Tag: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets- Game Five

Dirk Nowitzki finding early groove playing for Germany


Much to the delight of Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki has taken some summers off from the German national team recently. But not this summer, the EuroBasket championships for that continent — and 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament — starts Sept. 5, and Nowitzki is trying to get his nation to the big Carnival in Brazil.

There could be an advantage with that — he may begin the NBA season in a groove. He looked good for Germany against Poland recently — 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds, all in 23 minutes. It’s common for players to come out of these tournaments and roll into the season sharper than if they had just been working out at a gym.

Why did Nowitzki decide to suit up? The late start and that some of the games were in Germany, he told Mavs.com.

“You know, if it had been in July or early August, then I think there would have been no chance,” Nowitzki explained after making the decision to return to international play in June. “That would have meant that I would have had to practice right through and not even take some time off. But this way it’s, like I said, in September. I’m usually here (in Dallas), playing with the guys anyways in five-on-five, so that really was the big key for me. That way, all month of May, I was traveling some, and June was off. I got some family time in…

“You know, to me, it was the big deal that the tournament, or at least the first round, is in Germany,” Nowitzki confessed. “I think I’ve never had a home European championship or world championship at home. This means a lot to our country and to the basketball world in our country. Berlin is an amazing basketball city already over the last 10, 15 or 20 years, so this should be fun. We have a murderous group with a lot of great countries, but we’re going to give it our best and see what happens. But at 37, obviously, that’s not easy. I think in the first round we’ve got like five games in six days.”

Germany is in the group of death — Spain, Serbia, Turkey, Italy, and Iceland. Only the top four from that group advance to the knockout stage. We can safely say that Iceland is hosed here. Germany is a good team — Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder is on it — but they are likely fifth best in a group, so they will need an upset of Turkey or Italy (Spain and Serbia likely advance).

Nowitzki is capable of delivering that.

But you know Cuban hates to see the extra miles on his star’s legs before the season even starts.

Dallas’ Wesley Matthews says he’ll be ready to go opening night

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three
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Back on March 5, early in the third quarter in a game against Dallas, Wesley Matthews started a drive and went down without contact. It turned out to be a ruptured Achilles tendon.

By pretty much the next day, Matthews talked about coming back sooner rather than later — and even a standard timeline would have him back around the start of the season. That drive is part of the reason Dallas signed him to a four-year, $70 million contract this summer.

Sunday, Matthews was again talking quick return, speaking to Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball.

“I’m getting stronger every single day, doing more every single day,” Matthews told Mavs Moneyball, saying that he’s currently shooting and dribbling on the court. He’s also taking pull-up jumpers off the bounce, but the next thing that he will be cleared to do is just “more basketball activity using more force, more explosion….

“I’m gonna say I’ll be ready by opening night,” Matthews said. Later on, when asked if would put that prediction in stone, he said yes.

“Anybody that knows me in this league knows that I’m going to give 150 percent,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to kill me to stop me from going. Only thing that I can do is how I attack my rehab.”

This is going to set up an interesting push and pull between Matthews and coach Rick Carlisle (and Dallas management). Carlisle has talked about taking it slow with Matthews, not rushing or risking injury for a player they signed for four years. They don’t want him rushing back, not feeling comfortable, compensating with another body part, and suffering an injury. Think Kobe.

By the end of the season, when Dallas is likely fighting for one of the bottom playoff spots in the West, they are going to need Matthews and everyone else on the roster to make the push. But expect Carlisle and company to win the early battle — don’t be shocked if Matthews has limited minutes at the start of the campaign.


Watch Dallas’ Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Amimu at Afrobasket

Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Real Madrid - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Off

Right now, AfroBasket 2015 is taking place in Tunisia, with the best teams on the continent playing for a berth in the Rio Olympics next summer.

Maybe the play of the tournament so far — watch Dallas’ big man Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Aminu at the rim. That seemed to set the tone for the game as Tunisia went on to win and advance out of group play with an unblemished record.

Aminu is going to be fighting for minutes and a chance to prove himself in Portland.

Mejri (who played last season for powerhouse Real Madrid) has a guaranteed contract and with that almost certainly makes the Dallas roster. However, he will end up battling guys like JaVale McGee and Samuel Dalembert for minutes if they make the roster. If Mejri makes more plays like that, he’ll be just fine.

Hat tip Jeff Taylor.

DeMar DeRozan working on three-point shot this summer

Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Hornets

Last season, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan made his living in the midrange.

Only 8.9 percent of his shots came from three (and he shot just 28.9 percent on them, although that jumped to 34 percent after the All-Star break). Instead, 56.6 percent of DeRozan’s shots came between 10 feet out and the arc, and he shot just below 38 percent on those. While the league-wide pushback on midrange jumpers can get taken too far, if you’re going to take them you better make them. Nobody complains about Dirk Nowitzki’s midrange shots — more than 60 percent of his shots are from 10 feet to the three-point line, but he hits nearly 48 percent of them. DeRozan is dynamic when he can attack the rim, but if there are obstacles in his way he too easily settles for a midrange jumper he does not hit.

