The Inbounds: Dallas’ Improv High-Wire Act

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Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

Dallas had the worst offseason. Dallas had the best offseason. Two sides, one coin.

Usually when you whiff on a perennial All-Star with hometown ties to your city then lose your starting point guard and long-time bench scorer, you tend to lick your wounds and return to fight another day. But the Mavericks elected to instead immediately initiate Plan B.

And for a Plan B, it’s not bad.

Here’s a cool little example of how perception, standards, and expectations can shift.

Let’s say the Mavericks didn’t win the title in 2011. Let’s say the Blazers got another few 40-point barrages from Brandon Roy in an even bigger blaze of glory, or the Thunder had gotten their defense together enough to topple Dallas, or the Lakers…. yeah, no, that wasn’t happening. But let’s say either way that Dallas doesn’t win the title. This kind of a retool not only makes sense, it’s likely lauded as a smart initiative to rebuild. Instead of allowing the team to stagnate, Cuban went forward, instead of plugging in long-term, expensive contracts to players past their prime, Cuban and Nelson opted to acquire young players entering their prime on reasonable contracts and taking advantage of the amnesty wire, while developing the talent they have.

The franchise may not be held in as high regard as it is now, but the free agency decisions would have been received better.

Instead? “How could you let Dirk’s last year pass like this?! How could you dismantle a title team in just two years down to rubble?! Why would you downgrade?! Why aren’t you shooting for the title?! Loud noises posed as questions?!”

That’s just how perception shifts after a title. You’re elite, and staying elite is more important than looking out for the future.

This isn’t to say that the Mavs haven’t made mistakes. They had a shot at Deron Williams, setting them up for contention past the end of Dirk’s career, and were beaten because the Nets got Joe Johnson. Johnson is a severely underrated player, but if you can’t convince a player that his better shot at a title is with Dirk Nowitzki than Joe Johnson,then you haven’t done a great pitch job. (Note: I imagine the $25 million Dallas couldn’t offer in the fifth year was part of it, but whatever.) They not only missed out on Steve Nash, but they allowed the Lakers to get him in part thanks to the very trade they made to get Lamar Odom, who did nothing for them. They traded for Lamar Odom and all they got out of it was the Lakers getting Steve Nash. Oops.

But look at the roster they’ve managed to cobble together.

Darren Collison, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Elton Brand, Brandan Wright.

That’s five former All-Stars, three role players with upside, a quality playoff starter, and a quality playoff reserve. That’s not bad for cobbling together something last minute. And it’s not so much about the guys that they got, it’s about the re-sale value of these players and the long-term flexibility. Mayo’s short-term deal, Collison’s contract, Marion, Carter, everything is movable both as an asset and as a short-term contract. It’s not about this year for the Mavericks, and it’s not about next year or any one particular year. It’s about putting the franchise in the best position to compete this year and get better later. That’s a delicate line to walk, and the Mavericks are managing to do it.

Is there any reason to believe this team won’t win 45-50 games, provided that a full offseason helps Nowitzki get back to form?

And they’ll be able to do it and still make moves to improve the team or take a stab at a superstar later. They’ll be in position to make whatever moves they want. They’ve transitioned to a younger team, let the older components go, and maintained cap management that can facilitate a total rebuild in three years.

It’s the same kind of model that both Houston and Denver to a degree have adopted. Consider what Cuban told CBSSports.com over the weekend.

“We’ve always been good at making trades and being willing to take on money,” Cuban said. “Now we can do it again starting next year. We can keep a big chunk of our current team, pay them and be in a position to take someone in a sign-and-trade, where all of the other teams that are supposedly luxury destinations, they can’t.”

“You can draft your Big Three,” Cuban said. “You can trade for youngs and turn them into a Big Three. You can do like Houston’s done and hopefully you have enough cap room and have three come together. But you can’t do the progressive trading like we used to. Those days are gone.”

via While CBA cramps some teams, Cuban learns how to rebuild Mavericks – NBA – CBSSports.com News, Scores, Stats, Fantasy Advice.

It’s becoming more about assembling different cores and then rotating them out. Piece by piece is getting more difficult with shorter deals and stricter rules. So the Mavericks have put themselves in a position to make the playoffs this year and to get a big pickup if one comes available. It’s an example of the misunderstanding of Dallas that has gone on over a decade. They don’t spend recklessly. They don’t just throw money out there. They pay for assets they want and they think they need, and they manipulate what they can manipulate.

