to-remain-unsettled

Rumor Central: Mavs looking at making a roster move?

The Dallas Mavericks have a terrible 2-13 record after 15 games, and they are expected to be at the bottom of the NBA league standings when the 2017-18 NBA regular season ends in April.

Rumor CentralMavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has already been asked several times about potential changes to his playing lineup, and that is something he’s considering with his struggling team. Making changes to the roster is also a possibility the Mavericks’ front office will look at as an option.

“I think we’re pursuing anything and everything out there,” Carlisle told The Dallas Morning News. “At 2-13, pretty sure we’re not standing pat. But my focus is the guys we have right now and helping them fight through this and get better.”

The Mavericks currently have Seth Curry (left tibia stress reaction), Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis), Devin Harris (bruised ribs) and Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) dealing with injuries, which has also impacted Carlisle’s playing rotation.

On Dec. 15, over 90 players who were free agents last summer become trade-eligible, and Dallas might look to make a deal around that time.

One player who could be shopped is center Nerlens Noel. Noel re-signed with the Mavericks as no other suitable offers in the summer came his way, and he’s struggling so far this season. In 14 appearances, Noel is averaging just 15.2 minutes, 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Noel’s deal is just for the 2017-18 season, so he can’t be traded without his consent. If Noel is traded, he will lose his full Bird free-agent rights, which is why he has full veto power.

Others who might be put on the trade block include Harris, Wesley Matthews, McRoberts and Jeff Withey.

Dallas is currently operating as an “over-the-cap” team due to all the exceptions it owns, but just counting payroll, it is $12.5 million below the cap. The cap room does give the Mavericks a lot of flexibility in the trade market.

— Nick Silva

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/nba/rumors/post/_/id/46087/rumor-central-mavs-looking-at-making-a-roster-move

‘Body,’ not Mavs record, will decide when Dirk Nowitzki calls it quits

8:58 AM ET

DALLAS — Even the career of “The Big Mummy” doesn’t stand a chance against Father Time.

Dirk Nowitzki has embraced the nickname bestowed upon him by big-mouthed former teammate and current Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Darrell Armstrong, even participating in a spoof video shown on the arena big screens during games earlier this season.

The self-deprecating Nowitzki’s stiffness is both a source of comedic fodder and a serious issue for the Mavs and their future Hall of Famer, as there’s nothing funny about all the time Nowitzki needs to spend maintaining his body — stretching regimens, massages, strength and conditioning work — to get on the floor.

“He’s got to do so much to keep himself going to be able to play with us,” said Mavs reserve guard J.J. Barea, the only other player on the current roster who was part of the 2011 championship team. “I know he’s having a tough time with his body …

“It’s a full-time job.”

Year 20 could potentially be it for Nowitzki, who has matched Kobe Bryant’s record for longest career while playing for only one franchise. Nowitzki, however, hopes to play at least one more year.

“It’s how the body feels,” Nowitzki told ESPN, adding that the Mavs’ place in the standings won’t play a part in his decision.

“I’d love to play every game. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but that’s how I approached the season. I want to be out there, want to move and want to be out there with the guys. We’ll just have to sit and relax [after] I play through the season and see how I feel. Probably that decision won’t be made until the summer.”

“He’s still complaining like he’s 82 years old, still cracking jokes and giving people s—. He’s still Dirk.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

The Mavs hold a team option for the second season of the two-year, $10 million deal Nowitzki signed over the summer. There is zero question about whether Nowitzki, as loyal as anyone who has ever played in the league, would be welcomed back. The Mavs control the contractual option, but the decision is Nowitzki’s to make.

“I hope so,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said when asked whether he believes Nowitzki will opt to play next season at age 40. “I think there’s a really good chance he is [coming back], because he wants to break the record for years with one team and be that one guy. Not many people have that opportunity.

“He’s still having fun,” Cuban added.

The camaraderie hasn’t changed with Nowitzki as he’s gotten older. He remains a relentless trash-talker in the locker room, around the facility, and on buses and planes, and never shies away from poking fun at himself.

Last week, Nowitzki playfully made a spectacle of himself by attempting the dribble moves made famous by Mavs player development coach God Shammgod.

“He’s still complaining like he’s 82 years old, still cracking jokes and giving people s—,” Cuban said. “He’s still Dirk.”

