NBA Playoffs: Dallas looks to rebound. Literally.

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Dallas learned some hard lessons and was asked some hard questions in their Game 1 loss in the NBA finals. What do they have to do to rebound from that and even their series with the Heat?

Rebound.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said “rebound” so often during his Thursday morning meeting with the press it sounded like his meditation mantra. The Mavericks gave up 16 offensive rebounds in Game 1 — Dallas is the taller team and in theory should have the rebounding advantage. But as pointed out over at NBA Playbook, the Heat’s ball movement and dribble penetration forced a lot of defensive rotations by the Mavericks and by the second or third they lost shape and lost their rebounding position. Don’t expect that to happen again.

Also, Dirk Nowitzki has to be a bigger rebounding force. When Tyson Chandler rotates out to help on defense, Dirk has to dominate the boards. He did not in Game 1.

But it’s going to take more for Dallas to bounce back.

They are going to have to adjust to the perimeter athleticism and the speed of the Heat’s defensive closeout, then knock down their shots.

Many people point to Jason Terry and J.J. Barea missing looks they normally knock down in game 1 (they were a combined 4-of-18 shooting). That is somewhat true. But the speed of the closeouts by the Heat seemed to throw Dallas off, get them thinking and rushing a little. Dallas has to settle down, slow down and knock down those open looks to win one in Miami.

Miami shot the ball well from three in Game 1 and that will be another issue — LeBron hit 4-of-5 and he is almost impossible to defend when he can do that. As a team Miami shot 45.9 percent from three. The key reason is that 10 of their 24 three attempts came from the corner — where the shot is a foot shorter than out on the arc. The corner three is the most efficient shot in basketball and teams game plan to take that shot away (see the Spurs under Popovich if you want an example). Dallas cannot give up that shot because Mario Chalmers and others can hit it. Consistently.

There will be other keys to Game 2. Can Jason Kidd stick with Dwyane Wade, because he’ll have to down the stretch. Can Nowitzki pay for Miami helping off of him (Miami did that but Dirk did not have a monster night)? Will the Mavericks use much zone at all and can they have better success with it than they did in Game 1 (when Miami had little problem with it).

But the biggest question is can Dallas close against the Heat? This was a close game where Miami pulled away in the final five minutes. LeBron James has become a force as a closer and we all know Wade can do it as well in the biggest of games. Dallas has to prove it can win in a close one with the Heat at some point, and they had better do it sooner rather than later.

If Dallas goes down 2-0 they are in serious trouble. Even heading back home. To win four out of five from the Heat, with their stars and they way they are playing now, is nearly impossible. This is not must win for Dallas, but it’s close.

They have to rebound.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.