Dallas Mavericks: Sacramento Kings
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.
The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings in the teams' opener of the Las Vegas Summer League.
How it happened: Down as many as 14 points with just over 3½ minutes to go in the first half, the Mavs battled back in the second half to secure the win. Josh Akognon, a carryover from last season, led the Mavs with a game-high 22 points.
Gal Mekel did a nice job of letting the game come to him. He moved into the starting point guard role due to Shane Larkin’s fractured right ankle. The Israeli guard had some expected rookie moments, but he did a nice job of directing traffic on offense. In his first real action, Mekel showed some promise.
Jae Crowder’s slimmer look was a story heading into the summer league, and he showed a little more mobility. He mixed up his game and got things going early for Dallas. He hit a patch of inconsistency with his jumper but created separation with a fadeaway jumper to make it 73-71 in favor of Dallas with 38.4 seconds left. He finished with 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
Fellow second-year player Bernard James had a team-high nine rebounds, but he struggled when he tried to finish shots at the rim. In preparation for Vegas, he said he was working on bulking up and improving his finishing skills. It appears he still has some more work to do.
Ricky Ledo, the 43rd overall pick in the draft, was the scorer off the bench for Dallas. Known as a shooter, he delivered with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. The summer league represents the first time he has played organized basketball in over a year. It’s possible the Mavs found another second-round gem.
What it means: Dallas’ summer-league roster showed some scrappiness with the comeback, but they have a lot of work to do on the defensive end. Coach Monte Mathis won’t have much time to get the team to correct that issue as it faces the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.
Mavs player of the game: Akognon’s shooting kept the Mavs within striking distance. He signed with Dallas for the remainder of the season in April. With a nonguaranteed deal, the shooter is looking to show he is worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster.
Stat of the day: In a similar fashion to the 2012-13 Mavs, the summer leaguers had trouble finishing off possessions. They were outrebounded 41-37. They were also minus-11 on second-chance points. Luckily for them, they did just enough to secure the win.
Cousins, the Bee reports, is simply following the orders of his agent to avoid comment on the Kings while they push for a max extension or a trade before he begins the final season of his rookie contract.
The Mavs have long been enamored by the skilled, 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins’ immense talent. They made several attempts to try to pry him from the Kings last season, when the unstable ownership situation essentially kept Cousins off the trade market.
The Mavs would certainly be interested in bringing Cousins to Dallas this summer in the likely event that they don’t land Dwight Howard. The problem: What package could the Mavs offer Sacramento that could possibly persuade new Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro to pull the trigger on a trade?
Proven veterans on expiring deals don’t have much value to a franchise that’s a lottery regular and attempting to rebuild. In other words, Shawn Marion and/or Vince Carter wouldn’t get the deal done.
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The Mavs can’t trade future picks because of their protected first-rounder that’s still floating around (now Oklahoma City’s property) from the Lamar Odom deal/debacle.
Cousins, despite his on-court character issues, has value. Guys with that size and skill set don't come along very often. If the Kings shop him – and maybe even if they don’t – they will get intriguing offers that feature young talent and/or attractive draft picks.
At the moment, they Mavs don’t have the assets to make that kind of offer. Never say never, but it certainly seems that the Mavs would have to get at least one more team involved in the deal to come up with a proposal that could feasibly bring Cousins to Dallas.
It's a safe bet that Mark Cuban has plugged in all sorts of scenarios on his spreadsheets. It's a long shot that Cousins actually ends up in Dallas this summer.
Nowitzki didn’t merit that honor during this injury-marred season, so he’ll head to a beach instead.
“My whole career, that’s the only thing I know is going to the All-Star game, so this is something different,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ rout of the Kings. “I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it, as well.
“I always said the last couple of years I’m fine either way. I love to represent the Mavericks down there, and if that’s not the case I’m going to have some fun somewhere else.”
Nowitzki will lift weights and get some cardio work in during his vacation, but he doesn’t plan to touch a basketball until the Mavs practice Monday afternoon.
Nowitzki heads into the break in a nice little groove. He followed up his 24-point, seven-rebound performance in Monday’s loss to Atlanta with a 17-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, three-steal night. Nowitzki is 14-of-23 from the floor in the last two games.
“I’ve felt better,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve said it all the time – I’ve got to keep working. It was ugly there for a while. My stamina, I feel like my legs are getting better and better. I feel good.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ blowout over the Kings:
1. Collison keeps it up: Darren Collison claims he hadn’t heard about the Mavericks’ reported interest in Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings.
