Dan Feldman

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates scoring a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday March 20, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to opt out of Mavericks contract

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Dirk Nowitzki has said and re-said and re-said he’d opt into the final year of his contract.

But maybe not?

Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram:

Nowitzki plans to opt out of the last year of his current contract

I’d be absolutely shocked if this about leaving the Mavericks. If Nowitzki is opting out, it’s probably to re-sign on more favorable terms.

But what’s more favorable to Nowitzki? A higher salary? Additional years? A lower salary that would allow Dallas to acquire more support around him? After all, he already took a big pay cut for that reason on this contract.

Nowitzki’s salary if he opts in would be $8,692,184. If he opts out, he’d count $12,500,001 against the cap until signed or renounced. If he’s renounced, the Mavericks couldn’t use Bird Rights to exceed the cap to sign him. So, Nowitzki opting out would increase Dallas’ cap room only if he’s willing to take a lower salary. There’s no way to work the cap for additional room and give Nowitzki his original salary.

If Nowitzki wants a big raise, he could command one. The salary cap is skyrocketing, and his salary is low even by old-cap standards. The 37-year-old is still Dallas’ best player.

That’s also an age where many players sacrifice to win a title, and Nowitzki has shown a willingness to do so. Accepting a lower salary could help the Mavericks sign another player. If Dallas strikes out in free agency, Nowitzki could always re-sign for more than the minimum he was willing to accept.

Opting out would give Nowitzki options, but we’re left with a big question: What are his priorities?

Kristaps Porzingis won’t play for Latvia in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks in action against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2016 in New York City. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 107-93.  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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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The Knicks got their wish with Kristaps Porzingis.

Andrejs Silins of Sportacentrs.com:

Latvia is set to compete in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but reaching Rio will be much more difficult now. I’m not sure Porzingis would’ve put Latvia over the top, but he at least would have made the team more competitive.

Now, he’s more likely to provide that for the Knicks next season. They wanted him training under their watch, and hopefully they provide instruction that maximizes his ability to produce in the NBA. The sky is the limit for Porzingis, and a little more strength and polish would make him only better.

Report: Chandler Parsons to opt out of Mavericks contract

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 03:  Chandler Parsons #25 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Omri Casspi #18 of the Sacramento Kings during the second half at American Airlines Center on March 3, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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Chandler Parsons has a player option on what was nearly a max contract when he signed it in 2014. He’s coming off his worst season since his rookie year. And he missed the end of the season with troubling knee issues.

Would he really opt out?

Welcome to 2016 NBA free agency.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

Chandler Parsons already has said he will exercise his option to become a free agent this summer.

Parsons’ player option is worth $16,023,000. His max salary in free agency will be more than $20 million.

With the salary cap skyrocketing to about $92 million and so many players locked into low old-money contracts, this summer will be a spending bonanza. So many teams will have cap room, Parsons will almost certainly get a raise. In fact, he’ll probably get a max contract. His knee presents a risks, but at age 27, Parsons will probably convince a team shut out of better free agents to take a risk. His window for being healthy and productive is still open, and he started playing well before getting hurt.

The Mavericks could keep Parsons, though him opting out provides flexibility to explore the market. Justin Anderson‘s ability to handle an increased role as the season progressed also provides cover for letting Parsons walk.

Dallas projects to have about $24 million in cap space (counting cap holds for Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams and Dwight Powell). In other words, the Mavericks could spend that $24 million then exceed the cap to re-sign Williams, Parsons and/or Powell. Renouncing Parsons ($19,969,950 cap hold), Williams ($6,454,769 cap hold) and/or Powell ($1,180,431 cap hold) could give Dallas even more space to chase stars.

Expect the Mavericks to keep one foot in pitching Parsons to return, the other in looking for upgrades. Even if Dallas doesn’t work out, Parsons should have options elsewhere – unless his knee causes major concern in physicals. That’s the risk here, but you hope he got proper medical evaluations before making this decision.

Report: Nets hiring Jacque Vaughn as lead assistant coach

Jacque Vaughn
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
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Kenny Atkinson’s head-coaching experience is limited to guiding the Dominican Republic to sixth place at the 2015 FIBA Americas championship.

