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Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

Rick Carlisle used words like “engine” and “goose bumps” and he wasn’t talking about J.J. Barea’s 20 points or Dirk Nowitzki fine all-around game or Maxi Kleber’s blocks and energy.

All of that helped contribute to the Mavericks’ surprising 98-93 victory over the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.

But none of it was what the Mavericks viewed as the two essential keys for the win – or for any other victories they hope to come up with in the future.

Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. came out with the kind of force that Carlisle and Maverick fans should fall in love with – and demand to see on a regular basis.

His fellow starter in the backcourt, Wesley Matthews? All he did was limit Toronto’s high-scoring DeMar DeRozan to eight points and 3-of-16 shooting. What kind of challenge is that?

Consider that DeRozan earlier in the day have been named Eastern Conference player of the week and that he had averaged 31 points over the Raptors’ last five games – all victories.

Against the Mavericks? He never got rolling, and Matthews was the player spending most of the time guarding Toronto’s all-star.

“Wes has an iron will to make it as hard as possible on these great players and it took a lot out of him,” Carlisle said. “He expends so much energy defensively that his shooting was out of rhythm. But he understood the importance of keeping DeRozan at some kind of reasonable number. You don’t beat this team without a guy like Matthews to make it hard on DeRozan.”

And as for Smith? The rookie had missed six games with a hip/groin injury and the Mavericks went 1-5. In the seven games before he went out, they were 4-3. They are 2-2 since he returned to the lineup.

Detect a correlation?

And the job he did at the start of Tuesday’s game set a tone that the Mavericks had no choice but to follow.

“Smith was in a constant attacking mode,” Carlisle said. “He pushed himself to a level tonight that gave our team goose bumps to watch. And it’s hard. It’s so much work and requires so much energy and will. But tonight convinced me that this kid is going to be a great player.

“Those two guys were the engines to the win.”

Smith and Matthews won’t get any respect from fans if all they look at is their statistical line. They combined to shoot 5-of-23 from the field.

But there is far more to this game than putting the ball in the basket.

Matthews in particular has had a hard time getting respect from Maverick fans, judging from the email boxes and online chats that allow fans a chance to vent.

But his shooting numbers (38 percent from 3-point range) are virtually the same as they were in Portland his last few seasons, and he was a fan favorite there. Here? Not so much. Whether it’s the team’s record or his contract or whatever, he understands it.

“It’s their constitutional right to feel however they want to feel about me,” Matthews said. “It’s my constitutional right to really not give a damn. I don’t really care about the negativity. I know I’ve gotten some. But I give my all to this team, to this organization – on the court, off the court, whether my shot is falling or not.”

And Matthews also knows that Smith is a major cornerstone for the future of this franchise. A game like Tuesday showed why. Smith helped control the game with his fearless attacks to the rim.

“He got the wheels going and that’s what he has to do,” Matthews said. “When you have a talent like that, you have to utilize it. There’s no sense in having a Ferrari and driving slow.”

Said Smith: “It’s about being fearless, go in and take the hits. That’s what I’m supposed to do – attack, whether they are there or not. I talked to coach about getting back to doing what I do. And when I’m attacking early it sets everybody else for easy shots. It gets everybody into a rhythm. And I think it makes them play harder.”

Smith also said he had a “perfect” statistical line.

“We won the game,” he said. “I did what he (Carlisle) wants me to do. I got back to it tonight.”

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Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

When the Dallas Mavericks are lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy in late June, we’ll look back on Saturday night’s net scorching ceremony with the Milwaukee Bucks as the turning point.

Or, you know, maybe not.

There’s no denying that these games against Milwaukee and Boston were fun to watch. And maybe it was some kind of glimpse into Dallas’ potential. But taking a breath, and remembering the deficiencies this group carries, we know this is still a lottery team.

So very slowly, semi-quietly, we look ahead. One of the very few exciting aspects of being a team headed to the front of the lottery line is daydreaming about the future young stars the Mavericks can pick up. Yes, it’s a new-ish concept for this Dallas front office. But the idea that you can find the future of your franchise, not in free agency, but on draft night with young prospects exploding with potential, should ignite excitement through the hallways of the AAC.

We know plenty of the names. We’ve caught glimpses of them online in mixtapes and highlight reels, mostly as big fish in small ponds. But outside of one budding international star, what these players look like against other big fish is a bit of a mystery.

So here at Mavs Moneyball we invite you to learn with us. Every week we’re going to highlight a handful of games happening that week, featuring projected lottery picks. These are players we think fit best with our idea of a Dallas Mavericks Draft Big Board (coming soon); talent that fits the need and culture in Dallas.

