Dallas Mavericks: Lebron James

Cuban talks LeBron, free-agent options

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
7:48
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LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James' decision to go back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers sent shock waves around the league. The city of Cleveland is certainly happy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he thought James' decision was a positive one.

"I think it's great for the league," Cuban said as he was watching the Mavs' summer league team play. "As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh, it's great to see the old-school cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, we're usually the brunt of the jokes and people talk about leaving.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsLeBron James' decision to return home to Cleveland resonated with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who is from Pittsburgh.
"It's always good when I go back to Pittsburgh and it's just that type city. It's a Pittsburgh city and Cleveland is very similar. It's great for the area and the city."

James took a massive public-relations hit in 2010 for his one-hour televised special announcing he would join the Miami Heat. Cuban says he believes that time has done wonders for James and his approach to his latest decision.

"It's obvious that LeBron has grown up quite a bit since 'The Decision,'" Cuban said. "How he handled it, his words, his approach were night and day. I think he deserves a lot of respect."

Here are other highlights from Cuban's chat:

Still in doubt
The clock continues to tick as the Houston Rockets have to decide if they're going to match the Mavs' offer for restricted free agent Chandler Parsons. The Rockets have until 10:59 p.m. CT Sunday to decide whether to exercise their right to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet Parsons signed with the Mavs.

"No," Cuban replied when asked if he had any inkling what Houston would do. "It's just a waiting game. I know what I would do. I don't expect them to do anything different."

Cuban wouldn't divulge what he would do in the situation.

(Read full post)

The LeBron domino's impact on Dallas

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
11:50
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LeBron JamesAP Images/Mark DuncanLeBron James will return to wearing his original No. 23 for the Cavaliers in 2014-15.
The biggest NBA domino has fallen with LeBron James’ lowercase decision to return to Cleveland.

That’s exactly what the Dallas Mavericks expected to happen when they made their decision to sign Houston Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to a three-year, $46 million offer sheet. The ripples of James’ departure from Miami are expected to cause Chris Bosh to head to Houston.

The Rockets have offered Bosh a max contract of $88 million over four years, but it’s impossible for Houston to sign him to that deal unless they let Parsons leave or pull off an extremely complicated sign-and-trade deal. That’s even if the Rockets get rid of every single player on the roster other than Dwight Howard and James Harden before the 11 p.m. CT deadline Sunday night to match the Mavs’ offer to Parsons.

Houston simply does not have the cap space to squeeze a max deal for Bosh along with the max deals for Howard and Harden with Parsons’ $2.9 million cap hold on the books.

Could the Rockets convince Bosh to sign for slightly less than the max? Sure, that’s possible, but Houston general manager Daryl Morey would still need to make several salary-dump deals to be in position to sign Bosh and keep Parsons.

And Rockets owner Leslie Alexander would have to agree to step into luxury-tax territory with four eight-figure salaries in the starting lineup and the rest of the roster to fill out.

(Read full post)

Players have leverage in SF market

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
10:20
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Chandler ParsonsBill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons is a long shot because of the Rockets' intention to match any offer he receives.
One NBA front office executive compares free agency to watching frogs in a pond.

There are only so many lily pads for the frogs to hop onto. As those lily pads start getting claimed, the frogs tend to get a little more frantic, or at least more willing to negotiate deals that could be perceived as team friendly.

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Who is the most realistic option for the Mavs at small forward?

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Case in point: Monta Ellis, who settled for a lot less than his initial asking price last summer when the Dallas Mavericks were the lone lily pad left in the pond.

Could a similar scenario unfold in this summer’s market for small forwards? Don’t count on it. There are simply too many lily pads.

The Mavs are one of several teams who have ample space under the salary cap and a glaring need at small forward. Other teams on that list include the Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and the couple of teams competing for LeBron James, the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Several other teams hold cards because they own Bird rights or can match offers made to restricted free agents. That list includes the New York Knicks (Carmelo Anthony), Utah Jazz (Gordon Hayward), Houston Rockets (Chandler Parsons), Washington Wizards (Trevor Ariza) and Brooklyn Nets (Paul Pierce). And the Los Angeles Clippers are a contender determined to upgrade at small forward, via a sign-and-trade deal.

