Posts Tagged ‘Shawn Marion’

Tough Circumstances, But 76ers Push On


VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses Evan Turner and the Sixers

DALLAS – This might be the worst season to be a Philadelphia 76er. One day, it might be looked upon by these players as the most meaningful of their careers.

Before it even started, they were blown off as losers, expected to pile up losses at potentially an historic rate. It is a roster in the early stages of long-term construction, patched together with veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, exciting No. 11 pick Michael Carter-Williams (and injured No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel) and undrafted rookies and grunts added from the end of other teams’ benches.

First-year coach Brett Brown‘s starting lineup in Monday’s 97-94 loss at Dallas, a hard-fought game lost during a faulty stretch late in the third quarter and into the fourth, did not include Carter-Williams (foot) for a fourth consecutive game. It did include Grizzlies’ castoff Tony Wroten going for 19 points with five steals, and James Anderson, the former Oklahoma State swingman who has swung in and out of San Antonio, Houston and the D-League, scoring 14 points with seven rebounds in 42 minutes.

Hollis Thompson, Lavoy Allen, Darius Morris and Brandon Davies combined to play 58 minutes off the bench. Ultimately the kind of mistakes — an unforced turnover, a rushed possession, a lost rebound — that doom young teams sabotaged their hard work and the Sixers lost a third consecutive game and fell to 5-7. But the fight was there.

“I kind of think it starts from the top and [Brown's] attitude is pretty infectious in that regard,” Hawes said. “Coach has done a great job since Day 1 of being realistic and really letting us play and letting us all continue to improve. We all still have a lot to learn from what he’s bringing to the table and a lot to improve on, and I think when you look at it through that lens it keeps you motivated.”

Brown, his unmistakable New England accent ever-apparent despite more than a decade working in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, pedals passion, genuine hard work, accountability and camaraderie.

“At the end of the day, we’re a hard-working team,” Young said. “So that should tell you a lot right there.”

Ask the Heat, Bulls and Rockets. Philly’s beaten all three. Ask the underachieving Nets and Knicks. Both are looking up at the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers.

Young, who once called Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday teammates, said this team’s daily goal is straightforward.

“To get better as a team, to help the growth of the young guys and to go out there and build something that in the future we can go out there and be ready to win basketball games or playoff series,” Young said. “That’s the biggest thing right now is the growth and development of what we’re trying to do here.”

Which, of course, begs the question: Why? On most nights the squad is severely undermanned. The veterans — Young, Evans and Hawes — could eventually be traded and each could be resentful of the franchise’s direction.

“All of us in this room, we plan to win games and we plan to keep on trying to win basketball games,” Young said. “I’m here, I’m ready to work, so are the rest of the guys. That’s the main focus. We’re just thinking about winning basketball games.”

The day after the Sixers’ worst loss of the season, a 37-point whipping Saturday at New Orleans, Brown, as is his custom, led a brutally candid film session, then transferred the discussion from the screen to the practice floor.

“I feel that by keeping it candid and by putting it all in perspective that we can inch along and continue to improve as a team, and keep our guys improving, either as a group or individually,” Brown said. “I hope that that’s the formula to keep all of us together over a long year [that] at times is going to be one where we experience some losses. We just have to go head-down and stay focused on continuing to try to get better.”

After returning to the hotel a worn-out unit, Brown called a team dinner.

“I like seeing our guys interact together, and the group is good. The group stays together,” Brown said. “The veterans have been doing what veterans should do in relation to keeping the young guys on track; the young guys are pliable, they listen, they want to get better. I’m proud of the camaraderie and the chemistry we’ve shown to date, albeit an early period of time, even when we’ve taken hits.”

The next night against Dallas, unbeaten at home, the Sixers jumped out to an 8-0 lead, played tough defense, but couldn’t contain Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion long enough to get to the finish line. Still, in a season where wins won’t always go in the win column, and hard truths will be gashed wide open, Brown could honestly say he got the positive response he hoped for in the aftermath of the New Orleans blowout.

“The truth — in relation to ‘this is your rotation’ or ‘this is a problem that we have as a team’ — has to be our compass,” Brown said. “Anything short of that, I’m doing them a disservice. This group wants to be coached, it has to be coached. When it starts getting to the stage where people feel uncomfortable accepting that type of educating process — it’s not a personal thing — then we may have some problems or maybe this isn’t the program for them.

