DALLAS -- Kobe Bryant is sitting out his third straight game to rest his sore body, missing the Lakers' matchup Friday night at Dallas.
Bryant was sidelined Tuesday night when Los Angeles beat NBA-leading Golden State, then again Christmas night at Chicago. The game against the Mavericks was the third in four nights for the Lakers.
The 36-year-old Bryant has said his knees, feet, back and Achilles tendons are all sore.
In his 19th NBA season, Bryant entered Friday third in the league in scoring at 24.6 points per game. He passed Michael Jordan for third place on the career scoring list Dec. 14 at Minnesota.
DALLAS – The Mavericks might be without their two leading scorers Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shooting guard Monta Ellis and power forward Dirk Nowitzki did not participate in the Mavs’ morning shootaround because of illnesses.
“Hopefully they’ll be OK, but I won’t know until game time,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
Carlisle said Nowitzki, who is six points shy of passing Elvin Hayes for eighth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, has been dealing with a stomach issue. Carlisle wasn’t certain of the nature of the illness for Ellis, who is averaging a team-high 20.9 points per game.
The Lakers are expected to play without their leading scorer. Kobe Bryant has missed the past two games because of general soreness and told reporters on Thursday night that there is a “very slim” chance he plays against the Mavs.
1. What is the standard for the Rajon Rondo deal to be considered a success for the Mavericks?
Gutierrez: Progression without radical regression. It feels like a two-year process due to the fact Dallas has to deal with a sudden depth depletion as well as the Rondo assimilation. Brandan Wright was a legitimate scoring threat off the bench and provided big man depth. Jae Crowder was a rotational fixture of sorts to Dallas, too. If the starting five can mesh and Dallas works to rebuild its bench over the next few months, the Mavs will be poised to be serious contenders going into next season.
Taylor: They gave up a really nice backup and a rotational player for a legit quality point guard. There really is no downside to the deal unless you don't sign him to a long-term deal. He's one more quality piece to take pressure off Dirk Nowitzki. That said, a trip to the Western Conference finals would be a fantastic year and reaching at least the second round would be a good year because the West is loaded.
MacMahon: The goal of this trade is to make the Mavs a legitimate force in the West for the next few years. That’s how it should be judged. This isn’t a championship-or-bust trade like the Jason Kidd deal, because the Mavs didn’t give up nearly as much. The acquisition of Rondo was supposed to solidify the Mavs’ starting five for the next few years and give Nowitzki a legitimate shot to compete for a ring in his golden years.
2. What is the most interesting aspect of Rondo meshing with the Mavs?
Gutierrez: The most interesting aspect is seeing how he will mesh with Monta Ellis. It was a tale of two games for Rondo as it seemed like both guards were clicking against the San Antonio Spurs only to see them look discombobulated against the Atlanta Hawks. There will be ups and downs and growing pains as they adapt to playing alongside each other, but watching them work together will be the thing that everyone examines.
Taylor: By all accounts Rondo has a prickly personality. Well, the head coach has a little bit of a quirky personality, but we know he doesn't take any mess. Rick Carlisle is also a smart guy who understands he needs to let some guys run free, while still maintaining his authority. Heck, he gets along with Mark Cuban. Watching him find a common ground with Rondo will be fascinating.
MacMahon: I’m fascinated to see the brilliant offensive minds of Carlisle and Rondo attempt to figure out how to minimize the major spacing challenges presented by his poor shooting. It’s been messy so far. The context of a small sample size and only one practice since the trade must be considered, but the starting five’s offensive rating with Rondo is 97.9 points per 100 possessions. It was 116.4 with Jameer Nelson. The Rondo transition has been especially rough on Chandler Parsons. He was averaging 22.2 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 49 percent from 3-point range in December before the deal. In the three games with Rondo, Parsons’ numbers have plummeted to 9.0 points and 1.3 assists, shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3-point range.
3. What stats do you project Rondo to put up for the rest of the season?
Gutierrez: I'm expecting him to hover around numbers that always have him flirting with a triple-double. I can see him averaging nearly 8 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists a night for the Mavericks. The rebounds and assists will likely be the easiest things for him to produce on a nightly basis. The points will be challenging, but teams will give him open space to shoot. He'll need to knock them down in order to bring some balance in terms of spacing.
Taylor: He still can't shoot, but the way Rick wants to play he should be getting a lot more fast-break layups so he'll get about 10.4 points per game with 9.7 assists because he's got Dirk and Parsons as shooters and Tyson Chandler to catch lobs. Plus, he'll get a couple of steals per game.
