This week, The Two Man Game will start looking at what the Mavs could do as another pivotal summer is upon them. Mark Cuban has said there are different ways or “permutations” to ensure the Mavs won’t have a failure of a summer if they are unable to land a big fish acquisition.
Dirk Nowitzki said Cuban is “all-in” on this summer, and committed to bringing the franchise back to where it belongs. There are traditional ways to do that but there are also outside the box ways of doing that. We’ll look at five potential angles the Mavs could work that would be considered outside the box.
The Indiana Pacers continued their development with their new core this season as they took the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were able to do that without the services of Danny Granger. Granger missed the first half of this season with patellar tendinosis after undergoing a second injection to treat the injury back in October. He played for a brief stint of only five games back in February, only to see the injury flare up again. He ended up having surgery on the knee and was out for the remainder of the season.
Today is the day. The trade deadline is finally here. At 2 pm central standard time, the wheeling and dealing will pretty much be over. The Mavericks are in a tough spot as they try to balance their run for the playoffs this year and continue their process of transitioning into the future. With viable trade assets in Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Chris Kaman, anything is possible. Dallas could be looking for players that can boost their playoff chances this year, they could look to accommodate other teams and acquire nice pieces in return or they could unload everything and work with a relatively clean slate going into the offseason.
The most recent report came from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com suggesting that the Mavericks have made Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones and Brandan Wright available for draft picks, according to sources. Some have joked that the Mavericks would be willing to take a third-round draft pick for either Roddy or Jones (there are only two rounds in the NBA draft). Picks are quite valuable in today’s new NBA as rookie-deal players are all the rage. The Mavericks would be interested in obtaining those picks, but they won’t do anything to compromise their cap room.
As the festivities of All-Star weekend faded away, the trade deadline became the top story for the league. Rumors, like the ones mentioned above, always run rampant as the deadline approaches. Owners and general managers are valuable sources of information, but it’s hard to really figure out if they’re giving you information that is worth running with. The best thing to do is just look around the league and get a feel for where each team is at and determine if there is something in terms of a fit for your team. That’s what we’re going to do here. As the trade deadline inches closer and closer, it’s time to look at every team around the league and see if there’s anything that makes sense for the Mavericks.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
[11:26, 1st] – Brendan Haywood catches an entry pass from Vince Carter in the high post, and awkwardly anchors the offense from the elbow. He doesn’t panic, but does immediately look to get the ball to Dirk Nowitzki, who has been waiting patiently in the right corner. Nowitzki makes the catch on the wing, and immediately moves toward Haywood for the ever unconventional 4-5 pick and roll. He slides around the pick, but there is no roll, and no dribble penetration whatsoever; tucked behind Haywood’s screen, Dirk elevates for a jumper that leaves both David West and Roy Hibbert at arm’s distance. The ball splashes through the net, and drips with confidence.
[10:52, 1st] - Carter inbounds the ball to a flaring Rodrigue Beaubois, who looks to initiate the offense from the left wing. So around an impromptu Haywood screen he goes, and upon entering the paint, Beaubois hits a revving Shawn Marion on the opposite side for a driving counter from the right. Three Pacers are drawn to him, choosing to suffocate Marion’s runner rather than stick to their respective assignments. Nowitzki, who had been waiting at the top of the key, is the beneficiary.
[8:26, 1st] – The high pick and roll is a staple of virtually every team’s offense, and the Mavs have the luxury of running that play action with a wide variety of player combinations. On this occasion, Carter looks to work to the left side of the floor with Nowitzki acting as the screener. David West hedges early to deflect that action, allowing Paul George plenty of time to recover back onto Carter. However, that pick-and-roll set has effectively functioned as a beautiful guise for a Nowitzki iso; West’s recovery left a perfect window for an uncontested entry pass, allowing Dirk a clean catch and a chance to face up without the threat of a double team. He pivots forward. He measures up West. He stunts and then rises, launching a jumper over West’s vertical extension that seeps through the net.
