Where Are They Now?

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on September 10, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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The free agency period is pretty much over. Scratch that. The free agency period is almost over. The Dallas Mavericks announced on Tuesday the signings of Fab Melo, D.J. Kennedy and Richard McConnell to expand the current roster to 18 players. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein was the first to report in the Mavs’ interest in Melo, the 22nd pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

With 15 players under contract but 18 on the roster, it’s important to remember that they can take up to 20 to camp. They don’t have to get down to 15 until just before the season starts. Most teams like to take 15-20 players into camp to allow veteran players a little easier of a path through the rigors of camp. An added sense of competition for the end of the roster players isn’t a bad thing, either.

There may be a few more names that pop up in the next few weeks, but the next big date is Sept. 30 (media day). That means the machine is getting ready to roll again for another new season. While there is still a little time left, I wanted to take a unique look at free agency. There are nine names on the list of remaining free agents that have direct ties to the Mavs. It’s interesting to see how they joined the Mavs and what has happened to them since they left the team.

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Money Talks

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 20, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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The game of basketball has turned into the business of basketball. Players are still slowly learning that fact. Fans should understand that now. The 2010-11 Mavs are a great example of how business could get in the way of a good thing.

Dallas won the title that year and decided that it wasn’t a safe risk to “bring the band back” for another run at the title. Giving the core a chance to defend their title would have been enjoyable, but there was clear and reasonable logic behind the move the front office made. Mark Cuban has gotten a lot of heat for that decision, but the results of the playoffs this year suggest he was right for letting everyone go. As the Conference Finals are in motion, the Indiana Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi is the lone former Mav from the championship roster who still is playing.

Let’s look at what the Mavs would have theoretically had to do to bring most of the band back. Remember, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic are out of the league now. That leaves J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Ian Mahinmi, DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Terry. One guy to remember but won’t exactly be figured into this equation – Corey Brewer. He signed a three-year, $9,177,000 deal. He is now a free agent.

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Fourth Round of Bloom and Doom

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on April 2, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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It’s time for another round of Bloom and Doom.

In an effort to keep the discussion going, I sought out ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon for his opinion on pressing issues for the Dallas Mavericks. You can view MacMahon’s coverage of the Mavericks at ESPNDallas.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @espn_macmahon. Periodically, we have touched base and discussed topics with our own unique point of view. It’s been a while, so it was necessary for us to reconnect and agree and disagree on a few subjects.

MacMahon likes to call it like he sees it. That perspective can hover on the other end of the spectrum from my optimistic viewpoint on things. You could say it’s a classic case of good cop, bad cop. Our different perspectives should make for an interesting conversation on hot topics revolving around the Mavs.

This round of bloom and doom analyzes if Rick Carlisle is having the coaching performance of his career, which 2011 departure would fit best this year and other topics.

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Rarefied Air

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

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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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Point Guard Help Wanted

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on November 29, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 6 Comments to Read

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As a last minute scratch, Darren Collison missed the game against the Chicago Bulls due to a sprained right middle finger. That led to Dominique Jones getting his second consecutive start at the point guard position. It is safe to say that the point guard situation has gotten desperate for the Mavericks. It’s gotten to the point where Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle announced shortly after the loss to the Bulls that Derek Fisher would be joining the team. The news was made official on Thursday afternoon. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was the first to report that Derek Fisher would likely make a decision on his new team by Thursday.

“I think (Fisher) can really help our situation with experience, defensively and really all areas of the game,” Carlisle told reporters after the loss to Chicago. “Right now, the point guard position is a challenge for us and I think Derek can help us.” To make room for Fisher on the roster, the Mavericks released Troy Murphy. Fisher (6-1, 210) is a five-time NBA World Champion and has played in 1,173 games (722 starts) with the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, Utah and Oklahoma City. At age 38, he holds career averages of 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 26.2 minutes per game. Fisher was originally the 24th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers and went on to win five World Championships in Los Angeles (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010). He also served as President of the NBA Players Association from 2006-2012.

