Harrison Barnes

Mavericks Notes: Early Struggles, Nowitzki, Matthews

Despite early season buzz and expectations surrounding the Mavericks‘ young core and the addition of DeAndre Jordan, they have gotten off to another slow start this season, sitting at just 2-7. As Eddie Sefko writes for The Dallas Morning News, this start looks eerily similar to past seasons, as the Mavericks are no stranger to such struggles.

As a result of anticipation surrounding the backcourt pairing of Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic, as well as the signing of Jordan, many were expecting the Mavericks to make a significant jump in the Western Conference. Even with Doncic impressing on a nightly basis, Dallas has struggled to win games, despite a relatively easy schedule to start the season.

Sefko points out that there are ways out of this early hole, with the Mavericks getting Dirk Nowitzki back in the near future as Harrison Barnes continues to work his way back from a preseason injury. The Mavericks have yet to have their ideal rotation playing together, which can give them some confidence that things will turn around.

It will take plenty of fight and effort, as well as a healthy rotation, for the Mavericks to truly turn things around given how tough the conference will be this season. Early signs indicate that this will be another year of growth and development for the Mavericks.

There’s more from the Mavericks:

  • Speaking of Nowitzki, Eddie Sefko (via Twitter) also points out that coach Rick Carlisle would be “thrilled” if the 40-year-old big man plays in games this month. Nowitzki has been working out during practices, but this seems to indicate that he is still several weeks away from getting on the court during games.
  • After earlier reports revealed that Wesley Matthews had an intense meeting with Mavericks’ President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson after the team’s loss to the Knicks on Friday, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Rick Carlisle is denying that the meeting was heated in any way.

Dirk Nowitzki Still Weeks Away From Returning

Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki is still weeks away from returning to action, head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters today. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com details, that means Nowitzki will miss the start of the season, his 21st with the Mavs.

“It’s going to be multiple weeks, I can tell you that,” Carlisle said. “But there’s no real soft or hard date [for Nowitzki’s return] at this point. He is doing better, but has not done any significant court work. His rehab work is ongoing, and we can update you in another 10 days or something like that.”

Nowitzki, who continues to recover from April ankle surgery, initially hoped to be ready to go to start the 2018/19 season, but suffered a setback last month. He won’t require any additional procedures on that ankle though, according to Carlisle (Twitter link via Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News).

After averaging 12.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 77 games (24.7 MPG) last season, with a very respectable shooting line of .456/.409/.898, Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks in July. The 40-year-old has indicated that he’d like to keep playing as long as he remains healthy and productive, as he was last season. It appears this year is off to a more ominous start in terms of his health, however.

Harrison Barnes‘ availability for the start of the regular season also remains up in the air, according to Carlisle, who said today that Barnes will need to get in some “quality practice time” before Dallas’ opener in order to play in that game.

Harrison Barnes May Miss Preseason

A hamstring injury could force Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes to sit out the entire preseason, tweets Tim Cato of The Athletic. Barnes tweaked the hamstring in practice and will be sidelined “for a while,” head coach Rick Carlisle confirmed.

Barnes definitely won’t play in Saturday’s preseason opener or on the upcoming trip to China, adds Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). His condition will be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days, adds Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link).

Barnes was among the Mavericks’ most important players last season, posting 18.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 2.0 assists in 77 games. He can become a free agent next summer by opting out of a $25.1MM salary for 2019/20.

Texas Notes: Bzledik, Harris, Barnes

The Rockets will be without the services of associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik this season, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The mind behind Houston’s defensive improvement has decided to retire at the age of 65.

Wojnarowski adds that the departure, less than 10 days before training camp opens, will put the Rockets on their heels and many of Bzdelik’s responsibilities will be spread over the remaining staff.

Bzledik previously served as the head coach of the Nuggets, with a number of other teams in smaller roles and at several stops in the NCAA.

There’s more from Texas:

And-Ones: NBA Africa Game, Global Camp, Upshaw

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Sixers center Joel Embiid will headline the rosters in this summer’s NBA Africa Game, the league announced today. The event, which will take place on Saturday, August 4 in Pretoria, South Africa, will feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format, with Cameroon native Embiid heading Team Africa and DeRozan representing Team World.

Joining Embiid on Team Africa will be fellow NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Cheick Diallo, Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Pascal Siakam. DeRozan’s teamates on Team World will include Harrison Barnes, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Khris Middleton, and Hassan Whiteside.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

  • A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects from outside the United States will take part in the NBA Global Camp 2018 in Treviso, Italy from June 2-5, the NBA announced on Wednesday. While Luka Doncic won’t attend the pre-draft showcase, there will be plenty of prospects worth watching, including Cedevita forward Dzanan Musa, who is the No. 19 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com.
  • The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the G League player who passed away earlier this year after collapsing during a Grand Rapids Drive game, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the NBA and the Pistons of negligence. The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide the Drive with the “the resources, policies, and procedures reasonably necessary” to prevent or handle Upshaw’s collapse. Noah Trister of The Associated Press has the full story and more details.
  • Now that two-way contracts have been in effect for nearly a full year, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days explores what sort of changes we may see to the rules surrounding those contracts in the future.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Capela, Conley, Barnes

