David Stern talks contraction: We’re not that serious, but we’re going to talk about it anyway.

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One David Stern quote from his conference call with the media Friday showed just how of two minds the league is on the idea of contraction (folding one or more struggling franchises).

“The issue of contraction is one that has to be asked as part of negotiation with players…” Stern said. “But if there are no buyers in markets where teams are for sale then has to be discussed… Are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment?

“But we’re not spending a lot of time on it.”

So we need to talk about it. But not much.

Which means it’s a negotiating red herring. Even if there are serious underlying issues to be address.

Those discussions need to focus on how to keep smaller markets competing fairly with Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and New York. Stern said there would be measures in the new CBA that will allow smaller markets to better compete with larger markets, although he did not specify what those are. Already there are incentives — more money and years — teams can offer to keep their own players. Didn’t work in Cleveland or Toronto.

Another side of this same issue is revenue sharing between owners, which Stern said needed to be more “robust” but was taking place on a parallel track to the CBA talks.

But they’re not going to spend a lot of time on it.

Because, honestly, the other owners don’t really want to spend money to buy out one of their own.

Still there are markets of concern.

Stern talked about the situation in Sacramento, where plans for a land swap to clear the path for a new arena fell through recently.

“My optimism on there being a new building (in Sacramento) has faded completely,” Stern said. “We really tried hard, the Maloofs spent a good deal of money…. And frankly it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t have any more good ideas. Where we flow on that, right now we have a season to worry about.”

Also in New Orleans there is an owner — George Shinn — who is having trouble striking a deal to sell that team.

Contraction of those teams is a great bargaining threat. But not a reality. The Kings moving is very much reality, but not folding. Not being contracted.

The league is booming and its not going cut out markets, particularly markets in the Midwest where the NBA wants to make better inroads. Stern basically directly told reporters from Memphis and Milwaukee the teams are safe.

Frankly, they all are. But we’re going to talk about it anyway.

Chicago does humor with “Beauty and the Bull” snapchat musical

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The Beauty and the Beast movie is both a hit and ripe for satire. Or just amusing spinoffs.

Enter the Chicago Bulls, with Benny the Bull mascot and Robin Lopez pitching in on a musical takeoff of the film promoting the team.

Well played Bulls.

LeBron James drives through Wizards defense, dunks on

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Even when they are getting beat — and the Cavaliers have some issues to shake out before the playoffs start — there are a couple times a game that LeBron James makes a play that is stunning.

For example, splitting defenders out high with his dribble then going in and dunking on Ian Mahinmi. LeBron did that Saturday night.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers and Cleveland has issues that are bigger than LeBron’s goggles (Boston can tie Cleveland for the top spot in the East with a win Sunday), but never doubt LeBron’s explosiveness.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson taunts Mavericks’ bench after three, Rick Carlisle talks back (VIDEO)

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Toronto handed Dallas its 41st loss of the season Saturday night, which means with the Mavericks’ next loss their streak of winning seasons will come to an end at 16.

Toronto was talking a lot of smack while getting that win. At least Patrick Patterson was when he was draining corner threes in front of the Mavericks’ bench. On the one above, Patterson chirps and coach Rick Carlisle goes back at him verbally. They both pick up technical fouls for their trouble.

I’m surprised this doesn’t happen a little more during games, there’s a lot of talking down there

Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan lead Raptors past Mavericks, 94-86

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DALLAS (AP) — DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka scored 18 points apiece, and the Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff berth after their fifth straight victory, 94-86 over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

The Raptors, who came back from 15-point deficits to win each of their last two games, made it a little easier on themselves Saturday. Toronto scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed in dealing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes a damaging blow.

Harrison Barnes scored 23 points for Dallas, which missed 18 of its first 22 3-pointers and finished just 7 of 28 from behind the arc.

Patrick Patterson added 14 points for Toronto, including a perfect 4 for 4 on 3-pointers.

The Mavericks fell four games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

Toronto led by as many as 16 points in the first half and by 15 early in the fourth quarter before a 10-0 Dallas run made things more interesting.

Dorian Finney-Smith‘s free throws with 7:57 to go brought the Mavs within 79-74, the closest they had been since 7-2 early in the game. But Ibaka made consecutive jumpers to restore a nine-point lead, and Dallas got no closer than six after that.

The Raptors had their biggest lead at 42-26 in the first half. Barnes scored Dallas’ last 11 points of the half to help cut into the lead, but Toronto led 54-44 at the break.

J.J. Barea‘s long 3 at the third-quarter buzzer again brought Dallas within 10 at 74-64.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Coach Dwane Casey said he was hopeful that guard Kyle Lowry would return from wrist surgery before the end of the regular season. “I know he’s doing a lot of conditioning, a lot of work to keep his body in shape,” Casey said. “Just let him rehab, let him do his thing and trust our medical people.” Lowry has missed the last 16 games. . Toronto was also without starting forward DeMarre Carroll due to a sore lower back. P.J. Tucker started in his place.

Mavericks: Seth Curry with 11 points and Yogi Ferrell with 10 were the only other Mavs in double figures. . Nerlens Noel started his second game in a row at center for the Mavericks, who have gone to a big lineup. They’ve moved Dirk Nowitzki to power forward, Barnes to small forward and Curry to point guard.

STREAK IN JEOPARDY

The Mavericks took their 41st loss of the season. Their next loss will end the NBA’s second-longest streak of .500 or better seasons – currently at 16 seasons. Their last sub-.500 season was 1999-00, when they finished 40-42 and Mark Cuban became owner of the team in January 2000.

San Antonio has the longest streak of .500 or better seasons with 20, including this season.

ABOUT THURSDAY NIGHT

Cuban couldn’t resist giving his opinion on Barea’s ejection from the Mavericks’ victory over the Clippers on Thursday night. Barea was called for a flagrant 2 foul for pushing Blake Griffin, a player with a 10-inch height advantage over Barea.

“I just feel bad for Blake,” Cuban said. “It’s hard to come back from a knockout like that. We sent flowers to his family, condolences. I can only guess that he’s going to be drinking through a straw for a long, long time.”