Heat, Mavericks go opposite directions after last year’s finals

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Last June, the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat were the two teams left standing on top of the NBA mountain. They were the two teams that made, it, that advanced to the NBA finals. Dallas, as we all recall, came out on top.

Last July, these two teams started traveling very different paths that lead to where they are right now.

Miami is rolling, up 3-0 in the first round on a Knicks team that was supposed to push them a little. They brought in depth, they’ve modified the system and the players bought into it, and for stretches now they play just suffocating defense. Still, they feel like a Maserati in fourth gear — they could be even more impressive.

Dallas is getting rolled, down 3-0 in the first round to a Thunder team they took out in five games last playoffs. Dallas’ owner Mark Cuban decided to look long term rather than chase a ring with the same cast, and that combined with some bad luck has them on the verge of an embarrassingly quick elimination.

It’s quite a contrast.

And it’s all about decisions made during the summer, while the NBA was locked out and soon after it returned.

Miami’s flaws were exposed in the finals — not enough depth, plus their three big stars — Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — did not fully mesh. LeBron, in particular, was more passive during the finals and nobody could step into those shoes.

Coach Erick Spoelstra spent the summer coming up with a system that better fit his three stars — pressure defense and transition. If you have the best athletes and the best finishers, put them in positions to do what they do best. The Heat pressure and gamble on defense, they force mistakes because of their athleticism, then they turned those into highlight transition dunks. As the season wore on the Heat strayed from that plan, but they still bring it back in spurts and have done more of that in the playoffs. The Knicks have been overwhelmed when they do.

Miami also added depth — Shane Battier, Norris Cole — and got guys like Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem healthy.

Right now, especially after Derrick Rose’s injury in Chicago, the Heat look like they could steamroll back to the finals.

Dallas will not be facing them.

Mark Cuban made a decision to focus on the long term — he did not bring back Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea. He did not offer contract extensions to others. The result is a good long-term plan — this summer they will have the free agent money to offer a max deal to Deron Williams (or whoever else they choose). If they can move Shawn Marion, they may be able to bring in another big star.

This was not a strip-it-to-the-bone, move, this was trying to rebuild on the fly. It was a calculated risk.

It hasn’t worked out as planned and now they are paying the price. While Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are still there, this team does not have the depth or the depth of talent it did last year. Part of that is because of the Lamar Odom meltdown — they made a good gamble they could get the former Laker to come around with them, but he never did. That is a versatile, quality player who could have helped on a lot of fronts.

But it might not have mattered. The Thunder were going to get better. The Lakers have improved, as have the Grizzlies and Clippers. The West was going to be harder to get out of and Dallas took an intentional step back with its eye on the long term. Two years from now we may praise Cuban’s move as visionary — this is the kind of “make a move early rather than late” decision Jerry Buss has been making with the Lakers for years.

But it came with a price — these Mavericks are not as good as last year’s.

They are on an opposite trajectory from the team they knocked off in the finals last year. What a difference one year can make.

Kevin Garnett says Glen Taylor ‘doesn’t know s—t about basketball’ (VIDEO)

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Kevin Garnett is a Minnesota Timberwolves legend. He is also currently estranged from the team, and Garnett has not been shy about criticizing the franchise.

Jimmy Butler saga is still happening in Minnesota, and Garnett has of course been pulled into service to give commentary as both a concerned party and as a knowledgeable source. Garnett said recently that he thought things were, “a s—t storm up there” and that both sides might be a little unrealistic in expectations surrounding a trade.

Of course, Garnett added to his opinion on Tuesday when he said that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor doesn’t know anything about basketball.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

Via Twitter:

You don’t need to know anything about basketball to be a good owner. What you do need to do is be able to delegate, and select good management who does know what they’re doing. It’s not clear that Taylor has been able to do that, just given the situation that has developed with Butler and Tom Thibodeau.

Indeed, things appear to be a bit of a mess up north and the fact that Butler has not been traded is sort of embarrassing. The longer this goes on, the more we are going to hear commentary like this from people like Garnett.

The Wolves play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday and Butler is expected to the active.

NBA rosters have 108 international players from 42 different countries

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA rosters have players from a record-tying 42 countries and territories to open this season.

This is the fifth consecutive season in which all 30 teams have at least one international player on the opening-night roster.

