Be sure to give Dean Smith some credit for Jordan’s success

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When you see the retrospective highlight clips of Michael Jordan this weekend, they almost all start with him in Carolina blue, knocking down the jumper that wins the Tar Heels a national championship.

But did that and the three seasons Jordan played at North Carolina make his six NBA titles and the rest of his success possible?

None other than Tex Winter, architect of the triangle offense Jordan and Phil Jackson won with in Chicago, thinks the answer is yes.

This according to Roland Lazenby, the author of “Blood On The Horns, The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls” (which is being re-released right now by Diversion Books as an ebook edition in honor of Jordan’s birthday) and also the author of a new Jordan biography due out in the spring of 2014 (by Little, Brown). Lazenby has a great relationship with Winter, and he talked about those years

“Tex Winter always credited Dean Smith because Jordan first played in a tightly run system at North Carolina,” Lazenby told ProBasketballTalk. “If he hadn’t done that, Jordan would never have accepted the triangle offense as he did, Winter said.”

Jordan thrived in that offense, which is predicated on spacing and on high basketball IQ players moving the ball and taking what the defense gave them. The offense not only helped Jordan score but also helped get his teammates good looks allowing them to help.

Of course, it all comes back to MJ.

“Still, so much of the credit is Jordan’s because he had the character and intelligence and will to bend his game to that offense,” Lazenby said. “Then there’s Scottie Pippen. His maturing into the kind of player to could team with Jordan to make this magical core to a competitive dynamo, well, that contribution was immeasurable, as Jordan and everyone else involved has acknowledged.”

Jordan was the icon and is the consensus greatest player ever to play the game. You can’t ever take that away from him. But he didn’t do it all alone.

And Dean Smith deserves some of the credit.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”