Posted on: September 21, 2010 5:56 pm
It wouldn't be time for another NBA season without the Mavericks feeling like championship contenders. But this time, the feeling is different. This time, there's a palpable belief that the Mavs had better get it done this year or their window will be closed -- for a long time, if not for good.
That's a little drastic. They're still not better than the Lakers, and still might not be able to get past the Spurs in a best-of-7 playoff series. But the Mavs enter training camp as a much better team than the one that lost to San Antonio in the first round a few months ago. With no cap space -- cap space can't score or defend, after all -- Mark Cuban struck out on the major free-agent targets. But the addition of Tyson Chandler certainly will help. Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki know the window is closing, but maybe this is a good spot for them to be in. With all eyes on the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic, maybe the Mavs can quietly be in the mix. If it's possible for Cuban's team to do anything quietly.
Training camp site: Southern Methodist University
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (trade), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Ian Mahinmi (free agent), Dominique Jones (draft).
Key subtractions: Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade), Matt Carroll (trade).
Likely starting lineup: Jason Kidd, PG; Caron Butler, SG; Shawn Marion, SF; Dirk Nowitzki, PF; Tyson Chandler, C
Player to watch: Butler. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad, he’s divisive.
Chemistry quiz: There shouldn’t be any chemistry issues on a team with so many veterans getting their last realistic shot at a championship. There shouldn’t be. But there could be, especially given that not everyone (Mark Cuban included) was on board with the rotations and substitution patterns Carlisle utilized during another underwhelming (and brief) playoff run. Teams like these, with established players vying for their spot in the pecking order, can come unglued if things don’t go well. (Did we mention Cuban’s recent comments that the Mavs have enough size and depth to beat the Lakers?)
Injury check: Speedster Rodrigue Beaubois is likely out until November following surgery on his broken left foot.
Camp battles: Ultimately, Carlisle faces only two starting lineup decisions. But they’re important ones: Whether to start Chandler or Brendan Haywood at center, and whether Butler starts at shooting guard with Marion at the three, or Butler at the three with Beaubois (once he’s healthy) starting in the backcourt with Kidd. Neither one of those decisions will be made in October. But all eyes will be on first-round pick (acquired from Memphis) Dominique Jones, a slasher who has a chance to crack Carlisle’s rotation and give the Mavs the dribble-penetration element they sorely lacked last season.
Biggest strength: Size and depth. If 6-11 Frenchman Ian Mahinmi stands on a croissant, the Mavs have five legitimate 7-footers: Mahinmi, Nowitzki, Chandler, Haywood and Alexis Ajinca. It can be argued – as Cuban did recently – that Dallas is the team best equipped to combat the Lakers’ twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. First, the Mavs should worry about getting past the Spurs.
Glaring weakness: Age and miles. The window is closing fast on Kidd, Dirk and Marion, and Jason Terry, all of a sudden, is 33.
Posted on: February 4, 2010 3:03 pm
I'm a little late to the party on this one. And being that I'm heading to Dallas a week from Thursday for All-Star weekend, I need to step up my game -- because folks in Dallas evidently like to show up at the party early and drink often.
You probably have heard by now about the two women who somehow gained access to the Trail Blazers' huddle in Dallas Saturday, and how one of them gained, um, access to Rudy Fernandez. One of the women -- whom Jerryd Bayless described to the Oregonian as "drunk" -- grabbed Fernandez during the incident and gave him a hug. The ladies were allowed to return to their seats. The NBA has said it's investigating the incident.
I don't attend many games in Dallas, but I sit courtside at my fair share in Madison Square Garden. And I assure you, if such an incident had occurred at MSG, those women would've been led out of the building in handcuffs. If they were lucky. At two separate games this season, I witnessed a particularly beefy MSG security guard charged with protecting the visiting team's bench virtually challenge an unruly fan to a fight. One of the fans, who was accosting members of the Toronto Raptors' bench, clearly had his beer muscles in full effect and decided to go nose-to-nose with the aforementioned beefy security guard. Bad idea. The bouncer -- for lack of a better term -- walked Joe Six Pack all the way up the aisle, down a flight of stairs, and into a hallway. Lord only only knows what happened next.
The Garden security staff is notoriously aggressive, which I suppose in a case like this would've been a good thing. Mavs owner Mark Cuban was right; this sort of thing happens all the time in NBA arenas. A couple of years ago, a fan made his way onto the court and tried to high-five LeBron James during a timeout. I don't remember what happened to that fan. I'm sure the fan doesn't, either.