MacMahon: In his first three games in Dallas, Rondo averaged 10.7 points, 9.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if the assists slipped -- and that might be best for the Mavs. This offense is based on great ball movement. If it’s humming, a lot of Rondo’s good looks will end up being hockey assists and won’t count in the box score.
Bledsoe had 16 points and 11 assists, then grabbed his 10th rebound away from teammate Goran Dragic with 31 seconds to play.
Rajon Rondo had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds before fouling out with 1:37 to play in his third game since coming to Dallas from Boston.
The Mavs, who are searching to replace traded backup center Brandan Wright in their rotation, are among several teams who have expressed interest in O'Neal and Smith, a pair of available high-profile veterans.
"I feel pretty good that we'll be able to come to terms with one," Nelson said Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. "Certainly to come up with both would be just hitting a grand slam home run. Look, there's a long line for suitors on both fronts.
"I think the fact that Jermaine has chosen Dallas to be his home in the long term certainly has its place and resonates with time with family and such. And here's a guy who has a long history not only with our coach but with our point guard/quarterback. That certainly has a place.
"With Josh, again, we're one of a number of potential teams and suitors. It's got to be right with him and with us. We're kind of in the swings of putting our best foot forward. If we're able to hit that one home, it just would be a real, real nice get for us."
Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the Houston Rockets are confident that they have the inside track to land Smith, who was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract and is expected to clear waivers Wednesday.
The Rockets have their biannual exception, valued at $2.1 million, to offer Smith, who is 29. The Mavs can offer only the veteran's minimum of $1.45 million.
Both franchises have one of Smith's closest friends to aid their recruiting pitch. Smith played AAU basketball with Houston center Dwight Howard
DALLAS -- It’d be ridiculously premature to reach for the panic button one practice, two games and four days after a blockbuster trade to acquire a four-time All-Star point guard.
So the 105-102 loss Monday night to the Atlanta Hawks -- a game much more lopsided than the final score indicates -- is certainly no reason to declare the Rajon Rondo deal a disaster for the Dallas Mavericks.
However, all the concerns cited by critics of the trade reared their ugly heads during the Mavs’ miserable first three quarters, in which Dallas dug a 24-point hole it couldn't rally to overcome.
A quick summary of those fears: Rondo’s tendency to dominate the ball and poor perimeter touch would bog down the league’s best offense, and his defense has dropped off drastically over the past couple years.
The Mavs’ offense was a mess most of the night against an Atlanta team that has played the best December defense in the league. Dallas shot 37.3 percent from the floor through three quarters before exploding for 39 points in the too-little, too-late final frame. The spacing in halfcourt sets was way out of whack, with the Hawks sagging way off Rondo, daring him to shoot and clogging things up for the Mavs’ scoring threats.
“It’s going to take time, and we knew that,” said small forward Chandler Parsons, who finished with only four points on 2-of-6 shooting, a far cry from the spectacular statistics he’s been putting up in December. “It’s going to have its ups and downs, but we definitely want a player like him. We’ll get it down.”
Frankly, the Mavs are more concerned about the other end of the floor. One of the primary reasons the Mavs pulled the trigger on the Rondo deal was they needed a pit bull to defend all the dominant point guards in the Western Conference.
Well, backup Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder scored 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting and dished out six assists in a spot start while Jeff Teague nursed a strained hamstring.
“Our pick-and-roll coverage can get a lot better,” said Rondo, whose latest of four straight All-Defensive team selections came after the 2011-12 season. “It starts with me. I’m going to continue to build and learn from this game and get better.”
It’s not like Rondo’s night was all bad. He stuffed the box score with 13 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, three steals and a block. He was a catalyst in the Mavs’ near-miraculous comeback bid, as he scored twice on driving scoop shots, dished out five assists, grabbed two rebounds, racked up a steal and a block, and drew two offensive fouls in the fourth quarter.
But it’s painfully obvious opponents will dare Rondo to beat them with his jumper until he proves he’s capable of doing it. That’s a problem for a player shooting 31.5 percent from outside the restricted area this season.
“If they just go way under like that and give him elbow shots, then he’s just got to step into them,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting. “There’s nowhere to drive, nowhere to do anything if somebody goes under an elbow jump shot. He’s going to have to step into those and be aggressive.”
The Hawks went under every screen set for Rondo and sagged almost comically far off him when he was on the perimeter, even when he had the ball in his hands. That’s why he had as many shots as Monta Ellis and Parsons combined in the first half -- when the point guard was 3-of-10 from the floor -- and a major reason the Mavs scored only 38 points in the first 24 minutes.
