What’s on their mind Saturday: Dallas Mavericks

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The Mavs have done what they set out to do. Well, okay, not really. They probably wanted to win both games in Miami, devastate their spirits ans set up a sweep. Easy is always better in such things. But a more realistic goal was to split the two games in Miami and regain homecourt advantage. Which they know have. And while the pressure is undoubtedly higher on the Heat going into Game 3, on their off-day, the Mavericks have to face the reality that after regaining that homecourt advantage, if that’s to be their key to victory they must win three straight games against the most talented team in the NBA. Here’s what’s on the Mavericks’ mind on Saturday, their practice day prior to Game 3 Sunday.

More of same on James

See, it’s a rhyme! The plan regarding LeBron James after Game 2 has to be “yes, more of that please.” Shawn Marion’s done an absolutely incredible job, just as he did against Kevin Durant in the WCF. His work in “containing” LeBron James, a sticking point for Rick Carlisle, has been huge. The Mavericks didn’t freak out after James’ perimeter barrage in Game 1 (or the first three quarters of Game 2). Instead, they stuck to the plan. “Getting beat by fadeaway 3-pointers is better than getting beat at the rim.” The Mavericks have to live with one or the other, and Marion is going under screens and hedging hard to keep James in front of him. The Mavs’ have helped to create issues for the Heat  in this set by employing a full-court press. The objective isn’t to actually pressure the ball, it’s to take time off the clock. If James is setting up the offense with less than 15 on the clock, the Mavericks have a higher chance of shutting off option 1a and 1b, forcing the Heat into their second option: “jack it up from deep.” That’s where they want the game to be. So really on Saturday, Carlisle will be enforcing “more of the same.”

Get a handle on yourselves

Turnovers were a significant problem for Dallas in Game 2. They very nearly cost the Mavericks the game. You turn the ball over against the Heat, and they will capitalize. Rick Carlisle categorized them as the best finishers in transition in basketball before Game 2. A large function of that 15-point lead the Mavericks had to come back from was due to those easy baskets. Carlisle will likely stress cutting down on those mistakes at practice Saturday.

Believe in yourselves… or someone like you

Carlisle’s spoken a lot about believing in what the Mavericks are trying to do, and you can see that the Mavericks are buying into that concept. Oddly enough, Carlisle’s sending a message about the Mavs believing in a version of themselves which isn’t accurate. The Mavericks aren’t a great defensive team. They’re extremely good, that’s why they’re here. But they were seventh in defensive efficiency this season. They also weren’t a great rebounding team, but again really good, seventh in opponent OREB%. But Carlisle has told his team consistently to play “their game” which is “stops and defensive rebounding.” It’s a strange strategy but it’s working. Expect to hear more of the same from the team after practice Saturday.

 

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.