So, the new Nets coach is getting an assistant who was a head coach in the NBA.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Former Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is joining the Brooklyn Nets as the top assistant to new head coach Kenny Atkinson, league sources told The Vertical.

This is another Spurs connection for Nets general manager Sean Marks. Vaughn worked in San Antonio before and after his stint in Orlando.

He was pretty underwhelming with the Magic, but he’s probably a capable assistant and his lessons from the top chair could serve Atkinson well. That’s the optimistic spin.

Through the other lens, having a viable replacement for Atkinson already on the bench could one day undermine him. You want good assistants. You also don’t want assistants who could take your job.

It’s a fine line.

Heat, in first playoff series win without LeBron James in a decade, look complete, beat Hornets

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) dunks against the Charlotte Hornets in the first half of Game 7 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP Photo/Alan Diaz
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As the national anthem played, a tear streaked down Dwyane Wade‘s cheek.

“I knew tonight would be a great moment for these guys,” Wade said. “I felt that we was going to win this game. I knew that our energy and our crowd was going to be enough, and we was going to be prepared. And I was just thinking about how these guys was going to feel after playing a Game 7.”

Pretty darn great.

The Heat beat the Hornets, 106-73, Sunday in the fifth-most lopsided Game 7 in NBA history. Miami – which will face winner of tonight’s Raptors-Pacers Game 7 – won its first playoff series win without LeBron James since 2006.

Pairing Wade with another superstar (Shaquille O’Neal for the 2006 championship) or two (LeBron and Chris Bosh for the 2012 and 2013 titles) has worked. But that option went out the window this season when blood clots sidelined Bosh at the All-Star break for the second straight year.

With Wade’s waning athleticism forcing him to pick his spots more often, he has needed more help than ever. His teammates have provided it.

Hassan Whiteside (10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks) and Goran Dragic (25 points, six rebounds and four assists) led the way in Game 6.

Whiteside defended at an elite level. The Hornets shot just 2-for-11 in the restricted area with him on the court. I don’t know what’s more stunning – that they shot so poorly or attempted so few close-range shots in 28 minutes. Whiteside struck fear in the paint.

Dragic’s 25 points were his most in seven weeks and one shy of his playoff high. His aggressiveness fueled so much more. Miami’s offensive rating was 120.1 with him on the court.

“That’s the Goran Dragic we all love,” said Wade, who scored 12 points and had lost his last three playoff games when scoring so little. “Just putting so much pressure on the defense, and it allows other guys to just chill out – especially me.”

Wade can’t always carry the Heat – though sometimes he still can – but he remains the face of the franchise. Whether or not his teammates provide enough support almost reflects more on him than it does them. Fortunately for him, they look up to the task of making him look good.

It’s far too early to look ahead to a juicy Heat-Cavaliers conference finals, but Miami should be favored against either Indiana or Toronto.

Yes, it took seven games to vanquish Charlotte, but the Heat outscored the Hornets by 62 points – the third-largest combined margin ever in a seven-game series. The last team to win a seven-game series or a Game 7 by such decisive margins was the 2008 Celtics, who beat the Hawks by 34 in Game 7 to cap a +84 first-round series. Boston went on to win a title that year.

Will Miami follow that path? Probably not, but there’s something to be said about so thoroughly outplaying a difficult-to-beat opponent.

The Hornets were no pushovers – at least until today, when the Heat dominated on the glass and got most loose balls. In this series, Charlotte earned its first three playoff wins since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. The Hornets’ first best-of-seven series victory remains elusive and a potentially turbulent offseason awaits, but this group came to play.

Miami was just too good on both ends of the floor.

In the second quarter, Whiteside cut off a Kemba Walker drive, forcing the point guard to give up the ball. Whiteside then rotated to cover Al Jefferson (the type of multiple-contest defense many doubted Whiteside could execute) and emphatically blocked Jefferson’s shot.

The ball went to Dragic, who immediately sped up court. Dragic, who entered the game shooting 37% from the field, spun around Courtney Lee before anyone else could catch up to provide help and made a layup.

Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, the team’s energetic rookies who had big moments earlier in the series but provided less today, jumped up and down and spun around on the bench. The rest of the team wasn’t far behind in its cheering.

All the while, Wade barely took a few steps forward, remaining back on defense and watching it all unfold in front of him – a starless group of teammates he knew were capable of delivering.