Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Dalembert’

One Team, One Stat: Mavericks Shoot Bad Shots Well

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Dallas Mavericks, who are, once again, putting new pieces around Dirk Nowitzki.

The basics
DAL Rank
W-L 41-41 17
Pace 96.2 8
OffRtg 103.6 11
DefRtg 104.0 20
NetRtg -0.4 16

The stat

32.7 - Percentage of their shots that the Mavs took from the restricted area or the corners, the lowest rate in the league.

The context

Shots from the restricted area and in the corners are the two most efficient shots on the floor, both worth about 1.2 points per shot across the league last season.

The Mavs have been unique in passing them up and mostly getting away with it. With Dirk Nowitzki leading the way, they’ve been a good and high-volume mid-range shooting team. And they had a top-10 offense for 12 straight years, beginning with Nowitzki’s second season in the league and ending with their championship season in 2010-11.

The season after the lockout, the Mavs fell to 20th offensively, but were still a top-five mid-range shooting team. The same was true again last season, but they had very little scoring inside. Shawn Marion‘s 188 baskets in the restricted area led the team, but ranked 63rd in the league. And in addition to Nowitzki (437/62), they had two bigs — Elton Brand (206/133) and Chris Kaman (296/193) — that took more mid-range shots than shots from the restricted area.

Both guys can knock ‘em down, and it certainly pays to have bigs who can step outside and shoot. But while there’s a positive correlation between offensive efficiency and mid-range shooting percentage, there’s a stronger negative correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of shots you take from mid-range.

Mavs shooting by area, 2012-13

Area FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 60.9% 12 27.1% 29
Other paint 42.7% 3 17.8% 3
Mid-range 42.2% 3 31.4% 8
Corner 3 36.5% 23 5.6% 20
Above-break 3 38.0% 2 17.8% 11

Basically, it’s good if you can shoot 2-point jumpers well, but it’s bad if you depend on them too much. As we learned from Evan Turner, even if you shoot mid-range shots well, you can be more efficient by taking better shots.

The following video is from an April 2 game in L.A., one the Mavs really needed to have a shot at making the playoffs (they were just a game in the loss column behind the Lakers at the time). They shot a decent 42.4 percent from mid-range, but those shots accounted for 33 of their 81 shots (41 percent) . They took just 15 shots in the restricted area, just four from the corners, and just 12 free throws. So, even though their shooting wasn’t awful, they got held to 81 points by what was a below-average defensive team.


The Mavs were one of three teams — Cleveland and New York were the others — that shot better on above-the-break 3-pointers than they did on corner threes last year. So again, they shot the bad shots (above-the-break threes being bad relative to corner threes) well.

But that’s probably not sustainable. And the guy that led the Mavs with 64 attempts (71st in the league) from the corners was O.J. Mayo, who is now in Milwaukee.

It’s another fascinating supporting cast that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have brought in this season. Monta Ellis ranked ninth in the league with 475 mid-range shots last season, and shot them worse than anyone else in the top 20. Jose Calderon, meanwhile, was one of the best mid-range shooters in the league and also a great 3-point shooter, but doesn’t shoot from the corners much.

Devin Harris will get to the rim, and there’s no worry about DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert taking too many jump shots. But neither big will dominate down low .

More important will be how the bigs defend. After ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency each of the previous two seasons, the Mavs ranked 20th defensively last season. (Not breaking news: Kaman is neither Tyson Chandler nor Brendan Haywood on that end.)

If Nowitzki is healthy all season, the Mavs should be OK offensively. And they can be better than OK if they find ways to get better shots.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Davis impressing in preseason | Dalembert redeems himself vs. Grizzlies | Heat’s Chalmers slims down for three-peat bid

No. 1: Pelicans’ Davis drawing shining in preseasonPelicans big man Anthony Davis hit the gym hard in the offseason, working to develop his offensive game and adding more weight to his slight frame. It appears all that work is paying off — at least in the preseason, anyway — as Davis has put together a couple of solid performances and stood out in New Orleans’ win over Orlando last night, writes John Reid of The Times-Picayune:

He’s better – much better – after spending nearly all of the off-season working to improve his offensive game. He’s got a go-to jump hook shot now, can pull-up from 18 feet and effortlessly make jumpers and still soars for dunks when he has an open lane to the basket.

