Mavericks change of business models came to roost on court

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The old model wasn’t going to work anymore.

Mark Cuban has read the new CBA that the owners and players signed off on after the lockout, and he saw the increasingly punitive taxes and penalties on big spending teams. He looked at his business model of the last decade — which was to win by spending like the ATM machines that are the Lakers and Knicks — and knew things had to change.

Flexibility became the watchword. Starting this season Cuban started to look to the future reshaping the roster with younger free agents — ideally both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams at the time — and made hard choices. Dallas didn’t bring Tyson Chandler back. Or Caron Butler. Or J.J. Barea. Or DeShawn Stevenson.

Combine that with the roll of the dice on Lamar Odom that flamed out, and the Mavericks didn’t have the depth, didn’t have a different guy who could step up every night as the second star. Last season they had depth and matchups that could confound anyone. Last season those guys were key behind Dirk Nowitzki — and the team leader himself showed up this year with a championship hangover not ready to play at his peak. His shooting percentage dropped from 51.7 last season to 45.7 this season and there was nobody there to consistently pick up the slack.

The result was the defending champs getting unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Dallas defense was still solid this season, but their Mavericks offense fell from eighth best in the league (109.7 points per 100 possessions) the year of their championship to 22nd best this season (103.3 points per 100).

It was the price of flexibility.

This coming summer Jason Terry likely is gone. Jason Kidd may come back but not at the price he’s asking. Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood will be moved if Dallas can find takers, although Marion’s defensive value may keep him in the fold. Any player not born in Germany is not safe on this roster going forward.

Flexibility.

It is Nowitzki and the chance to chase Deron Williams this summer that is the drive. The original goal was to lure Williams and Dwight Howard, but Howard chose to spend another year with Orlando (even if the Magic decide they need to trade him the Mavericks do not have the assets anymore). Williams is the target, but he does like the idea of Brooklyn and staying with the Nets. Even though that franchise has little shot at Howard or another big name either. Here is what Marc Stein wrote at ESPN.

One source well-acquainted with Williams’ thinking told ESPN.com this weekend that the Mavericks, in their current state, have no better than a “50-50 shot” of getting D-Will’s signature in July …

Even if Dallas does not land Williams, it has landed cap space and the ability to make moves and evolve this team into a future winner. Cuban saw what Jerry Buss did with years the Lakers — make moves too early rather than too late — and saw the new CBA rules and made his move. In a couple years we may look back and see it as brilliant.

But this season it came home to roost on the court in a first round playoff sweep at the hands of the Thunder. It was the price paid for a gamble. Cuban tried for the half-court shot of trying to rebuild on the fly and not take a step back, and that missed like half-court shots usually do.

But the Mavericks got their ultimate goal. They have cap space and flexibility. Now we’ll see what they can do with it.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.