Dereck Lively

Mavs’ Harrison Talks Offseason, Doncic, Jones, Assistants, More

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mavericks head of basketball operations Nico Harrison said that he doesn’t expect to make any significant changes this offseason to the core of the roster that won the Western Conference this spring.

“I think we have the pieces. I think we just need to get better ourselves,” Harrison said, per Mike Curtis of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). “Since I’ve been here, our front office staff has looked to make it better and we’ll continue to do that. But the core is intact. If you look at our top seven or eight players that really played. I don’t see anything happening with that.”

There has been speculation that the Mavericks could turn to the trade market in the coming weeks to make one more big move to solidify the team’s place as a legitimate title contender. While Harrison didn’t entirely rule out that possibility, noting that the front office is always open to ideas that would improve the roster, he suggested that they key to getting better is having Dallas’ own players come back “10 to 15% better.” That includes MVP runner-up Luka Doncic.

“We’re not where we’re at without Luka,” Harrison said, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “I think that’s important to point out, and we also won’t be able to get where we want to go without the best version of Luka. If you look at a guy who after Game 3 (of the NBA Finals) had the world on his neck — the scrutiny, which was crazy, the amount of scrutiny that he had to face — for him to focus in and do what he did in Game 4, I just think it just shows the character of him. He’s willing to fight through adversity, and I think he’s going to continue to get better.

“He’s 25 years old. I think just going through the Finals, him seeing what he needs to do to be at his best in the Finals after going through a grueling end of the year and then three tough, tough (playoff) matchups, I think you’re going to see the best version of him.”

Here are a few more of Harrison’s most notable comments from Friday’s presser, via Curtis, MacMahon, and Eddie Sefko of

On his expectation that Doncic will play for Slovenia in its Olympic qualifying tournament next month:

“That’s probably one of his biggest joys. I think as long as he can walk, he’s probably going to go out there and play for them.”

On the Mavericks’ desire to re-sign Derrick Jones despite salary limitations:

“I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but he’s a priority. He’s priority one — 1A and 1B. I think he fits in with our team. He loves it here and we have to figure out obviously the dynamics to get him to stay. But that’s a priority and we’ll do what we have to do to get it done.”

On the importance of the playoff experience that four Mavs’ newcomers got this spring:

“To get to where we were, we relied on four players who had little to no playoff experience. (Dereck) Lively, (Daniel) Gafford, Derrick Jones and P.J. (Washington). Those four players played huge minutes for us and had little to no playoff experience. So how do they come back and incorporate that in their game from the start. I think that’s going to be huge.

“P.J. specifically, I think he can add a few more points a game, taking the ball off the rim, pushing it, posting up smaller players, shooting a little higher percentage from the three-point line, penetrating when they run him off the line. So he can add a few more points. And he’s going to. He’s poised to continue to get better. But the experience all four of those players got in the playoffs is going to carry them into next season.”

On assistant coaches Sean Sweeney and Jared Dudley drawing interest from rival teams:

“We love both of them and we respect them. They’ve been valuable in getting us to where we’re at, but at the same time, it’s about people. Our goal is to develop players and staff. If opportunities present themselves, we’re going to support them. They know how much we want them back, but it’s about growth. You can’t hamstring players or staff from growing. We’re going to support them, but we do want them back. We’re hopeful that they’ll be back.”

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Doncic, Lively

Kyrie Irving had a pair of rough outings during the first two games of the Finals  in Boston. With the series shifting back to the Celtics’ home court for Game 5 on Monday, the Mavericks guard says he must block out all “self-doubt” with the Mavericks trying to stay alive, The Athletic’s Joe Vardon writes.

Irving shot 13-for-37 from the field in Games 1 and 2.

“Let’s call it what it is, when the fans are chanting ‘Kyrie sucks’ or anything, they feel like they have a psychological edge — and that’s fair,” he said. “If I’m not making shots or turning the ball over, that makes it even more of a pressing issue that they can stay on me for. So I think in order to silence even the self doubt, let alone the crowd doubt, but the self-doubt when you make or miss shots, that’s just as important.”

Irving will switch up his mental approach in Game 5, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

“Be prepared for what I’m getting myself into,” Irving said. “Most importantly, not making this about me or getting into the energy with anyone else other than my teammates. That’s about it.”

