Men in the Middle

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 18, 2013 under Commentary, News | Be the First to Comment

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After having a meeting with Dallas last week, Andrew Bynum decided to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Mavs decided that Bynum’s situation was not worth pursuing any further. After much discussion, Dallas decided to make Samuel Dalembert their new starting center. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported that Dallas was closing in a deal to make Dalembert the team’s new starting center.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the deal is a two-year, $7.5 million deal with Dallas.

Dalembert’s contract for 14-15 is partially guaranteed.

That means he is the next center from the recent crop of Dallas centers: Erick Dampier, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler and Chris Kaman.

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A New Waiting Game

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 10, 2013 under News | 2 Comments to Read

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The Mavs had their introductory press conference for rookies Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel, but everyone was wondering where things were in regards to their reported meeting with free agent center Andrew Bynum. He met with Cleveland on Monday and traveled to meet with the Hawks in Atlanta on Tuesday. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson spoke to the media in regards to the free agent big man.

It was reported that Bynum would be in Dallas today for a meeting and Nelson confirmed that they met with Bynum and his agent. “They had a nice visit with our doctors, we had a lunch,” Nelson said. “Beyond that, the negotiations are ongoing.” It was reported that Bynum would not work out for teams prior to signing a deal and Nelson confirmed that the center did not work out for the Mavs on Wednesday.

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Left to Ponder

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on July 8, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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The Mavs came up short in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, over the weekend. The quickly shifted their focus to plan B (or whatever letter), and have made moves to give a little more insight for what the Mavs are looking to do this offseason.

Questions lead to answers and answers lead to more questions. It’s a vicious circle. Let’s go over some key notes as we head into the next phase of free agency.

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The Rock and the Hard Place

Posted by Kirk Henderson on June 3, 2013 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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It’s been a slow and frustrating descent for the Mavericks and their fans since climbing the championship ladder in 2011. The quality of team play dropped as fan favorites left for different opportunities, while new faces mostly failed to live up to expectations. To recall how the Mavericks got to this point, it’s illuminating to look back to an email sent from Mark Cuban to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas on December 8th, 2011:

“The reality is that in the new system, cap room will have far more value than it had in the past…

The rules are different now, and while it makes it tougher this year because of the affection we have for many of the guys that are leaving, if we want the Mavs to be able to compete for championships in future years as well, it’s a hard decision, but I believe the right decision.”

Cuban has been consistent with his desire to construct a winning team within the constraints of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. During a May 28th radio interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM Cuban said, “If we don’t get the big name, we want to start building that base of a team that can start having some continuity of playing together.” Despite Dirk Nowitzki being on the final year of his contract, it’s been generally understood that the Mavericks are trying to build a team around or with Dirk, while also building a team capable of being successful after Dirk retires.

But there’s been an elephant in the room that has not been acknowledged: What if those goals are mutually exclusive?

Mark Cuban has been very careful in what he’s said to the media over the last few years, mentioning how important cap flexibility is in the long term while also giving attention to Dirk’s dissatisfaction with the last two seasons. If Cuban and Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson are able to land either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, then this point is moot. But what if they don’t?

The remainder of the talent in the 2013 free agent pool either doesn’t fit with Dallas’ plan, like Josh Smith, or represent risky gambles, like Brandon Jennings or Andrew Bynum. Signing one or more of the second tier free agents might benefit Dallas in the short term by making the team more competitive. However, it’s hard to imagine any 2013-2014 Maverick squad without Paul or Howard being a “championship” or “top-seeded team,” which Cuban insists is possible.

Any influx of talent might make Nowitzki happy as he heads into his final years in a Mavericks uniform, but at what point is doing something for Dirk detrimental to Dallas long term? He turns 35 on June 19th. Dirk’s offensive game remains amazing, but he’s also expressed a desire for someone to share the load. Do any of the non-superstar free agents really strike the Dallas front office as the kind of players they can build around after Nowitzki retires?

On the flip side, if Dallas elects to sign a roster full of project players and single-year contracts again, they’re essentially wasting a third straight year of Dirk’s career. For many Mavericks fans, Nowitzki is the alpha and omega when it comes to Dallas as a franchise, and putting together a competitive team while he finishes out his Hall of Fame tenure is an utmost priority. After all, when Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavs at a discount in the summer of 2010, he did so with the understanding that the front office would do its best to surround him with high-caliber players. The lockout and ensuing CBA changed the landscape drastically, and in the process limited Dallas’ team-building options. Yet another lost year for Dirk would be tough to swallow for all involved, even if such a course proves to be best for the Mavs’ greater efforts to construct a contender.

