Mark Cuban still has Odom’s back. That will not change.

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Mark Cuban has worked hard to change the culture around the Dallas Mavericks into a place players want to be. A place where they are comfortable and can thrive in part because they know management has their back.

It hasn’t worked that way for Lamar Odom — he has not played well since coming to Dallas in a trade before the season and some teammates are questioning his commitment to the team — but Cuban still has his back. That concept is at the heart of what he has built in Dallas, he is not going to change that for one player having a rough season.

Here is what Cuban told ESPNDallas.com.

“I’m not worried about that at all,” Cuban said before the Mavericks’ game Tuesday night against the New York Knicks…

“(Cuban met with Odom in Dallas before his return) Because you’ve got to deal with things,” Cuban said. “The goal is to solve the problem, not to look good. I can’t tell you how many times players have been concerned about other players. That’s just the nature of the beast. As I said, I’ve been through it a lot of times. I’ve got to try to put together a plan and stick through it in those cases. That’s exactly what I did.”

Cuban can think Odom is fully committed to basketball and Dallas if he wants, but Odom’s focus has always wandered. It did when he played for Phil Jackson, the best coach ever at reading what a player needed and trying to give it to him to make him comfortable and play well. Behind that Zen mystique was a coach better than any other at taking the distractions of the world out of the locker room so guys could focus on playing. And even in that environment Odom was inconsistent. It will be no different in Dallas.

What you see from Odom is what you get. He will have brilliant games, he will have bad ones, and you just hope for more of the former.

Through it all in Dallas, you can be sure that Cuban will still have Odom’s back. Because it’s those kinds of intangibles that players consider when choosing where to play as a free agent.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.