Absolute Fitness

Posted by Connor Huchton on January 27, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm and Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter at@ConnorHuchton.

Jason Kidd exemplifies longevity. His athleticism and strength have slowly dissipated, but even at age 38, his value remains. His game has matured superbly, and at this stage in his career, Kidd is the picture of adjustment.

He may no longer look to attack the basket (his at-the-rim field goal attempts slowly dwindled to last season’s measly 0.6 attempts per game), but Kidd has managed to find strength in weakness; his reduced foot speed has led to greater focus on competent three-point shooting and facilitation from the perimeer. In both of these facets, Kidd excels, and he contributes through made threes, crisp passing, exemplary rebounding, and timely defense.

But so far this season, Kidd has struggled to continue his helpful – if declining – play. His utter inability to make three-pointers (25.8% 3PT) has rendered his already minimal scoring almost completely nonexistent. 66 of Kidd’s 78 field goal attempts have been three-pointers, meaning that his failure to capitalize on these shots has led directly to his general scoring ineffectiveness.

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The Difference: Minnesota Timberwolves 105, Dallas Mavericks 90

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 25, 2012 under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas96.093.844.210.524.611.6
Minnesota109.450.042.919.314.1

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

  • Ricky Rubio (17 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, four steals, seven turnovers) did a terrific job of getting the Wolves good looks both inside and out, be he hardly did all the work. Minnesota’s bigs fought hard to get good interior position and create contact once they received the entry pass, and the perimeter players worked diligently for a slice of open floor. The Wolves’ offensive success was hardly constant, but they at least seemed to know what worked and what didn’t, and sought to capitalize on their in-game strengths. Dallas, despite being a team of mismatch creation and utilization, didn’t quite share in that approach.
  • That said, there was a time in this game when the Mavs were pushing the pace not only as a means of getting easy transition buckets, but also forcing opponents to scramble into mismatches. On one particular first-quarter possession, Rubio was mismatched on Lamar Odom, giving Delonte West a chance to pull the ball out for a fake entry look before darting a pass to a wide open Brendan Haywood for an easy dunk. Haywood’s defender had snuck away to help on Odom, and West had correctly identified not only the mismatch, but its ripple effect.
  • The most succinct explanation possible for why the Mavs withered away on offense: they settled. Rarely is it so simple, but Minnesota applied defensive pressure, and Dallas recoiled. No rally. No response. There were simply too many pull-up threes and too many lazy sets. The Mavs tried to speed up their futile comeback attempt with quick jumpers early in the shot clock, but bricked pretty much every “momentum-changing” shot they attempted. I guess they did speed things up in a sense, merely not in the direction that they intended.

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On The Ground Floor

Posted by Ian Levy on January 24, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

Every NBA offense begins with the same purpose – put the ball in the basket, preferably repeatedly and in a manner that’s not too straining. The pieces and approaches that are chosen to strive for that goal take an infinite number of forms. Through 18 games, the Mavericks’ offensive form has shape-shifted through a variety of ghastly and ghoulish looks.

This season, the Mavericks have scored 100.3 points per 100 possessions — the league’s 22nd most efficient offense. That’s a drop of 9.4 points per 100 possessions from last season, when they scored 109.7 points per 100 and registered the eighth most efficient offense in the league. The offense has regressed, significantly, in almost every area:

2011-20122010-2011
eFG%47.3%52.5%
TO%14.4%13.6%
ORB%23.6%24.1%
FT/FGA0.2240.222

Taking a look at the four factors, we see a team that’s getting to the line at roughly the same rate (still way below the league average), while shooting less accurately, turning the ball over more often and recovering fewer of their own missed shots. The fact that they’ve been able to start the season by winning 11 of 18 games is a testament to how much defensive compensation they’ve done.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 83, New Orleans Hornets 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 22, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas91.091.243.025.323.112.0
New Orleans89.038.541.022.011.5

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

  • Dirk Nowitzki sat out his first of what will be four games played in absentia, and we got our first glimpse of how the Mavericks might operate with their best player wearing a suit as casually as humanly possible. If this first outing against the Hornets is any indication, we’re due for a familiar look: Shawn Marion (14 points, 6-11 FG, 12 rebounds) quietly continuing his terrific season on both ends of the court, Delonte West (16 points, 6-10 FG, six assists, five rebounds) playing like he’s been a part of the Mavericks’ system for a decade, understated defensive play from Brendan Haywood (six points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), extended struggles from Jasons Kidd (zero points, 0-6 FG, five assists, nine boards) and Terry (12 points, 3-16 FG), and Lamar Odom as a complete wild card. Odom’s opportunities for playing time and production won’t be any more ripe than those he’ll see in the coming week; Dallas will need his scoring pretty badly while JET continues to struggle from the field, and thus Rick Carlisle may be more willing to allow Odom to play through his mistakes in the hopes of later seeing glimpses of the old Odom. We saw plenty of said mistakes on Saturday night, as Odom put on an absurd, one-man showcase of jump passes and curious decisions. Crossovers and fakes in isolation before throwing a cross-court pass to Shawn Marion? Managing five three-point attempts against a slew of opponents who have no hope of stopping him off the dribble or in the post? Odom’s judgment with the ball still isn’t where it needs to be, but it’s a credit to his talent and effort that he was able to contribute 16 points and four boards in 26 minutes of action nonetheless. The space cadet performances are part and parcel with Odom, but hopefully he can manage a more level game on Monday night.

