Dallas Mavericks 110, Oklahoma City Thunder 108

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 28, 2009 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own.
-Erica Jong

To say that last night’s game has me drowning in ambivalence would be an understatement.  Wins just don’t get more bittersweet.

The call with the Mavs has been to play defense when it matters, and they did just that.  Down the stretch, the team came up with big stop after big stop to not only come back from 12 down, but to keep the Thunder at bay.  Credit that to Carlisle’s unabashed use of the zone, which turned OKC’s lineup of non-shooters into turnover machines.  Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green picked up the slack in a big way, but their work wasn’t easy.  Are Westbrook and Green elite scorers?  Not exactly, but when players get hot (or in this case, aggressive in their efforts to get to the line), the general measures of defensive success are bent ever so slightly.  I’m not thrilled that Westbrook scored 14 or that Green scored 7 in overtime, but I’m definitely pleased with the significant ruckus the Mavs’ defense was able to raise.

That’s not to say that the defensive effort was complete.  There’s a distinct reason that the Thunder turned a 5 point deficit into a 12 point lead, and it’s not solely because the Maverick offense went cold.  The Thunder should have no business taking the Mavs to task on the offensive end without Kevin Durant, even with a parade to the charity stripe.

There are games where Jason Kidd’s lack of scoring is a significant deadweight.  This was not one of those games.  Kidd was far from an offensive dynamo in terms of his scoring output, but I’m not at all displeased with what he did for the Mavs’ offense.  When the double-teams tried to curtail Dirk (who finished with 41 and was the Clutchotron 5000), Kidd was the principal influence on the Mavs ability to move the ball to the open man (either directly or through the ‘hockey assist’).  He came up big with two huge threes and went 4/4 on some crucial free throws (imagine that!).  Ballin’.

But where were Josh Howard and Antoine Wright?  Two of the crucial cogs in the post-Terrian Dallas attack?  They were there.  That’s about it.  Howard was plagued by foul trouble and bothered by Thabo Sefolosha.  His recent uptick in defensive activity was counterbalanced by a few extra whistles.  In spite of all that, Howard was +19 for the game, good for best on the team.  Wright on the other hand, was out of the game for the entirety of the fourth and overtime.  He wasn’t hitting his shots, but Wright wasn’t exactly terrible; his drop-off can be largely attributed to a Maverick surge behind Kidd and Barea in the backcourt.

James Singleton is a monster.  That is all.

Dirk scores 41, but the offense was hardly a well-oiled machine.  The Mavs defense gets stops late, but allows the Durant-less Thunder to push them to the limit.  The Mavs went off on a 16-0 run to avoid disaster, but still nearly blew it against an inferior team missing their best player.  Hey, if they gave us definitive answers and consistent play, they just wouldn’t be the Mavs.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to none other than Dirk Nowitzki.  41 points (16-30) is always tasty, but Dirk did a great job of shooting and deferring at all the right moments for all the right reasons.  Welcome back, Dirk.

Heard It Through the Abbreviated Grapevine 2-27-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 27, 2009 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • The Rockets defense is stupid good.  Ron Artest was already the best perimeter defender in the league, with Shane Battier not far behind.  You combine those two with a shot blocker in Yao Ming and an aggressive defensive gameplan, and you’ve got quite a powerhouse on your hands.  Losing McGrady for the season and Rafer Alston via trade was supposed to hurt the Rockets’ offense, but in the process they may have also ditched their two worst defenders in favor of more minutes for Battier and bullish point guard Kyle Lowry.  (EDIT: But don’t take my word for it.  Read Kevin Arnovitz’s redonkulous breakdown of the Rockets’ defense on LeBron James in last night’s game.)
  • It can’t ever feel good to be traded.  Even though on a lot of levels I’m sure it feels good for a Pau Gasol to go from a team like the Grizz to a team like the Lakers, it’s also a team giving up on you.  Whether you’re the star, a role player, or a bench warmer, the knowledge that the general manager and coaching staff that you trusted does not believe that you can help them win games (even if it’s not the case) has to hit hard.  Antoine Wright reflects on his feelings about his trade to the Mavs a year ago (Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News): “‘I felt betrayed a little bit because I wasn’t supposed to be in the trade,’ Wright said Thursday. ‘[The Nets] said ‘Don’t worry about it. Go on vacation.’ Then I’m in Miami [during the All-Star break] and I’m looking at the bottom of the screen and I’m going, ‘Wright? Is that me?’ That was the first I heard of being traded.’ Sure enough, that was Wright’sname crawling along the ticker. ‘That’s when it hit me that I was a throw-in,’ he said.”
  • Part 3 of Dirk’s interview with Five Magazine.
  • Rick Carlisle on Josh Howard, echoing my thoughts in this post yesterday (Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News): “His spirits are better. You can just tell the way he’s bouncing around the court. The game’s a lot more fun when you’re not in some kind of pain.”

