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Mavericks bridging eras

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Are the Mavericks building around a 40-year-old entering his 21st season or a 19-year-old rookie?

Yes.

Dallas has refused to begin a season tanking as long as Dirk Nowitzki holds off retirement. With that plan, it made sense to trade up for No. 3 pick Luka Doncic, the most polished player in the draft. He might contribute immediately while leading the Mavericks into their next era.

The trade for Doncic – which sent the No. 5 pick (Trae Young) and a future first-rounder to the Hawks – only further clarified Dallas’ position. The extra first-rounder is just top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected the following two years and unprotected in 2023. That limits downside in the surrendered pick’s value, but those protections are too light to deliberately tank under. The Mavericks can’t shoot for a top-five pick. They must try to be as good as possible this season and send Atlanta the worst pick possible.

So, Dallas got over its feud with DeAndre Jordan. Three years after Jordan infamously reneged on his pledge to sign with the Mavericks, he declined his $24,119,025 player option with the Clippers and signed with Dallas for $22,897,200 on one-year contract. He should help plenty at center. With the Mavericks’ first-round pick likely gone and Nowitzki inching closer to retirement, this season is too important to hold onto years-old grudges.

Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they likely didn’t make enough upgrades to make the playoffs. They were underrated last year and should be even better this year, but this Western Conference is loaded.

Dallas lost Yogi Ferrell to the Kings in yet another reneging saga and brought back old favorite Devin Harris instead. The Mavericks also guaranteed minimum salaries for Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber and signed several other players to guaranteed minimum salaries – Salah Mejri, Ryan Broekhoff, No. 33 pick Jalen Brunson and No. 56 pick Ray Spalding. Filling out the roster this way has become the norm in Dallas.

Of course, the Mavericks also finally got around to re-signing Nowitzki to a one-year contract worth $5 million, the same amount his declined team option would have paid. It is his team, after all.

Unless its Doncic’s.

Offseason grade: B

Russell Westbrook has beef with Joel Embiid after hard foul (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook is always looking for something — real or imagined — to use as motivational fuel.

He found something real Saturday in Joel Embiid.

With 1:46 left in a close game on national television, Westbrook was off to the races in transition with just Embiid back and the result was a hard foul.

Westbrook was pissed after the game thinking this was not just a hard foul (warning, NSFW language):

Embiid essentially shrugged.

The actual foul was hard but a bit of a fluke. Embiid went up to block the layup/dunk but Westbrook lost his dribble for a second, and the result was an airborne Embiid crashing into Westbrook. Hard. Was there a little bit extra in there? Depends on if you’re on Team Westbrook or Team Embiid.

But the NBA could use more feuds, so bring it on.

The Thunder went on to beat the 76ers on a Paul George game-winner.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart goes after Hawks’ Deandre Bembry, gets ejected

Associated Press
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Marcus Smart will be lucky if all he has to do is write a check to the league office. This is the kind of thing that can lead to a suspension.

Midway through the third quarter in Atlanta Saturday, Boston’s Smart picked up his second technical foul jawing with Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry before a jump ball. That got him ejected. But it was when it charged back after Bembry rather than leaving the floor that the real trouble started.

Predicting the league office on fines/suspensions is like predicting a roulette table, but that looks like it could cost Smart a game. Smart had picked up his earlier technical arguing calls.

Boston came from behind to win Saturday in Atlanta, with Kyrie Irving leading the way scoring 32.

Bucks to retire jersey Marcus Johnson’s number

via NBA.com
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Marcus Johnson is a Milwaukee legend. He averaged 21 points a game in his seven seasons with the Bucks and is sixth on the all-time franchise list in points (10,980), is its all-time leader in offensive rebounds (1,468), is third in total rebounds (3,923), and made 4,546 during his time in Milwaukee. He is now a color commenter for the team.

Now, the team is going to retire his No. 8.

The ceremony will be March 24, a story broken by the Journal-Sentinel.

Johnson will be the ninth Bucks player to have his number retired and the first since the team’s move to its new home Fiserv Forum.

Current Bucks legend Giannis Antetokounmpo told the Journal-Sentinel he was happy. Antetokounmpo turned to Johnson at points for help with footwork, post moves, and more.

“I’m really happy for him, I think he deserves to have his jersey retired,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s amazing. He’s just sitting down there like a normal person, but this guy was one of the best players in the league when he was playing. … He’s a legend.”

Johnson won an NCAA national championship at UCLA under the legendary John Wooden before going on to an NBA career that included five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA teams.

Paul George hits game winner, lifts Thunder past 76ers 117-115

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to a wild 117-115 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

George’s clutch shot capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange with Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds remaining after he got Embiid while shooting a 3-pointer.

Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler‘s driving layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George drained a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.

Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.

George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.

The Thunder had dropped five of six, including a 138-128 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick scored 22 points for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, but Philadelphia rallied in the second and trailed 59-56 at the break.