Dallas Mavericks: Bernard James
The peaks and valleys of an 82-game season can have a team quickly go from elation to deflation. The Dallas Mavericks experienced that within a span of two games. Coming off an emotional win against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Mavericks delivered a dud against the short-handed Sacramento Kings.
The Mavericks were going to have to key in DeMarcus Cousins and also Isaiah Thomas. The quicker-than-a-hiccup point guard moved into the starting lineup as Greivis Vasquez was part of a seven-player trade with Toronto that brings Rudy Gay and others to Sacramento. Prior to the game against the Kings, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle praised Thomas.
“We respect the heck out of him,” Carlisle told reporters. “He’s pretty hard to deal with because he scores, he’s slippery, and he’s hard to double-team because he’s so quick. He finds people and makes plays. It’s going to be a 48-minute endeavor to try to keep him under control.”
Let's take a quick look at the lopsided 112-97 loss the Dallas Mavericks suffered Monday at the hands of the Sacramento Kings.
How it happened: A short-handed team is always a dangerous team. The Mavericks discovered this fact the hard way as they fell behind by double digits within the first six minutes of the game. Leading the league with 17.8 points off the bench, Isaiah Thomas made his first start of the year for Sacramento. He gave Dallas fits early with his speed as he scored 10 points in the opening quarter. Thomas opened things up for this teammates as the Kings went on a 21-4 run en route to taking a 34-23 lead into the second quarter.
Dallas responded to Sacramento’s run with an 18-4 spurt of its own to start the second quarter. In another "be ready" game, Bernard James responded with tough defense, rebounds and baskets. His energy triggered the comeback effort by the Mavericks in the second quarter. Off a 3-point bucket by Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas took a quick 41-38 lead. The game of runs continued as the Kings, led by DeMarcus Cousins, countered with an 14-2 run of their own to extend their lead back to 10. Cousins ended up recording a double-double in the first half with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Kings took a 57-47 lead into halftime. They ended up never looking back.
A general malaise seemed to grip the Mavericks as they didn’t put up much of a fight to start the second half. Dallas wasn’t fighting through screens and the Mavs were settling for jumpers rather than trying to get into the lane. They tried to slow down the Kings with a zone defense, but the adjustment didn’t have much of an impact. Derrick Williams was the next Kings player who got going, scoring 13 points in the third quarter on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor. He finished the game with a career-high 31 points.
The Kings' third-quarter surge -- when they lengthened a five-point edge to 19 by period's end -- essentially took the Mavericks out of the game. Dallas suffered an embarrassing loss to a team that only had five wins coming into the game. Sacramento had three players with at least 20 points. Monta Ellis was the only player for Dallas to score at least 20 points.
What it means: The good mojo the Mavericks had coming off their win against the Trail Blazers quickly evaporates with a bad loss to the Kings. Dallas will look to go 3-1 on its road trip Wednesday against Golden State.
Play of the game: The stat sheet doesn’t show a blocked shot, but with just under a minute to go in the first half, Thomas elevated and altered James’ dunk attempt. It wasn’t credited as a block for Thomas, so James gets the ever-so-rare air-balled dunk.
Stat of the night: Dallas had a 43-40 lead at the 6:31 mark of the second quarter. The Mavs were outscored 52-30 from that point on to the end of the third quarter.
Not coincidentally, Chandler is the one starting center employed by the Mavericks over that span who displayed a consistent level of energy and intensity.
Saturday night’s performance in Portland certainly wasn’t encouraging. Coming off the bench behind DeJuan Blair for the second straight game, Dalembert contributed so little in 12 minutes (two rebounds, one block, minus-7) that Carlisle decided to give the rest of the backup minutes to Bernard James.
Maybe that delivered a message to Dalembert. James played 11 frenetic minutes, scoring five points, grabbing six rebounds, blocking a shot and helping the Mavs outscore the Trail Blazers by three during his time on the floor. Carlisle can honestly tell Dalembert -- or let him figure it out on his own -- that he isn’t guaranteed minutes unless he performs.
That doesn’t mean it will have a positive effect on Dalembert. It didn’t on Haywood, who muttered “I just work here” over and over and moped the rest of the season when Erick Dampier came back from an injury and reclaimed the starting job weeks after the Mavs acquired Haywood from Washington. It didn’t on Kaman, who also took a passive-aggressive approach about Carlisle’s playing-time decisions during his time in Dallas and openly complained about the coach’s “mind games” when he came through town with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this season.
Then again, maybe those guys just aren’t starting-caliber big men. Haywood was so uninspiring as the Mavs’ starter in 2011-12 that the Mavs waived him via the amnesty clause the following summer. He was a backup for the Charlotte Bobcats last season. For all of Kaman’s complaints about Carlisle, he’s averaging fewer minutes this season and is coming off the bench for the Lakers.
