Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

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30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Dallas Mavericks.

When it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, everything essentially begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki.
 
The future Hall of Famer is entering his 20th NBA season and still ranks among the tougher players to defend in the NBA.

But Father Time is gaining ground on the Nowitzki, 39, which is why the Mavericks have wisely added the kind of talent around him the past couple of years that should take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders and, just as important, put the Mavs back into contention for a playoff spot after failing to get there last season following a stretch of reaching the postseason 15 out of 16 years.
 
The Mavericks will look to bounce back from a 33-49 season, one in which injuries played a major factor in the team’s struggles.
 
Nowitzki appeared in just 54 games last season, averaging 14.2 points - the fewest he averaged since his rookie season (8.9 points).
 
Among the few Mavs to stay relatively healthy was Harrison Barnes, who led the team with 19.5 points per game average while appearing in 79 games.
 
Dallas had a solid season defensively and solidified their interior by trading for Nerlens Noel in February.
 
A restricted free agent this past summer, Noel and the Mavericks were unable to come to terms on a long-term contract. And without the benefit of an offer sheet, Noel had no leverage in getting the kind of near-max salary he was seeking.
 
So, he eventually signed a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer.
 
One of the main areas the Mavericks will look to improve upon this season is scoring after averaging a league-low 97.9 points per game.
 
Having better team health overall will help, as will the addition of high-scoring combo guard Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Selected by Dallas with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft, the 6-foot-2 guard did a little bit of everything in his lone season with North Carolina State, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
 
He was just as impressive in helping lead the Mavs to a 5-1 summer league record in Las Vegas, earning a spot on the NBA All-Summer League first team by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions:
Josh McRoberts (Miami); Jeff Withey (Utah).
 
Key losses: None.
 
Rookies of note: Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Expectations:
37-45 (third in the Southwest Division,10th in the West).

Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

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Jerebko hoping for a winning return to Boston

When Jonas Jerebko was with the Celtics, his play and performance often drew very little fanfare or notice from anyone other than his teammates and coaches. 
 
Now with the Utah Jazz and back in Boston for the first time, he is once again a low-key -- but important -- contributor. 

And it's a role that Jerebko doesn’t mind playing, in part because of his time in Boston. 

“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko told the Deseret News recently. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning, so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.”
 
While that’s true, Jerebko’s role with the Jazz appears to be slightly more prominent than it was in Boston. 
 
In his two-plus seasons in Boston, Jerebko made six starts. We’re not even at Christmas yet in his first season in Utah and the 6-foot-10 forward has already had 10 starts for the Jazz.  He’s also averaging 6.3 points, which is more than he ever averaged in a full season for the Celtics. And he’s shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from 3-point range. 
 
The numbers are better in Utah, but Jerebko is more concerned with helping the Jazz (13-14) rack up a few more wins.
 
“It’s all about that win in that column, so that’s really what I learned in spending my time [in Boston],” Jerebko said. “It was a good time.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar story lines leading up to tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz. 


 
ROOKIE SHOWCASE
 
Fans are in for a treat tonight when two of the NBA’s top rookies will be on the floor. Boston’s Jayson Tatum, the NBA’s top 3-pointer shooter this season, has established himself as one of the top rookies in most categories. Meanwhile, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best first-year players, evident by him averaging 17.8 points per game, which is tops among all rookies. 


  
3-POINT DEFENSE
 
Keep an eye on Boston’s 3-point defense. The Celtics come into tonight’s game limiting opponents to 33.8 percent on 3’s, which is the second-lowest average in the NBA. They face a Utah team that has been among the league’s best this season. The Jazz are shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranks fifth in the league.


 
POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
 
Limiting their mistakes will once again be a key for the Celts because few teams capitalize on mistakes as well as Utah. The Jazz force 16.5 turnovers per game, which ranks second in the NBA. But more impactful is the points those turnovers produce. The Jazz come into tonight’s game having averaged 19.1 points off turnovers, which ranks fifth in the NBA. 


 
GORDON HAYWARD
 
This was supposed to be his first time facing his old team, but the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 17 has put him on the shelf for what’s expected to be the rest of this season. Still, that won’t prevent his former teammates from playing with a little extra something. As for the Celtics, they have had a tremendous amount of success against Utah at home which can only enhance their chances of winning tonight. 


 
KILLER SCHEDULE
 
While the Celtics are playing a ton of games before most teams in the NBA, the Jazz have their own scheduling nightmare to deal with. Specifically, the caliber of opponents that they have ahead of them is pretty daunting. They play the Celtics tonight followed by a road game against Cleveland on Saturday. From there, they face Houston and Oklahoma City on the road, then come home to take on the San Antonio Spurs (who now have Kawhi Leonard back in the mix). Including the Celtics game tonight, seven of Utah’s remaining games in the calendar year 2017 are against teams with an above-.500 record.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Jazz at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Slumping Jazz look to break long losing streak in Boston

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE