Spurs-Mavericks Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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benched spursWell, we might as well start things by reminding everyone how the Spurs should be the team calling themselves the defending champions, except for the part where Gregg Popovich had his three best players on the bench at the end of Game 6 in Miami.

That’s when we stopped calling him “genius” and vowed to never do so again.

So this spring, we will laud Pop with congratulations for finishing with the league’s best record, for putting together a 19-game winning streak, for replacing a top reserve (Gary Neal) with an even better reserve (Marco Belinelli) and for having so much balance on his team that not one single player merited a mention on my postseason individual awards ballot.

SH Blog: Carlisle says Nowitzki is one of 12 greatest of all-time, Cavs expected to offer Irving $80 million this summer

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Dirk-Nowitzki-Dallas-Mavericks-NBA-9-485x728Dirk Nowitzki recently moved past Oscar Robertson to take the 10th spot for all-time scoring in the NBA.

Think about that for a second. 10th all-time! It puts him ahead of legends like Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Jerry West, and the list goes on and on. It’s a surprisingly impressive feat, and it helped put into perspective just how great of a player the power forward has been to reach such a milestone.

So with his career somewhat starting to wind down at the age of 35 (about to turn 36 in a couple of months), is it finally time to start wondering where exactly he belongs when you talk about his standing in the history of the game? Is he in the conversation in terms of being a Top 10 Player of All-Time?  Top 20? According to his coach Rick Carlisle, Nowitzki is already in the Top 12, from Marc Stein of ESPN

Hubbard: Mavericks Quietly off to Surprising Good Start

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Mark_Cuban_2011A little more than a month has passed in the NBA season, but it seems like we’ve already had a full year of distractions, both good and bad. Portland great; Indiana even better. The Knicks and Nets taking turns who’s bad and who’s worse. Kobe close to returning; Rose out for the year. Dwayne Wade hurting; the Atlantic Division hurting even more.

Meanwhile, the last team other than the Miami Heat to win a championship is quietly turning into a solid team, which is interesting for two reasons.

1. How is it that anything Mark Cuban owns is quiet?

2. After winning their first title, the Mavericks took such an unusual approach in trying to win a second.

SH Blog: Melo doesn’t know how to help Shumpert and Smith, Waiters being shopped

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A DARK PLACE FOR NEW YORK:

Carmelo AnthonyThe New York Knicks have now lost seven consecutive games – an unfathomable way to begin the season – to drop to 3-11 overall. They are in the bottom of the Atlantic Division, and Carmelo Anthony admits that the team is now in a dark place, from Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

“The easiest thing for us to do is just to crumble right now,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We are in a dark place but we have to get out of this. We just have to get out of it.”

“We talked. Everybody talked,” Anthony said. “The players had a meeting, the coaches — everybody had a meeting after the game. We had to talk. We’re trying to figure it out together. We have to put four quarters together. We got to do it for one another. Right now the game is not for nobody. We’re just not making it happen.”

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Bernucca: Like many adored stars, Wade gets a pass

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Wade meets the PresidentWhen you’re an adored star in this league, you get a pass on a lot of things.

And Dwyane Wade got a pass for an absolutely rockhead play in Miami’s inexplicable loss to Boston on Saturday.

The Heat led by four with less than two seconds to play. On their home floor. Against the Celtics. And lost. In regulation.

And most of it was on Wade, who (a) faltered in the clutch; (b) made his own strategic decision without any input from the coaches; (c) poorly executed his strategy; and (d) opened a door to a loss that had pretty much been closed.

And Wade got a pass. Understandably, from his coach and teammates. But also from the fans and the media.

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