Things…appear to have taken a bit of a turn.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the possible three-team deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers is now dead, and Lamar Odom — who was set to go to New Orleans as a part of the transaction — will instead be sent to Dallas in exchange for the traded player exception created by Dallas in the Tyson Chandler deal. Or, in a less convoluted way: the Mavs have turned the inevitable, gainless departure of a prized free agent into the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
No matter how you slice or dice that transaction, you’ll arrive at the same conclusion: that’s a hell of a move.
Read more of this article »
The Mavs weren’t expected to make much commotion during this year’s abridged free agency, but they’ve already made one move in anticipation of another. The Knicks’ acquisition of Tyson Chandler — originally designed to be an outright free agent signing — has officially been processed as a three-team, sign-and-trade endeavor, scoring Dallas an $11 million trade exception, a protected second round pick (via Washington), and the imminently waivable Andy Rautins. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Mavs are already working to use that traded player exception to acquire Samuel Dalembert on a one-year deal via sign-and-trade with Sacramento.
It’s a lot of hustle and bustle (especially when coupled with Dallas’ signing of Brandan Wright, and likely acquisition on Vince Carter) for a team largely anticipated to stand pat, but it’s worth waiting for the smoke to clear before we take full stock in Dallas’ off-season haul. Trade exceptions, by nature, are transitory tools; they’re only worth what a team is able to gain with them, and we’ll have a better grasp of the yield from the Chandler sign-and-trade as soon as Dalembert makes his decision. The Mavs are hardly the only team pursuing him; Stein also noted that Houston was interested in acquiring Dalembert if the Rockets’ other options fell through, meaning the Mavs’ next play could lean on the reconstruction and upcoming review of the Chris Paul blockbuster.
Read more of this article »
The Mavericks have acquired Rudy Fernandez (and the draft rights for 2007 selection Petteri Koponen, a footnote which may or may not have relevance) in exchange for the 26th and 57th picks in yesterday’s draft. As far as draft day trades go, this one isn’t horrible; the Mavs aren’t the Kings, who somehow talked themselves into acquiring John Salmons while losing Beno Udrih and trading down in the draft at the same time. But if you’re looking for the logic in a move like this one, I see little.
It all comes down to what Dallas surrendered. Selected with the 26th pick was Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton, a player who can functionally perform a lot of the same roles that Fernandez can. He doesn’t come without his own faults (Hamilton looks at the rim almost lustfully with each catch on the perimeter), but Hamilton eclipses Fernandez’s utility while still holding that infinite potential of youth.
In Rudy, the Mavs have acquired a streaky shooter who, for the most part, comes up errant. Fernandez shot 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last season, and though 2010-2011 was without question the worst campaign of Fernandez’s three-year NBA career, he doesn’t exactly have a healthy body of work to rule that year as an aberration. We know Fernandez can be better (particularly from three-point range; Rudy connected on 40 percent of his threes during his rookie season), but there should be legitimate concern over whether he’ll be able to return to his previous shooting marks.
Unfortunately, that kind of pessimism is what clouds discussions of Fernandez’s basketball strengths. Offense is supposed to be the side of the ball where Fernandez makes his living, and yet over the last two seasons, his offensive performance has been wholly underwhelming. Things only get worse on the defensive end, where Rudy scrambles plenty without accomplishing much at all. He has a pretty worrisome gambling problem; he’ll abandon good defensive position in a second to chase a pass he has no business chasing — and that’s when he’s even in the right defensive position in the first place. Fernandez isn’t a replacement for DeShawn Stevenson, but an even more limited stopgap, capable of possibly replicating Stevenson’s three-point shooting while falling well short of his defensive performance. Fernandez just isn’t anywhere near the defender that Stevenson is, and though Jordan Hamilton is similarly lacking in defensive ability, he’s 20 years old, long, and athletic. I have more hope for Hamilton finding religion as a defender than Fernandez, and while that hope could ultimately prove to be misplaced, I think the “he is who he is,” perspective on Fernandez is tough to refute.
Plus, Fernandez withered when he wasn’t handed the minutes he expected and was forced to compete for playing time in Portland. Based on Rick Carlisle’s rotational habits, why exactly should we expect any different result in Dallas? Fernandez has a fresh start, but he may find that Carlisle and Nate McMillan share in some particularly inconvenient elements of their coaching philosophy. “Stay ready,” which became the mantra of the Mavs’ role players last season, doesn’t quite seem to fit with Fernandez’s understanding of the team concept.