That’s almost half the league that’s looking for an upgrade at small forward or trying to keep their starter from last season. The Mavs consider only six small forwards to be Plan A or B options in this free-agency market.

(Read full post)

No harm in Mavs' holding pattern

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
11:07
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Why don’t the Mavericks just move on?

That’s a question I’m getting in various forms a lot on Twitter. The logic is that the Mavs are such long shots to land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony that they might as well shift their attention to other targets, making sure they don’t end up empty-handed after the first wave of free agency.

There are two good reasons that patience is the right path for the Mavs right now.

First, no matter how slim the chance is, it’d make no sense for the Mavs to walk away from talks with an in-his-prime superstar without being told no. The potential reward, particularly with James, is simply too high. The reality is that the Mavs are a star away from being a legitimate title contender, so they should run out every ground ball when the rare opportunities arise to try to get one of those guys.

Second, the market for small forwards is frozen until Anthony and James make their decisions anyway. For that matter, most of the role players on the Mavs’ radar are in a holding pattern, too.

Unless they’re blown away by an offer, it’d be bad business for Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza to agree to a deal before the big fish choose their ponds. The Mavs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are all in the same boat -- looking to upgrade at small forward and holding out hope for one of the superstars. If you’re a second-tier small forward in free agency, why get a deal done now when the market could be much bigger in a few days?

A common suggestion: Hurry up and sign restricted free agent Chandler Parsons to an offer sheet while the Houston Rockets are filled with Melo hopes? Here’s the problem with that: No offer sheet can become official until July 10 anyway. Unless Anthony drags his decision out a lot longer than anticipated, the Rockets won’t be rushed in deciding whether to exercise their right to match an offer to Parsons.

Parsons is still in play for the Mavs, but he’s a long shot because of the Rockets’ stated intention to keep him. Ariza and Deng are still possibilities.

None of that is likely to change by the time the superstar suspense stops.
The pie-in-the-sky scenario at least seems a little more possible after Mark Cuban’s trip to Cleveland.

The shameless “Shark Tank” promoter sarcastically claimed his Ohio visit was related to the reality TV show, but he was there to meet with LeBron James' agent Rich Paul, as ESPN.com reported Thursday.

Maybe that’s as far as the Mavs’ courting of King James goes. Or maybe they’ll be one of the teams to get a meeting with the four-time MVP in the coming days. Stay tuned.

At this point, it appears that James is at least contemplating leaving the Miami Heat, and the Mavs, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are in the mix if he decides to bid farewell to declining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh after four Finals trips and two titles in four seasons together.

Who knows how good the Mavs’ odds would be if James is serious about leaving South Beach? But when a franchise has any chance at landing the world’s best player, they’d be foolish not to play it out. (Unless Carmelo Anthony makes the surprising decision to come to Dallas. After all, a big fish on the boat is worth more than two in the ocean.)

Cuban said before free agency opened that he didn’t intend to make any max offers, but it’s a safe bet that he wouldn’t let a few million dollars get in the way of signing James. The Mavs could easily create enough cap space to sign James to a max contract with a starting salary of $20.7 million by trading Raymond Felton or Brandan Wright in salary-dump deals.

That would leave the Mavs with little more than their cap room exception (approximately $2.7 million per year for no more than two seasons) and minimum-salary slots. With LeBron on board, the Mavs would likely be able to add a few bargain, ring-chasing veterans to fill out the rotation with quality players.

The Mavs’ hope of hitting a home run this summer is very much alive at the moment. It’s still nowhere near probable, but it’s unquestionably possible.


The Dallas Mavericks believe they have a legitimate shot of landing Carmelo Anthony and will hope for the best, but they better have alternate plans.

That’s why the Mavs were so aggressive in exploring the small-forward market in the first day of free agency.

LeBron James would obviously top the Mavs’ list if he looked to leave Miami, but the belief is he’ll be back with the Heat next season. The Mavs have registered interest in at least seven other small forwards who started last season.