This year, DeRozan going to try to become a more reliable threat from three to open things up. New Raptor DeMarre Carroll has been watching DeRozan and talked about stretching out his shot to the Toronto Sun.

“(NBA three-point leader) Kyle Korver told me the three-point shot is just more repetition. The more you shoot it, the better you’ll get at it. I feel like if DeMar will keep working on it, it will eventually come,” Carroll said…

“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of other things he worked on in his game and he’s a dominant offensive player (already),” Carroll said. “So I think if he adds that three-point to his game it’ll take us over the top.”

The Raptors have overhauled their roster to become more defensive minded — that’s why Carroll was their top free agent target. They wanted a quality wing defender, and they got one of the best.

With this new roster look for even more threes — the Raptors were ninth in the NBA in three-pointers attempted last season and made a respectable 35.2 percent of them (12th in the NBA). If, as expected, Toronto starts Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, and Patrick Patterson around Jonas Valanciunas, that’s potentially four three-point shooters on the floor around a big who demands a double in the post. Throw in a quicker pace (the Raptors were bottom 10) and the chance to get a few more threes in transition, and the Raptors could be bombs away from deep this season. Which will be a good thing, especially if DeRozan knocks them down.

The Raptors needed to make changes, their unimpressive first-round playoff exit (and the second half of last season) made that clear. But transitions are rarely smooth, and there are going to be some bumps early on for the Raptors as their focus shifts. Especially if those threes don’t fall for a stretch.


Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey chose chance of greatness over safer route to being merely good

Nerlens Noel, LaMarcus Aldridge

At face value, the Trail Blazers’ and 76ers’ offseasons took completely different approaches to rebuilding this offseason.

The Blazers traded for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless. They signed Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. They also signed Enes Kanter to an offer sheet, though the Thunder matched.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, highlighted free agency by… signing Pierre Jackson and Scotty Wilbekin, two players without NBA experience. Sure, the 76ers also traded for Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. But Thompson and Landry were the tax necessary to require positive assets, and Philadelphia already flipped Thompson. Even Stauskas, a nice piece, was an afterthought relative to the draft considerations conveyed by the Kings.

Portland acquired five Stauskases – recent first-round picks still looking to find their place in the NBA.

But, as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey tells it, his team has a similar philosophy to the 76ers. Portland is just taking a different route.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Once Aldridge decided to leave, the Blazers didn’t waste their time trying to chase Matthews (who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Dallas), Lopez (who took a four-year, $52 million deal with New York) or even reserve Arron Afflalo (who left for a two-year, $16 million deal with New York).

Olshey didn’t feel the need to keep together the same core while simply trying to replace a four-time all-star because, “absent LaMarcus Aldridge, that group was not going to be good enough,” he said. “We judge ourselves by high standards and if we can’t compete at the highest levels, then we had to go in a different direction.”

76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has made clear his lengthy and deep rebuild is designed to culminate in championship contention. There are simpler paths to getting good, and Hinkie clearly isn’t taking those. (Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wrote an excellent article on the difference.)

Being great usually requires a superstar. Getting a superstar usually requires a high first-round pick. A high first-round pick usually requires a terrible record.

There is logic behind Philadelphia’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to tanking.

Olshey definitely indicates he has a similar championship-or-bust attitude, and he concluded retaining Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum after LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs would have taken the Trail Blazers further from a title. They might have been better in the short-term, but those highly paid veterans would have limited Portland’s potential to grow into a great team.

That’s a logical assessment, similar to the one Hinkie made with the Jrue Holiday-led roster he inherited.

At this point, Olshey took a different route than Hinkie.

The Trail Blazers paid a relatively small price for its young veterans, and I like the moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of Vonleh, Plumlee, Harkless, Aminu and Davis becomes capable of playing a major role on a title contender. It’s a luxury to bet on so many intriguing players.

But the moves come with a cost. Those players are already decent, and they should make Portland better than Philadelphia this season. That means the Trail Blazers effectively moved down in the draft. Maybe the value of these additions offsets that, but Philadelphia has done little to jeopardize its draft position.

Perhaps, Olshey didn’t have a choice. Damian Lillard might have dictated Portland couldn’t fully tank. Just how bad could a team with Lillard really be? The 76ers don’t have anyone near his caliber, so declining to become good now is an easier choice.

Maybe Olshey and Hinkie would have acted differently if they were in the other’s situation. Circumstances matter.

But bottom line: The Trail Blazers and 76ers have the same mindset. They want to be great. They’re not as concerned with being good before that’s possible.