Dirk open to reserve role | What's next for Hawks? | Malone sorry for calling out Nuggets' veterans | Jennings: Knicks must hold each other accountable
No. 1: Nowitzki open to bench role if it helps Mavs win -- As they've done seemingly every offseason over the last few years, the Dallas Mavericks went through a roster remodel of sorts to find the right pieces to compliment star Dirk Nowitzki. The season got off to a disastrous start for both he and the team, and an Achilles injury forced Nowitzki to miss several games last month. After Dallas' loss to the Phoenix Suns last night, the Mavs remain out of the West playoff chase, but Nowitzki is willing to give up his starting role if it will help the team. Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com has more :
The sixth-leading scorer in NBA history would have no problem accepting a sixth-man role if it could help the Dallas Mavericks salvage their season.
Dirk Nowitzki starting at center, as Dallas has done recently with coach Rick Carlisle opting to bring Andrew Bogut off the bench, has not proved to be a solution for the Mavs. That starting five has the worst plus-minus of any Dallas lineup this season, getting outscored by 49 points in 48 minutes. The Mavs' lineup with the best plus-minus features Bogut with the other four starters (plus-27 in 54 minutes).
Without hesitation, Nowitzki said he would be on board with coming off the bench while Bogut started when asked about the situation following Thursday's 102-95 home loss to the Phoenix Suns that dropped Dallas (11-25) to last place in the Western Conference standings.
"Obviously, I've said that we want to compete and we want to make the playoffs," Nowitzki told ESPN. "If that means I'm the 10th man, so be it. We've got to try to figure out what we've got and win some games and make a run. If that's what this team needs to win some games. ...
"Boges is smart out there, he's a very good rim protector for that smaller team. I think the coaches always look at every possibility for us to compete and win some games. Throw whatever lineup we need to throw out there to be successful."
Carlisle had no interest in publicly discussing the possibility of a reserve role for Nowitzki, who has sacrificed by taking steep hometown discounts on contracts in the past to try to help the Mavs build a roster capable of contending.
"I'll pass," Carlisle said before the game.
Nowitzki, who has struggled to find his rhythm while dealing with a minutes restriction as he attempts to rebuild his endurance, has repeatedly stated that it's premature for the Mavs to abandon the plan of playing him alongside Bogut. He mentioned that many teams start games with a more traditional lineup before going small.
"I'm not ready to give up on that starting lineup yet," said Nowitzki, who is averaging 11.7 points on 37.6 percent shooting this season. "We haven't really spent a lot of time out there healthy. It didn't look great preseason, but that's preseason. Everything else after that, I was hurt basically.
"It might be a lineup where we play slower, give the ball to [Harrison Barnes] on the block some, have Deron [Williams] post up some. That lineup sometimes has been challenged scoring, and then once you don't score, teams can run on you. So I think that lineup looked a lot worse when we're not scoring. If we score, we can get back and set our defense and have Boges be a factor there, have our length on the perimeter be a factor. But I don't think we necessarily got a great look at that lineup yet, everybody healthy."
Nowitzki's net rating is minus-21.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranks sixth worst among the 392 players who have appeared in at least 10 games this season.
"I think it's too early to judge any of that stuff," Carlisle said. "Last year there was all that talk about [Chandler] Parsons struggling [coming off an injury], and I said, 'Hey, don't judge it until after the All-Star break.' And that may be what we're looking at with [Nowitzki].
"This has been a long road, so the good thing is he's moving better. He's obviously feeling good or else we wouldn't have him out there. We're a team that's still trying to put things together. So I don't know if pinning it on him is the way to go. I don't think it is."
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No. 2: Korver deal just start of chances in Atlanta -- If you missed it last night, the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers are finalizing a deal that will send Kyle Korver to Ohio. Once he leaves the squad, that will leave only Paul Millsap from the Hawks team that just two seasons ago won 60 games. Will Millsap be the next to move? What about younger players on the Hawks' roster? Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks it down:
The Hawks are finalizing a trade to send Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers. It’s likely the first of several moves before the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 23. Call it the first domino to fall as the organization moves to get younger, acquire future assets and change the makeup of a team to one it believes can compete for a championship.
Other players who could be next include Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha and perhaps Tim Hardaway Jr.
Neither Millsap nor Sefolosha would speculate on the direction of the organization following the Korver deal.
“Not my place,” Millsap said. “My job is to get out there and play basketball. I’m going to miss Kyle but other than that, life goes on, the season goes on. You just have to be ready for whatever happens. Right now, we have to win basketball games.”