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Head coach Jason Kidd was a top assistant with the Lakers before getting the top job with the Mavericks. Kidd says Luka Doncic and LeBron James have a very comparable mental approach. “They’re very similar,” Kidd told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “They’re very similar, IQ-wise. Both just off the charts. Luka doesn’t have athleticism like LeBron has. But they do a lot of things similar and they both really know the game.”
  • The Mavericks are trying to make history by erasing a 3-0 deficit and Doncic says it’s all about faith in themselves. “I think the most important thing is to show that we believe,” he said, per MacMahon. “I think we showed in Game 4. If not, if we wouldn’t believe, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. So I think obviously the talk is easy to talk about it, but then showing it is another thing. I think we showed it.”
  • Rookie big man Dereck Lively is still amazed how far he’s come in one year, according to Schuyler Dixon of The Associated Press. ”I wouldn’t have expected myself to be in this spot whenever I looked at the draft a year ago,” he said. ”The draft is a week away. Last year, a week away from the draft, my heart was pumping because I didn’t know what was going to happen. And now I’m playing in the NBA Finals.’

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Lively, Jones, Rotation

The Celtics were hoping Kyrie Irving would lead them to a championship when they traded for him nearly seven years ago. Instead, he went through a tumultuous journey in Boston and Brooklyn before finding happiness with a Mavericks team that’s now standing between the Celtics and an 18th banner.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe talked to Irving about all that went wrong during his time in Boston, which eventually led to a bitter breakup with the city. Washburn notes that Irving tended to be a loner when he played for the Celtics, but he has become more likable and more approachable since then.

“Being under the microscope in this business is a lot different for me now than probably four years ago, five years ago, because I’m able to put the big picture of life in perspective and also the game in perspective. It comes easier,” Irving said. “Then also I think the social media, sociopathic behavior. You know, your inner voice is not clear anymore when you’re downloading other voices and other opinions. That can become hard.”

The Mavericks are somewhat of a surprise Finals team after missing the playoffs last season. After Dallas traded for Irving in February 2023, his fit with Luka Doncic initially appeared awkward, but they’ve found a way to make it work. Irving appreciates the situation he’s landed in, and he believes the Mavs can be title contenders for years to come.

“At 32 right now, I just feel like the sky’s the limit,” he said. “I have an opportunity to be on a special team that can be one of the teams that dominates in this era. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out the past few years, of how to be on a great team, be in an organization where I’m trusted, and also we’re able to succeed and fail together, and doing it in a way where we still have each other’s backs, and no one is giving up on the dream or the goal.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Dereck Lively II‘s dominance in the middle is one of the reasons the Mavericks believe they can rally from a 3-0 deficit, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Lively had seven offensive rebounds Friday night and sparked an early game-changing run with a rare three-pointer. He wound up with 11 points and 12 boards, making him the first rookie with back-to-back double-doubles in the Finals in 44 years. League sources tell Fischer that rival teams knew the Mavs were targeting Lively in last year’s draft, and they were able to work out a deal with Oklahoma City after a proposal involving Clint Capela and the Hawks fell through.
  • Shawn Marion, who was part of Dallas’ last title team in 2011, sees elements of his own game in Derrick Jones Jr., per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “He’s definitely a shuffle piece that you can put him in different places because he’s very athletic,” Marion said. “He’s mobile. And he’s tall. So he’s got the length. He’s a versatile defender.”
  • Head coach Jason Kidd made rotation changes that might help the Mavericks sustain the momentum from their Game 4 win, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Minutes have increased for Lively, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber while decreasing for Jaden Hardy and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Mavericks Notes: Game 4, Adjustments, Doncic, Kidd

The Mavericks came away with the third-largest victory in a game in NBA Finals history on Friday, defeating Boston 122-84 to cut the Celtics’ series lead to 3-1, Eddie Sefko of writes.

We had to play our A game,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It was this or we go on vacation. I thought the group did a great job of not pressing, letting the game happen. We made a stand. We were desperate. We got to continue to keep playing that way. They’re trying to find a way to close the door. The hardest thing in this league is to close the door when you have a group that has nothing to lose. Tonight you saw that. They let go of the rope, you know, pretty early.

Luka Doncic put up a strong first half with 25 points, helping the Mavericks build a big early lead that they never surrendered. Doncic had spoken after Game 3 about wanting to have fun on the court again, and it certainly seemed like that was the case in Game 4, Sefko writes.

It doesn’t change anything,” Doncic said. “It’s first to four. And we’re going to believe until the end. So we’re just going to keep going. I have big belief in this team.

