Posts Tagged ‘Jared Cunningham’

Recent Hires Emphasize Player Evaluation

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Under the new collective bargaining agreement, screw-ups drafting, trading and signing free agents carry greater consequence than ever before. Teams can no longer simply spend their way out of mistakes. A more severe luxury tax, a crushing repeater tax and annual restrictions on exceptions, plus other roster-building limitations are changing the way front offices think — and hire.

More organizations are looking out of the box to find new minds with new ideas from differing backgrounds to better evaluate talent. The Memphis Grizzlies last year hired then-ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger as vice president of basketball operations, a move straight out of baseball’s “Moneyball.”

Hollinger is a leader in the advanced statistical analysis movement increasingly carving out significant space in nearly every NBA front office. For all teams, and especially tight-fisted small market franchises like Memphis, determining the subtleties and nuances of a player’s game and how that player benefits the team structure, at what position, for how long and for how much is paramount to sustainability.

“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien said during the playoffs. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team.”

Last week, Yahoo! Sports reported that the San Antonio Spurs, one of the league’s legendary talent evaluating organizations, particularly internationally, dipped into the ESPN work force after hiring respected recruiting analyst Dave Telep. He worked as a senior analyst for the network and owns and operates Dave Telep Scouting Services. As a recruiting analyst, Telep watches more high school and college basketball in a year than most people will in three lifetimes.

He can provide the Spurs reams of information on the character and talent development of players across the United States from a young age, theoretically giving San Antonio an edge in future drafts. Think of the coming day when the Spurs’ Big Three really will ride off into the sunset and the organization will once again — gasp! — draft in the top 20 or even 15 and will be seeking a franchise-type player to remain relevant.

The longtime Mark Cuban-Donnie Nelson-led Dallas Mavericks didn’t raid ESPN this summer, but they did make a significant hire that underscores the critical nature of talent evaluation in today’s practically hard-capped NBA. Gersson Rosas was lured away from the Houston Rockets to take over as the Mavs’ general manager, a title vacated in 2005 by Don Nelson when he stepped aside as GM/coach.

“I think I bring a strong basketball evaluation perspective, a strong process-oriented focus,” Rosas said. “The responsibility that Mark’s given me is to support the positive things that are going here, evaluate the areas that we need to improve on and continue the efforts of the staff to improve that.”

Unlike Hollinger and Telep, Rosas, 35, did rise through an NBA front office — from video coordinator and scout with the Rockets to becoming the GM of the Rio Grande Vipers, Houston’s NBA D-League team that won two titles under his control.  Like Hollinger, Rosas is a proponent of cutting-edge analytics and technology as key player-evaluation tools. And like both men, Rosas was hired to implement his areas of expertise to strengthen Dallas’ talent evaluation processes.

In consecutive summers, Dallas did not land its top free-agent targets. They also don’t possess a base of young talent, leaving them a franchise in flux since shifting roster-building strategies following the 2011 championship and ratification of the new CBA. In chasing titles throughout the 2000s, Dallas often overspent to get players it wanted and used first-round picks as trade chips. Still, they’ve also missed badly on first-round selections such as Mo Ager (2006), Rodrigue Beaubois (2009), Dominique Jones (2010) and Jared Cunningham (2012).

With Dallas now looking up in the Western Conference, drafting well and finding the best-suited, most cost-effective free agents are imperative to building a sustainable roster. That was implied in the Mavs’ surprising hire of a rising, young executive to be their GM

“Where this team is, the focus on the draft, on trades and free agency is paramount, and we’ve got to make sure that our processes are thorough, that they’re very detailed and that we can make the best, educated decision that you can make,” Rosas said. “This isn’t the type of business where you bat a thousand. You want to make the right decisions for the right reasons. Sometimes, unfortunately, they won’t go your way, but we want to be prepared when all those opportunities present themselves.”

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster

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DALLAS –
 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers – Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”

Texas Two-Step For Dwight Starts Slow

HANG TIME, Texas — If the reports are true that the Rockets and the Mavericks are currently frontrunners in the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes, the race was more tortoise than hare on draft night with neither team opening any daylight.

After a week of speculation that they were trying to deal forward Thomas Robinson to clear salary cap space to make a maximum contract offer to Howard, the Rockets spent the night taking and making phone calls from around the league, but then settled on Isaiah Canaan with the 34th pick.