No Game Is an Island: All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 25, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

The Dallas Mavericks visit the Milwaukee Bucks
7:30 CST

Bounce back.  Response.  Answer.  Whatever you’d like to call it, the Mavs need to show something real and tangible tonight.  The blown game against the Celtics was disappointing, implosion against the Rockets was embarassing, and last night’s disaster was inexcusable.  Jason Terry is missing some games, but that doesn’t give anyone the excuse to go out there and lay an egg.

The wins against Orlando and Portland were meaningful, but their significance are completely eclipsed by the number of disappointing losses the Mavs have endured in the month of February.  The team’s win percentage on the season is .589.  They’ve won 6 out of their 10 games so far this month and yet they’re taking alternating steps forward and backwards, ignoring the opportunity to gain ground in favor of jogging in place.  It’s good exercise I hear, but it’s not going to get you anywhere.

What really sickens me is how the Mavs have wasted golden opportunities via the exploits of the back end of the rotation.  Antoine Wright has found new life with consistent minutes, attacking the basket and defending well.  J.J. Barea sometimes seems like the only active player for games at a time.  Brandon Bass is money on his short-to-midrange jumper, and his rebounding on both ends is commendable.  James Singleton has been a monster.  When you take all that they’ve done in Terry’s absence, this team should be better.  They really should.  If production is a factor of talent as well as the give and take of touches and minutes, Terry’s injury and the bench’s success have provided plenty of give.  The team as a whole just has yet to take advantage, and that burden goes top down from Carlisle, to Dirk, to Kidd, and to Howard.

The Mavs need a win tonight, if for no other reason than to prove they still can.  It’s a strange thing to say for a team on a .600 month, but winning in the Maverick way and winning in a legitimate, contending way haven’t exactly been similar lately.  Beating the Bucks doesn’t hold any inherent glory, but for a team still striving to create some sense of cohesion going forward, games like these are ever-important.  The clock is ticking, Mavs.

Heard It Through the Grapevine 2-23-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 23, 2009 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