We have more from the Mavericks:

  • The Mavs finally made their opponent think by making some critical adjustments, The Athletic’s Tim Cato writes. Dallas has historically done well in the playoffs after falling into a deficit under Kidd, and Game 4 was no exception. Dereck Lively II looked comfortable and Dante Exum saw more action, scoring 10 points off the bench and proving he can contribute. “We waited until Game 4 to ultimately play our best game,Kyrie Irving said. “But we have another opportunity to extend the season. That’s all we can ask for. We handled our business tonight. But the job is still an uphill battle, and we understand that.
  • Doncic showed the basketball world that he’s willing and ready to take a step with his game, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes. Doncic apologized for his Game 3 actions involving referees and then was more composed in Game 4. Amick writes that Doncic’s three steals also signal his willingness to improve as a two-way player.
  • Kidd defended Doncic prior to Game 4, Joe Vardon of The Athletic observes. “For whatever reason, there have been some personal attacks on him, but he will learn from them and he will be better when he comes back from it,” Kidd said ahead of Friday’s game. Kidd said Doncic deserves a break but also pointed out that some of the league’s greatest have taken this sort of criticism before finding long-term success.

Mavs Notes: Doncic, Officiating, Defense, Lively

Luka Doncic has a long history of officiating complaints and Game 3 of the Finals on Wednesday was no different. The Mavericks superstar fouled out with 4:12 remaining and felt he was victimized by unfriendly whistles, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

“We couldn’t play physical,” Doncic said. “I don’t know. I don’t want to say nothing. You know, six fouls in the NBA Finals, basically I’m like this (motioning with his palms up). Come on, man. Be better than that.”

The sixth foul, in which Jaylen Brown tripped over Doncic’s knee, was challenged by coach Jason Kidd. However, Kidd knew it wouldn’t be overturned, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes.

“I was stuck. I had to challenge it,” Kidd said.

All but two of the fouls whistled against Doncic occurred in the fourth quarter.

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Doncic is feeling the burden of being a superstar on the NBA’s biggest stage, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic opines. Doncic simply hasn’t excelled at both ends of the floor, which is why his team is staring at a 3-0 deficit in the series. Thompson adds that the All-NBA guard will eventually will join the ranks of the ring bearers once he learns how to elevate his game in these situations.
  • Doncic’s defensive shortcomings are the elephant in the room, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports notes. That’s been a major obstacle for the team to try to overcome. “He’s got to be able to guard and understand that we’re there to protect him and help him if he does get beat,” Kidd said.
  • The team’s belated rally was sparked by rookie Dereck Lively, who implored his teammates to keep their heads up even as they fell behind by as many as 21 points. “He rallied us tonight, Came to the bench and just told us to keep believing,” Kyrie Irving said, per Tim Cato of The Athletic. Irving and the veterans are impressed by Lively’s maturity. The big man struggled during the first two games and was quick to take the blame. “For him to take accountability like that after Game 2, to be 20 years old, that’s a big step,” Irving said. “The journey is the reward. I always told him this mission is bigger than us. It’s just not solely focused on this year. We have a future together where we’re going to continue to grow as teammates.”

Mavericks Notes: Kidd, Doncic, Lively, Irving

Dallas is now 1-6 in playoff series openers under coach Jason Kidd, so there was no cause for alarm following the Game 1 loss in Boston, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The Mavericks suffered double-digit defeats in their first games against the Clippers and Thunder on their way to the NBA Finals, MacMahon notes, and they rebounded with road victories in Game 2 each time. So it was business as usual at Saturday’s practice.

“There’s no panic with this group,” Kidd said. “We didn’t play well in Game 1. Give credit to Boston; they did. But it’s a series. We don’t just look or capitalize on just one game. We’ve lost Game 1 a lot of times, and we’ve responded. We believe that we can respond in Game 2.”

The team’s resiliency starts with Luka Doncic, who holds the highest scoring average in Game 2s in playoff history at 33.9 PPG, according to MacMahon. That number rises to 34.3 following a loss. Doncic put up 30 points on Thursday night, but he was limited to one assist, and Kidd has urged him to “take the layups” if the Celtics continue to focus on preventing him from throwing lobs or passes to corner shooters.

“I think just be a little bit more aggressive,” Doncic said. “I think we all came out for the game with little energy. So I think we have to be better with our energy, especially from the start.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • After a subpar Game 1, Dereck Lively II got some words of encouragement via text message from former Dallas center Tyson Chandler, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Chandler, who has become a mentor for Lively, didn’t want the rookie center to get discouraged after foul trouble helped limit him to two points and five rebounds. “All he’s telling me to do is the little things, no matter if that’s hitting them on the box-out or being able to talk to my teammates on the backside,” Lively said. “Just doing the little things so that everybody is connected on the court, so we’re not leaving anybody behind.” 
  • Meeting with reporters on Friday, commissioner Adam Silver addressed Kyrie Irving‘s apology for endorsing an antisemitic film in Brooklyn two years ago and his journey toward reinstatement, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Irving had to complete six “action items” before he could return to the league, and Silver was convinced that he remorse he showed was genuine. “I felt comfortable vouching for him, in essence, because I knew him,” Silver said. “I knew his character and felt that it was important that — while he acknowledged that he had made a mistake — that his entire career and character not be framed by one bad moment. I mean, having said that, he paid a price, of course, for that misstep. But he did a lot (to make amends).”
  • Tim Cato of The Athletic looks at the role Mavericks assistant God Shammgod played in forging a successful on-court partnership between Irving and Doncic.

