Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki slaps hands with team-mate Jason Kidd in LA

What the Dallas Mavericks are doing right

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It’s not all Lakers mistakes.

Yes, the Lakers are making mistakes. But the narrative of this series has focused on those errors, and that has stolen a deserved spotlight from the Dallas Mavericks — they are winning this series because they are doing things well. Dallas is making plays, forcing tough decisions, then executing when the Lakers give them even a sliver of room.

Dallas is doing so many things right, and they deserve credit for it.

That starts with their defense in the paint — the Lakers simply overwhelm most teams with size. But with three 7-footers of their own — Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood — they can match the Lakers’ size. The Lakers shot only 50 percent inside 10 feet in Game 2, having their shots altered. Also, Dallas has held its own on the glass against the Lakers.

That size, combined with Kobe Bryant’s gimpy ankle, have made the Lakers’ most feared weapon a jump shooter — Kobe has one shot at the rim in two games.

On offense, the Mavericks’ ball movement has been spectacular. The knock on the Mavericks is that they are a jump-shooting team, but against the Lakers those shots have been good looks that have come off well-designed plays. This is not isolation sets that end in contested jumpers; it is good looks.

At the top of that pyramid is Nowitzki, one of the most unstoppable players the NBA has seen on offense. He is a 7-footer who hits rainbow fadeaways from a variety of spots on the floor. The Lakers have tried Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and briefly Ron Artest but none has been able to slow Nowitzki, who is playing some of the best ball of his career.

But Dallas is more than that. It is J.J. Barea and Nowitzki noticing how the Lakers were defending the pick-and-roll (hesitantly), pulling it out 30 feet from the rim, then letting the speedy Barea attack the paint at the end of Game 2 (always to the side of the floor where shooters made it dangerous for help to drop down). Force Bynum to either protect the paint and leave his man open or give up layups to Barea.

The narrative of this series is that the Lakers have blown those defensive assignments. But a more accurate one is that Dallas has found a weakness and exploited it — exactly how the Lakers won their two rings.

The Lakers will make adjustments. This is a talented and prideful team that will make plays, that will not surrender.

But make no mistake about the first two games — Dallas won those. Take nothing away from the Mavericks. They have been the better team, by both design and execution. And don’t for a second underestimate their talent.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat 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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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.