Passing Thoughts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 14, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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Needless to say, there’s a lot of free time on my hands. I like to think when I have a lot of free time. I like to think when I do not have a lot of free time. With that in mind, I’ve sat and wondered about various subjects revolving around the Mavs. I went ahead and got my fingers working on the keyboard and came up with questions and answers about the Mavs. Here are 10 of the questions and answers now. I will share the other 10 later this week.

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Just Business

Posted by Brian Rubaie on March 20, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

JustBusiness

One of the oldest sayings regarding the National Basketball Association is that it is, above all, a business. Fans who forget this lesson by becoming emotionally attached to a particular player are often left with only hurt feelings and outdated jerseys to commemorate the old days.

Many Mavericks fans faced this situation when Tyson Chandler, a popular fan favorite, was allowed to leave town, followed by Mavericks stalwart Jason Terry the following year. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban responded to criticism by arguing that he had an obligation to do what was best for the team, placing its long-term interests ahead of the desire to retain popular players.

There is nothing wrong with Cuban’s principles, as the NBA is indeed a business. Getting tied down to aging stars is bad business and often spells ruin for a franchise. Principles, however, are only as good as they are consistent. The departures of point guards Jason Kidd and Derek Fisher to contenders received an emotionally-charged reaction from Cuban, whose response displayed a degree of emotional hurt rarely revealed publicly by NBA GMs. His reaction, while justified, is unbefitting of the high standards he has led the organization to establish.

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Rarefied Air

Posted by Brian Rubaie on February 13, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

RarefiedAir

In a season rife with inconsistency, disappointment has been the lone constant for the 2012-2013 Dallas Mavericks.  Dallas is experiencing its least successful season of 21st century. The losses have taken a frustrating toll on devoted fans, players and coaches alike.

No one seems more bothered by the team’s performance than Rick Carlisle, who rarely allows himself the pleasure of celebrating or accepting credit for victories but often makes it a point to take personal responsibility when losses mount. The accountability Carlisle displays speaks well to his character but is also misleading. As much as Dallas has struggled, Carlisle has masterfully captained a ship that could’ve easily sunk long ago.

That point was strongly reinforced in Carlisle’s 500th victory one week ago against the Portland Trailblazers. The fans and players awarded Carlisle a standing ovation, an act which Carlisle predictably greeted with the same modesty he’s displayed throughout. Dubbed the “Baller of the Week” by our own Bryan Gutierrez in this week’s Rundown, Carlisle remarked that “It’s meaningful, but I’m not into those kinds of things. … One relief I have is I think after tomorrow I won’t have to hear about it again for a while, so that’s good.”

Carlisle doesn’t want the attention, but his achievement marks the season’s single most impressive feat in Dallas. With few other causes for celebration, win number 500 provides an appropriate moment for basketball fans to pause and appreciate this great coach’s work. One week later, the magnitude of the event, and the thought of all the work that it took to achieve it, is still a challenge to fully appreciate.

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Pocket Pair

Posted by Ian Levy on January 31, 2013 under Commentary | 10 Comments to Read

051:365 Magic Pair!

This has been an incredibly turbulent season for the Mavericks from a player personnel standpoint. They faced their first 27 games without Dirk Nowtizki, and with just five other returning players on the roster. An NBA roster has 15 slots, but the Mavericks have already used 19 different players this season, not including Delonte West — with whom the Mavericks parted ways before the season began. Each week it seems there is a new addition to be welcomed to the fold, bringing with them the warm tidings of hope.

Since he took over in Dallas, Rick Carlisle has proved repeatedly that managing personnel is one of his greatest coaching strengths. He has been innovative and progressive in managing his lineups and always seems to pull the most from each of his players. This season however, putting the pieces together has been a constant challenge. No matter how he arranges them, they don’t seem to fit together quite as uniformly as they have in the past, and the image never becomes totally clear. I’m personally of the opinion that it’s because these pieces don’t all come from the same puzzle, and that no matter what five-man unit Carlisle runs out onto the floor, some part of it will be a hasty Spackle job trying to hold back the rising tide of flood waters. However, I thought it might be interesting to look at the different lineup foundations he’s tried by examining his success (and lack thereof) with various two-man combinations.

The visualization below lets you look at all the different two-man combinations the Mavericks have used for at least 100 minutes this season. Unfortunately, to create all the combinations I had to place several players on both axes, which can make for a slightly confusing view. The size of each square represents the number of minutes that pairing played. The color represents that pairing’s Net Rating, or point differential per 100 possessions. If you hover over any of the squares you can also see that combination’s Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. The filters below let you include or eliminate pairings based on any of those variables.

