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Mark Cuban explains Mavericks’ plan, repeatedly uses word ‘tanking’

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The Mavericks trading Andrew Bogut was primarily about acquiring Nerlens Noel‘s matching and Bird Rights, but that deal had greater complexities. Let’s put it aside for a moment.

Dallas also waived its starting point guard, Deron Williams. That transaction is far more simple, with no return coming to the Mavericks.

Why would they do that?

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“The goal always is to get to be a championship contender and get another ring,” Cuban said Sunday on ESPN Radio’s NBA Insiders show, his first extended public comments on the Mavs’ latest personnel decisions. “As well as Deron was playing and even Andrew, defensively … we had to match up to our criteria of trying to position ourselves to get a lot better. Then you combine that with the fact that I’ve always said, when a lot of teams are tanking, you don’t want to tank. And when there aren’t many teams tanking and everybody’s trying to compete, that’s the best time to consider trying to go for a draft pick. You can try to play as well as you can and still be in competition for a great pick.

“We obviously haven’t played well enough to be in the playoffs right now, but we’re playing a lot better. One loss here and there, we’re all the sudden in the top five for draft contention, but we’re also playing to get better and trying to win, which I think is a good thing.”

“It’s painful, but I’m also realistic,” Cuban said. “Look, if I wasn’t realistic about the value of a draft pick, we would have kept D-Will, we would have kept Andrew. We would be playing an older lineup, but now we’re playing our young guys.

“That supposedly is the definition of tanking: You play your youngest players to give them experience without the expectation you’re going to win. In our case, we’re playing our youngest players, but we’re playing them with the expectation that they’re going to win. I think that’s the best type of experience. And if that means we get the eighth pick or the 10th pick instead of the fourth pick, I’ll live with the consequences.”

I define “tanking” as any decision a team makes that is at least partially driven by a desire to improve draft position by losing more. It doesn’t matter how much or little draft position factors into the decision. As long as a desire to lose more is part of the equation, it’s tanking.

Even if the draft order weren’t tied to record, losing teams would still emphasize developing young players late in the season. But because draft order is tied to record, losing teams give more more opportunities to raw players than they would otherwise.

So, there are obviously degrees. Some teams tank harder than others.

But, by my definition, Dallas is obviously tanking. Cuban admits waiving Williams and trading Bogut was about improving the draft pick.

The Mavericks could tank harder by having Rick Carlisle use a substandard game plan or establishing a culture where players realize winning isn’t important right now.

Dallas isn’t going that far, for both philosophical and practical reasons.

It can be hard to reverse a losing environment, and teaching winning habits to young players is important. Plus, there are limits on how far a roster with veterans like Harrison BarnesWesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki can sink.

That has the 24-36 Mavericks caught in the middle — 3.5 games out of playoff position and 5.5 games from a top-three seed in the lottery.

Reaching the postseason is impractical, so trying to move up a few spots in the draft is probably Dallas’ best approach. Maybe the Mavericks should have embraced that plan when they were closer to the bottom of the standings, but it seems Cuban has them on the right track now.

Carmelo Anthony has 18, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double leads Bucks to win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had his second triple-double of the season and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Carmelo Anthony and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 on Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight victory. Antetokounmpo, who also had a triple-double in the season opener, has 16 career triple-doubles. Milwaukee is 14-2 in those games.

Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists in the Bucks’ highest-scoring game of the season.

After scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes in his season debut Tuesday night against the Pelicans, Anthony had 10 points in the first half Thursday. The 10-time All-Star finished with 18 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds for the Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside (hip), Damian Lillard (back), Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 37 points and Skal Labissiere added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers lost their third straight game and seventh of the last nine against the Bucks, including sixth straight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks made their first seven shots, including three 3s, and led 17-6. Milwaukee never trailed.

The Bucks also had their highest first-half total, leading 72-58.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

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It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

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The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

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It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.