Cuban says new labor agreement forced Dallas changes

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Here’s the thing, he’s right. Mostly.

Before the Dallas Mavericks were swept out of the playoffs by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cuban went on the defensive talking to the media. He had heard the statements from the media and others saying he and his franchise gave up winning the title the day they didn’t re-sign Tyson Chandler (and J.J. Barea and Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson). I’ll admit I said they would not be the same without Chandler (although this season it was the Mavericks offense, and late game offense in particular, that faltered and not their defense).

Cuban told the Dallas Morning News he had no regrets about the moves because the new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement — one with steep luxury tax penalties coming in a few years — has changed the business model. He just had to adapt.

“Hell no,” Cuban said (if he had regrets). “Nope. Not even a millisecond. Because those who are talking otherwise haven’t read the CBA and are just talking out their (expletive) without any foundation. But that’s what you guys do.

“Given what happened, I think we put together a damn good team. If we had one break, one call, one bounce, we’re having a completely different conversation and you’re thinking how smart we are instead of how stupid we are…

“If you want to nail me for something, I’ll be the first to admit that it was a huge (expletive) that I didn’t fight for the new (CBA) harder,” Cuban said. “I said it before, I’ll say it again. It put us and other teams in a bad spot, and it was an overnight handshake deal that I should have fought harder. I’m the first to say that.”

Cuban is right about the CBA — he and the Mavericks were one of the biggest spenders the last decade and he just absorbed the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax (salary over a certain threshold, $70 million this year) as part of doing business. It got him a lot of wins and eventually a ring.

But you can’t do that anymore. Under the new rules by the 2014-15 season if a team paid the tax the previous three years (or three of the previous four years in subsequent years) teams pay a steeper “repeater tax” that is between $2.50 and $4.25 per dollar over the cap — the more you are over the cap the more steep the price.

Dallas lived well above the luxury tax threshold for a decade, but for example if they were $10 million over the tax line in 2015 their tax payment would jump from $10 million to $17.5 million. At the level the Mavericks salary was at last year the tax would have been well in excess of $20 million.

The new CBA punishes the model the Lakers, Mavericks, Knicks and other teams used to build a roster (the Knicks far less successfully, thank you Isiah) where teams lived $10 million or more into the tax regularly. The league and its small market owners think that more parity is needed and good for the league and those big spending teams needed to reigned in. We can have a debate about why I think that is wrong — stars sell in the NBA and the nature of the sport will never allow NFL-style parity or anything close to it — but it is reality.

Cuban has embraced that reality in an aggressive way — Dallas will be well under the cap this summer and can go after Deron Williams to pair with Dirk Nowitzki. They can put more affordable (read: younger) talent around them.

This was not his only option. He might have been able to keep Chandler and others on shorter deals by selling them on making one more run. Cuban went another way. He tried to replace them with Lamar Odom and while that flamed out it was a good gamble. But the bottom line is everyone knew this wasn’t going to be the same team, and if you believe that your team was going to have a hard time repeating what Cuban did is a logical course of action.

Basically, in two years we’ll be saying Cuban was a visionary and made the right moves, or that he gambled and lost and now the Mavericks path back to the top is much longer and steeper.

But he’s right, the new CBA did help force his hand.

Al Horford had to tell Aron Baynes to take the ball to the basket (VIDEO)

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Boston’s Aron Baynes has seen his minutes increase the past couple of games of the Eastern Conference Finals as Brad Stevens tries to match up better with Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson.

Baynes is a solid big man who can step out and hit a three, but he’s not exactly blessed with the offensive gene — he’s no natural scorer. Sometimes it’s not even clear he knows where the basket is.

Such as on this fourth quarter play from Monday night, where Al Horford has to point Baynes to the rim and tell him to go there.

It worked. This time.

Baynes, Horford and the Celtics made things interesting in the second half, but could not overcome their early deficits and lost Game 4 to the Cavaliers 111-102, tying the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team finding their footing on a big stage on the road. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.