“And that’s the mission we’re all on, to keep this thing real, to keep it tight, to keep it candid, to be positive, to be down when people need to be told the truth, and life moves on.

“And that’s the only way I know how to do it, and I hope it’s the right way.”

Delay Of Game: Refs, Players Adjusting


VIDEO: Bulls’ delay of game

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The NBA’s newest rule crackdown has created quite a stir. Players are reprogramming their actions, some quicker than others. Some announcers are misconstruing the rule’s intent. And fans are wondering why a delay of game penalty seems only to be causing further delay.

“Right now, it’s slowing down the game because of all the stoppages,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But these players are great and they always adapt. As they get used to it, they’re going to leave it alone and it’ll work out. So whatever the rules are, that’s what you go by. And I think it got to the point where it was too much.”

Too much, as Thibs says, was constant under-the-basket interference with the ball. Players on the team that had just scored were too often grabbing the ball as it dropped through the net and either casually flipping it to the official or tapping it any which way but to the opposing player waiting to get his team running up the court.

A growing number of teams — the Houston Rockets, for one — prefer to push the ball up the floor after made baskets to catch the retreating defense at a disadvantage. The stall tactic of catching the ball or knocking it away after a made basket buys the scoring team a second or two to set up defensively.

“I used to hit the ball a little bit to give me a second or two,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert admitted. “But now you can’t.”

Now, such actions result in a delay of game penalty. The first draws a warning. The second results in a technical foul and a free throw for the other team.

Everybody received a heaping dose of the new rule during the preseason.

“It’s the right thing and it’s pretty clear,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, a member of the league’s nine-member competition committee. “If you touch it you know you’re getting hit, so just leave it alone.”

Said Pacers coach Frank Vogel: “Guys are learning to ‘hot potato’ it. They tell us to treat it like a ‘hot potato’ and move on.”

The Rockets were the most vocal agent for change. Their frustration came to a head during their first-round playoff series with Oklahoma City, who, the Rockets believed, were intentionally messing with the ball after made baskets to slow them down. In fact, under the new rules, the Thunder were nailed three times for the infraction in their season-opener against Utah and Wednesday against the high-pace Mavericks. Center Kendrick Perkins used his big right paw to intentionally swat the ball away, drawing a whistle for delay of game.


VIDEO: Thunder delay of game

Some announcers, ironically including Houston’s, have explained the rule as being designed to shorten the duration of a game. But it’s really about the pace at which the game is played.

Houston led the NBA last season in pace (possessions per 48 minutes). The club calculated that it had scored 1,131 points on the initial shot taken in 10 seconds or less after a basket by the other team. No team came close. The Lakers were second with 972 transition points after made baskets. Getting the ball up the floor quickly, even after made baskets, was paramount to the Rockets’ offensive strategy.

“A team like us that plays an up-tempo pace, it [the new rule] definitely should favor us,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “We want to get up. We want to get the ball out as fast as we can. Not having teams do that and slow us down on the break is definitely going to help us a lot.”

While the Rockets were out front on the issue, they were hardly the only ones arguing for the league to take action. The push gained steamed throughout last season, according to Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations. The NBA decided to take a closer look during the 2013 playoffs and found that, in a sample of 78 playoff games, the new delay of game penalty could have been enforced 306 times, or 3.9 times a game.

“It had been talked about before that it was a detriment to the offensive team if the team that had just scored was taking the ball and knocking it away or holding the ball and was allowing the defenses to get back and get set up, and that that was not a good thing for our game,” Thorn said. “So that was the genesis for why it was put in. A lot of teams like to move the ball up and down the floor so we want to give them every opportunity.”

The penalty was one of five officiating points of emphasis for this season. A crackdown on illegal screens has produced a spike in those calls, according to the league. The league also has seen a rise in delay of game penalties. Everybody’s noticed. How could you not? The preseason was littered with the call, and officials have kept a tight watch during the first week of the regular season.

According to the league, through the first 59 games last season, 22 delay of game penalties were called. Through 59 games this season (through Tuesday’s games) 85 delay of game penalties were called — 70 being a result of the new rule.

“You have to play with great discipline to be a good player in this league,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “To not be able to bat the ball away when it goes through the basket should not be that hard of a thing, especially when it costs your team points.”