Collison insists he doesn’t care about things such as trade rumors that are out of his control.
“I can’t predict the future, so I can’t really comment on what trade rumors are out there,” Collison said. “All I can do is just play my game.”
Collison played his game awfully well Wednesday night, dropping 18 points and nine dimes in the Mavs’ rout of the Sacramento Kings. Collison established the fast tempo coach Rick Carlisle wanted and was extremely efficient, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the floor and committing only two turnovers.
“He’s an improved player and he’s improving game by game,” Carlisle said.
The Mavs might be hesitant to commit to Collison as a long-term solution, but the fact of the matter is that he’s been a solid starter ever since Derek Fisher decided to return to his rocking chair.
In 24 games since regaining his starting job, Collison has averaged 14.2 points, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals and only 2.0 turnovers per game. He’s been an alarmingly accurate shooter during that span, hitting 51.4 percent of his shots from the floor, 50.0 percent of his 3-point attempts and 95.6 percent of his free throws.
“I just think coach is doing a good job just letting me play,” said Collison, who averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 assists during the Mavs’ 3-1 homestand. “I’m just going out there and playing my game.”
2. Courting Cousins: There is a mutual admiration between the Dallas decision-makers and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
Carlisle has raved about Cousins’ game several times, and the Mavs’ front office has made its feelings about the talented 6-foot-11, 270-pound 22-year-old known by trying to convince the Kings to trade him.
What’s Cousins think about the Mavs?
“I think it’s a well-run organization, definitely one of the top organizations in the league,” Cousins said after scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
Cousins, who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season, clearly isn’t thrilled with his current team. He has butted heads with coach Keith Smart and said Wednesday that “a realistic goal is to win more than 25 games.”
3. Sad Sacramento: The worst defensive team in the NBA brings out the best in the Mavs’ offense.
Three of the Mavs’ four highest-scoring games of the season came against the Kings. Their 123 points Wednesday were the most this season other than a 126-point outburst against Charlotte in the third game of the season. The Mavs had 119 and 117 in their previous two wins over the Kings.
Carter lit it up for 26 points in 24 minutes, making 9-of-15 shots from the field and 6-of-9 from 3-point range. The 36-year-old sixth man caught fire in the third quarter, when he torched Sacramento for 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers.
The 3-pointer Carter hit on the Mavs' final possession of the third quarter -- a shot he celebrated with a Jordan-esque shrug of his shoulder -- bumped Larry Bird down a spot on the all-time scoring list. Carter ranks 29th with 21,796 career points.
Carter's brilliance against the NBA's worst defensive team highlighted one of the Mavs' best offensive performances of the season. They've scored more points in a game only once, a 126-99 win over the Charlotte Bobcats in the third game of the season.
Point guard Darren Collison had an outstanding outing, scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting and dishing out nine assists with only two turnovers. Dirk Nowitzki had an efficient, all-around night, putting up 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.
What it means: The Mavs won three of four games on their homestand heading into the All-Star break to improve to 23-29. They extended their home winning streak against the Kings to 18 games and have won 14 of 15 overall against Sacramento.
Play of the game: O.J. Mayo's two-hand slam finished a fast break in which the ball never touched the floor. Shawn Marion got a steal under the basket and fired a bullet outlet pass to Collison at halfcourt on the right side of the floor. Collison immediately found Mayo streaking down the middle of the lane for the dunk that stretched Dallas' lead to seven midway through the second quarter.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 11-2 against teams playing the second night of a back-to-back at the American Airlines Center this season.
It’s that ability that makes the Mavs one of several teams that would love to deal for Cousins when/if he wears out his welcome with the Kings.
It’s his immaturity that could lead to Cousins’ exit sooner than later from Sacramento/Seattle, although all signs are that it won’t happen before the Feb. 21 trade deadline with team’s ownership in a state of transition.
Cousins landed a no-look punch below O.J. Mayo’s belt Dec. 10 in Dallas and drilled Vince Carter with a forearm to the head a month later in Sacramento. Cousins claimed accidental contact both times, but it’s painfully clear that his infamous temper got the best of him in both instances, leading to a one-game suspension for the Mayo hit and an overtime ejection for the Carter crack.
“He’s one of them guys that he reacts sometimes emotionally and physically when it comes to something that don’t go right for him on the court,” Mavs vet Shawn Marion said. “But get him around some older guys, he probably could get that under control.”
That’s exactly what the Mavs’ front office is thinking.
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And the Dallas decision-makers have a lot of confidence that coach Rick Carlisle could fully tap that immense potential of a young player who is averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds despite his issues. Cousins, who was briefly suspended by the team after butting heads with inexperienced Kings coach Keith Smart, has a clean record of non-basketball-related behavior.
Cousins, who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014 and recently switched agents to Mavs-friendly Dan Fegan, ranks among the NBA’s biggest knuckleheads at the moment. But there aren’t many more talented big men – and none his age.
You’ll never hear Carlisle comment about potential trade activity, but he makes it clear that he has a great deal of respect for Cousins’ game. Carlisle, who got into a heated exchanged with Cousins during a timeout at the AAC earlier this season, raves about the “diversity” of Cousins’ skill set.
“He’s got tremendous ball skills for a guy his size – great driver, drives under control, terrific finisher, underrated passer, shoots the ball well from outside and is a force on the inside,” Carlisle said. “There really is no part of the game that he is not adept at. He rebounds well. He just does a lot of things very, very well.”
Cousins could probably do all those things better and more consistently in Dallas. It’s a matter of the Mavs’ front office figuring out how to get him here.
They beat the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors last week. They need two more wins this week to go into the break with a little momentum and some hope that they’ll be able to make a playoff push down the stretch.
A quick look at this week’s foes:
Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m. Monday, American Airlines Center: The 27-22 Hawks are a playoff-caliber team, but they’re only 10-13 on the road. Atlanta, which is a main hub of the trade rumor mill, isn’t playing well recently, having lost three of its last four games. On-the-block forward Josh Smith is a box score-stuffer (16.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.2 bpg, 1.3 spg) who does opponents a favor by jacking up so many long jumpers. Center Al Horford (15.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is a handful. The Hawks sorely miss high-scoring sixth man Lou Williams, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
Sacramento Kings, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, American Airlines Center: The Kings (19-33) have to face the physical Grizzlies in Memphis the previous night, so the schedule certainly works in the Mavs’ favor here. You still shouldn’t just assume that this will be an easy win. The Kings snapped out of a miserable funk this weekend with back-to-back wins over Utah and Houston. Point guard Isaiah Thomas averaged 24 points in that pair of victories. For better or worse, the Kings continue to revolve around enigmatic big man DeMarcus Cousins (17.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg). He averaged 27.0 points on 61.3 shooting in the previous two meetings with the Mavs this season.
His production to that point (29 points on 9-of-14 shooting, nine rebounds) was a reminder of why he’d be worth the risk to the Mavs, who would have to take back a bad contract or two to get Cousins, who has one season remaining on his rookie deal.
While Cousins won’t admit it, it sure looked like his temper got the best of him once again in the final minute of overtime.
Shawn Marion came up with a steal after the Mavs swarmed him in the paint while Dallas was protecting a two-point lead. Cousins’ immediate response was to “accidentally” drive his forearm into Vince Carter’s face, resulting in a flagrant 2 foul that sent Carter to the free throw line and Cousins to the showers with 41.9 seconds remaining.
|Marc Stein joins Ben and Skin to talk about what the Mavericks need to do at this point of the season, their options for the future and a Dirk Nowitzki for Dwight Howard hypothetical trade. |
“I’m pretty sure that my reputation will come into play with the decision, but hopefully they realize that it wasn't intentional,” Cousins said, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The oopsy-daisy defense didn’t work for Cousins after the last Mavs-Kings game. The NBA suspended Cousins for one game due to a punch to O.J. Mayo’s groin that Cousins claimed was accidental.
If the Mavs manage to deal for Cousins, he’d be a major challenge for coach Rick Carlisle and the Dallas staff, including team sports psychologist Don Kalkstein. But the 22-year-old is so gifted that he’d be well worth the risk for the talent-starved Mavs.
“Cousins is a phenomenal player,” Carlisle said, commenting on Cousins’ performance against the Mavs, not any trade rumors. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy that’s that big that has the diversity that he has to his game. He does things off the dribble with such force and speed. He is really a unique player.”
The Mavs would love to acquire Cousins’ unique talent. His unique trouble might give them a chance to do so.