The talk all along was that the Rockets could get more in return for Robinson before or during the draft. But the team may have ultimately decided there was no reason to rush and trade away a young player who was the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft until they know for sure that it is necessary. In other words, if Howard is coming aboard, Robinson can be shipped out in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile the Mavericks traded down in the first round, dropping from 13th to 18th and came away with point guard Shane Larkin after dealing with Boston and Atlanta.

By moving down in the draft and moving last year’s top pick Jared Cunningham, Dallas will save $1.09 million in rookie scale salary for cap space to pursue Howard, while also adding a young point guard whom they believe could become a valuable part of rebuilding the team down the line. Of course, if Larkin’s $1.28 million first-year salary is needed to clear space for Howard, he should be easy enough for the Mavs to move.

Draft night was just a prelim on the undercard in the heavyweight intra-Texas battle that could take place if Howard does decide to bolt from the Lakers. All we saw were jabs. The haymakers before Howard’s July 10 big decision are still to come.

As Mavericks Flounder, Cuban Talks Of Drafting Baylor’s Griner?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Go ahead Dirk. Shave it off.

As Vince Carter said last week after the Dallas Mavericks’ first failed attempt to get back to .500, the beard brigade served its purpose, bringing this group of mostly one-year rentals closer and focused on making a run. To their credit they did. But now, as Carter also said, the hubbub surrounding their quest to finally shave after two months of battling to break even is — ahem — growing out of control.

To the point that the Indiana Pacers used Dallas’ planned post-game shave party with the now-famous Omar the Barber as motivation for their 25-point pounding of the Mavs last Thursday.

Still, Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas’ career lone superstar — looking half uni-bomber, half-Bill Walton ’77 — promised to abide by the non-shaving pact initiated by O.J. Mayo back in late January.

“We only have 10 games left,” Nowitzki said. “I’m not going to shave now.”

Now, with eight to go, it’s time. After Tuesday’s second failed attempt for .500, a 20-point road drubbing by the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas is 36-38 and essentially out of the chase for eighth, now a two-team race between the Lakers and Utah Jazz. Nowitzki, who had 33 points in an overtime win against the Clippers last Tuesday and 35 in Saturday’s miraculous comeback to beat the Bulls, fizzled in L.A. with just 11 points, appearing as old as the 45 years his mother said that beard makes him look.

There is no shame in the longtime face of the franchise opting for a shave. It will be refreshing, perhaps even a bit rejuvenating to see your still-youthful face again and finish out this lost season on a positive note.

Nowitzki’s 11-year All-Star run came to an end this season and he could suffer his first sub-.500 season since the turn of the century. Plus, he’s on the cusp of missing the postseason for the first time in 13 seasons, a remarkable run that only the Spurs can outdo, recently cinching a 16th consecutive playoff appearance.

The offseason promises to be a long one for Nowitzki, who turns 35 in June and who will wait and see how owner Mark Cuban again reshuffles the deck entering the final year of his contract.

Since winning the NBA title in 2011, the Mavs are 72-68 with a first-round sweep. He has grown weary of a makeshift roster and even questioned Cuban’s strategy earlier this season.

Surely Nowitzki didn’t take solace in Cuban’s comments Tuesday in Los Angeles that got him trending on Twitter. Cuban said he’d consider drafting giant of the women’s game, 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner.

It’s doubtful this is the star Nowitzki had in mind to join him for his twilight seasons.

Back in star-studded L.A., where he was filming the TV show “Shark Tank” last July when Deron Williams wondered why he wasn’t in his Manhattan living room, Cuban told reporters regarding Griner:

“Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.”

Perhaps Cuban saw the inevitable to come Tuesday night and figured he’d preempt Shaq’s big night and this beat-up, sub-standard Lakers team eventually demolishing of his Mavs by going headline hunting.

For one, Cuban has often talked about the heightened importance of the draft under the new collective bargaining agreement. Those more rigid, financially punishing set of rules convinced him to dismantle the 2011 title team, particularly by not re-signing Tyson Chandler and choosing to rebuild a contender through cap space and draft picks.

Dallas hasn’t hit on a draft pick since Josh Howard in 2003. Last June’s second-round pick, Jae Crowder, is the closest yet to becoming a contributing rotation player. Fellow second-round pick, 6-foot-10 former Air Force staff sergeant Bernard James, might tell Griner this gig isn’t so easy. First-round pick Jared Cunningham, a combo guard, has played a total of 26 minutes in a season the Mavs brought in Derek Fisher and then Mike James.

