Dallas Mavericks: Bernard James

Mavs to open tourney Wednesday

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
10:44
PM CT
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks' summer league team finished the preliminary round of the Las Vegas Summer League with a record of 2-1. That had them finishing the with No. 10th overall seed for tournament play.

Dallas will have their opening-round game of the tournament against the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday at 3:30 PT.

Each team played a total of three games in the preliminary round and were seeded 1-24 for a single elimination tournament (July 16-17, July 19-21) on the basis of the results of the preliminary round. Seeding for the tournament was determined by record with ties being broken using a specific tie-break criteria.

They will play at least two games in the tournament format.

"The challenge for us is to stay with the process of getting better every game," Mavs summer league head coach Kaleb Canales said. "We're trying to play our best in every game, regardless of the situation. Because of the tournament and the style of it, our challenge is not to make it different for us and our mindset.

"We want to go out there and play well-balanced basketball on both ends of the floor. The rest will take care of itself."

Ricky Ledo led the team in scoring during the preliminary round at 17.7 points per game. Bernard James averaged 14.0 points per game and a team-high 8.0 rebounds per game.

Rapid Reaction: Mavs 88, Raptors 57

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
8:00
PM CT
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks beat the Toronto Raptors in the team's final game of the preliminary round of the Las Vegas Summer League. The Mavs finished with a record of 2-1 in the preliminary round.

How it happened: The Mavs made a full 180 from their opening game of the prelims to their final one. Chemistry was there, and the players who needed to play well ultimately have done what they needed to do.

Ricky Ledo shined again, playing with a little more poise as he led the Mavs with a game-high 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He showed more of his versatility by attacking the glass with four rebounds and facilitating with five assists.

Gal Mekel continued to show a nice and steady hand as the team's point guard. He finished the game with 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. While he didn't record a single assist, he did a solid job of getting the team in its sets and communicating on the floor. His jumper is still a work in progress, but he appears to be shooting it with more confidence.

Bernard James looked solid, finishing the game with six points and seven rebounds in just under 19 minutes of action.

Forward Ivan Johnson had struggled with his perimeter jumper in the team's previous two games. Showing a strong sense of confidence, Johnson continued to shoot the shots when they were there and the results finally came around. After going 1-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first two games in Vegas, Johnson bounced back with a nice 2-for-4 shooting performance from long range. He finished the game with eight points.

What it means: Dallas now moves on to tournament play in the league. All teams advance to this portion and seeding will be determined by record, with ties being broken using tiebreaker criteria. Teams seeded 9-24 will play in the first round of the tournament and teams seeded 1-8 will receive a first-round bye. The tournament will consist of five single-elimination rounds to determine the NBA summer league champion. The Mavs will know where they stand after play on Tuesday.

Mavs player of the game: Ledo shined once again. He has some bad habits, mainly trying to create extra space when he attacked off the dribble. The referees are catching on to it, but Ledo remains aggressive. Many members of the coaching staff were impressed with his vision as he recorded a game-high five assists.

Stat of the day: You can't necessarily say the Mavs had a high level of defensive disposition, but they did hold the Raptors to 30.2 percent shooting from the field. Dallas shot 50.8 percent from the field in the victory.

James, Ledo are strong in victory for Mavs

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
8:46
PM CT
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in the team's second game of the Las Vegas Summer League. The Mavs now move to 1-1 in the preliminary round of the summer league.

How it happened: After looking lost and sluggish in their opening game against the New York Knicks on Friday, Dallas looked much more in sync against Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves were playing their opening game and looked as if they were trying to get their footing.

The Mavs imposed their will in the second quarter by taking a 10-point halftime lead. Their momentum carried into the second half as they opened up the third quarter with an 11-2 run. At one point, the Mavs had a lead as large as 22 in the third quarter. Minnesota responded with a charge of its own, cutting the margin to seven near the midway point of the fourth.

Bernard James had another strong game. Going up against second-year center Gorgui Deng, James responded with his second consecutive strong effort as he scored 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Mavs swingman Ricky Ledo showed a little more versatility and consistency with his scoring attack as he shared team-high scoring honors with 21 points.