And maybe there’s a reason Dalembert is playing for his fifth team in five years. His numbers (7.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) are pretty close to his career averages, but the Mavs are demanding more from Dalembert defensively.
If Dalembert doesn’t deliver, he might not play many minutes. That’s especially true with Brandan Wright days away from making his season debut.
The Mavs signed Dalembert to be their starting center, but he might end up being the odd big man out.
Role for Mavs in 2013-14: James reported to camp as the fourth center on the roster. He should get some opportunities early in the season while Brandan Wright recovers from a shoulder injury, but James will have to earn meaningful minutes.
James, 28, a former Air Force sergeant in his second NBA season, needs to prove he can be a consistent energy player. He’s always going to be limited offensively, so he needs to be an impact player as a rebounder and defender to be a contributor. He averaged 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per 36 minutes in his limited playing time as a rookie, when he appeared in only 46 games, including 11 starts.
What happened this summer?: The Mavs waived James as they scrambled to create as much salary cap as possible and re-signed him to a minimum deal once they finalized Monta Ellis’ contract. The fact that no other team claimed James is evidence that he isn’t seen as anything more than a replacement-level player by front offices around the league.
What does the future hold?: James will be a restricted free agent this summer. He’s likely to end up signing another minimum contract or take his career overseas.
Bottom line: James is expected to be a bit player. Any significant contributions from him would be a bonus.
Bernard James: Re-signed to a one-year, $788,872 contract.
With the Mavs needing to create a little more wiggle room to complete the signing of Monta Ellis, they had to put James on waivers. Many fans were left wondering why the Mavs didn’t do anything they could to at least get an asset back in return for James before letting him go. Even if it was a second-round pick, that was perceived to be better than nothing.
Having legitimate big man size and some mobility, many expected that James wouldn’t clear waivers, especially based on the fact that any team could put a claim on him. Fans were then shocked to see that James was able to clear waivers and he was immediately re-signed by the Mavs. That sheds some light on why the Mavs might not have been able to consummate a deal in exchange for the big man.
Project player or not, the dollar value fits for the Mavs. He’ll likely maintain his role as the third option at the center position.
James re-signed for the veteran's minimum. He was waived last week as the Mavs cleared as much cap space as possible to make room for the signings of center Samuel Dalembert and guard Monta Ellis.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound James, who averaged 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 9.9 minutes per game as a rookie, will be the Mavs' third-string center again. He'll back up Dalembert and Brandan Wright.
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Wright's two-year deal is worth $10 million plus incentives, agent Jim Tanner said earlier this week.
The Mavs were able to go over the salary cap to re-sign Wright because they owned his Early Bird rights. Deals with guard Wayne Ellington (two years, $5.3 million with the "room" exception) and center Bernard James (veteran's minimum salary of $788,872) are expected to be made official soon.
The Mavs didn't want to waive James, but they needed every possible dollar of salary-cap space as they prepare to finalize a three-year deal for more than $25 million with Monta Ellis. Waiving James, who had a nonguaranteed contract, created almost $300,000 of cap space.
The Mavs have an agreement in principle to re-sign the 6-foot-10, 240-pound James to a minimum-salary contract after making the Ellis deal official. James, who played in 46 games as a rookie, would back up Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright. The Mavs have early Bird rights for Wright, meaning they can exceed the cap to re-sign him, and his return is a virtual certainty.
Waiving Akognon and James, who had nonguaranteed contracts, created almost $600,000 in cap space necessary to finalize the deal for shooting guard Monta Ellis.
The Mavs have interest in bringing the 5-foot-11 Akognon, who finished last season in Dallas on a 10-day deal, to training camp again if he clears waivers. Akognon is expected to explore other NBA options and will have lucrative offers to return to China, where he led the league in scoring the past two seasons.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said about the loss to the Warriors. “We know it was our game to have.”
Now, the Mavs will go up against the second-seeded Chicago Bulls in the consolation bracket of the tournament on Friday night.
It’s weird to think that the Mavs were expecting to rely heavily on second-year players Bernard James and Jae Crowder throughout the duration of the summer league and it appears that they will have neither of them available in the team’s finale.
While James missed his fourth consecutive game and was back in Dallas, the Mavs got somewhat of a scare late in the first quarter of their loss to the Warriors as Crowder sprained his left ankle. While the severity of the injury is still unknown, Mathis didn’t sound overly concerned about the injury.
“I don’t think it’s bad,” Mathis said after the loss. “But it wasn’t worth him trying to continue to play.”
