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Dirk Nowitzki plans to become the first player to spend all 21 seasons with the same NBA franchise.

Dennis Smith Jr. will be half the German star’s age when the Dallas Mavericks open next season looking to end the first two-year playoff drought in nearly two decades. The team posted its worst record since 1997-98 Kyle Fuller Jersey , the year before Nowitzki arrived.

The No. 9 overall pick who turned 20 early in what ended up as a solid rookie season, Smith figures to have a new teammate facing high expectations the way he did. Dallas will pick no lower than seventh in June.

Smith will have at least one thing in common with Nowitzki, who turns 40 this summer. They want the Mavericks to be regulars in the postseason again, the way they were before the current swoon.

”I’ve been in a couple of arenas that are playoff teams, and I just witnessed the atmosphere,” Smith said. ”I can only imagine how it is playoff time.”

It’s certainly better than 24-58, tied with Atlanta for the league’s third-worst record. Youth, injuries and a difficult schedule buried the Mavericks early for the second straight year.

They spent the last half of the season wondering where they would fall in the lottery, and owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for suggesting that Dallas had been tanking for two seasons. Part of Cuban’s point was that he’d had enough of that approach.

”We do not want to go back to what we just experienced,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. ”That’s unanimous, from the top on down. When you go through retooling or rebuilding situations like we’re going through now Antonio Morrison Jersey , it’s done with the right people.”

For Nelson, two of those three people are in place in Smith and leading scorer Harrison Barnes. The third is coming in the draft. Nelson compared the situation to when he joined his dad, former coach and general manager Don Nelson, in Dallas 20 years ago. Michael Finley was already there. Steve Nash and Nowitzki were on the way.

The Mavericks made the playoffs 15 out of 16 years starting in 2001, winning their first championship in 2011. They haven’t won a playoff series since.

”We’re certainly hoping that we’re not in the early stages of a rebuild,” coach Rick Carlisle said. ”We want to get through this as expeditiously as possible. But there’s no way you can skip steps.”

Things to consider after the first 50-loss season for Dallas since the last of seven in an eight-season stretch in the 1990s:

DIRK FOR 22?

Surgery for bone spurs in his left ankle ended Nowitzki’s season a few games early, but after he had set a record for games in a 20th season with 77. He has had a season-to-season approach for several years now.

”I’m hoping the ankle will be tons better than this year,” said Nowitzki , who figures to pass Wilt Chamberlain on the career scoring list but get passed by LeBron James to leave him where he is now – sixth place. ”It’s hard for me at this point to commit further than one year or say one year’s it.”

SMITH’S BACKUPS

J.J. Barea has a year left on his contract after averaging career highs of 11.6 points and 6.3 assists per game. Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry have expiring contracts, but the Mavericks figure to be interested. Ferrell proved to be a solid role player on a two-year deal earned after a flashy start on a 10-day contract last season. Dallas had high hopes for Curry, but the younger brother of Golden State star Stephen Curry missed the season with a stress fracture in his lower left leg.

MORE FIREPOWER

The Dallas roster was loaded with undrafted and/or G League players, and Carlisle has been praised for the development of some of those younger players. Now it’s time to replace projects with weapons.

”Getting Rick ammunition is our No. 1 priority in the offseason http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/davon-house-jersey ,” Nelson said. ”We’ve got a great opportunity in the draft. Free agency as you know will be extremely active. There’s trade fronts obviously that will be probed as well.”

THE LAST OF NOEL

There was no mention of center Nerlens Noel on the final day of interviews. Suspended the final five games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, Noel never developed into the post player Dallas envisioned after getting him at the trading deadline last season. After a lost season on a one-year deal as a restricted free agent, he hits the open market with little or no value.



Operating in the middle of the Baltimore Ravens defensive line, Brandon Williams is expected to bang helmets with one or two 300-pound brutes before pushing them aside so one of his teammates can make the tackle.

Although the task is instrumental to the success of Baltimore’s gritty defense, it often goes unnoticed by the casual fan and does not produce impressive statistical numbers.

”I’m totally fine with what I do,” Williams said after practice Monday. ”I know it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it and I’m happy to raise my hand and volunteer. As long as my guys have my back and are making plays around me, that’s all I care about.”

Told it’s not exactly a sexy job, the 6-foot-1, 336-pound Williams smiled and said, ”Oh, it’s sexy. As long as I’m there Tarell Basham Jersey , it’s sexy.”

Drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Missouri Southern State, Williams has been Baltimore’s starting nose tackle for the past five years. He follows a long line of players who have effectively filled an unglamorous, pivotal position.

”A lot of interior linemen who have come through here and had the honor of being considered a Raven for life, the No. 1 thing they had was toughness,” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

”Can you be mentally tough? Can you physically dominate the man across from you? I think Brandon Williams embodies that. He can be considered in the rare group of the Tony Siragusas, the Kelly Greggs, the Haloti Ngatas.”

The Ravens showed their appreciation to Williams in 2017 when they provided him with a five-year contract rather than allow him to test free agency.

Last year, he started the first two games, both of them victories in which Baltimore allowed a total of 10 points and forced 10 turnovers.

Williams missed the next four games with a foot injury, and the Ravens won only one of them.

”When we lost him, we sunk a little bit,” defensive line coach Joe Cullen said. ”Brandon is the epitome of what you want an inside tackle to be. He’s really quick for a big guy http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/byron-jones-jersey , but so strong he can get big knock-back at the point of attack.”

Williams has 188 career tackles, 4 sacks and one touchdown – on a fumble recovery he took in from the 1.

These facts and figures do nothing to convey his importance to the Ravens.

”I’m a big Brandon Williams fan,” coach John Harbaugh said. ”Ask the offensive line coaches and the offensive linemen around the league how they feel about blocking him. He’s a force in there. He takes up two blockers, sometimes more. He’s very stout.

”You want great players everywhere, but in the middle of your defense it’s important to have an anchor that can keep people from running inside and can create better angles for your defense. It’s nice to have a big, physical run stopper. The Ravens have always had that. It’s really been a staple here historically.”

Williams certainly doesn’t mind being Baltimore’s next man in the middle, but he’s not interested in merely carrying on a tradition that began long ago.

”I want to play how I play,” Williams said. ”I’m not Haloti, even though he was a great player and I learned a lot from him. I want to do my own thing, just be whatever I can be for the team.”



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