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#pounditSaturday, May 8, 2021

Basketball

Rick Carlisle does not mind play-in tournament despite Doncic, Cuban criticisms

Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is zigging where the rest of his organization seems to be zagging.

Before his team’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, Carlisle addressed the divisive topic of the league’s upcoming play-in tournament.

“My take on it is this,” Carlisle said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “If it’s in place and it’s going to happen, it’s great, and you’ve got to embrace it. If you’re in a situation where you end up playing in a play-in tournament, that’s going to be a great experience. That’s how you’ve got to look at it.

“Now that said, everybody’s trying to avoid it,” he went on. “Everybody wants that. I don’t know that they’re going to call it going forward, that guaranteed playoff position, the one through six. But look, my attitude about it is simply that. If it’s there, you’ve got to love it, and you’ve got to do your best to avoid it.”

Carlisle’s comments are a sharp contrast from the other key figures on his team. Mavs star Luka Doncic recently called out the play-in format. Team owner Mark Cuban has also expressed his displeasure with the tournament. For what it’s worth, the Mavs are currently fifth in the West but only one game above the play-in zone.

The tournament has been a controversial topic among other teams as well. But Carlisle’s stance of “embrace it if you’re there, but try like heck to avoid it” does sound like a pretty reasonable take.

Report: Cavs coaches were ‘ordered’ to praise Collin Sexton when he was a rookie

Collin Sexton

Collin Sexton was the most important piece the Cleveland Cavaliers received in their trade three years ago that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. The point guard struggled a bit in his rookie season, but the Cavs did something that seems unheard of to assure his confidence was not shaken.

The Cavs acquired the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as part of the Irving deal, and they used it on Collin Sexton. According to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Cleveland executives were so determined for Sexton to become the face of the franchise that they ordered coaches to not be too hard on him.

When Sexton struggled at times during the 2018-19 season, Lloyd says Cavaliers coaches were “ordered to continue playing him no matter what.” The team’s support staff was also told to “continually praise” Sexton. Lloyd also notes that the Cavs put serious effort into getting Sexton onto the NBA All-Rookie teams and into the Rising Stars games.

Sexton has turned into one of the best scoring guards in the NBA. He is averaging 24.3 points per game this season, but Lloyd believes the franchise is playing a dangerous game. Cavs ownership wants Sexton to be a superstar and the face of their franchise, likely to prove they won the Irving trade. Sexton is a talented player, but very few people believe the 22-year-old will ever be Irving.

The Cavs are 21-45 and once again eliminated from postseason contention. They’ve been a disaster since LeBron James left a second time. There have been reports that Sexton’s teammates are unhappy with his style of play, which could be a product of the way the team treated him like royalty from the jump.

Brook Lopez explains his viral reaction to Kenyon Martin Jr. dunk

Brook Lopez Kenyon Martin Jr

Brook Lopez explained his hilarious reaction to a dunk from Kenyon Martin Jr. that went viral on Friday night.

Lopez’s Milwaukee Bucks beat the Houston Rockets 141-133. Martin got to play significant minutes and put together a career-high 26 points, highlighted by an emphatic dunk in the third quarter.

The best part was the way Lopez reacted to the dunk.

So what was the deal with it? Lopez said he was just trying to give Martin the reaction he was looking for.

That’s hilarious. Mission accomplished, Kenyon.

James Harden ‘very confident’ of return before playoffs

James Harden

The Brooklyn Nets are running out of time if they want to get their big three some time together on the floor before the playoffs start. James Harden is confident that the chance will come.

Harden, who has been out since April 5 with a hamstring injury, said Thursday he is “very confident” that he’ll be back before the start of the playoffs.

“The plan is to hopefully get an opportunity to play a couple games before the postseason,” Harden said, via Malika Andrews of ESPN. “We’re just taking one day at a time.”

Harden added that the presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving actually meant he didn’t need to rush back and carry the team, as had been the case with the Houston Rockets in years past.

“At this point in my career, going to postseasons basically since I’ve been in Houston, I’ve been playing heavy minutes, just carrying the load,” Harden said. “And this was an opportunity for me to keep my body right going into the postseason with a clear mind and a clear body. You’ve got 16 games to win. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s the reason why I came to Brooklyn.”

Harden, Durant, and Irving have played just seven games together since Harden was acquired from Houston. While Harden isn’t concerned, there’s another team demonstrating that it’s not easy to adapt and adjust this late in the season after multiple extended absences. The Nets had better hope that their stars don’t run into similar issues.