Frank Ntilikina

Mavericks Notes: Roster, Kidd, Bullock, Doncic

Letting a 19-point lead slip away Friday night was a reminder that the Mavericks still have work to do on their roster, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. Dallas controlled much of Game 2 after building an early 26-10 lead, but couldn’t stop the Warriors when it mattered and now faces a 2-0 deficit in the Western Conference Finals.

Coach Jason Kidd only has six players that he can trust for significant minutes, Cato notes. Frank Ntilikina played just four minutes in Game 2 and didn’t score. Kidd tried Josh Green in the second half, but he missed the only shot he took in five minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie had four points and four turnovers as the Mavs’ bench was outscored by Golden State’s 36-13.

Having a healthy Tim Hardaway Jr. might ease the problem, but he’s still recovering after having foot surgery in February. Cato adds that Dallas needs another two-way wing who can match up with the Warriors’ collection of talent at that position, but the team doesn’t have a good option currently on the roster.

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Kidd believes his team helped Golden State by taking too many three-point shots, per Tim McMahon of ESPN. Friday’s game turned around in the third quarter as the Mavs scored just 13 points and shot 2-of-13 from long distance. “If you make [threes], that’s great, but you just have to understand, if you miss four in a row, you can’t take the fifth,” Kidd said. “You’ve got to make it. That just puts too much stress on yourself and on your team because, if you’re not getting stops on the other end, it turns into a blowout.”
  • The Warriors won by controlling the area near the basket on both ends of the court, according to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. Dallas was outscored in the paint, 62-30, and was out-rebounded by a 43-30 margin. “Small, small-ball,” Kidd said. “When you say the overall playoffs, we did start off without Luka (Doncic), who is our best rebounder. But just being small. Sometimes, we’ll give up the rebound to take advantage of the offensive side. But when we do win, we rebound the ball, and we have to do a better job of that.”
  • Hardaway is the only player listed on the Mavs’ injury report for Game 3, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News, who adds that the stitches Reggie Bullock received in his right eyebrow and the lingering pain in Doncic’s right shoulder don’t appear to be serious concerns.

Mavericks Notes: Game 7, Ntilikina, Kidd, Crowder

The Mavericks were relaxed at Saturday’s practice ahead of tonight’s Game 7 in Phoenix, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd, who had plenty of experience with pivotal playoff games during his playing career, is urging his team to enjoy the opportunity and “stay in character” the way it has done all season.

In NBA history, road teams only have a 23.2% success rate in seventh games, and the challenge is particularly daunting for Dallas, which has lost all three games of the series in Phoenix and was destroyed by 30 points in Game 5. But the Mavs are optimistic after responding with a dominant performance of their own Thursday night.

“It’s an emotional lift for us,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Obviously Phoenix was the best team in the league in the regular season. Obviously they’re at home, hostile environment. But you know, they also say a Game 7 typically goes to the best player and I believe we have that in this series. It’s going to be an exciting clash of styles.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Frank Ntilikina missed the Mavericks’ first-round series with Utah following a tonsillectomy, but he has been an important contributor against Phoenix, notes Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News. Ntilikina was barely used by the Knicks in last year’s playoffs and had a disappointing four-year run in New York. He’s thankful to get a second chance with Dallas, which signed him in September without requiring him to work out. “Definitely it was stress and tension back then,” Ntilikina said, referring to his time with the Knicks. “But I stayed with it like every player should do and stayed confident in my work. Now I’m just glad to be here preparing for a Game 7, preparing for [Sunday].”
  • Kidd wasn’t with the Mavericks when they lost Game 7 to the Clippers last season, but he believes being in that environment will benefit them today, Carlton states in the same story. “Guys who participated in it understand what it means so you don’t have to explain what Game 7 means,” Kidd said. “It’s about us executing the game plan and giving us a chance.”
  • Suns forward Jae Crowder has strong memories of his first Game 7, which happened when he played for the Mavericks in 2014, Carlton adds. “Yeah, I had a lot of vets on my team. I had Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki,” Crowder said. “Those guys just talked about the atmosphere, how it was going to be enhanced, how much emotion was going to be in the game. Still, whatever they told me wasn’t enough. It didn’t put in what’s at stake and the emotions behind it. Obviously going through it helped me a lot.”

