Mavericks’ Dorian Finney-Smith’s season-high 17 lead Mavs past Kings 99-79

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DALLAS (AP) — Even after scoring a season high in points, Dorian Finney-Smith wanted to talk about his defense.

The rookie had 17 points, leading six Dallas players in double figures as the Mavericks beat the Sacramento Kings 99-79 Sunday.

The Mavericks, who lost to Sacramento by 31 points at home 11 days ago, started fast. They made 11 of their first 15 shots and never trailed.

Later, some of his teammates teased him for passing up open shots.

“When I get a hand on a ball or a tip, it gets me going,” Finney-Smith said. “I try not to lose focus on what I bring to the table, and that’s defense. If I’m making shots, that’s a plus.”

Deron Williams, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews each scored 15 for Dallas.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 33 for Sacramento. The Kings were minus second-leading scorer Rudy Gay, who missed his third consecutive game because of a strained right hip flexor.

A 10-0 Mavericks run early in the second quarter opened a 38-26 lead and the Kings never got closer than nine for the remainder of the game.

“We’ve got to come out and be the aggressor, that’s just plain and simple,” Cousins said. “We can’t get off to slow starts. We can’t let a team gain confidence. We’ve got to be the aggressors every night.”

It was barely 30 degrees in Dallas and the start time was moved up three hours to 3 p.m. – that avoided a conflict with the Cowboys, whose home game against Tampa Bay was originally scheduled for the daytime and later switched to night.

Following a 120-89 home loss to the Kings on Dec. 7, the Mavericks called a team meeting. They’ve won three of four at home since then and are 3-3 overall.

“We remember (the loss), but the biggest thing is that our demeanor has to be like this every night,” Matthews said.

TIP-INS

Kings: Cousins had 23 of Sacramento’s 44 points in the first half. … Ty Lawson was the only other Sacramento player in double figures, with 10 points.

Mavericks: The Kings scored just 14 points in the third quarter, a season low for a Mavericks opponent. … Williams had seven assists and passed current Dallas television analyst Derek Harper for 21st place on the NBA’s all-time assists list with 6,584.

HARRIS A HERO

Devin Harris had a season-high 14 points and seven rebounds for the Mavericks. He made a three-point play and a four-point play to cap a 12-2 Dallas run that gave the Mavs a 76-56 lead with 2:33 left in the third quarter.

Harris had missed the team’s first 16 games with a sprained right big toe.

“When he feels good physically, he moves with joy out there,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

LET IT BEE

Kings coach Dave Joerger called for a truce in an ongoing spat between Cousins and the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Cousins recently confronted a Bee writer after a column that referenced the arrest of the 6-foot-11 star’s brother.

“This guy is the face of our franchise,” Joerger said. “He’s done and said some things that he wishes he could do over. He has improved.”

“I’m not justifying anything that he’s done. What he did was excessive. But enough is enough,” he said.

TRIBUTE TO SAGER

The Mavericks joined the list of NBA teams to hold a moment of silence before their game in honor of TNT broadcaster Craig Sager, who died Thursday. Team owner Mark Cuban remembered Sager fondly before the game.

“Smiles are underrated,” Cuban said. “Nice is underrated. Getting people to smile every time – that’s something not a lot of people have been able to accomplish.”

 

Zion Williamson’s attorneys work to avoid him answering questions about improper benefits at Duke

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MIAMI (AP) — Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson seek to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils.

In a Florida court filing last week, Williamson’s attorneys say those questions are “nothing more than a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing Williamson’s reputation” and designed to “maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage.”

“Plaintiffs’ irrelevant and invasive requests are designed to harass and not calculated to lead to discovery of relevant evidence,” Friday’s filing states.

It is the latest exchange in the fight over the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick’s endorsement potential.

Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford filed her lawsuit last summer in Florida, accusing Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. Williamson filed his own lawsuit a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

Ford’s attorneys had submitted questions this month asking whether the New Orleans Pelicans rookie or anyone on his behalf sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or things of value” to sign with Duke. Those filings – offering no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family – sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.

Williamson’s attorneys seek a stay while appealing the December denial of their motion to dismiss the Florida case based on lack of jurisdiction, or a protective order as an alternative.

At the heart of the dueling lawsuits over Williamson’s marketing rights is this: Williamson says the contract he signed with Prime Sports is illegal under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA) because Ford was not registered with North Carolina to negotiate with amateur athletes (which Zion was at the time, having just played for Duke). Ford and Prime dispute that, saying this was a legal and binding negotiation.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.