Kurt Helin

Report: Dirk Nowitzki expected to return to Mavericks lineup Wednesday vs. Clippers

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“Hey Dirk Nowitzki, so happy you’re feeling right after being out the last 10 games, we’ve missed your shot and we’re excited to have you back. Now get out there and cover Blake Griffin.”

Dallas is off to a rough 2-11 start to the season, and there are a variety of reasons they have been the worst team in the NBA so far this season, but missing Nowitzki to a sore right Achilles has been part of that. Wednesday night the Mavericks expect to get Nowitzki back, coach Rick Carlisle said, as reported by Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Rick Carlisle on Dirk Nowitzki: “Feeling better. I think there’s a good chance he’ll play tonight.” Nowitzki has played only three games this season, primarily due to a sore right Achilles’ tendon.

Nowitzki’s shot creation and ability to hit from the midrange under pressure is going to be a big boost to a Dallas team with the worst offense in the NBA this season scoring 95.7 points per 100 possessions. Last season he averaged 18.3 points per game and shot 36.8 percent from three. Those numbers were down to start the season, but likely a lot of that was due to the soreness limiting his mobility.

Tough spot for a return — the Clippers are playing as well as any team in the NBA right now, and Nowitzki will be forced to match up with one of two freakishly athletic big men, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.

Watch a couple vintage Derrick Rose layups in slow-mo

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Derrick Rose had a throwback night Tuesday — including sinking the dagger as the Knicks beat the Trail Blazers.

Rose is never going to be MVP Rose again, but he can make some plays against the right defense (and Portland’s “defense” against guards is the right one). Rose looked as good as he as all season Tuesday, and that included showing off a couple of vintage reverse layups that were flashbacks.

Courtesy the folks at NBA.com, enjoy them in slow motion.

Rumor: Trail Blazers may look to trade for center to help lagging defense

Associated Press
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Portland has the second worst defense in the NBA as you read this, allowing 108.3 points per 100 possessions (to answer your question, Sacramento is worse). Opponents are getting 32.3 shots per game within five feet of the rim and are hitting 56.2 percent of them, and those teams are getting a lot and making a lot of shots in the 5-10 foot range.

Portland has a great offense with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum (and maybe someday Evan Turner will learn to mesh with them), but the defense is an issue. Effort is at the heart of it, but Zach Lowe of ESPN laid out the likelihood that Portland could make a trade before the deadline to get a big.

Portland looks ripe for a trade. Neil Olshey, the team’s one-step-ahead GM, chased Hassan Whiteside in free agency, and has a well-documented fondness for old-school low-post brutes like Brook Lopez, Greg Monroe, Nikola Vucevic and others. (It’s tempting to pitch a (Allen) Crabbe/Lopez swap since the Nets lavished Crabbe with a massive offer sheet, but Brooklyn cannot acquire Crabbe until the offseason — at least under current league rules.)

Portland has long been my favorite Vucevic landing spot, though the Magic should probably just stop taking Olshey’s calls after gifting him Harkless for nothing. Just about everyone is overstocked with centers. Portland might call Denver about Jusuf Nurkic, and it wouldn’t stun me if they expressed some interest in Tyson Chandler — even though Chandler is a decade older than some core Blazers, with two years left on a bloated contract….

Someone should be trying to steal Kosta Koufos from the Kings. As for another popular suggestion, let’s just say the league doesn’t quite know what to make of Nerlens Noel.

That’s a lot of speculation, but Lowe isn’t one to throw random speculation out there, you can bet there is substance to it. The idea also has the force of logic.

Portland needs to do something if they want to take a step forward off last season’s advance to the second round of the playoffs. Evan Turner has not been the answer (his role as a third shot creator when Lillard/McCollum are blitzed in the playoffs still makes a little sense on paper, but during the season the fit has been awkward).

Report: Rockets make push to sign Donatas Motiejunas, see Thanksgiving as deadline

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Donatas Motiejunas, on paper, should be the kind of big man who thrives in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Two seasons ago he shot 36.8 percent from three and you have to respect him from the midrange, if teams scramble in transition and he is guarded by a much smaller guy he can make them pay in the post, and defense isn’t a huge focus. He could be a nice reserve big in Houston.

He’s also a restricted free agent coming off a season where he played in just 37 games due to back issues that led to surgery. How much do you pay a man like that?

The Rockets have their number, and it’s around the league average at $7 million (more with incentives). Other teams with cap space have not even stepped in with an offer sheet to force the Rockets to choose. Motiejunas and his agent think he deserves much more, let the Rockets $4.4 million qualifying offer expire, and are sitting out the season to this point. The Rockets have made a push to sign him this month, but see today (Nov. 23) as the deadline due to the trade deadline, something Marc Stein of ESPN reported on a while ago.

Nov. 23 is the date of particular significance, sparked by the fact Motiejunas can’t be traded this season if he’s signed after that date, which could possibly lower his value with potential outside suitors as well….

Sources told ESPN on Friday that the Rockets’ latest offer is a multiyear deal that starts at $7 million annually, with attainable incentives that could take it to $8 million.

The Rockets are presently unwilling to fully guarantee more than the first season in a new contract, sources say, in a nod to the back injury that scuttled Houston’s trade with Detroit in February that briefly made Motiejunas a Piston until the deal was voided due to a failed physical.

For the record, there are teams out there with the cap space to come in and make a larger offer that would force Houston to match or let Motiejunas walk — Philadelphia, Denver, Brooklyn, Utah, Phoenix and Minnesota. However, none of those landing spots make much sense (for example, the Sixers and Nuggets don’t need another big to cram into their already crowded frontcourt rotations). If it’s about the money, Motiejunas isn’t going to play overseas where he would get less than a third of what Houston already has on the table.

Restricted free agency can suck for players who feel undervalued. Motiejunas clearly believes he is worth more. But he’s also a guy in a profession where he has a limited number of years he can earn ridiculously large paychecks, and right now he is missing those checks on this principle. We’ll see if that changes by the end of the day.

Watch Nuggets’ rookie Jamal Murray drop 24 on Chicago

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Denver coach Mike Malone is bringing along rookie guard Jamal Murray like he should: Bring him in off the bench, don’t ask too much of him as a playmaker yet, let the youngster get a feel for the NBA game.

Tuesday night he looked like his feel was just fine — 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and he was the Nuggets’ second-quarter spark on their way to a win. Check out his shot chart.

Murray shot chart

This doesn’t change the big picture yet; Murray isn’t starting or closing games for Denver. But with performances like this and a growing comfort level, he’s going to get more and more responsibility soon enough. You can see him with a very big role for the Nuggets in the not too distant future.