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The Difference: New Jersey Nets 93, Dallas Mavericks 92

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 29, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas97.094.940.431.529.311.4
New Jersey95.948.216.727.317.4

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

  • It almost seems unfair to distill a loss like this down to a simple explanation, but bare with me: The Mavs played poorly, and the Nets played less poorly. There was no collapse; Dallas’ execution was a bit spotty, and the offensive sequences that did go as planned too often ended with a botched open look. Brendan Haywood played decent but flawed defense, as he too frequently surrendered deep post position or a baseline lane to a focused Brook Lopez. Dirk Nowitzki was efficient, but not dominant. Jason Kidd generally did not play well. The Mavs made big plays to put themselves in a position to win, but stellar defense by Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson prevented Dallas from making the biggest one. Vince Carter was a complete non-factor, and with Delonte West and Lamar Odom already out of the lineup, that absent production was killer. Neither Jason Terry nor Rodrigue Beaubois could provide dependable, consistent offense, if only because the former missed open shots and the latter was a pinch too aggressive. The defense had occasional breakdowns, but for the most part was simply inept by half. All of these things happened, and none of it really matters. Every game matters in a sense, but the holistic outcome of this particular outing is simply nullified against the weight of the entire season. It’s a one-point loss against a crummy team, and a counter swing of the pendulum that typically brings the Mavs their greatest successes. It’s worth a moment’s consideration, surely, but this isn’t at all a game — nor a result — worth dwelling on. (That said, one specific factor is becoming an all too frequent issue. As Marion has been tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player virtually regardless of any positional considerations, his offensive efficiency has hit rock bottom. The man willingly admits that defending the likes of Deron Williams [and Chris Paul, and Ty Lawson, and Ricky Rubio, and...] takes a lot out of him, and yet Carlisle continues to look to Marion for defensive strength even as his offense takes a corresponding hit. Marion is a two-way player, but extending him so far in one direction necessarily pulls him away from the other.)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 24, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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Regardless of the specific events that will unfold in the coming months, Rudy Fernandez’s Mavericks future was always to be dictated on his terms. Dallas would offer him a system that suited his strengths and the opportunity to play alongside other talented players who could make it easier to find that open three or spring backdoor for an alley-oop. Fernandez would play a season, and then free agency would offer him an out. He could take it or choose to stay with the Mavs, but regardless of his actual choice, the power would be his within a year’s time.

The lockout has apparently sped up that process, as Fernandez has reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with Real Madrid, one that would essentially guarantee that Fernandez will leave the Mavs at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season. Reports vary as to whether the deal is indeed set in stone, but in a way the consummation of an actual contract is somewhat arbitrary; it appears Fernandez will be gone from Dallas one way or another at season’s end, whether on this reported deal or another one. The will to leave exists irrelevant of whether a handshake has been made or a name signed on the dotted line. Fernandez may end up playing games for the Mavs this season, but in effect, he’s already gone.

As such, it’s worth considering whether plugging him into the lineup as a starter (and committing the minutes that usually accompany such a role) is really a venture worthy of the team’s investment. Fernandez would provide a nice complement to the preexisting starting core in theory, but he’d have to be brought up to speed on the fly in what would almost certainly be an abbreviated season. Fernandez is talented, but would the Mavs feel comfortable with him in a prominent, starting role after 50 or so games without the benefit of off-season preparation or, likely, a training camp? Fernandez is a Maverick, and his skills should be utilized by the team to the fullest extent that they can be, but the role that would allow for such maximization remains in question, even if his positional disposition would seem to fill a very convenient SG-shaped hole in the starting five.

Maybe Fernandez as starter was just too easy; acquiring an experienced player that fits a positional need was a sensible move for Dallas, so much so that apparently something had to go wrong. The Mavs, however, are not without their fallback plans, even if the two most promising of which are reliant on free agency. Lockout life places greater value in the familiar, and though it would undoubtedly take some work (and some cash) to retain their wing FAs, the Mavs have all the reason in the world to look inward — as much as non-contracted, soon-to-be-free-agent personnel constitutes “inward” — to solve whatever problems exist with their SG rotation.

Re-signing DeShawn Stevenson remains an option, and one supported by Jason Terry and Donnie Nelson at that. Stevenson isn’t an ideal choice, but he is (1) an incredibly solid perimeter defender who is still somehow underrated despite his efforts on the league’s biggest stage against its biggest stars, (2) already familiar with Dallas’ system on both ends of the floor, and (3) likely to come at a reasonable price. That said, he also acted as a sandbag on the starting lineup during the 2011 postseason, despite his successes; according to BasketballValue, the Kidd-Stevenson-Marion-Nowitzki-Chandler lineup posted an adjusted plus-minus of -5.21 in the postseason. That should make Fernandez a preferred choice even as a mercenary, but there is some virtue in electing to roll with the three-point-shooting devil you know.