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The Difference: Los Angeles Clippers 91, Dallas Mavericks 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 19, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.098.947.522.232.616.7
Los Angeles101.147.119.537.215.6

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

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Mavericks played poorly, inexplicably managed to keep things close, and then lost a game they could have — though shouldn’t have — won. It’s a bummer of a story to have to follow twice, but Dallas fittingly used their trip through Hollywood as an excuse to reuse the same tired plot line. In theory, this was a perfect chance for the Mavs to fine tune their offense; the Clips have been pretty miserable on the defensive end this season, and with Chris Paul — L.A.’s top perimeter defender and resident turnover-generating machine — out of the lineup, the Mavs’ opponents looked more like hapless prey. That (theoretical) opportunity was squandered, as the Dallas offense officially segued from patient to stagnant. The Clippers played some terrific preemptive defense (they had every one of Jason Terry’s pet moves completely pegged), complacency took over, and the Mavs frittered away the good looks that they were actually able to create. They’ll get better on that end, if only because they’ve reached a baffling level of offensive inefficiency. The flow of the offense is capable of producing so much more than it is, at present. Dirk Nowitzki (17 points, 6-18 FG, seven rebounds) is an excellent shooter capable of hitting open shots. Terry (12 points, 5-13 FG, five assists, four turnovers) is a better decision maker than he’s shown recently. Jason Kidd (five points, 10 assists, four turnovers) and Lamar Odom (five points, 1-4 FG, seven rebounds) are still very good NBA players, even though they’ve done little to warrant that status of late. These are very basic truths, and even the Mavs’ sloppy play against the Lakers and stunted performance against the Clippers can’t undo their empirical validity. It’s useless to ask anyone to be patient at this stage in the season, but we can all recognize that the offensive fluidity only improves from here.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 102, Milwaukee Bucks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 14, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

[Game-specific advanced stats forthcoming.]

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

  • Even a thorough scrubbing of the Mavs’ Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks would reveal few — if any — notable flaws. Dallas started fast, repeled Milwaukee’s advances, and finished strong. They played a dominant game on both ends of the court, and rested weary legs in anticipation of Saturday’s date with the Sacramento Kings. They left absolutely no doubt of the game’s verdict, a welcome occurrence in a season where doubt has become a recurring theme.
  • Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in a Maverick uniform by way of a remarkably aggressive first-quarter performance. He had two nice dunks — both in the half-court offense, mind you — in the first five minutes of the game. Carter has brought an assertive scoring approach to each of his games as a Mav, but this quick start was notable if only because his performance was so efficient and so emphatic.
  • The first of those dunks:

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Royalactin

Posted by Ian Levy on January 12, 2012 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

If you’re not an apiarist or natural health fanatic, chances are you haven’t crossed paths with royal jelly, a truly incredible substance. Wikipedia explains:

The honey bee queens and workers represent one of the most striking examples of environmentally controlled phenotypic polymorphism. In spite of their identical clonal nature at the DNA level, they are strongly differentiated across a wide range of characteristics including anatomical and physiological differences, longevity of the queen, and reproductive capacity.[6]Queens constitute the sexual caste and have large active ovaries, whereas workers have only rudimental inactive ovaries and are functionally sterile. The queen/worker developmental divide is controlled epigenetically by differential feeding with royal jelly; this appears to be due specifically to the protein royalactin.

The middle school biology explanation is that bees are identical at the DNA level. The differences between the worker bee and the queen, including the enormous size differential and the ability to lay hundreds of eggs, come entirely from eating the substance known as royal jelly. Player development expert and ESPN analyst, David Thorpe, uses this as a metaphor for the his system of positive reinforcment.

“Playing time is the first part,” says Thorpe. “A coach’s support is another thing — it helps you grow as a player if you know you’re not going to get yanked the first time you miss a shot. That gives you the confidence to be creative and expand your game. And then the final aspect of the ideal set-up is coaching you up on the new things you’re adding to your game. A great recent example of this was Trevor Ariza with the Lakers last season. In the spring, everyone was wondering why they’d let him shoot all those 3s. It wasn’t productive. But they needed him to be able to do that, they let him do that, they didn’t yank him for doing that, and they coached him how to do that better. And in the playoffs he was amazing at that and helped them win a championship.” – Courtesy of Henry Abbot and TrueHoop

Usually this term comes into play when we are talking about a young player who is still developing an identity and carving out their niche in professional basketball. The royal jelly is minutes, opportunities and teachable moments, all of which are lavished on said player. But this idea of positive scaffolding doesn’t have to be reserved for fresh-faced youngsters. The journeymen, those who’ve moved from team to team never quite finding the right sequence of steps with which to unlock their full potential — can they not benefit from repeated doses of the same treatment?

