Mark Cuban, on whether this is a rebuilding year for the Mavericks: ‘Don’t even go there.’

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The Mavericks were one of the teams that made a pitch to Dwight Howard in free agency, and believed that with Dirk Nowitzki in the fold and with a roster’s worth of cap space available in advance of the 2014-15 season, that they’d be able to build a championship contender around Howard in just two years’ time.

Howard signed with the Rockets, of course, so the Mavericks pursued other options. They signed the likes of Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Samuel Dalembert, among others, in order to try to win immediately after missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons last year.

Mark Cuban believes that his free agent acquisitions were dollars well spent, and doesn’t want to hear anything about next year being one of rebuilding for his Mavericks.

From the Dallas Morning News:

On if this is a rebuilding year:

“Oh no. Hell no. Don’t even go there. Look, there’s no template for winning in the NBA. … Dirk’s got to be healthy and he’s working hard. He’s been in the gym every single day looking great. Then we’ve got to come together as a team. We’ve got Samuel Dalembert, Monta Ellis, Wayne Ellington, DeJuan Blair. We brought in a lot of really good players and now it’s up to Coach Carlisle to make it all work together.”

I don’t know about Wayne Ellington, but there’s no question that Dallas went out and got some players that the team feels can contribute next season.

As for the failed pursuit of Howard, Cuban said that the team would have been better in the long run had they been able to secure his services. But since that didn’t happen, he believes that the Mavs will be better next season with the multiple players they were able to get instead.

“Now, I think over the long term would we have been better Dwight? That’s why we went after him, but this year, I think we’ll be better.”

It’s tough to say definitively, because we don’t know who Dallas might have been able to get to surround Howard on the roster. But if you have Howard plus Nowitzki and not a whole lot more from a talent perspective, it’s hard to argue with Cuban’s assessment.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.