For Minnesota, Shabazz Muhammad had a game-high 27 points for the Timberwolves, and Alexey Shved had 14.

What it means: Dallas will try to improve its record to 2-1 as it faces the Toronto Raptors on Monday at 5 p.m. CT. That will be the final game of the preliminary round of the summer league. No matter what Dallas' record is after the Toronto game, the Mavs will play at least two more games.

Mavs player of the game: After a sluggish opening game, Ledo responded with a stronger effort against the Timberwolves. En route to his 21-point effort, the young swingman went 5-of-8 from 3-point range.

Stat of the day: One of the summer league projects for the Mavs has been the perimeter shooting of forward Ivan Johnson. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle spent a lot of time after practices in Dallas working with Johnson on his 3-point shooting. The results have been poor to this point as Johnson went 0-of-5 from 3. He is now 1-of-11 from beyond the arc in two games. It might be an uphill battle, but the Mavs will continue to expand his shooting range.

Bernard James out to prove his worth

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
9:00
PM CT
LAS VEGAS -- It was only the first game of the summer league, but Dallas Mavericks center Bernard "Sarge" James put together an all-around game. In the team's opener against the New York Knicks, James recorded a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and had four blocked shots in a 76-64 loss.

"I thought I did decent," James said of his performance. "I probably could have done better on defense. Other than that, I thought it was a pretty good game."

Summer league coach Kaleb Canales seemed pleased with his starting center's performance.

"I've probably got to look at the tape, but my initial gut from the game is that he gave us what he needed to give us," Canales said. "He usually does on both ends. For him specifically, that's what he's going to be for us. He's going to be consistent and solid for us on both ends."

James is in an interesting position this summer. He has been with the Mavs for two seasons now, but he's a free agent. The market might be relatively light for him, considering Dallas had to let James go to create room for guard Monta Ellis and there were no teams that claimed him off waivers. James knows that he has to use the time in Las Vegas as an opportunity to showcase his ability.

"I just want to go out and play hard," James said. "And I just want to win, really. That's the goal. I feel like if you have that mindset everything else will take care of itself. You'll get a contract and you'll stay in the league. So, that's really the way I'm going about it."

James said his goal coming to Las Vegas was to show more of a post-up game and an ability to expand his mid-range shooting. While he didn't show a lot in terms of working in the paint, James did show some range as he hit a couple of perimeter jumpers.

"I've improved with that. I definitely feel more comfortable shooting that," James said. "I think I took four or five jumpers from the perimeter. I just feel more comfortable shooting it and knowing when I should shoot it."

James will have at least four more games in the desert to prove that someone should offer him an NBA contract.

James shows offensive game in SL opener

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
5:41
PM CT
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks lost to the New York Knicks in the team's opener of the Las Vegas Summer League. The Mavs got to within six points in the fourth quarter after trailing by as many as 13 in the third quarter.

How it happened: Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and second-round rookie forward Cleananthony Early combined to score 38 points en route to their victory.

Playing without an NBA contract, Mavs center Bernard James showed more of a polished offensive game as he scored 15 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and had four blocks in 28 minutes. Defense did prove to be an issue for him as Knicks forward Cole Aldridge and other big men showed that they could outmuscle him in the paint.

Many observers were eager to see Shane Larkin play once again, now in a Knicks uniform. Larkin went up against Mavs point guard Gal Mekel through most of the game. While it is just summer league play, the former teammates played to a duel as neither consistently played better than the other. Larkin's afternoon could have gone better as he was on the bad end of a thunderous dunk. Mavs backup forward Eric Griffin drove down the lane and threw down a ferocious dunk over Larkin. Griffin had another emphatic dunk in the fourth quarter, representing his only made field goals of the game.

Mekel finished the game with 10 points, four assists on 37.5 percent shooting. Larkin finished with 10 points, five assists on 50.0 percent shooting.

Mavs forward Ricky Ledo had an up and down game. Ledo, 21, showed a nice ability to attack toward the rim off the pick-and-roll, but often struggled with finishing in the paint. His jumper lacked consistency as well, as he finished just 4-of-14 from the field.