Posted on: July 24, 2009 3:56 pm
As juicy as the court records of the dispute between Mark Cuban and Don Nelson are, there's got to be a better way to settle this. I propose something that would make millions for Cuban, which he could then agree to split with his former coach.
How about a Nellie vs. Cuban cage match on Cuban's HDNet?
The contest wouldn't last long, unless it was a drinking contest. One time when I spoke with Cuban about how he, then-Knicks president Isiah Thomas, and myself all had attended Indiana University, Cuban remarked that he was simply a "freshman alcoholic" when Isiah was in Bloomington. (Cuban later realized he had his dates wrong; he was a senior, I believe, when Isiah was a freshman.) Anyway, I confided that I'd had my fair share of fun at IU, but sadly had matriculated to a much less lucrative career than both he and Isiah.
I bet Cuban can still knock a few back, and we all know that Nellie only recently -- and begrudgingly -- gave up his customary beer during postgame media briefings. So I think this idea has some potential. The potential to be entertaining and also to save both sides any more legal costs.
The most interesting part of the transcripts recently made public in the dispute over $7 million in back pay Nelson claims Cuban owes him is a passage in which Nelson claims Cuban cut him out of personnel decisions. Cuban allegedly did this in retaliation for Nellie's decision not to play an injured Dirk Nowitzki in Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference finals. I'm not taking sides because A) I have no idea who's right, and B) I hope Cuban and Nellie continue to give people like me material to write about for as long as possible. But freezing someone out of front-office decisions? That sounds eerily like what happened to Chris Mullin in Golden State. Karma travels on a boomerang in the NBA.
To wit: If Cuban and Nellie settle out of court and take their dispute to the pay-per-view airwaves, this blog post will be cited as evidence that I deserve a cut of the proceeds. Unfortunately, those transcripts will be a lot less interesting.
Posted on: May 12, 2009 7:59 am
After witnessing the deplorable, embarrassing scene in his arena Monday night -- in which some Mavs fans did their best Mark Cuban impersonation -- Cuban had no choice. He had to issue an apology to Kenyon Martin for pointing and shouting at K-Mart's mother as he left the court after the controversial ending in Game 3.
Cuban's version -- and no one else has offered a credible one -- is that someone shouted that the Nuggets were "thugs" after Carmelo Anthony evaded a foul attempt by Antoine Wright and hit the deciding 3-pointer on Saturday. As Cuban stormed into the tunnel, he admits that he pointed to Martin's mother and said, "That includes your son."
Martin, of course, was furious, saying before Game 4 Monday night that he planned to meet "face-to-face" with Cuban.
"It's a little personal, and I'm going to take care of it," Martin said. "I'm not going to do the whole media thing, back and forth. That's his thing. I'm more of a face-to-face type of dude."
After some of Martin's family members were harassed at the game -- won in dramatic fashion by the Mavs -- Cuban decided to issue an apology to Martin in his blog. That's great. It was the right thing to do. Cuban also invited Martin's family to watch Game 6 -- if the series returns to Dallas -- in his suite with his family. If that wasn't acceptable, Cuban offered to give them their own suite.
A noble gesture. Just wondering, though. If Mavs fans hadn't acted like such jackasses Monday night, would Cuban still have felt compelled to apologize? Was he sincerely apologizing for his actions, or did he feel as though he had no choice but to apologize for the boneheaded fans who decided to act like him?
"When tempers and such start impacting the fan experience both in Dallas and Denver, and it requires special security, that's not what I want for Mavs or Nuggets fans," Cuban wrote. "No one takes more abuse and gets more threats on the road than I do. So I know exactly how it feels. I’ve also had my family and friends spit on at games in this series. So I know how unpleasant that is as well. It’s a dirty secret that all arenas need to do a better job of protection for visiting team fans, particularly during the playoffs. So at this point I would like to apologize to you and your mom, KMart, for my comment. I should have not said anything and I was wrong. Hopefully you will accept the apology and we can move on."
Cuban added, "We tried to have enough additional security for them tonight as well, but I know your family and friends didn’t feel as comfortable as they should. I apologize for that as well. This arena is my responsibility, we could and should do a better job."
That's all well and good. I just find it interesting that, while everyone -- including Cuban, apparently -- remains so quick to apply the "thug" label to NBA players, sometimes the real thugs and jackasses are the people sitting in the stands.
