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There’s More Than Dirk to Get Excited About in Dallas

The Mavs are making a playoff push, Nerlens Noel looks good, and Mark Cuban is having fun

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A 7-foot German, armed with a redeeming haircut and a plate of leftovers, scored 20-plus points Tuesday night to surpass 30,000 in his career … with every one of those 30,000 coming on one foot. It can make for quite the distraction. Dirk Nowitzki, beloved Maverick, mythos and man, finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in Dallas’s eventual 122–111 win over the Lakers. He jumped to sixth on the all-time scoring list and made adults cheer without reservation, like they were kids again, in the process. But there were other developments on Tuesday for the Mavericks, the organization that, thanks to Mark Cuban, never sleeps. Here’s a recap on non-Nowitzki happenings:

Mark Cuban Takes Aim at the Lakers

Before everyone was saying all the right things about Dirk, Cuban was busy saying all the wrong things about … everything. The Lakers shifted their front office in a new direction this month, and while the team was visiting Texas, the Mavs owner was asked what he thought about Magic Johnson, newly named Lakers president of basketball operations, a personal friend, now a business peer, and forever an NBA legend.

“I hope they fail miserably,” said Cuban, the “they” also including new GM Rob Pelinka. So sweet! A little competitive nature between friends is healthy. He did once get Magic kicked off a plane, so Cuban isn’t afraid to rustle around. He continued:

“I hope they fail horrifically.” OK. Also harsh, but he’s really just repeating what he said before and using a different adverb that seems a teensy bit worse. Despite what I’m sure were wincing reactions from the media, he continued:

“I hope Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka go down as the worst GM/president combination in the history of GM/president combinations.” Was Mark joking? (Does Mark joke?) Worse than Matt Millen with the Lions, who had a .270 winning percentage over seven seasons? Worse than David Kahn in Minnesota? Worse than Elgin Baylor with the Clippers? How exactly does Mark Cuban interpret the phrase “I’d never wish that on my worst enemy”? I wish I didn’t have to say this, but somehow, he continued:

“But I hope they live wonderful lives.” Ah. Redeemed, Mark! Bravo!

He also mentioned his friend, Lakers part-owner and president Jeanie Buss, and her current situation, which is, as of now, removing the temporary restraining order that she had against her brothers after they tried to pull off an organizational coup. Perfectly good time to say something supportive, Mark.

“The worse it is, the better for me,” he said about the situation. “There’s no NBA thing involved. We survived the other franchise going through some hell that didn’t begin to rival what may be going on. The more turmoil with 29 other teams, the happier I am.”

The “other franchise” here is the Clippers, and the hell they went through is the Donald Sterling scandal. If the Lakers’ situation really is worse than that, send Jeanie some wine or a new Shark Tank gadget. She needs it.

Dallas Continues Its Playoff Push

The other major event of the night for Dallas was winning the game. This season started out a 6–20 catastrophe of Harrison Barnes–Chandler Parsons regret, tank talk, and ever-continuing Dirk health concerns. But somehow, with Seth Curry (yes, that one), Yogi Ferrell (again, yes), Harrison Barnes, and Wesley Matthews — and Dirk Nowitzki; kind of important — playing well, the playoffs are within reach.

Portland, a half game ahead of the Mavs in the standings, also won on Tuesday, keeping Dallas at arm’s length. But the Blazers are the first team out, and the unlikely Mavs sit only two spots from the ultimate prize: the eighth seed. The next week is ripe for a push, with four of Dallas’s next six games coming against the Nets (twice), Suns, and Sixers.

Portland should be equally optimistic about its future, facing only three teams above .500 in its next 12 opponents. Denver, on the other hand, suits up against the Wizards, Celtics, a healthy Clippers team, and the Rockets twice in the next 12 days.

Nerlens Noel Shows Promise

Nerlens Noel didn’t get a shout-out from LeBron James or make his former shooting coach tear up, but the big man did manage an encouraging 11 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. This marks his second double-double in six games with the Mavs, topping the one he managed all season with the 76ers. He also had three blocks and an assist, and the team-high board count. Six games is a small sample size, and Noel is averaging five more minutes per game in them than he did in Philly, but the former Kentucky man’s numbers are all up, in points per game (from 8.9 to 10), rebounds (from 5.0 to 8.7), and blocks (from 0.9 to 1.3).

After some unflattering light in his first few days with the team, showing reliability off the bench and allegiance to Dirk is the way back up.

A Gorilla Dove Onto an NBA Court — Wait, What?

This has nothing to do with the Dallas Mavericks. Enjoy, anyway — even you, Mark Cuban.