Mark Cuban’s least favorite referee assigned to Mavs game

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My mind in these situations always floats back to a junior high basketball coach. We were sitting in the basement locker room of our gym when I was in 8th grade and we were convinced the referees had robbed us of a win with a bad call at the end of the game.

“If you really wanted to win, you should have played harder the first three quarters. Leave it up to the refs and you get what you get,” our coach spit out. He was right. Later coaches said the same things, in more colorful language.

But fans never see it that way. After a season of becoming emotionally invested in players it’s easier for us to blame a referee than the player with the blown defensive assignments. And Dallas fans will be ready to blame the referee Tuesday night.

Danny Crawford will be working Game 2 of the Dallas/Portland series tonight in Big D.

According to Tim MacMahon at ESPN Dallas, the Mavericks are 2-16 in the playoffs when Crawford is working.

Dallas is 48-41 in the rest of their playoff games during the ownership tenure of Mark Cuban, who has been fined millions of dollars in the last 11 years for publicly complaining about officiating.

“Not saying a word,” Cuban wrote in an email when asked to comment on the Mavs’ playoff history with Crawford.

Tonight, whenever there is a call against Dallas — no matter how obvious the foul — there will be howls and complaint from the fans. Clearly the league has it in for Dallas, because Crawford was there for Game 3 of the 2006 finals against Miami, and was there for subsequent key losses as well.

It’s easier to blame the refs than your players, your guys. Even if the truth is Dwyane Wade got those calls in 2006 — not all of them good calls — because he was the aggressor. In the NBA, the aggressor gets the calls the vast majority of the time. No, there has to be some vast NBA conspiracy.

Dallas fans weren’t complaining when they had a 19-2 free throw advantage in the fourth quarter in Game 1, in large part because they became more aggressive and attacked more. But tonight, those same fans will be convinced the referees have it out for them.

Put simply, referees do have influence in a game — but far less than the players. If you are worried about the referees, take the decisions at the end of the game out of their hands by playing better early on.

If Dallas plays four quarters like it did the fourth a couple days ago, this will all be moot. And that’s what really matters.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.