NBA Finals Notes: Brown, Porzingis, Mavs’ Centers, Luka, Kyrie

Speaking to reporters during a media session on Saturday, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd referred to Jaylen Brown as the Celtics‘ “best player” when asked about the challenges of facing the Boston wing (Twitter video link).

“Well, Jaylen’s their best player,” Kidd said. “So just looking at what he does defensively, he picked up Luka (Doncic) full court, he got to the free throw line, he did everything. That’s what your best player does.”

You could certainly make a case that Brown has been the Celtics’ best player in this postseason — his 24.8 points per game during the playoffs rank slightly behind Jayson Tatum‘s 25.3 PPG, but he has got his points far more efficiently, shooting 54.3% from the floor and 36.6% on three-pointers, compared to 43.8% and 29.9% for Tatum.

Still, the general consensus is that Tatum – who has also averaged a team-high 10.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in the postseason – is Boston’s best player, so Kidd’s comments raised some eyebrows. While they may reflect his honest opinion, it’s hard not to read Kidd’s praise of Brown as an attempt at gamesmanship, given that the relationship between the two Celtics stars has been a popular topic of speculation among outsiders over the years.

Here’s more on the NBA Finals, with Game 2 on tap for Sunday:

  • Given how well the Celtics played in Game 1 with Kristaps Porzingis coming off the bench, head coach Joe Mazzulla will face an interesting decision on whether to return the big man to his spot in the starting lineup on Sunday, writes Brian Robb of As Robb notes, Boston played its best basketball with Porzingis on the court and could still manage his minutes over the course of the night if he starts. However, the team has gone 10-1 with Al Horford as its starting center during the playoffs and is riding an eight-game winning streak, so Mazzulla may not want to mess with what’s working.
  • Despite Mazzulla saying prior to Game 1 that Porzingis had no minutes limit, the big man told reporters on Saturday that he is in fact facing a minutes restriction (Twitter link via Souichi Terada of Porzingis, who logged 21 minutes in Game 1, didn’t offer any specifics on that restriction.
  • Porzingis’ presence represents a major problem for the Mavericks, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News, who says the Celtics’ floor-spacing centers essentially neutralized the impact of Dallas big men Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively, who had to chase Porzingis and Horford out to the perimeter rather than hanging back and protecting the rim. As Townsend points out, Gafford and Lively combined for just 10 points, eight rebounds, and no blocks on Thursday, while Porzingis and Horford totaled 30 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks.
  • Doncic and Kyrie Irving were unable to beat their defenders one-on-one in Game 1, which would’ve forced the Celtics to send help and created open shots for teammates, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. As a result, the two stars combined for just three assists, while the team as a whole had only nine. If that doesn’t change going forward and Doncic and Irving can’t do more in those one-on-one situations, it will likely be a quick series, Hollinger opines.

Mavs Notes: Doncic, Porzingis, Lively, Dumont, Washington

Former NBA player Chandler Parsons stated on FanDuel’s Run It Back program that Luka Doncic did not like playing with Kristaps Porzingis when the two were Mavericks teammates from 2019-22.

That’s news to Doncic, who denied there was any friction between him and the current Celtics big man.

“They’re wrong. I’ve talked to Chandler Parsons maybe twice in my life, so I don’t know how he would know this,” he said, per Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News. “Me and KP have a good relationship. I don’t know why people say these things.”

