5 Things to Watch, Heat-Mavericks: Christmas revenge

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GAMES. There will be actual NBA games played today starting at noon. To get you pumped, ready, and primed for the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season, we give you five things to keep an eye on today in Heat-Mavericks.

To get you pumped:

The devil you know is worse than the devil you don’t

The Heat would undeniably take this Mavericks team over the one they faced Tlast spring. No J.J. Barea, no Peja Stojakovkic keeping them honest for stretches, no DeShawn Stevenson d’ing up James and generally being an irritant, and most of all, no Tyson Chandler. The Heat still don’t have a quality center (sorry Eddy Curry, sorry again Joel Anthony), so not having to deal with the seven-foot Chandler roaming the paint is helpful. Lamar Odom will be a handful, no doubt, but they’ll still take that over last year’s combo anytime. The Heat have better odds against a deeper but more piecemeal Mavericks team than the cohesive team that took them down in last year’s Finals.

The Wade Conundrum

Dwyane Wade was a huge barometer for the Heat’s success last year. When he was plugged in and engaged, the Heat were hard to stop, especially for the Mavericks. The Mavericks didn’t retain Caron Butler and only brought in Vince Carter one the wing. Jason Terry lacks the size to guard him, Carter the athleticism and toughness. If the Heat are smart, they’ll gear the offense through Wade almost entirely on Sunday.

The Disengaged One doesn’t sound as good as Chosen One

LeBron James vanished in the fourth quarter during the Finals to most people’s delight. The reality is that the Mavericks sent a brilliant blanket coverage at him, using Shawn Marion to over-pursue on the perimeter, forcing James to drive, then bringing two separate help defenders, forcing James to kick out to someone else who couldn’t shoot from the outside. James has to force the issue on Sunday. The result is fouls, which means weaker lineups for the Mavericks and easy points for James. He needs to not worry about making the right play and make the best play. Or he’s going to have flashbacks of June.

Simple percentages

The Mavericks were in fuego in last year’s Finals, hitting 41 percent from the arc. That number figures to drop as Jason Kidd has to come back to earth a bit (right?), Barea is gone,  along with Stevenson. But Odom has three-point range, as does Carter, and there’s always Dirk. The Heat are a great defensive team, but they may have to sacrifice some inside bucket risks in order to keep hand in the face of the perimeter shooters.

Like a Bosh

You know who actually had a pretty good Finals series? Chris Bosh. Bosh used the attention drawn by the Heat’s drivers to get his pick and pop on, and wound up averaging more points than LeBron. He actually neutralized Jason Terry’s impact, if you choose to think of it that way. Bosh is in his hometown, with a crowd that doesn’t like him. He was tagged as being soft and inferior last season. He can set the tone for this year with a strong performance Sunday.

Kings coach Dave Joerger on Luka Doncic: ‘Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him. I don’t see it, unfortunately for us’

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No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley has been solid for the Kings.

No. 3 pick Luka Doncic has been even better for the Mavericks.

Doncic had 28 points and nine assists against Sacramento yesterday. Though the Kings won, questions have still swirled about why they didn’t just draft Doncic. Sacramento coach Dave Joerger even weighed in on the rookie.

Joerger, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him – I don’t see it, unfortunately for us,” Joerger said. “He’s great for them and he’s great for our league.”

Coaches commonly praise a young opponent then add a variation of “unfortunately for us” – as in, unfortunately we’ll have to play against him for many years.

But it’s easy to infer deeper significance here.

The Kings seemingly drafted Bagley for bad reasons – i.e., his desire to go to Sacramento. Doncic looked like the better prospect. But Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams helped steer the team toward Bagley. When Joerger played veteran Nemanja Bjelica over Williams-preferred Bagley, that caused drama earlier this season. The Williams-Joerger rift apparently continued, too.

So, Joerger’s remarks could have been a thinly veiled shot at Sacramento’s front office. Maybe the coach didn’t intended it that way, but it wouldn’t be a huge leap.

Report: Knicks owner James Dolan used to play guitar on team flights after losses

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Knicks owner James Dolan is widely regarded as one of the worst owners in sports.

He’s also defiantly himself.