The Plan B group consists of four players who are likely to sign contracts with starting salaries between $8 million and $12 million. The small forwards in the Plan C group are projected to land in the neighborhood of $3 million to $5 million. In either case, the Mavs would have cap room to make moves other than filling the starting spot at small forward.

PLAN B

[+] EnlargeChandler Parsons
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons is close to a perfect fit for the Mavs on the offensive end, but the Rockets can match any offer he receives.
Chandler Parsons: The 6-foot-9 Parsons can knock down 3s, create off the dribble, averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a 25-year-old last season and is pals with Dirk Nowitzki. He’s pretty close to a perfect fit, at least offensively.

Dallas, we have one huge problem: Parsons is a restricted free agent, meaning the Rockets have the right match any offer. If Anthony chooses the Rockets, maybe Houston declines to match a big offer for Parsons, but those two would be compatible in an offensive system that wants its power forwards to be perimeter threats.

It’s probable that Parsons will make eight figures next season after being a six-figure bargain as a second-round pick the last few seasons. The Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are among the teams reported to have shown interest.

Gordon Hayward: The 24-year-old Hayward has a lot of similarities to Parsons – a young player who has a versatile offensive game (16.2 ppg, 5.2 apg last season) and is a restricted free agent. All indications coming out of Utah are that the Jazz plan on exercising their right to match any offer that Hayward receives.

But the Mavs might call the Jazz’s bluff. Hayward’s suitors reportedly include the Cleveland Cavaliers, Suns and Celtics, where he could reunite with college coach Brad Stevens.

Trevor Ariza: The 6-foot-8 Ariza is set to cash in after having a career year in a contract year at the age of 28. The Washington Wizards are determined to keep him their 3-and-D guy after Ariza averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds while defending the opponent’s best wing scorer all season, playing a key role in the franchise winning a playoff series for only the second time in three decades.

While most of the market at this position will wait for Anthony to make his decision, the Wizards are trying to lock up Ariza as soon as possible after giving center Marcin Gortat a five-year, $60 million deal to stay in Washington. Ariza’s other suitors include the Suns, Lakers, Heat, Jazz, Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers.

Luol Deng: There is a large difference between Deng’s asking price and the Mavs’ perceived value of him, but that was the case with Monta Ellis at this point last summer. The parties meeting somewhere in the middle is certainly possible if Deng’s other suitors don’t step up.

Deng would likely be the Mavs’ last choice out of this tier for two reasons. He’s a below-average 3-point shooter (32.9 percent for his career), which is particularly concerning for a team that has a subpar perimeter-shooting backcourt. Perhaps more importantly, there are significant concerns about his durability after he played heavy minutes for years in Chicago and has missed double-digit games in five of the last seven seasons.

The Bulls, Lakers, Heat, Clippers and Hawks are among the teams to express interest in the 6-foot-9 Deng, an outstanding defender who has averaged 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds during his career.

PLAN C

[+] EnlargeShawn Marion and Rick Carlisle
Chuck Myers/MCT/Getty ImagesShawn Marion isn't likely to return to the Mavs unless it's in a starting role.
Shawn Marion: The Mavs aren’t going to get Marion, who played such a critical role on their 2011 title team, to take a discount deal after aggressively trying to replace him in the starting lineup.

Marion would be a great fit as retired Shane Battier’s replacement in Miami, and there’s a strong feeling that he ends up chasing another ring as part of King James’ supporting cast. It’s doubtful that Marion, the Mavs’ best defender during his five-year tenure and leading rebounder the last few seasons, returns to Dallas unless he’s a starter again.

Paul Pierce: At 36, he’s no longer one of the premier wing players in the league, but Pierce can still play. He averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets, who hope to keep him.

Doc Rivers, the coach of Pierce’s championship team in Boston, is attempting to convince the future Hall of Famer to join him in L.A. The Bulls, Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies have also put out feelers for Pierce.

Al-Farouq Aminu: He’s a freakishly athletic, 6-foot-9, 23-year-old former lottery pick project who would look much better coming off the bench than in the starting lineup for a playoff team. His poor perimeter shooting is a major concern, but Aminu has the tools to be a terrific defender and rebounder for a small forward and might be ready to take off in the right system.
Small forward tops the Dallas Mavericks’ summer shopping list.