He put everything on display Wednesday night and carried the Pelicans to a 99-95 victory against the Orlando Magic that improved their record to 3-0 in the preseason.

Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, finished with a game high 29 points on nine-of-20 shooting in front 9,274 at the Veterans Memorial Arena. With that kind of performance, Davis, 20, appears to be ready for regular season to begin …

“I’ve been in the gym with some of the coaches working on my stuff and I’m just trying to put it to use,” Davis said. “I know it’s preseason, but we’re trying to send a message that we’re trying to be one of those top tier teams in the West.”

“He’s only scratching the surface, he’s going to get better,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “He has a way to go and he has to continue to work. He’s got to get better talking on defense and understand how physical teams are playing against him and reacting to that. But what I thought he did well in the third quarter was get to the line.”

Davis came in averaging 23 points after the first two preseason games. He had a 25-point performance in Monday night’s 94-92 victory against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I’m confident in my game and all the work that I put in,” Davis said. “There’s no point putting in work over the summer if you’re not going to use it. So I’m just going out here seeing where I’m most comfortable with. I like catching the ball in the block or on the floor and I just going out there exploring my game.”

***

No. 2: Dalembert raises his stock with play vs. GrizzShotblocking big man Samuel Dalembert didn’t get off to a great start with the Mavericks in his first preseason game, drawing the ire of coach Rick Carlisle for being out of shape. But he turned things around with his performance against the Grizzlies in his second preseason game and drew some praise from Carlisle instead, writes Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

During Wednesday’s 95-90 triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedEx Forum that squared the Mavs’ preseason record at 1-1, Dalembert collected 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He was 4 of 6 from the field while committing two turnovers in 20 minutes.

That’s a far cry better than the egg Dalembert laid against the Pelicans when he finished with four points, two rebounds and four turnovers in only 11 minutes. And it’s certainly what the Mavs expected from Dalembert when they signed him to a two-year, $7.5 million free agent contract this summer.

“I’ve been working on getting the strength in my back just back to where I’m capable of being [a factor],” Dalembert said. “I’ve been active and moving and feeling good, and today I felt much better.”

Dalembert still has to work on staying out of foul trouble.

Against the Pelicans, the Mavs’ pivot-man picked up three fouls in the first period and had his fourth 8 seconds into the third quarter. Against the Grizzlies, he was charged with only one foul in the first half, but inexplicably was charged for three more quick fouls with 10:06 remaining in the third period.

Still, the Mavs were thoroughly pleased with Dalembert.

“He did a terrific job and he carried the momentum of a really terrific practice [Tuesday] into tonight,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The biggest thing is he was in position all night, his length was a major factor, he rebounded, and he’s getting more in-tune to what we’re doing.”

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No. 3: Slimmer Chalmers ready for season — Normally, we leave the offseason weight loss/weight gain news to Lang Whitaker over on the All Ball Blog with his MUSCLEWATCH posts. But since this one came after the MUSCLEWATCH deadline, we’ll handle it here. Apparently, Heat point guard Mario Chalmers managed to lose 10 pounds in one week and is feeling quicker and more spry as Miami gears up for a three-peat bid, writes Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

The bet: lose 10 pounds in a week.

No problem for Chalmers, who completed the task with ease to answer the challenge of his future Hall of Fame teammates. The finished product has Chalmers in the best shape of his career entering his sixth season.

“[The bet] started with Ray [Allen],” Chalmers said. “Ever since then, I just got a little extra push. I’ve just been working harder. We wanted to three-peat. They all said, ‘We need you to be the head of the team, you need to be in tip-top shape and we need you to lead by example.’ “

The weight loss was overshadowed during training camp because of Allen’s physique gaining all the attention. Chalmers, too, put in the offseason work. He eliminated fried foods and soda from his diet, dining more on salads.