It’s early in the college basketball season, and with the holiday week upon us, we have a slate of exciting mini-tournaments and invitationals. So the schedule below will look a bit different than future weeks. But if you find yourself wanting an escape from Mavs’ struggles, and want to daydream about the future, here are some games that might meet your needs:
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND

Arizona vs NC State (6 P.M. CT, ESPN3)

DeAndre Ayton leads a couple of NBA prospects and the Arizona Wildcats to face Dennis Smith Jr.’s alma mater, N.C. State, in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. If you haven’t seen any of Ayton, you’ll be shocked to learn that someone can be 19 years old and an actual Monstar. He’s just so full grown.

Though the N.C. State matchup might not be terribly exciting, it’s an ACC team. And we mention it here because of the potential meetings later in the tournament; if Arizona and others advance, they could be seeing SMU and possible future first rounder Shake Milton, then Mikal Bridges and his fifth ranked Villanova Wildcats (on the 23rd and 24th respectively). All in all, there could be a lot of draft talent playing in the Bahamas this week.
NOVEMBER 23RD-26TH

The PK-80 Invitational (Various times, ESPN Network)

If you had your fill on food, the NFL, or the NBA same ol’ same ol’, this would be the time to flip over to the inaugral PK-80 Invitational. In celebration of Nike Co-founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday, this tourney in Portland will bring in a slew of college teams to compete in a two bracket tournament. This is the sort of fun and chaos that college basketball brings.

And lucky for us, the bracket is packed with elite teams and lottery talent:

Duke: Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter
Michigan State: Jalen Jones Jr. and Miles Bridges
Texas: Mohamed Bamba
Oregon: Troy Brown

Plus the potential of these teams matching up with other quality squads: North Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Gonzaga. Games will be happening all day long over Thanksgiving weekend. It’s worth tuning in to this lottery filled tournament.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26TH

Robert Williams and A&M match up with the 10th ranked USC Trojans Sunday night at 8 P.M. CT, on the PAC12 Network. Southern Cal has some quality NBA prospects, and it should be one of the better head-to-heads of the weekend, with Williams matching up against Chimezie Metu.

Robert Williams made a surprise return to A&M to play his sophomore year. He was seen as a late lottery prospect in last summer’s draft, and many scouts expected him to pursue that option. Now, after being suspended the first two games of the Aggies’ season for violation of team rules, he rejoined the team this week.

Additionally, the highly touted Michael Porter Jr. has essentially been out the entire first week of play with an injury. With the hype of being a possible number one pick in the draft, it’s worth monitoring whether he’s able to suit up this week. Missouri is playing in the Advocare Invitational, and released a statement Monday saying Porter Jr. would be visiting a specialist. So it may be a while.

Check back next week for a new slate of games – the next Maverick is somewhere out there!

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Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks

Count Mark Cuban among those who see the NFL becoming less and less popular in the future. And it has nothing to do with the national anthem protests by players that have pushed a handful of fans away.

Instead, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner pointed to the health and safety of the sport as the No. 1 reason for its decline. The national anthem protests, in Cuban’s mind, are more of a short-term issue.

Cuban referenced a study from this summer that found 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly called CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Dr. Ann McKee’s study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The NFL has got real structural problems,” Cuban said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday. “I have an 8-year-old son — I would not let my son play football. CTE’s a problem. … You can’t push something like CTE under the rug.”

Cuban mentioned meeting with NCAA officials over the latest college basketball scandal, and the topic of football participation came up. Cuban said football participation is “down significantly” in all the SEC states.

“They’re going to have to go global,” Cuban said of football grooming players. “Half of NFL rosters (in the future) are going to be international guys. That’s a bigger issue for the NFL longer term, and I don’t know how to fix that.”

Cuban has criticized the NFL before, memorably saying: “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

He stands by that statement regarding football’s future.

“They’re on path to be absolutely true,” Cuban said. “Because they haven’t been able to solve that (CTE) problem, they’re going to lose participants and they’re going to lose people watching. … I just don’t think kids are going to be as excited about football as we were growing up and that’s a long-term problem.”

Cuban also criticized the NFL for having too many games, particularly Thursday Night Football where the games have largely been underwhelming in recent years.

“People question the brand, question the quality of the brand,” Cuban said.

Even though the NFL faces well-documented challenges, Cuban made it clear that the NBA isn’t immune to them either.
Cuban acknowledged that it’s more difficult for every professional sports league to get kids excited and interested in their game and teams. That’s why he’s trying to lure more fans to American Airlines Center this season by offering more than 4,000 seats for $19 or less.

“We’ve got to be more aggressive in creating young Mavericks fans, young NBA fans,” Cuban said. “I see the NFL pricing themselves out of families, which is going to make it very, very hard for them to develop young fans. We all have that challenge of how do we turn young kids, boys and girls, into hardcore NBA and Mavericks fans? That’s going to be a huge challenge for all of us going forward.

“(We want it to be) where going to a Mavs game is competitive with going to a movie or going to a high school football game.”

Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons (NBA) Rookie of the Year NBA Rookie Season wins.

