Opening night preview: Mavericks at Spurs

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When we last saw the San Antonio Spurs, they were playing the game at such a high level that they went through LeBron James and the Miami Heat like a buzzsaw en route to an easier-than-expected NBA title.

In fact, San Antonio ran through the Blazers and Thunder in similar fashion during the postseason, with only one team giving them any trouble at all: their opening night opponent, the Dallas Mavericks.

It’ll be a well-deserved ring ceremony followed by a raising of the franchise’s fifth championship banner when things get going Tuesday night, but it may deteriorate from there for the Spurs, given the way each team is primed to begin the season.

Dallas reloaded quite nicely this summer, bringing back Tyson Chandler to help improve a defense that ranked just 22nd in efficiency last year. They lost an above average point guard in Jose Calderon in the deal, but replaced him with Jameer Nelson, a veteran who does a better job at running the show than most people realize.

The loss of Shawn Marion in free agency may hurt a little defensively, but the Mavericks believe the offensive trade-off with the acquisition of Chandler Parsons will be well worth it. Parsons averaged 15.9 points in Houston last year, and that was with James Harden taking the bulk of the shots. In Dallas, while the offense will be more balanced and there will be nights when Dirk Nowitzki gets plenty of looks, Parsons will have many more chances to make his impact felt on the offensive end of the floor.

Depth is the biggest concern for the Mavericks, with the loss of Vince Carter appearing to be the most damaging. Carter played in 81 regular season games exclusively in a reserve role, and finished third on the team in scoring with 11.9 points per game in 24.4 minutes per contest. It’s part of the reason Dallas ate the guaranteed contract of Bernard James to add Charlie Villanueva, who Mark Cuban said has been “instant offense” for his team during the preseason.

On San Antonio’s side, the team will begin the season with two of their starters out due to injury. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has been dealing with an eye infection for most of the preseason, and Tiago Splitter has been bothered by a calf injury that will similarly keep him sidelined for this one.

The Spurs brought back essentially the entirety of their championship roster, however, and though the team looked disinterested for most of the preseason, it’s likely that ring night will provide the veterans with the spark needed to help them regain their focus. And, the team is plenty deep enough to overcome the loss of Leonard offensively, with guys like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Danny Green more than capable of stepping up.

Even so, I like the Mavericks chances here. They gave the Spurs fits with their elite level of offense in last year’s playoffs, and though there are some new pieces in place, Rick Carlisle is one of the league’s better coaches, and will have his guys ready for a rematch with the defending champs. Given all of the factors in play, an upset win for Dallas wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Dallas Mavericks

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: San Antonio Spurs

Paul George: I wanted Pacers to trade me to Spurs over Lakers

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When Paul George told the Pacers in 2017 he’d opt out the following year, the widespread assumption – fueled by George himself – was he wanted to join the Lakers.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

George had another team on top of his wish list.

“I wanted to be traded to San Antonio,” George says. “We wanted to go to San Antonio first, and we didn’t make that happen.”

A league source confirmed that the Pacers and Spurs talked, but San Antonio lacked the assets to pair George with Leonard.

Despite Kawhi Leonard trying to persuade the Spurs to deal for George, Indiana traded George to the Thunder. George spent a couple years in Oklahoma City and appeared mostly happy. But he requested and received a trade to join Leonard on the Clippers last summer, finally uniting the star forwards.

At the time of George’s Pacers trade saga, there was a theory he was using a veneer of Lakers interest to help his new team maintain assets. The threat of George leaving in 2018 free agency for Los Angeles reduced the quality of offers to Indiana. The Thunder’s package certainly looked meager (though Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis blossomed with the Pacers). Then, George re-signed with Oklahoma City without even meeting with the Lakers. This revelation only further supports that theory.

Is it true, though? George now plays with Leonard on L.A.’s rival team. He might want to show his affinity for Leonard and distance himself from the Lakers. This story accomplishes both.

I’ll definitely give George this: Whatever his motivations, he said on the record the Spurs were his first choice in 2017. He didn’t hide behind the cloak of anonymity. So, I’m inclined to believe him.

Bulls unveil blue uniforms (photo)

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Michael Jordan famously wore a pair of North Carolina shorts under his Bulls uniform.

Now, Chicago will bring baby blue to the surface.

Bulls:

These are a major-departure from the Bulls’ red-and-black color scheme. Even the logo is altered.

Such deviations are becoming normalized. The Magic will wear orange. Expect other teams to get more radical.

These jerseys will certainly sell. The short-term revenue boost of all these alternate uniforms is the entire idea.

But I wonder whether there’s a cost to teams diluting their identities. These don’t look like Chicago uniforms. It could become increasingly difficult to value the prestige of NBA jerseys if they’re so loosely associated with a team.

Bucks to wear ‘Cream City’ jerseys (photos)

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The Bucks making cream one of their colors? Great! It was distinctive and local, celebrating the cream-colored bricks throughout Milwaukee.

These uniforms?

Bucks:

Not so great. Everything about the uniforms is fine except the words on the front of the jersey.

I’m sure nobody will crack immature jokes about those.

Reporter: Charles Barkley told me, ‘I don’t hit women, but if I did, I would hit you’

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Charles Barkley has a history of sexist comments.

The crudest publicly came in 1990. Los Angeles Times:

Barkley, who said the remarks were meant as a joke, was quoted as saying after a tough Nov. 3 win over the underdog New Jersey Nets that “this is a game that if you lose, you go home and beat your wife and kids. Did you see my wife jumping up and down at the end of the game? That’s because she knew I wasn’t going to beat her.”

But since becoming beloved for his outspokenness as a commentator, there have been others – calling the Warriors’ style “little-girly basketball,” mocking the weight of female Spurs fans.

Now, Barkley has again run his mouth in this direction.

Alexi McCammond of Axios:

Turner Sports:

This was obviously inappropriate for Barkley to say. I’m not sure how else to characterize it. It doesn’t sound like a threat. It’s not related to domestic violence. It’s just not the way to speak to someone working professionally.

I’m glad he apologized, and I hope he learned from this. But history suggests he’ll continue to make off-color jokes. In fact, he’s rewarded for repeatedly pushing the line.

That might eventually get him into serious trouble. I don’t think these remarks should be the ones to spark mass outrage.