“I feel a lot faster. It helps me get to different spaces on the court and small cracks easier. [Losing the weight] was more of a conscious thing of winning, helping the team. It wasn’t an individual bet but what can I do to help the team get better.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Gregg Popovich thinks foreign coaches could succeed in the NBA … Rookie Steven Adams is showing some nice polish in the preseason, but what’s wrong with Jeremy Lamb? … Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey is planning to have some extensive dental work soon …

ICYMI of the night: One thing Vince Carter has always been able to do in his career is score. That much was true last night as well as he gets this ridiculous circus shot to fall against the Grizz

Work Put In, Dirk Hopes Knee Responds

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DALLAS –
Dirk Nowitzki, the last NBA Finals MVP before LeBron James dug in his heels, didn’t spend his Dallas Mavericks Media Day on Monday taking questions about which uniform he’ll choose to wear a year from now.

For Nowitzki, who turned 35 and became a first-time dad this summer, being in the final year of his contract won’t cause much of a national or even a local stir. He’ll turn 36 next June and he’s consistently made it clear, with only rare fits of hesitation, that his passion and his priority is and always will be the Mavs.

Last season, though, could have easily beckoned self-doubt about the direction the franchise is heading. It was a waste both individually for the perennial All-Star and collectively for a franchise that for a decade only talked about contention in terms of titles. He underwent the first knee surgery of his career last October, missed more games than ever before and failed to make the All-Star team for the first time in 11 seasons. The Mavs, an odd collection of free agents on one-year deals, finished .500 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Entering his 16th season, Nowitzki will need all of his daughter’s little piggies to count the number of new teammates he has as Dallas regrouped from missing out on Dwight Howard by again re-tooling with another batch of free agents that includes Jose CalderonMonta Ellis, Devin Harris and Samuel Dalembert. Last season eight new players joined the team. This season it’s nine.

Without Nowitzki at full health, the Mavs have no chance. So paramount on everybody’s mind in Big D is how Nowitzki’s right knee is faring after his workaholic summer, one that did not include the usual international basketball and was spent mostly in Dallas with head athletic trainer Casey Smith working to strengthen the knee for what could be, but almost positively won’t be, his last in a Mavericks uniform.

“I did a lot of work this summer and hopefully the body will respond right the first couple of days in camp and stay healthy and go from there,” Nowitzki said. Dallas opens training camp Tuesday with two practices.

He uses the qualifier “hopefully” because he can’t totally trust the knee. Not yet. He said last year it felt great, too, as camp opened. Then quickly came the irritation and swelling that forced a closer look and ultimately arthroscopic surgery. He didn’t play his first game until late December and the real Dirk, albeit one admittedly still lacking a consistent burst to put the ball on the floor at the elbow, didn’t surface until February.

“That’s the problem. Last year I felt good as well,” Nowitzki said. “I put a lot of work in last summer, I lifted and just kind of a freaky thing in Barcelona, first couple days of two-a-days, my knee started to swell up. But I had no indication before that.”

Nowitzki said he got back to work in May, the earliest he had started training for a season in a “long, long time.” Coach Rick Carlisle called Nowitzki’s summer training a “phenomenally conscientious summer with his workouts.”

That’s good news for a spoiled fan base that hasn’t quite figured out what to make of the last two disappointing seasons and the free-agent misses (Deron Williams and Howard) that followed. Many observers expect Dallas again to be on the outside looking in come April, and it’s hard to find any prognostications that land the Mavs higher than a seventh or eighth seed.

The season after winning the title, Nowitzki’s Mavs were the No. 7 seed and were swept in the first round by Oklahoma City. Nowitzki had never been swept out of the playoffs. Prior to that season, his teams had finished as low as the seventh seed just once (2008), and were the fifth seed or higher in nine of 12 consecutive postseasons.

“This is serious business. It’s been a tough couple of years for him,” Carlisle said. “The ‘12 season was dicey with the knee thing [soreness early in the lockout season that forced him out for a week] and then coming into last year it seemed like it was OK. Then all of a sudden in Barcelona we’re sitting there before the game and the thing puffed up.

“He’s a guy that has such love and respect for the game and such pride in his own performing and taking responsibility for winning and losing with this franchise that he knows how important his health is to his game and our game, and all of us in this room and all of our fans. This is serious business and his effort has completely matched up with the level of importance.”

