Dirk Nowitzki says he’d love for the Mavs to land Dwight Howard or Chris Paul in free agency

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The Mavericks missed the playoffs this season for the first time in 13 years, and if we’ve learned anything from Mark Cuban over time, it’s that mediocrity in Dallas won’t be tolerated for very long at all.

Dirk Nowitzki is equally competitive, and doesn’t want to spend the twilight of his career playing for a losing team, or one that’s planning on going through a rebuild while the 11-time NBA All-Star still remains on the roster.

Dallas has the salary cap space to make a big splash in free agency this summer, and if things don’t fall the right way for the team with the players who are currently available, they have virtually no one on the books for the following season and can make another run at that time. But Nowitzki wants to win now, which is why he’s willing to step up his involvement in the recruiting process — both personally and financially.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are the biggest names on the open market, and Nowitzki said the obvious during a radio interview on Tuesday: He’d love for the Mavericks to improve immediately by landing one of those two superstars.

From The Dallas Morning News:

On Dwight Howard and Chris Paul:

Dirk Nowitzki: We’d love to get one of those two. We’d love to get a player in here who can create his own shot and be a superstar-type player. It’s still a long way to go until July. Those guys need to clear their minds a little bit and get away and then start thinking what they want to do with their futures. Hopefully, that’s where we come in and put a great pitch out there and see what happens.

On the pitch to free agents:

Dirk Nowitzki: I’ll definitely be a little involved. But I’ll be in the draft ‘war room’ for the first time … order some pizza and talk some basketball. I got one year left on this deal and then I’m coming off the books. So if that helps for us to be better I’m going to take a paycut. That’s part of the pitch. Cuban and Donnie have got to be part of the pitch.

Both Howard and Paul are likely to re-sign with their respective teams in Los Angeles, for a variety of reasons. But Dallas, due to a combination of being a large market and Cuban’s willingness to spend to keep his team relevant, make for one of the more attractive free agent destinations outside of L.A., New York, or Miami.

If you had to choose which player would be more likely to be tempted by the Mavericks, you’d have to go with Howard, given how little he enjoyed living with the championship-level expectations during his first season with the Lakers, as well as his historic level of indecisiveness about where he’d like to play.

As for the pay cut part of Nowitzki’s comments, that wouldn’t happen until the 2014-15 season.

Nowitzki has one more year remaining on his contract, and will earn over $22 million next season. The year after, he could play for as little as would make sense in order for Dallas to stockpile talent in pursuit of one more title before he decides to hang ’em up.

Klay Thompson goes up for 360 dunk in exhibition… and he’s not a dunker (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson has an amazing skill set — one of the best pure shooters in the league, he can put the ball on the floor and create, and he’s a very good perimeter defender.

He’s not a dunker. Oh, he can dunk, but he’s not the guy you’re inviting to the Dunk Contest.

Case in point, this video out of China where Thompson was part of an exhibition and tried to show off his dunking skills.

Thompson’s shoe sponsor is China-based Anta, which explains why he’s there playing some exhibition ball. In case you missed it, Thompson had a Finals shoe released.

Those are about as good as the 360 dunk.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.