But the Mavs also have the benefit of knowing a far superior candidate to fill a chunk of minutes in the backcourt next season, despite the fact that he technically didn’t log a single minute at SG during the 2010-2011 campaign. Caron Butler is a very talented, effective wing player. He knows the Mavericks organization, knows Rick Carlisle’s system, and has shown that he can thrive as a part of both of those institutions. He’s an effective perimeter defender and a versatile offensive weapon. He’s also labeled a small forward, and also not under contract with the Mavs at present. Both of those problems can be remedied if the team wills it so, and if Dallas truly has designs to improve in the coming season, they’ll do just that.

Butler remains the Mavericks’ best opportunity for immediate improvement, and that doesn’t change because of some perceived positional hiccup. It’s true that he didn’t play any time at the 2 de jure, but the positional designations used by 82games.com (and other resources that offer lineup derived positional data) are often restricted to offensive lineups. From that perspective, what exactly did DeShawn Stevenson (or Terry, Beaubois, Sasha Pavlovic, or any other player who suited up for the Mavs at the 2) do last season that Butler could not? As a sold ball-handler, a 43 percent three-point shooter, and an effective slasher, there’s nothing that prevents Butler from fulfilling any offensive role given to him. Add on the fact that the wing positions in the Mavs’ offensive system allow for a wide range of skill sets (J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson both played the 2, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic both played the 3), and it’s hard to find a logical reason for Butler to be pigeon-holed in one position or another.

As far as defense is concerned, all that’s required is a quick trip through Synergy’s play database to discount any claims of Butler’s positional limitations. Among those that Butler checked effectively: Manu Ginobili, Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, O.J. Mayo, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, John Salmons, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick, Mike Miller, Wesley Matthews, the Mavs’ own Rudy Fernandez, Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, Richard Hamilton, and Kyle Korver. Saying that 3s defend 3s in today’s NBA is a gross oversimplification; despite never playing a single minute as a 2-guard, Butler still managed to defend all of the aforementioned 2s and 1s as a product of defensive cross-matching and in-game switches. Nowhere are positional designations more arbitrary than on the wings, where pairs of similarly skilled players swing between slotted positions on a whim.

Reducing Butler (or any player) to a simple positional designation ignores the more specific reasoning underlying NBA compatibilities. Butler could work alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion because their skill sets cover tons of ground without much overlap. The same wouldn’t necessarily be true of any other group of perimeter players, even if their traditional designations dictate it to be so. What matters — as has and will always be the case — are consistent skills and contributions. So long as a team can produce some total amalgamation of necessary skills (requisite shooters, shot creation, rebounding, etc.) and the defense can contort itself into some means of effectiveness, everything else is merely nomenclature for the sake of nomenclature.

Why Now?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 24, 2011 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves, Video | 24 Comments to Read

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The Mavericks have acquired Rudy Fernandez (and the draft rights for 2007 selection Petteri Koponen, a footnote which may or may not have relevance) in exchange for the 26th and 57th picks in yesterday’s draft. As far as draft day trades go, this one isn’t horrible; the Mavs aren’t the Kings, who somehow talked themselves into acquiring John Salmons while losing Beno Udrih and trading down in the draft at the same time. But if you’re looking for the logic in a move like this one, I see little.

It all comes down to what Dallas surrendered. Selected with the 26th pick was Texas sophomore Jordan Hamilton, a player who can functionally perform a lot of the same roles that Fernandez can. He doesn’t come without his own faults (Hamilton looks at the rim almost lustfully with each catch on the perimeter), but Hamilton eclipses Fernandez’s utility while still holding that infinite potential of youth.

In Rudy, the Mavs have acquired a streaky shooter who, for the most part, comes up errant. Fernandez shot 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last season, and though 2010-2011 was without question the worst campaign of Fernandez’s three-year NBA career, he doesn’t exactly have a healthy body of work to rule that year as an aberration. We know Fernandez can be better (particularly from three-point range; Rudy connected on 40 percent of his threes during his rookie season), but there should be legitimate concern over whether he’ll be able to return to his previous shooting marks.

