Dan Feldman

AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Rumor: Mavericks pre-draft courtship of Frank Ntilikina was ‘ruse’


A photo of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and president Donnie Nelson with Frank Ntilikina made the rounds – aided by the Mavericks themselves – before the draft:

Word leaked Ntilikina’s coach in France would coach Dallas summer-league team:

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Yet it was all something of a ruse. That whole time Dallas was growing infatuated with Smith

If it were a ruse, it worked. The Knicks drafted Ntilikina No. 8, and Dennis Smith Jr. fell to the Mavericks at No. 9.

Vincent Collet never coached the Mavericks’ summer-league team. They hired Smith’s college coach at North Carolina State, Mark Gottfried, as a scout, though.

Either guard could have the better career, but both before the draft and currently, I’d take Smith over Ntilikina. (LeBron James agrees.)

So, did Dallas pull a fast one?

Cuban, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“Not a stunt at all,” Cuban wrote Friday. “We like Frank quite a bit. If Dennis had been selected there was a very good chance we would have taken Frank.”

Take Cuban’s denial for what it’s worth – something, but not everything.

Maybe he’s telling the truth. Ntilikina would have been a reasonable pick at No. 9 (just as he was a reasonable pick at No. 8). If the Mavericks tricked the Knicks, Cuban might take a victory lap.

But maybe Cuban doesn’t want to offend Ntilikina or his agent by acknowledging they’d been used. Or maybe Cuban doesn’t want to reveal tricks that would make future Dallas subterfuge less effective.

Cuban and the Mavericks could have just been playing their Ntilikina interest straight all along. But if they were misdirecting, there’s at least some incentive to keep it up.

LeBron James posts career-worst -39 plus-minus

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LeBron James scored just 10 points in the Cavaliers’ ugly 127-99 loss to the Timberwolves last night, his lowest scoring output in a decade.

Though it was indicative this time, points aren’t always the best measure of LeBron’s performance. He’s capable of affecting the game in so many ways.

But LeBron failed to get Cleveland going last night.

At all.

The Cavs were outscored by a whopping 39 points with him on the court. That’s the worst single-game plus-minus of his career:


Worse yet, the Cavaliers got blitzed so badly in fewer than 27 minutes with LeBron on the court. That’s, by far, the worst single-game plus-minus per 48 minutes of his career:


LeBron and the Cavs surely hope this was just a night to forget. They’ve established they can dial it up when it counts.

But this is a more dismal outing than ever to get past.


Lou Williams posterizes Ersan Ilyasova (video)

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Lou Williams has mostly become a crafty scorer.

But the 31-year-old can still get up, as Ersan Ilyasova learned the hard way in the Clippers’ win over the Hawks.

Ex-wife of Lorenzen Wright agrees to face Tennessee murder charges

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — The ex-wife of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright will not fight authorities’ attempt to send her from California to Tennessee, where she’s charged with killing him nearly eight years ago.

The Desert Sun newspaper reports that Sherra Wright briefly appeared in Riverside County Superior Court on Monday agreed to go back to Tennessee to face first-degree murder charges.

Authorities now have 30 days to bring her to Memphis, where Lorenzen Wright was found dead in 2010 at age 34. He had been shot multiple times.

Sherra Wright was arrested in December.

Lorenzen Wright played for 13 seasons as a forward and center in the NBA, including several for the Grizzlies in Memphis, where he was born and raised.