Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Welcome to the first-ever installment of Thermodynamics, the newest weekly column here at The Two Man Game.
Don’t let the esoteric title fool you — this won’t be a physics dissertation. I’d be catastrophically underqualified for that. No, this here is a good old-fashioned basketball column. Each Thursday, I’ll be recapping the Mavs’ three hottest and three coldest performances from the previous week’s games (for our purposes, the game-week will span from the previous Thursday through the Wednesday night before publication). Let’s get to it.
Week 1 (@Lakers, @Jazz)
1) Point Guards
It was a terrific debut week for Mavs’ newcomer Darren Collison, and a tantalizing faux-debut for Roddy “Fourth-Year Rookie” Beaubois. Taking over the starting point-guard role, Collison showed a skillset we haven’t seen since the Devin Harris era. The Indiana Pacers transplant finished the week with very solid numbers: 17.0 PPG, 14-for-24 (58% FG) shooting, 5.5 APG, and just 1.5 turnovers per contest. Meanwhile, Beaubois produced nicely as Collison’s backup. He chipped in 9.5 PPG, shot 7-for-13 (54% FG) from the field, and turned over the rock just once in over 30 minutes of total playing time. Both guys controlled the pace well, especially Collison (although he hit a bit of a wall in the second half in Utah). And to top it off, Beaubois produced two picturesque moments when he picked the pocket of 92-year-old Lakers guard Steve Nash for an easy layup, and then did nearly the same thing in Utah the next night.
2) Brandan Wright
Last season, Brandan Wright was a very serviceable rotation-caliber big man. This year, he will move well above that status, if the first two games are any indication. After credible rumors that the Mavs would roll out Eddy Curry as their starting center in the opener, Rick Carlisle instead decided to start Wright. He didn’t disappoint, and contributed 14 points on flawless 5-of-5 shooting. Wright was also the Mavs’ leading fourth-quarter scorer, dropping eight points in the final frame against the Lakers. In Utah the following night, Wright again started and performed well, notching 15 points on 7-of-8 (88%) shooting. Wright’s defense and rebounding need further improvement, but at this point, he’s certainly on the up. He may only be a stop-gap in the starting lineup until Chris Kaman returns from injury, but given Kaman’s proclivity for wearing a suit on the bench, it’s likely that Wright will start at various points throughout the season.
3) Slick Rick Carlisle
For awhile, I’ve firmly believed that Rick Carlisle is either the second or third-best coach in the NBA. That’s of course subject to debate, but the only guy I’d definitively take over Carlisle is Gregg Popovich. These first two games with a revamped Mavs roster did little to change my mind. In Los Angeles on opening night, Carlisle took a roster probably about half as talented as the opponent’s and coached that bunch to a convincing road win in the national spotlight. Let the pundits and the nationwide contingent of “I have an aunt who lives in Los Angeles” Lakers fans talk about how the Lakers “beat themselves,” and just need time to gel. If the Lakers need more time to gel, maybe that’s just proof positive that Carlisle is a top-flight coach. After all, he has just as many new players as Mike Brown, and his aren’t nearly as talented.
1) Defensive Curry
All things considered, Eddy Curry is off to a pretty nice start with the Mavs. In the opener, he chipped in seven points and showed some fairly savvy moves on the low block. For a guy who hasn’t played meaningful NBA minutes in years, that’s more than acceptable. But things weren’t quite so pleasant on the other side of the court; Curry had a very difficult time defending the Lakers’ bigs in the post (Who wouldn’t?), and gave up several easy baskets and committed four fouls in just 16 minutes. The Jazz also targeted Curry defensively from the moment he entered the game in the first half (he played very little in the second). Moving forward, expect to see Curry work on maintaining his defensive position against pump-fakes and drop steps.
2) Dribble Penetration + Defensive Rebounding
As they often do, these two things went together. In both games this week — and particularly in Wednesday’s game against the Jazz — the Mavs frequently failed to body up on the defensive glass after the opposing ball-handler had worked into the paint. Utah pulled down 20 offensive boards, often after dribble penetration had scattered the defense to the help side. To some degree, this issue can be corrected with better defensive communication. But it’s also an issue of personnel; the Mavs aren’t as big as the Lakers and aren’t as athletically frenetic as the Jazz. Every team has weaknesses, and if the Mavs’ biggest problem this year is giving up some offensive boards against opponents like those two, I’m sure we won’t complain too much.
3) Long-Range Vinsanity
Vince Carter did some good things this week. But if anything can be clear from a two-game sample size, it’s clear that Carter could stand to work more diligently for better shots. Carter was 2-of-8 (25%) from deep this week, and although a couple of those misses were wide-open looks you can live with (even though you rather wouldn’t), the others were unnecessarily trigger-happy. Vince, I assure you, you don’t need to immediately shoot every time you catch the ball behind the arc with a bit of airspace. I promise. And you know I’d never lead you astray.
Travis Wimberly lives in Austin, Texas and writes about the Dallas Mavericks on Al Gore’s Internet™. Travis enjoys shenanigans, claptrap, and frivolity. Follow Travis on Twitter @TravisRW.