The Lakers might be the logical landing spot if the Spurs decide not to offer Kawhi Leonard a supermax deal or if he tells them he’ll walk after next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Leonard can opt out of his deal next summer and the Spurs would want to acquire assets rather than wind up with nothing, as the Thunder experienced when Kevin Durant bolted, Washburn continues.  The Lakers have enough assets to make such a deal happen, but the Celtics would likely decline the Spurs’ advances if they were asked to give up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and a first-rounder for him, Washburn adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela‘s value to the Rockets hasn’t gone unnoticed and should lead to a lucrative offseason for the impending restricted free agent, as Stefano Fusaro of The Undefeated notes. Houston went 42-3 this season when Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden were all in the lineup, and Paul told Fusaro it’s no coincidence. “Y’all know the record when we all play together, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of me and James,” Paul said. “Clint is really the X factor. He opens up so much for us.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley anticipates playing a full season after his injury-marred 2017/18 campaign, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley opted for season-ending heel surgery in late January after appearing in just 12 games. “Thankfully I had the surgery early enough to where I have a full summer of work and getting my body ready for an 82-game season,” Conley told reporters.
  • Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes wants to play for the U.S. national team again, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes, who had a limited role in the 2016 Olympics, is one of 35 players USA Basketball has named as candidates to play in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics. “Everybody would love to play in a World Cup and the Olympics,” Barnes told Sefko. “Those are bucket-list experiences. If I could be included in that group, it would be really special.”

Texas Notes: Spurs, Barnes, Finney-Smith, Harrison

Yesterday, Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News relayed that the original narrative about the Spurs‘ players only meeting regarding Kawhi Leonard being tense was not accurate, writing that Leonard even received support from some teammates who urged him not to return until he feels healthy enough to do so.

Today, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio-Express News seconded his colleague Young’s reporting, with quotes from Spurs’ veterans Danny Green and Tony Parker. Green, who tweeted a strong denial to the alleged tense nature of the meeting, said “(the report) was incorrect, wrong, false. I guess that’s the only way to put it. There was a meeting. That’s probably the only thing that was true in the article. Nobody in (the meeting) was frustrated or took it the wrong way. We were communicating like adults.”

For his part, Parker neither affirmed or denied the original report, essentially telling Spurs’ reporters that what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. “You should know better that I can’t talk about that. That’s private stuff, locker room stuff. We always talk as a team, but you know we can’t talk about that.”

Interestingly however, Orsborn writes in another, related story that Parker contrasted his quadriceps injury from last season with Leonard’s injury this season in a thought-provoking manner, saying “I’ve been through it. It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury, but mine was a hundred times worse, but the same kind of injury. You just stay positive.” Parker also spoke highly about the Spurs’ medical team, while Leonard received a second opinion from outside medical professionals.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News also has some news from Dallas:

  • The experiment of Harrison Barnes at power forward is over, and Barnes couldn’t be happier about it. Since the Mavericks returned Barnes to small forward four games ago, he has averaged 24.3 points per game and when asked about the move back, simply said, “I love it.” Barnes goal for the remainder of the season is to continue to work on his playmaking, which makes sense considering Barnes only averages 2.0 assists per game, which doesn’t even crack the top-20 for small forwards.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith is one of a handful or more of Mavericks‘ players who aren’t guaranteed a spot of the Dallas roster next season, with his 2018/19 contract of $1.54MM currently non-guaranteed. But luckily for Finney-Smith and the others, the Mavs’ down year has given them an opportunity to showcase their talents for potential suitors. “It’s tough, losing like this, (but) they’re doing a good job playing hard,” says veteran J.J. Barea. “You never know who’s looking. They’re getting opportunities to play, to show themselves to everybody, to get better at what they do.”
  • Faced with a glut of big men on their roster, the Mavericks signed former Kentucky stand-out Aaron Harrison to a 10-day contract yesterday, electing to let Jameel Warney return to the G League. Whereas Warney clogged an already crowded position, Harrison is now only the second healthy player on the team’s entire roster who could reasonably be classified as a shooting guard.

Mavericks Notes: Barnes, Smith, Noel, Draft

The Mavericks’ playoff fate is already sealed, but Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. hope to use the final 19 games of the season to prove they can provide a foundation to build around, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Barnes, 25, is signed for $24.1MM next season with a $25.1MM player option for 2019/20. Smith, 20, is on a rookie contract and will be under team control through the 2021/22 season. They figure to be the leaders in Dallas once Dirk Nowitzki retires.

“It will mean a lot for us because we plan on being here for a long time,” Smith said. “So the more we can build together now, I think it’ll help a lot next season, building chemistry for next year.”