Cuban was right about one thing. As these playoff games get more and more heated and emotional, the NBA needs to make sure that its teams do whatever it takes to keep the responsible spectators safe from the knuckleheads. They need to make sure the players and their families, who sit in such proximity to the garden variety idiots, are not in harm's way. To this point, the most embarrassing and disgraceful moment in NBA history came when Ron Artest charged into the stands to retaliate against a fan who'd thrown a beer at him. If more attention isn't devoted to the issue of arena safety -- especially at a time when revenues and non-player payrolls are shrinking -- the next black mark on the NBA is going to be a player or his family being harmed in a visiting arena.
So I'm glad Cuban apologized and it's good that he put the spotlight on the issue of arena safety. Now if he wouldn't mind setting a better example for how fans are supposed to act, that would be even better. We expect boorish behavior from Joe Sixpack with a 12-pack in his belly. From a college-educated billionaire who has done a lot of good things for society, I don't think it's asking too much to expect a little more.
Posted on: May 12, 2009 1:17 am
The dismantling of the Mavs is delayed another two days. The feud between Mark Cuban and Kenyon Martin's family lives to see another day. All that commotion behind the Nuggets' bench during Game 4 Monday night? Evidently, that was K-Mart's family being harassed by classy Mavs fans.
K-Mart exited the court after Dallas' series-extending victory shouting what most certainly were not pleasantries. I can only guess they were directed at Cuban.
But all that stuff is a sideshow. Two things jump out at me as this series moves to Denver for Game 5 Wednesday night.
One, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke should thank the Mavs for extending the series another game. Another home playoff date equals another sellout crowd, lots of hot dogs, sodas, and beers sold at the concessions, and a free night of much-needed revenue.
Two, the Nuggets had better figure out how to close this series out Wednesday night without losing their cool. As I told Jason Horowitz earlier Monday, a Lakers-Nuggets conference finals is no sure thing for Kobe & Co. The Nugs are supremely talented, play underrated defense, have the kind of toughness under the basket that the Lakers lack as long as Andew Bynum remains invisible, and have Carmelo Anthony showing signs that he might be just as dangerous on the playoff stage as Kobe.
But the last thing Denver needs in a closeout game at home is to lose its composure. All it'll take is one flagrant foul -- and we all know how blurred that line as become -- to get somebody suspended for Game 1 of the conference finals.
So K-Mart & Co. need to leave their grudges with Cuban in Dallas. Forget about it. It's over. Focus on the game and what needs to be done to finish the series and keep it from going back to Dallas. And don't get anybody suspended for Game 1 against the Lakers.
There's a saying in sports journalism: When in doubt, be Dave Anderson, the venerable Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times. The Nuggets need to adopt a different form of that approach. When in doubt, be Chauncey Billups. This is why the Nuggets traded for Billups, because he knows how to close out teams and he knows how to win playoff series. Most importantly, he knows how to keep his composure in what has become a chippy, emotional, vindictive series.
Get it over with and keep your cool. Let the security guards keep your family safe, let the NBA deal with Cuban, and play your game.
Oh, and let your owner count all the free dollars that will flow into the bank by virtue of having to close this out at home. See, I'm an optimist at heart.
Posted on: April 29, 2009 11:20 am
The Tweet came across a couple of hours after the Mavericks had eliminated the Spurs, who will not be venturing past the first round for the first time since 2000. How many starting point guards in the west under the age of 30 will be playing after saturday? #fb
Take a bow, Cubes. Just don't strain your back.
The taunt obviously was in response to a world of critics -- myself included -- of Cuban's decision to trade Devin Harris to the Nets at last season's trade deadline. Now that the Mavs have slain the Spurs' dynasty, Cuban is well within his rights to gloat.
At the advanced age of 36, Kidd had an excellent series against San Antonio, shooting 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Rick Carlisle did a nice coaching job with Kidd, playing him with J.J. Barea and protecting the slowing, aging Kidd from his defensive liabilities. Cuban is right in that by the end of the weekend, the two younger point guards in the West most capable of exposing Kidd on the defensive end -- Tony Parker and Chris Paul -- will be at home and not on the court. The other is Houston's Aaron Brooks, but the Mavs wouldn't see him until the conference finals -- and only if they can beat Denver and the Rockets can knock off the Lakers (assuming they finish off Portland at home Thursday night).
Chauncey Billups is tough to defend, but doesn't have the burst that Parker and Paul possess. With a combination of Kidd's savvy, Barea's peskiness, and Antoine Wright's length, Carlisle should be able to figure out a way to keep Kidd from getting sliced and diced too badly in the second round, too.