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.”

Top 10 Stat Lines of 2012-13

By Jonathan Hartzell, for NBA.com

If you look near the benches after every timeout, and especially after each game, you will see a floor littered with stat sheets. Usually these white pieces of paper show pretty unremarkable lines for players and instead are used to gauge the team as a whole. But on some nights, individual stat lines stand out from the rest and allow us to see who is truly outstanding.

Here are the top 10 stat lines of the 2012-13 season:

10. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

December 16, 2012 vs. New Orleans Hornets – 11 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 blocks

 

A 5/5/5/5/5 stat line is incredibly rare in the NBA, with it only occurring 15 times since the 1985-86 season. But the feat Batum accomplished against the New Orleans Hornets of 10/10/5/5/5 is an even more uncommon stat line with Jamal Tinsley in 2001 being the only other time it has occurred. Batum is the prototypical player to accomplish this type of box score with his all-around game which allows him to have the length to block shots as well as the speed to steal. The Trail Blazers won the game 95-94 over the Hornets thanks to a game-winning jumper from Damian Lillard.

9. Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee Bucks

February 5, 2013 at Denver Nuggets – 35 points, 12 rebounds, 17-21 FG

 

This game came out of nowhere for Dalembert. The Bucks big man saw only six minutes of playing time in the Milwaukee’s previous game and the only reason he got into this game against the Nuggets was early foul trouble to Larry Sanders. But Dalembert jumped on his opportunity and exploded for 35 points on 17-of-21 shooting. He made his first nine shots and finished the first half with 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Dalembert did a great job, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger fluke game from anyone this season.  The Nuggets beat the Bucks 112-104.

8. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

April 2, 2013 at Miami Heat – 50 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds on 18-26 FG and 7-10 3P

 

Anthony put on a scoring show against the Miami Heat, who were without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in early April. This game could be higher on the list if Anthony collected stats in anything else besides points, but he didn’t. It was Anthony’s third 50-point game of his career and his first since 2011. The Knicks defeated the Heat 102-90.

7. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

December 31, 2012 vs. Miami Heat – 20 points, 29 rebounds (11 off., 18 def.), 2 blocks, 3 steals

 

The last day of 2012 was a special one for Vucevic as he became the first player to score 20 points, grab at least 29 rebounds, and block 2 shots since Dikembe Mutombo in 2011, and only the fifth player to do it since 1985-86. This feat becomes even more special when you factor in that Vucevic is just 22 years old. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him put up lines similar to this more often as his career progresses. The Heat defeated the Magic 112-110.

6. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

December 4, 2012 vs. Phoenix Suns – 38 points, 22 rebounds, 3 blocks, 15-22 FG, 8-8 FT

 

This was the only game Randolph reached the 30-point mark all season and he decided to also grab 22 rebounds while he was at it. He is only the third player to accomplish this box score of at least 38 points, 22 rebounds, and 3 blocks since 1985-86 and his 15-of-22 shooting was the best shooting night of his career. The Grizzlies beat the Suns by a score of 108-98.

5. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

January 18, 2013 at Dallas Mavericks – 52 points, 9 rebounds, 21-21 FT

 

52 points is special, but what Durant did at the free-throw line is what’s incredibly rare about this box score. A perfect night from the stripe with more than 21 attempts has occurred just two other times since 1963-64. Even though Durant benefited from the game going into overtime, his ability to draw fouls and consistently connect at the line is a rare combination. Durant led the league in free-throw percentage last season at 90.5 percent while also being second in free-throw attempts. The Thunder beat the Mavericks 117-114 in overtime.

4. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

March 6, 2013 at New Orleans Hornets – 42 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 14-21 FG

 

Bryant has collected at least 40 points and 12 assists only twice in his Hall-of-Fame career. And he did it in back-to-back games last season. The first occurrence was this game against the Hornets, where Bryant erupted to score 13 of his 42 points during a 20-0 run to lead the Lakers back from a 25-point deficit. He played like classic Kobe and forced many to momentarily forget the disappointment of the Lakers’ 2012-13 season. The Lakers defeated the Hornets 108-102.

3. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

February 28, 2013 vs. Philadelphia 76ers – 23 points, 21 rebounds, 11 blocks

 

Take a moment to look back at Noah’s box score again. A 20-20 game is impressive in itself, but you get an historic box score when you also add in 11 blocks. This 20-20-10 feat has been accomplished by only Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Shawn Bradley, and, now, Noah since 1985-86. And of that group, Noah blew them all away in shooting percentage as he went 8-of-12 shooting and 7-of-9 from the line. As Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game, “He was spectacular.” The Bulls beat the 76ers 93-82.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

February 27, 2013 at New York Knicks – 54 points, 11-13 3P, 7 assists, 6 rebounds

 

This could easily be labeled as the game which Stephen Curry emerged as a star in the NBA. His 54 points is the fifth highest scoring game for an opposing player in Madison Square Garden and the four players in front of him are a special group: Michael Jordan, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bryant. And none of those four players also recorded 7 assists during their scoring outburst. He was simply in another zone and it was a privilege to watch. This box score would be No. 1 if the Warriors did not lose the game to the Knicks 109-105.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat

February 26, 2013 vs. Sacramento Kings – 40 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds, 14-23 FG

 

The most incredible thing about this box score from James is it doesn’t seem too remarkable for his standards. However, a stat line of 40 points with at least 16 assists and 8 rebounds had never occurred in the NBA before this game. James benefited from his opponent being the hapless Kings along with teammate Dwyane Wade pouring in 39 points. But neither of those factors should diminish the remarkable statistics he collected in late February to help the Heat beat the Kings 141-129.

Ellis Gives Dallas A Badly Needed Jolt

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks finally appear to have their big-name free agent and Monta Ellis finally gets his big contract.

Only neither is as big as originally hoped. The Mavs dearly wanted Dwight Howard. He’s in Houston. Ellis opted out of $11 million with the Milwaukee Bucks for one final season. He didn’t find the market he expected. Now he’s headed to Dallas for a reported three years at between $25 million and $30 million.

He joins a roster under extreme reconstruction that, at the moment, is stacked with newcomers in the backcourt. The athletic, volume-shooting Ellis figures to start at shooting guard next to high-IQ point guard Jose Calderon, who signed on for four years and $29 million. Dallas will pay those two around $15 million next season.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the Ellis agreement. Stein also reported that the three-year deal that Devin Harris (who has dislocated toe) and Dallas agreed to has been shelved.

Sixth man Vince Carter is the lone returnee and only producer from last season’s train-wreck backcourt. He enters the final year of his deal at $3.2 million.

Dallas also brought in guards Wayne Ellington on a two-year deal, plus rookie free agent Gal Mekel and draft picks Shane Larkin (who will miss possibly three months with ankle injury) and Ricky Ledo. After realizing top free agents (Deron Williams last summer and now Howard) weren’t enamored with a thin roster that wasn’t winning any trades either, the Mavs are in the asset acquisition business.

It’s a different approach than the last two offseasons when owner Mark Cuban sought short-term bang for his buck, and consistently said he would save his money for foundation-type players. Perhaps the Mavs now believe that the 27-year-old Ellis, who has played in two postseasons in his eight-year career, is one. He was certainly the last remaining “impact” free agent on the market.

At the moment, eight of the 12 players Dallas has or soon expects to have under contract are guards. Talk about going small-ball. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder fill the forward position and second-year center Bernard James, a low-minute player when he got off the bench, is the only big man in the middle.

That has to change, although how is the big question considering the Mavs’ cap situation. Dallas remains in pursuit of stop-gap veteran Samuel Dalembert (a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee could be an option) and they’ve been in discussions with their own hybrid forward-center Brandan Wright. Elton Brand also remains a possibility.

The agreement with Ellis seemed unlikely just a couple days ago when president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said he didn’t expect more backcourt additions. With all eyes focused on the depleted center position, Ellis did perk up a fan base wondering where the franchise was headed after missing out on Howard a week ago.

Ellis doesn’t turn the summer around for the Mavs, but he does bring with him some needed swag back to Big D. The roster had been virtually bare of playmaking electricity. He gives Dallas excitement, if not also unpredictability, and he’ll happily fill the role as the second — and sometimes lead scorer — the Mavs so desperately need next to Nowitzki.