What it means: Dallas will have two more games before they move into the tournament portion of the league. Each team will play three games (July 11-15) in the preliminary round and will be seeded 1-24 for a single elimination tournament (July 16-17, July 19-21) on the basis of the results of the preliminary round. The Mavs will be back in action Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Timberwolves at 5:30 p.m. CST.

Mavs player of the game: "Sarge" James was the standout of the game for the Mavs. James played like he did when he was sent down to Dallas' D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, last season for one game. It's only one game, but James played like a player who has been in the NBA and is fighting for a contract. Time will tell if he actually gets one.

Stat of the day: Turnovers still matter, summer league or not. Dallas struggled to possess the ball as they had 18 turnovers in the loss to the Knicks. On the other end, New York only had 13 turnovers in their victory.

Mavs summer league primer

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
2:00
PM CT
As the Las Vegas Summer League begins Friday, it's important to note that all results produced there must be taken under the summer league context. Basketball is being played on a basketball court in a basketball gymnasium, but it's a totally different game.

If you talk to anyone affiliated with a team, the concept of winning is secondary. The ideas of growth, development and assimilation are far more important. For the most part, these players are rookies who will represent the next generation for the NBA and free agents who are holding on to their NBA dreams. General managers, other executives and scouts are hoping to find diamonds in the rough to fill out their 15-man rosters.

There are also some players with Dallas ties who will participate. Former Mavs Rodrigue Beaubois, Josh Howard and Delonte West will be playing for the summer squads of the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively.

Here's a breakdown of key players for the Mavs:

Gal Mekel
[+] EnlargeGal Mekel
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsGal Mekel is coming off an injury-plagued rookie season in Dallas and will be looking to show his form during summer league.
Mekel is playing organized basketball for only the second time since knee surgery in mid-January. He was assigned to the Mavs team in the D-League and the Texas Legends during the later portion of the season, and he essentially ended his rookie season there. Mekel impressed many with his play last year in Vegas. While the Mavs are expecting to re-sign Devin Harris and acquired Raymond Felton from New York, there is still uncertainty at the point guard position. If Mekel can show consistency with his jumper and faster mobility, he could improve his chances of getting backup minutes.

Ricky Ledo
The enigmatic swingman played in only 11 games for the Mavs in his rookie season. Ledo, 21, spent most of his time in Frisco with the Texas Legends. He showed flashes of promise, considering it was his first time playing organized basketball in more than a year, as he was declared ineligible at Providence. After drafting him in the second round in 2013, the Mavs made a relatively strong investment in Ledo with a four-year contract with Dallas. Ledo has the opportunity to be the star of the summer league roster. Showing consistency and reliability in Vegas could go a long way in carving out an actual role on the main roster.

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Mavs announce summer league roster

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
11:32
AM CT
Forward/center Ivan Johnson, who spent two years in the Atlanta Hawks’ rotation before being out of the NBA last season, is the biggest name on the Mavericks’ summer league roster released Monday.

Other players on the roster with NBA experience include point guard Gal Mekel, swingman Ricky Ledo, center Bernard James, guard Chris Smith and forward James Nunnally. Mekel and Ledo are under contract with the Mavs for next season.

Mavs assistant Kaleb Canales will be the head coach of the summer team, taking over those duties from defensive coordinator Monte Mathis. The Mavs open their schedule in the Las Vegas summer league Friday.

The full roster:

G Dee Bost (Mississippi State)
G Chris Smith (Louisville)
C Bernard James (Florida State)
G Ricky Ledo (Providence)
G/F Axel Toupane (France)
F C.J. Fair (Syracuse)
F Eric Griffin (Campbell)
F James Nunnally (UC Santa Barbara)
F Javon McCrea (Buffalo)
F Sean Evans (St. John’s)
F Jackie Carmichael (Illinois State)
G Gal Mekel (Israel)
G Chris Goulding (Australia)
C Ivan Johnson (Cal State San Bernardino)

Dalembert benched for second half

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
1:30
AM CT
DENVER -- Welcome back to Rick Carlisle's doghouse, Samuel Dalembert.