Houston’s Chandler Parsons, Cleveland’s Luol Deng, Washington’s Trevor Ariza and Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce are among the small forwards that the Mavs registered interest during the opening hours of free agency.

All of those players are expected to have several suitors, and the Rockets have the right to match any offers for Parsons because of his status as a restricted free agent. Those small forwards are also fallback plans for the Mavs if they fail to successfully recruit one of the available superstars.

The Mavs have a meeting scheduled with Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday afternoon. They are one of five teams Anthony plans to visit.

The Mavs are also attempting to set up a meeting with LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul.

The Mavs remain interested in re-signing Shawn Marion, but they are aggressively trying to replace him in the starting lineup.
In his self-deprecating style, Dirk Nowitzki jokes that premier free agents must not like him. After all, the Dallas Mavericks have failed to hook a big fish the last two summers.

The Mavs are ready to try, try again, with Nowitzki preparing to play a key role on the Dallas recruiting committee in the pursuit of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
AP Photo/Alan DiazThe Mavs have plenty of selling points to try to entice LeBron James.
Nowitzki has repeatedly said the Mavs “would love to have” Anthony, one of the league’s elite scorers. It’s obvious they would prefer James, a four-time MVP who led the Miami Heat to the Finals each of the last four years.

Dirk’s sales pitch to King James?

“C’mon, you can have the keys to the city,” Nowitzki said to reporters while at Steve Nash's charity soccer game in New York. “It’s all yours.”

If the Mavs can get a face-to-face meeting with James, as they are set to have with Anthony, Nowitzki would surely have much more to say.

The Mavs, who are much more optimistic about their odds of landing one of the superstar small forwards after pulling the trigger on Wednesday’s trade for Tyson Chandler, are prepared to pitch James and Anthony on the opportunity to play for what they believe would be the league’s elite frontcourt next season. Adding one of the league’s top three scorers to the Dirk/Monta Ellis duo would also give the Mavs the NBA’s most potent offensive trio.

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Coach Rick Carlisle’s presence on the Dallas bench is also one of the Mavs’ best assets as they attempt to sign a superstar. He is without question one of the league’s premier coaches, as James found out firsthand during the 2011 Finals, and Carlisle proved again when the eighth-seeded Mavs pushed the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Mavs will also sell the franchise’s championship culture and proven ability to sustain a contender, pointing to their 13 playoff trips in 14 seasons and recent run of 11 consecutive 50-win campaigns.

But the future is much more important than the past for free agents. That’s why the Mavs will pitch a plan that includes potentially adding an All-Star again next summer, when the Mavs will have ample cap space again and intend to pursue Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and/or Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

That’s an awfully optimistic plan. The second step would be much more likely if the Mavs manage to finally reel in a big fish this summer, especially if it’s the biggest in the NBA waters.

"All the teams with cap room got to try [to sign James]," Nowitzki told reporters. "He's the best player in the league right now. If he's a free agent – which obviously doesn't happen very often that the best player in the league is a free agent – then you got to obviously go at it. I don't know what our chances are, but you at least have to try."

Dirk is offering the keys to the city. More importantly, the Mavs’ front office is offering a chance to compete for championships immediately and for years to come.

Free-agency preview: Power forwards

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
8:00
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The Dallas Mavericks haven’t had a real backup power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki for years.

Shawn Marion has typically slid over to power forward over the last five years when Nowitzki rested. The Mavs would love to continue that type of rotation with LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, both of whom have significant experience playing power forward in small-ball lineups.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol could be an option for the Mavs if they can't lure LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
It’s also possible if the Mavs sign Luol Deng or bring back Marion. Maybe it’d work at times with Trevor Ariza, although he’s awfully slender to play power forward.

The Mavs certainly wouldn’t mind having a legitimate power forward with a reliable jumper to spell Nowitzki without requiring a change in offensive philosophy.

Some of those possibilities:

Pau Gasol: The Mavs believe the trade for Tyson Chandler increases their odds of reeling in one of the big fish, but sources told ESPNDallas.com that it did not eliminate their interest in Gasol.