With free-agent star power this summer expected to stay where it is, and Dallas light on trade assets to acquire a rising impact player, the Mavs must find success in the draft — be it in the first round or the too-easily dismissed second round.

The Mavs need contributors, not marketing gimmicks. And that’s no shot at Griner, who dominated the women’s game and was recently described probably quite accurately by one Dallas radio commentator as the Wilt Chamberlain of women’s basketball.

But Griner can’t play in the NBA, and for Cuban to even suggest that he’d consider selecting her with a draft pick should only make the still-bearded, still-committed Nowitzki roll his eyes.

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 27

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: When we turned on League Pass last night at the home office and saw the Warriors-Pacers game on the dockett, we knew we had our pick for game of the night early on. Turns out, we were right. Although the final score reflects a bit of a one-sided affair, Indiana-Golden State turned out to be a dandy. Nothing like seeing two teams who are good-if-not-great at what they do: the Warriors on offense (with their No. 9 overall rated crew on that end) and the Pacers on defense (they’re No. 1 in defensive rating). Though a late Roy Hibbert-David Lee-Steph Curry scuffle became the storyline here, we enjoyed watching the Pacers take on one of the NBA’s best offenses and use its size and length to fluster anything the Warriors did around the basket.

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News of the morning

LeBron may end pregame dunk routines | Lopez delivers down stretch for NetsBucks suspend Dalembert | Buss once helped save Jazz | Rookie Cunningham may miss rest of season

LeBron’s dunking exhibitions may endAside from Harlem Shake videos, perhaps one of the bigger growing viral trends around the web are the pregame dunking exhibitions that Heat star LeBron James has been putting on. As he and his Miami comrades have — like the L.A. Clippers – been showing off their acrobatics in the warm-up lines, James often steals the show. Just check out this one he pulled off on the visiting Cavs two nights ago:

James isn’t too happy, though, with the flak he’s catching from those wondering why he won’t participate in the Slam Dunk Contest if he can pull off moves like this, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

James has been executing contest-worthy dunks during warmups, but has been unwilling throughout his career to participate in the league’s dunk contest during All-Star Weekend despite pressure from fans and former players.

“Maybe I should stop because it’s making a lot of people mad about what I do,” James said after he scored a season-high 40 points and had a career-high 16 assists in Tuesday’s double-overtime win against Sacramento. “They’re like, ‘Well, if you can do it in warmups, why don’t you (want to) be in the dunk contest? Stop it.’ “

James was in the act again before Tuesday’s game, when he lobbed the ball into the air, caught it off the bounce and shifted the ball between his legs before slamming it through the rim. The Heat have a reputation for late-arriving crowds, but more fans have filled into the arena’s lower bowl before games with cell phones or video recorders in hand waiting for James to take the court before games.

The Heat have started to stream video of James’ pregame dunks on the team’s official website, and owner Micky Arison has used Twitter to encourage fans to arrive to games early if they want to see the show James puts on.

James said Tuesday he wasn’t aware of how popular the routine has grown, because it’s something he’s always done. More Heat players have gotten involved, including Chris Andersen, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, who has been James’ stiffest competition of late.

“I’ve been hearing about it,” James said. “But I don’t really watch TV or go on the Internet too much. As a team, it’s kind of our new thing. I’ve had some good ones, but (Chalmers) doing a 360? That’s impressive. We have a little epidemic right now. It’s kind of like the Harlem Shake.”

Nets’ Lopez delivers in clutchNets coach P.J. Carlesimo has taken flak of late for his tendency to pull All-Star center Brook Lopez down the stretch of games. He changed things up last night and kept Lopez in the game down the stretch and the All-Star came through, hitting several clutch baskets to salt away the Nets’ win over the Hornets. It was a matchup of NBA brothers to boot as Brook Lopez took on his brother, Robin, in a game where the Lopez twins’ mother found rooting interest hard to come by, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“I’ve kept my confidence through this entire week,” Lopez said after finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks. “It’s definitely good to get a win like this, but I try not to put too much stock into one game. … It is a marathon and not a sprint.”

Perhaps it just took facing off against his twin brother Robin, the starting center for the Hornets, to get him back on track.

“It’s always fun,” Brook Lopez said of facing off against his twin, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. “[Robin’s] always very physical. Playing against him is enjoyable. … How many other people in the world get to experience something like this?”

The two brothers had a large cheering section in the stands, as their mom, Debbie Ledford, was cheering them on alongside their older brother, Alex, and his family.

