Mavericks become first team to ride cold streak to title

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Among the many things that needed to right for the Dallas Mavericks to win their first ever NBA title, they needed to stay healthy. And while that is true of every team, with an older team the odds of problems go up.

So, the Mavericks players got cold.

During their playoff run, a number of the Mavericks veterans took part in cryogenic therapy. We’ll let Ric Bucher from ESPN explain the medieval torture healing therapy (via KD at Ball Don’t Lie).

From late April right through to their final championship-clinching victory over the Heat, a sextet of Mavs — Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Brian Cardinal — made the 20-minute trek from American Airlines Center to a wellness facility in Plano, Texas, two times a week. The grizzled NBA vets, all of whom are 33 or older except for the 28-year-old Chandler, would head to an upstairs room that had all the warmth of a no-frills clinic. They would strip to their underwear and socks, don fleece gloves and, one at a time, step inside a six-foot-tall, padded blue-green silo that encased them up to their necks (or, in the case of the seven-footers, Nowitzki and Chandler, up to their chests). A large metal bin next to the silo would begin to whir, and smoky vapor would swirl out of the chamber, as if the players were being cooked in a cauldron.

Actually, they were being frozen. For two and a half minutes — at a cost of $75 per person, billed to Mavs owner Mark Cuban — blasts of nitrogen-chilled air emanated from the walls, quickly dropping the air temperature to as low as -320 degrees Fahrenheit. By the last 30 to 45 seconds, their bodies would be shaking uncontrollably.

As a guy who has spent his entire life living in warm climates for a reason, that sounds like torture. Or a weekend in Fargo.

It makes some medical sense (at least to those of us non-doctor types) — athletes have been taking ice baths for years. This is in theory just a more intense version of that and I knew some European teams (soccer especially) used this. Read Bucher’s article to find out more about how it is supposed to work.

I have no idea if it works, what matters is the players at least thought it did. Terry raved about it in the article, and one would not keep subjecting themselves to this if they didn’t think there was a benefit. Whether the effect was placebo or real, the Mavericks became the first team in NBA history to ride a cold streak to a title.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.