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Mavericks-Thunder Preview

Mavericks-Thunder Preview

Kevin Durant said his back is fine after he appeared to injure it in the Oklahoma City Thunder's last game.

Dirk Nowitzki looks set to return after missing the last two contests for the Dallas Mavericks.

Durant has been simply brilliant in two overtime victories over the Mavericks this season, and both superstars should be eager to meet in Monday night's matchup in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City (35-12) fell 115-110 at Cleveland on Saturday. Durant appeared to injure his lower back in the third quarter while hustling back on defense and left briefly, saying afterward he was fine.

Nowitzki, meanwhile, has endured an injury-plagued season in missing 27 games at the start after knee surgery. He returned to practice Sunday after missing the last two contests with a right adductor strain.

The German superstar has shown his rust in averaging 13.5 points on 26.7 percent shooting in two losses to Oklahoma City this season.

That hasn't been the case at all for Durant, who has averaged 46.0 points in the two wins, including a career-best 52 the last time these teams met in a 117-114 victory at Dallas (20-27) on Jan. 18.

Durant presents a tough matchup for a Dallas team allowing opponents to average 26.1 free throws for the Western Conference's worst mark. Durant is 31 for 31 at the line against the Mavs this season.

Russell Westbrook is averaging 23.5 points and 8.0 assists in the two victories for the Thunder, who have won eight straight in this series including last year's first-round sweep in the playoffs.

The Mavs will also have to worry about Serge Ibaka, who is averaging 15.5 rebounds against them to help the Thunder to a edge of 17 boards over the two games.

New Dallas point guard Darren Collison, a former UCLA teammate of Westbrook, is averaging a team-high 23.5 points in the season series.

Collison says it has been a learning experience in his first season playing for coach Rick Carlisle.

"Just because he's being hard on us or easy on us in a difficult way you can't take it too seriously," Collison said. "He's trying to make us better and help us become the players we need to be in this league and it's been good for me. I think we've had steady improvement."

The season series has been proof of how these teams differing fortunes in the clutch. The Thunder are 4-1 in overtime while the Mavs are 1-8.

Dallas will seek to salvage a split of a four-game trip after winning 109-99 over Phoenix on Friday. The backcourt of Collison and O.J. Mayo combined for 39 points as the Mavs used a 35-point fourth quarter to pull away.

The Thunder are happy to start a three-game homestand after playing 12 of their last 15 on the road. They have a bitter taste of the contest that ended that stretch as they blew a double-digit lead against the Cavaliers.

"We were up 12," Durant said. "We can't just come in and play nonchalant basketball. (When) we are up 12, we have to put them away."

Oklahoma City has won 13 straight at home against West foes.

Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

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Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

Leaving the Georgetown Hoyas a season early is initially paying off for Marcus Derrickson. 

Less than a month before what would have been his senior season at Georgetown, the 6-7 forward has signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors. 

Derrickson nabbed the second two-way position on the Warriors after an outstanding Summer League translated to a solid preseason.

Fitting right into the Warriors deep-ball oriented scheme, Derrickson was 6-16 from three point range during the five-game preseason. He's a versatile stretch-four that continues to develop and improve on his outside game. 

By signing a two-way contract, the former All-Big East Second teamer will have a chance to get called up to the two-time defending NBA champions at any point this season for up to 45 days. The remaining time will be with the Warriors' G-league affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors

This arrangement will earn Derrickson a contract of $75,000 and a prorated amount for however much time he is practicing/ playing with Golden State. 

If he is called up to the NBA for more than the allotted 45 days, then the Warriors are obligated to give him a minimum rookie contract. 

Derrickson continues to prove himself as the list of aspiring players dwindles. As each contract begins to near its end, the Warriors time after time offer another opportunity.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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