The Mavericks aren’t a title team next season. But they’re in a position to keep their success going forward. There may not be contact with the bottom of the well for Dallas. Just constant reconfiguration, constant manipulation, constant maintenance and opportunism.

And as it turns out, improvisation.

Report: Sixers, in need of shooting, interested in Kyle Korver trade

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Trading for Jimmy Butler was the right move for Philadelphia, an all-in kind of play that ends the slow-play “process” and pushes championship dreams to the forefront.

It’s also risky — Butler has some Thibodeau-miles on his body, making the need to win sooner rather than later more urgent. It also comes with the problem that while the core three are elite, this team doesn’t have the depth and shooting to compete with Boston or Toronto (or maybe Milwaukee) right now, especially after having to trade Robert Covington and Dario Saric to get Butler.

Everyone around the league expects Philadelphia GM Elton Brand to be aggressive from here on out, looking for trades that bring in veterans who can help right now. One target: Cleveland’s Kyle Korver, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times in his weekly newsletter.

The desperate-for-shooters Sixers remain highly interested in acquiring Cleveland’s Kyle Korver.
But that will be harder for Philadelphia to make happen without Jerryd Bayless‘ handy $8.6 million expiring contract to help facilitate a trade.

Korver is in the second season of a three-year, $22 million deal he signed with the Cavaliers in 2017. The Sixers instead plugged Bayless into the Butler trade to help make that salary cap math work.

There are options to get this deal done. Korver for Markelle Fultz straight up works, but that likely doesn’t work personnel wise for either side (the Sixers probably will want more for the former No. 1 pick, while the Cavs may want a pick as a sweetener to take on a “broken” player, the trade value of Fultz is an interesting question but it’s not high around the league). Korver for Mike Muscala and Zhaire Smith also works financially. Future picks also can be part of any package, which may interest Cleveland now that they figured out they’re supposed to rebuild after losing the best player of a generation.

However it gets done, what Stein reports follows the buzz around the league — expect the Sixers to be aggressive going after guys who can help them win right now, and Korver is at the top of the list. He’s been available since this summer, the Cavaliers have just been holding out for more than the market will offer.

Korver, at age 37, has not looked as sharp this season, he’s not moved as crisply and his three-point shooting percentage has dropped to 38.7 — which is still better than any of the regular three-point shooters on the Sixers right now (J.J. Redick is a better shooter overall but is hitting 34.9 percent this season so far). Korver has been in and out of the Cavaliers rotation as the franchise tries to figure out what it’s doing.

Warriors suspend Draymond Green for postgame comments in locker room

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The play itself that sparked everything was ugly.

With :06 seconds left in a tie game against the Clippers Monday night, watch Draymond Green grab the rebound and try to go the length of the court for the game-winner himself — only to fumble the ball away without a shot — while Kevin Durant, who should take that shot (or the hot Klay Thompson at that point), claps his hands and calls for the ball.

On the bench after that play got uglier with an argument between Green and Durant where Green allegedly even called KD his “b****” before Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins stepped in as peacemakers. In the locker room later the argument continued and was nasty as there has been in this era of the Warriors. It wasn’t just Durant, a lot of players questioned and called out Green’s decision, while Green defended himself angrily, and questioning KD on his free agency next summer.

All of it crossed a line, and Green has been suspended for a night and will sit against Atlanta, without pay.

From Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports:

Green repeatedly called Durant “a bitch” after he was called out by the two-time NBA Finals MVP in the huddle for not passing him the ball, sources said. The organization is of the belief that Green cut too deep in his disagreement with Durant, sources said.

Klay Thompson, who is typically reserved, spoke up in the locker room to the surprise of his teammates about the altercation and stressed the importance of sticking together, sources said.

Durant is not making his free agency decision — he is expected to opt out of the last year of his contract before July — based on this one incident. But it seems to point to an overall tension around the team as it knows it could be the last year of this specific Warriors team.

Long term, Durant and Green will get over it — they had public arguments before then were hanging out at a baseball game together the next night. They will put it behind them.

But it’s just something to remember come next July.