Lakers

Lakers

A ballyhooed NBA rookie class has caused disagreement among Las Vegas oddsmakers.

William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook on Wednesday opened Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at 9-5. The next day, the Westgate SuperBook went with Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons as the favorite at 5-2.

Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. and 76ers guard Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick, are next at 4-1 and 13-2, respectively. Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and Boston Celtics small forward Jayson Tatum are each listed at 8-1, rounding out the players with odds in the single digits at William Hill.

Simmons sat out last season, recovering from foot surgery, but is expected to make his debut this year and spearhead a Sixers squad with playoff aspirations.

“We expect Philadelphia to exceed the Lakers in wins and make the playoffs in the East, with Simmons having better stats [than Ball],” Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the Westgate, told ESPN in a text message. “Had Simmons come out in this loaded class, he still would have been the No 1 pick in the draft.”

Simmons and the 76ers are currently favorites to make the playoffs at the Westgate. Ball and the Lakers are 6-1 underdogs to reach the postseason in the rugged Western Conference.

This will be the first season that Nevada sportsbooks will offer betting on the NBA Rookie of the Year and regular-season MVP. William Hill made the request to gaming control and, upon approval, opened betting on the awards Wednesday.

“With so much attention on the rookie class and the stars of the league, this is a fantastic year to start offering them,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., said in a release.

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook opened as the favorite to win the regular-season MVP. Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double last season on his way to winning the MVP, is listed at 5-2 at William Hill.

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant is next at 4-1, followed by Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James at 6-1 and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard at 13-2. Houston Rockets guard James Harden is 15-2.

Released the NBA schedule, including the main free agent for the first time to visit the old team.

Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward will have to wait until 2018 to return to their old stomping grounds, but Paul George will see the Pacers before Christmas.

The NBA released its schedule Monday, and the ESPN and ABC television schedules include Butler’s return to Chicago, Hayward’s reunion with Utah and George’s first trip to Indiana after all three stars moved during the offseason.

George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder after he made it clear that he would not re-sign with the Pacers when he becomes a free agent next summer. George and MVP teammate Russell Westbrook will visit the Pacers on Dec. 13 in a game that will air on ESPN.

Chicago and Utah will have to wait longer to welcome back their former stars. It will be one big former Bulls reunion on ESPN in Chicago on Feb. 9 when Butler, Taj Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau face the Bulls. Chicago traded Butler and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton) to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).

Jazz fans will see Hayward, who signed with the Boston Celtics, on March 28 in a game on ESPN.

Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to visit his former team, the Clippers, for the first time as a member of the Houston Rockets on Jan. 15.

Excluding the opening-week and Christmas games that were revealed last week, here are some other notable matchups that were revealed for next season:

On Oct. 26, New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins gets his wish to return to Sacramento and play against his former team. Cousins has been looking forward to this game since he was traded by the Kings on All-Star Sunday.

The Rockets play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 1 (ESPN). If Carmelo Anthony is still in New York, he will face the team that he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for, only to see the Knicks hold out for a better deal.

The Brooklyn Nets visit the Lakers in D’Angelo Russell’s return to Los Angeles on Nov. 3. The Lakers traded Russell to Brooklyn — in a deal involving Brook Lopez — to make room for Lonzo Ball.

Joel Embiid will face Ball for the first time when the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Lakers on Nov. 15 (ESPN). Embiid and LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s outspoken father, traded social media jabs during the summer. Also, No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz faces Ball, the No. 2 pick, for the first time in the NBA.

The Lakers are on ESPN 11 times this season, including on Nov. 22 when they visit the Sacramento Kings for a budding rivalry showdown between Ball and fifth overall pick De’Aaron Fox. Fox was disappointed when Ball was held out of a highly anticipated showdown at the Las Vegas Summer League in July.

On Jan. 3, the Thunder visit the Lakers (ESPN). Considering that George made it no secret that he originally wanted to become a Laker before being traded, this game will have plenty of buzz. The Lakers and Magic Johnson are gearing toward a big free-agency summer in 2018. George will be a free agent, and Westbrook could be too if he opts not to sign a supermax extension. Both are from Southern California.

The second of two regular-season matchups between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will be played Jan. 15 in Cleveland. The first game is set for Christmas Day.

On Jan. 20, the Thunder visit the Cavaliers in an ABC game.

On March 11, LeBron James makes his annual trip to play the Lakers in Los Angeles (ESPN). There will be plenty of hype surrounding James’ future and the possibility of him becoming a Laker next summer. James can opt out of his contract after this season, and he has been the subject of speculation with the Lakers preparing for their big superstar shopping spree.

For the first time in league history, the schedule does not have any team playing four games in five nights. This is part of the NBA’s effort to cut down on injuries and reduce the number of games in which teams rest healthy players.

Back-to-back slates also have been reduced to an average of 14.4 per team, down from 16.3 per team last season. No team has more than 16 back-to-backs this season.