Dalembert, the Dallas Mavericks' starting center, didn't get off the bench in the second half of Wednesday's 115-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets. His contributions during his 9 minutes, 33 seconds of playing time: one rebound, one assist and three missed shots. The Mavs were outscored by 18 points with Dalembert on the floor.

[+] EnlargeSamuel Dalembert
Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SportsSamuel Dalembert, left, played less than 10 minutes in the Mavericks' road loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday.
The Mavs were outscored by 18 points during Dalembert's brief time on the court against the Nuggets. Fourth-string center Bernard James, who has played so sparingly that he made a D-League appearance last week, replaced Dalembert in the lineup to start the second half.

"'Sarge' is an energetic guy and we needed energy," Carlisle said, explaining his decision.

In other words, Dalembert provided no energy whatsoever while the Nuggets torched the Mavs in the first half.

"We're a team," Dalembert said when asked his reaction to being benched. "Whatever decisions they made, we go with it. We support each other."

Asked if he thought the benching was justified, the usually affable Dalembert mumbled, "You should ask [Carlisle]. You should ask him. You should ask him." With that, Dalembert walked out of the locker room.

While Dalembert had a strong February, this development can't be considered a surprise. He's playing for his fifth team in five seasons in large part because his inconsistent effort wears on coaches.

That was the case early in the season, when Dalembert was twice late for practices because he overslept, resulting in his losing the starting job. But he's the only experienced prototypical big man on the Mavs' roster, and Dallas desperately needs Dalembert to be an interior defensive presence.

That's especially true against the Portland Trail Blazers, who lead the league in scoring and visit Dallas on Friday night.

With that matchup looming, it'll be interesting to see if this was a one-night visit to the doghouse for Dalembert.

3 Points: Odd team out in the West?

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
12:34
PM CT
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. Who will be the odd team out among the four squads fighting for the West's final few playoff spots?

SportsNation

Which team will miss out on the playoffs?

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    1%
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    17%
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    32%
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    50%

Discuss (Total votes: 985)

Gutierrez: I still think Memphis ends up being the odd team out. They're a team that is still relatively stuck in identity limbo. They've been known for their defense, but they're no longer a top-10 team in terms of defensive efficiency. Earlier in the season Memphis flirted with the idea of pushing the tempo on offense, but they don't have the personnel to function in that style. That leads to them being in the bottom half of offensive efficiency. The Mavericks also hold the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies, putting Memphis farther behind the eight ball. The Mavericks have a brutal stretch ahead of them to finish out the season, but they at least have a top-level offense to hang their hat on. They'll struggle but find a way to hold on. If for some reason they fall flat on their face to finish the season, that will open the door for Memphis to sneak in.

Taylor: It's going to be a tight race all the way until the final game or two, but I don't believe in Phoenix. They're fading, having lost seven of 13, and they don't have a true star that can carry a team late in the season. The Suns weren't supposed to be a playoff team this year, and they may be coming back to the pack after a fantastic start.

MacMahon: The schedule isn’t doing any favors for any of these teams, but at least the Mavs play the majority of their games at home the rest of the way. The Grizzlies (14 of 23) and Suns (14 of 22) will be road warriors the rest of the way. Given the Grizzlies’ significant advantage in experience, I’ll also pick the Suns to slide out of the playoff picture and into the lottery.

2. Is Mark Cuban correct that elite prospects would be better served by playing in the D-League instead of a one-and-done college career?

Gutierrez: Cuban is on the right track. If the goal is the NBA, a teenager's best interest isn't by being a part of an NCAA team. The NBA ecosystem, which includes the D-League, and allows players to get proper practice, further understanding of the game, access to state of the art training facilities and steady, consistent time for playing. Players get to compete against others who are pursuing the same goal. These players would be competing against professionals or semi-professionals, thus playing against better talent and giving them a better chance to improve. There are things that the D-League needs to improve on, but I think it's headed in the right direction. There would be complete transparency with Cuban's idea, something that is clearly lacking in the NCAA.