Report: DeAndre Jordan has bothered Mavericks teammates with selfish play

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DeAndre Jordan bumping teammate Luka Doncic to get an otherwise-uncontested rebound could have been seen as a minor issue, overexuberance by Jordan due to determination to get every loose ball.

But to the Mavericks, it was an example of a troubling pattern with Jordan.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

He has rubbed teammates the wrong way with what they perceive as selfish play

Jordan signed a one-year contract with Dallas last summer, and it’s already hard to see him returning next season.

The Mavericks are just 5-8. They’ve been outscored by 8.5 points per 100 possessions when he plays and outscored opponents by 5.7 points per 100 possessions when he sits. He often looks disinterested. His help defense – what Dallas really needs from him – has been especially lazy.

Jordan is still big and mobile, and he can’t help but make some positive contributions as a rebounder and finisher. He just leaves so much to be desired.

Jordan’s mood with the Clippers alternated between despondent and eager. Maybe it will in Dallas, too.

But he’ll apparently have to overcome a poor reputation with his new teammates.

Jimmy Butler joins 76ers defending reputation from Timberwolves exit

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76ers general manager Elton Brand wore a suit. 76ers owner Joshua Harris wore a suit. New 76ers center Justin Patton wore a suit – with a bowtie!

And then there was Jimmy Butler, who sat between them in sweats.

“As you can tell, I’m the only one up here without a suit on because my suit got here late this morning,” Butler pointed out at his introductory press conference today.

Butler begins his new chapter in Philadelphia trying to repair his image.

His trade request from the Timberwolves, his subsequent tactics and reports about his treatment of teammates tarnished his reputation. In a humbler outfit – a genuine consequence of a hasty move or another orchestrated stunt? – Butler addressed those questions.

“I think that I’m an incredible human being, teammate, and I’ll show that to the guys that are here,” Butler said.

So, he won’t convince anyone he’s humble.

But he shouldn’t have to. Butler worked his way up from a modest origin into superstardom. Arrogance can be earned. His ascent should be celebrated – and emulated.

Everyone, including Butler’s new teammates, could learn from his work ethic. That didn’t work well in Minnesota, where Butler sparred with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler would do well to exercise more patience while setting an example.

Not that he’s ready to admit wrongdoing.

“The funny part about it is all you hear is ‘sources say.’ You never hear a player say it,” Butler said. “And I think if a player had a problem or anything, they would. That’s how I feel about the situation. Unless everybody in my past locker room was just that fake, I don’t think I’m that big of a problem at all.”

I don’t think players turned off by Butlers fury would be above criticizing him anonymously. His confrontational style isn’t for everyone.

Besides, Butler used leaks to his advantage, too. It’s all part of the game, which resulted in Butler getting his Bird Rights – and the ability to offer a max contract projected to be worth $190 million over five years – to the 76ers.

Of course, Butler denied money drove his trade request. He insisted he’s still the guy who listens to country music, plays dominos and drives a minivan.

“I’ve already got enough money to have me and my family set for the rest of my life,” Butler said. “It’s not about the money. I’ve got to be able to love where I’m at and have a great chance of winning a championship.

“I love what Josh and Elton are doing. I think they’re doing it the right way. That’s what matters, the people that are around here and how everybody is treated. Because basketball is just one part of it. But to know that you’re wanted and that you’re always going to be taken care of, your people are always going to be taken care of, I think that’s what matters most to me – and a lot of other people in this league.”

Butler wasn’t pressed on what went wrong in Minnesota. He professed his fondness for Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau and said, “it just didn’t work out.”

Will it in Philadelphia? Butler said he dominated the ball in Minnesota only because that was asked of him. He sounds ready to adjust to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, whose social-media postings Butler called a “special work of art.” Talent tends to win out, and this team has awesome defensive ability.

Butler’s reputation never should have been as sullied as it was. The Timberwolves’ mismanagement contributed to the dysfunction as much as, if not more, than Butler’s trade request. He still performed very well for Minnesota in his year-plus there.

But if he comes to Philadelphia with an even larger chip on his shoulder, eager to prove his bona fides as a teammate and leader, that could be good for him and the 76ers. Butler lifted himself to an elite level. He still must show an ability to help others get there.

At least on day one in Philadelphia, Butler came dressed to work.