Maybe Fernandez will find new life in Dallas, but at best he’s an active offensive participant, a three-point threat, and a defensive liability. Couldn’t Hamilton be capable of the same, while giving the Mavs another interesting piece for the future? Dallas is rightfully looking to maximize on their current core, but the drive to acquire veterans has led them to one who holds all of the weaknesses of the prospect they could have had without any of the potential long-term strengths.
One of the more fascinating (and infuriating) aspects of basketball is just how reliant everything — from the performance of a certain player to the success of a particular set play to the effect of a coach — is on team context. Circumstance is almighty. It can turn effective offensive players into non-factors and defensive sieves into worthy contributors. It scores contracts for the otherwise underwhelming, or completely devalues the typically deserving.
It creates a world where Corey Brewer, a good perimeter defender and former lottery pick, is worthy of being waived one day and courted by half of the NBA the next. What’s more: team-specific circumstance makes it so that both the Knicks’ decision to cut Brewer loose and the Mavs’ decision to sign him make complete sense.
As I wrote on the New York Times‘ Off the Dribble blog, Brewer was an exceptionally poor fit for New York’s offense. Even following the Carmelo Anthony deal (which saw two big-minute wings leave for Denver), it made more sense for Mike D’Antoni to rely on New York mainstays like Bill Walker and Shawne Williams than attempt to integrate Brewer. There’s no question that Brewer is a better perimeter defender than any of the current Knicks, but outside shooting is so vital for wing players in D’Antoni’s offense, and Brewer doesn’t have much touch from outside; even Ian Mahinmi is a better shooter on long two-pointers this season than Brewer, and despite his considerable struggles from beyond the arc thus far, Rodrigue Beaubois has matched Brewer’s putrid .263 mark from three-point range.
Dallas, on the other hand, has an offensive template for Brewer already in place: Shawn Marion.
Marion, by design, does almost all of his offensive damage within 15 feet of the basket. He’s not a star, but he’s also not asked to be; Marion’s touches and shot attempts are that of a role player, and Brewer should see similar opportunities during his time on the court. Dallas has proven that having a non-shooter like Marion or Brewer in the lineup doesn’t put the team’s offense at too much of a disadvantage. The key to Brewer’s offensive efficiency will be an acceptance of a role as a pure slasher. He may lack Marion’s post-up ability, but Brewer should be able to score on a similar array of cuts to the basket, and benefit from Jason Kidd’s passing ability (as opposed to the point guard stylings of Jonny Flynn and Luke Ridnour) in the process. The fewer jumpers Brewer takes the better, and it’s to the Mavs’ advantage that they already have a rotation regular functioning with under that same guideline.
All of this is neglecting Brewer’s real utility, though. Brewer is definitely a plus defender, and a better perimeter option on that end than DeShawn Stevenson, Jason Kidd, or considered free agent Sasha Pavlovic. The smart money is also on Brewer to become even better defensively with the Mavs than he was with the Timberwolves; not only does Dallas have a better defensive system in place, but having Tyson Chandler on the back line allows Brewer to really attack his assigned man without worrying about the timing of the help behind him.
However, others would disagree with the assessment that Brewer is merely good on that end of the court. On TrueHoop, Henry Abbott wrote the following glowing description of Brewer’s defensive abilities:
Defensive statistics are among the least conclusive statistics in existence, so I’m not arguing to use those statistics to hand out contracts and roster spots. But I am arguing to use them as an early warning system, and to guide the video basketball decision-makers spend their precious time watching.
Smart teams, I’d wager, have been watching Corey Brewer for a long time for this exact reason.
And what they have been seeing is a defensive show. Once you clue in to the guy, it’s glaringly obvious that no one on the court is defending like him. He’s narrow, long, strong, quick and feisty — which is a perfect set of attributes to fight over a screen. He has great hands. He goads non-shooters into shooting, and keeps great shooters from making a catch. He talks constantly on defense — he’s not only in the right place, but he knows where everybody else is supposed to be, too.
