Dan Feldman

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers reacts to a call during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on November 7, 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)

Pacers’ Paul George: ‘There’s no trust, there’s no chemistry, there’s no belief. We’re kind of just lifeless right now’

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Paul George entered the season talking about winning MVP, challenging LeBron James for Eastern Conference supremacy and the Pacers scoring 115 points per game

It took fewer than five games for George to be so frustrated, he kicked a ball that hit a fan.

Indiana’s latest setback, a 22-point loss to the Hornets, has George fuming.

George , via Nate Taylor of IndyStar:

“We’re all out of whack,” George said. “There’s no trust, there’s no chemistry, there’s no belief. We’re kind of just lifeless right now.”

It’s worth taking a step back. The Pacers are 3-4, hardly debilitating. Indiana had high expectations after Larry Bird revamped the team, but 3-4 isn’t that bad, and neither is a one-game losing streak.

Still, the Pacers have shown structural problems that should concern them. Point guard Jeff Teague has struggled mightily after Indiana traded George Hill for him, and that’s handcuffing the offense. The defense is bad at everything but forcing turnovers, though at least that risk-taking strategy generates fastbreak points.

Solving these issues won’t be easy. For now, the Pacers should hope they stay afloat in the playoff race while they address their deficiencies, and so far they’re doing that. It’s not nearly time to panic yet – unless the competitive George is doing more than overreacting to a small sample of mediocrity. If he sees deeper problems that we don’t and is referring to those, Indiana could be in store for hard times.

But I tend to think this is more likely about expectations and George’s perfectionism. That said, even if that’s the case, he can’t let his dissatisfaction lead to a toxic culture. He must help his teammates channel it into improvement.

Josh Smith signs in China

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As training camps opened, 12-year NBA veteran Josh Smith clearly stated his goal – to remain in the NBA. Smith, via Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

“My main goal is that I am an NBA player,” Smith said. “Being able to go overseas, people are professional, but the NBA is what I have built myself to do. I’m still hungry. If I jumped to leave my NBA chances behind, I feel it would’ve been an act of desperation.

About that…

Asia-Basket:

Defending champion Sichuan Blue Whales (CBA) agreed terms with 31-year old American forward Josh Smith

This wasn’t an act of desperation. This was an act of reality.

NBA rosters are full, and nobody seems to have much interest in Smith. He’s on the wrong side of 30, too often a pain in the locker room and coming off a dismal season. He was forgettable with the Clippers aside from a heated argument with an assistant coach then just lousy with the Rockets after a midseason trade. That he couldn’t recreate any success in Houston, where he was up and down in 2014-15, is telling. Remember, he became a free agent to join the Rockets in 2014 only after the Pistons ate an unprecedented amount of salary to waive him outright.

Smith will try to build a case for joining the NBA after the Chinese Basketball Association season ends in the spring. Roster dynamics could be more favorable to him then. He’ll also earn some money in the interim.

I wouldn’t rule out Smith playing in the NBA again. Not even close. But there’s a reason he’s not in the league right now.

Mark Cuban: Dispute with ESPN rooted in automated content

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban yells at an official during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 112-83. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says his decision to revoke the credentials of two ESPN writers who cover his team was driven partly by concern that automated game reports could eventually replace human-generated content.

Cuban said Monday that he banned Marc Stein and Tim MacMahon from Mavericks home games to bring attention to the issue of companies using automation in sports coverage.

The Associated Press, in a partnership with Automated Insights, produces automated stories on minor league baseball but does not use the technology for most of its sports coverage. The AP has at least one reporter at all games in the four major professional sports and most major college football and basketball games.

“Maybe I will be wrong but I see a direct path from the trends in coverage of games we are seeing over the last couple years to the automation of reporting on games and the curation of related content,” Cuban wrote in an email to the AP. “This isn’t a knock on wire services or their reporters. They are valued and valuable in sports coverage.”

The billionaire who made his fortune through internet technology told The Dallas Morning News that ESPN had informed the club that it wouldn’t have a reporter at every game and would rely on wire services. Barry Bedlan, AP’s sports product manager, said ESPN “has relied on us for years.”

“Nothing has changed from our perspective and there are no plans to change that,” Bedlan said.

Cuban said he was responding to what he considers a disturbing trend of reporters being replaced by machines.

“While it may seem counterintuitive to ban someone from covering us as a way of stopping automation, it really was my only option,” Cuban said. “As is evident by the AP partnership with Automated Insights, it’s not if but when.”

MacMahon has covered the Mavericks primarily for several years but has spent more time in other cities this season. Stein joined ESPN as a national NBA writer in 2000 after previously covering the Mavericks for the Dallas newspaper. Both reporters are based in Dallas.

Report: Knicks put Kurt Rambis in charge of NBA-worst defense

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Phil Jackson (R) of the Los Angeles Lakers and assistant Kurt Rambis sit on the bench during the game with the Los Angeles Clippers on November 5, 2008 at Staples Center 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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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When a report emerged Phil Jackson and Knicks players were unhappy with the triangle offense – Jackson wants more of it, and players seemingly want less – I suggested they focus on defense. After all, New York is allowing an NBA-worst 110.9 points per 100 possessions.

I guess they agreed.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Remember, Jackson pushed for Rambis to remain the Knicks’ head coach last season. But Jackson also sought a coach he knows and who would run the triangle then hired Jeff Hornacek, who fits neither qualification. So, who knows what’s really going on in New York?

We know what Rambis did before arriving there. In his two years as the Timberwolves’ head coach, they finished 28th and 27th in points allowed per possession. The Knicks fared a little better last season with Rambis as interim coach, posting a defensive rating that would’ve ranked 19th over a full season – but they were even more stout with Derek Fisher in charge earlier in the season.

I’m unconvinced Rambis can implement a sound defense. I’m unconvinced Jackson is seeking defensive help from the right places. And I’m unconvinced Joakim Noah can anchor a quality defense at his age.

But at least the Knicks are tying something – which is more than I can say about everything else they’ve done defensively so far this year.

Report: Chris Bosh hires Rob Pelinka as agent

WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14:  NBA player Chris Bosh attends the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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Chris Bosh has little control over his basketball future.

The Heat sound done with him due to blood-clot issues, but it’s also imprudent for them to waive him before March. So, despite his desire to play again, he’s just biding his time.

One thing Bosh can still control: his agent. He fired Henry Thomas of CAA. Now, he’s hiring Rob Pelinka of Landmark.

Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal:

Assuming Bosh doesn’t play before Feb. 9 – a virtual certainty since Miami controls that – the Heat can then ask a  doctor jointly selected by the league and union to rule that Bosh “has an injury or illness that… substantially impairs his ability to play skilled professional basketball at an NBA level and is of such severity that continuing to play professional basketball at an NBA level would subject the player to medically unacceptable risk of suffering a life-threatening or permanently disabling injury or illness.”

Pelinka’s first major responsibility will be lobbying for a doctor whose views align with Bosh’s.

If the doctor rules that it is safe for Bosh to play – he contends it is – Miami would have no salary-cap incentive to waive him. He’d likely resume his career with the Heat, though they obviously find that highly unlikely.

If the doctor rules it’s unsafe for Bosh to play, Miami would likely waive Bosh in March. The Heat would have to continue paying him, but his salary would no longer count toward the cap.

This is where Pelinka would have his work cut out for him. Bosh says it’s not about the money. He just wants to play. But would teams really sign and play him after a jointly selected doctor rules against him? Good luck convincing them, Rob.