Just as the halftime gymnasts in Dallas’ 89-84 preseason win over Alba Berlin went out to set world records (and they did – using a trampoline to dunk on a hoop from 25 feet away), the Mavs tried to set their own records during the opening minutes of their first preseason game of the season. Coughing up the ball more often than Mike Vick, Dallas was nearly on some type of record-setting turnover pace. They must’ve given up six or seven turnovers in the opening minutes (they had 10 after the first quarter), and almost all of them somehow involved Chris Kaman (14 points, six boards). Not a good sign. Whether it was Kaman going off the dribble and losing it or getting his shot blocked in transition, it looks like things haven’t changed with the NBA’s preeminent huntsman. Between O.J. Mayo and Kaman, the Mavs are going to give the ball away like they’re playing in a pickup game at West 4th this year … Late in the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki bricked a wide-open breakaway layup, a play that was very reminiscent of Fab Melo and his airballed layup on Friday night. Dirk has the added excuse of preseason, but still, you never want to go home to Berlin for a preseason game and embarrass yourself like that. Nowitzki wasn’t exactly working up a sweat – he played 33 easy minutes and scored eight points – but he did at least look better than he did during last year’s preseason. Actually, Dirk feels so good he says he plans to play beyond the final two years on his current contract. There was some talk that Nowitzki had all but decided he’d hang ’em up once this deal ended. Yet he told The Dallas Morning News that he hopes to play longer, and will, as long as it’s still fun and as long as his body doesn’t disintegrate. At 34, he can’t plan too far ahead. But Nowitzki feels good, and wants to finish strong … Great news for Dallas fans: Vince Carter (14 points) hit three of four spot-up triples in the first half. Bad news for Dallas fans: he spent the game chillin’ around the arc … One guy who did play really well for Dallas was Darren Collison (14 points, nine dimes). He made perimeter shots, ran the offense, and if it wasn’t for old UNC friend, Deon Thompson, who scored 20 points for Alba Berlin, DC would’ve looked like the best player on the floor for most of the game … In his quest to go from “beloved NBA player” to “annoying post-retirement celebrity,” Shaquille O’Neal recently went stupid on us by saying he preferred Brook Lopez AND Andrew Bynum to Dwight Howard. Never one to shy away from making crazy statements, Phil Jackson came through yesterday, and basically said on the “Waddle and Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago that his former big man needs to settle down. Jackson admitted that Lopez and Bynum both have good scoring touches, and that there is “a lot to” what Shaq said because Howard isn’t the typical go-to option in the post. But Zen felt the difference was Howard’s overall game: his shotblocking, his defense, his movement and agility and his rebounding. Jackson, for once, is being serious. And he’s right. With so many taking shots at him over the past year, we bet Howard has his best year yet this season, and when he goes up against Lopez, he’s going to skin the goofy off Brooklyn’s center … Tyson Chandler also called Shaq’s rankings “comical” but that had more to do with O’Neal completely disregarding him than anything else … And is this Charlotte’s new court? We’ll give them credit for trying to be unique, but damn, our eyes hurt. This looks so bad, like something MJ would wear out in public … Keep reading to hear which young guards will get extensions, and which ones won’t …
If J.R. Smith really wanted to start in the NBA, it shouldn’t be too hard. Cut down on the shaky defense, get rid of the broken plays, and stop shooting contested triples from Albany and we’re pretty sure he could lock down a gig with New York’s top five this season. Plus, the injuries to Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer could conceivably push Earl into the MSG introductions by default, at least for the opening months of the season. Smith has been an off-the-bench spark plug throughout his career – a spot that seems tailored for him because of his streaky shooting – yet told The New York Post that he’ll come off the bench if it’s better for the team, but that he really wants to start. At this point, we do feel for him a little bit. In the NBA, it’s all about labels, and Smith has been labeled a crazy-headed bench scorer. That’s what he is at this point. More importantly, that’s what everyone says he is. It’ll take a lot for a team to commit to him as a full-time starting shooting guard … In other preseason action, Memphis beatdown Real Madrid by a dozen behind a huge night from Rudy Gay (27 points). After coming off the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the 2010 Playoffs, we expected last year would be his breakout one. Instead, Gay and the Grizzlies spent the year moving in circles. Is this the year he finally makes an All-Star Team? … San Antonio blew out Montepaschi Siena, 106-77, despite Kawhi Leonard being the only player on their roster to play more than 20 minutes … Ty Lawson‘s driving layup just before the buzzer gave the Nuggets a 106-104 win over the Clippers despite 25 points from Eric Bledsoe … And Marc Stein of ESPN.com is reporting Jrue Holiday and Lawson will likely get extensions soon while Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan won’t. Holiday and Lawson are two of the league’s most underrated players, and both are perfect fits in their current situations, so no one can be surprised to see their respective squads lock them up. And DeRozan, while talented, isn’t quite deserving of a bigger money deal at this point, especially after he regressed so noticeably last year. But what about Jennings? Well, his problem is he wants max money, and he’s barking up the wrong tree. If you’re Milwaukee, why give Jennings a max deal to become your franchise player in a smaller market? It’s not worth it. They’re smart to hold off and hold on to their options … We’re out like Charlotte’s new floor.
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