Taylor: That's a complicated question because the NCAA doesn't care about the kids and neither does the NBA. Each entity sees players only as currency that will make its product better. There's something to be said for going to school – even if it's for a year or a semester. Then again, there's something to be said for immersing yourself in your chosen field and seeing how good you can be. I wouldn't mind kids who have no interest in school going to a developmental league.

MacMahon: It’s a fascinating idea that would need a lot of follow-up work. If the NBA wants elite prospects to go straight to the D-League – and maybe the league office doesn’t – then it needs to take major steps to enhance the D-League. This can’t be a situation that some teams take seriously and some don’t. It has to be a league-wide effort. Cuban is on point about the NCAA being a bunch of hypocrites, but it’s hard to argue that D-League coaches are superior than the coaches at college basketball powerhouses.

3. What do you make of the D-League dominance by Jae Crowder and Bernard James?

[+] EnlargeBernard James, Jae Crowder
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsBernard James and Jae Crowder dominated in the
D-League, but how much does that really mean?
Gutierrez: I make of it that they're doing what they're supposed to do. They're players that know what it takes to perform at an NBA level, so they should be able to thrive at a level below that. Cuban said it best -- if they lollygag or don't perform as expected, they'll find themselves making more trips to Frisco. James is project center who still needs to learn the fundamentals on offense, but he's on the older side of the spectrum as a project. Crowder still needs to find his way in becoming an all-around threat. He can defend, but he's not overly great at anything else. The Mavericks are likely pumping a dry well when it comes to James. The question then becomes, can Crowder evolve to become a consistent option as a rotational player? Dominance in Frisco likely won't help answer that question, but it will allow him to get more time to play and work on his game.

Taylor: Nothing. They're still basically end-of-the-bench NBA guys. It would be like me getting impressed if a bench warmer or role player at Duke went to Division II and average 25 points a game. No different than guys who hammer Triple-A pitching but can't get it done in the big leagues.

MacMahon: If guys flunk the J.J. Barea test, they won’t ever amount to anything in the NBA. In other words, if you’ve got a chance to be a quality NBA role player, you better dominate in the D-League. It’d have been disappointing if Crowder (two triple-doubles) and James (38 points, 18 rebounds in his one game) didn’t tear it up for the Texas Legends. (It’s a red flag that Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo haven’t had bigger impacts in the D-League.) It’s evidence that Crowder and James have some potential, not proof that they should be in the Mavs’ rotation right now.

Crowder, James dominate in D-League

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
9:40
PM CT
Call it the J.J. Barea Rule. If you want to make a case for earning minutes for the Mavericks, you better blow up if you get sent down to the D-League.

That’s exactly what center Bernard James and small forward Jae Crowder did in their cameo appearance for the Texas Legends on Thursday, putting up monster numbers in a 121-103 win over the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

James’ line in the box score looks like it belongs in a video game. He scored 38 points on 18-of-20 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked four shots. James had 28 points on 13-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds by halftime.

Crowder’s stats are almost as impressive: a 23-point, 18-rebound, 10-assist triple-double with two steals and a block. There were a couple of blemishes in Crowder’s box score line -- 1-of-5 3-point shooting and five turnovers – but he was physically dominant against a lineup that featured former first-round picks Terrence Williams, Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry.

Point guard Shane Larkin, the Mavs’ first-round pick, had a so-so performance. He scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, dished out nine assists, grabbed five rebounds and committed five turnovers.

The Mavs sent the three young reserves to Frisco to get them some playing time since they aren’t in Dallas’ rotation right now. They’re expected to be recalled for Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

Three Mavs to make D-League cameo

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
2:42
PM CT
DALLAS – Three Mavericks reserves will make a cameo appearance in the D-League to get minutes Thursday night.

Rookie point guard Shane Larkin, second-year forward Jae Crowder and second-year center Bernard James have been assigned to the Texas Legends. They are expected to play in Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles D-Fenders at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco and return to the Mavs for Friday morning’s shootaround.