Nowitzki has long been a good soldier for the organization, despite playing with the least talented teammates of any superstar from his generation. While he’s on the record saying he’s willing to take a hefty pay cut when he re-signs after next season, another wasted season could change his internal calculus. Loyal though he might be, Nowitzki’s re-signing in that scenario would first require that he endure another year on the “mediocrity treadmill” without losing faith or interest in the Mavs’ rebuilding efforts. Dallas has been a step above bad for two seasons, held together mainly by Dirk’s brilliance. As he ages, he can’t be expected to carry a .500 team in a Western conference that only seems to get better each season. Nowitzki has seen the peak, and to trudge through the lowlands with a middling team through his slow decline would seem a painfully unfulfilling turn.

As the Mavs attempt to thread the needle in building a team for the future that will simultaneously make the most of Nowitzki’s twilight years, the front office is flirting with disaster. Despite all assurances to the contrary, Dallas’ plan seems to be to land Paul/Howard or bust. The Mavs are reportedly shopping this year’s pick for salary cap space, as has become something of a trend; Dallas traded away younger assets like Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton only to make cap space in the past, and the bid to have max-level cap room has left the Mavericks’ cupboard alarmingly bare. If Dallas strikes out with Paul and Howard, it’s quite possible the 2013-2014 Mavericks will be a bad team with a murky future. Despite trying to place themselves in the best possible situation for this off season, the Mavericks are left at the mercy of the decision-making of others.

It’s an uncomfortable situation with meager chance for positive resolution. Yet this is the lot of a team rebuilding around an aging star owed $22.7 million in single-year salary, left only to rely on the long-shot landing of Paul or Howard. For now, acquiring either superstar remains a vague possibility for a franchise in need of hope. Yet come July, the overwhelming likelihood is that both Paul and Howard will sign elsewhere, leaving Dallas to face difficult questions with few — if any — encouraging answers.

Answered Questions

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 24, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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There have been a lot of positive remarks about the questions and answers series that has started during the offseason. I think people are just thirsty for Mavs information or debate, but we’ll continue running with the series. If you ever have questions you want tossed into future a batch, you can always send them through Twitter or through the comments section.

This batch provides a good mixture of looking back, looking ahead and evaluating who the true gambles are this offseason with free agency. If Dirk and Carlisle were your kids and you had to pick one as your favorite, who would you pick? Wait, parents don’t have to pick a favorite child? Oh, that’s good to know for the future. Anyways, a variation of that topic is brought up.

For now, here are 10 more questions and answers about the Mavs.

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Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 2, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

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Looking over Quoteboards allows you to refresh your memory over buzz comments that were made. There’s one that has stuck in my mind and has me wondering.

This is what Mark Cuban said when the front office has to decide the worth of perspective free agents versus years and money and deciding whether or not to pursue:

“We don’t try to win the summer. We don’t try to say okay, we’re going to give a guy a lot of money. He’s got to be worth the money. There are guys that are team difference makers and none of these guys that you’ve mentioned (like Goran Dragic) went to a team and that signed as a free agent and turned them around.  What kind of impact would he have on your team? End of story. That’s it. How many games can he win me, if at all? If he’s not going to be a difference-maker why would you do it (sign him to a lengthy contract)?

“I have to look at Donnie and Rick. Donnie’s going to say don’t do it and Rick’s going to say don’t do it. I’m going to say to Donnie, should we do it? And he’ll say no. Teams sign guys all the time that they end up having to get rid of all the time. And it’s just a different animal when you’re trading for him and you get off a guy and you have to take bad contracts to get a good contract. We’re wide open for whatever puts us in a position to get a difference maker and if we can’t then we’ll deal with whatever it is.”

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The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 112, Dallas Mavericks 108

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 15, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.0113.753.417.014.06.0
Los Angeles117.948.929.029.46.3