  • Major lack of game recapping o’er the weekend; I got caught up in things.  The Kings blow-out had plenty of bright spots (James Singleton and Brandon Bass are the mad note), but it’s exactly the kind of win that has obscured proper evaluation of this team all season long.  The Mavs really blew it against the Rockets, and there isn’t really another way to slice it.  Jason Kidd was all shook up (again) by a quicker point guard, and even a super-human performance from J.J. Barea couldn’t change the fact that when Dirk struggles, the Mavs struggle.  Is it fair to make that kind of assessment with Terry already out of the lineup?  Probably not, but it’s not about fairness anymore.  Still, kudos to the team for going absolutely bananas in the second.  Bass and Barea have been kickin’ it for two games straight, and it’s a pity that those efforts were wasted in Friday’s loss.
  • DallasBasketball.com’s David Lord continues to debunk some myths about the Summer of 2010.  Namely, that the Mavs can build a contender around the core of Dirk and a 2010 big-timer.  It’s okay guys, just breathe.  Take it easy.  Lord has a contingency plan, and a sound one at that, which actually hinges greatly on what the Mavs can wrangle together this summer in the low-competition, and hopefully low-priced free agent market.  Great stuff.
  • Brandon Bass, J.J. Barea, and occasionally Gerald Green are classified as the Mavs’ ‘young guys.’  Bass and Barea have validated their potential for improvement with their play, steadily showing advancements in their games across the board.  Green gets by on a seemingly limitless upside that makes him dreamy.  But in light of Antoine Wright’s recent surge, is it about time we throw him into the mix?  He’s only 24 years old, and he’s already disregarded as a known quantity.  I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and I’m doing some serious reevaluating regarding Wright’s ceiling.  I’ve always thought that there were two types of “defensive stoppers” in this game: those that are legitimately good at defense, and those that just aren’t good at anything else.  I feared Wright might be the latter, but since JET’s injury he’s been better on both sides of the ball.  He’s still incredibly mortal, but it’s looking more and more like the ‘glass half-empty’ analysis of Wright’s future is more a product of confidence and consistent minutes than it is lack of talent.  On a slightly related note, a nameless Dallas Morning News author (I’m pretty sure it’s Sefko) talks about the importance of getting the young guys into a flow going forward: “But getting young players in meaningful situations provides an invaluable learning tool. The goal, of course, is that the younger players will be more comfortable in tough situations when the stakes rise later in the season and in the playoffs. ‘They’ve been in that situation a lot this year,’ coach Rick Carlisle said. ‘They’ve helped us finish off a lot of games with wins. We have confidence in those guys.’”
  • Aside from a reference that would seem to indicate that Jason Kidd was wearing his own version of “The Puffy Shirt,” Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram caught up with Dirk after the game against Sacramento to ask a single question: “I assured him quickly, however, that the interview would be short and that I wanted to ask a serious question: ‘Do you believe you will be a Maverick for life?’ ‘Mark knows I want to be,’ Nowitzki said of owner Mark Cuban. ‘That’s all we’ve talked about for the last couple of years. I’d love to stay here but I think we made it pretty clear that this franchise wants to win a championship. So at some point, if you can’t reach your goal, changes come with that. I understand the business…We’ve been trying for a lot of years now. If we lose in the first round again this year or next year, who knows what can happen? But I’d love to end my career here.’”
  • A “source” thinks the Mavs will try to re-sign Kidd.  Novel idea, that.

Beautiful Inertia

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 20, 2009 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read


…Do you hear that?

Silence.

No one will be riding in on a white stallion to save the Mavericks’ season.  There will be no ‘this year’s Pau Gasol.’  Instead, we’re left with the quiet resolve of a team finally forced to face facts and get something done on their own.  Call me crazy, but I think  I like it.

For as long as I have watched the Mavs, they’ve held the “regular season team” tag.  That’s analyst-speak for “well, you never won a championship.”  Fine.  But most models of playoff success involve playing your best basketball at the right time, and the Mavs are doing just that.

It’s given me rose-colored glasses.  Refusing to make a trade out of desperation takes a certain mental fortitude, and I really do applaud Donnie, Mark, and the Mavs staff for not blinking with the deadline staring them in the face.  This team has holes, but they’ve also shown themselves to be capable of hanging with the big dogs.  Can the Mavs beat the Lakers?  Probably not.  That doesn’t mean they can’t find their own relative level of success and at least give L.A. (or San Antonio, or whoever) a run for their money.

The problem with the Mavs isn’t necessarily an issue of talent.  The bench isn’t incredibly deep, but on face a team of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, and Jason Terry isn’t exactly a runt.  For a team just showing signs of ‘getting it,’ that has to make you a little excited.

As it is so often in basketball, it’s not just who you are, but who your opponents are not.  Aside from the Lakers and the Spurs, the rest of the West has yet to put together a convincing resume:

  • The Hornets have been short of contending status all season: Tyson Chandler has been injured or ineffective, James Posey has disappointed, and the already thin bench was gutted.
  • The Rockets have yet to see their team really click, and on top of that they’ve lost Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady.  Rafer has serious flaws in his game, but he’s also been a relative constant to the craziness that’s been going on in Houston.  Being overly reliant on Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry may not be as safe of a plan as it seems, especially in T-Mac’s absence.
  • The Spurs are playing well, but they’re still mortal.  They lose games to small-time teams, and Manu Ginobili is going to miss some time.
  • The Blazers are the Blazers.  They’re everyone’s darling, but they struggle on the defensive end, still miss Steve Blake (EDIT: Blake returned on Wednesday against the Grizzlies.  Thanks, David.), and have never been a team to cause the Mavs many problems.
  • The Suns…played the Clippers twice.  They were awesome, but I’ve got no idea where the true pulse of this team is.  EDIT: ESPN just reported that Amar’e Stoudemire may “miss the rest of the season” with a partially detatched retina.  Suns.com lists his recovery time as “eight weeks, depending on his healing process.”
  • The Jazz are still missing Carlos Boozer, and working him back into the lineup could cause complications.  Or maybe they won’t even make the playoffs.  Either way.
  • The Nuggets.  I don’t even want to talk about the Nuggets anymore.  They’re for real.