Larkin, the first-round pick who was replaced in the Mavs’ rotation when Devin Harris got healthy, had a similar D-League stint earlier this month. He scored nine points and dished out seven assists in 33 minutes during the Legends’ Feb. 1 loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Crowder has fallen out of the Mavs’ rotation in favor of Wayne Ellington recently. James has played sparingly all season as the Mavs’ fourth-string center.

Rookie swingman Ricky Ledo was recalled from the Legends to make room for the other three Mavs on the D-League team’s roster. An NBA rule limits the number of players a team can assign to the D-League to three.

Mavs mailbag: Carmelo Anthony to Dallas?

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
12:00
PM CT
Carmelo AnthonyAP Photo/Lance MurpheyWould Carmelo Anthony really leave about $30 million on the table by bolting New York for the Mavs?
The trade deadline has passed and the Mavericks are one of the NBA's hottest teams, winning nine of the last 11 games.

So, of course, we should fast forward and discuss summer possibilities.

This edition of the Mavs have actually given us plenty to talk about, but one particular question about this year's free agency scene fascinates me, so we'll start with that.

Do you think Carmelo Anthony would ever consider Dallas instead of LA or staying in NY? -- @MaziRabiee on Twitter

I'm skeptical, to say the least. It's well known that his wife, the beautiful and apparently talented La La, wants to be in one of the biggest media markets. And as much as Melo says it's all about winning for him now, I'll believe that he'll leave more than $30 million on the table when I see it.

Per ESPN salary cap expert Larry Coon, the Knicks can offer Melo a max deal of $129.1 million over five years. Other teams can offer him $95.9 million over four years.

The Mavs would love to land a legitimate superstar to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, but a strong argument could be made that Melo doesn't make sense for Dallas at that price. The Mavs would have to do some significant roster trimming to free up that much cap space, unless Dirk took a historically unprecedented pay cut.

If the Mavs did sign Melo to a max deal, they'd be handcuffed as far as building a roster around him because he'd eat up so much of the cap. I'm not sure that'd be a wise path to take with a player who has proven to be a great scorer but not a great winner.

A decade into his career, Melo has been out of the first round only twice. Would pairing him with the golden-years version of Dirk really make the Mavs contenders? Of course, the other way to look at it is, do the Mavs have a better plan to try to maximize the final few seasons of Dirk's career?

And it's probably all a moot point anyway, due to all that money Melo would give up by leaving his beloved Big Apple.

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Larry SandersFernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images Could the Mavericks acquire Milwaukee big man Larry Sanders before the trade deadline?
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. What's the best hypothetical deal you can come up with for the Mavs before the trade deadline?


Gutierrez: I would call Boston and see if they're interested in Shane Larkin and Bernard James for Avery Bradley. Dallas has two second-round picks -- one of them due from Boston -- in this upcoming draft, so those could be further chips to use. The logic I see in this is Boston would be acquiring a young asset they presumably liked in Larkin and Bradley turned down an extension with Boston, so the Celtics may look to just get an asset for him now. They're in tank mode, so getting worse and acquiring cheaper talent would be optimal for them. Bradley doesn't fix a lot for Dallas, but one player can't fix what ails Dallas. Presented with an option, I'll go for a defensive-minded guard.

Taylor: I'm not interested in any trade the Mavs could make because this game has evolved into a league where the team with the most superstars win -- unless you're Indiana or Chicago and you supplement your one true superstar with suffocating defense and two or three guys who are almost stars. Those types of players aren't available for what the Mavs have to offer. Evan Turner or Omer Asik aren't going to turn the Mavs into legitimate contenders. Dirk Nowitzki is still a star, and Monta Ellis is really good, but he's not a star. The Mavs' defense is worse than abject. They're a fun team to watch, but they have not chance to win a title and they're merely delaying the inevitable, while Dirk is still on the team.

MacMahon: It will probably be a disappointing trade deadline for Mavs fans. As JJT mentioned, this team simply doesn’t have enough assets to have any confidence in Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson pulling off a blockbuster deal. A Dahntay Jones-for-Anthony Morrow type deal is much more likely, but I’ll stick with my pie-in-the-sky scenario of the Milwaukee Bucks being motivated enough to dump talented but troublesome big man Larry Sanders before his four-year, $44 million extension kicks in. The purely speculative three-way proposal I came up with would bring Sanders and throw-in power forward Ekpe Udoh to Dallas, send Omer Asik and DeJuan Blair to Milwaukee and Shawn Marion to Houston. Too bad Sanders would likely have to get in another bar fight in the next couple of weeks for this to have a chance of happening.

