Dallas Mavericks 108, Milwaukee Bucks 107

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 27, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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Out of need springs desire, and out of desire springs the energy and the will to win.”
-Dennis Waitley

For the first 46 minutes, the Mavs were executing brilliantly on offense and, well, letting the Bucks execute brilliantly on offense as well. Dirk Nowitzki (28 points on 25 shots, eight rebounds, five assists) and Jason Terry (21 points, 8-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) made beautiful music together throughout, and their play was clearly reminiscent of the simpler times of ’08-’09. But despite the throwback quality of Terry’s shooting, the Maverick offense was anything but the isolation-heavy sets of a year ago; the Mavs notched an impressive 31 assists on 41 field goals.

But the Bucks kept pace. Though the Mavs were able to build a slight lead and reap the benefits of some breathing room, there was never any clear separation. Blame Andrew Bogut, who missed just one of his 14 attempts from the field en route to a 32-point, nine-rebound performance. Or blame the exceedingly slippery Carlos Delfino (22 points, 4-5 3FG, six rebounds, five assists) who somehow seemed to be the open man on any particular offensive set.

The Bucks shot very well from the field, and based on the Mavs’ inability to stop Bogut down low or get a man to stick with Delfino, a win would require just making one more basket than Milwaukee. Or, literally, making a few more baskets and coasting on offense to a one-point victory. In the final two minutes, the Mavs didn’t score a single point. In a rare display of mortality, Dirk turned the ball over with the game on the line. Compound that turnover with the two Maverick misses in the final few, and a game of impressive offense suddenly boils down to a few defensive possessions. On most nights, no problem. But given what Bogut and Delfino were able to accomplish against the Mavs’ D — not to mention the potential impact of a guy like Brandon Jennings — the fact that Dallas escaped with a win seems an improbability. Milwaukee had just scored six straight, all but erasing Dallas’ seven-point lead and bringing the game to a “do or die” sequence with 27 seconds remaining.

Dirk Nowitzki definitely didn’t “do,” as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute channeled him into help defense and the subsequent turnover. But the Mavs found a way to avoid that unenviable demise by doing just enough to ensure a victory. Their last defensive sequence isn’t quite worthy of gilding for display in the halls of the AAC, but in the game’s final three seconds, the Mavs bothered Carlos Delfino just enough to survive.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two back-to-back impressive offensive displays from the Mavs. Does not compute.

Closing thoughts:

  • Erick Dampier (two points, 11 rebounds, a block, a turnover) played despite sitting out Sunday with his left knee injury. It wasn’t pretty. He was a non-factor on offense, and wasn’t anywhere near his usual defensive impact. Bogut had a field day against Damp (and for that matter, Drew Gooden, and anyone else who tried to guard him) with a few notable exceptions: late in the game, when the Bucks desperately needed points, Damp bodied up Bogut, forced him out of the lane, and prevented him from even taking a shot. It doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the Aussie was putting on a hook shot clinic, but the defensive accomplishments in this game were purely relative.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (eight points, 3-6 FG, 2-2 3FG, two rebounds, two assists) continues to impress, though he was again moved off the ball upon Jason Kidd’s return. But oddly enough, the Mavs were startlingly effective fielding a lineup of J.J. Barea at the point and Beaubois at shooting guard. It’s an interesting look if the Mavs are in need of a short-term shakeup, as the speed of that backcourt could be absolutely brutal against some slower guards.
  • Josh Howard (13 points, 4-7 FG, three rebounds) was a bit nondescript, but did make a bit of an impact by driving to the basket. It really is that simple with Josh; if he stops taking bad shots and looks to get to the rim rather than throw up contested jumpers, it will not only help the team but open up the rest of his game. Josh’s jumpshot was always predicated on his ability to drive, and when you take away that foundation, he’s too easy to defend.
  • Roddy made a 25-footer without any hesitation, but his long shot was completely upstaged by Carlos Delfino’s. On a busted offensive set with 27 seconds left and the Bucks down four, Delfino nailed a 31-footer with the shot clock on his back.
  • The natural chemistry between Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings is a little strange and totally excellent.
  • Jason Terry’s impact cannot be overstated. He really may be all the difference between middling offensive efficiency and a top ten mark, which is all the more reason to be optimistic about times like this. Terry has only really looked like himself in a handfull of games all season, and last night’s contest was definitely one of them.
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is one of the best defenders in the league. Not just in defending Dirk, but overall. The only shame is that at this point, he’s a bit of an offensive liability. Mbah a Moute really just needs one offensive move — a steady mid-range jumper, the corner three, SOMETHING — to make him impossible to take off the floor. The fact that this guy made it all the way to the second round is a travesty.
  • Shawn Marion (12 points, 5-8 FG, five rebounds) is much improved as a finisher. Chalk it up to familiarity with Jason Kidd’s passing or simply Marion settling in, but he’s worlds more effective offensively than he was to start the season.
  • This play was huge.
  • Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points while shooting a decent percentage. In other news, the world continues to turn.