MavsShots

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The three least efficient areas to shoot from are inside the paint (but not in the restricted area), from mid-range and straight ahead three-pointers. Altogether, 63.7% of this lineup’s shot attempts come from those three areas. Going back to my shot-selection metric from two weeks ago, the shot selection of this lineup gives them an XPPS of 0.988, where the league average is 1.047. They feature above-average mid-range shooters, but are using that weapon to a fault. Above-average ability isn’t manifesting in above-average success, and their Actual Points Per Shot is an even lower 0.936. From an outsider’s perspective, this group seems like they may be fundamentally incompatible offensively, even with Nowitzki’s eventual improvement taken into account.

Although you never like to see anyone injured, Kaman’s concussion offers the possibility for an interesting experiment. Kaman has had a solid individual season putting up 18.8 points per 36 minutes, the second highest of his career, on a TS% of 53.3, his highest since 2008-2009. However, his rebound percentage is the lowest since his rookie season and the Mavericks have generally struggled when he’s on the floor. Dallas’ defense is 3.6 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman in the mix, a margin that’s ultimately not all that surprising. However, the Mavs’ offense is also 2.9 points worse per 100 possessions with Kaman involved. Turning back to the visualization above, we see that Kaman is featured in 12 different pairings, only two of which have outscored the opposition. Those two — with Brandan Wright and with Jae Crowder — have played a combined 343 minutes, 44 of which are overlapped.

Much of Carlisle’s rotation work this season has felt like tinkering around the edges. As long as they’ve been healthy, the foundational pieces of Kaman, Nowitzki, Mayo and Marion have been largely cemented in place. With Kaman out, Carlisle will be forced to manipulate his foundation, and there is an opportunity for Brandan Wright and Bernard James to find their way back into the regular rotation in a significant way. Both Wright and James have been featured in several successful (albeit scarcely used) pairings, and I can’t help but feel that they are under-utilized assets. Neither player is comfortable away from the basket on offense and each would give the Mavericks a very different look than with Brand or Kaman alongside Nowitzki. When we talk about spacing issues we are usually referring to a team with a lack of outside shooters, allowing the defense to clog the paint. In this case I think the Mavericks can actually improve their spacing by removing overly-willing outside shooters; the insertion of James or Wright will force the defense to expand their focus and defend more of the floor, more vigorously.

The visualization also makes it seem that there could be potential benefits in increased roles for Vince Carter and Jae Crowder. Carter has done tremendous work in keeping the second-unit offense afloat, but maybe it’s time to let him work long more court time with Nowitzki. His ability to work inside and out, particularly as a post-up threat, seems like it could also alleviate some of the one-dimensional reliance on the mid-range jumpshot. It would be a difficult pill to swallow, but perhaps Mayo would be better off swapping places with Carter. Moving to the bench might feel like a step backwards for Mayo and could have significant impacts on team chemistry, but at this point the Mavs’ current rotation isn’t doing much for the team’s present or future.

In addition to his work for The Two Man Game, Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, and a contributor to Indy CornrowsHardwood Paroxysm, HoopChalk and ProBasketballDraft. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

The Revolving Door

Posted by Brian Rubaie on January 23, 2013 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 8 Comments to Read

RevolvingDoor

“The only constant is change.” – Heraclitus

Derek Fisher’s departure created a void which the Mavericks unsurprisingly filled with a veteran journeyman: the 37-year-old Mike James. James played well enough to earn a second 10-day contract, but Dallas must decide by Sunday whether the player Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas labeled a “poor man’s Derek Fisher” will remain with the team for the rest of the season.

It’s unclear whether Dallas plans to retain James, but Rick Carlisle clearly trusts him at the end of games, to the point of keeping him on the floor to finish several close contests while starter Darren Collison warms the bench. Carlisle’s short leash with Collison is evident in his stated reasoning for opting to go with James down the stretch against Houston, as he told our own Bryan Gutierrez that “(Jeremy) Lin just walked right in there twice in a row on Collison. The physical size with Darren is what is tough for him. We needed a stronger guy in there.” Carlisle continued that James offers “experience, some physical strength and some toughness” before concluding simply: “I like him. I really do.” As inelegant as James’ play sometimes appears, the Mavericks are 5-1 in games where James has been on the floor.

All of that said, it would ultimately be best for the Mavericks to part ways with James, even in spite of Carlisle’s praise and the team’s recently impressive performance. While physically stronger than Collison, James is several steps slower and a much worse shooter and distributor. James’ moments of great play are outnumbered by mind-boggling inconsistency.  Collison’s play has improved dramatically of late but he needs to receive consistent and consequential minutes to continue his improvement. Carlisle’s general preference for veteran guards shouldn’t mislead him into opting to keep James.

