Mark Cuban thinks we all need to chill on anointing Lakers

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Mark Cuban is very, very good at promoting Mark Cuban and with that the Dallas Mavericks. In a marketing world where you increasingly need to be your own brand Cuban is way ahead of the curve.

And if there are rival brands to your Mavericks brand — say, the Los Angeles Lakers and their new additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard — then you downplay that brand and pump up yours.

With that background, we bring you Cuban’s comments about the Lakers and his own Mavericks during an amusing if not terribly informative “season ticket holders press conference” with the words transcribed by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.

“The Lakers have done this before,” Cuban said. “Remember Gary Payton, Karl Malone and Kobe and Shaq were all together, and it didn’t work.

“It takes great chemistry, like coach (Rick Carlisle) alluded to, it takes guys wanting to be there — I don’t know if all their guys want to be there — it’s going to be interesting…

“Look, (the Lakers are) going to be a great team, but I remember when we made our run,” Cuban said. “We weren’t supposed to win any series. The Lakers were defending champs when we swept them, and they had everybody back. A lot of teams do a great job winning the summer, but I never get so antsy about what happens over the summer.”

It’s the “they are great on paper but…” argument everybody makes right now. Because, it’s really the only thing you can say about the Lakers until they do take the court. And he is right about the Mavericks run and things needing to come together. We just can’t say yet if the Lakers will or won’t (but with those veterans I think will is far more likely).

Then Cuban went on to praise the chemistry of the Mavericks, which have eight new players this season. That Dallas team has more talent than some seem to give it credit for — Darren Collison is a good point guard, O.J. Mayo can fill it up, Chris Kaman is solid and they still have that Dirk Nowitzki guy. He’s pretty good. Dallas is a playoff team and will push for another 50-win season, something they have done every year since Steve Nash frosted his hair and played in Big D.

But the Lakers are going to be better.

One other note to Mavs fans after having watched the stream of that press conference: You guys get the coverage you deserve. There was a whole lot of “the media hates us/we don’t get any respect,” which frankly 29 other fan bases complain about, too. Heat fans complain about it. But here’s the truth — today’s media is a democracy where you vote with your eyeballs and clicks. If enough people were clicking on Mavs stories there would be more of them on this blog and others (and we still do a lot), but the fact is you all have voted with those clicks and you like Heat/Lakers/Knicks/Celtics stories a lot more. This is not the 1960s where Walter Cronkite could claim objectivity because the news division was expected to lose money. Today the media is part of the capitalist culture created by people like Cuban (he gets it, watch what he puts on HDNet). It’s about profit. I like to think we can do that with some even handedness (even though plenty of you don’t see it that way with me) and smart commentary on all the teams, but the bottom line doesn’t change. This blog is a business, too. Which is to say, if you want more Mavericks stories, then click on and read more Mavericks stories.

Pacers erase 17-point deficit to take 2-1 lead over Cavs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 30 points, leading the Indiana Pacers back from a 17-point halftime deficit for a 92-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night for a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.

Cleveland was 39-0 during the regular season when leading after three quarters and kept that perfect mark intact with a Game 2 win.

The incredible second-half charge came exactly one year after Indiana blew a 26-point halftime lead in a historic playoff collapse against the Cavs.

This time, the Pacers delivered a devastating blow to the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs – on a night LeBron Jones joined Michael Jordan as the only players in playoff history to record 100 double-doubles. James finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Cleveland from losing its first game this season after leading following the third quarter.

The biggest reason for the collapse: Bogdanovic.

After charging back with striking distance, he completed a four-point play to finally give the Pacers an 81-77 lead with 6:10 left. Bogdanovic followed that with another to make it as seven-point game.

Then James answered with the next seven to tie it.

Bogdanovic came right back with a layup and another 3 before Thaddeus Young scored to give the Pacers a 91-84 cushion with 53 seconds left.

James knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to four, and the Cavs got another 3 from Kevin Love with 7 seconds left to make it 91-90.

Darren Collison made 1 of 2 free throws with 5 seconds left, giving Cleveland one more chance. But J.R. Smith‘s long desperation heave came up short..

Shaq attacks verse in new TV series "Poetry in America"

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shaquille O’Neal called himself “The Big Baryshnikov” and “The Big Socrates” in his days in the NBA. Now he can add “The Big Shakespeare.”

The basketball Hall-of-Famer, TNT TV analyst, commercial pitchman and onetime rapper is putting poetry on his lengthy resume as part of a new public television series.

He brings his best bard to a dramatic reading of a poem in his episode of the 12-part “Poetry in America ,” then discusses it with Elisa New, a Harvard English professor who hosts the show.

“I’ve always been into poetry,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press in a sunlit conference room overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. “I’ve been writing rhymes all my life.”

“Poetry in America,” distributed by American Public Television and presented by WGBH in Boston, is airing at various times on local public TV stations. Some episodes, including Shaq’s, are already available to stream.

On the show the 46-year-old former All-Star from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat recites “Fast Break,” a poem by Edward Hirsch from his 1986 book “Wild Gratitude.” It describes some very imperfect players who manage to put together a perfect basketball play.

“A hook shot kisses the rim and hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,” the poem begins, “and for once our gangly starting center boxes out his man.”

O’Neal, whose 350-pound bulk would never be called “gangly,” still related to the center in the verse, but said he initially missed the poem’s point.

“The first mistake I made was thinking it was about basketball,” he said. “I read it real quick I said `fast break, shovel passes, sure, this is what I do.”‘

He said New, who sat next to O’Neal in the interview and like almost everyone is utterly dwarfed by him, gave him whole new insights that led to a fast friendship.

“When she broke it down intelligently for me, I was very astounded and very amazed,”

The poem is written for a close friend and playing partner of Hirsch’s who had just died. That’s easy to miss if you skip past the dedication at the top, as most readers do.

“It’s fun that only later as you’re reading, you look back at that dedication,” New said. “One line can change everything.”

Suddenly it becomes an examination of transcendent moments and human connections.

“It’s about friendship, it’s about caring, it’s about emotions,” O’Neal said. “I had missed that.”

His latest learning experience took O’Neal’s thoughts back to high school, where he had a 69 percent in English after blowing a test during the basketball playoffs, and needed a 70 to stay eligible for sports.

The teacher allowed him a retest, and suggested a tutor.

“This guy, his name was McDougal, he was a geek, he saved my academic life,” O’Neal said. “Everybody bullied him in school, except me.”

O’Neal said he took the work and “broke it down, made it seem so simple.”

“I retook the test, got an 80, and we won the state championship,” O’Neal said.

“Now,” he said, “I always tell kids I’m a geek.”

The professor had another name for him. “He’s a learner!”

O’Neal partly looked the poet during the interview in a polo shirt and jeans, having traded his basketball sneakers for a pair of slip-on Toms shoes, size 22.

When he wanted them, a company executive told him “it wouldn’t be worth it to make them in my size unless I bought 500 of them,” O’Neal said. “I told him to give me 2,000.”

 

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.