The Hawks are talking to a number of teams about the availability of Millsap. The Kings are very interested, according to a person familiar with the situation. Other teams that have reportedly shown interest include the Raptors, Nuggets and 76ers.
One factor in the Hawks moving Millsap would be the ability to re-sign the three-time All-Star. What the Hawks get in return will depend greatly on whether the trade partner can get more than a rental player. Millsap has an opt-out year on his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent.
Millsap turned the attention from his future back to Korver following the Hawks win over the Pelicans and the news about Korver Thursday.
“Today is not about me,” Millsap said. “Today is about Kyle. It’s about Kyle leaving. I’m not a selfish guy. It’s not about me. It’s not about what’s going to happen next. It’s about cherishing the time that Kyle has been here, cherishing him being a great teammate.”
Michael Scotto of BasketballInsiders.com reports via Twitter the Pelicans have interest in Millsap.
The New Orleans Pelicans have expressed interest in trading for Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, league sources tell Basketball Insiders.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 6, 2017
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No. 3: Nuggets' Malone apologizes for calling out team's veterans -- After watching DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings run wild in a win on his team Tuesday, Denver coach Michael Malone put his team's defense on blast. Within that rant was a shot at the team's veteran leadership -- or lack thereof in Malone's opinion -- this season. Malone apologized for his words last night before Denver's 127-99 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post has more:
Nuggets coach Michael Malone apologized on Thursday for comments he made about the lack of veteran leadership on his team after Tuesday night’s loss at home to Sacramento.
“The only thing I’ll say regarding that – and I apologize to our veterans – anything that’s going on in our locker room should be left in the locker room,” he said prior to the Nuggets’ game against San Antonio Thursday night. “So I failed in that regard the other night. I let my frustrations after that loss get the best of me.”
Malone was upset at his team’s lack of effort in a 120-113 loss to the Kings. In the postgame news conference he railed against poor defense and leadership. Thursday he walked the leadership portion back and said in the future he’ll take it to his players behind closed doors but not to the media.
“If I have issues with our veterans, I’ll address it with our veterans one-on-one to try to resolve whatever issues there may be,” Malone said. “So that’s all I want to say about that matter. I owned up to them. Just like I expect them to keep all of our stuff in-house, me as a head coach I have to do the same thing and I didn’t do that the other night, and I apologized to them for that.”
Malone was asked if he feared losing the locker room. He said no.
“We have a great group of guys,” Malone said. “I’ve talked to guys one-on-one. We have so many young players on this team, I want to make sure our young guys are staying positive, staying in the right direction. And we do have good leadership. Last game I was frustrated with that, but as I mentioned, that shouldn’t have come out in the media. I think our locker room is tied together.”
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No. 4: Jennings: Knicks must hold each other accountable -- If there is a low point to date this season for the New York Knicks, they're likely in the middle of it. They have lost six straight (the last one coming on a buzzer-beater by Giannis Antetokounmpo), have been called out for the defense by their coach and are losing ground in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Veteran guard Brandon Jennings spoke out about those issues and more after yesterday's practice, writes Ian Bagley of ESPN.com:
Anyone who has seen a New York Knicks game in the past two weeks knows the team has struggled on both ends of the ball.
But Brandon Jennings says he believes there's something else, something off the court, that has been hurting the team lately -- a lack of confrontation.
"Guys are still together. I just wish we would hold guys, we would hold each other a little more accountable for what we do on the court," Jennings said in an interview with ESPN on Thursday. "I definitely like confrontation. I definitely like being coached and being told when I'm doing something wrong. So those are things that I really think we need to start doing within each other and the team because that's what good teams do.
"I'm not looking at it as a negative. Just sometimes, like last night, the second unit should have gotten ripped for what we did in the fourth. That's just how I feel."
Jennings was on the floor when the Knicks gave up a 14-point lead in the first 3:30 of the fourth quarter in a loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. It was the Knicks' sixth straight loss -- and ninth in 11 games.
After the game, which ended on a buzzer-beating jump shot from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jennings said he ripped into the Knicks' second unit for their shortcomings in the loss.
"Including myself because I let the team down," he said.
What was the message?
"We've got to be ready, we've got to be able to hold the lead when our starters are resting and we've got to give them a lift every night," Jennings said.
Jennings said Thursday that a little confrontation can be helpful; he believes players and coaches shouldn't be shy about voicing criticism when something goes wrong.
"Players among themselves, coaches to players, all of that. Everybody should be able to take criticism whenever," said Jennings, who made it clear in the interview that all of the recent losses have eaten at him. "I think we need it more often. I mean, we're on a six-game losing streak. To lose a 15-point lead in the fourth is embarrassing."
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