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Cuban says new labor agreement forced Dallas changes

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Here’s the thing, he’s right. Mostly.

Before the Dallas Mavericks were swept out of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cuban went on the defensive talking to the media. He had heard the statements from the media and others saying he and his franchise gave up winning the title the day they didn’t re-sign Tyson Chandler (and J.J. Barea and Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson). I’ll admit I said they would not be the same without Chandler (although this season it was the Mavericks offense, and late game offense in particular, that faltered and not their defense).

Cuban told the Dallas Morning News he had no regrets about the moves because the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement — one with steep luxury tax penalties coming in a few years — has changed the business model. He just had to adapt.

“Hell no,” Cuban said (if he had regrets). “Nope. Not even a millisecond. Because those who are talking otherwise haven’t read the CBA and are just talking out their (expletive) without any foundation. But that’s what you guys do.

“Given what happened, I think we put together a damn good team. If we had one break, one call, one bounce, we’re having a completely different conversation and you’re thinking how smart we are instead of how stupid we are…

“If you want to nail me for something, I’ll be the first to admit that it was a huge (expletive) that I didn’t fight for the new (CBA) harder,” Cuban said. “I said it before, I’ll say it again. It put us and other teams in a bad spot, and it was an overnight handshake deal that I should have fought harder. I’m the first to say that.”

Cuban is right about the CBA — he and the Mavericks were one of the biggest spenders the last decade and he just absorbed the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax (salary over a certain threshold, $70 million this year) as part of doing business. It got him a lot of wins and eventually a ring.

But you can’t do that anymore. Under the new rules by the 2014-15 season if a team paid the tax the previous three years (or three of the previous four years in subsequent years) teams pay a steeper “repeater tax” that is between $2.50 and $4.25 per dollar over the cap — the more you are over the cap the more steep the price.

Dallas lived well above the luxury tax threshold for a decade, but for example if they were $10 million over the tax line in 2015 their tax payment would jump from $10 million to $17.5 million. At the level the Mavericks salary was at last year the tax would have been well in excess of $20 million.

The new CBA punishes the model the Lakers, Mavericks, Knicks and other teams used to build a roster (the Knicks far less successfully, thank you Isiah) where teams lived $10 million or more into the tax regularly. The league and its small market owners think that more parity is needed and good for the league and those big spending teams needed to reigned in. We can have a debate about why I think that is wrong — stars sell in the NBA and the nature of the sport will never allow NFL-style parity or anything close to it — but it is reality.

Cuban has embraced that reality in an aggressive way — Dallas will be well under the cap this summer and can go after Deron Williams to pair with Dirk Nowitzki. They can put more affordable (read: younger) talent around them.

This was not his only option. He might have been able to keep Chandler and others on shorter deals by selling them on making one more run. Cuban went another way. He tried to replace them with Lamar Odom and while that flamed out it was a good gamble. But the bottom line is everyone knew this wasn’t going to be the same team, and if you believe that your team was going to have a hard time repeating what Cuban did is a logical course of action.

Basically, in two years we’ll be saying Cuban was a visionary and made the right moves, or that he gambled and lost and now the Mavericks path back to the top is much longer and steeper.

But he’s right, the new CBA did help force his hand.

Reports: Kings still to talk to Nate McMillan, Mark Jackson, more in wide-open coaching search

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Essentially, the Sacramento Kings coaching search is the polar opposite of the New York Knicks coaching search. Which frustrates Carmelo Anthony, but that’s another story.

The Kings have spoken to four potential coaches but plan to talk to a number more, including former Golden State coach Mark Jackson and current Pacers assistant Nate McMillan. Here is now Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee put it.

The Kings have received permission to interview assistant coaches Elston Turner of Memphis and Nate McMillan of Indiana for their head-coaching position, according to league sources….

Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson also will interview for the job. He was not retained two years ago, despite leading Golden State to a 51-31 record…. Sacramento also is interested in Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton but has not received permission to interview him, and it’s uncertain if the Kings will meet with him.

The question is does Walton have any interest in the job at all. The consensus around the league is he does not (he is expected to take a long look at the Lakers’ opening).

Sam Amick of the USA Today reported the same names, here is who he said has already discussed the job with Kings decision maker Vlade Divac.

The Kings, who fired George Karl on April 14 after they finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive time, are known to have interviewed Vinny Del Negro (former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers coach), Mike Woodson (former Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks coach; now an assistant with the Clippers), Sam Mitchell (former Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves coach) and Kevin McHale (former Timberwolves and Houston Rockets coach).

Much like Walton, there also are questions about the level of McHale’s interest in the job (the Rockets are going to pay him for a couple more seasons, so he is in no rush).

