O.J. Mayo

Mavs looking for more defense from O.J. Mayo

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With Dirk Nowitzki set to miss the next six weeks, the Dallas Mavericks will lean more heavily on O.J. Mayo to be an offensive centerpiece. He’ll have to score more and be more efficient when doing so to help keep the Mavs afloat on that side of the ball.

But offense isn’t the only place he’ll need to help his new team. Mayo will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball as well. Just ask his head coach, Rick Carlisle. He’ll be happy to let you know that scoring simply won’t be enough from the former Grizzly. And, to his credit, Mayo looks to be getting the message:

“I’ve got to get better,” Mayo said. “You can point fingers at any individual, but if you notice any good teams that get after it defensively, it’s five guys all pulling on a string. I rate myself as good as my team is.”

Mayo is saying the right things today but will need to show more on the court. He has all requisite tools to be a strong defender — good size, length, and athleticism — but hasn’t yet put it together to really make a difference on that end of the floor. In fact, over the course of his career, he’s been a net negative on D from a team perspective while posting individual defensive numbers that were not up to standard (Synergy ranks him as the 370th best defender overall in terms of points allowed per play).

Rick Carlisle knows that to be a true contender, a team has to play top level defense. When his Mavs won the championship in the 2010-11 season, Dirk and the offense may have gotten the headlines, but the team ranked 8th in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) by running creative schemes and getting the stops they needed.

Carlisle built a defense around Tyson Chandler’s paint presence, Shawn Marion’s inside/outside versatility, and Jason Kidd pestering perimeter threats. Today, only Marion remains from that group and Mayo will have to step in to help corral the bevy of strong offensive wings littered across the league.

If he’s up to the task, he’ll be a much more complete and valuable player to a Mavs team that could surprise some people after an off-season makeover. If he’s not, Carlisle may find himself closing games with Mayo on the bench because he’s not helping to get the stops the team needs.

Joel Embiid: “I feel 100 percent”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on prior to the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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After missing two entire seasons, all signs are pointing to 2014 No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid finally taking the court this season. Last week, Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Embiid has looked great in his workouts and is on track to play in the preseason, and Embiid himself echoed that sentiment over the weekend. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Marc Narducci that he feels “100 percent.”

There’s always a possibility and fear that Embiid’s recurring foot problems will come back, but for now, all indications are that he’s feeling good and will be able to contribute this season, which should make Sixers fans excited.

Evan Fournier pokes fun at his ‘NBA 2K’ likeness

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 07:  Evan Fournier #10 of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.

Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.

At least they’re having fun with it.

Report: Sixers expected to waive Tibor Pleiss after trade with Jazz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Tibor Pleiss #21 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball in the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.

Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.

Jordan releases new Russell Westbrook ad, may include a shot at Kevin Durant

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (L) and Russell Westbrook #0 look on during a press conference after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-101 in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”

Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.