“Too late is tomorrow’s life; live for today.”
First of all, I apologize for just how late/non-existent everything has been around here this week. My spring break has been excellent, but visiting family and friends back home leaves me barely enough time to watch the games, much less keep up with these duties. Everything should be back to normal on Monday. Better than that, actually, as I’m hoping to develop a more regular schedule for recaps/grapevine/previews/etc. Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.
Despite the fact that the Mavs won by a small margin to an inferior team yet again, this was a quality win. It’s easy to look at the Pacers and the final differential and deem it a moral loss, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to everything that went right in this game. The Mavs won on the road without Erick Dampier and Josh Howard. They won with a colder-than-ice shooting performance from Dirk Nowitzki in the 2nd half. And they won without Jason Terry or anyone else turning in a truly superhuman performance. Instead, the Mavs won with guts and resolve alone. The Pacers continued to have prayer (Jarrett Jack’s three to beat the shot clock) after prayer (Danny Granger’s bank-in jumper while double teamed at the shot clock buzzer) after prayer (T.J. Ford’s unlikely fadeaway three pointer with Wright in his face) answered, and the Mavs always had an answer. And get this: their answer wasn’t always on the offensive end. How about that?
Is it a terrific honor to play good defense against the Pacers, a team that plays forgettable, uninspired defense themselves and lacks a truly potent offensive? No. But, for these Mavs, any strong defensive performance is more significant, if for no other reason than you don’t know if it’s a trend or an aberration. Are the Mavs a bad defensive team that turns in a few good-to-great defensive games? Or are they a good defensive team that still fights through confusion and effort issues 70 (now 71) games into the season? One of those seems to be the more conclusive, and certainly supported more fully by game data, but anecdotally it could go either way.
Jason Kidd had one of those games that makes you thankful he’s a Maverick. He controlled the second half; he first jump-started the Mavs’ second-half offense by rebounding and igniting the fast break, and he followed up his own success by being ominpresent and omnipotent in the most crucial stretches of the fourth quarter. A steal there, a deflection there, a rushed short or pass everywhere. He guarded everyone from Jarrett Jack to Danny Granger, and he really wreaked havoc out there. Antoine Wright will rightfully claim most of the credit for limiting Granger, but no conversation of the Mavs’ defense would be complete without mention of Kidd’s exploits.
Jason Terry was effective but not overwhelming, scoring 17 points on 6-13 shooting to go with 4 assists and 3 steals. He actually started the game in place of J.J. Barea in place of Josh Howard, proof that after the loss to Atlanta the Mavs meant business. It was a perfectly understandable move by Carlisle; Barea had hit double-digits in scoring just once in his six starts, and though his playmaking has generally been fine, a starting shooting guard probably shouldn’t be shooting around 38% from the field in his starts. J.J.’s response was 7 points and 6 assists on 50% shooting, and, most importantly, 0 turnovers. Singleton (who had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards) and Bass did their part in providing energy off the bench. It wasn’t always beautiful, but their efforts were commendable.
Gerald Green made an appearance early in the 2nd quarter, and immediately hit a baseline jumper and converted an alley-oop layup. But it wasn’t all quite that easy, and it never really is with Green; he missed his next three attempts and still looks homeless at times in the Mavs’ sets going both ways. Though, in his defense, the lineup he was put on the floor with (Kidd, Barea, Bass, and Singleton) is hardly the Mavs’ most potent offensively, and everyone seemed to be looking to get the ball to Green. I wasn’t displeased with his shot selection, but the results were less than spectacular.
