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.

Expectations sky-high as Jazz look to break playoff drought

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 05:  Gordon Hayward #20 (second from right) of the Utah Jazz stands with teammates in a huddle during the first half of the preseason NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 5, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Joe Johnson had options of where to chase a ring in the twilight of his career and the seven-time All-Star chose to sign a two-year deal with a Utah Jazz team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2012.

Johnson, 35, bought into the widespread belief that the Jazz will improve from young up-and-comers to a competitive playoff team.

“It was the talent level and knowing from talking to (coach) Quin (Snyder), they wanted some veteran guys around these young guys and help lead the way,” Johnson said. “That was probably the biggest part.”

That’s the story on the Jazz entering the 2016-17 season: a team no longer on the cusp, but one with postseason expectations.

Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey have tried to temper those expectations, but the offseason moves to add veterans spoke volumes. The Jazz traded for George Hill and Boris Diaw and signed Johnson – ending the slow rebuild. The league, however, won’t see what this roster looks like at full strength for some time.

Gordon Hayward is out for an unknown amount of time with a broken finger on his non-shooting hand. Derrick Favors played just one preseason game due to a knee issue. Key reserve Alec Burks still hasn’t returned from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle in June.

So the Jazz didn’t get to fully integrate the new veterans with the established players during the preseason.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot done in spite of (injuries),” Snyder said. “(Diaw, Hill and Johnson) have probably played more preseason minutes than I intended. … It has given them a chance to get acclimated. Their roles, particularly Joe’s, will probably change and evolve when Gordon comes back. Outside of that, there’s challenges. You just don’t know. Certain players, certain lineups. … I don’t think we were able to build quite the connectivity that we’d like at this point. But I felt like this was a team that was going to take a while to develop, too. Hopefully it doesn’t set us back too much.”

The Jazz begin the season on the road against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Eight of their first 11 games are on the road.

Things to watch as the Jazz prepare to tip off the season:

STIFLING TOWER: The 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert has already established himself as one of the best defensive centers in the game, averaging 2.27 blocks over the last two seasons, but he’s shown off a little more offense this preseason. He seemed to catch and finish better than in the past and averaged 14.8 points in six games. The most notable improvement has been Gobert’s free throw shooting. He shot 56.9 percent last year and 74.5 percent this preseason.

RETURN OF EXUM: Dante Exum is back for regular season games for the first time since tearing his ACL in the summer of 2015. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft is fully healthy and still an upper echelon defender on the perimeter with his 6-foot-6 frame. He looks to become more active on the offensive end with a better floater in the lane and improved 3-point shooting. The point guard showed the ability to log minutes at shooting guard next to Hill during the preseason.

GROWTH AREAS: The Jazz hope the additions and another year of growth will affect three areas in particular. The Jazz were No. 28 in the league with a scoring average of 97.7 points per game. That must improve. Johnson, Hill and Diaw already improve the depth. The team also struggled in close games, finishing 14-28 in games that were within five points with five minutes or less left.

IMPRESSION TIME: Not making the playoffs could not only be disappointing, but a detriment to the future. Hayward has a player-option on his contract after this season and is expected to use it to become a free agent. There will be a large market for his services, so the Jazz need to prove they’re an organization that can compete for championships in the near future. Gobert will become a restricted free agent in July if he doesn’t sign an extension by Oct. 31. Favors is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season.

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Cavaliers move up ring ceremony 30 minutes so it doesn’t conflict with World Series

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It’s a good time to be a Cleveland sports fan. Finally.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 25, will be one of the great sports days in the history of the city — the Cavaliers will get their championship rings, and the Indians will open the World Series at home.

Only one little problem: the two events were going to overlap.

So in the spirit of city unity the Cavaliers have moved up the start time of their ring ceremony by 30 minutes, and the game by 30 minutes as well. The ring ceremony now begins at 7 p.m. Eastern, with tip-off against the Knicks at 7:30 (both will be broadcast on TNT, followed by the Spurs at the Warriors).

First pitch for the World Series is at 8 Eastern.

Fans attending the Cavaliers ring ceremony will be given a special silicone ring, which if viewed on their phone through the Cavs app will look like a virtual championship ring. Kind of cool idea.

Tuesday is going to be a great day to be a Cavaliers sports fan (just don’t bring up the Browns). A lucky few will be at these events.

Although personally, I’d rather watch them both on a television while eating the brisket and having a beer at the bar at Mabel’s BBQ.

Warriors first team favored over the field for championship entering season since Michael Jordan’s Bulls

7 Jun 1998:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls walks on the court during the NBA Finals Game 3 against the Utah Jazz at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls defeated the Jazz 96-54. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

When asked my prediction for the 2017 NBA champion, I say the Warriors have about a 50-50 chance. Some call that a copout answer – but it’s really not.

For a team to have even odds against 29 others combined entering the season is extraordinary.

Just how rare is it?

David Purdum of ESPN:

Jeff Sherman, head NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, remembers the 1997-98 Bulls team, which was coming off a 72-win season, being around a minus-125 title favorite entering that season.

But Sherman and other sports betting industry veterans struggled to recall another team — in basketball, baseball or football — that was an odds-on favorite to start the season.

Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen led Chicago to the championship in 1998 (which was actually two seasons removed from the 72-win year).

Will Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also meet their oversized expectations and deliver a title this year?

Flip a coin.

Report: Minnesota still talking Tyus Jones trade, Sixers may have interest

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 08:  Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves poses for a portrait during the 2015 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 8, 2015 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. 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 Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Tyus Jones has a lot to like — he’s a point guard who makes good decisions, his shot is developing (40 percent from three at Summer League), and he’s got skills. Minnesota won the Summer League championship because of Jones’ leadership — just drafted and highly touted Kris Dunn was out for the title game, that’s where Jones shined.

But Dunn is the future at the point in Minnesota, and Ricky Rubio is still there. So Minnesota is seeing what might be out there for Jones, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Minnesota has had talks with Philadelphia, New Orleans, and others about Jones for a while.

Jones is likely a steady backup point guard at the NBA level — he’s a smart passer, knows how to run a team, and as his shot develops he becomes more dangerous. His downside is defense, but as a reserve that’s less of an issue.

For a team like the Sixers — without Jerryd Bayless to start the season — or while New Orleans waits for Jrue Holiday‘s return, Jones makes some sense. The only question is the price going back to Minnesota.