Brook had said before the game his mom would be wearing either a Nets hat with a Hornets shirt or vice-versa, and she did exactly that, wearing a black Nets hat to go with a black Hornets T-shirt.

“It’s difficult, because they play the same position, they play the same minutes,” Ledford told The Post. “So, if anything happens, they kind of cancel out each other out. … One is successful at the expense of the other.

“All I hope is that they both have good games, but it’s difficult. You can’t choose which team you want to win.”

Bucks’ Dalembert suspended vs. MavsThis hasn’t been the best season in veteran big man Samuel Dalembert‘s career. On the court, he’s averaging his lowest scoring (7.0 ppg), rebounding (5.8 rpg) and minutes average (16.7 mpg) since his rookie season. Off it in Milwaukee, he dealt with an icy relationship with former coach Scott Skiles (read more here). Maybe his problems can’t be traced solely to Skiles, though, as he was suspended last night for a pattern of behavior, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:

Bucks general manager John Hammond announced Dalembert was suspended for one game without pay due to a violation of team policy.

Bucks coach Jim Boylan said the suspension was due to a pattern of behavior rather than one specific incident.

“Everybody on the team, players, coaches, staff, they have certain responsibilities to the team,” Boylan said in his pre-game remarks. “When those responsibilities aren’t met, there are consequences.

“So Sam has not met some of those and the consequence is he is suspended for tonight’s game.”

Dalembert has been serving as the primary backup to starting center Larry Sanders.

Boylan said “it’s more of a pattern” when referring to the reason for the suspension. “It reached a point where something needed to be done, so we decided this was the appropriate action to take,” he said.

Former Bucks coach Scott Skiles benched Dalembert in the Nov. 24 home game against Chicago due to a lateness issue and started Przybilla at center. Dalembert did not play at all in the game but returned to the lineup when the Bucks played in Chicago two nights later.

Dalembert said later it was a “misunderstanding.”

“Coach said there were certain times to be there, and I was in the building,” Dalembert said in November. “I thought it was a little harsh. My team could have used me out there.

“That was the punishment. Nobody told me nothing before the game. So I found out the next day. If there’s a miscommunication and a misunderstanding … everybody misunderstands stuff but we communicate.

Lakers’ Buss helped Jazz stay putBack in the mid-1980s, the Utah Jazz were a mostly fledgling franchise whose future in Salt Lake City seemed iffy. In fact, the city of Miami was interested in buying and moving the team there in 1985. That year, nine different owners were in line in Salt Lake City to buy the team from Sam Battistone, with one of the potential owners being the late Larry Miller. Miller was the Jazz’s owner from 1985 until his passing in 2009 as Utah experienced tremendous success during the John Stockton-Karl Malone era. But had it not been for Lakers owner Jerry Buss during a 1985 NBA Board of Governors meeting, writes Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz might have been Miami’s team:

According to the late Larry Miller, Buss played an undeniable role in keeping the Jazz from moving to Miami in 1985.

When Miller wanted to buy 50 percent of the team, Buss stood up for him during a Board of Governors meeting in New York City.

Without the support, the board might have rejected Miller’s ownership bid, which would have left the door open for a buyer from Miami to purchase the franchise.

Nine groups, apparently, stood in line to buy the franchise from owner Sam Battistone before Miller joined the battle to keep it in Utah.

Battistone was seeking limited partners, but Miller didn’t think that approach wouldn’t work.

He believed Battistone needed one partner, not several, and stepped forward with an $8 million offer to become co-owner.

Even though Miami bid $20 million for the franchise, Battistone accepted Miller’s offer because he also wanted the team to remain in Utah.

At that point, Miller went to the Board of Governors, seeking approval for his ownership bid. Atlanta’s Ted Turner attended the meeting. So did Jerry West, Red Auerbach and David Stern, the NBA’s new commissioner.

When Miller began his presentation, San Antonio’s Angelo Drossos quickly emerged as a skeptic.

Drossos started questioning Miller, often interrupting before he could finish his response.

“After the fifth interruption, Buss, who I had never met, interrupted Angelo,” Miller recalled. “He said, ‘Angelo, why don’t you shut up and let him answer a question?’ “

Then, Buss “started asking questions that led to a discussion of my numbers. … Within half an hour, Jerry said, ‘I’m satisfied. Let’s go with him.’ “

After Buss’ endorsement, Miller quickly became co-owner of the Jazz.

“Jerry saved me that day,” Miller wrote.