The defensive metrics available are certainly kind to Brewer, and watching him in action confirms what the numbers suggest. However, the Bruce Bowen comparison (which Abbott makes earlier in his piece, and numerous other analysts have done as well) is where things get slightly out of hand. Bowen was a game-changing perimeter defender, and though there are certainly active players who fit that same description (Andre Iguodala comes to mind), I’m not sure Brewer is one of them. He’s a smart, hard-working defender who’s capable of guarding both ball-controlling threats (Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony) and off-ball cutters (Ray Allen, Kevin Durant), but trumpeting him as the next Bowen seems like a stretch.
For now, anyway. Brewer is just 25 years old, and according to Marc Stein, Dallas will secure his services for a three-year deal worth a little more than $7 million. The player the Mavs are acquiring isn’t a finished product; Brewer’s defense and troubling jumper are set to improve, if only as a natural product of his maturation as a player. The Mavs are short on young, growing pieces, and Brewer is one more in-house contributor with his prime still ahead of him.
At worst, Dallas added a good defensive player. At best, they inked an exceptional defender with an improving offensive game for a pretty minimal salary commitment. The cost here is quite low for the Mavs, and while Brewer isn’t going to leap headfirst into stardom, there’s nothing wrong with paying a bit for defensive potential. It may not have worked out for Brewer and the Knicks, but the Mavs were looking for a player with Brewer’s strengths and can afford to bear his weaknesses. Dallas is in a different place with a different system, and seems to have made a solid value signing thanks to a useful player’s incongruity with another team.
UPDATE (4:30 PM CST): From the AP:
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has been released from the hospital after collapsing at practice.
Team president Donnie Nelson said Carlisle was released from Baylor University Medical Center on Friday afternoon and “is doing good” after fainting on the practice court at the American Airlines Center. The 50-year-old coach was conscious and responding to questions as he was carried by stretcher to an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. Team personnel were with him. Nelson says he is unsure whether Carlisle will travel to California for an outdoor exhibition game Saturday against Phoenix.
UPDATE (2:00 PM CST): From ESPN’s news service:
Team spokeswoman Sarah Melton says Carlisle “was apparently lightheaded” and fainted on the court Friday at the American Airlines Center. The 50-year-old coach was conscious and responding to questions as he was carried by stretcher to an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital.
Melton says members of the Mavericks’ front office staff are with him at the hospital and report that the coach “seems to be feeling better.”
Also, from Earl K. Sneed:
Donnie Nelson just walked by me and gave two thumbs up, saying that Coach fainted but he’s doing well.
Some distressing news, via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: Rick Carlisle collapsed at practice today, and was taken to the hospital by medical personnel shortly thereafter. From Sefko’s report:
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle collapsed on the team’s practice court this afternoon and was taken from the court on a stretcher. It was unknown what happened to Carlisle, who was sitting up on the stretcher when he was wheeled toward the loading dock at about 12:38 p.m. An ambulance was waiting. At 12:50 p.m., the ambulance left the loading dock. Carlisle was moving his arms when he was taken out of the arena and seemed to be alert.
The fact that Carlisle was alert and had control of his arms are obviously good things, but it’s entirely too early to make any kind of proclamation on the severity (or lack of severity) of this incident. More information, either from the team or otherwise, will be relayed as it becomes available. Of course, my thoughts go with Rick on his way to Baylor Medical Center.
In trading Erick Dampier for Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks made the right move because they could’ve made the wrong one, but they made the wrong move because they couldn’t make the right one. If you couldn’t tell, evaluating Dallas’ big off-season trade is a tad tricky. After all, this wasn’t just any swap. The Mavs had one of the most valuable trade chips in the league and had touted it as such while embracing the accompanying expectations. When a hungry fan base (and the team itself, for that matter) has guys like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James dangled overhead, they’re not likely to be satiated by the second best center on the Charlotte Bobcats.
That’s exactly what Tyson Chandler was last season. While he may be a starting-caliber player in name, the Bobcats’ top center in ’09-’10 was Nazr Mohammed. Nazr averaged 16.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and the only real flaw in his campaign was that he didn’t see the floor more. That’s a better scoring season than Chandler has ever put together (Tyson’s single season high for PP36? 13.6, in ’02-’03). Mohammed may be a bit flawed as a defender and rebounder, but his competence in those areas in addition to his scoring made him the strongest 5 for Charlotte last season, even if Chandler’s injury prevented him from putting up a fair fight.