The 6-foot-3 Ellis averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.0 apg sharing the backcourt in Milwaukee last season with Brandon Jennings. He shot just 41.6 percent overall and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc, but he can light it up on any given night and seemed to have a knack for fireworks when he played Dallas.

A rim protector must be on the way, though, or the Mavs’ defensive standing at No. 27 in scoring (101.7 ppg) last season could get worse. Ellis’ defensive efficiency last season benefited from the Bucks’ swat machine Larry Sanders. Ellis consistently ranks high in steals, but his overall defensive prowess is not considered a strong suit, and starting next to Calderon could cause coach Rick Carlisle to go completely bald.

The Mavs aren’t done massaging their roster. Friday at least provided a jolt and a little more intrigue for a proud franchise that was quickly looking lottery-bound for a second consecutive season.

Bucks Tunneling Way Out Of Mediocrity

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Milwaukee fans finish flipping through their “Half-Season In Review: 2012-13″ to relive their favorite J.J. Redick moments with the Bucks – it won’t take long – they can start calculating the true haul from trading away promising young forward Tobias Harris, guards Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih along with cash to Orlando not quite 4 1/2 months ago.

That won’t take long, either. With Redick headed to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Phoenix’s Jared Dudley, per Yahoo! Sports’ report Tuesday afternoon, and the Suns acquiring Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler in the deal, the Bucks’ participation in the sign-and-trade portion with Redick earned them two second-round picks.

That’s it.

Which means that the package of players and money sent to Orlando in the deal that delivered Redick leaves Milwaukee now with guard Ish Smith, forward Gustavo Ayon and 28 games in which Redick, employed for his shooting, was about as inaccurate as at any point in his career.

He shot 40.3 percent for the Bucks, second only to his 39.1 in 2008-09 with Orlando, and his 31.8 percent from 3-point range dragged his career mark down to 39.0. Never getting into rhythm in a backcourt that already had issues with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Redick’s game slipped across the board. He also chafed with Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan near the end of the eighth-seeded team’s odd spit-out-the-bit season (4-16 after March 19, including the first-round sweep by Miami).

Even if Redick had thrived, he wasn’t returning to the Bucks. He wanted more money, and more opportunity to win, than they would or could offer. So salvaging two second-round picks was, well, something.

But it continued a week in which the Bucks are waving a white flag on their recent history of plucky mediocrity. The Jennings-Ellis backcourt is kaput; one or both of the shoot-first guards will be gone via free agency, Ellis after opting out of an $11 million deal for next season, Jennings if the offer sheet he signs runs too rich for Milwaukee’s blood.

Also, general manager John Hammond just took the youngest player in last week’s Draft, grabbing 18-year-old Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15. Hammond raved about Big G’s almost limitless upside but no one expects him to help much on the floor next season. Center Samuel Dalembert will play elsewhere next season – he was in coach Scott Skiles’ doghouse before Skiles exited in January – and so will swingman Mike Dunleavy, a veteran backup who hit almost 43 percent of his 3-pointers in 2012-13 but is headed to the Bulls.

In drafting Antetokounmpo, Hammond talked of what really is a reality check for a team such as Milwaukee. “How are we going to get our next All-Star?” the GM said. The implication was that, no, the Bucks aren’t going to land marquee free agents. So they’ve got to rely on drafts and trades.

Or maybe just drafts, because this trade stuff – Harris was given all of 70 games to develop and still won’t turn 21 until July 15 – is looking a little shaky now too. The level-headed product of Tennessee averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 36.1 minutes in 27 games for the Magic.

If there’s a silver lining in Milwaukee aligning itself with Philadelphia, Boston and others already focused on the 2014 draft, it is this: Those rumors over the weekend about the Bucks’ interest in New York free agent J.R. Smith should stay mere rumors. Even if Milwaukee were ready to challenge for a top seed in the East, Smith would be a bad idea, a flashback through John Salmons, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and even Bobby Simmons rolled into one.

For a fellow such as Smith, Milwaukee surely holds no appeal, either for where it is located or for where it is headed.