THE GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Terry. Dirk faced a lot of double coverage early and had to grapple with Mbah a Moute late, so it was up to JET to carry the offense for stretches. He certainly answered, putting up nine points in the fourth frame and hopefully securing his position as the starting 2. The Mavs start and finish better with JET in the lineup, and until Howard can figure things out (and maybe even beyond then), the job should be Terry’s to lose.

Nearing the End of the Free Agent Bazaar

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 23, 2009 under Commentary | 28 Comments to Read

It’s nearing that time, kids.  The time when regrettable mid-level deals are forged and signed with blood, when fits-like-a-glove veterans are snatched up for pennies on the dollar, and when the yearly projects (Oh, hi Gerald.) find their new temporary home in which to fail to make the jump.  Late summer is truly a magical time for basketball fans.

The Gortat Incident seems years in the past, and while that episode may have trampled some hope for the upcoming season, there are still some serviceable free agents out there.  Most of them can be had on the relative cheap and still provide meaningful production.  Some of them can even do so in ways that would maximize a Mavs’ investment.

The biggest questions should be centered around how these potential Mavericks could change the team’s outlook towards the free agent Mavs in limbo: Ryan Hollins, Gerald Green, and James Singleton.  It’s no secret that the Mavs have some, shall we say, “issues” in the middle.  There’s Erick Dampier and a whole lot of nothing.  Will Dirk shift over?  Are any of the relative unknowns on the roster ready to body up in the paint?  Hard to say.  But the lack of “real” centers (whatever that means anymore) on the roster is a definite point of concern.  Ryan Hollins isn’t quite the remedy we had in mind when the off-season started, but locking him up for next season should be viewed as a necessity.  Brandon Bass won’t be around to log minutes at the five and muscle up on the inside, so a combination of Hollins and makeshift 5s will likely have to do the job.

That is, unless the Mavs are particularly enamored with one of the centers still swimming around in the free agent pool.

It seems like the Mavs have seen just about all they need to see from Gerald Green.  If circumstances were different, like if the Mavs were desperately trying to fill their roster rather than trim it, I could see everyone’s favorite/least favorite slammajamma prospect stick around for another year.  But there’s really no incentive to make an obligation to G-Money.  He wasn’t dynamic or even singularly effective enough last season to warrant special consideration, and given what the Mavs already have to work with, committing additional dollars and a roster spot to the Green dream seems pretty foolish.

Singleton’s place with the team is even more ambiguous.  James hustled his way into Maverick hearts last season and proved to be a rebounding machine.  It’s questionable how much floor time would be available to Singleton with Shawn Marion being worked into the mix, but James is an ideal guy to fill out a roster and bring energy off the bench.  But again, with the roster crunch the Mavs are in at the moment, it could be tough to bring Singleton back.  Doing so would likely require a trade or a waiver, which may be more trouble than a 10th man is worth, especially if another free agent option is deemed superior.

With that in mind, let’s take to the list of the remaining free agents that should interest the Mavs:

1. Lamar Odom, F (unrestricted) – Lamar is the big fish.  He’s plump from chomping on that Championship gold, and is a long shot (at best) to land with the Mavs; Even if Odom isn’t feeling the love from the Lakers, the Heat would likely one-up the Mavs in terms of both fit and personal preference.  Oh, bother.