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3 Points: Biggest threats to playoff quest?

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
12:00
PM CT
Marc Gasol and Dirk NowitzkiJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe return of Marc Gasol makes the Grizzlies a more formidable obstacle for the Mavs getting into the playoffs.
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. Which teams are the biggest threats to the Mavs' quest to make the playoffs?


Gutierrez: The only team behind Dallas right now that might bring some cause for concern is Memphis. That's due to the fact that Marc Gasol, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, returned to action after spraining a left knee ligament less than eight weeks ago. Their defensive tenacity can help them get back in gear, but they may be too far behind in the pack. I'm going to take an indirect route for the answer and say that the Mavericks themselves are the biggest threat to their quest to make the playoffs. They have the ability to score on any given night, but their own shortcomings on defense and in terms of rebound really derail their potential. It's up to them to decide how far they can really go.

Taylor: Denver and Minnesota are the best bets to improve and get better over the course of the season, which makes them the biggest threats to the Mavs. Denver has a new coach in Brian Shaw and it always takes teams time to adjust to a new coach and a new system. It takes time for all the players to find a role and get comfortable in it. The Nuggets are just 11-8 at home, where they have traditionally been outstanding. Once they play better at home, they'll start putting some winning streaks together. Minnesota's biggest problem is it doesn't know how to win. Kevin Love is among the league's best players. If they can continue to get strong performances from Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, they will eventually make a push for the playoffs. Rick Adelman is a terrific coach and sooner or later he'll get the most from that team's talent.

MacMahon: The Grizzlies are by far the biggest threat with Gasol back. I figured Memphis as a playoff lock before the season started. The Grizzlies got off to a disappointing start and struggled without their best player, but they are only one game below .500 and completely capable of still getting to 48 or 49 wins. The Nuggets and Timberwolves can't be discounted, but the Nuggets' inconsistency and Timberwolves' stunning inability to win close games (0-11 in games decided by four points or fewer) make them lesser threats.


2. Should the Mavs want Andrew Bynum if he'll take the minimum?


[+] EnlargeAndrew Bynum
AP Photo/Mark DuncanWould Andrew Bynum be worth the risk for the Mavericks?
Gutierrez: Hypothetical or not, Dallas doesn't really need to go after Bynum. Do they need a legitimate big man? The answer is obviously yes, but I don't consider Bynum to be that anymore. Mark Cuban has created a culture and locker room over the last decade-plus that has withstood a lot. The only thing it can't seem to withstand is when former L.A. Lakers have to change colors and become Mavericks. Dallas hasn't had any significant luck, mainly just aggravation, when it comes to bringing in players who used to wear the purple and gold. Fans who remember see Bynum as the "thug" who took a cheap shot on J.J. Barea during the conference semifinals of the 2011 playoffs. For those who haven't really kept up with him this year, the analytics say that Bynum isn't worth the hassle, even at the minimum. He doesn't radically improve the team defensively or in terms of rebounding. The culture has worked with various players, even this year with Monta Ellis, but past results in a specific category suggest that this isn't worth the hassle.

Taylor: I wouldn't want Bynum under any circumstances. He has a loser mentality and there's been no indication he loves the game -- only what it can prove him materially. The Mavs under Cuban, and especially under Carlisle, has been a franchise that plays with maximum effort. Lamar Odom drove Carlisle and Cuban crazy. Bynum would do it faster.

MacMahon: Yes. The Mavs were right -- and I was wrong at the time -- for not making Bynum an offer this summer when it would have taken significant guaranteed money to get him. Bynum obviously wasn't worth that risk. But there would be no risk with a minimum contract. The best-case scenario is that you get a center who can provide scoring punch, rebounding and an interior defensive presence for around 20 minutes per night. If he causes problems, cut him. For me, it comes down to this: Would you rather have Bernard James or Bynum?