Landing James or Anthony is the Mavs’ clear-cut priority, and there’d be no room left for Gasol if they were successful. However, the two-time champion with the Lakers could factor into the Mavs’ backup plans, in free agency and on the floor next season.

It’s unknown whether Gasol would be willing to come off the bench at the age of 34, but it’s feasible to project him playing about 28 minutes per game for the Mavs. The Mavs don’t want Nowitzki averaging more than 32 minutes, so Gasol could play 16 minutes per game at power forward. He’d likely get another dozen or so minutes at center, maybe more against certain matchups.

The way the Mavs’ rotation is structured, Gasol and Nowitzki could play some together against opposing second units, diminishing the concerns about their flaws as a defensive duo.

The Mavs would hope to get Gasol, who averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, for about $8 million per year.

Channing Frye: Frye, who declined an option to make $6.8 million from the Phoenix Suns next season, could be a similar two-position fit in the Mavs’ rotation.

The 6-foot-11 Frye is a poor rebounder for his size (5.1 per game last season), but he’s one of the best stretch-shooting bigs in the league. He has a career 3-point percentage of 38.5, a fraction of a percentage better than Nowitzki.

At this point in his career, Frye launches more than half his field-goal attempts from 3-point range. The Mavs can use all the shooting they can get after giving up 3-point marksman Jose Calderon in the Chandler deal.

Marvin Williams: He never lived up to expectations as a No. 2 overall pick, but Williams is a decent rotation player who can be used at either forward position, averaging 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game last season. He could be an option at a relatively low salary.

Anthony Tolliver: He’s a little undersized for a power forward at 6-foot-8, but he’s a floor-spacer who might be available for the minimum. He shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range as a Charlotte reserve last season, shooting almost exclusively from long range. The 29-year-old journeyman had a season-high 22 points against the Mavs.

Boris Diaw: It’s unlikely he’d leave San Antonio after his career revival and the Spurs’ title run. If he looked for another home for some reason, his passing and shooting would fit well in Rick Carlisle’s flow system.
The Mavericks' decision-makers don't know how good their odds are of landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in free agency.

They are certain, however, that those odds got a heck of a lot better in the last few hours.

"It makes us real players for LeBron [or] Carmelo," a team source told ESPNDallas.com after completing the trade that brought center Tyson Chandler back to Dallas.

The Mavs will attempt to convince one of the perennial All-Star small forwards to join Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler in a frontcourt that they believe would be the best in the league.

Dallas has approximately $26.5 million in salary cap space before re-signing Nowitzki, who has long been committed to taking a major pay cut to allow the Mavs to add talent around him. Nowitzki has been expected to give Dallas a Tim Duncan-like discount ($10 million per year), but he might be willing to accept even less to make room for James or Anthony. The Mavs could also make other moves to create more cap space, if necessary.

With Chandler’s contract expiring after this season, the Mavs will be positioned again next summer to make another run at a superstar in free agency even if they are successful next season. The free-agency class of 2015 could include Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Mavs have failed to land a big fish the last couple of summers in free agency, but the front office is full of optimism again after adding more bait with Wednesday’s big deal.

Free-agency preview: Small forwards

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
8:30
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Luol DengAP Photo/Mark DuncanLuol Deng is one of the few players in the league as defensively versatile as Shawn Marion.
The Dallas Mavericks hope to finally land a big fish in free agency.

They also firmly understand that they’re in a long line of teams trying to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Put it this way: The Mavs had better odds of getting Deron Williams or Dwight Howard the last couple of offseasons than signing one of the superstars available this summer.

The Mavs are on a short list of teams that have the cap space to offer a full max contract to either of the available in-their-prime, future Hall of Fame small forwards, but several teams can maneuver to create room. And the superstars’ current teams can trump offers from anyone with contracts featuring an extra year and more than $30 million. Plus, don’t assume that the Mavs would be willing to give Anthony a full max offer with a starting salary of more than $22 million.

The Dallas front office isn’t approaching this summer with a big fish-or-bust mentality. They’ll have strong Plans B, C, D, etc. in place, particularly at small forward.