The bottom line is this: Yes, Harris is a better player with bigger upside than Kidd at this stage of their careers. But this is an example of a progressive owner taking a calculated risk and watching it pay off. It is hard to argue with the results. Harris and the Nets won 34 games this season and are saddled with Kidd's former running mate, Vince Carter, and his $34 million over the next two seasons. The Mavs are done with Kidd after the playoffs are over. And for them, the playoffs are far from over.
Given the Hornets' 58-point loss to the Nuggets in Game 4, it isn't too early to look ahead to Mavs-Nuggets in the conference semifinals. Denver will have home court by virtue of its 54 wins compared to 50 for the Mavs. The Nuggets swept the regular season series 4-0. although three of those losses were by three points or less. But once you're this deep into the playoffs, regular season matchups don't mean as much. It's about how you're playing now, and the Mavs have their superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, playing at a high level. They also have an effective bench led by sixth man of the year Jason Terry, a certain geriatric point guard who's still hanging on, and a trigger-happy, tweeting owner who isn't afraid to point out when he's right.
Posted on: April 20, 2009 1:56 pm
Here I am at LaGuardia's Marine Air Terminal, killing a few minutes before heading up to Boston for a very critical Game 2 for the defending champion Celtics. If you were following me on Twitter, you'd already know that. If, on the other hand, you have a life ...
Anyway, a canceled flight has given me a chance to bring you a bonus, pre-game version of Buzzer Beaters. Buzzer Beaters 2.0 will arrive after Monday night's games.
What do the Celtics need to do Monday night to keep their slim repeat hopes alive? Much more than slow down Derrick Rose. Obviously, they're going to need more than 1-for-12 shooting from Ray Allen, and they're going to need more than 8-for-21 shooting from Paul Pierce. More important than all of that is the rebounding factor. KG or no KG, the Celtics cannot get outrebounded like this (53-45 in Game 1) on a consistent basis and expect to win this series. Rose hurt them the most with his timely baskets and fearless penetration. But you can argue that after Rose, Joakim Noah's 17 rebounds were the biggest factor that doomed the Celtics.
Ball movement -- or lack of it -- is the other one. Sixteen assists on 39 field goals? That's not going to cut it, whether the Celtics are playing Rose's Bulls or Jordan's Bulls. (Monday night, by the way, is the 23rd anniversary of MJ's 63-point playoff performance against the Celtics.)
The other game Monday night is every bit as intriguing and just as important for the home team. The Spurs' reconfigured bench kept them afloat for much of this season when Manu Ginobili has been out. It needs to deliver in Game 2 and not get run off the court by J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, and Jason Terry. All these Game 1 road upsets have illustrated to all of us how little we know. That educuation would be furthered if the proud, veteran, playoff-tested Spurs and Celtics take another one on the chin. The numbers would suggest that the Spurs are in more trouble than the Celtics. Boston can write off Game 1 to simply being unable to win when your two top scorers shoot 9-for-33. But the Spurs got outstanding games from Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, made 11 of 14 3-pointers, and got Michael Finley's highest scoring game in more than five weeks (19 points). Yeesh. Mark Cuban will be Tweeting his brains out if the Mavs win this one.
Posted on: February 18, 2009 8:22 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2009 12:57 am
UPDATE: After hearing and reading media reports that Tracy McGrady will have season-ending microfracture surgery on his ailing left knee, the Houston Rockets aren't ready to pack it in. They might be looking to do something big.
"Not happening," a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com early Thursday.
The Rockets and Clippers discussed a trade that would've freed Davis from a disastrous return to his hometown and allowed the Rockets to remain in contention without McGrady. One possibility, first reported by SportingNews.com, had the Clippers willing to take back McGrady even though he won't play the rest of the season and faces a long recovery from the microfracture procedure.
That should tell you everything you need to know about how desperately Clippers owner Donald Sterling wants to retreat from the rare spending spree that resulted in Davis going to Clipperland in the first place. There figure to be other suitors for Davis, who has four years and $54 million left on his contract. Thus, possible landing spots would have to be limited to financially sound teams willing to take risks. (Mark Cuban, are you out there?)
The Sporting News' initial report on the Baron-to-Houston scenario quoted a person close to Davis saying, "It would be best for everyone if Baron moved on." That smells like an inside job, with Davis and his operatives trying to drum up an exit strategy to a solid playoff team. (Hey, it would beat the heck out of finishing the season with the 13-41 Clippers.) One team executive expressed serious doubts early Thursday that the Clippers would be successful in their Dump Baron campaign.
As for the Rockets, another source said they're telling teams they're working on "smaller deals." So while they're not taking McGrady's season-ending injury passively, they're not alarmed enough to make a $54 million bet.