The fear  is that the rule will be enforced to the letter of the law and that an untimely touching of the ball late in the game could cost a team a valuable point. During the preseason, players were concerned that they’d get tagged with a penalty for making incidental contact or for an instinctual catch of the ball and quick toss to the referee.

“It is instinctual to reach for it, that’s why I said, even if the ball hits you when you’re right by it and it does touch you, they can’t call it,” said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who nonetheless thinks players will quickly adjust to the rule.

According to Thorn, if a player catches the ball and quickly drops it, play will continue. Same for incidental contact.

“I think they’ve kind of, maybe, toned it down a little bit as they realized that, ‘OK, some of the calls that were being made were not in the truest sense of the law,’” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “I think the referees in the league have done a great job of making it a point of emphasis and then analyzing it and saying, ‘OK, is this what we want?’ They’ve kind of adjusted how they’ve called it, I think, a little bit as well.”


VIDEO: Delay of game, Lakers

Many who observe the league have seen new rules implemented and enforced early in the season, only to see them fade away into rules oblivion. Thorn believes the rule will not be an ongoing source of game delays because players will quickly adjust. And the rule, Thorn said, will not go by the wayside. It will continue to be enforced throughout the season and postseason to ensure the faster pace that players and fans want.

“I’m confident that it will,” Thorn said.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Fran Blinebury, John Schuhmann and Steve Aschburner contributed to this report.

Huge NBA Opening Week; And You Wanted To Wait Till Christmas?

VIDEO: The top plays from the NBA’s opening week

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Six nights. That’s all it took to remind yet again why we play the games, all 82, and why any claim of less being more is pure folly.

Why not November? I say.

As the 2011 lockout ushered in a reduced schedule of 66 games starting on Christmas Day and firing off a fan-pleasing crush of games nightly, a spark ignited into a full-blown media/Internet forest fire: Why not start every NBA season on Dec. 25?

Heck, no one’s paying attention in November, let alone a pre-Halloween slate. With the NFL and college football beast roaring, who’s got the attention span to cram in hoops, too?

So congratulations to the NBA for a wholly unpredictable and fascinating opening week that featured scintillating individual performances and take-that victories by teams who’ve been told they stink. And so the games are played. Yes, even in November.

There isn’t a more outrageous narrative than Philly’s 3-0 start that includes takedowns of the Heat and Bulls led by The Kid, Michael Carter-Williams. Our own John Schuhmann couldn’t help but unprecedentedly vault the Sixers from 29th to No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

While all will likely right itself before too long, one week in and we’ve got upside-down standings. The trifecta tankers — Philly, Phoenix and Orlando — are 7-2. Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York are 5-8.

Along with some fascinating upsets and  fast starts, we’ve seen a bevy of fantastic individual scoring and rebounding frenzies.

Here’s a quick look at some of the opening week’s wildly unpredictable highlights:

*  Carter-Williams has to sweep the Player of the Week honors for rookies and everybody else. In his season debut against Miami, he nearly notched a quadruple-double with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. A fluke? A few nights later against the Bulls and the comeback kid Derrick  Rose, he dropped 26 points and 10 assists. Golden State, in Philly tonight (7 p.m. ET, League Pass), has been warned.

* You can probably name more traded Suns than current Suns, but they’re 2-1 and on Sunday pushed Oklahoma City to the brink in their home opener even with Russell Westbrook supercharging the evening with his unexpected return. By the way, he looked super-fast.

* Let’s not forget the Magic’s supposed bid for massive ping-pong-ball accumulation. Rookie Victor Oladipo has other plans. The Magic aren’t disappearing after two rousing victories over the improved Pelicans and (title-contending?) Nets by a combined 41 points to even their record at 2-2.

* The no-name Lakers bench crushed the star-studded Clippers’ starters in the fourth quarter in both teams’ opener.

* Chris Paul has stat lines of 42 points and 15 assists and 26 points and 10 assists.

* Kevin Love is all the way back, averaging 29.7 ppg, 14.7 rpg and 3.7 apg to help Minnesota start 3-0. He already has games of 31 and 17, and 34 and 15.

* The 2-1 Pistons’ front line is living up to expectations. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are walking double-doubles. Monroe has a 24 and 16 game under his belt and Drummond already has 15-and-12 and 12-and-16 games.

* Second-year Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson went off for 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting in 31 minutes.

*Kings center DeMarcus Cousins notched 31 points and 14 rebounds against the Nuggets.

