Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets

Dirk Nowitzki: It’s not realistic to expect Carmelo Anthony to come to Dallas

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When we talk about where Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James or where the biggest potential free agents (or trade pieces) could go the usual suspects start with Chicago and Houston, then move on to New York, the Los Angeles Lakers and on down the list.

Dallas wants to be in that mix.

But they don’t seem to be foremost on free agents’ minds and Dirk Nowitzki knows that. He admitted to Bryan Gutierrez of ESPNDallas.com that he doesn’t expect to see Anthony in Dallas.

“Not really,” Nowitzki said. “Somebody in his camp brought up the Mavericks first. It’s not like we brought him up. If we’re actually on his radar then it’s great. Then, we obviously have to look at it. Like I’ve said, he’s obviously one of the most explosive scorers that we have in this league. If a player like that has your team on the radar, [president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson] and [owner] Mark [Cuban] obviously have to look at it. Do I think it’s realistic? No. You’ve got to explore all of your options.”

Dallas may have a long-shot of landing someone, this was a 49-win team last year and still has Nowitzki, plus Monta Ellis.

But their biggest problem in attracting top flight free agents is location. No, not Texas, but rather the Western Conference. Anthony and LeBron are only leaving their current spots if they think where they go gives them a better shot to win a title (I don’t think LeBron leaves at all, but that’s another post). Both of them are in the East, where the flawed Heat were still the best of the conference. The East should be improved next season but it is still a far easier path to the Finals than the West with the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and so on.

Mark Cuban is still big game hunting. At some point he will land one. But this summer it seems a tough sell.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

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.