For Nowitzki and the Mavs, the season hasn’t been particularly rewarding so far. It didn’t help that the Mavs had a busy early schedule and that training camp was cut by a week to start the regular season earlier, issues that caused grumbling from the 7-footer.

“That week of training camp they stole [from] me, I guess it was good for the schedule, but it wasn’t good for me,” Nowitzki said after Saturday night’s home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which followed three off days.

“I didn’t feel good there the first week, but after that, it’s been OK. Just the 11 [games] in 18 [nights] was a bit much. I had some swelling here and there, but this week was good for me.”

Nowitzki’s numbers — averages of 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 41.4 percent from the floor — are down significantly from last season (14.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 43.7 percent) and are the worst since his rookie year. He’s playing primarily center instead of power forward as a concession to his increasingly limited mobility, to put it politely.

His mere presence still benefits the Mavs offensively, even though he’s almost solely a catch-and-shoot threat at this age, no longer effective on the isolation and post-up plays he scored so many buckets on over the years. Dallas is a defensive disaster with Nowitzki on the floor, bleeding for an average of 117.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.

“He helps us cover some things on offense, and we’ve got to help him defensively some, too,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

“But never underestimate greatness at any age.”

The hometown discounts Nowitzki took didn’t help the Mavericks land the established superstar(s) they needed to maintain their elite status following the run of 11 50-win seasons, a pair of Finals appearances and a title on the shoulders of the No. 6 scorer in NBA history.

Their misses and punts in the draft delayed the process of developing a core of young talent to give Dallas a chance to extend their winning window into another era, as the San Antonio Spurs did by passing the torch from Tim Duncan to Kawhi Leonard.

Oh, how things would have been different in Dallas if Cuban had listened to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, when the Mavs got a lottery ticket after their long run of playoff appearances ended.

Nelson advised Cuban to take Giannis Antetokounmpo, an intriguing but raw Greek prospect, with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, but Cuban’s focus was on the salary cap entering the summer free-agency shopping period.

Cuban opted to trade down twice, saving about $400,000 in cap space, needing every penny to make a max run at Dwight Howard. Howard, of course, chose Houston over Dallas (and has made a couple of stops since then). Antetokounmpo indeed ended up being pretty dang good.

The big German passing the torch to the Greek Freak is an alternate reality. In actuality, the Mavs are in the early stages of a rebuilding project in Nowitzki’s 20th season, sitting with the league’s worst record at 2-12 despite 19-year-old rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr.‘s flashes of brilliance.

Nowitzki is certainly not giving up. Dallas stumbled to a 2-13 start last season, with Nowitzki missing most of that time due to Achilles soreness. The Mavs still managed to position themselves as a playoff long shot late in the season, and he’s hoping the current Mavs will put up a similar fight.

“As long as we compete, I think we have a decent team,” Nowitzki said, noting that guard Seth Curry‘s return from a stress reaction in his leg will be a big boost.

“We just need to find a couple ways to sneak some [wins] out.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/21403593/nba-body-not-dallas-mavericks-record-decide-dirk-nowitzki-calls-quits

LeBron: Smith talk meant to troll Phil Jackson

2:33 PM ET

NEW YORK — LeBron James admitted he was taking aim at former New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and not the Knicks organization when he said this past weekend that Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. “should be a Knick.”

James made waves Saturday when he said the Knicks “passed on a really good one” in this year’s draft by selecting Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick ahead of Smith, who went No. 9 overall to Dallas.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star clarified those remarks Monday, saying he was not “throwing shade at Frank at all, for people that got their pants in bunches.”

James confirmed that his comments were directed toward Jackson, who parted ways with the Knicks this past June less than a week after presiding over New York’s selection of the French guard Ntilikina.

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a shot at him,” James said. “That’s for sure.”

James publicly called out Jackson last year after the Hall of Fame coach referred to the four-time league MVP’s business associates as a “posse” in an interview with ESPN.

“I had nothing but respect for him as a coach for what he was able to do,” James said at the time. “Obviously he was at the helm of [the team featuring] my favorite player of all time [Michael Jordan], and also being there growing up and watching him with the Lakers, but I got nothing for him.”

James acknowledged Monday that he is “not a fan” of Jackson but said he has “no problem with the Knicks.”