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • This was a game that deserved to go into overtime, and unlike far too many extra-period affairs of the post-lockout season, actually behooved its audience to. Dallas may have bogged itself down into isolating Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 9-28 FG, 3-8 3FG, 14 rebounds) at times in an effort to get him going, but for the most part the Mavericks’ ball movement was quite good; Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 5-6 3FG, four assists) and Delonte West (20 points, 9-15 FG) both did wonderful work as shot creators, and the entire offense was built on and benefited from the virtues of the extra pass. Sadly, execution doesn’t always lead to elite efficiency; try as the Mavs might to work the ball around and make the right plays, Nowitzki’s shooting struggles and the Lakers’ ability to apply defensive pressure in all the right places kept this a wide-open game. Meanwhile, the Lakers sans Kobe were in a position to exploit the necessity of the Mavs’ over-helping; only Brendan Haywood had the hope of checking Andrew Bynum without a double team, a fact which essentially required that each of Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright’s minutes be plagued with openings on the weak side. It wasn’t the fault of Jason Kidd (who was often caught cheating off of his man to help on Bynum), or even Wright. It’s merely the reality of this rotation, and if these two teams meet in a potential first-round series, it’s a reality the Mavericks will have to confront on more specific terms. (One related thought: A potential factor that could oddly make the Lakers’ swing passing more manageable from a Maverick perspective? Kobe Bryant. Players so brilliant rarely make decisions as oddly short-sighted as those Bryant makes with regularity. He may think three moves ahead of his defender in the post, but basketball chess games last a bit longer than three moves.)
  • There’s no use in demanding perfection of any team at this stage in the season, particularly one that has seen as much in-season variance as these Mavericks. That said, is it enough to be pleased with strong effort and decent execution against an opponent missing a star? I was going to say that this game sums up Dallas’ season nicely, but perhaps that response does so even more aptly.

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Instead of the Cross

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 21, 2012 under Previews | Read the First Comment

But [tonight's game] has the chance to be something very different and a fair bit more violent. Andrew Bynum is set to take on a Mavs team missing Brendan Haywood due to a nagging right knee injury, and should be expectedly dominant against the much lankier Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright. That tandem of reserve bigs has been great for Dallas this season, but both players lack not only Haywood’s sophistication as a post defender, but also his sheer size. Mahinmi and Wright may be cut from a thinner, more athletic mold, but it’s hard to imagine their quickness doing all that much good against a deep catch from the methodical Bynum, who has thus far been able to overpower just about any interior defender unlucky enough to be pitted against him this season.

The two times Dallas and L.A. met this year, Haywood was able to hold Bynum to averages of 18 points (on 60-percent shooting) and 15 rebounds. What — specifically — that omen holds for Mahinmi and  Wright we can’t rightly know, but their exciting and flawed substitution for Haywood surely makes for one hell of an albatross.

I previewed tonight’s game against Los Angeles over at Bleacher Report’s CourtVision blog. If you’re into that sort of thing, take a gander at the piece in its entirety.

The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 96, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas88.0103.444.417.839.611.0
Los Angeles109.151.340.837.015.9

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavs are undoubtedly disappointed in their collective inability to capitalize on the opportunities presented them, but ultimately, this was a pretty commendable effort. Lamar Odom, Delonte West, and Rodrigue Beaubois were out of the lineup, leaving Brian Cardinal (three points, 1-4 FG) and Yi Jianlian (four points, 2-3 FG) to play significant minutes. Pau Gasol played solid defense on Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-22 FG, 12 rebounds), and prevented him from dominating offensively. Dallas shot .250 from beyond the arc, and .400 from the field overall. Yet both teams were deadlocked virtually every step of the way in the second half, a literalization of the seeding battle between Western Conference teams. The Mavs and Lakers are both talented teams capable of making the Western Conference Finals, and the same could be said of about half a dozen other clubs. It’s all going to come down to minor differences in record and the random resulting matchups, much like this particular game was ultimately determined by a thin margin and specific matchup advantages.
  • Even in a season of spectacular defensive performances, this may be Shawn Marion’s showpiece. Kobe Bryant (15 points, 4-15 FG, four assists, five rebounds, seven turnovers) is among the toughest covers in the league, but Marion blanketed him step for step, forced him into tough, contested shots, and goaded Bryant into taking long three-pointers born of frustration. You can’t ask for better primary defense on an opponent’s top offensive player, and though Gasol (24 points, 11-18 FG, nine rebounds, four assists, five turnovers) and Andrew Bynum (19 points, 6-10 FG, 14 rebounds, three assists) were able to make up for Kobe’s shackles with highly efficient interior play, Marion’s defense alone gave the Mavs a legitimate chance to win this game. (On a related note: No Maverick needs the All-Star break more than Shawn Marion. I wish him a long weekend of nonexistent mornings, catnaps, and time away from the court.)

