Mark Cuban

With smile on his face, Cuban fires back at Deron Williams

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Mark Cuban loves this kind of through-the-media banter. Just ask Phil Jackson. Or Shaq. Or a host of others. Cuban is very good at saying something with a smile on his face but with a knife in his hands.

So when Deron Williams fired a shot at Mark Cuban saying the fact Cuban was off filming “Shark Tank” on the day Williams met with the Mavs sealed the deal he was going to the Nets, you knew Cuban would eventually fire back.

And he did, speaking to the media in Barcelona where his Mavs were about to lose a preseason game to FC Barcelona, via the Dallas Morning News.

“I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference,’’ Cuban said before the Mavericks’ exhibition game against FC Barcelona Regal. “I would have expected him to say – like I’d expect one of our guys to say – ‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’…

“He’s a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. That’s the important thing, to try to win championships.

“I’m flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets’ management did.’’

Nice.

To be clear, Cuban could have been there and brought Kate Hudson to pour glasses of Cristal and D-Will still probably would have chosen the Nets. That is where he was leaning. And he saw what the Nets were doing and heard what their long-term plans were. (Apparently those plans were to go over the cap and lock themselves into basically this roster for years, but it’s a plan.)

What Williams said was he had questions about the long-range plans in Dallas that GM Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t satisfactorily answer. Sounds to me like Williams really threw those two under the bus.

And of course, if you are building a team, step one is to get a couple of superstars together, like Williams and, oh, I don’t know, maybe… Dirk Nowitizki? Someone like that.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.