Kurt Helin

Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) drives as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 88-86. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Associated Press

Mavericks beat Rockets 88-86 to keep slim lead over Utah, Houston

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DALLAS (AP) — If the Dallas Mavericks have to creep into the playoffs, they will. It’s part of a style change, as coach Rick Carlisle likes to call it.

And it worked again for the Mavericks in a crucial, tense victory over their Texas rivals from Houston.

J.J. Barea scored 27 points and Dallas kept a slim cushion over Utah and Houston in the race for the last two Western Conference playoff spots with an 88-86 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

“I like to play fast, too, but slowing it down is working us,” said Barea, who had a game-high eight assists. “We’ve got to stay that way.”

The Mavericks’ fifth straight victory – one shy of a season best – put Dallas (40-38) a game ahead of Utah and two up on Houston with four games remaining for all three teams.

Dirk Nowitzki was limited to seven points on eight shots, but had a crucial strip of James Harden on a drive in the final seconds with the Mavericks clinging to a one-point lead.

Harden scored 26 points and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets, who are in danger of missing the postseason a year after reaching the West finals.

“We all know how difficult it is, how important this game was,” Harden said. “It’s not rocket science.”

The Mavericks held their fifth straight opponent under 90 points after 19 of the previous 21 scored at least 100. It’s part defense and part pace, with the Mavericks slowing things considerably since point guard Deron Williams was sidelined by a left abdominal strain.

Barea has been the most important Dallas player since then, scoring at least 20 points in his fourth straight game and averaging 24.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists during the five-game surge.

And he was at the center of the play pulled Dallas even late, dribbling across the lane and hitting a leaning shot as he was fouled by Patrick Beverley. The free throw made it 85-all.

The last field goal for Houston came with 3:20 remaining when Beverley sprinted through the lane and tipped in Howard’s second missed free throw after the 6-foot-11 center was fouled intentionally.

Harden missed a pair of 3-pointers late, but had a chance to give the Rockets the lead when he drove on Wesley Matthews with less than 10 seconds remaining. Nowitzki reached around him to knock the ball loose, Dallas won the ensuing scramble and Devin Harris made two free throws for an 88-85 lead with 5 seconds to go.

“One of the reasons Dirk is having a hard time getting open looks is because we are playing a different style right now,” Carlisle said. “I am proud of our guys for being willing to be team guys and play this way. We lived to fight another day.”

The Rockets went ahead 71-70 going in the fourth when Howard tipped in a lob pass from Jason Terry on an inbounds play with just 0.2 seconds left in the third. And Houston had the biggest lead of the fourth at 80-76 before Dallas’ defense clamped down, outscoring the Rockets 18-15 in the fourth.

Houston scored on just three of its last 16 possessions and had six points in the final 9:15 on 2-of-14 shooting.

Michael Beasley had 15 points off the bench for the Rockets, who didn’t have anybody else in double figures.

“They got very handsy, they did a very good job of keeping us out of the break,” Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “They smothered us in the backcourt.”

Matthews had 16 points for Dallas, including three 3-pointers during a 15-2 run made up entirely of 3s to put Dallas up 10 in the second quarter. Barea had the other two.

UGLY FOURTH

Harden had 12 of Houston’s 15 points in the fourth, and his teammates were 1 of 11 from the field. The teams combined to shoot 28 percent (11 of 39) in the final quarter. Barea had 10 of his points on 4-of-6 shooting.

BLOOD BREAKS

Play was stopped twice in the first quarter because players were bleeding. The first was Beverly, who had a cut above his left eye and was led off the court with a towel covering it. He got three stitches and returned in the second quarter with a bandage over the eye. Mavericks forward David Lee had a cut on his right arm late in the quarter and left the game as well before returning.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston fell to 2-17 when scoring under 100 points. … Howard had his 37th double-double. … Despite the loss, the Rockets will likely hold the tiebreaker over the Mavericks because of a better Southwest Division record.

Mavericks: Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, a regular on the front row for Mavs games, was joined this time by tight end Jason Witten and three of his offensive linemen – Pro Bowlers Travis Frederick and Zack Martin along with Doug Free. … Harris scored 10 points.

 

Report: Mavericks interested in Dwight Howard, but not at max he seeks

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets waits on the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Dwight Howard is going to opt out of the last year of his contract with the Rockets and become a free agent this summer — and make no mistake, the man wants to get PAID.

As in he wants a max contract, which for him will start north of $30 million a year under the spiked NBA salary cap that will jump by more than $20 million a team this summer (thank you new television deal!).

The Dallas Mavericks will be among the teams interested in Howard, but that price tag is making them balk, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Sources says the Mavericks’ interest in Dwight Howard as a free agent this summer will be dependent on the price. The Mavs do not intend to be in on the bidding for Howard if it’s in the neighborhood of a max contract, which would have a starting salary of more than $30 million. The Mavs made Howard their primary target and offered a max contract in 2013, when the center signed with the Rockets. However, concerns about the 30-year-old Howard’s durability and desire have caused the Mavs to decide that he isn’t worth a nine-figure investment over four years at this point.