* In the same game, Knicks center Tyson Chandler pulled down 19 rebounds and Bulls center Joakim Noah grabbed 15.

* In a battle of point guards, Steph Curry and CP3 combined for 80 points, 11 3-pointers, 24 assists and 17 turnovers.

* Also in the same game, Mavs forward Shawn Marion and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph posted matching stat lines of 21 points and 14 boards.

* Greg Oden dunked on his first offensive possession since Dec. 5, 2009.

* Dwight Howard is averaging 15.0 ppg and 17.0 rpg in three games. His 51 rebounds nearly double his free 26 throw attempts, of which he’s made half.

* Pelicans second-year center/forward Anthony Davis is taking this breakthrough stuff seriously, averaging 23.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 4.0 bpg. He has games of 25 points and six blocks, 26 points and 17 rebounds and 20 points and 12 boards.

There are even more big games to get to from Kevin Durant to Paul George to Monta Ellis to Nicolas Batum‘s apologetic triple-double, but in the interest of fair time, we must also get to the surprising (or in some instances the not-so-surprising, but still noteworthy) developments at the other end of the spectrum:

* The Nuggets, 0-2, and center JaVale McGee are not off to inspiring starts. This is supposed to be McGee’s big moment, but the 7-footer has averaged just 11.5 mpg and 5.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg despite starting both games.

* Raptors forward Rudy Gay again has a nice-looking scoring average (17.0 ppg), but just think what it might be if not for shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.

* Rookie Nets head coach Jason Kidd served a two-game suspension stemming from his DUI situation and then got hammered by 21 points in his debut at Orlando.

* Memphis is in transition after the promotion of Dave Joerger following Lionel Hollins being shown the door. Joerger is credited as the architect of the Grizzlies’ stifling defense, yet even with a virtually unchanged roster, the defense is being picked apart, allowing more than 106 ppg.

* Detroit’s active big guys, Monroe and Drummond, are pushing high-dollar free-agent signee Josh Smith out to the perimeter. Smith likes to shoot the long ball, but averaging 7.3 attempts from back there is a bit much, especially when he’s making just 27.0 percent.

And you wanted to wait until Christmas? Bah!

Hawks Rookie Schroder Wows Countryman, Role Model Nowitzki

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DALLAS – Impressive.

The face of the German national team over the past decade-and-half didn’t hesitate to put forth the one-word assessment. Dirk Nowitzki got his first in-game introduction — a full 36-minute showcase in Wednesday’s preseason game between the Mavericks and Hawks — to 20-year-old point guard Dennis Schroder, the 6-foot-1 future of the German team.

With Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague taking the night off, the rookie got his first start of the preseason and scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting with four assists and a pair of steals. For much of the game he was as billed — quick, agile with a flashy handle, a nuisance to defend and, yes, overall impressive. His game, like the tattoos that stretch the entirety of his seemingly endless arms, screams American streetball over the German professional league he was recently shredding.

“This was really my first time seeing him go up and down, and he already impressed me in the [pre-Draft] workout,” Nowitzki said. “For as young as he is, his court presence is pretty good, the way he’s talking, just his overall — swagger is a stupid word, but it’s there. He’s got a confidence about himself. He’s fast, he’s got long arms. I think he’s going to have a good career in this league.”

If it sounds like Nowitzki, 35 and entering his 16th season, might have enjoyed having his potential pick-and-roll partner in international competition (assuming Nowitzki opts to play again) on the Mavs, there could be some truth to it. The Mavericks, slated to pick 13th in the 2013 Draft and still seeking a long-term answer at point guard, scouted Schroder during a pre-Draft workout.

It was there, on the Mavs’ practice court, that Nowitzki met Schroder. He marveled at his abundance of raw talent and handed him his phone number, telling the youngster to text him any time he needed to talk.

“I text with him a lot and he gives me advice every time when I need something,” said Schroder, who left Germany at the same age that Nowitzki once did. “His career is amazing. Every German player looks up to him, and same with me.”

On Draft night, Dallas traded down to 16th with Schroder still on the board. They traded down again to 18th and selected Miami point guard Shane Larkin, whose development has been stunted by a broken ankle sustained during Summer League preparation. Schroder was gone, taken 17th by the Hawks, becoming the first native German drafted in the first round since Nowitzki went No. 9 in 1998.