So the Mavs traded an incredibly attractive asset for the second best center on the 7th best team in the Eastern Conference…and for the license to dump the contracts of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera. That’s a noticeably slimmer return than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or even Al Jefferson, for that matter. In somewhat fitting fashion, Erick Dampier’s parting gift to the Mavs is solid, but weighed down by the power of expectation. Just as a competent starting center seemed ridiculous when he had a $13 million price tag hanging around his neck, acquiring Tyson Chandler is a sad consolation prize when evaluated in the shadow of what could have been.
However, if we zoom out to get a slightly broader view, the Mavs did what they could. They tried to lure LeBron James. They reportedly met with Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. They talked with the Minnesota Timberwolves about Al Jefferson, but decided that he wasn’t worth surrendering Dampier and multiple first rounders. None of those deals went through, so Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban moved further down their list of targets. The Mavs were prepared for this, it’s just unfortunate that they had to be.
So instead of picking up another star, Dallas will add a backup center. It fills a definite need. Ian Mahinmi isn’t ready to be that high on the depth chart just yet, so acquiring another 5 equipped to finish and defend was a must for the Mavs. Chandler can do a bit of both, but he is in no way the player that terrorized the Mavs in the 2008 playoffs. That Tyson Chandler is long gone, and in his place is a defending big clearly in decline.
Tyson is still a quality post defender, but he’s somehow even worse offensively now than he was with the Hornets. Fans frustrated by Erick Dampier’s inability to convert buckets around the rim are about to enter a whole new world of facepalming with Chandler. Damp may not have much touch around the rim, but Tyson struggles to complete anything that isn’t an easy dunk. I wish this were hyperbole. Chandler does have better hands than Dampier, which makes him a more viable option for easy finishes, but anyone hoping for an offensive upgrade is in for a hilarious surprise.
Defensively, Chandler can still hold his own. He’s frequently overrated as a shot-blocker, but Tyson is still a solid defensive option for guarding back-to-the-basket bigs. Chandler does struggle against some face-up threats, as the impact of his height and length is hedged by his injuries and an uncanny tendency to bite on pump fakes. However, if you put Chandler in off-ball situations (like, say, defending the pick and roll) that require a different kind of defensive read, he seems to perform fairly well. Tyson’s a smart defender, even if he is an impatient one.
Sounds good, right? Having two centers capable of making an impact on the defensive end is an incredible luxury, but I’d be remiss not to mention one minor detail: the Mavs had the same luxury last season. Erick Dampier was also a fairly successful defender, particularly when evaluated next to his second-string center contemporaries. Damp wasn’t producing worthy of his contract value on either end, but provided we analyze his strengths in terms of what the Mavs had rather than what the Mavs had to pay, Dampier was a quality rotation player.
In fact, Damp’s ’09-’10 season easily trumps Chandler’s in most statistical dimensions, and even compares relatively well to Chandler’s ’07-’08 year:
|Mecha Chandler ('07-'08)||17.5||26.1||13.2||4.1||122||104||0.7||7.3
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference, Basketball Prospectus, and Basketball Value.
Those who didn’t have the opportunity to watch much of the Bobcats last season may be a bit shocked by Chandler’s inferior statistical résumé, but it’s no fluke; he really was a lesser player in many regards last season. It may not be fair to evaluate Dampier and Chandler’s offensive ratings directly (after all, one of them played alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, etc., while the other relied on Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace to produce the bulk of the offensive production), but the per-possession measures give a slight edge to Dampier in shot blocking and defensive rebounding, while the more complicated metrics (Player Efficiency Rating [PER], adjusted +/- [APM], Wins Above Replacement Player [WARP]) also indicate that Damp had a greater positive influence. Chandler’s adjusted +/- last season was surprisingly awful, particularly considering that APM is thought to be more defender-friendly than most metrics.
There is something to be said about variety. Though Dampier was an productive player for the Mavs last season, he’s similar to Brendan Haywood in a lot of ways. Chandler provides a different kind of defender (even if it is a similarly effective one) that Rick Carlisle can use to tech against specific opponents. It’s nice to be prepared to compensate for injuries, etc. by having players of similar skill sets in the starting lineup and on the bench, but overloading on yin isn’t always the sound move.
The obvious wild card is Chandler’s health. Tyson has averaged 48 regular season games over the last two seasons, primarily due to a smorgasbord of lower body injuries. Chandler is supposedly healthier now than he’s been in a long while, but it’s tough to pin down exactly how much his game was hindered by injury last season. His ailments have the potential to impact his production next year in either direction, and though you’re welcome to take Chandler’s word on his status if you’d like, I’ll table my decision until we see Tyson in action at the Team USA tryouts later this month. Until then, I think it’s only fair to expect the same Chandler we’ve seen over the last two seasons: A quality defender (with definite weaknesses) and a bit of an offensive liability.