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Parting Gifts

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 22, 2012 under Commentary, News | 3 Comments to Read

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The Derek Fisher has ended. Marc Stein of ESPN.com broke the story that the Mavericks agreed to release Fisher at his request. Fisher averaged 8.6 points, 3.6 assists and 25.4 minutes in nine games (all starts) for Dallas this season. What’s intriguing is the fact that, according to sources, the move to let Fisher go had actually been in the works for a few days, but the Mavericks asked Fisher to stay with the team until another point guard could be secured. Fisher agreed to stay, but ultimately got injured in the game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Does agreeing to let Fisher go mean that another point guard is in the mix or the Mavericks have finally seen enough of Dominique Jones and/or Darren Collison to no longer need a security blanket like Fisher go.

Here were part of Fisher’s comments on the first day he arrived in Dallas: “This is not a pit stop. This is not kind of the final whatever before I decide to retire soon. I’m here to give everything I have to help this team right now and continue to build as we go through this season.”

In a statement he issued, he said:

With this news and the difficulty I have been having being away from my family, I have asked the organization to waive me so I can return home.

“(Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban has been extremely supportive and has granted me this request. I cannot say enough good things about this organization. From Mark, to Coach (Rick) Carlisle, to the players on the Mavericks’ team, I sincerely thank them for the opportunity.

“I have made decisions in the past, leaving money and opportunity on the table, and I will need to do that again. My family is my priority and that is where I choose to be. I won’t close the possibility that I will play again, however for now my family and being close to them remains the priority.”

Stein also reports that sources indicate that the Mavericks will call up Chris Douglas-Roberts from the Frisco-based Texas Legends to replace Fisher and take up the 15th spot on the roster. What does this all mean?

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Setting the Table: Philadelphia 76ers (Game 25)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 18, 2012 under Previews | Read the First Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks (11-13) host the Philadelphia 76ers (12-12) in a rare home game on Tuesday night. Someone’s streak will end by the end of the evening. Both teams are on a three-game losing streak. Whoever loses the game will have their first four-game losing streak of the season. Dallas goes into the game with a record of 5-0 against Eastern Conference teams at home.

For Philadelphia, the game against Dallas begins a stretch where they will play 10 of their next 11 on the road, including a season-high eight straight from 12/23 through 1/5. It is also the first part of a back-to-back for Philadelphia as the go to play Houston on 12/19. With the brutal schedule that looms for the Mavericks, this is a game that they must get at all costs.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Sixers.

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The Rundown, Volume IX

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on December 17, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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The Rundown is back. Every Monday, The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.

The roller coaster ride that is the 2012-13 season for the Mavericks continues. After a positive week last week, the tough road trip for the Mavericks found themselves in a rough hole. To say the least, the road hasn’t been kind to them. Television play-by-play voice of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Followill noted that since 12/4, the team has been on eight flights totaling 6,904 miles with seven games in seven different cities. With the week ahead, they now find themselves at a crossroads for their season. I’ll go into more detail about that later in the column, but let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 106, Minnesota Timberwolves 114

Posted by Kirk Henderson on December 16, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Cliffs

