Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 28): Mark Cuban says Mavericks won't tank Staff

Cuban refutes talk Mavs are tanking | Kyrie clutch for Cavs | Embiid, Brown embrace ‘Process’ chants | Whiteside willing to help Riley recruit free agents | Pacers’ defense delivers

No. 1: Cuban says Mavs won’t tank — Loud, opinionated, controversial. You can call Mark Cuban a lot of things that will easily stick. But don’t call him a tanker. The Mavericks owner told Tim McMahon of that despite the fact that his team is mired in a miserable start to the 2016-17 with the worst record (3-13) in the NBA, he would not consider tanking the season in order to get a higher draft pick:

“Haters gonna hate. We think that you always compete,” Cuban said after finishing his pregame StairMaster routine Sunday night. “If you’re competing when the league is better, like it is this year, if you don’t do well, you’ll be in a position to get a good pick. Which, remember, even if you have the worst record in the NBA, there’s a 75 percent chance you’re not going to get the top pick.”

Cuban, whose team has made the playoffs in all but one full season under his watch, is also adamant that accepting losing in an attempt to get the top pick in the draft is a poor franchise-building strategy.

“There are so many teams that became four years away from four years away because guys just learned how to lose,” Cuban said. “They stopped caring about any individual game and just got used to it, and you don’t want guys developing those bad habits. We have so many young guys on this team, we want the games to mean something. Not to be, ‘OK, who are we going to pull in the fourth quarter so we can lose this game?’ That’s not how teams develop good habits.

“The only way you overcome that is to have the ultimate superstar carry you through, and it’s tough to draft the ultimate superstar. I don’t see any Shaqs or LeBrons or Tim Duncans in this draft, so I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. You just ignore the haters, let them bitch, and go about your business.”


No. 2: Kyrie closes deal for Cavs — There’s no doubt the the overall strength of the defending champion Cavaliers is their Big Three core of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin James and there’s no question that LeBron is king of the castle. But through their sizzling 13-2 start, Irving tells Dave McMenamin of he’s learning that it’s less important to pile up points for an entire game than to drop the hammer late:

“It’s just about picking and choosing,” Irving said after scoring 10 of the Cavs’ first 13 points in the fourth quarter to help them come back from an early 14-point hole against Philly. “Knowing where your spots are. When you have great players like this on our team, it can come from any of us [at] any given moment. So, when any of us gets it going, we always continue to go to that person. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Whether it’s needed for me to go get however many in the fourth quarter — or Kevin [Love] or Bron [James] or Channing [Frye]. It can be anybody’s night. It’s just that we’re always trusting the pass, and we’re always trusting each other and making each other better. So that fourth quarter was just the night for me to be aggressive.”


No. 3: Embiid, Brown embrace chants — There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Philadelphia over the past three-plus seasons as the Sixers have dragged along the bottom of the standings. So now that fans at the Wells Fargo Center have taken to chanting “Trust the Process!” when Joel Embiid prepares to shoot free throws, the rookie center and his coach Brett Brown are fully supportive, says Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“I think we need something like that in this city,” coach Brett Brown said Sunday before the 112-108 setback to Cleveland. “I’m not frowning upon that. We want to have some fun. We want to find winning in a more defined way.”

The team’s slogan was “trust the process” during the last three seasons. Embiid gave himself the nickname, “The Process,” and the home crowd won’t let anyone forget when he’s at the foul line.

“It’s all fun when they chant ‘trust the process,’ ” Embiid said. “It’s all fun and I love it.”


No. 4: Whiteside ready to lend Riley a hand — Now that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all faded memories in Miami, the elder statesman Pat Riley has some heavy lifting to do in order to make the Heat relevant as playoff and championship contenders again. That’s where Hassan Whiteside comes in, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. The 27-year-old center says he’s willing to do his part on the recruiting trail:

“I think what really surprised me in free agency is how many guys wanted to come play with me, and were really looking for where I was going,” he said. “That was a big surprise for me.”

Although his is an aggressive approach on the court, Whiteside said opponents recognize that it’s nothing personal, going as far as to have a running conversation with social-media contemporary Joel Embiid during Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“They all know it’s all a game. It’s all trying to get the fans into it. It’s all on the court,” Whiteside said. “A lot of guys know that. A lot ’em don’t take it personal.”

Whiteside, in fact, contends such moments of defensive demolition could become a selling point for Riley, as the Heat president heads out in July to lure the impending free-agency likes of Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin.

“I’m like insurance,” Whiteside said of his unique mayhem. “I feel like I’m insurance for a lot of guys, especially when you have a shot-blocker back there. You’ve got a guy you can throw lobs to, a guy that can finish really well in the paint, that could be a couple of extra assists a game for you.

“And Miami is a beautiful place. It’s very easy to sell Miami. So, I think we can recruit a lot of guys, if things don’t work out with the guys we’ve got.”


No. 5: Pacers step up with toughness — They were again playing without main man Paul George, they were facing up against one of the top the teams in the league in the Clippers and they were looking ahead to embarking on a rugged five-game road trip through the Western Conference. But Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star says the Pacers showed what they can do when they sink in their defensive teeth with a big win on Sunday:

“That’s what we’ve got to do with me being ahead of the defense,” Teague said. “I have to be aggressive defensively and do my best to ignite and get guys going by pressuring the ball. Everything else will take care of itself. We’re moving the ball better, guys are making shots and guys are playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Pacers were not the more talented team Sunday. The Clippers were healthy, full of NBA superstars in Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and are still one of the best teams in the Western Conference. But the Pacers (9-9) were simply more determined than the Clippers (14-4).


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dirk Nowitzki’s aching Achilles’ tendon will likely keep him on the shelf until December…Mitch Kupchak is expecting a bumpy ride with his entertaining young Lakers…Memories of the great Chick Hearn on his 100th birthday…Derrick Rose never asked his buddy Russell Westbrook about Kevin Durant’s departure from OKC…Dr. J’s son says he feels no pressure following in the footsteps of Dad the legend…All the details you need to know as the trading season approaches…It’s been more than three years, but they still don’t like Dwight Howard in Los Angeles.