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    Teams often don’t outright state their intentions to “tank” in the standings and achieve better draft odds. Heck even the Philadelphia 76ers never claimed they were straight-up tanking, just “asset collecting” (with a certain disregard to the cost). There’s an unspoken rule against speaking out on it. A bit of self-respect perhaps, and avoiding the wrath of the League Office.

    Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks didn’t get that memo. Late in February Cuban felt that it would be best if the Mavericks tanked this season.

    “I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option… Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

    At least the honesty was there. There’s belief that Cuban is serious about this being a one-time thing as well. The Mavericks under Cuban have long been a playoff contender. The team has only missed the playoffs three times in 18 seasons since he bought majority ownership stakes, and the Mavs had endured 10 straight seasons with a losing record prior to his ascent.

    Cuban isn’t afraid to spend big money to put his team in a position to win, giving his GM plenty of resources to achieve this. They’ve swung-and-missed on many big free agent acquisitions in the past (DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony to name a few), which perhaps threw a wrench in their plans that led them to this point, but Cuban won’t relent.

    They added Dennis Smith Jr. in last years draft, which many saw as a stroke of luck falling all the way to ninth. Typical of many rookies, Smith in buried with inconsistency but able to break out and show his tremendous raw ability every once in awhile. He’s only 20 years old.

    Harrison Barnes, a free agent they were able to hit on, is still quite young at 25 years old. He’s not the most enticing player, but as a third option he fits well.

    Poised to pick somewhere in the top-8, the Mavericks are likely to get another young stud.

    Following Cuban’s comments, and his history, the Mavs are likely planning on chasing a big fish this summer once again to add to their young trio, and maybe one more year of the legendary Dirk Nowitzki.

    For so many years Cuban, the Mavs, and even fans around the NBA were desperate to pair Dirk with another superstar in his latter years. It never quite materialized, but if Cuban can work some magic this summer and finally attract that huge free agent (LeBron? George? Jordan? Boogie?), they can give him one last playoff run.

    In the interim the Mavs will continue to tank. The Wolves are 3-0 versus the Mavs this season, and only one has been particularly close. Those were all back before December 11, so you could say the Mavs were even possibly trying back then.

    Now the Wolves will look to win their second in a row, an important win ahead of their massive matchup with the Utah Jazz.

    Pre-Game notes:

    Jimmy Butler has been cleared for contact drills and is traveling with the team. The Wolves will put him through practice and see how he responds. Thibs stressed that this doesn’t suggest an imminent return and that he has a few hurdles to clear, but all signs point to a return sometime before the regular season ends in 12 days.

    Derrick Rose is not with the team due to his ankle injury, but his swelling his subsided significantly. He’s close to a return.

    Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG
    Andrew Wiggins – SG
    Nemanja Bjelica – SF
    Taj Gibson – PF
    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Dennis Smith Jr. – PG
    Dorian Finney-Smith – SG
    Harrison Barnes – SF
    Dwight Powell – PF
    Dirk Nowitzki – C

    Injuries:

    Cole Aldrich (illness) – OUT
    Jimmy Butler (knee) – OUT
    Derrick Rose (ankle) – OUT

    J.J. Berea (personal) – PROBABLE
    Seth Curry (leg) – OUT
    Wes Matthews (leg) – OUT
    Salah Mejri (knee) – QUESTIONABLE
    Dirk Nowitzki (knee) – PROBABLE
    Dwight Powell (knee) – PROBABLE

    Media:

    Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

    When: 8:30 ET/7:30 CT

    How: Fox Sports North

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