We have more from the Mavericks:

  • Remember when the league fined the Mavericks $750K for resting players during the second-to-last game last season, when they were still in the play-in hunt? It was worth the fine, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon notes, as they wound up drafting Dereck Lively II in the lottery at No. 12 after trading down. Dallas needed to make swift moves to build around Doncic and Kyrie Irving and the Mavs struck gold in the draft. The tank job was a transparent attempt by the Mavs to hang on to the top-10-protected pick they owed the Knicks as the final payment on the Porzingis blockbuster deal.
  • Patrick Dumont, the franchise’s majority shareholder, knew the team could be a contender this season. But he had no idea the Mavs would be in the Finals when the purchase from Mark Cuban was approved by the league’s Board of Governors in late December. “No, we were just very happy and honored to be able to be here,” Dumont told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “Like, we had no idea. But we knew this team would compete. And we’re very excited about the work they’ve put it in and the results. It’s phenomenal.”
  • P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford went from lottery teams prior to the trade deadline to now playing prominent roles on a Western Conference champion. Washington feels blessed to be in this position, he told Eddie Sefko of “I’m pretty sure he (Gafford) didn’t expect to be here, just like I didn’t,” Washington said. “It’s a lot of emotions coming from Charlotte and not really winning a lot of games to being in the Finals in a matter of months. It’s a quick turnaround and we’re just extremely grateful. We’re not taking anything for granted. As a kid, I never thought I’d be in the position that I’m in now.”
  • Lively developed quicker than coach Jason Kidd expected, Sefko writes in a separate story. “When we got Lively, we felt it was going to fill one of the holes that Luka was looking for, a vertical guy,” Kidd said. “You could see the future of him being the anchor of the defense. The future just happened to come a lot faster. He wanted that responsibility. Sometimes, young players will shy away from that. But he ran to it.”

Mavericks Notes: Kidd, Kyrie, Finals, Lively

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd‘s recently announced multiyear contract extension with Dallas is believed to be in the same financial ballpark as the Kings’ first leaked extension offer to incumbent Sacramento head coach Mike Brown, reports Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link).

The Kings’ initial offer to Brown was said to be worth $21MM over three seasons, or up to $27MM with incentives, effectively making it worth $7-9MM annually. Sacramento eventually agreed to a three-year deal that will reportedly pay him at least $25.5MM total, and up to $30MM with incentives.

While the exact details of Kidd’s deal aren’t known, if it’s between $7-9MM per year, it suddenly looks like a bargain, given that he has led the club to its second Western Conference Finals and its first NBA Finals in the weeks since he inked the contract. Many of the established head coaches who have inked new contracts within the last 12 months have received eight-figure salaries.

Kidd has coached the Mavericks to a 140-106 overall regular season record and a 21-14 playoff record across his three years with the team so far. He has a chance to add a Larry O’Brien Trophy to his coaching résumé this summer and looks like a safe bet to remain in Dallas for the foreseeable future.

There’s more out of Dallas:

  • Mavericks star point guard Kyrie Irving is slated to appear in his first NBA Finals since 2017 when he was still with the Cavaliers. Intriguingly, he’ll be facing off against another one of his former teams in the Celtics, led by his former teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. As Marc J. Spears of Andscape relays, Irving is looking forward to the opportunity to win his second title. “It has been seven long years, but it has also felt like the right amount of time in order to reward myself,” Irving said. “I know how much chaos was going to try to be created. But I have to give a shot out to a lot our staff, our PR people, our day-to-day maintenance of physical therapy, upper management because they really instilled the confidence to be myself.”
  • The Mavericks are steeling themselves for the challenge of Boston’s multifaceted attack, writes Eddie Sefko of The Celtics posted a league-best 64-18 regular season record and ran through the East, going 12-2 in the playoffs this spring. “They’re the best team in the NBA,” All-Star guard Luka Doncic said. “They have by far the best record, some incredible weapons on offense and defense so we’re going to have to play really hard and amazing basketball to beat them.”
  • Rookie Dallas center Dereck Lively II admitted in a Sunday presser that he himself is surprised he has become a major contributor on a Finals team this season, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter video link). “None of us expected this,” Lively said. “They expected me to come to the Dallas Mavericks and learn. That’s what I did. I don’t think they expected me to learn this much this quick.”

Dereck Lively Cleared For Game 5

Mavericks reserve rookie center Dereck Lively II has seen his status upgraded from questionable to available just in time for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night, per Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link).

The 2023 lottery pick left Game 3 of the series, an eventual Dallas victory over the Timberwolves, with what was ruled as a neck sprain. He sat out Game 4, the Mavericks’ lone loss thus far. The club currently leads Minnesota 3-1.

Lively has been a key contributor for the club thus far in these playoffs. Across 15 healthy contests, he’s averaging 8.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 dimes and 1.1 blocks per night.

As Keerthika Uthayakumar of TSN tweets, the Mavericks have outscored the Timberwolves by 22 points during Lively’s 63 minutes on the hardwood during the Western Conference finals.

His abilities as a hyper-athletic, rim-rolling big man, and lob threat have been key to maximizing the talents of Dallas All-Star guards Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic.

The victor of this Mavericks-Timberwolves series will go on to face the Celtics in the Finals, which tip off on June 6.