The addition of Delonte West was among last and least heralded of the Mavericks’ off-season acquisitions. His second tour in Boston did not go the way he, or the Celtics, hoped it would. Since his first season in Cleveland, basketball success has seemed to be creeping inexorably away from him. At one point, his issues off the court made his grip on an NBA career seem tenuous at best.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 100, Detroit Pistons 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 11, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0111.158.029.017.215.6
Detroit95.647.829.013.922.2

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

  • Don’t look now, but Mavericks basketball is fun again. Delonte West turned his second game filling in for Jason Kidd into something special, as from the very beginning he was creating some truly spectacular shots off the dribble. West found Brendan Haywood in the right spots, turning the typically clumsy center into an occasional weapon. He created situations that put so much pressure on Detroit’s defense that Dirk Nowitzki was left wide open on the weak side. He worked the ball around, made a living off of his silky handle, and picked up six steals to just five points to make his Kidd imitation complete. It’s been a true pleasure to see West go to work for the Mavs this season, and this seems like a good a time as any to remind you that this guy is playing for the league’s minimum salary. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but hot damn did Dallas get one of the steals of free agency.
  • Preface: garbage time, Detroit Pistons, etc. But Brandan Wright…wowza:

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Character Development

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 9, 2012 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Before Delonte West was (kind of) denied access to the White House or prodded into a Twitter rant aimed at NBA media culture, Bethlehem Shoals/Nathaniel Friedman penned his own thoughtful tribute to one of the league’s most curious players over at The Classical:

Delonte West is not an ordinary, or normal, dude. He’s what one politely calls “a character,” somewhere between free spirit and an irresistible goof. West is one of those athletes whose style of play reflects his personality, and vice-versa. He’s not brazenly unorthodox, or necessarily spectacular, but his assurance allows him to proceed confidently with decisions that might seem dizzy or impractica. West doesn’t gamble; he veers away from expectations as if there were no other choice. Determination is an over-used term in sports, but in West’s case, it provides the metaphysical heft needed to explain how he makes his way around a basketball court.

It’s this quality that lead Shaquille O’Neal to, on TNT’s broadcast last Thursday, refer to him as “crazy” and for Kevin Blackistone  to question whether O’Neal shouldn’t maybe have checked himself. The prudent, and easy thing, to do would have been to describe West’s game on the court in anything but the most technical terms—as if personality or temperament, if they existed at all, had no place here. Drained of all human drama, West’s performance would be measured in terms of success and failure, ends up as its own form of validation. Yet this doesn’t just offer up an attenuated picture of West, it also denies him the right to have a personality, as if everything unusual about him were a blotch of symptomology best left unsaid.

Shoals’ piece doesn’t need me piggybacking off of it with a few random thoughts. Just go read it — for a fair read of Delonte and some interesting thoughts on the lightness of “crazy.”

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 96, New Orleans Hornets 81

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 8, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0106.748.632.415.415.6
New Orleans90.045.335.917.122.2

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

  • A win is a win is a win, but this one was hardly glamorous or constructive. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the Mavs getting another game under their collective belt, but we don’t know anything more about Dallas than we did 24 hours ago, and I’m not sure the Mavs know anything more about themselves, either. Here’s three cheers for conditioning and repetitions, but this was a pretty cosmetic win.
  • Ian Mahinmi (13 points, 5-6 FG, seven rebounds, two steals) is making it far too easy for Carlisle to leave Brendan Haywood (two points, six rebounds, one steal) on the bench. Defensively, Mahinmi has been solid, though admittedly imperfect. On offense, he’s done a tremendous job of finding spots on the floor with both open passing lanes and easy scoring opportunities. I don’t think we’re at all near a point where Mahinmi would supplant Haywood as a starter (such a move would be ill-advised for motivational reasons alone), but the games in which Mahinmi logs more playing time than his counterpart are becoming more and more common — and rightfully so.
  • As terrific as Delonte West (12 points on six shots, four assists) has played to start the season, I was still a bit surprised that Rick Carlisle opted to start the game with him as the nominal point guard in Jason Kidd’s absence. It was a good call, mind you — and the right call, if such a thing exists in this case — but still one I didn’t expect him to make this early in the season. West and Vince Carter (who started at the 2) both responded well as starters, and Jason Terry (12 points, 5-9 FG, 2-3 3FG, four assists), and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, 4-10 FG, two assists, two steals, two turnovers) contributed nicely off the bench.

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