Supposing the Mavericks are truly on the ascent, isn’t a top-4 seed a reachable goal?  The Lakers are a lock, the Spurs are probably down just a peg, and the Nuggets aren’t far behind.  If the four spot is up for the taking, Dallas seems to be in a prime position to snatch it.  All because of the confidence management showed in this core and in the abilities of this team.

There’s a great possibility that in a week or two I’m going to eat my words.  The Mavs tend to do that to me.  But look at what the Mavs have done without Jason Terry.  Look at how Josh Howard has steadily improved.  Look at how Jason Kidd has been contributing across the board.  Look at how Antoine Wright has stepped up in Terry’s absence.  Factor in a healthy Terry and possibly some marginal production from Jerry Stackhouse, and things could get interesting.  Above all, though, look at how all of this improvement hasn’t come at the expense of Dirk’s game.  The players look comfortable, the coach is trusting, and it just might be all coming together for the boys in blue.

I just hope I didn’t jinx it.

Dallas Mavericks 52, New Jersey Nets 55

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 19, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by AP Photo/LM Otero.

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“Progress comes from the intelligent use of experience.
-Elbert Hubbard

Man, that’s a low-scoring game.  It could have a little something to do with the fact that I missed the second half of the game because I had a little intramural game of my own to attend.  We lost, and I am totally pissed.  But that’s a story for another day.

All I have to go on are my notes from the first half, mostly because I feel a little dirty about going through the AP recap and forming my assumptions on those terms.  So here are some of my thoughts from last night’s affair:

  • Josh Howard did not score well in the first half.  He was something like 1-7 in the 1st quarter, but he did a good job of balancing his shoot-first mentality by rounding out the box score (4 assists and 3 rebounds in the first).  It’s these types of quarters that can make Josh a valuable player even when he’s not scoring, and that just might be what the Mavs need.  I’d rather he facilitate the flow of the offense rather than trying to be Plan B, and if he does that he just might find it even easier to get involved points-wise.
  • I get the feeling that when Brandon Bass sees Ryan Anderson guarding him, he salivates…no homo.
  • It’s about sending a message – Harris dominated Kidd in the first match-up, and this time around he wasn’t having nunnuvit.  He hit three three-pointers early, all while exemplifying “letting the offense come to him.”
  • For what it’s worth, I thought Antoine Wright played good defense on Vince Carter in the early going.  He finished the first quarter with 10 points on 5-7 shooting, but most of those were “good D, better O” moments: crazy spin moves, fadeaways, and contested attempts.  Judging by his final FG% (he finished the night at 33.3%), I’m guessing it caught up to him.
  • Oddly enough, Devin Harris and Josh Howard ended up guarding each other a lot in the first quarter.  Huh.
  • I’ve made note of this before, but apparently no one listens to me: zones against the Mavs do not work.  The team wants to shoot jump shots and Dirk wants to operate out of the high post.  So stop it, Nets, you’re just embarassing yourselves.
  • Dirk went nuts in the second, making up for his first quarter disappearance with 16 points.  Notably, four of Dirk’s points came off of uncharacteristic drives to the front of the rim.  Dirk doesn’t have the quickest feet in the world, and he isn’t a powerful finisher.  So when I say that on two separate possessions Dirk punished New Jersey’s zone with hard cuts to the basket that resulted in easy buckets, you need to understand just how rare that is.  Not to mention his one-man dribble-drive on the break to close out the first half for the Mavs (it resulted in free throws, but whatever).  It’s not something I’d anticipate seeing on a regular basis, but watching Dirk score in ways that don’t involve fifteen feet between him and the basket, a hand in his face, and all sorts of bodily contortions was a welcome surprise.