Unfortunately, that kind of pessimism is what clouds discussions of Fernandez’s basketball strengths. Offense is supposed to be the side of the ball where Fernandez makes his living, and yet over the last two seasons, his offensive performance has been wholly underwhelming. Things only get worse on the defensive end, where Rudy scrambles plenty without accomplishing much at all. He has a pretty worrisome gambling problem; he’ll abandon good defensive position in a second to chase a pass he has no business chasing — and that’s when he’s even in the right defensive position in the first place. Fernandez isn’t a replacement for DeShawn Stevenson, but an even more limited stopgap, capable of possibly replicating Stevenson’s three-point shooting while falling well short of his defensive performance. Fernandez just isn’t anywhere near the defender that Stevenson is, and though Jordan Hamilton is similarly lacking in defensive ability, he’s 20 years old, long, and athletic. I have more hope for Hamilton finding religion as a defender than Fernandez, and while that hope could ultimately prove to be misplaced, I think the “he is who he is,” perspective on Fernandez is tough to refute.

Plus, Fernandez withered when he wasn’t handed the minutes he expected and was forced to compete for playing time in Portland. Based on Rick Carlisle’s rotational habits, why exactly should we expect any different result in Dallas? Fernandez has a fresh start, but he may find that Carlisle and Nate McMillan share in some particularly inconvenient elements of their coaching philosophy. “Stay ready,” which became the mantra of the Mavs’ role players last season, doesn’t quite seem to fit with Fernandez’s understanding of the team concept.

Maybe Fernandez will find new life in Dallas, but at best he’s an active offensive participant, a three-point threat, and a defensive liability. Couldn’t Hamilton be capable of the same, while giving the Mavs another interesting piece for the future? Dallas is rightfully looking to maximize on their current core, but the drive to acquire veterans has led them to one who holds all of the weaknesses of the prospect they could have had without any of the potential long-term strengths.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Miami Heat 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 15, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas91.0115.456.714.625.015.4
Miami104.452.127.823.117.6