You also may notice that Odom is about as bad of a fit as you can get given the current core.  LO can is a forward, and both of his natural positions are waist-deep in talent.  Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Josh Howard form one mean forward rotation, and finding room for Lamar Odom in that mix would definitely be tricky.  But Odom is unique and talented enough that those concerns come later.  If you can grab Lamar Odom as a free agent, you do it.  Period.  He’s as versatile as players get in this league and now championship-validated, which is a rather powerful thing to add to a resume.

2. Rasho Nesterovic, C (unrestricted) – I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, Rasho is big, he’s white, and he’s lumbering, but this guy is definitely better than you think he is.  I can’t think of a single facet of Rasho’s game that would warrant calling him a beast, but supposing the Mavs are truly looking to fill minutes at the 5 with free agent imports, I see them doing no better than Nesterovic.  Offensively, he won’t provide much.  Strictly a garbage buckets, open dunks and layups kinda guy.  But on the defensive end, that’s where Rasho is valuable.  Having two serviceable centers who can play D is a luxury few teams have in today’s NBA, and though Erick Dampier and Rasho Nesterovic are neither big names nor offensive juggernauts, together they could go a long way towards slowing down the league’s back-to-the-basket types.

3. Carlos Delfino, SG (restricted) -Delfino is a baller.  His game is smooth and he’s a fine shooter (.490 eFG on jumpers), but unfortunately one who is decidedly average from behind the arc (.356 for his career from three).  Delfino offers a prototypical look that would allow the Mavs to run slightly more conventional lineups from the bench.  He slashes, he hits his midrange looks, and he’s a solid defender; Carlos Delfino is a player just waiting for the right opportunity, and I feel like the Mavs could be a great fit.  Delfino would blossom with some offensive talent around him, and with all the loaded guns the Mavs are packing, he should have no problem getting open looks.  The two-way shooting guard that the Mavs have craved may be a vagabond Argentine…or at worst, he slides in as a rotation wing with a diverse game.

4. Von Wafer, SG (unrestricted) – Von Wafer is a ruthless scorer.  He’d cut the throat of a kitten for a bucket, but that same drive makes him a bit of a black hole.  For what it’s worth, he also had trouble getting along with Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman, perhaps the most players’ coachy of players’ coaches.

Wafer may never tighten the screws that keep his head on his shoulders, and that’s likely the red flag that has kept the Mavs away.  If Wafer can’t learn to play nice with his coach and his teammates, he’ll never be able to thrive in the shot-in-the-arm role that best suits his game.  I don’t think Wafer has the talent or potential to pan out as a top-level scorer, but he would rock it as a punch off the bench.  The Mavs already have that covered with a cat named Jason Terry.  You may have heard of him.  But if Von has trouble finding a home and re-enters the market for bargain value, the Mavs would be stupid to pass up the depth…unless Wafer’s even more troublesome to a locker room than I give him credit for.

5. Ike Diogu, PF (unrestricted) – Diogu may not seem like a fit at first glance, but he could be incredibly useful as a post threat on the second unit.  Ike would slide into Brandon Bass’ role as an undersized PF/C, though his game is more drop steps and less money jumpers.

Diogu’s counting stats won’t wow you, but he’s never really had an ample opportunity to strut his stuff.  His career high in minutes is just a shade under 15, and as such his career averages are decidedly pedestrian.  But when you scope out Diogu’s efficiency numbers and per-minute numbers, they’re truly stellar.  Behold, Ike’s stats per 36 (via Basketball-Reference.com.  Click here to see a larger version.):

That’s typically not the level of production you pick up late in free agency.  And more often than not, you don’t find these players pining away on the wrong end of a rotation for the first four years of their career.

6. Leon Powe, PF (unrestricted) – Leon Powe could turn out to be a great investment, but the returns will be delayed.  He’s currently rehabbing from a torn ACL, which is injury-speak for no bueno.  Logic and precedent tell you not to offer a guaranteed contract to a man with jelly knees, but logic and precedent aren’t staring down a short frontcourt rotation that could use a quality big.  Sheesh, the nerve of those two.