The injury to Crowder was another example of how it’s been a roller coaster-like run for the Mavs in the summer league. They now know they have a few interesting prospects -- mainly Gal Mekel, Ricky Ledo and Jackie Carmichael -- to look at as they prepare for training camp in a few months. Those prospects helped them get very close to beating the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, but they had too many little issues pop up that ultimately derailed their run.
Dallas will now go out and play the best it can in what will be its final game of the tournament.
“I want to finish good and on a high note,” said Justin Dentmon, who led Dallas with 19 points off the bench in Thursday's loss. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and we want to come out and just finish well.”
In just under 27 minutes of action, the 6-foot-9 forward from Illinois State University started at power forward and contributed 23 points and nine rebounds in the 95-89 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in the first round of the LVSL championship tournament. He had a combined nine points and three rebounds in less than 22 minutes of action in the team’s previous three games.
“I just wanted to come out there and do whatever I could to help the team,” Carmichael said. “I think just attacking the glass and being active opened everything else. That’s my game, trying to stay active. Everything else fell into place.”
Carmichael was actually a late addition to the summer league roster after Jud Dillard departed the team before heading to Las Vegas. He was trying to find his way as the team played their first three games and finally broke through in the fourth game.
The second-year center’s 2013-14 salary would have been fully guaranteed if he was not released on or before Monday. This extension can be done as long as the team and the player’s agent come to an agreement.
With that deadline passing and his departure from the Las Vegas Summer League coming on Tuesday, many wonder what his official standing was with the organization.
It was an unusual timeline for James while he was in Las Vegas. He participated in the team’s first game on Saturday, was held out of the team’s next game on Sunday and then was sent home late Tuesday night due to "personal reasons," according to a team spokesman. A source told ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon that James' departure was tied to the decision to push back the deadline on his contractual guarantee.
He was out for Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, and his status for the remainder of the tournament remains uncertain.
Going into the summer league, James was the only player still on the books at center. It appears that the center position is starting to take shape.
ESPNDallas.com reported last week that it was a virtual certainty that Brandan Wright would return to the Mavs. It appears likely that a two-year deal in the range of $4 million per season is still in play.
Sources told Stein that the Mavs are closing in on a deal to sign free-agent center Samuel Dalembert as their new starting center. Dallas also continues to pursue free-agent big man Greg Oden, along with the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs.
The Mavs want to keep James in the mix, but they needed more time as they pursued Dalembert and Oden. The extension of James’ deadline gives the Mavs that opportunity.
In order to advance, the Mavs are going to have to try to quickly correct the issues they had in the preliminary round.
Rebounding has been a problem in the summer league. In the preliminary round, Dewayne Dedmon ranked 89th with 3.7 rebounds per game. Second-year forward Jae Crowder was 59th at 4.3 rebounds per game, and second-round prospect Ricky Ledo ranked 75th overall at 4.0 rebounds. And the Mavs will be without Bernard James, who is in Dallas for personal reasons. He has missed the team’s last two games.
“The other guys have got to step up,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “The guys can’t seem to get our hands on balls on offensive rebounds. On the other end, we’ve got to check out better.”
Josh Akognon, who ranked fifth overall in scoring in the preliminary round with 19.3 points per game, certainly realizes that the team is missing something without James.
“We miss him a lot. He’s gritty and tough,” Akognon said. “He won’t let anyone slack. If someone isn’t helping, he’ll let you know. He’s the sergeant.”
In addition to the rebounding issue, the Mavs also want to make the most of their opportunities at the free throw line. Dallas left 11 free points off the board out of their 30 attempts against the D-League Select team on Tuesday night. Dallas shot .630 percent from the line in the preliminary round.
With the helter skelter style that the summer league presents, foul calls and subsequent trips to the free throw line come early and often. Learning from their mistakes at the line Tuesday was clearly a point of emphasis during the team’s shootaround Wednesday, as the team could not continue practice until Crowder made a free throw. The team would step away to the side and stayed quiet as Crowder lined up his free throws. The coaching staff would try to distract him at the last possible second.
As the leader of the team, the staff wanted to put Crowder in a pressure situation that could prepare him for those end-of-game situations. If he missed the free throws, the team would have to run full-court sprints.
To his credit, Crowder hit the clutch free throws. Like the rebounding, Crowder and the rest of the Mavs will have to transfer their work on the practice court to game time.
With the tournament structure, the team can’t look back at the losses. They must focus on the game that is directly in front of them.
“These guys all know that we’re very close,” Mathis said. “We’ve just got to keep sharing the ball and doing the things that we need to do to get better to get the win, move on an advance.”