So what did I miss out on?  From the looks of things, a three-point barrage and a balanced Maverick attack are what did the Nets in.  Was Josh’s second half as good as the box score makes it look?  How was Kidd’s second half defense on Harris?  Fill in the blanks for me, guys.

Player Valuations: Antoine Wright

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 18, 2009 under Commentary, xOther | Read the First Comment

Specs: Shooting guard.  6’7”, 215 lbs.

2008-2009 Stats: 6.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 41.1% FG, 28.8% 3FG, 8.6 PER

Why we want him: Because it could be worse.  Antoine Wright in (at least) the bottom third of the starting shooting guards in the league, but the Mavs don’t have many other options.  Jason Terry’s best work has come off the bench, and that role is the most effective for the team as a whole.  Beyond JET, what other choices do the Mavs have?  They could start Devean George, who in essence is an older Antoine Wright.  They could start Gerald Green, but as much as I love him, I could never say that he would be good as a full-time starter.  He’s just not ready.  They could start J.J. Barea, but he presents some challenges defensively and is best served as a backup.  Or they could start Matt Carroll, who hasn’t shown that he’s the defender that Wright is or that he can hit his shot consistently (to his credit, he has been coming on of late…kind of.)

Why they want him: Again…they probably don’t.  Herein lies the problem with the Mavs trade chances: they only have about of handful of actually desirable assets.  Contrast that with the Blazers, whose goblet overfloweth with young talent, or the Thunder, who boast such a collection of expiring contracts, cap space, and draft picks that Presti’s closet door won’t close.  Antoine Wright is exactly what the Mavs have in surplus: unspectacular, slightly below average contributors that are either past their prime or have limited upside.

Trade value: Very low.  Like Hollins and Singleton, Wright’s value to the Mavericks trumps his trade value.  Yes he’s a sub-par shooting guard, but for the time being he’s our sub-par shooting guard.

Likelihood of Being Traded Before the Deadline: In honor of Jim Jackson, former Maverick and the most stereotypical NBA journeyman to ever journey, man, each player’s likelihood of being traded will be evaluated using the Jim Jackson Index (JJI; a scale of 0-5):

1 Jim Jackson out of 5.

Heard It Through the Grapevine 2-11-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 11, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • In the interest of shameless self-promotion, I urge you to check out a chat I had with Zac Crain of D Magazine’s blog, FrontBurner.  Good times.
  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News has praise for Antoine Wright, but he seems just as weary of Wright’s offense as I am: “It was the most shots (8 of 14) he has taken in his last 26 games. Don’t look for many more 20-point nights. Defense remains his primary role. Wright won’t be asked to replace the 19.9 points Terry averaged before he went down with a broken bone in his hand.”
  • DallasBasketball.com’s David Lord has an incredibly comprehensive look at trade options and non-options for the Mavs.  Chandler and Carter and Shaq, oh my!
  • Jason Terry, always the motivator.  JET always finds a way to pump up his teammates.  From Tim MacMahon of the DMN’s Mavs Blog: “Jason Terry sent all his teammates an encouraging text message today. He followed that up with a phone call to Antoine Wright. ‘We need you right now,’ Jet told the Mavs’ starting shooting guard, ‘so you’ve got to play big.’”
  • Just a reminder that on top of Terry’s injury, Dirk has a sore left knee.  That didn’t stop him from doing the usual last night, although Carlisle has made it a point of emphasis to not put too much wear on Dirk by going to him every time down the floor.  If there was ever a time for Josh Howard to be Josh Howard, it would be right about…now.  Good play from Wright and Barea couldn’t hurt, either.  On a slightly related note: I’ve never been happier to see the All-Star break.
  • Want to know how to get on Rick Carlisle’s nerves?  Give up 57 points to the Kings in the first half.  From David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: “Carlisle didn’t get the defensive intensity he wanted, calling his team’s effort pathetic in the first half. But after a stern halftime speech – ‘Coach came in here and said, bleep, bleep, bleep, get out there and bleep,’ Antoine Wright said – the Mavericks responded.”