There’s more news out of Dallas:

  • These next 19 games are also important to center Nerlens Noel, who has a limited time to rebuild his reputation after missing extensive time after thumb surgery, Sefko notes in a separate story. Heading into unrestricted free agency after accepting Dallas’ qualifying offer last summer, Noel has played in just 20 games and is averaging 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per night. The Mavericks want to see if he and Smith can develop chemistry over the rest the season. “When he was out there, I just felt like the game got a lot faster,” Noel said of Smith after returning Wednesday. “When he was handling the ball, it helped get guys involved and it brings a new dynamic with me and Dennis and the speed of the game. And I know that’s the way he likes to play and that’s the best way for us to excel.”
  • The NBA doesn’t seem inclined to take away the Mavs’ first-rounder for this summer as punishment for the alleged workplace scandal or Mark Cuban’s comments on tanking, states Mark Mosley of SportsDayDFW. Assuming Dallas lands a high lottery pick, Mosley likes DeAndre Ayton of Arizona to solve the team’s problems in the middle.
  • Also addressing the draft, Sefko examines whether Oklahoma’s Trae Young could be an effective backcourt partner for Smith.

Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes Weigh In On Tanking

The Mavericks snapped their four-game losing streak on Monday, picking up their first win since owner Mark Cuban was fined $600K by the NBA for his comments about losing being in the team’s best interest. Following Dallas’ win over Indiana on Monday, veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes weighed in on the subject of tanking, disputing Cuban’s idea that a series of late-season losses are best the franchise.

[RELATED: 2017/18 NBA Reverse Standings]

“You don’t really want a culture here that’s just giving up and quitting and not playing hard,” Nowitzki said, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I think it just sets the wrong tone for the future. … I think it’s important for our young guys to learn how to compete and to compete all the time, play hard. You play your minutes hard. That’s the only way to get better. That’s the only way to play in this league, and whatever happens after the season, we’ll just go from there. But for now, you play your minutes hard and you play to win.”

As MacMahon details, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle – who spoke before the All-Star break about focusing on “player development” over the season’s final two months – has reversed course to some extent in the Mavs’ last couple games. Carlisle got his veterans plenty of playing time, particularly in the fourth quarter, during Saturday’s loss to the Jazz and Monday’s win over the Pacers.

Carlisle’s approach is endorsed by Barnes, who acknowledged that the tanking issue is one that’s hard to avoid, but suggested that the team should still be doing what it can to win games. Like Nowitzki, Barnes said that the act of tanking can lead to bad habits that become hard to shake.

“Any time you don’t play to win or you’re just kind of going through the motions, that can become contagious,” Barnes told MacMahon. “That can become a habit, and that can become your culture. ‘Oh, it’s OK for us to do this. Oh, it’s OK for us to not give full effort.’ Then next season rolls around, and you can’t flip that switch. It’s still that malaise that you had from the year before.

Southwest Notes: Mavericks, Leonard, Green, Grizzlies

The Mavericks remain willing to take on salary in any deal as long as they get draft picks for their troubles, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas has about $13MM in available cap room, and the quality of the picks they ask for will rise according to how much salary they absorb. The Mavs were rumored to be a potential third team to help complete a George Hill trade to Cleveland, with a Sacramento second-rounder coming to Dallas, but Sefko dismisses that as unlikely.

He identifies Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr. and Dirk Nowitzki as the only untouchables on the Mavericks’ roster, but adds that it would take an extraordinary offer to get J.J. Barea, Devin Harris or Wesley Matthews. Sefko notes that Dallas feels a sense of loyalty to its veteran players and speculates that another organization might have waived Harris before his contract became fully guaranteed earlier this month.

The Mavs, who rank fourth in our Reverse Standings, are counting on a high lottery pick to add another building block for the future. They would like to acquire a second pick and are hoping to find a center in the draft.

Sefko adds that Josh McRoberts, who has a $6MM expiring contract, is being made available in trades, but Dallas plans to let him play out the season if no deal is reached. The team is hoping to re-sign Seth Curry, Salah Mejri and Yogi Ferrell when they all hit free agency this summer.

There’s more tonight from the Southwest Division:

  • The tension between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs over his injury is “legit,” a source tells Ken Berger of Bleacher Report. GM R.C. Buford has denied any rift with Leonard, but both sides are frustrated over his long recovery time from right quadriceps tendinopathy. The same source says the Spurs have a history of being reluctant to get second opinions from doctors outside the organization. Despite the hard feelings, a rival GM says San Antonio hasn’t given any consideration to trading Leonard.
  • The Rockets‘ return to full health has cost Gerald Green his spot in the rotation, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Green, who signed with the team in late December, averaged 15.6 points in 10 games while some key players were sidelined with injuries. “I can’t upset five guys to appease one,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I’d rather have one guy kind of out of it and four happy. I’ve got to keep a core that knows about their minutes. Now, whenever I can, I’ll play him. I won’t hesitate to play him. If somebody’s hurt or sick, he’ll play. Or if I can find time, I will.”
  • The Grizzlies are already making moves with next season in mind, writes Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis is giving more minutes to younger players and letting veterans rest longer after injuries. The team plans to explore the trade market for Tyreke Evans and other players on expiring contracts before the February 8 deadline.