Good news for the Mavs: Rodrigue Beaubois' broken foot is getting better all the time

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rodrigue_beaubois_dallas_mavericks.jpgOver the summer, the Dallas Mavericks shot for LeBron James, but fell short. They tried for Dwyane Wade, but no dice. Then came Joe Johnson, but he wasn’t interested. They altered their plan of attack and were linked to Andre Iguodala and Al Jefferson in trade discussions, but the Mavs couldn’t get a deal done.

Erick Dampier’s “instantly expiring” contract was the currency through which the Mavs hoped to accomplish all of this, but it couldn’t fetch any of those talents. Instead, Dallas traded Dampier — along with Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera — to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler. Tyson. Chandler. He’s a serviceable center in his own right, but considering just how highly the Mavs had valued Dampier’s cap-clearing deal, he wasn’t quite the bounty they were looking for.

As such, Dallas will have to improve from within if they’re to go deep into the playoffs this season. Some of that improvement will likely stem from Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood’s familiarity with Rick Carlisle’s system; both players were acquired at last season’s trade deadline, and while they played reasonably well for Dallas through the end of the ’09-’10 season, neither was a fully integrated part of the Maverick game plan. Butler and Haywood are now a bit more comfortable, and Coach Carlisle a bit more in tune with each player’s strengths. That’s not quite the same as acquiring an additional star, but it should give Dallas a boost.

Still, even when taking Butler and Haywood’s improvement within the system and Chandler’s addition into account, the Mavs don’t look to be all that much better than they were last season. To make matters worse, most of Dallas’ other regular contributors are more likely to see slight drops in their production rather than increases, as age begins to catch up to this cast of vets.

No one in the Mavericks’ rotation is going to see their performance take a nose dive on Father Time’s account. Not yet, anyway. The Mavs aren’t getting any younger though, and they’re not going to make any significant jumps from the wrong side of 30.

There are two notable exceptions to the Mavs’ veteran rule. The first is Dominique Jones, Vegas Summer League standout and the No. 25 pick in this summer’s draft. Jones is relentless in his drives to the basket, and that skill alone could score him some playing time despite the Mavs’ depth on the wings. The other exception is Rodrigue Beaubois, the now second-year guard who changed games for the Mavs last season with his speed and shooting ability.

Beaubois is incredibly talented, and many consider him the key to the Mavs’ season. If Beaubois can tap into his abilities and take a step toward basketball self-actualization, Dallas’ inability to acquire another star during the offseason could be a moot point. Beaubois has the potential to be that good.

Of course, with so much hinging on Beaubois’ development, it’s only fitting that his progress would be stalled by injury. A broken bone in Beaubois’ left foot has sidelined him since early August, and the status of the Mavs’ great hope for the season opener is unknown. His foot is getting better and better though, as Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas reported from training camp:  

…the young Dallas Mavericks guard is showing daily signs of improvement in his recovery from left foot surgery, coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday.

“He’s not doing anything on the court yet except some spot shooting and then the [stationary] bike in practice,” Carlisle said. “Then we bring him back [to the American Airlines Center] and he walks and runs in the underwater treadmill. But, he’s getting a little better every day and at the right time he’ll be back into it.”

Beaubois is out of his protective boot, and committed to working hard through camp in spite of the limitations of his injury. He’ll bike, lift, and watch film to prepare for the coming year, in the hope that whenever he’s finally cleared by the team doctors, he’ll be physically and mentally ready to compete. Luckily, Dallas has the depth to buy Beaubois all the time that he needs, and the Mavs will no doubt be cautious in calling for Rodrigue’s return to the court. There’s simply too much at stake for the Mavs to rush this.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.