NBA Playoffs: Dallas, Los Angeles finally meet in postseason

1 Comment

Seriously, how has this not happened before?

The Dallas Mavericks have been to the playoffs 11 consecutive years reaching all the NBA finals one time. The Lakers have been the Lakers in that same time, having been one of the most dominant teams in the NBA.

Yet there has been no playoff meetings between these teams since the 1988 Western Conference finals, when Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman were leading the Mavs.

In recent years, the Lakers have dominated regular season meetings, winning 2-of-3 this season, because like everyone else the Mavericks have struggled to deal with the Lakers length up front.

Which makes Tyson Chandler the biggest key to this series for Dallas. He is arguably the best defensive center in the game and he will play the role of Sisyphus in this series, given the task of slowing the Lakers in the paint. Sure, he will get Andrew Bynum primarily while Dirk Nowitzki will get time on Pau Gasol, but in the end Chandler is the backstop. He has to alter shots from whomever is hot and clean up the glass or Dallas is in trouble.

Dallas has another problem — Kobe Bryant. Another problem no team has an easy time with, but Dallas has the added issue of not having a good defensive matchup for him. Not the older Jason Kidd for sure, and if Jason Terry is on him Kobe will go straight to the post and attack him. (Portland went at Terry and they don’t have a Kobe-like talent.) Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson will split time, but both of those are not ideal either (because of matchup problems for Marion and offense problems for Stevenson).

On offense, Dallas needs to space out the floor by hitting threes, and they have to get to the free throw line. Two things they struggle to do against the Lakers in the regular season, but they have to find a way in this series.

Dallas also is going to need a big series from Dirk Nowitzki, but he will be guarded by the long Gasol and Lamar Odom. He has to get his no matter what, and still be efficient.

Dallas is going to need someone to make plays at the point — that is the Lakers weakness. But can Jason Kidd do that? Is it J.J. Barea off the bench?

The real secret chance for Dallas is Rodrigue Beaubois. He missed most of the season recovering from a foot injury and was never right. He missed the start of the first round of the playoffs and was almost moot. But he is the kind of quick, slashing guard that gives the Lakers trouble. Dallas will need him.

These games are going to be close — they almost always are when these teams meet. But in the end the Lakers pull out the win. Consistently. And Game 1 might be just like that.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

Leave a comment

In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

Leave a comment

Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.