Injury Notes: Mavericks, Murray, Curry, Adebayo, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who will reportedly miss Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against Utah on Saturday, has officially been listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report (Twitter link). Tim Hardaway Jr. (recovering from left foot surgery) and Frank Ntilikina (recovering from an illness) will also miss the contest.

Hardaway is considered unlikely to return this season, though he hasn’t given up hope of a comeback if Dallas makes a deep playoff run. The Mavs later announced (via Twitter) that Ntilikina underwent a tonsillectomy, which is why he’s sidelined. The 23-year-old is back with the team and gradually returning to on-court activities.

Here are some more injury and COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been ruled out for Game 1 against Golden State on Saturday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The news isn’t surprising, as Murray has missed the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last April.
  • Slater also notes that Stephen Curry has been listed as probable for the Warriors. He’s on track to play his first game since suffering a left foot sprain and bone bruise on March 16.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is hopeful that Bam Adebayo will clear the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time to play in Game 1 against Cleveland or Atlanta on Sunday, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Adebayo entered the protocols on April 10 and players must stay isolated for at least five days unless they return two straight negative tests at least 24 hours apart, so he should be cleared soon.
  • Suns guard Landry Shamet was unable to practice on Friday due to a left foot injury, according to a report from The Associated Press. “Injuries are a part of it,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not sure the severity of it. He just didn’t practice today and that’s all we have to report. But we’re built for situations like this. … We just have to deal with stuff as it pops up.”
  • Luke Kennard will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home game for the Clippers, as Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group relays (via Twitter). Kennard is dealing with a right hamstring injury and his absence will be a key one for Los Angeles, who faces New Orleans to determine the No. 8 seed in the West.

Mavs Notes: Nowitzki, Cuban, Kleber, Doncic, Ntilikina

As first reported last week by Marc Stein (Twitter link) and later confirmed by the team, the Mavericks will retire Dirk Nowitzki‘s No. 41 jersey on January 5, when they host the Warriors in Dallas.

Nowitzki will join Rolando Blackman (No. 22), Brad Davis (No. 15), and Derek Harper (No. 12) as Mavericks players who have had their jersey numbers retired by the franchise. All three players are expected to be in attendance for the ceremony on January 5, along with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, writes Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com.

“Dirk is everything to the Mavs. First, 41.21.1,” team owner Mark Cuban said, referring to Nowitzki becoming the first NBA player to spend 21 seasons with a single team. “And now, lifting his jersey to the rafters. It is a special day for the Mavs and Mavs fans around the world.”

Here’s more out of Dallas:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke on Sunday to a handful of reporters, including Mark Medina of NBA.com, about the team’s start to the season, his first impressions of new general manager Nico Harrison, and Nowitzki’s jersey retirement ceremony, among other topics. “He’s a learner,” Cuban said of Harrison. “To me, that’s always the most important part. Can you deal with the people? Can you get the results? And are you a learner? He’s a learner. He’s a sponge and always open to things. So I’m happy with what’s going on.”
  • Maxi Kleber returned to action on Sunday for the Mavs after sitting out nine games with a left oblique strain, but Luka Doncic remained sidelined, missing his third consecutive game due to left knee and ankle sprains. Doncic was a game-time decision on Sunday, which suggests he’s close to getting back on the court. Dallas is 0-3 without him after starting the season with a 9-4 record.
  • Mavs guard Frank Ntilikina left Sunday’s game due to a right calf injury and didn’t return (Twitter link). The severity of the injury isn’t yet known.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Jackson Jr., Ntilikina

Pelicans coach Willie Green said doctors are “encouraged” by the latest imaging on Zion Williamson‘s surgically repaired right foot, but Scott Kushner of NOLA.com believes it’s hard to see Monday’s update as good news. Another round of scans will be conducted in two to three weeks. In the meantime, Williamson is taking part in 5-on-0 workouts, but hasn’t been cleared for full scrimmages.

Kushner compares the delay to Williamson’s rookie season, when he sat out three months after a preseason knee injury that originally had a six- to eight-week projected recovery time. He will miss eight more games if he’s able to return in two weeks, Kushner adds, and 12 if it’s three weeks. It could be much longer if the next set of scans don’t show improvement.

