The Dallas Mavericks (13-20) look to get back on track after a tough overtime loss to the Miami Heat as they host the New Orleans Hornets (7-25). The big news leading up to the game against the Hornets was a lingering possibility of Dirk Nowitzki starting for the first time this season. Dirk practiced with the starters for a majority of the time during the team’s practice on Friday afternoon. Dirk’s minutes have gradually increased since he returned to the lineup for the Mavericks. He played 29 minutes in the overtime loss at Miami on Jan. 2, the most he has played since his Dec. 23 return against San Antonio.
The news was made official at the team’s shootaround as Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that Dirk will make his first start of the season against the Hornets. His return to the starting lineup does create a question that will be examined later in the preview.
Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Hornets
The two clubs met once in the 2012 preseason, at Dallas on Oct. 22, 2012, and the Mavericks recorded an 87-74 victory. The Mavericks have won six of the last 10 regular-season matchups with the Hornets. Five of the last seven meetings have been decided by five points or less. The Mavericks recorded their sixth straight win over the Hornets at home with a 96-81 victory at Dallas on Jan. 7, 2012. The Mavericks have now won 19 of the last 20 regular-season matchups with the Hornets in Dallas, including 16-of-17 since the franchise moved to New Orleans in 2003.
With a win on Dec. 1, 2007, New Orleans broke Dallas’ 21-game winning streak, which, at the time, was the longest winning streak for one team over another in the four major sports…The Hornets have gone 10-9 in their last 19 meetings with the Mavericks since ending the 21-game losing streak that lasted from Feb. 3, 2000 through Mar. 27, 2007.
Dirk Nowitzki averaged a team-high 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 33.0 minutes in two starts against New Orleans last season. Roddy Beaubois averaged 14.3 points, 3.0 steals and 21.3 minutes in three games (one start) against the Hornets in 2011-12. Shawn Marion averaged 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 32.3 minutes in three starts against New Orleans last season.
It’s a Small World:
Mavericks point guard Darren Collison was drafted by New Orleans in the first round, 21st overall pick, of the 2009 NBA Draft. Collison was a member of the 2009-10 NBA All-Rookie First Team and averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steal in 76 games in 37 starts for the Hornets during his rookie campaign. Mavericks center Chris Kaman spent the 2011-12 season in New Orleans before signing with Dallas as a free agent this past offseason. Kaman was traded from the L.A. Clippers to New Orleans along with Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu in the Chris Paul deal that took place prior to the start of the 2011-12 season. Kaman played three seasons with Gordon and one year with Aminu in Los Angeles before being dealt to the Hornets.
Mavericks forward Elton Brand and Hornets big man Jason Smith were teammates in Philadelphia from 2008-10. Mavericks swingman Vince Carter and Hornets forward Ryan
Anderson were teammates on the New Jersey Nets during the 2008-09 season and were traded to the Magic together in exchange for Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie. Carter and Anderson then played a season-and-a-half together in Orlando before Carter was dealt to the Suns in 2010-11. Carter played the second half of the 2010-11 season with Hornets center Robin Lopez in Phoenix. Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo was a teammate of Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez and Hornets swingman Xavier Henry on the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2010-11 season.
Instead of covering three keys against the Hornets, we’re going to look at what combination works best for Dirk Nowitzki out of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman. With Dirk returning to the starting lineup, Rick Carlisle will need to decide what combination works best in the frontcourt. Out of the 133 minutes Dirk has played this season, 70 of them have been played with Brand, 44 with Kaman.
Here is the two-man comparison when Dirk and Brand have been on the floor together versus when Dirk and Kaman have been on the floor together.
Brand/Dirk: The team has shot 44.6 percent from the field, 42.1 percent from 3-point range. The five-man lineups with those two players together have had a plus/minutes of +4, meaning they have outscored opponents by four points. The opponents have scored 99.5 points per 48 minutes. In terms of advanced statistics, they have had an Offensive Rating of 103.5 and a Defensive Rating of 103.5. Their Rebounding Percentage was 48.1.
Kaman/Dirk: The team has shot 34.6 percent from the field, 25.0 percent from 3-point range. The five-man lineups with those two players together have had a plus/minutes of -40, meaning opponents have outscored they by 40 points. The opponents have scored 118.9 points per 48 minutes. In terms of advanced statistics, they have had an Offensive Rating of 74.4 and a Defensive Rating of 119.7. Their Rebounding Percentage was 46.7.
The Mavericks thrived when they had an athletic and defensive center like Tyson Chandler rolling with Dirk. While Brand isn’t as athletically gifted as Chandler is, he can be a force in the paint. Kaman has shown that he can actually be effective when coming off the bench, so there is some merit to a move to the bench. He would provide the team with a scoring punch and also have the possibility of it being efficient as he can operate very close to the basket.
With Dirk making his first start of the season, the Mavericks will have their 15th different starting lineup of the year. The question now becomes who will be running beside him. Even if it is a small sample size, the information suggests there is another change to the starting lineup that could be made. Whether it is actually done remains to be seen.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.