Rookie shows flashes of growth

Schroder’s preseason has been a mix of blinding promise and inevitable learning curve. His eight buckets against the Mavs was one fewer than his preseason total entering the game. He’s 17-for-45 from the floor (37.8 percent), 2-for-15 from beyond the arc (13.3 percent) and just 4-for-8 from the free throw line. His seven turnovers Wednesday, a concern going back to Summer League, jumped his preseason total to 19. He’s averaging more turnovers per game (3.8) than assists (3.4).

“It’s an amazing feeling to play in the NBA right now,” the 168-pound Schroder said. “You have to get used to it because the European leagues, how they play is completely different. The preseason has helped me a lot and the Summer League, too. Every point guard here is strong and athletic, so I have to try to get stronger and try to compete every game.”

The misfires and turnovers are buffered by the skill and raging potential: the pivot at the elbow that freed him for a jumper that swished through; the crossover dribble and step-back against Shawn Marion for another mid-range jumper that dropped; the blow-by into the lane for a layup and later for a kick out; the baseline hesitation and spin past Jose Calderon that drew a foul.

“He’s made a lot of good, positive impressions on all of us, including myself,” first-year Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Defensively he has some natural ability to be disruptive and have an impact on the game. That’s where he’s going to earn everybody’s respect and earn his minutes. But offensively his ability to use his speed and get in the paint, his decision-making, his vision, for his age we’re excited about how he can grow.”

Hard work in Germany pays off

In soccer-absorbed Germany, only now is Schroder beginning to create something of a buzz. He is also not the typical face of German basketball. One glance tells you he is not Uwe Blab, Detlef Schrempf, Nowitzki or even Tim Ohlbrecht.

Schroder was born and raised in Braunschweig, a city of about a 250,000 people located in the northern part of Germany, some 220 miles north of Nowitzki’s much smaller hometown of Wurzburg. His mother is from Gambia, a small country on Africa’s west coast, and his father, who passed away several years ago from heart failure, was German. Schroder’s first language is German and he speaks fluent English.

At 16, when he learned of his father’s failing health, he promised to abandon the skateboard he spent many hours tooling around on to make a hard push in basketball, and to take care of his mother and siblings.

He played in the top German league, one of only a handful of black German players, rising quickly from a minimal bench role his first season and later into a star. He said he hopes he’s opened doors for a rising number of young, black basketball players behind him: “It’s not easy to play in the German leagues and you’re black. My best friend, he plays in the German League, too. It’s not easy, but I hope I opened the door for him, too, so he can make it one day in the league.”

Schroder’s 28-year-old sister and her 6-year-old daughter moved and live with him in his Atlanta home. His 25-year-old brother will join them in the coming months.

A fitting reunion with a role model

Schroder officially begins his NBA career next Wednesday in the Hawks’ season-opener in Dallas. In a coincidental, if not appropriate, twist, the paths of Germany’s top basketball exports over the last 25 years will come full circle.

“I told him that it’s actually funny, my first game in the NBA was against Schrempf, and I was the young guy, he was the old guy playing in his last couple years,” Nowitzki said. “There was a bunch of German media and this year is the same thing. I was on the road back then, too, and he’s going to start here against me and I’m obviously the older guy now and he’s the younger guy. He’s impressive. He’s only going to get better. He’s obviously got to learn to shoot off the dribble a little better, shoot the 3-ball, but everything else is there.”

Whether Nowitzki and Schroder ever play together on the German national team remains to be seen. Nowitzki opted not to play in last summer’s European championship coming off the first knee surgery of his career. Schroder passed up his first opportunity to concentrate on settling into his new city and team. At the European championships last month, the undermanned German squad failed to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and is unlikely to receive one of the final wildcard spots.

That halts the country’s international competition likely until 2015 at the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Nowitzki, who guided Germany to the 2008 Games but didn’t get back in 2012, has expressed a desire to make one last run at Olympic glory. Noting that he will be 38 in 2016, he isn’t making any promises just yet.

“I hope he plans [to play] so we can play together,” Schroder said. “Every German player wants to do that, to play with him, and that is my dream.”

McGrady Not Feeling It For Kobe, Lakers

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Tracy McGrady had to settle for a shotgun seat on the San Antonio Spurs Express to The NBA Finals last season to end his career with a lone trip out of the first round. Who knows, had McGrady ever had Spurs-like talent around him, things might have turned out differently for him.