“We need him,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “We are waiting every day for him to come back. It’s going to be a different look with our team. But he’s a huge piece for us. We need him back. Then we’re going to see what everything looks like.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Another Pelicans season is already in danger of slipping away, and William Guillory of The Athletic is calling on the organization to place a greater emphasis on Williamson’s weight and conditioning. Guillory adds that while Williamson’s size may not have caused the two injuries, it played a role in keeping him out so long two years ago and will likely do the same this season. New Orleans has been competitive despite its 1-6 start, Guillory notes, but the club doesn’t have anyone to take over on offense in close games.
  • The Grizzlies need more production from Jaren Jackson Jr. to become legitimate contenders, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Jackson, who received a four-year extension before the season began, is the only Memphis big man who can shoot from the perimeter, but he’s connecting at just a 31.3% rate through seven games. In addition, frequent foul trouble is limiting him to just 26 minutes per night.
  • Frank Ntilikina is making a case for more playing time with the Mavericks, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The former Knicks guard has only been on the court for 61 minutes this season, but Dallas is plus-20 in that time. “When you look at the rotation, you have to play him,” said coach Jason Kidd.

Mavericks Notes: Hardaway, Ntilikina, Porzingis, Cap Situation

Tim Hardaway Jr. is looking to expand his game as Luka Doncic‘s backcourt partner, Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News writes. Hardaway, who served as the sixth man in more than half of the Mavericks’ games last season, will look to boost his defensive presence along with delivering his usual 3-point shooting.

“He’s able to score the ball, but we’re asking him to play defense, too,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We’re trying to show him the things that can help him be better at that position, and if he can do those things, I think he can be talked about as an All-Star, too, in this league.”

Hardaway, who signed a four-year, $75MM contract this summer, chose to be a starter this season after Kidd gave him the option of being in the lineup regularly or heading the second unit.

We have more on the Mavericks:

  • Dallas made a strong push for Frank Ntilikina, which the free agent point guard appreciated, he told Marc Stein of Substack. “I felt that will since the beginning of free agency, so that will from them to have me here, that’s what made me want to come here,” the former Knicks guard said. “The challenge is just exciting.” Ntilikina signed a two-year minimum contract, though the second year is non-guaranteed.
  • Kidd believes that Kristaps Porzingis can return to his All-Star form as early as this season, according to Caplan“I think he has the skill set to be an All-Star. He is an All-Star in this league,” Kidd said. “Sometimes we judge people unfairly because of injuries or other things that are going on, and we expect them to be robots or be All-Stars every year.”
  • Despite having two max players, the Mavericks have a favorable cap situation, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes. Dallas is still $16MM below the luxury-tax line, giving the club plenty of elbow room to pursue roster upgrades. Hollinger takes a deep dive into the team’s offseason moves and projects it to finish with the Western Conference’s fifth-best record.

Mavs Notes: Chandler, Powell, Burke, Ntilikina

Former Mavericks center Tyson Chandler doesn’t officially have a role on his old team’s coaching staff, but he’s present at training camp and is sharing his knowledge with Dallas’ players, writes Dwain Price of Mavs.com.

“For me, I just want to help in any way I can,” Chandler said. “(Head coach) Jason (Kidd) called me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Nothing much. Working out.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, come by.’ So I came by and I’m just trying to lend my knowledge and help any way I can.”

Chandler isn’t sure whether he wants his unofficial role with the Mavericks to lead to something more formal down the road. For now though, Kidd is happy to have his former teammate around working with the club’s big men.

“He started helping out, and he wanted to see if he loved it,” Kidd said. “We’re lucky to have someone like that who can help our bigs. It was great to hear players mention him yesterday. That’s a sign of Tyson is doing the right thing.”