Canada is represented by 11 of the 108 opening-night international players while Australia and France have nine.

The Dallas Mavericks have the most international players – seven. Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers have six each. Five teams – Boston, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and San Antonio – have five.

In addition to the 108 international players, another six are opening this season on two-way contracts between the NBA and G League.

There are 11 international players on opening-night rosters who have been NBA All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece), Luol Deng (Minnesota Timberwolves; South Sudan), Goran Dragic (Miami Heat; Slovenia), Embiid, Al Horford (Celtics; Dominican Republic), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies; Spain), Pau Gasol (Spurs; Spain), Kyrie Irving (Celtics; Australia), Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks; Germany), Tony Parker (Charlotte Hornets; France) and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks; Latvia).

Nowitzki will set an NBA record for most seasons played with one team (21), breaking a tie with Kobe Bryant, who spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.  Nowitzki will tie the NBA record for most seasons played overall (21), joining Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, Kevin Garnett and the Atlanta Hawks’ Vince Carter, who is also beginning his 21st season.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ partnership with Rock The Vote, it’s about “the power of the vote”

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While overall politically California is about as blue a state as they come, there are a lot of regions of the state that have leaned red — Republican — for a long time. It is in some of those areas where Democrats are targeting races they believe will help them take control of the House of Representatives. Which is to say, in a few areas, California is a battleground state this election.

The Warriors want people to just get out and vote.

Tonight, as the Warriors tip off their season and raise another banner, they will also be showing PSA’s in the arena, and on all the team’s digital and social media channels, urging more people registered and to the polls, all through a partnership with Rock The Vote (in California the registration deadline is Oct. 22).

Politically outspoken Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr sat down with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole and talked about the partnership, in a video only available on the new NBC Sports My Teams’ app (which has a lot of great content). Here is a clip from that interview (which has a lot more interesting off-the-court topics discussed and will be released in the coming days).

“There’s no talk of who you vote for. There’s talk of the power of the vote. I saw a clip of Michelle Obama talking about how we’re disappointed in our leaders in this country and we get disillusioned, and so when the elections come around and we’re so disillusioned that we don’t bother to vote. And then, when our leaders continue to lead us in ways that aren’t consistent with our values, we wonder, ‘Why can’t we get anybody better in there?’ It’s because we all think we’re all just one vote. If we all think that, then we’re going to have the same problem.

To me, this is the beauty of our system. We have these checks and balances. We have these principles that are supposed to hold us up. But we’re the ones who hold the principles up, through voting. It’s generally at periods of a lot of turmoil and adversity when young people finally get fed up. And they say, ‘You know what? Enough’s enough.’ And then they turn out. And that’s when you start to get the new generation. And the old generation moves on, and the new generation provides its leadership that reflects the values of the current iteration of the United States, and I think that’s coming.”

This wasn’t just lip service, Rock the Vote helped register or re-register seven Warriors players to vote.

Kerr is right, apathy about voting is what leads to governmental decisions we question — people need to make their voice heard through their vote. And they need to be encouraged to vote, it should be a process that is streamlined, but that’s an entire other debate. At least Rock The Vote helps with that.

For more information on Rock The Vote, or how you can register to cast your ballot, visit their website.

Warriors tip-off bittersweet final season in Oakland with title celebration

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — If anybody understands an arena’s link to a city, to a faithful fan base, Kevin Durant does.

Durant played the final NBA game in KeyArena for the Seattle SuperSonics a decade ago before the franchise’s relocation to Oklahoma City, then returned for a nostalgic exhibition earlier this month in the venue’s final event. On Tuesday night, he will play an opener against his former Thunder team — and raise another championship banner — to begin Golden State’s goodbye season at Oracle Arena.

The two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP wants to make sure the Warriors leave more positive memories and defining moments before next year’s move to new Chase Center in San Francisco.

“Luckily we’re not moving to the middle of the country, we’re moving across a 20- to 30-minute drive,” Durant said, “so hopefully that’s a little better for fans to take.”

The Warriors’ pending move comes amid a recent spate of upgrades for NBA franchises.