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

  • In professional sports, panic is easy. Identifying worries and overreacting to them quickly is the path of least resistance, false adjustments that feign activity. Throughout their entire playoff run, the Mavericks never were tempted into that panic; they took their path every time, even when the win-loss binary told them that path was faulty. Rick Carlisle never pushed a button for pushing’s sake, nor did any of the Mavs attempt to drastically alter their approaches in an effort to counter some real or perceived problem. They just ran their stuff. They ran their stuff in the house and with a mouse, they ran their stuff here, and there, and anywhere. They ran it in a box and with a fox, and then they skipped the green eggs and just went ham. True commitment to a system or strategy often seems a lot easier than it is (case in point: Miami’s willingness to abandon their pick-and-roll game with a single kick-ball in the fourth quarter of Game 5), and I’m convinced that perseverance within their system is among the most crucial reasons for Dallas’ first ever NBA title. Carlisle could have easily rewritten the book after Game 1 of the Finals, or drastically changed his team’s defensive strategy once Dwyane Wade began to really go nuts. He didn’t and the Mavericks thrived from the strength of their minor, precise adjustments.
  • Strictly as an observer, I haven’t decided whether there was more narrative power in the actual outcome of Game 6 or in an alternate reality where Dirk Nowitzki finished the series as dominant as ever. Both are suitable finales, but there would have been a clearly established satisfaction in seeing Nowitzki grab the Larry O’Brien trophy by its personified throat. That wasn’t quite the way it turned out, but is that a fair conclusion to the tale of Nowitzki’s historically incapable supporting cast, or an anticlimactic finish for the man who always did it all?
  • Tyson Chandler scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 6, and I still wouldn’t have been opposed to him being named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki was an offensive juggernaut in the Finals, but Chandler was the primary deterrent against a formidable Heat offense. He wasn’t an anchor, but a pillar; Dallas unveiled a beautifully crafted defensive structure in the Finals, and though Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion really brought it together, Chandler was the critical support that allowed the entire thing to exist in the first place. (Plus, offensive rebounding was pegged as a definitive Heat strength going into the Finals, and yet the Mavs won the offensive rebounding rate battle in three of the six games. That’s essentially all Chandler.)
  • For the record, my mom, soothsayer that she is, predicted that the Mavs would win the title this season. Then again, she’s said the same thing every season since 2000, so I guess hat makes her 100% right this year, and about 9% right overall. Still, even grasping at straws deserves a tip of the hat, so long as she gets the straw.
  • J.J. Barea (15 points, 7-12 FG, five assists) was unbelievable. It seems like it’s been ages since I was forced to defend Barea’s presence by outlining his unique strengths within the context of this team, but in reality, Barea was painted as a scapegoat as recently as a few months ago. He’s come a long way in terms of focus and efficiency, mind you, but the strength of his game is the same: Barea’s handle, speed, and creativity give him an inlet to the basket that few players are able to access. Barea has made clear his intent to stay with the team that unearthed him, but strange things can happen in free agency. If Barea ends up on another team’s roster, Dallas will be the worse for it.
  • There’s always room for more in Maverick Nation, and in principle, I’m not opposed to accepting refugee fans from other teams that have been bounced in the playoffs. Still, I won’t miss the bile. I won’t miss the abject hatred. I won’t miss the inescapable stink clouding what was a brilliant series with a fantastic ending. Fans are free to love or hate whoever they’d like, but the way they conduct themselves can always disgust me, even if their agency doesn’t.
  • DeShawn Stevenson dropped nine points, as did Eddie House. Brian Cardinal had three, and Ian Mahinmi four. In the closing game of the NBA Finals. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
  • Oh, there’s this cat named Jason Terry — he’s turned the pull-up jumper in transition into an art form, and was the dynamic offensive star Dallas badly needed to finish out the series. Terry (27 points, 11-16 FG, 3-7 3FG) has been maligned as any Maverick over the years, and to an extent he’s deserved the criticism. His defense used to be quite poor. In the past, Terry’s offensive contributions could be teched against too easily, leaving Nowitzki to carry the entirety of the scoring burden on his own. But this year’s offense wasn’t Nowitzki-and-JET-dependent so much as it utilized both as investments in the system. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, and previously, Caron Butler, rounded out the offense and balanced the floor. No player benefited more from Dallas’ offensive flow than Terry, who was able to finally benefit from the creation of others. Just having Kidd set up Terry was never enough; the entire offense had an oddly stable codependency, in which Kidd needed Nowitzki, Terry, a more involved Marion, and Chandler to really do what he does best, and each of those players needed one another in order to create the perfect swing to their offense.
  • LeBron James didn’t perform as he could have or should have, and yet somehow, I don’t think anyone in Dallas really minds all that much. James has been story 1A in the postseason’s aftermath, but frankly, I was more taken by how Dallas held Dwyane Wade to 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting (with five turnovers) in Game 6. Wade’s injury likely played a part in his underwhelming line, but the Mavs used some quick doubles to chase him out of his comfort zones. Wade in the post had been the most consistently effective weapon for either team all series long, and yet the Mavs were able to completely neutralize it in Game 6 while keeping the rest of Wade’s game in check and keeping LeBron James producing on a reasonable level.
  • Do you believe it yet?

A Beautiful Construction

Posted by Ian Levy on under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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

Even with two days to process the end of the NBA Finals, I’m still in amazement. I’m amazed at what happened and how it happened. Most of all, I’m amazed at the composure displayed by the Mavericks’ throughout the series. At no point did they allow the circumstances to change what they intended to do or how they intended to do it. Inserting J.J. Barea into the starting lineup was not a rash decision or a frantic pushing of buttons. It was a calculated move that changed nothing except when certain player combinations were utilized. In a moment of weakness, I told my wife before Game 6 that I thought Dirk Nowitzki would need to score 40 for the Mavericks to win. Even after all I had watched the Mavericks accomplish this season, by constantly moving the ball until an open shot materialized, I still felt that at some point said formula would fizzle out, that it wouldn’t be enough to push them to their ultimate goal. The Mavericks were able to win, because for several stretches, Dirk Nowitzki was clearly the best player on the floor, and accomplished it without dominating the ball. I kept waiting for the “Dirk needs to touch the ball on every possession” offense, but it never happened. The Mavericks’ attack never wavered from their template, and they consistently got the job done.