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 122, Los Angeles Lakers 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 9, 2011 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas92.0132.674.019.220.020.7
Los Angeles93.540.923.230.617.4

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • That, ladies and gents, was one of the most dominant performances in NBA playoff history. Dallas posted an effective field goal percentage of 74.0% — seventy-four percent! — which, according to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, was the highest mark in the playoffs by any team of the past two decades.  The Mavs won by 36 points, but the actual margin was even larger; if we adjust the final totals of both teams to the 100-possession standard, Dallas was actually 39.1 points superior on a pace-neutral scale. That’s an absurd, gaudy dominance that nears Bambi vs. Godzilla territory.
  • It was all possible because of the ball movement. Dallas did such an incredible job of finding open space and making the right passes in this series, and as I’ve noted on several occasions, it was that continued work toward the extra pass and the better shot that destroyed any hope L.A. had of mounting an effective defense. The Lakers embarrassed themselves with their inability to stick with the Mavs’ shooters, but they were only put in a position to fail because the passing was so crisp and the cuts were so perfect. Dallas — though they look absolutely brilliant at present — had fallen victim to their own stagnant offensive execution at various times during the regular season, but that’s not even a conceivable outcome with this team right now. Execution is playoff currency, and the way the Mavs created shots on offense was borderline magical. The Lakers were flummoxed by the sight of a moving ball, and incapable of defending pick-and-rolls, flare cuts, or really anyone at all.
  • Not that Dallas’ defense was anything to scoff at, either. Some of the same lethargy that haunted L.A.’s defense crept into their offensive game, but it’s not as if shots went up unchallenged or passes deflected themselves. The Mavs were true defensive aggressors, and forced the Lakers into a 17.4 turnover rate while holding them to a 40.9% effective field goal percentage. Kobe Bryant had a successful first quarter run, but that short burst aside, the Lakers had absolutely no continuity. They scored a bucket here and a bucket there, but the Mavs were scrambling so incredibly well in their half-court defense and demolishing one of the league’s most impressive offensive outfits in the process.
  • There should be no question that the better team won this series because frankly, when the Mavs play like this, they’re better than almost any team in the league. Dallas essentially played a perfect game to cap off an incredible four straight victories, and while there should be understandable doubt regarding the Mavs’ ability to sustain their current roll, the Dallas team of this series was a championship contender and then some.
  • Jason Terry (32 points, 11-14 FG, 9-10 3FG, four assists) was positively stupendous. This wasn’t “one of those nights” or the “hot hand”; on May 8th, 2011, Jason Eugene Terry activated his final Chakra. He reached out and touched the divine. He shifted into another state of consciousness, or was possibly existing simultaneously in two realms, his body a conduit for some greater power. This shooting display was a spiritual experience, the likes of which can change lives and convert men in their heart of hearts. The Lakers didn’t exactly put up much resistance, but the confidence and the consistency in JET’s jumper was otherworldly, or self-actualizing, or centering, or dimension-shifting. I’m not exactly sure which, but one simply knows when they’ve witnessed something miraculous.
  • Peja Stojakovic (21 points, 7-7 FG, 6-6 3FG, three steals) wasn’t too bad, either, and continued in his efforts to make me look like an absolute fool for wondering if he would bear fruit for the Mavs. Stojakovic was perfect from three-point range in six attempts, and like JET, his composure is admirable. He can fire off a corner three even against a hard close-out, and in those situations when he thinks the defense might get the better of him, he doesn’t hesitate to put the ball on the floor or swing it back to the top of the key. Stojakovic is a shooter, but he isn’t exactly consistent with the typical limitations spot-up shooter archetype.
  • The Maverick reserves scored 86 points, matching the Lakers’ collective total. Unreal.
  • Blowout losses do crazy things to people. Like Lamar Odom:

  • And Andrew Bynum:

