It starts with the big questions — if the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder can’t answer those questions, the little ones will not matter.
That leads us to the big things to watch in Game 1 between the Thunder and Mavericks Tuesday night — can Dallas slow Kevin Durant, and can Oklahoma City slow Dirk Nowitzki.
The Thunder need to answer their question fast — Dallas is coming off a nine-day layoff following their sweep of the Lakers and they are bound to be rusty. They beat the Lakers with superior execution and that my take a while to come back. If the Thunder want to win one of the first two on the road, Game 1 sill be the best chance.
Serge Ibaka is going to get the first shot at Dirk, but he may be ill suited to stopping Nowitzki. We told you want to look for in more detail, but if we had to reduce it to two words, it would be Nick Collison.
On the other side, Shawn Marion is going to get Kevin Durant duty. The book on Durant has been to be physical with him and run him off his spots on the floor, to play heavy ball-denial and to limit his touches. We’ll see if Marion is up to that task.
One other matchup to watch closely is DeShawn Stevenson on Russell Westbrook. Game 7 against Memphis was Westbrook’s best game of the playoffs and if he displays that kind of balance again Dallas could struggle to stop him.
With those two guys to stop, expect to see Dallas use a fair amount of zone defense this series. The Mavs run maybe the best matchup zone in the league and that may be the best way to keep Tyson Chandler on the glass and in the paint to help on defense.
The two other keys for Dallas — don’t foul and don’t turn the ball over. Not fouling was something the Mavs did well, the Thunder got to the line 29 times a game during the regular season but that happened just 24 times against the Mavericks. That has to continue, the Thunder need free throws. They also want to get out and run, Oklahoma City is far more athletic. Dallas cannot fuel that with turnovers.
Lots of things to watch. But it all starts with the two best players on the court.
Donald Trump decided to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House despite team winning the 2017 NBA Championship. Many members of the Warriors have been critical of Trump during his short tenure in Washington D.C., which the former mail order steak salesman has not taken lightly.
With no invitation to the White House on hand, and considerable doubts that the team would go even if the opportunity resurfaced, the Warriors have decided to take a private tour around the nation’s capital instead.
According to a report from ESPN, the team will take a trip with just players, coaches, and some kids to a discreet location as part of a tour.
Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.
The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.
“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”
Golden State will be in D.C. to play the Washington Wizards on February 28. They will reportedly take their trip — sure to be fun for the kids — the day before.
Meanwhile, you have to wonder if an NBA team will ever visit the White House while Trump lives there. People from LeBron James to Gregg Popovich have spoken out about their disagreements with him, and the Warriors were pretty vocal about not attending a ceremony with Trump.
Larry Nance Jr. took on the 2018 NBA Dunk Contest in his dad’s old Phoenix Suns jersey, which was a nice nod to the father-son NBA duo. But Nance Jr. wanted to be able to wear his pop’s No. 22 jersey in Ohio despite the team retiring those digits some time ago.
Now, he has his wish.
According to the team, Nance Jr. will get to wear No. 22 the rest of the season. Nance Sr.’s banner will still hang at The Q in honor of his contribution to the franchise.
Will this spur a new round of jersey sales like the one prompted by Dwyane Wade‘s return to the Miami Heat? Probably not, although folks do dig those late-’80s and early-’90s Cavs uniforms. Perhaps the team should do a re-issue?
Shouts to the team for making a special accommodation for the Nance family. It’s nice to see a team not be so stiff about something this cool.
In the Dallas Mavericks organization, women who were being sexually harassed by the CEO and others did exactly what they were supposed to do — they reported the incidents to their supervisors and the head of Human Relations in the organization. Nothing happened. The men kept their jobs, the women kept on being harassed — some had their jobs threatened if they spoke out — and the old boys networked thrived.
The NBA is giving future employees in that situation another option. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
It’s a good first step.
The NBA is a league that prides itself on being progressive, promoting equality, and this Mavericks scandal is a black eye for the league on this front. While they will wait for the hired team of lawyers to finish their investigation before any punishment is handed out — and there will be punishment — the league needs to take proactive steps now. This is a good one. There needs to be more.
The Greek Freak (now trademarked) Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a Buck for a while — he has three fully guaranteed years on his contract after this one, taking him until at least the summer of 2021. At that point, Milwaukee almost certainly will be able to offer him the designated player super max contract that will be hard to turn down. The Greek Freak is going to be in Milwaukee for a long time.
That didn’t stop Joel Embiid, who tried to recruit Antetokounmpo to Sixers during All-Star weekend. Via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”
Of course, if somewhere down the line Antetokounmpo and Embiid team up some tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist will say “they have been planning this since 2018.”
Embiid probably did this tongue in cheek, but he is fearless about this stuff — remember a couple of summers ago he tried to recruit Kevin Durant through social media.
As for Antetokounmpo and the Sixers, nothing to see here, move along.