Bernard James

Knicks’ Summer League standout Maurice NDour headed to Mavericks’ training camp


Maurice NDour looked good for the Knicks at Summer League. He had great energy and outworked people at both ends of the floor, was disruptive on defense thanks to his length, and a averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, while shooting 51.2 percent.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher said they liked what they saw from NDour, but they were not sure they would have an open roster spot for him come training camp.

So instead NDour is headed to Dallas, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

There are two reasons for NDour — who is from Senegal and played his college ball at Ohio (not State) — to make this move, and money is the first one. If you’re going to get cut, get the largest payday you can.

Second is not getting cut at all — where can he make a roster?

Dallas gives him a chance as a reserve center. Zaza Pachulia will be the starting five this season in Dallas, but they are bringing a lot of players to camp to see who might back him up . Greg Smith and Bernard James could return after playing in Dallas last season but neither are for sure. Jarrid Famous got a camp invite like NDour, and Satnam Singh will be in camp but is much more likely destined for a season in the D-League.

Dallas famously lost out on DeAndre Jordan this summer, and that left the team in need of rim protection inside. NDour and Famous will get a chance to prove they can provide that.

Mavericks sign J.J. Barea, waive Gal Mekel


J.J. Barea, bought out by the Timberwolves, wanted to return to the Mavericks.

There was only one problem: Dallas already had 15 players with guaranteed contracts.

Fortunately for Barea, Mark Cuban is willing to eat a salary. The Mavericks already waived Bernard James (guaranteed) for Charlie Villanueva (unguaranteed), and now they’re waiving Gal Mekel (guaranteed) for Barea.

Barea proved valuable for the Mavericks during their run to the 2011 championship. He can turn the corner on the pick-and-roll, get into the paint and make plays as the defense scrambles. But, as his time in Minnesota showed, asking him to fill a larger role is probably misguided.

Rick Carlisle knows how to use Barea. I have no question about that. But does Barea, 30, have the same burst he did three years ago? Without it, its difficult to see the 6-foot guard being effective.

Mekel, who has two guaranteed years remaining on a minimum contract, can be claimed off waivers by any team with an open roster spot or a willingness to create one. The 26-year-old struggled as a rookie last season, but a team could believe he needed time to transition from Israel and claim him. If he goes unclaimed, there’s a chance he still find suitors seeking to sign him for only one year and/or on an unguaranteed deal. Failing that, he’s likely headed back overseas or possibly to Dallas’ D-League affiliate — with a nice payout from the Mavericks.

Opening night preview: Mavericks at Spurs


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

Mavericks waive player with guaranteed contract to add Charlie Villanueva to roster


When the Mavericks announced their final cuts in advance of Tuesday’s regular season opener against the defending champion Spurs, one name on the list was a bit of a surprise.

Bernard James, Doron Lamb and Ivan Johnson were the odd men out, but James had a $915,243 contract for the upcoming season, almost all of which was guaranteed.

Mark Cuban said he wouldn’t be afraid to eat a guaranteed deal if he felt another player was more deserving of that roster spot, and he was true to his word, choosing Charlie Villanueva and the scoring he could potentially provide as a replacement for James.

From Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram:

In an Oct. 12 game against Indiana, Villanueva played all 11 of his minutes in the fourth quarter and contributed 16 points and four rebounds during the Mavs’ 106-98 victory.

In that game Villanueva was 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line.

Even owner Mark Cuban, who repeatedly said he would eat a guaranteed contract if it made his team better, was impressed with what Villanueva accomplished against the Pacers.

“He’s been instant offense,” Cuban said. “When you score 16 points in a quarter on like eight shots, that’s ridiculous. In the NBA anybody can get hot. But that’s who he is.”

Villanueva’s deal is for $1.3 million, but is non-guaranteed, so if he ends up not being of value down the road, it may not ultimately cost the Mavericks that much.

But it’s nice to see a team choosing performance over finances, even if this is only a small example of that.

Report: Mavericks shopping Gal Mekel, Bernard James in effort to free up roster space


The Dallas Mavericks have 15 guys in training camp with guaranteed contracts (20 players total). Like many teams, the Mavericks would ideally like to carry 14 or so on the roster, to provide flexibility for potential trades down the line (or to pick up a free agent in case of injury).

So, they are looking at trades to clear out some roster spots, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Dallas Mavericks have been shopping point guard Gal Mekel and center Bernard James in trade talks, sources told Yahoo Sports… No trade for either player is currently imminent, a source said.

James can’t be traded until Dec. 15, but it’s worth exploring his value. Both players likely would be moved for just a future second round pick or player who could be cut.

James is a great story, having served his nation for six years in the Air Force before playing at Florida State (which is why he is age 29 and entering his third NBA season. He blocks shots, works hard on the defensive end and will grab boards, but he doesn’t bring much of anything on the offensive side of the ball. He could serve in a role as a third center on a team.

With so many point guards on the Dallas roster (Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Raymond Felton) Mekel will be pretty much forced out of a role. The Israeli product who played professionally in that country knows how to run a team, knows how to distribute the ball, but he struggled in the NBA with his own shot (he had a true shooting percentage of just .400, he shot 25 percent from three and struggled with any shot not at the rim).