Cuban believes this year’s Mavs are better than last year’s

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Mark Cuban felt the heat after he let Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson go. Brining in Lamar Odom has not worked out as planned and Dallas got off to a rocky 8-7 start after two heartbreaking losses in Los Angeles (veterans Derek Fisher and Chauncey Billups did them with game winners on back-to-back nights).

But Cuban isn’t worried.

He was interviewed by ESPN, something shown before the Mavs tilt with the Clippers Wednesday, and the Star Telegram has the translation (via SLAM).

Basically, he is selling patience.

“We’ve just got to make the playoffs, that’s all I really care about. Honestly, I was telling people if we’re 10-10 I’ll be thrilled to death. And if we were 5-15, I wouldn’t have been shocked, because you can’t just walk into a season and be ready, particularly if you’re a team that bases its defense on precision and team defense, and its offense off ball movement.

“If you’re young, your legs are always in shape, and if you’re an athlete, and you just run by people and jump over people. I think that’s why you saw the more athletic teams get off to great starts and the more ‘team’ teams struggle a little bit.

“I’m always win now, but you don’t destroy the future. I think you can do both, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.

“Yeah, we’ve lost some great players, and yet at the same time we kept a lot of good players, we kept Dirk (Nowitzki), JKidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, so we lost … but kept basically our top four. So by adding Vince Carter, by adding Lamar Odom, by adding Delonte West, I think literally we can be, I think we are a better team.”

He has to say that. What is he going to say? The man has a product to sell.

I think he makes some valid points. This is a team that will get better as the year goes on, and we’ve already started to see this. Dallas is playing better defense than last year but their offense has struggled. That will change. They will make the playoffs and be a tough out.

But by the second round, the lack of Tyson Chandler in the paint will come back to haunt them. This team is not better, especially when looking at playoff basketball.

Jeremy Lin: Milwaukee security guard asked for my pass to Raptors team bus

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Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.

It apparently still happens.

Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:

After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”

This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.

It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Boston, Philadelphia, Denver? (And some playoff talk)

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Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?

Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?

What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?

I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Nikola Jokic’s All-NBA first-team selection shows his meteoric rise

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Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.

Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.

Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.

That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).

The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.

For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):

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The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.

Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.

So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.