At any rate, the borderline Hall of Famer can spot a lacking supporting cast when he sees one. He spotted just that Tuesday night while taking in some Jazz vs. Lakers preseason action. What he witnessed was so disturbing he felt compelled to take it to Twitter:

Jellybean is, of course, Kobe Bean Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers superstar and son of former ball player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.

Kobe is working his way back from an awful Achilles tear in April and his return date remains uncertain. McGrady would apparently tell him to take his time getting back. No need to rush.

The 2013-14 Lakers, with or without Kobe, aren’t exactly high on anyone’s predictions chart. Check any Vegas sports book and this bunch is basically sitting at 75-to-1 odds to get Kobe that elusive sixth championship ring and knot him up with Michael Jordan.

Compared to all those souped-up Lakers squads through the decades, this one’s feeling like a stripped-down Vette with a leaky transmission. The horses under the hood buck instead of gallop and the suspension is all out of whack. You swear every time you turn the key it gives off that rotten egg odor.

Recently coach Mike D’Antoni said he was on drugs a year ago when he took over and proclaimed that team could average 110 ppg. And he was medicated on painkillers following knee replacement surgery. The disastrous 2012-13 team, with Bryant playing ungodly minutes night after night, averaged 102.2 ppg, which would have been pretty good if they had played any defense.

Without Bryant this preseason and with Steve Nash approaching 40 years of age by unfortunately grinding through seemingly just as many body ailments, scoring is down to 94.3 ppg. Only the Mavericks and Jazz have averaged less.

Speaking of the Mavs, everybody’s always quick to point to Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion as the only remaining members of the 2011 title team. The remnants from L.A.’s back-to-back title teams in 2009 and 2010? A rehabbing Kobe, a fragile-kneed Pau Gasol and a back-from-Europe Jordan Farmar.

To McGrady’s tweet, this is no Lamborghini waiting to be valet parked at Staples.

Assuming Nash is healthy enough to play (and start) on Oct. 29 when the Lakers open at home, to their misfortune against Doc Rivers‘ new team that shares the building, he’ll be joined by — and please don’t write this in ink — Steve Blake, Nick Young, Gasol and Chris Kaman, assuming the center has recovered from a bout of gastroenteritis.

As for Lakers depth? Among the newcomers are Xavier Henry in the backcourt and Shawne Williams in the frontcourt. The return of power forward Jordan Hill is a positive. Then there’s Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Marcus Landry, Elias Harris and fan favorite Robert Sacre. One will have to go to get the roster down to the maximum 15.

Pedal to the metal? McGrady isn’t feeling it, apparently even after Kobe takes the wheel.

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.”

Can Happiness Bring Back ‘Monta’ Ball?

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DALLAS –
Sometimes timing is everything. Take the family reunion Monta Ellis will attend next month in Dallas, an event planned well before the missile from Mississippi signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Mavericks.

“I have a lot of people in Houston, a lot of people in Dallas,” Ellis said Thursday after he and the latest crop of Mavs free agents finally gathered for official introductions. “They didn’t know I was going to sign here, but it’s a good thing to already be here, be settled in.”

Is it a sign that Dallas is where Ellis belonged all along? Or merely a coincidence? Having family close can certainly help bring a measure of comfort and happiness. And happiness is something Ellis says he’s been missing the last couple years and, he says, it’s shown in his sliding shooting percentages.

“When you’re in a place where you’re unhappy, it’s very hard for you to perform to your best ability,” said Ellis, the American Airlines Center lights twinkling off the oversized diamond studs in each ear. “So, I mean, with this new beginning, new fresh start, you know, better organization, you know, better teammates, they’re going to make things a lot more better.”

Better organization? Better teammates? Ellis electing to leave $11 million on the table for next season told the Bucks how he felt about his 103-game run there. Asked to elaborate on what went so wrong, Ellis, who didn’t reap what he envisioned when he hit the open market as a free agent, just said, “I left that in Milwaukee.”

The Mavs, having flipped their roster for a second consecutive summer other than Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright and Shawn Marion, nabbed Ellis, and quite surprisingly so, late in free agency and after already stocking up on guards. After whiffing on Dwight Howard, a second superstar setback after missing on Deron Williams the previous summer, the Mavs viewed Ellis as the best remaining scoring option to pair with Nowitzki, and he instantly became the jewel of their seven-player free-agent class that might otherwise have been flashy Isreali point guard Gal Mekel.