The Warriors were a perfect 3-0 in the preliminary round and have set the Summer League record for most consecutive wins in league history as they are on a 10-game winning streak.
How did the Mavs let a 13-point first-quarter lead slip away from them?
Rebounding: The D-League Select team held a 38-25 rebounding advantage over the Mavs. Dallas was without the services of Bernard James once again, as he flew home to Dallas due to personal reasons. The Mavs will miss his ability to control the paint and rebound the ball.
“That’s what Bernard does. He can rebound the ball offensively and defensively,” Dallas summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “We’re a little short-handed, but the other guys have to step up.”
The Mavs have yet to win a game without James, so he clearly is a valuable member to the team.
Free throws: Dallas had plenty of opportunities to seize control of the game in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t capitalize at the line. The Mavs went 19-of-30 from the line for the game and 10-of-17 in the final quarter.
“You work on them in practice and guys just have to step up and make free throws,” Mathis said. “It’s a free point. There’s no defense at the free throw line, last time I checked.
“Whether you’re a roster guy or not, you’ve got to step up and make your free throws.”
While Dallas went 10-of-17 from the line in the fourth, the Select team went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Energy: Led by Gal Mekel, the starting lineup for Dallas surged to take the lead in the first quarter. Mekel controlled the game by dishing out seven assists in the first quarter. The second unit let the starters down as it was unable to keep the pace. The Select team had 39 bench points to Dallas’ 25.
Josh Akognon led the team once again in scoring with 20 points, but he did not have much help alongside him in the scoring department.
"You can pinpoint so many things, but the end result is just energy,'' Akognon said. “We didn't have any energy.
"Everybody was talking, but nobody was really doing anything. So at this point at this level, you've got to be able to do something rather than talk.''
The lack of energy was apparent on offense, as the Mavs mainly played isolation basketball after the first quarter. As a team, Dallas had a total of five assists in the final 31 minutes of the game.
Mekel appears to be the head of the snake for the Mavs. If teams are able to take him out of the game, Dallas is in trouble.
Taking the foot off the gas on Tuesday night now has Dallas playing on the second night of a back-to-back, now a single-elimination tournament. There’s little time to dwell on a game that got away from the Mavs on Tuesday night.
“I think our guys can compete. We can play with any team out here,” Mathis said. “We’ve just got to cut down on those things we’re not doing well.”
With the stakes now being high, Akognon insisted that the team will use the loss as a learning experience.
“Nobody wants to go home. Our main goal was to win the championship,” Akognon said. “If we’re doing it like we did (Tuesday), we’ll be out of here quickly.”
How it happened: With 77 seconds left and the Mavs trailing, 75-72, Jae Crowder was fouled and missed both free throws. Dallas didn't have enough left after that to make a comeback.
After two sluggish performances early in their previous games, the Mavs played with more urgency and energy. They actually had their first double-digit lead in Las Vegas. Also, for the first time in the summer league, Dallas was able to work well in transition.
Gal Mekel once again set the tempo for Dallas on offense. Mekel carved up the D-League team with his dribble penetration and found the open man time after time. Mekel had seven assists in the first quarter and finished with a game-high nine assists.
Dallas lost control of its offense in the third quarter as the D-League Select team cranked up the intensity. The D-Leaguers regained the lead with less than six minutes left in the third. Both teams found themselves in a back-and-forth battle for the remainder of the game.
Foul trouble also plagued the Mavs in the second half. They could not stop the D-League team's dribble penetration, nor could they avoid giving up second-chance opportunities. A 3-point basket with under five minutes left gave the D-Leaguers a six-point lead, one they wouldn't relinquish.
Dallas again played without second-year center Bernard James. Team officials said James flew back to Dallas on Tuesday afternoon for personal reasons. He was held out of Sunday's game against Charlotte because of illness. The center's availability for the rest of the summer league appears to be in doubt.
What it means: The Mavs finished the preliminary stage of the summer league with a 1-2 record. The single-elimination tournament begins Wednesday. The final will be Monday. All teams will be seeded 1-22 in the bracket-style event. Teams seeded 1-10 will have a first-round bye, and teams seeded 11-22 will open the tournament Wednesday, including the Mavs.
Mavs player of the game: Mekel continues to gain momentum. His fingerprints were all over Tuesday's game on the offensive end, especially early. That said, the Select Team did a solid job of taking him out of the game later. His nine assists marked the second-highest total in this year's summer league. Diante Garrett of the Phoenix Suns had 13 assists earlier in the day.
Stat of the night: Free throws killed the Mavs in the fourth quarter. They went 10-of-17 from the line in the final period. They were 19-of-30 for the game.
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