Mavs’ Cunningham may be done for seasonRookie Jared Cunningham has only appeared in just eight games for the Mavericks this season, spending much of 2012-13 as a member of Dallas’ NBA D-League club, the Texas Legends. He’s suffering from tendinitis in his knee and is already setting his sights on playing again in 2013-14, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: 

The No. 24 overall pick said Tuesday that he’s suffering from tendinitis in his right knee and is going to be out “for a while.” He said his sights already have been set toward the 2013-14 season.

“My goal is to be completely ready for summer league,” Cunningham said. “I want to get my body back to the way it was in college so I have my athleticism.”

Coach Rick Carlisle said it was critical that Cunningham get healthy.

“I wouldn’t call it a lost season,” Carlisle said. “He’s gotten a lot of work in, and he’s gotten a fair amount of experience and he now understands what an NBA season is about. But we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to make sure he gets healthy. And we’ll go from there.”

The Oregon State product’s start in the NBA was derailed when a hamstring kept him out of the summer league. From there, a thumb injury and knee issue flared up.

Now, Cunningham will stay with the Mavericks and work on conditioning his right knee. He was walking with a slight limp after shootaround.

“It’s best that I stay here and take advantage of everything they have to help my rehab,” Cunningham said. “It’s been a tough year. But I’m looking forward to getting right for the summer.”

ICYMI of the night: This Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin alley-oop is only No. 4 on our nightly Top 10 countdown, but it’s No. 1 in our hearts around here …:

Mavs Release Fisher At His Request

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — Derek Fisher, signed by the Dallas Mavericks just after Thanksgiving, didn’t make it to Christmas.

The Mavs announced Saturday that they waived the 38-year-old point guard just two days after he strained his right patellar tendon. The knee injury, which the team did not believe to be serious, is not the reason the team let him go. Fisher, who instantly took over as the starting point guard ahead of Darren Collison, asked to be released to return to his family in Los Angeles.

A league source said that when Fisher signed with Dallas in late November, he had a handshake agreement with Mavs owner Mark Cuban that he would be granted his release if Fisher deemed it necessary due to his family situation. The personal family reason for Fisher’s departure is not clear.

While playing for the Utah Jazz in 2007, Fisher’s infant daughter Tatum suffered from retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer of the eye. Fisher’s journey from a New York hospital, where Tatum had a tumor removed, to Salt Lake City to return for a playoff game, was well-chronicled and became the heartwarming story of the postseason.

When Fisher completed his first practice with the Mavs on Nov. 30, he did not sound like a man with concerns that could drag him away from a 17th season after he was not signed by a team during the offseason.

“I told the guys today, ‘This is not a pit stop. This is not kind of the final whatever before I decide to retire soon,’ ” Fisher said. “I’m here to give everything I have to help this team right now and continue to build as we go through this season.”

On Saturday, Fisher issued a statement that said the knee injury will keep him out at approximately two weeks and  coupled with the “the difficulty I have been having being away from my family, I have asked the organization to waive me so I can return home.”

Fisher praised Cuban for his support and for granting his release. He also thanked coach Rick Carlisle and his Mavs teammates: “I have made decisions in the past, leaving money and opportunity on the table, and I will need to do that again. My family is my priority and that is where I choose to be. I won’t close the possibility that I will play again, however for now my family and being close to them remains the priority.”

It leaves the Mavs where they were 14 games into the season when Carlisle opted to bench Collison and the Mavs decided to sign Fisher. The Mavs were 7-7 at the time and now stand at 12-15 entering Sunday’s game at San Antonio.

Dallas waived Delonte West prior to the season and have used Dominique Jones behind Collison. Roddy Beaubois, once considered a point guard of the future, has mostly been buried at the end of the bench.

The Mavs have had a revolving door since West’s release. They’ve signed and then subsequently released Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy and Fisher.

To fill Fisher’s roster spot, the Mavs will sign D-League Texas Legends guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. He will be in uniform at San Antonio. The 6-foot-7 Roberts has averaged 22.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 11 games. He is being re-called over first-round draft pick Jared Cunningham.

Adding Fisher Illustrates Mavs’ Deep Flaws At Point Guard

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Mavericks officials were quick to pump up Darren Collison‘s confidence upon trading for him in July, saying they had him “penciled” in as the the starting point guard after he lost his Indiana starting job late last season.

Well, they’ve picked up the eraser, so to speak, with coach Rick Carlisle’s announcement Wednesday night that the club is turning to the steadying hand of 38-year-old and previously out-of-work Derek Fisher. Dallas made it official Thursday afternoon.

