Dallas gets to sit back and relax… but don’t expect rust

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Dallas now has some time to put its feet up and relax after polishing off the Thunder 100-96 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. They’ve got a wait ahead of them. At least until next Tuesday (if Miami wins on Thursday night), maybe until June 2 (if Chicago wins). Either way, nearly a week off or more.

Not that the time off will bother them. Remember they had eight days off after sweeping away the Lakers and everyone thought they would be rusty, then Dirk Nowitzki came out in Game 1 against the Thunder and hit his first eight shots.

If anything, for a veteran team like the Mavericks, the extra days off and the slow schedule of games in the finals makes things easier. More time to rest the bumps and bruises on bodies that don’t heal as quickly as they once did. Their execution — the key to their playoff success — will not suffer.

And it is more time to scout. To get ready for what is next.

That most likely will be Miami. Dallas swept the season series from Miami 2-0, but as both games were played before Christmas it’s hard to say these are the same teams.

The one thing to note from those games is that Dallas’ defense really bothered Miami, which shot just 40.9 percent against them in those two games and 52 percent on shots inside three feet. The Tyson Chandler effect, which could matter in a meeting now.

Miami is certainly playing better than they were in December, but how Miami would match up with Dirk Nowitzki could be interesting. Chris Bosh would get a shot, but that could work about as well as Lamar Odom did for the Lakers. Udonis Haslem may bet more time, and you can bet the athletic Heat will work hard to deny Dirk his spots on the floor. But everybody has tried that in the playoffs and it hasn’t mattered.

Chicago, on the other hand, swept the Mavericks and the Bulls defense did a number on Dallas. The Mavericks averaged just 92.1 points per 100 possessions against Chicago, more than 15 points below their season average. The Mavericks shot just 37.8 percent again the Bulls. Again, the teams have evolved since then but it would be something to keep an eye on.

Miami, up 3-1 on Chicago, is certainly the more likely option. But either way Dallas doesn’t care, they are just pumped to be back. The only question is how long Dallas has to wait.

However long it is, don’t expect it to bother Dallas. Expect them to come out hot and firing.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.