Mark Cuban on Mavs' approach to free agency: "Less B.S. and more business."

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mcuban_cheers.jpgOf course, no team can talk to the representative of a player before July 1. Nobody would ever dream of such a horrendous act.

It’s not like teams have had constant back-door communications going on with all the players for weeks on end. (How exactly did all the teams know that they had to come to Ohio and pitch LeBron James, not the other way around? ESP?) If there is one thing that is a sham, it is the league’s tampering rules.

But Mark Cuban has already paid one healthy fine for tampering — daring to say publicly he’d love the chance to talk sign-and-trade with LeBron — so he was careful when choosing his words and talking with TMZ (always wise when talking to TMZ).

“Since we can’t talk to agents until (Thursday), it’s up in the air,” Cuban said last night regarding specific targets. “But I have two jets fueled and ready to go if we need to.”

But the point is he is ready to talk to LeBron or Wade and ready to talk business.

“This crop of free agents is taking a much more sophisticated approach than other years. I think that helps the Mavs … Less B.S. and more business.”

DallasBasketball.com laid out the three-point pitch the Mavericks would employ in recent post.

First, they have Dirk Nowtizki, who is the perfect complimentary player to another star. He is the perfect Robin, if you want to be Batman. He is unselfish but can score and rebound. You also get Jason Kidd and a group of good role players.

Second, this is a business deal, not a sideshow. No celebrities, no fancy dinners. Those free agents know this is a business deal, and Dallas is better they want to be treated that way. And Cuban is a business man, he gets it.

Third, they will pay. The Mavericks under Cuban have been about winning, not seeing how large a profit they can turn. Cuban wants a title. If a free agent wants a title, too, there is not better owner more committed to it than Cuban.

With the Mavericks over the cap, it’s not just the player they are going to have to convince, it is the team they are leaving. There will have to be a sign and trade. Bu the Mavericks have the $12 million contract of Erick Dampier, who can be instantly waived, and some good players who also could be thrown in. They have the pieces for a better deal than most.

And they mean business. The Jets are ready to go.

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!