Dallas Mavericks 118, Sacramento Kings 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“Things do not change; we change.”
-Henry David Thoreau

How much do you read into a solid offensive performance against the worst defensive team in the league?  Hopefully not too much.  The Mavs did nasty things to the Kings’ defense all night, and didn’t even buy them a drink.  But just because we shouldn’t go hog wild with a win like this doesn’t mean we can’t find a few things to be proud of and a few things to take away from this one.

This win starts with the rebounding.  If you hadn’t guessed, Sacramento isn’t what you would call a “good rebounding team” — they rank 29th in the league in rebounding rate.  Dampier just killed it on the glass, taking advantage of Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, and everyone on the Sacramento frontline.  The rest of the team did their part too, to the tune of a 47-28 rebounding edge.  I like.  Half of being a good team is beating the teams that you should, and likewise, half of being a good player is schooling the players that can’t match you in size, strength, or skill.  Hawes and Thompson are good players, but they don’t have the muscle to fight down low with a bear like Damp.

The Mavs offense didn’t miss a beat in JET’s absence.  Antoine Wright, who usually averages 5.5 shot attempts and 1.2 free throw attempts, shot 14 times and went 6-6 from the line.  He attacked the basket, he made his open jumpers, and he generally played like he wasn’t Antoine Wright.  If this new offensively gifted, awesome, sexier Antoine is here to stay, life after Terry is going to be a breeze…or we can stop living on Fantasy Island and assume that Wright’s 23 points came from a solid effort, a great all-around game, a weak defense, and a bit of good fortune.  Big ups for Wright’s night, but I’m not penciling him in for 20 points a game.  Josh Howard upped the ante as well, finally filling up the box score (23 points on 14 shots, 1-1 on threes, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal, and one block) in the way we’ve come to expect.  Howard, Wright, and J.J. Barea’s production (10 points, 5-7 shooting with no turnovers) gave the Mavs plenty of breathing room in the second half.  Dirk didn’t even have to go bonkers for the Mavs to get rolling, and personally, I don’t mind seeing a few wins with merely mortal performances from Nowitzki, no matter the opponent.  Watching Dirk have one of “those nights” brings a special kind of joy to my heart, but having those 40+ point performances as a crutch can’t be good for the team’s long-term offensive stability.

Rick Carlisle got his first extended in-game look at Matt Carroll, but Carroll wasn’t all that effective in his 18 minutes.  His 4 points on 2-4 shooting were meh, but the far more damning number was Carroll’s -17 point impact on the Mavs while he was in the game.  If Carroll’s shooting mojo doesn’t find its way back home soon, I’m starting up the official FREE GERALD GREEN movement.

How good was the Dallas offense in this one?  I’ve gone this far without even mentioning Jason Kidd, who was great in his own right.  Kidd posted up on Beno Udrih, caused a lot of problems with his ability to get into the lane, and of course created for Howard, Wright, and the like both in the halfcourt and on the break.  In the spirit of Kidd doing wonders for this team and still going relatively unnoticed, I’d hate to break with tradition and suddenly shower him with praise.  So good job, champ; let’s move on.

Things weren’t all smiley last night, though.  The defense, especially in the first quarter, was pretty awful.  Kevin Martin and John Salmons had the basketball equivalent of a Turkish Delight in the first quarter, partaking in all sorts of delicious treats that were handed to them by the Mavs on a silver platter.  Carlisle managed to screw everybody’s heads on straight with an early timeout, but the idea that we didn’t even come to play against the Kings isn’t a comforting one.  Still, it should be mentioned that the game never felt out of control.  I never got the impression that the Kings were really going to run away and win this thing.  The third quarter turned out to be a dominant performance for the Mavs, keyed by a 20-6 run and a defense that handcuffed Sacramento into shooting 20% from the field.  There was little room for doubt thereafter.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Antoine Wright.  8-14 FG, 1-3 threes, 6-6 free throws for 23 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 steals.  Wright gets a lot of tough love around here, but he had a helluva game.  Kudos to you, sir.

Jason Terry and the Riddle of the Sphinx

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 9, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

Alright, sleuths, I’ve got one for you: what happens when a team that stands on two legs in the morning and on two legs at noon has one of those legs chopped off in the evening?

We’re about to find out.