The Kings are not making a rushed decision, which is a good thing by Divac — he needs to get this hire right.

Watch some of Hawks 12 blocked shots in close-out Game 6 vs. Celtics

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Atlanta got to the playoffs on the strength of their defense.

That also won the Hawks their first-round series against the Celtics — Boston struggled to get score consistently against Atlanta. On Thursday night that included 12 blocked shots as the Hawks took away the paint and the Celtics could not make them play.

Well done by the Hawks but that defense is about to be put to the test in the next round — the Cleveland Cavaliers have much more dangerous weapons.

No longer rebuilding, Pistons hope to improve in offseason

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 20: Tobias Harris #34 Andre Drummond #0 and Marcus Morris #13 of the Detroit Pistons celebrates during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons have finally moved beyond the rebuilding stage.

After their first playoff appearance since 2009, Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons can look ahead to the offseason knowing that if they simply keep their current starting lineup intact, the future could be fairly bright. That’s not to say that Detroit will stand pat, but the team’s key players are young enough that the Pistons can envision more success if this group stays together.

“We’re now not at the time of wholesale change anymore. We went through that,” said Van Gundy, who just wrapped up his second season as Detroit’s coach and team president. “We’re not making deals just to make deals. We like the guys we have, but we’ve got to add to it, and if there’s ever a chance to make a significant upgrade – yeah.”

The Pistons went 44-38, their best record since 2008, before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by top-seeded Cleveland. When Van Gundy met with reporters Thursday, he talked about a lot of potential improvements that can come from within – such as Andre Drummond‘s free throw shooting, Stanley Johnson‘s skill set and the team’s overall defensive approach.

The 22-year-old Drummond remains the Pistons’ biggest star. As he enters restricted free agency, the team has not expressed any reservations about trying to sign him long term – despite his sub-40 percent free throw shooting, an issue which occasionally relegated him to the bench during crunch time.

“He’s a 22-year-old All-Star center. There aren’t very many guys in the league who have the abilities that he has,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll move forward and obviously do everything we possibly can to try to get him re-signed.”

Detroit’s starting lineup of Drummond, Reggie Jackson (26 years old), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (23), Tobias Harris (23) and Marcus Morris (26) was good enough to lift the Pistons into the postseason, and the team also has the 19-year-old Johnson, a lottery pick last year. Van Gundy says he wants Johnson to work on developing his individual skills in the offseason, which isn’t always easy for players in the years before they reach the NBA.

“They don’t really get, or haven’t had summers where they could take an extended period of time and really focus on skill development,” Van Gundy said. “They’re always playing AAU, then with Stanley, USA Basketball, then they have a summer where they’re going to draft workout after draft workout after draft workout, and then right after that, they’re just going into summer league.”

As for Drummond’s woeful foul shooting, Van Gundy says it’s wrong to view it purely as a mechanics problem. Drummond shot 35.5 percent this season from the line and was 11 of 34 in the playoffs.

Van Gundy was asked if having Drummond try to shoot underhanded could be an option.

“I think right now everything’s on the table,” Van Gundy said. “We all know it’s an important thing, Andre more than any of us. I think he’s pretty open to anything, but there’s a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we’ll all have a hand in it.”

Although the Pistons don’t have to worry much about losing Drummond before next season, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake are both unrestricted free agents. They combined for only 69 minutes in the playoff series, and Van Gundy was somewhat noncommittal about their future.

“In just a very general sense, I like the idea of having both of them back,” he said. “But – and I was honest with them – there’s priorities ahead of re-signing them.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Hawks close out Celtics, advance to face Cavaliers

<> during the first quarter of Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 28, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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The first Eastern Conference semifinals matchup is set: the Atlanta Hawks closed out the Boston Celtics 104-92 on the road to win their first-round series in six games and advance to the second round, where they will face the Cleveland Cavaliers beginning on Monday.

The Hawks controlled the game from start to finish, neutralizing Boston’s offense and attacking Isaiah Thomas on the other end. Thomas finished with 25 points, leading all scorers, but shot just 9-for-24 from the field.

In the second half, Atlanta’s lead stretched as far as 28 points, before a Marcus Smart-led comeback in the fourth quarter cut it to 12 and Atlanta was able to put the game away.

From a talent standpoint, this series was always going to be skewed away from the Celtics, especially after Avery Bradley‘s hamstring injury in the first round of the playoffs. And Atlanta’s superior talent won out in Game 6, with every Hawks starter reaching double figures.

From here, Atlanta will face Cleveland in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, this time with everybody fully healthy for both teams. Boston is set up for an interesting offseason, with a high lottery pick coming from Brooklyn, a ton of cap space and dark-horse status in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.