Dirk’s poor shooting was as much a product of an ill-timed cold streak as it was the Pacers’ D. Brandon Rush and Danny Granger refused to surrender an inch when guarding him, Troy Murphy refused to bite on Dirk’s pump fakes, and Jeff Foster gave him a lot of trouble by stripping the ball at the waist. But that didn’t stop him from making two of the biggets shots of the game in the last minute and a half, including this one:
Incredible. Kudos to Jason Terry as well, for hitting a huge three with under a minute remaining that should have been the dagger. I don’t know what supernatural force T.J. Ford was in contact with or what he bartered in exchange for that make, but that is some sort of intervention, divine or otherwise.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd. 10 points (3-8 FG, 2-3 3FG), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists hardly makes me scream from the rooftops, but the way in which he converted most of those rebounds into immediate offensive sequences kept the Mavs in this thing and helped them build a small lead in the third. In a game that was eventually won by 2 points, I’m thankful for all the little things he did.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Indiana Pacers
It’s almost an irrelevant discussion by now, but as recently as a week ago, those with an eye to the Mavs pondered the perks of playoffs versus the lottery. This team almost certainly doesn’t have the chops of a championship contender (or if they have them stowed away in some secret compartment, I have yet to see them), so at best the playoffs are an extension to a season most view as an exercise in mediocrity. Sure, every team in the playoffs technically has a chance to win it all, but at what minute fraction of a fraction does it become more worth our while to try our luck at the lottery balls?
The Mavs are a veteran team, and that route isn’t exactly an appetizing one. Just making the playoffs is a bare bones accomplishment, but for a team of proud, veteran players, it could offer enough consolation to keep them from tossing and turning in bed every night for the next three months. And, of course, the financial incentives are well worth the Mavs’ while, especially when considering the team’s massive payroll and luxury tax payout.
Simply, the difference between potentially the 14th pick and the 20th pick or so isn’t worth the fuss. What the Mavs would gain in a (possibly) marginally more talented/productive player, they would almost certainly lose in whatever quantitative way there is to measure mental health. The hot line with the Mavs has always been that they lack the sort of fiery, on-court leader that forges championship mettle with his bear hands; if that’s as true as believed, then missing the playoffs with two future Hall-of-Famers, not to mention two players who fancy themselves borderline All-Stars, could be a stroke of death.
The Indiana Pacers find themselves in a similar discussion, but with a decidedly different outlook. For them, making the playoffs isn’t as much a testament to their longevity and a shallow fulfillment of their own personal expectations, but a fairly significant breakthrough for a roster that has been continually limited by circumstance. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, the team’s two best players, have battled injury all season. Almost every other rotation player has missed at least a handful of games, sometimes leaving a cast of role players to accomplish what teams at full-strength often struggle to do: win games. At their best, they’re world-beaters, a potent offensive club that overcomes deficiencies with a sense of direction. Sometimes the compass may be pointing the wrong way, but at least their direction is conclusive.
What would making the playoffs mean to the Pacers? I’d wager an awful lot; Jarrett Jack, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy (though he’s injured) have never even tasted the playoffs, and it goes without saying that rookies Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush have yet to play their first postseason game. Something tells me that those players, Murph and Dunleavy in particular, might want to take a crack at the playoffs, even if it means nothing more than a beatdown at the hand of the Cavaliers. If it doesn’t happen this year, it would certainly be disappointing, but it’s also completely understandable given the myriad of injuries. The Pacers are in an oddly accomodating situation for a team on the playoff bubble; their injuries arm them with the perfect write-off, a playoff berth would bring a newfound sense of fulfillment and justification, and a draft pick in the lottery would only serve to help their cause next year with a healthy, matured roster.
That seems to be the theme with the Mavs in comparison to the rest of those on the fringes of relevance. These teams have been to the bottom, and they’ve seen just how dark it can get. Dallas, on the other hand, has glimpsed the summit. Though they’re stranded with no apparent means of reaching their goal, claims to fear their half-way camp much more than the fall. They could be in for a rude awakening when glorified visions of falling with style transform into the panic and fear of a freefall, but we’ll tackle that monster when we come to it. For now, the Mavs will do their best MacGyver, and try to fashion a pickaxe from dental floss, a tube sock, and a metal spork.