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow

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

  • With this being the second overtime loss in three games for Dallas, we can again look to small lapses in judgement which made a big difference in the final margin; two in particular jump out. First, Darren Collison got beat on a backdoor cut by J.J. Barea late in the first quarter. For some reason Collison tried to anticipate Ricky Rubio throwing a pass to a not-yet-rolling Greg Steimsma. Rubio read that move a mile away and instead fed the cutting Barea for a layup, which Brandan Wright goaltended off the rim. Second, to start the third quarter, Alexey Shved stripped Chris Kaman from behind after leaving a cutting O.J. Mayo. Mayo said nothing to alert his teammate to the coming double team. The Timberwolves took the ball down and scored in transition.
  • During the course of this three game losing streak, Dallas is averaging 21 turnovers per game. Tonight, the bulk of the Dallas turnovers game in the second quarter, when they had nine, as the Wolves outscored the Mavs 32 to 13.
  • The Mavs made a fast and furious attempt at a comeback in the fourth with a truly unorthodox lineup; at one point  Dominique Jones, Derek Fisher, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Elton Brand were all on the floor together. Three point guards, a shooting guard, and a power forward. That Carlisle has to resort to these odd line ups for some sort of offensive effectiveness is frustrating, that they are working is fun.
  • Vince Carter (nine points, four assists) and Derek Fisher (20 points, five turnovers) fouling out played into Carlisle’s decision to return to a traditional line up for the overtime. The small ball line up managed to keep the Wolves off of the offensive glass until the final thirty seconds of regulation when Minnesota had five chances to win the game but were not able to convert any. However, the traditional lineup was terrible offensively, as Dallas was only able to convert one shot in eight attempts in the overtime.
  • Shawn Marion (14 points, 10 rebounds) is the glue that is holding this team together. Night in and out he manages to find ways to be effective. He scored in transition early, got second chances for the Mavs through offensive rebounds, and played very well in the pick and roll with O.J. Mayo (20 points, six assists). He’s often the center of fan trade proposals due to his contract, but his contribution level at this point is immeasurable.
  • I’m with my colleagues that Brandan Wright needs to play more. But he is such a frustrating talent. In his past two outings he’s played 22 minutes and gathered one rebound. His mental lapses are mind boggling; in his eight minutes of action against the Wolves, Derrick Williams beat him on not one, but two back-door alley-oop cuts which, had he been able to convert the dunk attempts, would’ve been Sports Center highlights. It’s not enough that he is able to score in the offense. He has to contribute in other areas, and this season he’s had stretches where he just can’t seem to do anything to deserve more playing time.
  • Seeing O.J. Mayo develop has been rewarding, even in games where he struggles with being the lead play maker. The next step in his game has to be getting to the free throw line more frequently. Prior to tonight’s game he averages just under four free throw attempts per game. As someone who is averaging 35 minutes a night and bears the role of primary scorer, getting to the line is something he has to do with more regularity. While he’s shooting at a blistering rate at the moment (48%), history tells us that’s bound to fall three to four percentage points as the year wears on. He’s been attacking the bucket more often these last dozen or so games, so hopefully his FTA’s will increase at some point.
  • Dirk was seen working out and getting shots up prior to tonight’s game. I very much hope he isn’t rushing his recovery as he sees the team struggle these past few games. As Connor has pointed out repeatedly, the schedule gets much tougher to close out the year and it’s in the realm of possibility that Dallas will not able to get another win in 2012. The loss tonight puts Dallas at a 13.1% chance to make the playoffs and while I know these rankings do not factor in things like Dirk’s injury, seeing this Dallas squad make the playoffs, even with Dirk, is hard to imagine when one considers their problems.

Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.

 

Thermodynamics: Week 7

Posted by Travis Wimberly on December 13, 2012 under Commentary, Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Fire Ice

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

As the great philosopher Randy Quiad once said, just before he courageously kamikaze-dived his F/A-18 fighter jet into the alien mothership: “I’m back.” My week-long hiatus from The Two Man Game, which was filled with all sorts of illicit activities (e.g., work, eating in between work breaks, sleeping a bit between work breaks), is over. My sincerest thanks to my colleague and good friend Bryan Gutierrez for filling in last week on very short notice. Cheers to you, BG.

So about those Mavericks. They had a strong week, notching a 3-1 record and falling only to the Boston Celtics last night in a double-overtime road pseudo-thriller. A couple more made free throws or a couple fewer turnovers in Boston and it would have been not just a “strong” week, but an excellent one. So it goes.

Let’s do what we do each week. Three hot Mavs performances, and three cold ones. Hit it.

Week 7 (@Suns, @Rockets, Kings, @Celtics)

FIRE

1) OJ Mayo

Other than his brief apperance on the cold list in Week 5, Mayo has consistently lived in the Thermodynamics fire this season. He’s right back at it this week. He started this seven-day stretch with a strong performance in Phoenix, notching 23 points on 9-of-17 (53%) shooting and hitting the go-ahead jumper with 35 seconds left in the game. In Houston two nights later, Mayo had by far his best performance as a Mav and arguably the best of his young career. He tied his career high with 40 points –outdueling James Harden’s 39 — on 15-of-26 (58%) shooting while going 6-of-9 (67%) from deep. Sixteen of Mayo’s points came in the decisive fourth quarter, when the Mavs erased an 11-point deficit and took control. At home against the Kings, Mayo did about what you’d expect, tallying 19 points on 6-of-9 (67%) shooting in just 28 minutes as the Mavs cruised to an easy victory. Finally, in Boston last night, Mayo was the Mavs’ leading scorer with 24 points on 10-of-19 (53%) shooting, including several clutch baskets in the fourth quarter and first overtime. Unfortunately, Mayo’s otherwise strong performance in Boston was marred by nine turnovers, a missed free throw late, and a few poor shots during the OT frames. Still, the Mavs’ leading scorer did what he does best this week. And he even rebounded to boot, averaging 6.5 boards per game and twice leading the entire team in that department. Speaking of which…

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