So maybe timing is everything. The Mavs are desperate for fireworks and Ellis is desperately seeking a happy place to revive his career. Not that Ellis has been anything close to a hyper-efficient scorer, but if he can give the Mavs 2010-11 numbers — 45.1 percent overall and a career-best 36.1 from 3-point range — they’ll be thrilled.

“I don’t really have to shoot the ball as much on this team,” Ellis said. “The previous team I been on, like I said once before, I had to do 60 percent of the work no matter what the situation is. I think with this team here, I don’t have to do as much or take as many shots because sometimes they’re going to stop me and Dirk is going to be open, Jose [Calderon], Devin [Harris], the list goes on and. So I don’t think I have to do as much as I had to do in the previous years.

“So that’s going to get me back to being efficient, that’s going to get me back to being more consistent and it’s going to get me back to playing Monta basketball.”

The Mavs told Ellis he can get there on a team that they believe puts talent around him like he’s never known, starting with double-team magnet Nowitzki, and with a pass-first point guard in heady veteran Jose Calderon, who will free up Ellis to be a dynamic scorer, penetrating at will and popping inevitably open jumpers, without the burden of also having to run the offense.

But what they’re really selling Ellis on, and what they believe Ellis truly desires, is stability at the top. While he’s played for just two franchises in his eight seasons, Ellis has played under eight head and interim coaches. Last season Scott Skiles was fired and replaced by assistant Jim Boylan, who was replaced this summer by former Hawks coach Larry Drew.

“I think Monta really knows that we have stability here with Rick [Carlisle] and he wants to commit to a coach that he can trust, and Rick’s that coach, so I think it will be a great relationship,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Rick’s a great teacher and Monta’s a willing student.

A year ago, the same was said of O.J. Mayo following his disappointing time in Memphis. Mayo wanted to hand his game over to the respected Carlisle and Carlisle — now heading into his sixth season in Dallas — wanted to teach him how to become an all-around player. But it never clicked and Mayo has taken Ellis’ old spot with the Bucks at a rather startling $24 million over three seasons.

So maybe this timing is good. Maybe Ellis, 28 in October, is ready to settle into a team concept, to dispel theories that he’ll never be more than a volume shooter and a highly inefficient scorer. Asked if people are undervaluing him or underestimating him by emphasizing his sliding shooting percentages of the past two seasons, Ellis took about 15 seconds before offering an answer.

“I’m gonna say not really,” he said. “You’re going to have people who are going to say what they’re going to say anyway. I don’t think so. I’m fortunate, blessed to have a job and still be doing what I love doing. Like I said, there’s going to be things people say that you have no control over so I don’t think it is. I just think people have an opinion, they like to state their opinion and that’s what it is.”

The final answer begins Oct. 30 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Cuban Hires GM And Goes Scientific?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Listening to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explain the hiring of new general manager Gerrson Rosas, it’s difficult to tell whetherCuban is restructuring his front office or opening a sports science clinic that Major League Baseball might want to investigate.

Cuban made an appearance on the team’s flagship radio station, ESPN Dallas, and confirmed Rosas’ hiring first reported Monday by Yahoo Sports.

He said the hire had little to do with the former Houston Rockets executive’s role under analytics-driven general manager Daryl Morey in enabling the franchise to trade for James Harden and to acquire free agent Dwight Howard, or with the Mavs’ failures to land a top free agent in consecutive summers.

An exuberant Cuban said Rosas, 35, will provide day-to-day organization and management to the front office as the owner seeks to “push the envelope” in new technology areas, including an expansion of traditional analytics to what Cuban termed “bio-analytics.”

Cuban said that means exploration into areas such as “genetic testing to blood analysis and performance technology,” apparently in an effort to better evaluate players.

“If you want to keep pushing the envelope in new technology areas to give us an edge, you’ve got to hire somebody who has experience in managing those kinds of things,” Cuban said. “We really needed somebody with stronger organizational and management skills.”

Rosas, 35, Cuban said, will report to president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who previously also held the title of GM. Cuban said he, Nelson and Rosas could all handle potential trade talks with other general managers and discussions with agents depending on which one has the best relationship with that particular GM or agent. Cuban said it was his idea to seek a general manager “to get smarter as an organization” and said he implored Nelson to find the right person for the job.