In Milwaukee, the Bucks will try to build momentum in their new downtown Fiserv Forum next door to the old Bradley Center where they spent the past 30 years. The Timberwolves will play in new-look Target Center following a two-year renovation that cost about $140 million and features a complete overhaul of the arena bowl, a glass entryway outside and other amenities such as a modernized team store and concession stands.

The Sacramento Kings begin their third season in sparkling Golden 1 Center.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was an assistant in San Antonio when the Spurs moved from the Alamodome to a new basketball-only arena in 2002.

“There’s nothing like having a great home atmosphere, having great energy in the building,” Budenholzer said. “There’s no doubt you go into certain cities in the NBA, you know that the crowd is going to be on top of you, the crowd is going to be loud. You have a tough night as a team because of that crowd.”

In Atlanta, Hawks will unveil their $192.5 million makeover of State Farm Arena, formerly Philips Arena. The Hawks say the renovation, which overlapped two seasons, is one of the largest in NBA history. Among the most compelling new features in the arena – in which capacity has been slightly reduced to 16,600 – will be the league’s third-largest center-hung scoreboard with a rounded, 360-degree video screen.

Golden State’s move across San Francisco Bay will be a tough one for many. Fans, players, coaches, even executives, realize how much the Warriors have done for the East Bay in nearly five decades at Oracle. Even through all the down years.

In blue-collar Oakland and right off one of California’s busiest freeways, Oracle has become one of the most imposing stops for opponents on either coast – the frenzied crowd cheering the talented Warriors makes its presence felt.

“It’s still tough for us moving out of Oakland,” Durant said. “But we’re just trying to come out this season and let them know that even though we’re moving we’re still going to be here in the Bay Area, we’re still going to be your team and hopefully people understand that and realize we’re still going to be the Bay Area’s team no matter if we’re playing in San Jose, Oakland or San Francisco.”

The Warriors are offering a similar message: “We’re leaving a building, we’re not leaving a city.”

That’s the motto COO and President Rick Welts is sharing as Golden State, winner of three titles over the past four years, prepares to move into that snazzy, privately funded new arena. Welts hopes fans will stick it out through the transition – realizing full well some might feel abandoned.

“When we talk about the magic of Oracle, the magic of Oracle is the people that are in Oracle,” Welts said. “And to know that four out of five of those people are coming to Chase Center it’s one other element of wanting to maintain that incredible atmosphere that we have.”

From all the down years to the thrilling “We Believe” playoffs of 2007 when Baron Davis and the Warriors ended a 12-year postseason drought then stunned the Mavericks in the first round, loyal fans in the East Bay have experienced all the highs right along with the lowest of lows.

One of the arena’s loudest moments ever was when Davis drove left to the baseline for a powerful one-handed slam over Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko during a 125-105 Game 3 victory in the Western Conference semifinals, Golden State’s lone win of that series.

The lead up to that playoff run left a lasting impression on those players involved in the turnaround. Long before tipoff, the noise was deafening.

“It didn’t matter who showed up, whether we had 10 people, they were going to be as loud and as proud as they could be for our team,” former center Adonal Foyle recalled. “There’s a really amazing spirit to Oakland and what the teams mean to their lives. I think more than anything else what I wanted more than anything with `We Believe’ was to just win one for the people that were in the stands every day supporting us.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr could feel it even back during his playing days coming through.

He always loved playing in Oakland even when the Warriors were bad because the fans were so committed, so loud.

“It is bittersweet. I think the new arena’s going to be amazing and we’re all excited about that but we’re all bummed to be moving on from Oracle,” Kerr said. “So, we would love to finish it the right way. It’s hard to replicate an atmosphere like Oracle’s. I think back to Boston Garden, going to the new Garden, the old Chicago Stadium where I played to the new one. It’s hard to create that same sort of intimacy when you’re building a new arena with suites and concourses and everything else. We know this new arena’s going to be great for our organization. It’s going to provide an incredible viewing experience for people coming in. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave Oracle and leave Oakland.”

At Chase Center, white exterior panels have already gone up on the east and south sides and are beginning to wrap around to the western end near the main lobby entrance. A waterfront park project is also underway.

“It is crazy. I don’t even know what to think about that yet because Oracle has always … that’s been my experience as a Warrior,” two-time MVP Stephen Curry said. “I don’t think I’m ready to think about what’s next yet.”

AP Sports Writers Genaro C. Armas in Milwaukee and Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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