Let’s round up a few more Mavs notes…

  • Dallas’ plan to open the season is to have Dwight Powell starting at center alongside power forward Kristaps Porzingis, Kidd said on Wednesday (link via Eddie Sefko at Mavs.com). Kidd added that he wants to experiment a little with different lineups early in the year “to see what combinations work.”
  • The Mavericks said earlier this week they’re hoping to get 100% of their roster vaccinated against COVID-19, but guard Trey Burke said on Wednesday that he’s “not trying to rush into a decision,” per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Burke said he wants to learn more about possible long-term effects of the vaccine.
  • Kidd had a hand in the Mavericks’ decision to sign Frank Ntilikina, having pushed for the move, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link).

Texas Notes: Exum, Ntlikina, Rockets, Mavericks

In a tweet and Instagram video, Bobby Marks of ESPN breaks down the creative structure the Rockets employed for Dante Exum‘s contract, which was initially reported to be worth a fully non-guaranteed $15MM over three years.

The base salary for the first year is $2.5MM non-guaranteed, with $2.5MM in likely incentives. As Marks states in the video, Exum can earn $1MM for averaging 15.8 minutes per game and another $1.5MM for playing 15.8 MPG and recording a net rating of at least +2.7. Both incentives – which apply to all three seasons of the deal – are considered “likely” because Exum averaged 19.3 MPG with a +3.6 net rating in 2020/21.

The leaguewide salary guarantee date is January 10, so if Exum is still on the Rockets by that date his salary would be guaranteed and would be considered $5MM for trade purposes.

There’s more from Texas:

New York Notes: Randle, Barrett, Millsap, Ntilikina

Knicks All-Star big man Julius Randle recently discussed a variety of subjects with SNY.tv’s Ian Begley, including his career-best 2020/21 campaign, Mitchell Robinson‘s progression and more.

Randle, 26, is coming off an excellent season with New York, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists per game. He also shot 46% from the field and 41% from deep during those contests.

“My process, honestly, it stays the same,” Randle said. “I try to keep the main focus, the main focus. And that’s, (taking) everything day by day. Whether it’s a workout, whether it’s a film, whatever it is, I just try to give everything that I can when I’m doing what I’m doing. And I kind of let the chips fall where they may.

“I trust the work and the process of everything that I’ve done. And I have faith and belief that that’s going to pay off. I know what I sacrifice, I know what I do to prepare. And regardless of success or failure, I try not to change. I don’t know what the expectation is (for our team). I can’t even tell you what to expect from me. I just know that I’m just gonna keep improving, getting better as a player. That’s just where I stand with it.”

There’s more out of New York tonight:

  • In the same interview with SNY.tv, Randle praised the rapid improvement of Knicks guard RJ Barrett. Like Randle, Barrett also had a productive 2020/21 season, averaging 17.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. “RJ’s going to be a really good player,” Randle said as part of a larger quote. “What is he, 21? I don’t know how old he is. He’s young as hell (laughs). He’s a really good player, and I can relate as far as what he’s done, and what I’ve seen from him so far in this offseason is he just keeps improving. That’s really what it’s about.”
  • Nets big man Paul Millsap is switching jersey numbers from No. 4 to No. 31, according to NetsDaily (Twitter link). Millsap, a 15-year NBA veteran, signed a free-agent deal to join the team last month.
  • Former Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina bid farewell to the team and its fans on Sunday, posting a short video on social media (Instagram link). Ntilikina was the team’s No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft. He recently signed with the Mavericks after spending four seasons in New York.

Western Notes: Bozic, Gordon, Ntilikina, Fox

The Spurs have a new G League coach in Petar Bozic, according to a press release from the Austin Spurs. Bozic spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the G League franchise. Before coming to Austin, he served as head coach of Partizan in his home country of Serbia from 2015-16.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The agreed-upon four-year, $92MM extension between the Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon is a sign that the franchise is going all out win a title in the next three seasons, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post opines. It’s a declaration that Nikola Jokic and the core group is good enough to capture the championship, regardless of the moves made by the Lakers and other contenders.
  • The two-year contract that guard Frank Ntilikina has signed with the Mavericks includes a team option in the second season, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. It’s still unclear whether the former Knick received a full guarantee for the upcoming season.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox explained why he’s faster than anyone else in the league in an interview with The Reel’s Kenny Beecham, relayed on the team’s website. “The way I move is so much different than everybody else,” Fox said. “Everybody’s not able to make the cuts and just stop and do what I do, especially going at full speed.”