The buzz around the league is that teams are hesitant as much over the years as the money — some teams may be willing to go near max cash but they are going nowhere near four years (at least not without team options). As much as there are concerns about his attitude, the bigger concerns are about how he can physically hold up.

When he plays — and gets touches on offense — Howard can still be one of the top centers in the league. He is averaging 13.8 points and 11.8 rebounds a game this season, shooting better than 60 percent, and he has been the only Rocket playing defense for stretches of the season. But how much he can play and how many games teams will get the full, focused Howard remains a concern.

I’d say the market isn’t going to be what he expects this summer, but nobody knows what the market will be like this summer with a dearth of top talent but a lot of cash in the marketplace (more than two-thirds of the teams should have space for at least one max contract). As someone with another team told me when discussing what Howard might get this summer (and me balking at teams offering him a max) “it only takes one.”

Renaissance man Boris Diaw’s goal someday: Travel to space

during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 21, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.
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There aren’t guys around the NBA like Boris Diaw.

Not just because of his versatile on-court game, or the fact he has a coffee maker in his locker. He’s a guy who turned his basketball career around in San Antonio, he’s also a guy who wants to experience as much of life on earth as he can, something he talks about in a fantastic feature by Jared Zwerling at the NBPA’s revamped official site.

Actually, he wants to experience more than just life on earth.

“I will go to space at some point,” the Spurs’ veteran forward tells the NBPA in his office at his Shavano Park home, located in northwest San Antonio. “I won’t say in the next 10 years, but maybe in 30.”

By then, won’t we all have to live in space?

Diaw is a “worldwide adventure traveler, serious photographer, children’s book author, and screenwriter and director, having recently completed a project last month with Cedric the Entertainer and a Hollywood-experienced crew.” Go read the entire feature, which is filled with great Diaw anecdotes.

This one from Ronnie Turiaf is the best.

“Boris is the guy that’s going to go to the restaurant and order like chicken hearts—whatever odd thing that people may think it is,” he says. “And one day we were eating at this beautiful restaurant on a little cliff, and this guy brings out this crazy huge octopus that’s cooked, and everybody was surprised, like, ‘Man, I’m not going to touch this.’ And then Boris said, ‘You guys are not going to eat it? Alright, cool.’ He grabbed the plate and he ate the whole octopus, and he loves octopus. And I’m, like, ‘Boris, you are insane.’”

 

 

Terrible news: Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan says he has Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia

Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks
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This is depressing news.

Jerry Sloan, the tough former Bulls player who went on to coach the Utah Jazz for 23 seasons, is suffering from both Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. The very private Sloan spoke to Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune about his health.

During an interview at his home in Riverton, with his wife Tammy at his side, Sloan said he was diagnosed with the illnesses last fall. He decided to go public with because the Parkinson’s symptoms, which include tremors, a hushed voice and sleeplessness, have progressed to the point where people have started to notice.

“I don’t want people feeling sorry for me,” said Sloan, who continues to walk four miles a day.

That’s about the most Jerry Sloan quote ever.

The Utah Jazz released this statement:

“Jerry Sloan is and always will be a beloved member of the Utah Jazz family, and we know he will approach this fight with the same grit and determination he displayed as a Hall of Fame coach and All-Star player in the NBA for 40-plus years. On behalf of the Miller family, the Jazz organization and Jazz fans everywhere, we send Jerry and his wife Tammy our love, support and best wishes.”

Parkinson’s disease “is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time…. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms” according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website. Parkinson’s most commonly associated with shaking hands, but that is just one symptom of a disease that attacks the nerve cells in the brain where dopamine is produced.

Lewy body dementia is less well known; it is a form of dementia that can be associated with Parkinson’s.

The Sloan we all know is a strong man and as fierce a competitor as the league has ever seen.

Sloan’s playing career and coaching style were the very definition of old-school, but he got the most out of his teams. In his 11-year playing career, Sloan was a two-time All-Star who made the NBA’s All-Defensive team six times.

However, it’s as a coach that Sloan is best remembered — and why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He coached the John Stockton/Karl Malone Utah Jazz within a couple of Michael Jordan shots of an NBA championship, and his teams overall won 60 percent of their games. He is third on the all-time wins list for coaches.

We wish nothing but the best for Sloan and his family. Take care coach.

Cavaliers to rest LeBron James against Pacers Wednesday night

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James waits during a timeout in the final minute of the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, March 7, 2016, in Cleveland. The Grizzlies won 106-103. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Associated Press
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The Indiana Pacers just caught a break.

The Pacers are trying to secure a playoff spot — they are the seven seed in the East, two-and-a-half games up on the nine seed Bulls — but faced their toughest test the rest of the season Wednesday when they take on the Cavaliers. Except, now the Cavaliers are going to be missing one key player.

This gives LeBron the chance to do a little more coaching.

While the Cavaliers still have Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the roster available Cleveland is just 1-3 this season without LeBron.

The Pacers were likely to make the playoffs anyway — they close the season with the Nets, Knicks, and Bucks, all winnable games. Plus the Bulls just suck.

In theory, if the Cavaliers lost every remaining game and the Raptors won out Toronto could get the top seed, but that’s not happening. Cleveland will get the top seed, and more rest for LeBron heading into the playoffs is a good thing.