  • I can understand the argument that Odom’s foul wasn’t quite deserving of the flagrant 2/auto-ejection, but Bynum’s is completely classless, uncalled for, and unacceptable. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t receive a multi-game suspension to kick off the 2011-2012 season for his momentary lapse into insanity. Bynum is typically a pretty reasonable, aware guy, but the sight of J.J. Barea getting yet another uncontested drive to the rim drove him into some kind of madness. Then again, he had mostly himself to blame for Barea’s previous effortless drives, so maybe he was just taking out his frustrations on a mini, Barea-sized avatar of himself. Or, y’know, he just lost his mind.
  • Bynum’s flip-out wasn’t wholly negative though, because it did help Barea (22 points, 9-14 FG, eight assists) — who shared the game’s tri-MVP honors with JET and Peja — score an elusive made bucket on a flagrant foul. Even after taking a huge forearm hit from Bynum, Barea’s floater went up and in, resulting in two points for Dallas, two subsequent free throws, and possession of the ball. Not exactly an everyday occurrence.
  • On a related note, it’s still baffling to me that the Lakers would commit so much pressure at the three-point line to the task of defending Barea with either Tyson Chandler or Brendan Haywood setting a screen. Is it so hard to roll under screens to encourage Barea to shoot jumpers while letting the big man sag in the paint? Chandler and Haywood aren’t going to catch at the free throw line and pop a jumper, and if J.J. concedes in order to take a three, that’s ultimately a good thing for the Laker defense considering the circumstances. Yet L.A.’s defenders got hung up on screens time and time again with Bynum hedging 20 feet from the rim and Pau Gasol unable to leave Dirk Nowitzki. I’m not sure who was responsible for the pick-and-roll blunders for the Lakers, but they empowered Barea as a creator and made him into a significant problem in this series.
  • But let’s take a moment to appreciate just how incredible Barea was in this game and this series. The pick-and-roll opened the door, but it was still up to Barea — who has often functioned as the Mavs’ built-in scapegoat, but has set that honorary title ablaze — to finish his looks and find his teammates. He scored over and around Bynum, he worked for creative passing and scoring angles, and had Terry not connected with an unseen power, he would have been the best guard for either team in Game 4, despite taking the court alongside two surefire Hall-of-Famers.
  • Also: attempting to defend Barea with Ron Artest was hilarious.
  • As were Artest’s offensive pursuits:

  • Gasol vs. Nowitzki used to seem like an actual argument, but that debate segued into Bryant vs. Nowitzki, and now Nowitzki vs. pretty much anyone. To the victor go the spoils of public opinion, and after championing the Mavs through their improbable sweep, Dirk is walking on sunshine.
  • I doubted the ability of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood to defend against LaMarcus Aldridge’s versatility, and then doubted their ability to defend against Bynum’s sheer size. I was horribly wrong, and both players have been defensive rock stars. Bynum scored six points and grabbed just six boards in Game 4, his second game in this series where he had both under 10 points and 10 rebounds. Bynum still had a pair of successful performances, but that’s the expectation. He played up to par in two games, and was held far below his expected performance in two others, including the final outing of the Lakers’ season.
  • Oh, by the way: the Mavs happened to make 20 three-pointers (in just 32 attempts), setting a new playoff record. No big deal, just making history over here.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook found one constant in the Mavs’ three-point shooting aside from the hard work of Terry and Stojakovic: the influence of Dirk Nowitzki. Yet another example of how the man makes things happen, even on a day where his statistical output isn’t quite what you’d expect.
  • Brendan Haywood made two consecutive free throws. That’s an omen of the apocalypse, right?
  • I’m still in disbelief over Gasol’s regression. Nowitzki did a fantastic job of defending him both on the perimeter and in the post, but even with that in mind, the degree to which Gasol was neutralized is startling. He’s been the most important Laker all season long, but throughout both of L.A.’s postseason series he’s failed to be aggressive, failed to execute, failed to make an imprint on the game in almost any regard. Basketball fans will again call him soft, but really, Gasol was just bad; it has nothing to do with his masculinity or his ability to grind in the post or something equally ridiculous, but simply an odd reluctance to assert himself. He was certainly too passive, but also underwhelming even when he did get touches down low or in the high post. I don’t mean to make the man a scapegoat — what ailed the Lakers went far deeper than Pau Gasol — but he was so unbelievably absent from this series.
  • 32 assists on 44 made field goals is pretty insane, as was the fact that the Mavs had assisted on 10 of their first 11 buckets, and had notched 20 dimes by halftime. This is truly unparalleled ball movement.
  • Dallas’ worst quarter in Game 4: a 9-of-17 third frame in which they played L.A. to a draw at 23-all. The Lakers started out the second half with some defensive stops, and for a matter of moments, looked like they actually belonged on the court on Sunday.
  • Jason Kidd deserves a round of applause for 1) his well-publicized ability to impact the game in a variety of ways, and 2) his tremendous defense against Kobe Bryant in this series. Kidd didn’t even rack up all that many assists in Game 4, but he was a contributor during some big Maverick runs (the 10-0 sprint to close the first half, for example) and did those mythical little things.
  • However, it was the Mavs’ additional defensive pressure that really threw Kobe off of his game. Dallas was somehow able to pull off the feat of committing an extra defender against Bryant overtly at times (direct double team) or more subtly at others (a floating defender, waiting to help), and yet still scamper back to cover the open man. Kidd, Stevenson, Stojakovic, Terry, and Barea deserve a ton of credit — they managed to hound Bryant a bit and recover nicely to avoid weak side exploitation.
  • For the sake of finding a silver lining, L.A. did do one thing relatively well: rebound. The Mavs should have dominated the raw rebounding totals given the incredible number of Laker misses. Instead, they took just a 40-39 advantage, thanks largely to L.A.’s 30.6 offensive rebounding rate. I don’t want to glorify a series of missed put-backs in a game that the Lakers essentially forfeited, but at least there was a slight display of effort in creating extra possessions off the glass.
  • Stojakovic was an oddly effective defender in this series. He faced a series of tough assignments created by weird matchups or on switches, but held his own against Bryant, Odom, Artest, and even Bynum and Gasol (via denying entry passes) on occasion. I’d settle for Stojakovic not providing opponents with a clear point of attack, but at various times in this serious he made legitimately beneficial defensive plays.
  • The same is true of Marion, but due to his superior defensive ability, I don’t look at his performance in this series in such rosy terms. Dallas clearly didn’t need huge performances from Marion due to their hot shooting, but he ultimately took the back seat in defending Kobe Bryant to Kidd. Marion still had effective stretches, but just wasn’t quite as good as one may have expected given Marion’s track record in defending elite wing players. Even at this age, he can do better, and if the Mavs play the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, he’ll have to.
  • The Lakers made five three-pointers in the entire game. The Mavericks made at least four pointers in each quarter, including seven in the second and five in the fourth.
  • I still don’t have the foggiest idea why we didn’t see more of Corey Brewer in this series. DeShawn Stevenson didn’t play all that well on either end of the court, and Brewer is definitely capable of shooting 1-of-5 from three but while providing better slashing, more energy, and better defense. Plus, when opponents are leaving Stevenson to double elsewhere, isn’t that enacting the fear of the offensive burden that Brewer might bring?
  • Haywood grabbed more rebounds in 17 minutes of action (eight) than every Laker except for Gasol (who also had eight).
  • Kudos to the folks running the entertainment at the American Airlines Center. During several rounds of the “BEAT L.A” chants that broke out in Game 4, the folks running the soundboard killed everything. They cut the music, the sound effects, the video clips — they let the fans unleash in support of their team with only silence as the backdrop. The AAC can be characterized by its non-stop audio-visual stimulation (sometimes to the detriment of the basketball experience), but these moments of unadulterated fan fervor were pretty awesome. I know it’s easy for fans to get psyched when their team is on the verge of sweeping the defending champs, but the MFFLs showed up on Sunday and the AAC entertainment staff let them scream to the rafters.
  • Terry’s rapport with the fans is tremendous. You know JET eats up the response to his antics, but the man makes a conscious, ongoing effort to keep the fans involved and energized, even when things like long TV timeouts take away some of the game’s natural momentum. Rather than loiter around the scorer’s table to wipe off his shoes an extra time or do a quick stretch, JET took the court solo to energize the fans. He stalked the sidelines and called to the Maverick faithful. Opposing teams, coaches, and fans may find him irritating, and I can understand their frustration with JET’s posturing. Yet there’s a reason he holds such a special place in the hearts of Mavs fans, and it goes beyond the timely shots and the fourth quarter performance.
  • More record fun: Terry’s nine three-point makes tied an NBA playoff record, but the lopsided nature of the game prevented him from securing that record-breaking three. Drat.
  • This was likely Phil Jackson’s final game as a coach, and it’s a damn shame that his players couldn’t have taken that into consideration when they were spacing on pick-and-roll coverage and practically rotating away from open shooters. Jackson’s the best there ever was, and though this loss likely won’t be even a footnote of a footnote of a footnote on his coaching career, it would have been nice to see his team go out with a bit more fight. For the record, I don’t think Jackson was a victim in this loss or this win-less series; there are a number of technical problems that held L.A. back, and that responsibility falls on the coaching staff. Still, Phil wasn’t supposed to go out like this, and even if the Lakers committed some strategic blunders, the biggest problem in Game 4 was the embarrassing lack of effort.
  • Predictable dynamic of the post-game press conferences: though plenty of questions were lobbed up for both Dirk and JET to answer (they took the podium together), Dirk remained silent while Terry offered his analysis and reflection. In several cases, Nowitzki didn’t even look up; he merely stared straight through the table in front of him during the question and the response both, allowing Terry — ever the talker — to handle every single question purposed for both of them to answer.