A few more notes from the Mavs’ second win in 12 games:
1. Dirk dead tired: Dirk Nowitzki played a season-high 40 minutes in the overtime win.
“It felt like it was 80, so I didn’t really have much going for the team, but I kept battling out there,” Nowitzki told reporter after scoring 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. “My legs were heavy.”
Nowitzki logged 33 minutes in the previous night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. This was his first back-to-back as a starter this season.
“I guess back-to-backs are still a battle for me,” Nowitzki said. “The good thing is now I don’t think we have a back-to-back for two weeks. We’re home for a while, we don’t have to travel. [Sniffs loudly.] Get over this frickin’ nasal congestion for once and look forward to getting some home cooking and playing well at home.
“We haven’t really given our home crowd much to cheer for, so hopefully we can start playing better and win some games.”
2. Salute to Sarge: Bernard James had played a grand total of one minute over the previous three weeks, but the rookie center was ready when Carlisle called his number Thursday night.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound James played 12 minutes, all in the second half, providing a spark in the win over the Kings. His numbers (four points on 2-of-2 shooting, one rebound, two fouls) weren’t special, but the Mavs outscored Sacramento by six points with James on the floor, in part because of his tough defense.
“Sarge gave us a big lift, just energy-wise and battling Cousins,” Nowitzki said.
Starting center Chris Kaman played less than a minute after halftime. He was 2-of-10 from the floor and the Kings had a 28-14 advantage in points in the paint during the first half, prompting Carlisle to go with defensive upgrades Elton Brand and James.
3. Welcome to Mavs, Mike: It took three days for Mike James, the 37-year-old point guard who signed a 10-day deal this week, to get crunch-time minutes with the Mavs.
James subbed in for starter Darren Collison with 8:37 remaining in the game and played until Collison replaced him with 3.7 seconds left on the clock. James had two points, one rebound and no assists in 15 minutes against the Kings, but the Mavs were plus-13 in his first extended action in a Dallas uniform.
“He’s experienced,” Nowitzki said. “He’s going to give us some savvy. He’s been around the block obviously and just goes in there and plays under control, plays hard, competes. He’s very vocal, pushing the guys in the right position and stuff. I think he’s just going to get better as he gets more comfortable around the guys.”
“We had a feeling we were going to win in overtime,” Shawn Marion said. “We had the mindset that overtime was ours. We got stops and hit big shots.
"We're taking baby steps in the right direction. Hopefully we can start to crawl."
The win snapped the Mavs' four-game losing streak and gave them their first win in overtime this season after seven losses. They had tied an NBA record with their 10th straight overtime loss Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets.
Vince Carter scored 16 points of his 23 points in the second half, and O.J. Mayo had 18 of his team-high 24 points after halftime. The Mavs managed to rally from a 17-point deficit.
However, it was hardly pretty down the stretch. The Mavs blew a five-point lead in the final 58.1 seconds of overtime, including a mental blunder when they double-teamed DeMarcus Cousins in the paint and left Isaiah Thomas open on the wing for a tying 3-pointer that he banked in with 9.1 seconds remaining.
The Mavs committed missed clutch free throws and committed three turnovers in the overtime period, including one that an admittedly gassed Dirk Nowitzki joked he threw into the 12th row. Nevertheless, they pulled out the win, moving past the Kings for 12th place in the West standings.
"It almost looks like we’re making plays to lose," said Nowitzki, who had 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting in 40 minutes, his heaviest workload of the season. "We’re not making plays, ‘Let’s go ahead and win this.’ It almost looks like we’re hesitant.
"Hopefully with this win, all that’s gone. We got this win under our belt. We finally got the overtime streak over with, so hopefully that’s something that lifts us up and not down. We don’t want to seem like we’re playing not to lose instead of to win."
SACRAMENTO -- The Dallas Mavericks needed as much help as they could get to end a miserable streak of losses.
The Sacramento Kings provided plenty as the Mavs snapped their four-game skid with a 117-112 win in overtime.
How it happened: The Mavericks never gave up despite trailing virtually the whole game. The Kings had a 17-point lead (71-54) early in the third quarter, but the Mavs rallied and had a chance to win in regulation before blowing their own lead late.
The Mavs began taking the ball to the basket when Kings coach Keith Smart inexplicably went to a lineup of three guards, a small forward and a power forward.
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What it means: The Mavs snapped their four-game slide and with it their NBA record-tying 10-game overtime losing streak. Dallas improves to 1-7 this season in overtime games. The Mavs have won 29 of their past 35 regular-season games over the Kings.
Play of the game: It didn’t appear to be anything more than a blast from the past when Carter slithered through the Kings defense and threw down a two-handed dunk midway through the third quarter. But it seemed to energize Carter, Mayo and the rest of the Mavericks.
But as he said about playing games when his team has lost five straight, 10 of 11 and 13 of its past 15, “It is work right now.”
When you have been one of the league’s best teams -- as the Mavs have been for the past decade -- it’s not so much fun as it is work.
Now, it’s a matter of just getting a victory.
Carlisle was asked if the off-court rumors of Sacramento possibly being sold to a group that would move the Kings to Seattle meant anything to his team.
“I hope it’s not business as usual,” Carlisle said, knowing recent business as usual has not been good to his club. "We have to pick it up. There’s been too much talk about positive things we’ve been doing. We’re not getting it done.”
Carlisle said he has noticed there are brief instances during a game that have spelled doom for the Mavs.
“It generally comes down to a couple of plays, a couple of stops, a couple less turnovers,” Carlisle said. “One or two more made shots. It all depends on the game. We’re going get over the hump, but it is work right now.”
When losses pile up, Carlisle said, negativity occurs throughout the game.
“They are not just at the end of the games,” he said of the poor stretches that have plagued the Mavs. “They are things that accumulate over the course of a game that add up. The last three games I’m going over the film and I’m picking up two or three things we’re not doing or doing.
“These things can add up to 15 or 20 or 25 points over the course of a game. It’s just too much to overcome in this league right now.”
A quick look at the Mavs’ four foes this week:
Utah Jazz (8 p.m. Monday, Energy Solutions Arena): The Jazz’s big, deep frontcourt presents some frightening matchup problems for the Mavs, who rank last in the NBA in rebounding differential. Utah (17-18) outrebounded the Mavs by a 61-40 margin in the Jazz’s 113-94 rout of Dallas on Halloween. Center Al Jefferson (12 points, 14 rebounds) and power forward Paul Millsap (13 points, 15 rebounds) had double-doubles in that game. As usual, the Jazz are especially tough to beat at home, where they’re 10-4 this season.
Los Angeles Clippers (9:30 Wednesday, Staples Center): Speaking of frightening frontcourt matchups, athletic freaks Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan present a lot of problems for the Mavs. Of course, MVP candidate Chris Paul is the primary reason the 27-8 Clippers lead the NBA in wins. His 14-point, 13-assists, five-steal outing in the Clippers’ Dec. 5 blowout of the Mavs was pretty much a ho-hum outing by CP3’s sky-high standards.
Sacramento Kings (9 p.m. Thursday, Sleep Train Arena): This ought to be entertaining, if only because of Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. The last time the Mavs and Kings met, the big man known as “Boogie” took a below-the-belt cheap shot at O.J. Mayo – which earned him a one-game suspension – and exchanged heated words with Rick Carlisle during a Dallas win. Mayo went off on Cousins after the game, saying he was immature and had “mental issues.” But Cousins is a player the Mavs’ front office would love to take off the Kings’ hands if Sacramento’s decision makers decide he’s more trouble than he’s worth.
Memphis Grizzlies (8 p.m. Saturday, American Airlines Center): Have we mentioned tough frontcourt matchups yet? Memphis’ trio of Zach Randolph (16.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg), Marc Gasol (13.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.9 bpg) and Rudy Gay (18.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) might be the best frontcourt in the league. The 21-10 Grizzlies, who allow the fewest points per game (89.4) in the NBA, slugged out a 92-82 win over the Mavs on Dec. 21, when O.J. Mayo made only three field goals and committed five turnovers in his first game against his former team.
The Mavericks’ front office prides itself on being opportunistic, has financial flexibility and desperately needs to add a premier young talent to the roster.
So it’d make perfect sense for the Mavs to make a run at troubled Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, the supremely talented, extremely immature 22-year-old former fifth overall pick whose stint in Sacramento seems destined for an ugly divorce.
There’s no guarantee Cousins would come close to achieving his immense potential in Dallas. After all, he’s been suspended three times this season – twice by the league, once by the Kings – and Sacramento coach Keith Smart refused to bring Cousins on the road trip after his recent suspension was lifted.
There’s no question that Cousins ranks among the NBA’s biggest knuckleheads. But the skilled 6-foot-11, 270-pounder also ranks among the league’s most talented big men.
Could the Mavs get Cousins’ career on the right track? Could no-nonsense coach Rick Carlisle get through to him with the help of veteran leaders such as Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Elton Brand and team sports psychologist Don Kalkstein (who should demand a raise if this deal actually happens)? Could Cousins thrive in the Mavs’ culture?
It’s sure as heck worth the risk for Dallas, considering all the Mavs would really be sacrificing is some of Mark Cuban’s money and the pipe dream of signing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard this summer.
So, could the Mavs actually pull off a deal for Cousins? That depends on whether the Kings, if they decide to deal him, actually get any decent talent-based offers for their troublemaker. The Mavs would have to try to talk the Kings into making a deal that would be a major money-saver for the financially-strapped Sacramento franchise.
(It is worth noting that Cousins recently switched agents, hiring Dan Fegan, who happens to have a long-standing, excellent relationship with the Mavs. If Fegan gets involved as a deal broker, that’d definitely increase Dallas’ odds of landing Cousins.)
The Mavs wouldn’t want to take on any deals that don’t expire in the summer of 2014, when the only guaranteed deal on Dallas’ books will be Jared Cunningham’s rookie contract. Cousins’ rookie contract also expires that summer.
However, the Kings would surely insist on the Mavs taking back at least one of their bad contracts with another two seasons remaining on them.
The contract of small forward John Salmons, who is dangerously close to being paid a million bucks for each point he averages per game, would be relatively easy to stomach because he’s guaranteed only $1 million in 2014-15, according to the invaluable Sham Sports database.
If the Kings want to drive a hard bargain, they’d probably insist on the Mavs taking either undersized forward/center Chuck Hayes ($5.96 million in 2014-15) or swingman Marcus Thornton ($8.6 million in 2014-15).
The Kings might also want to dump Jimmer Fredette, a bench-riding lottery pick who has a $3.11 million team option in 2014-15.
The Mavs are loaded with expiring contracts, all of whom would be available with the likely exception of O.J. Mayo (a potential building block) and Brand (ineligible to be traded due to amnesty waivers rules). They Mavs are also under the salary cap, so they can make the math work in many ways.
One imaginary proposal that might make sense for both teams: Chris Kaman, Dahntay Jones, Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois and Jae Crowder for Cousins, Salmons, Hayes and Fredette.
The Kings would be getting back a bargain role player (Crowder) and a bunch of expiring contracts. The Kings would save around $2 million this season and at least $26 million in the future. Oh, and the Kings’ would get chronic headache relief.
Such a deal probably wouldn’t make the Mavs much better immediately. In fact, it’d make them worse right away, according to John Hollinger’s calculations. But it’s not as if they have any realistic chance of being championship contenders this season anyway.
This is about the Mavs getting a prime opportunity to land a potential superstar at a discount price.
It’d be a high-risk, high-reward move, but the whole point of creating financial flexibility was to acquire a franchise player type of talent. Cousins might be the Mavs’ best shot despite – or, actually, because of – all his flaws.
Mayo, who was mad after Cousins’ fist collided with Mayo’s groin area Monday night, called Cousins out for having “mental issues” and a “big maturity problem.” Mayo added that Cousins had the talent to the face of the Kings’ franchise, but he needed to grow up.
"I heard," Cousins said Tuesday, according to the Sacramento Bee. "This coming from a guy that doesn't have a great image himself. So what does his really mean? I'm fine with it."
Mayo’s track record includes trouble with the NCAA for receiving improper benefits during his one season at USC, a fight on the Grizzlies’ team plane with teammate Tony Allen over a gambling debt and a 10-game suspension for testing positive for a steroid in January 2011. As a third overall pick, his four-season stint in Memphis was admittedly disappointing.
However, Mayo has been a model citizen and blossoming star since signing this summer with the Mavericks, who rave about his work ethic and professional approach. Mayo ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring with 20.8 points per game, but Cousins isn’t impressed.
"Is he a franchise player?" Cousins said. "So how is he going to tell me what I am?"
Cousins is sticking to his story about the below-the-belt shot being unintentional.
"In slow motion, it looks like I did it on purpose," Cousins said. "But you look in real speed, you see what happened. Of course it's gonna get thrown out there that I did it on purpose."
Cousins, who was suspended for two games earlier this season for a postgame confrontation with Spurs color commentator Sean Elliott, told Sacramento reporters that he hasn’t heard from the NBA office and didn’t expect to be disciplined. A league spokesman declined to say if the league was reviewing the incident.
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