“Phil was just a small piece [of the Knicks’ recent struggles],” James said. “Well, he was a big piece of it, actually. I don’t have no problem with the Knicks organization. I wasn’t here, so I don’t know the insights and everything. … Y’all know how they handled the Carmelo [Anthony] situation, but I’m not a fan of Phil Jackson, though. I think you guys already know that. Let’s not … that’s the past, though. He’s not even here anymore.”

Knicks big man Enes Kanter came to Ntilikina’s defense on Twitter on Saturday night and elaborated on his stance at practice Sunday.

“I don’t care who, I just cannot let anyone disrespect my family like that, because when I play for an organization, I see my teammates and that organization as like a family,” Kanter told reporters. “And it doesn’t matter if it’s LeBron or whoever it is, I cannot just let him disrespect him like that. The coaches, the GMs, the president, this organization knows what they’re doing. … I mean, come on. That’s a rookie. You cannot just say anything like that about him.

“I don’t care, it doesn’t matter LeBron or whoever it is. I don’t care who. I cannot let anyone disrespect my family like that.”

James laughed off Kanter’s rebuttal.

“For Enes Kanter, who always got something to say,” James said. “He says … I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

Smith has registered 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, compared to Ntilikina’s 4.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists, but considering the Knicks’ 7-5 record versus the Mavs’ 2-12 mark and Ntilikina’s superior 104.5 defensive rating (compared to Smith’s 113.8), their rookie campaigns are somewhat comparable so far.

“I know what Dennis Smith is capable of doing,” said James, who has worked out with the Mavs guard in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and also has played against him at his annual summer skills academy. “And I knew the Knicks had been looking for a point guard. Am I stating things that’s false? No. This is facts, right? I thought they would pick him, but, like I said there was no shade at Frank. I don’t even know the kid. I wasn’t even thinking about the kid when I was talking about Dennis Smith. I was thinking about the Knicks organization, and Phil Jackson at the time, and Dennis Smith’s talent, and [Kristaps] Porzingis. That’s all I was thinking about.”

James kept his general manager hat on to take a shot at the hapless Cleveland Browns, who are in the midst of a miserable 0-9 season and whose quarterback rotation of DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler has combined for eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions on the year.

“It’s the same if I, I mean, I think DeShaun Watson should be a Brown,” James said of the Houston Texans QB, who was selected at No. 12 with a pick acquired from Cleveland in a trade. He posted 19 touchdowns and eight picks before suffering a season-ending knee injury. “Doesn’t mean that Myles Garrett isn’t going to be a great football player. But Deshaun Watson should’ve been our quarterback. Doesn’t mean you’re s—-ing on the next guy. It’s just that you stating what you see. That’s all that is, for clarification of people who just live in the box.”

James, who has always been generally well received by Knicks fans and has two 50-point games at Madison Square Garden on his résumé already, was asked if that vibe could change Monday following his recent comments.

“Man, I don’t care,” James said. “What’s going to be worse here than I’ve felt before in my career? I’m just stating facts, that’s all. Have y’all seen him play? Man, get out of here. Y’all be tripping here.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/21399872/lebron-james-admits-trolling-phil-jackson-dennis-smith-jr-comments

LeBron admits Smith talk for Phil Jackson

LeBron James admitted he was trolling former New York Knicks president Phil Jackson when he said this past weekend that Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. “should be a Knick.”

James made waves Saturday when he said the Knicks “passed on a really good one” in this year’s draft by selecting Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick ahead of Smith, who went No. 9 overall to Dallas.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star clarified those remarks Monday, saying he was not “throwing shade at Frank at all, for people that got their pants in bunches.”

James confirmed that his comments were directed toward Jackson, who parted ways with the Knicks this past June.

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a shot at him,” James said. “That’s for sure.”

James publicly called out Jackson last year after the Hall of Fame coach referred to the four-time league MVP’s business associates as a “posse” in an interview with ESPN.

James acknowledged Monday that he is “not a fan” of Jackson but said he has “no problem with the Knicks.”

“Phil was just a small piece [of the Knicks’ recent struggles],” James said. “Well he was a big piece of it, actually. I don’t have no problem with the Knicks organization. I wasn’t here so I don’t know the insights and everything. … Y’all know how they handled the Carmelo situation, but I’m not a fan of Phil Jackson, though. I think you guys already know that. Let’s not — that’s the past, though. He’s not even here anymore.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/21399872/lebron-james-admits-trolling-phil-jackson-dennis-smith-jr-comments