“He’s got to take rhythm shots when he’s there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He knows that. We’re spending a lot of time on it. This is a beginning for him here.
“He’s got a different set of teammates. He wasn’t seeing this kind of coverage quite like this, playing with Dirk and playing with Ellis and some of these other guys. Look, I like his aggression. I like the way he played tonight. He’s going to continue to shoot the ball better as we go along.”
As Carlisle stressed, with Rondo in the starting lineup, it’s a must for the Mavs to be solid defensively and generate offense by getting stops and getting out in transition.
That’s what this starting five is best suited to do. Ellis, Parsons and Chandler all have excellent speed for their positions, with the wings also handling the ball well in transition. Nowitzki won’t win many races, but he’s lethal as a trailer 3-point threat. And Rondo is a remarkable athlete with court vision so rare Carlisle keeps comparing him to Jason Kidd.
“He’s going to pass first,” Carlisle said. “But it’s hard to be an effective pass-first point guard taking it out of the other team’s goal.”
Of course, the Mavs can’t make a playoff run just by running. They need to work out the kinks in their halfcourt offense that come with adding a pass-first, poor-shooting point guard in the middle of the season.
“It’s going to take time,” Rondo said, “But it won’t take too much longer.”
The Miami Heat have formally applied to the league office for a Disabled Player Exception in the wake of Josh McRoberts' season-ending knee injury in a move they hope will help them land free agent Josh Smith, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com on Monday night that the Heat have launched the application process in hopes of being granted the exception before Smith picks his next team once he clears waivers.
At present, Miami can offer only a $1.4 million veteran minimum contract to Smith, but a DPE after losing McRoberts would be valued at $2.65 million.
Sources say the Houston Rockets, however, remain confident they have the inside track to land Smith even if Miami is granted a DPE this week, given Houston's clear need at power forward and Smith's close friendship with Rockets center Dwight Howard.
The Rockets still have their biannual exception available, valued at nearly $2.1 million, to offer Smith, who was stunningly waived Monday by the Detroit Pistons with $26 million left on his contract over the next two seasons after this one.
Sources say the Rockets, with Howard leading their recruiting pitch, believe Smith will ultimately choose Houston over Miami and the Dallas Mavericks
Atlanta led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter. The Mavericks pulled to 96-88 before second-year player Schroder hit a jump shot and two free throws for a 12-point lead with 1:08 to play.
The Hawks (20-7) won all three games on their road trip. The Southeast Division leaders have a four-game winning streak overall, and have won 13 of their last 14.
Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 18 points, 11 in a fourth quarter when they outscored the Hawks 39-23.
Cuban is glad he was so wrong about the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys, who are 11-4 and have qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“There was nobody, nobody – inside the organization, outside the organization, media, fans – that didn’t think they were going to suck. Nobody. Nobody,” said Cuban, who watched the Cowboys’ Sunday rout of the Indianapolis Colts from his AT&T Stadium suite with several members of the Mavs organization. “And the fact that they’re good, the fact that they’ve come together, proving the point that’s why they play the games, is great not just for the Cowboys and Dallas fans everywhere, but it’s great for sports.
“The Cowboys’ resurrection [came] with a team that nobody predicted – I mean, nobody predicted – to have any success. You could even see it in Jerry’s face that he was resigned to not being that good this season after they lost Sean Lee. It’s great not just for the Cowboys, but for sports in general.”
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Mavs, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are among the teams that will have interest in Smith when he clears waivers Wednesday. The Detroit Pistons released Smith on Monday less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million deal.
The Mavs can offer Smith only the veteran’s minimum if he wants to reunite with their new point guard Rajon Rondo, Smith's teammate and roommate at high school basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. The Mavs can’t offer Smith a starting role, but they can give him an opportunity to be an impact player for a contender.
The springy, 6-foot-9 Smith has seen only extremely limited spot duty at center during his 11-year NBA career. However, Wright had hardly played center before arriving in Dallas and thrived at the position in the Mavs’ pick-and-roll-intensive offense, averaging 8.8 points on a league-high field goal percentage (74.8) in 18.7 minutes per game.
A team source told ESPNDallas.com that the Mavs believe Smith could succeed in Wright’s old role plus get some minutes at power forward.