After a fast start, Collison’s building demise – shrinking shooting percentages (43.8 overall, 31.6 on 3s), rising turnover rate (2.53/game) and turnstile defense — convinced Carlisle he’d seen enough to bench him Friday at Philadelphia after just 14 games — all without the benefit of playing with Dirk Nowitzki – and to do so without a more reliable replacement option than two-year bench-warmer Dominique Jones.

A sprained right middle finger sustained in the Philly loss kept Collison out of Wednesday’s ugly defeat at Chicago, Dallas’ eighth in the last 11 games to fall to 7-9. Afterward, Carlisle announced the agreement with Fisher by saying: “We need help at the point-guard position. It’s challenging for us. I don’t see (Fisher) as a cure-all, but he can help.”

Carlisle certainly seemed to suggest that the five-time champ with the Lakers will hop off the street and into the starting lineup:

“I loved the way he played in Philly,” Carlisle was quoted in the Dallas Morning News, noting Collison’s high-energy performance off the bench. “I think that’s a great role for him right now. I think Fisher can help us as a starter. This is a great opportunity for Darren to develop into a true starting point guard in this league.

“I really like Darren Collison as a player, and I like him even better as a person. But putting him in a position to be the starter on this team right now isn’t fair to him. With Derek coming in, it’s a great opportunity for Darren to learn from one of the greatest winners in the history of the game.”

The pending Fisher addition not only illustrates Collison’s frustrating inconsistency this first month, but the Mavs’ overall dire situation at the position, one turned down by Deron Williams and then stunningly vacated by Jason Kidd.

Dallas waived its best on-court talent Delonte West before the season because of recurring issues off the court deemed detrimental to the team. Rodrigue Beaubois has been so disappointing that he’s out of the rotation and 24th-overall pick Jared Cunningham hasn’t seen the light of day.

To add Fisher, the Mavs waived forward Troy Murphy, who signed a non-guaranteed deal on Nov. 2. Murphy is the third player the transitioning Mavs have cut in the last month, including West and center Eddy Curry.

Dallas not been as many as two games under .500 this deep into a season since Carlisle’s first campaign in 2008-09. In a congested and competitive Western Conference, they’re desperately seeking stability in Nowitzki’s absence and as a road-heavy schedule stiffens.

Mavs Could Still Look To West

HANG TIME, Texas – They were not able to reel in their No. 1 free agent target Deron Williams and they watched future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd escape to New York.

But the Mavericks, with spaces to fill on their roster, are still hoping to fill one of them with guard Delonte West.

Despite a finger injury that forced him to miss one-third of the 66-game post-lockout schedule and that bizarre delivering of a “wet willie” to Utah’s Gordon Hayward back in April, West was a far more solid addition to the Dallas lineup last season than, say, Lamar Odom and could help while Darren Collison and rookie Jared Cunningham learn the offense.

“We’ve got 15 spots and 13 players are under contract,’’ general manager Donnie Nelson told fishbowlradionetwork.com on Monday. “We’ve got a little work to do yet, hopefully Delonte will slide into one of those spots.

“If that’s the case that’ll be great.’’

And if that’s not the case?

“There’s also an argument for keeping that last roster spot open, because sometimes you get lucky towards the end of the summer,’’ Nelson said. “That’s probably how we’ll play it up, unless something really good presents itself.

“We’re still in negotiations with his agent and we’re hopeful that we can work something out,’’ Nelson said. “Obviously he’s got options and he’s got to sort through those.

“Some of those are timing issues there. We’ve just got to continue to negotiate and talk and see if there’s a fit there.’’ (more…)

Draft Night Redux: No Blockbusters?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We waited all night on that blockbuster deal, only to walk away from another Draft night without any of the rumored mega deals taking place.

(Houston, we have a problem … and it includes that red and white No. 12 Dwight Howard jersey  that won’t get worn this season)

That’s fine, we’re just hours away from the start of free agency. And the Draft class of 2012 offered up plenty of mild surprises (Dion Waiters to Cleveland with the fourth overall pick, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III lasting until near the end of the first round, etc.), as always.

Ah, the joy of the Draft night drama that was …

BERNARD JAMES, AMERICAN HERO!

It’s not often the 33rd pick in any draft absolutely steals the show from the other 59 guys selected. But Florida State’s Bernard James got the loudest roar from the crowd in Newark last night.

(more…)