Musings on Sloan: Yesterday

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 10, 2010 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Sometimes it’s hard to get coaches, managers, and owners to speak up concerning the current goings-on of the team. Everything is played so close to the chest, and it’s almost like the media and the team stand diametrically opposed at times. Consumers of sports media want to know how things work — what went into making this decision, why this guy and not that guy, etc. — and ask the almighty “Why?” But the members of the team itself are also somewhat reliant on keeping that information internal. After all, you never know who might hear what, and specifics are, in this case at least, a team’s worst enemy.

But I applauded Mark Cuban’s willingness to talk about some of the Mavs’ decisions in the past, if only because it helps those of us on the outside to fill in the gaps. It’s nice to know why this or that was done, even if it’s a year or two later. And then again, sometimes when talking about decisions from the past, guys like Cuban still tip their hand a bit (perhaps intentionally). Read as much into this quote from Cuban as you’d like:

Sometimes [the players] need prompting [to figure out the best play], and the ones who don’t figure it out…I mean it’s true that’s a great point theres a subset of players that don’t figure it out, that cant figure it out, that don’t think. Those are the ones that are so blessed talent-wise that you try to make it work  — like we had Gerald Green. [To the Celtics' Mike Zarren] You guys have had Gerald Green.

I just look at him and think ‘Oh my God!’ There are things that he’ll show you that are just ‘Oh my God!’ and then he just doesn’t understand the game of basketball and hopefully he’ll figure it out someday but you just keep giving him those chances. He ran out of chances (so far) this last time.

On its own, I think he’s just talking about the hyper-athletic Gerald Green and players of his ilk. But this topic was a recurring theme for Cuban in many of his panels: a guy that just can’t figure it out, that doesn’t think on the court, that isn’t a smart basketball player. Now, I could be mistaken here, but I seem to remember a lot of similar criticism being lobbed at a guy who played for the Mavs not too long ago. It would be completely unfair of Mark to take explicit pot shots at Josh Howard through media channels, but would I put it past him to perhaps offer a veiled criticism of Josh’s game? Not at all.

I’m not sure if Cuban was looking to send a message or just got stuck on a particular topic at multiple panels. But that doesn’t stop Green’s story from being any less of a condensed caricature of Howard’s career. I wouldn’t dare play team psychologist here, but from where I’m sitting, Howard’s troubles always seemed to be more mental than physical. It’s undeniable that he faced a lot in rehabbing and returning from various injuries, but the game within the game has always been to keep Josh on the same page as everyone else. He was fed shot attempts early in the first quarter, and there’s absolutely no doubt that he was treated differently than other players. That’s what it took to keep him functioning as a member of the team, and so its what the Mavericks did.

They hoped he would figure it out someday but they just kept giving him those chances. Josh just ran out of chances this last time.

  • Blazersedge Ben

    I definitely thought he was referencing Howard.

    Nothing frustrates smart management more than unrealized potential that is unrealized because of flippancy or, for lack of a better word, stupidity. Regardless, he probably should have stayed above the specifics although I did enjoy his honesty. The line earlier in the day about “hiding morons” was a classic.

  • Fei

    Interesting report. Josh’s clueless plays were exposed more than ever this season, particularly because of the collective increase in Basketball savvy for the Mavs as a whole, this team is now a true veterans’ team. It was frustrating at times to watch a wasted offensive opportunity, because now it is more of a rarity, and unfortunately more often than not it was Josh who could not play to his strengths, and instead were taking pull up jumpers and other ill-advised shots(not his strength by any stretch of the imagination).

    I don’t know what Josh is like off-court (by all accounts he should be a fairly intelligent person), but on court his struggles and inability to mesh with the rest of the team a lot of the times really did hurt the Mavericks’ game. I can’t place too much blame on him for our early year woes, as Dampier’s injury also played a huge part in our defensive shortcomings. It’s just too telling though, that when the trade was completed and the new pieces were put to the test immediately, the comparison was so favourable towards this current new roster.

    To tell the truth, I believe that Josh has the ability to play a better game, and his struggle was really just psychological, maybe subconsciously he just gave up on this team, or his injury somehow prevented him from being on the same page as everyone else. Or maybe, it’s just simply that Josh was no longer the right fit for this Mavs team. Kudos to Mark Cuban for realising this, and making the correct call to trade for the right pieces for this puzzle.

  • BJ

    It would be enlightening to know just when the philisophical attitude towards Josh shifted. Because up until recently, the Mavericks as an organization were really committed to making the team work with Josh as a keystone. When did that stop being the case, specifically?