Alexis Ajinca is a reasonably promising young center prospect, but he seems destined for bench-warming duty. Ajinca played well for the D-League’s Maine Red Claws last season, but he isn’t prepared to tread water defensively against NBA opponents. Don’t let his 3.1 blocks per game last year in the D fool you — Ajinca would be out-muscled and out-maneuvered by his competition in the big leagues. He still has a ways to go before both his body and technique are ready for consistent NBA burn.
However, Ajinca’s offensive game is a bit more advanced, even if he isn’t ready to step into a sizable role on that end, either. Alexis has real offensive potential. Most of his current moves in the post are still rather basic, but you take what you can get from a 22 year-old giant like Ajinca.
It would be naive to assume that a basketball trade is all about basketball. While the Mavs do like what Chandler can bring to the team as a sub for Haywood, this move has some fairly clear-cut financial motivations. Dallas was able to dump the salary of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera, which cleared about $17.5 million over the next three seasons (Najera has two more years under contract and Carroll has three). Those were two of the contracts Mark Cuban was reportedly trying to pawn off in a potential trade for Al Jefferson, so it’s not exactly shocking to see him dispose of their salaries in this deal.
Here is the year-by-year breakdown of the Mavs’ outgoing salary:
*Dampier’s 2009-2010 salary is entirely unguaranteed.
Also, because the Mavs did not waive Najera prior to June 30th, his salary for the next two seasons is completely guaranteed.
And their incoming salary:
|Ajinca||1,467,840||2,263,409 (TO)||3,243,465 (QO)
Salary figures from Storytellers Contracts.
Plus, acquiring Chandler extends the Mavs’ ability to trade for talented players later in the year. While the off-season is the most convenient time to overhaul a roster, it also imbues far too many franchises with delusions of hope. Every team that struggled last year now has a blank slate, and with a few draft picks, a free agent signing or two, and internal development, all but the basement-dwellers seem poised to improve. It’s only during the regular season that the league’s harsh realities begin to surface: Regardless of which talent is where and what players are added or dropped from whatever rosters, only about half of the teams in the league are going to make the playoffs. The rest are doomed to another go-around as they continue to tinker in the hope of making the jump in the following season.
That should help the Mavs, who will no doubt attempt to use Chandler’s $12.6 million expiring contract (as well as Caron Butler’s $10.6 million expiring) as bait at the trade deadline. Right now, teams may be reluctant to settle for pure savings. However, when their roster’s shortcomings have been made painfully apparent over the course of 50 games or so, they may be more willing to deal. Financial flexibility is golden in the NBA, and while Dallas’ first token of financial flex didn’t bring in the star that they hoped it would, to have another shot using the same basic materials is nice.
The worst case scenario is that Chandler plays terribly, Dallas whiffs while attempting to trade him at the deadline, and Tyson becomes an unrestricted and unwanted free agent next summer. Both of those developments are rather unlikely, as the more probable outcome would have Chandler playing rather decently in a reserve role, followed by a move in February for a decent — but sub-superstar — talent. Still, anything can happen, and because the Mavs’ flexibility was maintained through February, this deal gets stamped with the dreaded “INCOMPLETE.” Embrace the uncertainty.
UPDATE: The Mavs have confirmed the trade via press release.
Here’s what Donnie Nelson had to say about the deal: “We wish Erick, Eddie and Matt nothing but the very best. They are consummate professionals that represented the Mavericks family with class and integrity. We could not be more excited to add Tyson Chandler. He is one of the most versatile big men in the league today. He gives our front line a defensive, shot-blocking, athletic punch we haven’t had here in awhile. Alexis Ajinca is a fine young center with significant upside.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Mavs have traded Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll, and Eduardo Najera to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. The chip has been traded, and while it’s not LeBron James, or Dwyane Wade, or Joe Johnson (or Al Jefferson, or Andre Iguodala, or…), the Mavs did trade Damp to fill a bit of a positional need.
This move isn’t a particularly good one, and it’s not going to thrust the Mavs into the title discussion. However, like the Ian Mahinmi signing, it stabilizes the frontcourt rotation and gives Dallas some depth in the middle. It’s important, but definitely underwhelming. Dampier’s contract was thought to be much more valuable than this.