One of those is re-signing Shawn Marion, the Mavs’ best defender and rebounder over the last five seasons and a critical piece of the 2011 championship puzzle. There is strong mutual interest in Marion’s return, although it is uncertain whether the 36-year-old “Matrix” would be enthusiastic about staying in Dallas if the Mavs envision him as a reserve.

The Mavs are optimistic that they’ll re-sign sixth man Vince Carter, who plays the majority of his minutes at small forward.

A look at some of the Mavs’ other small forward options in free agency:

Luol Deng: There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-8, 29-year-old Deng. He’s one of the few players in this league as defensively versatile as Marion, but he’s seven years younger and a much more productive offensive player at this point of their careers.

As Rick Carlisle said when Deng came to Dallas with the Cavs last season, any coach would love to have Deng on their roster due to his toughness, intelligence and talent.

(Read full post)

Nowitzki/James/EllisGetty ImagesOn paper, Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki look much more attractive than Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
When you have a chance to hit a grand slam, you’ve got to step in the batter’s box and take your cuts.

The odds of the Dallas Mavericks winning the LeBron James derby aren’t good, but it’d be foolish for a team with ample salary cap space not to make every possible attempt to sign the planet’s best player.

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It remains to be seen whether Mark Cuban and the Mavs get an audience with King James before he makes his decision -- or The Decision II. If they do, the Mavs should surely pitch James on the franchise’s championship culture and the fact that Rick Carlisle ranks among the NBA’s elite coaches, as LeBron found out firsthand during the 2011 Finals.

The Mavs can also make the claim that James would be part of a better Big Three if he moved to Dallas instead of staying in Miami.

Go ahead, pick the pair of sidekicks you’d prefer to play with:

DUO 1: A shooting guard who averaged 19.0 points and 4.7 assists while missing 28 games due to health issues and the need for preventative rest, and a perimeter-shooting 6-foot-11 guy who averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.

DUO 2: A shooting guard who averaged 19.0 points and 5.7 assists while playing every game, and a perimeter-shooting 7-footer who averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.

(Read full post)

Dirk Nowitzki dominates Game 7s

May, 3, 2014
May 3
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DALLAS – Few things make the face of the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise smile like a Game 7.

“It’s the ultimate thrill,” Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs pushed this first-round series to the limit with Friday’s Game 6 comeback win over the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. “It’s win or go home. Everything that happened before it is out the window. Nothing [else] matters.

“It’s just that one game. It’s great competition. It’s the ultimate competition. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to embrace it.”

[+] EnlargeTim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki is 4-0 in Game 7s in his career and has averaged 28 points and 14.8 rebounds in those games.
Nowitzki is the ultimate Game 7 performer.

He knows nothing but the thrill of victory in the winner-takes-all series finales. Nowitzki is 4-0 in Game 7 action throughout his career, and his numbers in those games border on ridiculous.

You think joining a trio of Hall of Famers – Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit and Hakeem Olajuwon – in the exclusive career 25-point, 10-rebound club is impressive? Nowitzki has averaged 28 points and 14.8 rebounds in Game 7s, with all of that experience coming between 2003 and ’06.

How silly is it that the big German was stereotyped as a “soft Euro” until he led the Mavs on a 2011 championship march without a series going seven games?

Dirk registered a points-rebound double-double in each of his four swings at a Game 7. The only other active players with four such Game 7 double-doubles in their career are Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan.

Nowitzki has three 30-10 Game 7 lines. He’s the only guy who can make that claim in the basketball-reference.com database, which dates to 1986. The only two-timers in that time span: LeBron James and Karl Malone.

Nowitzki put up a 31-point, 11-rebound line in his first Game 7, when the Mavs avoided going from up 3-0 to out by beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2003 West first round. He had 30 and 19 in a Game 7 win over the Sacramento Kings the next series. His least impressive Game 7 line – 14 points and 14 rebounds – came in a 40-point rout of the Houston Rockets in the 2005 first round, the most lopsided Game 7 in NBA history.