“Josh is super talented and he fits the profile of the guy we love to bring in here,” said owner Mark Cuban, confirming that the Mavs would use Smith as a center/power forward if he chooses to come to Dallas. “He’s one of those guys that gets a bad rap, and we have a great track record of bringing the truth out about guys like that – Monta [Ellis], Stack [Jerry Stackhouse], Jet [Jason Terry].”
With the Pistons, Smith was one of the least efficient offensive forwards in the NBA, shooting an awful 41.3 percent from the floor during his Detroit tenure. However, at 29, Smith is still an excellent athlete capable of replicating Wright’s strengths as an above-the-rim finisher and weakside shot-blocker against second units.
Smith’s field goal percentage and efficiency ratings would soar if, like Wright, a large portion of his shots came off lob passes on pick-and-rolls or penetration from the Mavs’ arsenal of paint attackers. It’s also reasonable to anticipate that Smith would average at least 25 minutes per game off the Mavs’ bench, seeing spot duty at power forward and a lot of time at center with Nowitzki on the floor, a pairing that greatly benefited Wright.
Other teams will be able to offer Smith more money and a starting job. The Mavs can give him a chance to change his reputation and redefine his game while playing for a contender.
That’s at least the plan for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who managed to address what would have been the team’s top offseason priority several months early, acquiring a point guard capable of giving the Mavs a legitimate chance to compete in the West.
Rajon Rondo joins shooting guard Monta Ellis, small forward Chandler Parsons, power forward Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler in a revamped lineup that the Mavs believe stacks up well against any starting five in the NBA. That group is expected to be the Mavs’ foundation for the remainder of Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career.
“Even if this isn’t the perfect unit for this year, you can see the pieces that we need to add, but now it’s possible to keep these pieces together,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com. “And that’s the big difference.”
Nowitzki, whose hometown-discount deal gives him the lowest salary among Mavs’ starters, is under contract for two more years. That’s also the case for Parsons, whose three-year, $46 million deal was made possible by Nowitzki eagerly accepting such a steep pay cut.
Cuban will have to negotiate new contracts with Rondo and Chandler this summer, but the Mavs don’t have to worry about the salary cap because they own both players’ Bird rights. Ellis can opt out of the final year of his three-year, $25 million deal that’s been a tremendous bargain. If that happens, the Mavs would own his early Bird rights and be able to offer him a contract with a starting salary of up to 175 percent of the $8.36 million that he makes this season.
“I’ll at least do my best to keep them together,” said Cuban, who can pay his own free agents more than other teams are allowed to offer. “I want to keep them together. It’s cheaper to keep her. It’s not where we were before.
“Do I want to go deep into the luxury tax? No, and I think it’s more because I want us to have some options in a couple of years. But, yeah, there’s no reason for us not to keep everybody together, not that I know now.
“I want them to give us a hometown discount of about 90 percent, but I understand what’s involved.”
The thought of keeping this starting five together sounds great for Chandler, but he’s understandably hesitant to believe it until he sees it.
Chandler, of course, was the most significant departure when Cuban decided to value creating salary cap space over keeping an aging title roster together after the 2011 roster. At the time, Cuban offered the big man only a one-year deal. All indications are that Cuban will be willing to make a long-term commitment to the 32-year-old Chandler this summer, as is the case with Rondo and Ellis.
“If that’s what they’re saying, then that’s the route that they do go,” Chandler said. “It could be a special unit.
“Rondo, I know he has a lot of great years in him. Chandler [Parsons] is young, a player that they brought in this year. And I know I got a lot of great years left in me. And my boy Dirty, I want to ride with him until the wheels fall off. And I know Monta is coming up, so it’s a bright future. It just all depends on what happens. It’s a lot of free agents, so we’ll see.”
The 29-year-old Smith was averaging 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game this season.
"Our team has not performed the way we had expected throughout the first third of the season and adjustments need to be made in terms of our focus and direction," coach and team president Stan Van Gundy said in a statement.
"We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future. As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced. In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it's best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person."
Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Van Gundy personally delivered the news to Smith on Monday shortly before noon and stressed that there was no incident or blowup that precipitated the move. Van Gundy is expected to address the local media in Detroit later Monday.
Smith signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Pistons before last season, but he shot only 42 percent from the field in 2013-14. This season, Smith is at 39 percent.
If Smith clears waivers over the next 48 hours, he will have the right to go elsewhere as a free agent. By choosing to waive Smith now, Detroit will have to pay off what is owed to Smith beyond this season, but the Pistons can reduce the yearly hit to the $5 million range over the next few years with the NBA's stretch provision.
NBA front-office sources told Stein that the Sacramento Kings