Mark Cuban likes the Mavericks’ offseason, especially his team’s hoops IQ

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When the Dallas Mavericks won the title back in 2011 they did it with Dirk Nowitzki being an unstoppable scoring force surrounded by a group of quality players who each fit their role well and played a high IQ game.

Nowitzki is still there and his one-legged fade-away jumper is as unstoppable as ever.

This summer the Mavericks went out and added the Chandlers — Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons — to go with Jameer Nelson (plus Raymond Felton, who in theory could have a bounce back year at the point) and others. Dallas improved.

Mark Cuban is pumped — he thinks he’s not only got a good team, he’s got a smart team, he told the Dallas Morning News.

“I try never to get too excited, but I’m always excited. Getting Chandler, getting the Chandler brothers is going to be a big step forward for us. I think we’ve gotten younger, I think we’ve got a team that is very flexible; we’ll be able to do a lot of different things. We’ve got a high basketball IQ. I’m really excited about it….

“And I think one of the reasons we were able to give San Antonio such a run is that we had a high basketball IQ and we were able to make adjustments that they didn’t expect. I think if our basketball IQ was a little bit higher, then we should have beat them — we could have beat them, we would have beat them — and that’s what we were looking for this summer: guys with high basketball IQs, guys who can play multiple positions, guys who were unselfish and were willing to move the ball and guys who could hit an open shot. And so we think having a lot of flexibility, being able to switch on defense, moving the ball a lot, we think by adding all these starters from all these other teams, we added guys who had those capabilities and I think hopefully it will take us to the next level.”

As a reminder, the Mavericks took the Spurs to seven games. Spurs players said come the finals that the defenses that Dallas threw at them (and Portland tried to with less success in the next round) helped prepare them for what Miami liked to do.

I’m with Cuban, I like Dallas’ offseason.

The problem is they are in the brutal West, so to me they jump from eight to four out West. I still think they trail the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers. That IQ, that flexibility of system, all of that works well until you run into superior talent with some of the same qualities, and I think three teams out West have more talent than the Mavericks.

Then again, in 2011 I picked against the Mavericks in every playoff round. Maybe I am underestimating them again.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.