The Mavericks need Dirk Nowitzki back, like for real, like now.
And on Saturday, if CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger is on point, they could get him back. Berger reports that Rick Carlisle admitted Saturday they could see the Big German Machine back in action after the Mavericks have lost seven of nine without him, tumbling from the top of the standings and letting the Spurs get some big space between them for the division, including a 101-89 beatdown Friday by the Spurs in San Antonio.
The Mavericks are a pretty good team without Nowitzki, but without Caron Butler, they’re sunk without Nowitzki’s offense. That the Mavericks have stunk so badly without him only bolsters his MVP case which many felt made him the favorite even before the injury. Nowitzki is playing at a ridiculously high level for a player of his age, and has been as clutch as you can be. As a matter of fact, while Kobe Bryant has scored a few more points in “clutch time,” Nowitzki has been way more efficient in that timeframe. Throw in Dirk still being a solid if unspectacular rebounder, and being one of the better post defenders in the league via Synergy Sports (though of course guarding secondary post players while Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood do the dirty work), and you’ve got an MVP’s resume.
There has been some concern that Nowitzki’s injury may have been more severe than the team was letting on, but him getting back on the floor Saturday would show that the team was simply being cautious with him, as they should be. The Mavericks have already shown they have the pieces in place to make a run this spring. Now they’ve just got to get them as healthy as they can.
We’ll keep you updated on whether Dirk is back at work Saturday.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.
On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.
But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.
Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.
Stephen Curry might be back sooner than expected. It’s been one week since he suffered the sprained MCL in his right knee that led the Warriors to rule him out for at least two weeks, but head coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that there’s at least an outside chance he could play Tuesday in Game 2 of Golden State’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:
Obviously, the smart money is on Curry not playing this early in his timetable. But the fact that it’s even on the table would seem to indicate that, barring a setback, he’ll be back for at least some of the series, which tips off Sunday.