Jennings’ Funny Math No Laughing Matter





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – His demeanor has shifted. The smile is gone.

The gravity of what Brandon Jennings and his Milwaukee Bucks are facing, down 3-0 to the defending champion Miami Heat in their first-round playoff series, seems to have set in for the brash young point guard.

That funny math he used to predict the “Bucks in six” has crumbled over the past eight quarters of this series. It’s no longer a laughing matter, not when your season and potentially your career in Milwaukee is potentially coming to an end.

Jennings has vowed to play until the final buzzer in Sunday’s Game 4, hoping to stave off elimination for at least one more games. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this series is every bit the mismatch most of us thought it would be on paper. And it’s even tougher to avoid the obvious question that will linger between now and free agency for Jennings and the Bucks. Do they stick together after four extremely productive years for Jennings, a restricted free agent at season’s end?

He’s helped the Bucks to the playoffs twice, his rookie season and this one, and he’s shown his many critics that his decision to bypass college for a one-season detour in Italy did nothing to damage his NBA stock. But in a league filled with as diverse and talented a group of point guards as its potentially ever had, where exactly does a player like Jennings fit?

“Great question,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “His rookie season I felt like he was going to join that group of elite point guards, especially after what he did to the [Atlanta] Hawks during the playoffs. He showed off playmaking skills and scored at will in the postseason, doing things you don’t normally expect from a rookie. And he’s been solid ever since. But I don’t know that he’s moved into that tip tier of point guards. He’s not there, not yet.”

Jennings has averaged an impressive 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 291 career regular season games. Considered more of a scorer than a facilitator, Jennings has proven himself capable of handling both responsibilities for the Bucks. Still, there is some uncertainty about his desire to stick around in Milwaukee during what could be a complete rebuilding situation this summer.

His backcourt mate Monta Ellis can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Joel Pryzbilla will all be unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Halloween deadline for Jennings and the Bucks to agree on an extension of his rookie contract passed without either side admitting that they were even close to getting something done.

That’s one reason why this series against the Heat is such a showcase event for Jennings. It’s his final platform before free agency to remind the league that he’s a player a franchise can build around. The upset guarantee and his 26-point effort in Game 1 was the ideal buzz and result for Jennings early on.

But he’s managed just 24 points in the two games since the opener, shooting 8-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line. The Heat have stymied the Bucks’ offense late in all three games, eliminating the pick-and-roll as an option for Jennings and Ellis when the game is one the line.

“One of the problems we have with that is our size in the backcourt,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re not a big team. So when they are out there trapping and staying with the ballhandler like that, they are putting a lot of pressure on you, first of all. Secondly, they have good size. It’s easy for me stand up in the huddle and say ‘we’ve got to make a quick pass, we’ve got to move that ball and take advantage of them double teaming.’ But sometimes it’s hard to do. They are flooding the strong side and cutting off passing angles and it makes it difficult to find the right man, the open man, with a pass. It’s usually a cross court pass and those are always dangerous because of their speed and activity.”

This is one of the premier defensive teams in the league we’re talking about in the Heat, who boast quality perimeter defenders in not only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but also Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.

Chalmers and Cole have taken a particular interest in limiting Jennings, both of them no doubt smarting from the brash attitude and words Jennings has been sure to share with the world.

“They are really getting physical,” Boylan said. “It’s playoff basketball. So there is a lot more contact than in the regular season. And anytime we use any sort of pick-and-rolls, they are double-teaming him and putting pressure on him. That combination is difficult. And they are focused in on both [Jennings] and Monta. They did what they needed to do, be physical, be big and cut off those angles for finding people.”

At 23, Jennings is probably done growing. So there is nothing he can do about that size disadvantage and the fact that the Heat are executing flawlessly in wearing him down. But he has at least 48 minutes left to prove that his skill set can best whatever advantage the opposition brings to the show.

That Bucks in six stuff is obviously history.

Whether or not Jennings’ time with the Bucks is, however, … well, only time will tell.

Playoffs? Bucks Don’t Seem Interested

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Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.

They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.

So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.

Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.

The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.

Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.

Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.

Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.

Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready

Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.

They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.

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 …: