Gregg Popovich finds delicious, barbecued love in Mark Cuban's hate

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Though Mavs and Spurs fans may hate each other, I’ve honestly never had the impression that the Mavs and the Spurs themselves hate each other. Manu Ginobili can get under anyone’s skin and Jason Terry’s in-game yapping and posturing is sure to drive some opponents batty, but Mavs-Spurs seems predicated more on mutual respect than bile. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki praise each other frequently, there’s physical play but little extracurricular contact (particularly with no Bruce Bowen around to play the villain), and the built-in tension isn’t because of a history of shenanigans, but because the teams have played each other so well so often.

That’s why Mark Cuban’s comments about “hating” the Spurs should surprise you in principle, if not in practice.

I don’t know that anyone on the Mavs roster hates the Spurs. They may not relish the thought of playing another tough game against a pretty terrific San Antonio team, but I think ‘hate’ would go far beyond the civility that has made this rivalry so intriguing. I don’t think Cuban hates the Spurs, either (he actually clarified his quote as a “respectful hate,”). After all, it wasn’t long ago that his team was constructed almost entirely in San Antonio’s image, including plugging in a former Spurs point guard as the head coach.

Gregg Popovich agrees, and he cites the visiting locker room cuisine as evidence. From Eddie Sefko and Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News:

On Wednesday, Cuban admitted the line, along with his annual crack about the San Antonio River’s cleanliness, “was gamesmanship. Just to increase the rivalry. Sell tickets.”

Popovich seemed to interpret Cuban’s words in that spirit. “It’s an exaggeration,” Popovich said. “If he hates us so much, he wouldn’t have that good barbecue in the locker room after the game.”

This is what Mark Cuban does. He drops some quotes to get the fans of both teams riled up, he creates additional interest (even in a series that needs it not), and puts himself in the middle of the action. What a lot of people don’t understand, though, is that while this is what Cuban does, it’s not who Cuban is.

I wouldn’t claim to be best friends with the man, but quotes such as these are gamesmanship, just as Mark described. This isn’t a “what will he say next?” owner riffing himself into shocking statement after shocking statement, but one who fully understands the implications of his actions and yet still chooses to do them in order to elicit a specific response. The only thing that’s shocking is that so many people are still taking the bait.   

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.

Spurs’ David Lee will not need surgery on knee, will be ready for training camp in the fall

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David Lee was certainly not going to swing the series against the Warriors one way or another. However, the veteran forward with a varried offensive game still has an NBA role in the right setting.

He has a $1.6 million player option with the Spurs next season, and whatever he decides it’s good news that he will not need surgery to repair the knee injury that sidelined him in the Conference Finals. From Ramona Shelburn of ESPN.

Good news to end the week. David Lee doesn’t need surgery on his knee, per his agent Mark Bartelstein. He’s got a sprained patellar tendon that should heal in about six weeks.

As a big off the bench, David Lee can still help the right team. His game has limitations, but put him in the right situation and he can help. It’s just that due to injury, the Spurs had to ask more of him in the playoffs than he can deliver anymore.

Draymond Green says Warriors are “more relaxed” this season

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Last year, the Warriors entered the NBA Finals with the weight of expectations: Defending NBA champions, 73 regular season wins, if they got the title they would leap up the ladder of all-time great teams, lose and it would be a massive let down. We all know what happened from there.

The Warriors are back in the Finals, taking on the Cavaliers for the third year in a row — but this year things are going to be different. Mostly because of Kevin Durant changing the equation. But also the Warriors mindset is better if you ask Draymond Green. Which Mark Spears of ESPN did.

This makes sense. The Warriors to a man denied the pressure and how physically/mentally taxed they were by the chase for 73, but it clearly wore on them physically and mentally. Green was thrashing about and drawing techs, over-reacting to everything (although sometimes that feels like his default setting). Curry was injured but also tired. The Warriors opened the door, LeBron James and the Cavaliers stormed through it.

Will a rested Warriors make a difference this time around? Maybe. But again, Durant matters more than rest.

Report: Harlem Globetrotters to resume series with Washington Generals

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The Harlem Globetrotters dropped the Washington Generals as an opponent a couple years ago – a sad development for basketball traditionalists.

But the sport’s most-lopsided rivalry is returning.

Darren Rovell of ESPN:

Sources said the Generals will be put into rotation to play the Globetrotters again as early as this summer and will take on a greater life than before as the lovable losers.

This just feels right. There’s a spirit about the Generals that complements the Globetrotters so well.