Equal to my amazement at what the Mavericks were able to accomplish, has been my frustration at how the series is being described by many in the media. I was particularly infuriated by a post-game discussion between Magic Johnson and Mike Wilbon; both described the Mavericks’ victory as 10 players beating 3. Even as a Mavericks’ fan, I find that characterization incredibly offensive. In the most literal sense, this was a case of 11 beating 10, the actual number of players used by each team. To describe the Heat as a three-man team is unbelievably demeaning to the efforts of their entire roster. It’s true that their team is constructed so that the majority of their offensive production will come from LeBron, Wade and Bosh. It’s true that the Mavericks received greater contributions from a larger variety of players. But there is more — much more — to the Miami Heat than just those three players. Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem both had strong performances across the Finals. The Mavericks victory was an example of one team beating another. Every player, on both teams, had a hand in pushing their team to the NBA Finals.

The thing I think is most important to understand, is that this is true, independent of the outcome. Even if Miami had won the series, it still would have been a case of one team beating another, not a case of three star players overwhelming a patchwork arrangement of very good players. The Heat and the Mavericks were each built in different ways, but they are both teams, with five players on the floor at a time and seven reserves on the bench. The Mavericks’ victory is a victory for their players, organization and fans, not a victory for a template of roster assembly. They won because, for six games, they were the better team; not that their methods or motivations were more pure or virtuous.

Before the Finals started I wrote that this series represented a chance at redemption for several Mavericks players, ones who had no personal involvement with the letdown in 2006. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic each achieved a goal they’ve been chasing for years. I hope that this championship was made sweeter for each by the way the playoffs unfolded and the title was earned. A championship on a player’s resume is often viewed as tainted if it was won in mercenary style by an aging veteran. Kidd, Marion and Stojakovic each earned their jewelry; they didn’t sign with a team only to provide vocal support from the end of the bench. They may have had to change teams (in some cases several times) to win their first championship, but they didn’t tag along or catch a ride on anyone’s coattails. The Mavericks simply aren’t in the Finals, let along raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy, without the contributions of those three.

Most of my contributions to The Two Man Game this seen have been statistical in focus and flavor. I’ll leave you with a few statistical nuggets to chew on over the summer.

  • DeShawn Stevenson was absolutely lights out in the Finals, making 13 of 23, or 56.6% of his three-pointers. Who could have possible seen that coming? Oh, that’s right. I did.
  • Brendan Haywood’s injury opened up a hole in the Mavericks’ frontcourt rotation — a hole that was filled admirably by Brian Cardinal. He gave Dallas 30.3 minutes in the series, over which they outscored the Heat 71-68.
  • Tyson Chandler has received plenty of well-deserved praise for his efforts in the Finals. His performance, particularly on the offensive glass, was remarkable. When he was out of the game Dallas rebounded just 18.6% of their own misses. When Chandler was on the floor that number jumped to 27.0%.
  • One of John Hollinger’s Finals recaps mentioned that one of the reasons the Mavericks pursued Rick Carlisle was that statistical studies showed he had a tendency to give the most minutes to the most effective lineups. Seems like an obvious idea, perhaps one someone should have shared with Jim O’Brien. I wanted to see if that held true for the Finals. The easiest way to do this was to a run a correlation between the Net Rating for each unit and the number of minutes they played together. However, this creates some sample size problems for units that only played together briefly. To weight the totals I just multiplied the Net Rating for each unit by the minutes played, then ran a correlation between that total and the minutes played. The Mavericks had a 0.692 correlation between the effectiveness of the unit and their minutes played. For the Heat it was a -0.177. Saying Carlisle managed his rotations well is a huge understatement.

On a personal note, it’s been a pleasure to write about the Dallas Mavericks this season at The Two Man Game. I’m a Pacers’ fan at heart, and adopting the Mavericks with Rob’s invitation to start contributing here, felt strangely unnatural. However, watching a team on a nightly basis gives you an appreciation and attachment that can be gained no other way. I’m thrilled for the Mavericks organization. They earned everything they’ve accomplished this season, and it was a joy to watch. I’m also thrilled for Mavericks’ fans, a group of which I am proud to be a part of.