Dirk is unquestionably steak sauce (A-1, yo), but Jason Terry is a fantastic complement.  He’s second on the team in points per game and points per minute, trails only behind Dirk in PER, and boasts impressive percentages all around.  Jason Kidd and Josh Howard have each had their moments, but neither has matched Terry’s excellence or stability.  And don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?  This time I think we’ve got a vague idea:  The Mavs will hop around on one foot and pray for the rest of the West to stumble.

There’s no official word on JET’s return date, but Dr. Terry’s own prognosis is three weeks.  Here’s to hoping his extensive training in the medical field pays off.  Regardless, the Mavs are relatively fortunate to have the All-Star break on the horizon.  No one in the conference has a team to spare in the standings, least of all those hovering between seven and niner.  So at least Terry will miss less gametime than he would have otherwise.  That said, Terry’s still going to miss a bit, and that means it’s time to talk solutions.  No one on the roster can fill his role straight-up, and no one is going to match his point-for-point production at anywhere near his level of efficiency.  So where do we go from here?  I thought you’d never ask.

What the Mavs should do: Tell Gerald Green that his vacation at the end of the bench is about to be over.  What’s the worst that could happen?  No, he can’t play defense all that well, but his stints earlier this season showed that he can be the pure shot of scoring adrenaline that the Mavs need.  Besides, Green’s defensive troubles are probably equal to Barea’s, and the other alternatives don’t supply much in the way of offense.  Green’s weaknesses were magnified when he was moved into the starting lineup, but playing against the inferior competition on the second units of the league could make him a nice supplement.  He doesn’t need or deserve Terry’s 30-or-so minutes a night, but I don’t see the harm in giving 15 or 20 minutes to a player whose per-minute line (18.3 points per 36 minutes, 5.5 RP36, almost 45% from the field) looks quite a bit like Josh Howard’s and matches Terry in defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions; 110).  A combination of J.J. Barea and Antoine Wright can fill in the rest of the minutes void.

What the Mavs should not do: Depend on Jerry Stackhouse or make a panic trade.  The whispers of Stack’s return to relevance have been a bit infuriating.  Stackhouse is a 34 year-old in steady decline with a contract that makes him a valuable trade commodity.  He’s far from the missing piece that would thrust the Mavericks into championship contention, so why is his name even coming up?  His value only goes down from here, and it would seem like a foolish move to not capitalize on his virtually expiring contract while it’s still an option.  Beyond that, expecting a guy who’s been injured all season to suddenly step up and fill Terry’s role is a bit far-fetched.  After all, if Stack was a questionable defender and notorious for settling for jumpers before, how will those areas of his game be influenced by a tender foot?

I do not want to see the Mavs settle on a trade for a lesser wing talent in the name of filling in for Terry.  The Mavs really don’t have all that many attractive, tradable assets to spare, and if any are wasted for such a ridiculous purpose it could really set the team back.

What the Mavs probably will do: Rely on J.J. Barea, Antoine Wright, and Josh Howard to make it work.  J.J. was a baller earlier this season when he was trying to hedge Howard’s absence, and he can do some of the same things that Terry can.  Considering the circumstances, it’s not a bad option.  Still, if you’re going to give the minutes to J.J., why not at least roll the dice with Green?

Expect Antoine Wright’s minutes and shot attempts to take a bump, but neither is great for the team.  Wright’s not bad, and on some level I appreciate his commitment to attack the basket, but his ability to contribute in a meaningful way seems limited.

As Fish points out, the idea of “stepping up” is kinda silly, but if any Mav increases his production as his responsibilities increase, it’s Josh Howard.  Howard’s season has been frustrating to say the least, but in the past Josh has had a tendency to respond in a big way when Dirk is out.  This situation is a little different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cross our fingers and hope everything turns out for the best.  This injury could be the best thing that could happen for Josh’s season: a chance for him to “step up” and maintain solid production with increased shot attempts and a more featured role in the offense.  Does Josh’s play this season warrant that kind of ‘raise?’  Nope, not a bit.  But unless Josh Howard criticisms double as magical hand-healing bandages, this isn’t really the time.  “Stepping up” may be a presumptuous concept, but if a player is getting more shots and more touches, I think it’s fair to ask for an increase in production.