Hinging the frontcourt rotation on Powe’s knee could be a gamble, but if the Mavs aren’t satisfied with what they’ve got (Ahmad Nivins included.  He looked like a player in summer league, but you never know what to expect from a team with a full roster.), then they could opt for a low-salary, option-based deal with Powe.

7. Rashad McCants, SG (unrestricted) – He’s young, he’s available, and he’s a scorer.  Unfortunately, he’s not much else.  McCants is a mouth with a jumpshot, but enough of both that he could inject some swagger and balance the court with his range.  As long as the deal is within reason, McCants could be the extra gun arm needed to shoot the lights out.  He also just so happened to work out with the team a few weeks back, so he’s got that on his side.

8. Keith Bogans, SG (unrestricted) – Bogans is one of those defensive-stopper types who grabbed the label through lack of alternatives.  Bogans doesn’t have much going for him offensively, but he’s a good option as a spot-up shooter on the perimeter.  Luckily for the Mavs, that’s pretty much what they’re looking for in a shooting guard.  With the offensive talent the Mavs have, sometimes optimizing the offensive flow is as simple as spacing the floor and going to work.  When the double teams come, shooters are in position, and if they don’t, you’re looking at a high-quality shot for one of the Mavs’ offensive weapons.  It’s hard to say exactly where such a player would fit in minutes-wise, but if the Mavs are looking for back-up plans in case playing Howard at the 2 goes South, they could do worse than Bogans.  Itty bitty problems: Bogans is no spring chicken, so what you see is pretty much what you get, and there are definite redundancies in the games of Keith Bogans and the newly-signed Quinton Ross.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 4, 2009 under Previews | Read the First Comment

  • Happy fourth, everyone.  AMERICA RULZ!
  • This is why we should all wait until pen meets paper before we get too excited about Gortat.
  • Fish brings up a great point in his Mavs-centric breakdown of Turkoglu’s free agent signing: Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker are not only expendable commodities at this point, but unwanted free agents that could end up in a bargain bin.  Both would look pretty excellent in a Mavs’ uniform right about now, but don’t be surprised if one or both of them end up heading to Europe if they don’t find a contract to their tastes.
  • Look, I love puns, but this has gone too far.
  • The other half of Third Quarter Collapse, Eddy Rivera, analyzes Gortat’s game and season: “There was a lot to like about Gortat this past year. Offensively, his percentages (58.3% true-shooting percentage, 57.5% effective field-goal percentage) and his offensive rating (121) during the regular season were excellent. The latter statistic (t-1st on the Magic) shows that Marcin is a highly-efficient individual on offense. Is Gortat the most polished (get it?) offensive player? No, of course not. Marcin gets his points off of drives to the basket on pick & rolls, post-ups, put-backs, etc. Given his age, Gortat has room for growth but don’t expect an expansive repertoire on offense from the Polish Hammer. Not yet, at least…Marcin Gortat is an excellent role player who is ready to accept more playing time and perhaps a starting role with a new team – the Dallas Mavericks. If you’re a Dallas fan, don’t be alarmed by his plus/minus stats. That’s what happens when an individual is playing behind, arguably, the best center in the league. The statistics become skewed. Given that his block rate and rebounding rate are eerily similar to Dwight, Mark Cuban and the Mavs got themselves excellent value with the Polish Hammer.”
  • A well-done photoshopped picture of what Brandon Bass might look like in an Orlando Magic jersey.  It’ll be tough to see him go, but I doubt there will be any ill wills for a guy just looking to make his name and some money in this league…while ripping down every rim in the process (via TQC).
  • It looks like Avery Johnson is going to face some internal competition for the Pistons’ head coaching job (via Natalie from Need4Sheed).
  • Former Mavs’ draft pick Nick Fazekas isn’t a punchline.
  • Jason Kidd’s decision in free agency could facilitate Steve Nash’s departure from Phoenix.  Maybe the Mavs want to re-sign Kidd just for the revenge factor.