Then there was that classic overtime duel against Duncan in the 2006 West semifinals, the only time the Spurs have been knocked out on their home floor in a Game 7.

Duncan blew up for 41 points and 15 rebounds. Nowitzki had 37 points and 15 rebounds. Dirk’s driving and-1 forced the game into overtime, and the Mavs prevailed.

“It’s going to be a game of runs and you’ve just got to weather the storm sometimes,” Nowitzki said when asked how that Game 7 experience in San Antonio might help him prepare his teammates for this massive challenge. “That game, we were up 20. Next thing you know, [Manu] Ginobili makes a 3 and we were down 3 in the last minute. You’ve just got to play every possession.

“In the playoffs, that’s what you focus on. In a Game 7, you don’t want to think ahead. You don’t want to think about your next shot. You just worry about your next possession. You play this possession as hard as you can. … You got to stay in the moment.”

Take it from a guy who has risen to those moments as well as anyone in NBA history.
Dirk NowitzkiRon Jenkins/Zuma Press/Icon SMIIn 20 elimination games, Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 28.9 points and 11.4 rebounds.

DALLAS -- Bet on a big game by Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks facing elimination Friday night.

That prediction feels much safer a couple of days after witnessing the first burst of Dirk dominance during this first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s not about any anticipated carryover from Nowitzki’s 14-point fourth quarter in Game 5.

It’s based on Nowitzki’s track record of coming up big when the Mavs’ backs are against the wall.

Nowitzki has averaged 28.9 points and 11.4 rebounds in 20 career win-or-go-home games. To put that into perspective, per the Elias Sports Bureau, only five players in NBA history have higher scoring averages when facing elimination (minimum of 10 games).

The prestigious list: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson and Jerry West.

It would be a stretch to say Nowitzki enjoys these elimination situations. It’s no fun to know that you’re possibly one game away from your season going up in smoke. However, with rare exception, he has responded extraordinarily well to that immense pressure.

“Maybe you’re on the edge a little more,” Nowitzki said. “You don’t even want to think that the long season could actually come to an end tomorrow. You don’t even want to let it cross your mind. You want to stay focused and you kind of want to stay in the moment.”

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Who can eventually catch Dirk?

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
8:00
AM CT
Dirk Nowitzki AP Photo/Jason DeCrowWill Carmelo Anthony one day catch Dirk Nowitzki on the NBA's all-time scoring list?
Dirk Nowitzki is not nearly done shooting up the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

The big German has already bumped five NBA legends down a spot this season and is on pace to pass Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson before the playoffs begin. It’s fun to try to figure out how high Dirk will climb.

It’s a safe bet that Nowitzki will finish next season in seventh place, passing Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone. Shaquille O’Neal and the No. 6 spot should be well within Nowitzki’s reach in the 2015-16 season, as Dirk has publicly declared he’ll play at least that long.

Will Nowitzki keeping lacing ‘em up long enough to join the 30,000-point club? To crack the top five?

We won’t have to wait too long for those answers. Here’s a question that will require much more patience to get answers: Which active players will eventually pass Nowitzki?

A look at the select few who have a legitimate chance, with Nowitzki’s point totals at the end of the season when he was their age:

LeBron James
Career points: 22,692
Age: 29
Dirk points at that age: 16,990
He’s 29 years old and already 28th on the all-time scoring list. How ridiculous is that? King James has scored more than 2,000 points in all but two of his 11 NBA seasons -- his rookie campaign as a 19-year-old and the lockout-shortened season. It doesn’t seem like the four-time MVP is slowing down anytime soon. There's little doubt that James will pass Nowitzki. The question is whether he’ll catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Carmelo Anthony
Career points: 19,616
Age: 29
Dirk points at that age: 16,990
How gracefully will Melo age? Will he sacrifice shots for a chance to play for a championship contender? Considering his 3,000-point pad before hitting 30, he’ll probably end up passing Nowitzki regardless of the answer to those questions. And Anthony’s development as a 3-point threat (career-best .418 from long range this season) provides another reason to believe that he’ll put up big numbers well into his thirties.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.6 4.7 1.5 33.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.5
AssistsM. Ellis 4.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.5
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4