That came through in a lengthy profile by Ian O’Connor of ESPN. Dolan is still defending his organization after losing a sexual-harassment lawsuit. Dolan is still blaming Charles Oakley for an ejection from Madison Square Garden last year. Dolan is still trying to contextualize his relationship with Harvey Weinstein.

But Dolan won’t concede one eye-opening claim.

O’Connor:

Jim is the owner who years ago, on occasion, would play his guitar on the Knicks’ team plane — even after losses, according to several witnesses. “It was the last thing the players and coaches wanted to hear,” says one regular on those flights. “I just remember the looks on their faces.” (Dolan denies this claim and calls it “somebody’s fantasy.”)

Dolan has made a lot of enemies over the years. It wouldn’t be shocking if one made up a story to make him look bad and others corroborated it for the same reason.

Because it’s quite believable.

Dolan is more passionate about his music than owning the Knicks. This also wouldn’t be the first time he subjected players to his musical interest.

Occam’s razor suggests Dolan did this rather than a conspiracy existing to frame him. Besides, believing he did it is way more fun.

Ahead on Nets fastbreak, Rodions Kurucs whips pass… farther ahead (video)

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With D’Angelo Harris to his left, Rondae Hollins-Jefferson to his right, Joe Harris trailing and only Hawks in front of him, Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs passed ahead. Confidently. That was a bullet.

But to nobody – except maybe the referee. It looked high for the ref, though maybe an NBA player would have snagged the throw.

At Brooklyn still beat Atlanta, 144-127.

Wizards, Suns, Grizzlies blame each other for failed Brooks trade

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A three-way trade between the Wizards, Suns and Grizzlies fell part due to Brooks confusion. Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks. Memphis thought it was sending MarShon Brooks.

In the aftermath, the Wizards and Suns agreed to a simpler deal, swapping Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers for Trevor Ariza. But the saga was embarrassing.

So, it’s time to assign blame.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“[Memphis owner] Robert Pera did not have any conversation with Suns owner Robert Sarver about the reported three-way trade. Our front office also didn’t have any conversations with Phoenix regarding the reported three-way trade prior to it leaking during our game tonight.

“We were floored to learn of the reports involving Dillon Brooks in the reported trade. We never discussed Dillon as part of this trade with Washington — which was the only team we spoke with concerning this proposed deal.”

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards entered into discussions about Ariza over the last 2-3 days. By that point, the Suns and Grizzlies were deep into conversations about a potential move with Memphis concerning Dillon Brooks. The two sides talked at least a half-dozen times over 7-10 days including at least one directl chat with owners of both teams.

With Dillon Brooks currently sidelined by a knee injury, the Suns requested the guard’s physical from the Grizzlies. Enough information and dialogue were exchanged during the process between all three teams that there was clear understanding of the players involved, at least for the Suns and Wizards. It’s possible what all witnessed was a bad case of nerves by the Grizzlies at the buzzer.

Gina Mizell of The Athletic:

Here’s how it all unfolded according to a source familiar with the Phoenix end of the night:

There never were any discussions between the Suns and Memphis about MarShon Brooks. And the Suns never had any interest in discussing that Brooks.

However, there were discussions for about a week between Phoenix and Memphis about Dillon Brooks. Washington was not involved in the discussions with either team at that point.

The Wizards inquired with the Suns late in the week about Ariza

Despite reports to the contrary, there were no discussions on Friday involving Suns owner Robert Sarver, according to the source. He was at the team’s holiday party for employees.

James Jones and Trevor Bukstein, co-interim general managers, were working together on talks with several teams and worked through Washington on the three-way proposal.

I don’t know who discussed whom. Maybe the Grizzlies really made up this Brooks excuse because they got cold feet at the last minute.

But I’ll give Wallace way more benefit of the doubt, because he spoke with his name attached. The spin from Washington and Phoenix is coming anonymously. If it’s shown he’s lying, Wallace will face the consequences of that. If the Washington and Phoenix reports are shown to be inaccurate, the leakers are protected by their anonymity.

For what it’s worth, I would have done the trade as the Grizzlies with either Brooks. I wouldn’t have done it as the Suns for either Brooks. Phoenix is better off now just getting Oubre, the most valuable player in the trade. Oubre is rough around the edges and headed into restricted free agency next summer, but the 23-year-old is still quite intriguing.