3. Should the Mavs be buyers or sellers in the trade market?


Gutierrez: They should be buyers, but I don't really see what they can buy that makes a substantial difference. They have nice assets, but the assets likely won't fix what ails them unless they radically shift the makeup of their roster. Defense is clearly the issue, so they would have to give up key pieces to their offense to fill that void. It doesn't make sense to trade pieces such as Jose Calderon or Monta Ellis because they're new pieces to your core. When you look on the other side, guys such as DeJuan Blair, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion have contracts that are expendable, but they all provide something of substantial value to the team. It's a precarious spot for the Mavericks. They can't be sellers because they have a solid chance to be a playoff team, but their assets don't provide the foundation to provide a quick shot in the arm as buyers.

Taylor: This depends on what they're getting. If it's a high-end lottery draft pick, then be sellers because they have zero chance to win a title this season. If it's a low first-round pick, then the Mavs might as well try to have the best season they can and ruin someone else's season in the postseason.

MacMahon: They can't be sellers. Not if they want to avoid the wrath of a certain 7-foot German. Cuban is too competitive to do anything to reduce the Mavs' chances to get back in the playoffs anyway. But I don't think it's realistic to expect the Mavs to be buyers, either, unless a team is really motivated to dump salary. The Mavs just don't have the assets to be aggressive in the trade market, especially because they can't trade future first-round picks since they're still being handcuffed by the Odom deal.

Opening Tip: Bynum a fit for Mavs?

January, 13, 2014
Jan 13
10:02
AM CT
DALLAS -- The Mavericks opted not to make a bid this summer after checking Andrew Bynum out from head to knees.

Wise decision, as it turned out.

But the Mavs are among the eight teams who expressed exploratory interest in Bynum after he cleared waivers, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports. Why would the Mavs have any interest in Bynum now after passing on him this summer?

Andrew Bynum
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsWould Andrew Bynum be an upgrade to the Mavericks' roster?
Start with the price tag. If the Mavs could have signed Bynum for the minimum this offseason, they would have surely taken that flyer. But Bynum wanted significant guaranteed money -- and got $6 million from the Cleveland Cavaliers, a market the Mavs weren’t willing to enter.

At this point, there would be no negotiating. The Mavs have no cap space and have used all their exceptions, so all they can offer is the minimum. If Bynum gets a better offer, good for him.

“That’s not a banking issue,” Mark Cuban said. “It’s not to say we wouldn’t consider him. But we’ll look at everybody and make a determination. Any free agent, we can only offer them the minimum. Any free agent.”

Cuban claimed he hadn’t studied film of Bynum from his brief Cleveland tenure. It’s not exactly impressive viewing, as Bynum averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting only 41.9 percent in 20 minutes per game.

But this isn’t a matter of whether the 7-foot, 300-ish-pound Bynum can get back in All-Star form. The question is whether he would be an upgrade to the Mavs’ roster.

In other words, would you rather take a flyer on 26-year-old Bynum with his bad knees and baggage or keep 28-year-old fourth-string center Bernard James as the 15th man on the roster?

There’s at least the possibility that Bynum could fill the Mavs’ void at starting center at some point. And, if you’re discussing Dallas’ needs, that’s a pretty good place to start given Samuel Dalembert’s unsurprising inconsistency.

“Depends on which Sam we have,” Cuban said. “If we have the Sam of [Friday] night, we’re good. If we have the Sam that isn’t as on key as he was [Friday] night, it’s different. Again, we’re always being opportunistic. Wherever we can improve our team, we will.”

Of course, a strong argument can be made that the risk of bringing Bynum to Dallas outweighs the reward. He’s been a high-drama, no-impact player at his last two stops and was often a pain during his productive days with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this would be a relationship of convenience, not a marriage. If it doesn’t work out, oh well. At least it wouldn’t be as messy as the Mavs’ recent breakups with ex-Lakers.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.9 4.5 1.7 34.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 9.3
StealsR. Rondo 2.0
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4