If the Mavs could have picked up Chandler circa ’07-’08, when he was one of the game’s elite interior defenders and a Chris Paul sidekick? This would be a definite upgrade. Yet as it stands, it’s actually very debatable whether Chandler is better than Erick Dampier at all. Even gifting Chandler the advantage, it’s entirely possible that Damp’s contract, which was supposed to add a significant, long-term piece for the Mavs, could have no direct roster impact past next season. The Mavs may choose to let Tyson walk next summer, and for all of the hullabaloo, that’s awfully anticlimactic.
Plenty more to come on the Mavs’ “big” off-season move.
Third-string centers are a bit of a novelty and a luxury, and it’s generally hoped that they aren’t forced to become much more. They are stop-gaps and a safety nets, and an elevation in the responsibilities of the third C typically has less to do with rapid improvement or flawed appraisal than it does a far more disappointing reality at the top of the rotation. Having three players capable of playing the position is practically an NBA necessity, even if the third is only really present to fill in the gaps and prevent a complete disaster.
Ian Mahinmi will slide into that role comfortably for the Mavs next season, as Dallas has reportedly agreed to terms with Ian on a two-year deal for the veteran minimum. (Note: Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com reported that Mahinmi will receive the full biannual exception, so it’s possible that Ian’s annual salary is closer to $1.9 million).
This is a fantastic move. Mahinmi had trouble earning playing time during his career in San Antonio, but he’s an energy big that can actually help the Mavs off the bench. During the 2007-2008 season, Ian posted a 23.0 PER for the D-League’s Austin Toros, and averaged 20.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Mahinmi is not really a physical beast, but he is long and athletic with pretty good instincts. This is exactly the kind of player the Mavs should be using to fill out the rotation, and with the full mid-level exception still intact (and likely the biannual exception as well) , the Mavs have almost their entire roster assembled. It’s obviously preferable that Mahinmi falls as the third center rather than Haywood’s backup, but one more reserve center aside, this team looks quite complete.
Creation on the wing is still a bit of a concern, but adding Mahinmi to an already talented roster is quite helpful. Ian is still, in many ways, more of a prospect than a player, but he does come in as a usable big with a better price tag and future than Eduardo Najera. Dallas could have shot for a big like Brad Miller or Matt Bonner (and reportedly, they did), but in Mahinmi the Mavs have acquired a piece that’s likely already a better NBA rebounder and shot blocker than either of those two vets. Even at 23, Ian is still growing into his game, and while he does have immediately usable skills, it’s conceivable that he’ll only get better and better during his time with the Mavs.
Here’s a tentative depth chart in light of the Mahinmi signing, assuming Rick Carlisle chooses to keep Butler and Marion as starters:
PG – Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, J.J. Barea
SG – Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson, Dominique Jones, Matt Carroll
SF – Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson
PF – Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Ian Mahinmi, Eduardo Najera
C – Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi, Eduardo Najera
TBD: Returns on Erick Dampier’s contract, the mid-level exception, and possibly the biannual exception
Photo from Mavs.com.
Someday, I’ll be forced to sit down at my keyboard and articulate exactly what Dirk Nowitzki has meant to the Dallas Mavericks. It will be painful and absolutely futile. I’ll haphazardly throw thoughts into this virtual space with the hope that some of it means something, and yet be forced to face the realization that none of it could possibly do Dirk and his career justice. What this man has done for this franchise and basketball in general is beyond words, words, words, and I pity the future me that’s forced to write such a basketball epitaph.
Instead, I couldn’t be happier to say that the Mavericks will continue with business as usual. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs have agree to terms on a four-year, $80 million contract, in which Nowitzki will leave some $16.2 million on the table to benefit the only franchise he’s ever known. It’s a touching gesture from the most important figure in Dallas Mavericks history, and fuels the hope of a substantial upgrade this off-season. Nowitzki’s unselfishness has given Mark Cuban the liberty to chase stars, and even if he ends up grasping at the biggest and brightest with little to show for it, Dirk’s sacrifice means plenty.
Though Nowitzki can’t officially ink the deal until July 8th, the agreement between him and the Mavs signals the beginning of the next stage of Dallas’ off-season. Brendan Haywood should now become the team’s top priority, and beyond that, the proper and optimal utilization of Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract. There are all kind of targets and options available to Dallas, and with Nowitzki locked up until 2014, only now can they become more than mere possibilities.
Dirk is also the proud new owner of a no-trade clause, one of two such clauses to currently exist in the NBA. In actuality, it means very little; it’s extremely unlikely that Cuban and Nelson would ever trade Dirk without his consent anyway, which means that the clause is merely a literal version of an established principle. It’s just something to keep everyone sleeping a bit more soundly at night, and if that’s what Mark and Donnie afforded Dirk to compensate for his considerable financial concessions, then good on all them.
It should be a busy summer, but take a moment to celebrate: the Mavs have just agreed to the best deal of free agency thus far.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
“He who chooses the beginning of the road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determines the end.“
-Harry Emerson Fosdick
The conclusions of the past two games have been shockingly similar given their vastly different contexts. The features of Game 3 were greatly exaggerated in Game 2, with the highs even more impressive and the lows even more debilitating, but remarkably enough, both exhilarating contests wrapped up in more or less the same capacity: the Mavs overcame a slow start to put themselves in position to win, but the formula that brought Dallas their crucial, game-changing run had become stale by late in the fourth. A bounce of the ball here, a turnover there, and Tony Parker from everywhere, and the Mavs’ hopes of taking a 2-1 series lead completely dissipated.
Dallas stayed competitive thanks to an incredibly successful stint by the three-guard lineup, with J.J. Barea (14 points, four assists, four rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 6-of-15 FG, two assists), and Jason Kidd (seven points, 1-of-6 FG, five assists, seven rebounds) completely erasing Shawn Marion (seven points and two turnovers in 17 minutes) and Caron Butler (two points and three turnovers in 15 minutes) from the rotation. Aside from a three and a half minute stint from Marion in the beginning of the third quarter, neither Shawn nor Caron played in the second half. Barea certainly earned his playing time, as he put together his most impressive game of the playoffs and complemented his much-needed offense with solid defense. Kidd and Terry, however, were present for the Mavs’ crucial third quarter run, but uncomfortably silent for large stretches of the game.
The Spurs defense was just too strong, and they worked the Mavs into 24-second violations and late-clock shots with alarming frequency. Dallas seemed rattled in getting into their offensive success, which is as much a credit to the Spurs’ excellent defensive coverage as it was their physicality. Blowing the whistle on whistle-blowing is pretty useless, but if nothing else I should at least point out the differential in foul calls (25 called on the Mavs to 16 on the Spurs) and free throw attempts (26 for the Spurs to 15 for the Mavs). Those differentials are obviously distorted by the shot attempts taken by the two teams, and particularly so by the Mavs’ reluctance to drive to the basket in the fourth quarter, but it should still be noted. And it is so noted.
Dirk Nowitzki was fantastic again (35 points on 23 shots, seven rebounds), but he was but one man against an army. Manu Ginobili rebounded from a scoreless first half and a nasal fracture to finish with 15 points, Tim Duncan (25 points, five rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) was as terrific inside as you’d expect him to be, and Tony Parker (26 points on 13 shots) came off the bench to three tough shots in a row to finish off the Mavs. All three were long, two-point jumpers, and at least somewhat contested if not heavily so. Parker knocked them down without hesitation, and each ensuing fist pump was a punch in the gut to the Mavericks’ cause.
Also, get this: the Spurs didn’t make a single three-pointer. Not one. Dallas had eight makes out of 20 attempts (40%), but even that wasn’t quite enough to make up for the Spurs’ superior defense and Parker’s resolve. There were stretches of this game where the Mavs looked rather terrific defensively, largely thanks to the effectiveness of the zone. Kidd roamed within the zone D to add even more pressure on San Antonio’s ball-handlers, and the Spurs were forced into turnovers and difficult shots. It was that defense that had Dallas up by nine points in the third quarter, but Manu’s penetration, the threat of Duncan around the rim, and Parker’s shooting were ultimately the Mavs’ undoing.
Maybe having Caron Butler or Shawn Marion in at the end of the game helps, and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea played essentially the entire second half, with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry not far behind. There was a lot riding on what had to be tired legs, and despite what was, at times, a rather resilient effort, the Mavs fumbled this one away. They had a win in their grasp, but couldn’t seal it, and should the series end up going to the Spurs, Games 2 and 3 will be the ones that got away.
More analysis to come, along with closing thoughts.