“We try to take pride in being one of the most technologically advanced teams out there in all of professional sports, not just the NBA,” Cuban said. “And to keep on pushing the envelope in the direction I wanted to go, we wanted to add not just brain power, but organizational, management and process power.”

Part of that plan, Cuban also announced, was to fire 10-year strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett. Cuban said the right candidate will be “more of an expert in performance technology science.”

Who knows where Cuban’s “bio-analytics” experiment leads, perhaps to clones of the 2011 title team. But no doubt he’s hard-charging technology efforts. He recently awarded $100,000 to biomechanics experts at SMU to research flopping.

Rosas will best serve the Mavs by keeping a sharp focus on streamlining the operation. Both Cuban and Nelson have their hands in plenty of cookie jars. Cuban is an involved investor in a gaggle of businesses, including many of his own, and he’s committed to the popular television show “Shark Tank.” Nelson is co-owner of the D-League Texas Legends and also has outside business interests, while also serving as a nightly ambassador to VIP guests at both Mavs and Legends home games.

“It gives us one more smart person to interact with and help us make smarter decisions,” Cuban said of Rosas.

Bio-analtycis aside, fans just know the team has faltered fast and the roster has been remade for a second consecutive summer around the 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki. Jose CalderonMonta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert are the latest to join Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and the soon-to-be-signed Brandan Wright.

Cuban said his recent comment that drew eye rolls, calling Dallas better off without Howard, was not put in proper context. He said the Mavs wanted Howard, but “failed in that.”

The owner said, with health, his team can be competitive, and said he’s miffed at critics who dismiss Nowitzki’s ability to shoulder this latest collection of talent.

“Like I’ve been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35 and there’s no reason why he can’t be considered in the MVP conversation at 35,” Cuban said. “I can also tell you that the way people are just randomly dismissing him as just being done has been incredible motivation for him as well.”

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.

Aldridge: Ellis Mulling Free Agent Offers From Kings, Hawks, Mavs

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Milwaukee Bucks free agent guard Monta Ellis is currently deciding between offers from the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks, according to a league source.
Ellis is intrigued by the Kings, according to the source. Sacramento will have to move one of its existing guards first, however, to be able to get Ellis, a career 19-point per game scorer and one of the last major free agents left on the market that hasn’t yet agreed to terms with a new or current team.

Sacramento agreed to acquire Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute Tuesday for two future second-round picks, according to league sources. It’s not clear if getting Mbah a Moute, who is scheduled to make $4.58 million next season, would prohibit the Kings from being able to make a run at Ellis.

The Mavericks would almost certainly have to find a trade partner for forward Shawn Marion and his expiring $9.3 million contract to be able to create enough cap room to sign Ellis. Dallas agreed last week on a four-year, $29 million deal for free agent point guard Jose Calderon, and also have deals for veteran Devin Harris and Israeli point guard Gal Mekel. But the Mavericks need a two guard.

Sources confirmed an ESPN.com report that the Bucks are looking to acquire point guard Jeff Teague from the Hawks, who played last season for Milwaukee’s new coach, Larry Drew. If Atlanta can pull that deal off, Ellis could come in and play point guard for the Hawks next season. The Hawks have agreed to re-sign free agent guard Kyle Korver, and reached agreement last Friday on a two-year, $19.2 million deal for Jazz free agent forward Paul Millsap. Ellis opted out of the final year of his six-year, $66 million contract last month, which would have paid him $11 million for the upcoming season.

The Chicago Bulls also were very interested in Ellis, but couldn’t figure out a way to swing a deal with Milwaukee without giving up one of their core pieces, including forward Taj Gibson. The Bulls are convinced a return to health from their key players, notably 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose, will get them back to the top of the Eastern Conference next season. Chicago agreed to terms last week with free agent forward Mike Dunleavy, Jr.

The Nuggets, another team that has interest in Ellis, are likely to create a $12 million cap exception after completing a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State for forward Andre Iguodala. But Denver is not currently among the teams making the biggest play for Ellis.

The 27-year-old Ellis averaged 19.2 points per game last season for the Bucks, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and were swept by the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. After agreeing to sign guard O.J. Mayo when the NBA moratorium on contract signings ends Wednesday, the Bucks are also likely to lose their other starting guard from last season, restricted free agent Brandon Jennings.