Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 12, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

Dallas Mavericks 96, New Jersey Nets 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 11, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“If you are out of trouble, watch for danger.”

And for the Mavs’ next trick, they’ll surrender a big early lead to a sub-par team, explode to build a significant lead of their own sometime in the third quarter, and then forfeit that lead to even things out and end everything with a bang.

Don’t get me wrong, it certainly makes for some pretty entertaining basketball. But the script is getting a little predictable by this point, don’tcha think?

We should definitely be celebrating Dallas’ wins; not every victory is going to be pretty, and the fact last night’s game was less than ideal isn’t all that damaging on the basis of a singular game. It’s the same philosophy I’ve embraced about the Mavs’ barely-wins over Minnesota, over Miami, over Charlotte, over Indiana, over New Orleans, over Charlotte, over Sacramento, and over Chicago. Those games weren’t as easy as they could have or should have been, but if you’re evaluating each contest in a vacuum, it’s hard to argue with a positive result.

But the fact that the Mavs’ wins have come by such a slim margin so often, well, you know what it can mean. Maybe Dallas isn’t as dominant as we think. Maybe this team will try this same act against a great team with some momentum in the playoffs — a Denver, a Los Angeles — and validate all of these worries. The Mavs can pull this off against the Nets because they’re a better team and, when focused, their execution level is pretty insane. But every game isn’t going to come against this level of competition, and so the problem isn’t that the Mavs are barely beating the Nets, but that they won’t be able to barely beat other teams using the same practices.

Letting New Jersey score 31 points in the first quarter definitely qualifies as bad practice. Letting the Nets build an 18-point lead by the second quarter definitely qualifies as bad practice. It flies now and the Mavs get the win, and we should be proud of them for that. It’s not easy to bring a hot team back down to Earth (NJ shot .526 from the field in the first half and ended up shooting .410) and it’s certainly not easy to overcome such a glaring deficit on the scoreboard. But keep in mind that these same habits and practices that we’re celebrating now, in the midst of an epic win streak, may be the same habits we’re deriding come playoff time. Despite their winning ways, the Mavs need a change. They need to figure out how to start the game with the concentration level that has become a fourth quarter staple. Dallas makes love to pressure and that’s awesome. But in order to be one of the league’s truly elite teams, they need to make love to the opening six minutes of the game, too. Every game doesn’t have to be a test of wills and endurance; it’s okay to have the starters get some early rest, and let Matt Carroll ride out the endgame.

We know that the Mavs know how to win close games, and that’s incredibly important. But we still haven’t seen this team show that they’re capable of managing a game. They give up too many easy buckets early, they surrender too many leads late, and though it’s almost difficult to flash back to a time where the Mavs were doing anything other than winning, you’d like to see something more.

That’s a lot of negativity for about 18 minutes of bad basketball. But it’s something that needs to be said after a win like this one, even in spite of some of the positives on the Dallas side.

Dirk Nowitzki was not one of them, which makes the win even more surprising. Nowitzki finished with 12 points on 3-of-16 shooting with five turnovers. That’s about as bad as it gets for Dirk. He’ll get points because he’s still worth the attempts (how many times have we seen him shake off an early rut to drop 25?) and because he gets to the free throw line, but I’m not sure that any measure could qualify Nowitzki’s game as a success.

That means the points had to come from somewhere. With Jason Terry out of the lineup, the Mavs turned to Caron Butler (18 points, 7-14 FG). As the focal point of the offense, Butler dropped 10 points in the fourth quarter, and was responsible for 12 of the Mavs’ final 15 points. Caron isn’t prolific or efficient enough offensively to warrant this kind of treatment on a regular basis. That’s why the Mavs have Dirk. But having Butler around to not only attract defensive attention but completely take games over if need be is a luxury that the post-trade Mavs are truly enjoying. Add Jason Terry back into the lineup and this team is just rearing to go offensively. Being able to attack any potential defense from a number of attack points is a huge advantage.

But for all of Butler’s fourth quarter contributions, he wasn’t even the Mavs’ leading scorer. That distinction, on this rarest of occasions, goes to Jason Kidd (20 points, 5-8 3FG,  nine assists, four steals). If Kidd hadn’t become such a prolific three-point shooter, it’s entirely possible that the balance of the Kidd-Harris trade would still be tipped in favor of New Jersey. But even the trade’s biggest critics are recanting some of their comments due to Kidd’s inspired play. Play which has benefited greatly from his emergence as a three-point threat. I don’t want to know what dark power Kidd had to consult to add the three ball to his repertoire this late in his career, but as a follower of the team, I’m just immensely thankful that he did.

Just as impactful as Kidd’s scoring was his defense and playmaking. It wasn’t a high-volume assist night, but the Mavs’ resurgence after the dog days of the first quarter is at least in part due to the open looks Kidd generated for his teammates. He could very easily have fed Brendan Haywood in the post, but instead he lobbed it over the head of the defender and led Haywood to the basket. He could have very easily waited to attract the defense before kicking the ball to a cutting Shawn Marion, but his instincts told him not to hesitate. He could have hit Caron Butler a second late as he curled around the screen, but he timed the ball perfectly and gave Butler a wide open jumper. It’s always the little things with Kidd, and the reason he deserves to be a Hall of Famer isn’t because of the 17-assist nights where he runs the break to perfection, but nights like this where he completely controls a game.

Closing thoughts:

  • The name of the game offensively for Dallas was, again, balance. Six Mavs hit double figures in a game with just 91 possessions. Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 6-12 FG, three assists, one turnover) wasn’t hitting on his mid-range jumper, but was able to get to the rim at will. Shawn Marion (14 points, 5-10 FG, 13 rebounds, three blocks) notched his second straight double-double, and continues to fill the gaps for the Mavs in every conceivable way. Brendan Haywood double-doubled in his return as well, finishing with 11 points (4-6 FG), 10 rebounds, and two blocks.
  • The Mavs tied the Cavs’ season-high winning streak at 13 games, which means they’ll have a shot at the longest winning streak league-wide when they face the Knicks on Saturday. Dallas beat New York earlier this season by 50 points. I’m just sayin’.
  • The third quarter is where the Mavs really improved defensively. After giving the Nets an assortment of layups and dunks in the first half, the Dallas held New Jersey to 5-of-26 shooting with just four free throw attempts. Devin Harris (21 points, seven assists, six turnovers) and Brook Lopez (10 points, 5-16 FG, six rebounds), who had been the stars of the first half, combined to shoot 1-for-11 in the third. That’s significant defensive improvement
  • The Mavs trapped Devin Harris off of every pick with mixed success. He slipped a few times against the pressure, but for the most part he was able to find an open teammate or at least an outlet to avoid a turnover. What really kept Harris in check was the zone, which has become a staple for the Mavs defensively. Dallas may execute the zone better than any other team in the league, and while it still has weaknesses in giving up offensive rebounds and allowing three-point shooters to fire away (a fact which only Jarvis Hayes was able to take advantage of), it’s become much more than just a situational strategy.
  • Terrence Williams (18 points, 7-12 FG, 13 rebounds, three assists) was everywhere. I’m very impressed with his ability to move without the ball, which I thought could have been a problem coming out of a position in Louisville where he had the ball in his hands an overwhelming amount of the time. But Williams isn’t a point forward anymore, and though he still exhibits some of those playmaking skills that made him an effective college player, he’s clearly capable of playing off the ball as a more traditional wing.
  • Erick Dampier also made his return for the Mavs, but only logged four minutes of playing time. One step closer to a healthy center rotation, and one step closer to improving the defense.
  • Is there anyone in Maverick Nation who isn’t in a constant state of excitement over Rodrigue Beaubois? He’s not perfect and he’s still not playing much point guard, but he’s averaging 18 points on 54.7% shooting with 3.4 assists to just one turnover in March. He’s still responding well to opportunities and playing time, which is one thing for a rookie to do in November and another for them to do in March.
  • Any possession that ends with a Trenton Hassell jump shot is a win for the defense.
  • The Mavs played Kris Humphries on Hump Day and I completely dropped the ball. Sigh.
  • The Nets are a much better team than 7-57. Much better. They don’t have much in the way of depth, but even a quick up and down of the roster reveals a bunch of individual talent capable of doing plenty of good things on a basketball court. It obviously doesn’t come together in any kind of cohesive whole and the rotation members are woefully lacking in experience, but still far better than 7-57.

Ladders Are Made to Fall

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 25, 2009 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

The ESPNDallas crew put together a list of the top 10 Mavericks of the decade, and here are their rankings:

  1. Dirk Nowitzki
  2. Steve Nash
  3. Michael Finley
  4. Jason Terry
  5. Josh Howard
  6. Nick Van Exel
  7. Jason Kidd
  8. Devin Harris
  9. Jerry Stackhouse
  10. Erick Dampier

I’m a bit lost as to the criteria used, though. If it’s the out-and-out best players (talent and production-wise) to play for the Mavs in the 2000s, Jason Kidd seems slighted. If it’s based on production in a Maverick uniform this decade, Jason Terry may not be getting the respect he deserves. And if it’s based on…well, whatever metric puts Nick Van Exel (who make no mistake is one of my personal favorites in team history) ahead of Jason Kidd, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, then that explains that. This just seems like an exercise where you need to take talent, production, and Maverick tenure all into account, and with that in mind the order seems a bit scrambled.

It’s not an easy list to compile. We can all agree that Dirk stands at the top of the list, with Steve Nash a perfectly acceptable second fiddle. But where do you go from there? Michael Finley is the best scorer of the bunch, Jason Terry kept the Mavs afloat sans Nash and has a Finals appearance under his belt, and Jason Kidd is probably the best of the remaining crop despite his short tenure. After that, you’ve got some combination of Josh Howard, Devin Harris, and Erick Dampier, three Mavs that were absolutely instrumental to the team’s success during the most successful stretch this decade, and each contributing in unique ways that only sometimes show up on the stat sheet (scoring balance, change-of-pace potential, interior defense). Only then do I get to Jerry Stackhouse and Nick Van Exel, but with DeSagana Diop, Antawn Jamison, and MARQUIS DANIELS getting some consideration.

Sound off in the comments, because I’m curious to hear everyone’s take on this. What’s the best way to go about ranking the decade’s Mavs? And given those criteria, who’veyagot?

Taking Sides

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 4, 2009 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

Any and every Mavs-Nets game presents an obvious platform to re-examine the Kidd-Harris trade. I get that. But what it shouldn’t present is a trade framework in which one team must win and the other must lose. That’s not what any trade is about, much less the exchange of a high profile, Hall of Fame point guard and a young up and coming star.

The fact that New Jersey is, at the moment, drowning in a sea of futility, is more or less irrelevant. Devin Harris is no longer a Mav, and while I still wish him the best and like to watch him succeed (as well as tons of other likable players on that Nets roster), it’s not really Dallas’ problem anymore. Rather than point out the fact that Jason Kidd is playing better basketball than Devin Harris is this season, can’t we just praise Kidd for rebounding, shooting, and passing the ball like age doesn’t mean a damn thing? Rather than point out the Mavs’ far superior record to the Nets (which was a given, in my mind), can’t we simply appreciate the Mavs’ early successes, both offensively and defensively? The conflict between the Mavs and Nets is so artificial that it’s ridiculous, as the only source of contention seems to be the anxiety of the fan base here in Dallas.

The Kidd-Harris trade was not about making New Jersey a bad team, and it shouldn’t matter much from a Mavs-centric perspective that they are. The intrigue of a historically bad start is understandable for fans of the league and the game, but it doesn’t for one second change the value Dallas received in the deal. As of this very second, the trade is probably a win for Dallas. Kidd is playing truly inspired basketball, and he’s been a crucial part of the Mavs’ current roll. There’s simply no way that the offense functions so smoothly with the ball in Harris’ hands, even if his presence does create match-up problems and provide additional scoring. That isn’t a slight against Devin, just the acknowledgment that Kidd is a different kind of point guard whose talents make more sense in the context of this Maverick team.

The Nets didn’t sign on the dotted line with the intention of getting better today, or even tomorrow. That much is certain when you trade a point guard of Kidd’s caliber for a younger, developing talent and a pair of first round picks. One of those picks has already borne fruit in the form of Ryan Anderson. While that may not seem like much, Stan Van Gundy has made the claim that Anderson’s involvement in the Vince Carter trade was required for the swap to come to pass. That trade not only brought in Courtney Lee, a solid shooting guard with a future as a role player at the very least, but also gave the Nets all kinds of cap flexibility going forward. So the Kidd deal not only brought in the point guard of the future, but cleared cap space, brought in additional young talent that complements the core, and still adds the unknown benefit of a 2010 first rounder. To me, that’s not a loss for the Nets, regardless of what their record looks like.

We’re talking about basketball, and the natural inclination is to treat any team interaction as a contest. But to deem one team a winner does not make the other a loser. Though the jury seems to be changing its verdict on the Mavs’ side of the deal (and the new contract he signed this summer, for that matter), that doesn’t change the fact that the Nets desperately needed to reload and restructure their team. And for what it’s worth, they’ve assembled a strong group of young pieces. Harris remains one of the best young point guards in the NBA. Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Terrence Williams provide the Nets with all kinds of options at the wing offensively (Lee’s 3-point shooting, CDR’s mid-range game, Williams’ slashing and ball-handling abilities), and plenty of weapons defensively. Brook Lopez looks has already figured out what it takes to be a NBA center, even if he didn’t show it against the Mavs. And Yi Jianlian…well, he’ll always have that magical workout against the chairs. I know things in Jersey are dour right now, but with new ownership, a big move on the way, plenty of young talent, and tons of cap space, this team is doing the rebuilding thing right.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 2, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • There was supposed to be another installment of Moving Pictures up this morning, but I’m having trouble uploading it to YouTube. Stay frosty, I’ll post it as soon as it’s available.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching has pieced together a fairly conclusive scouting report on defending Dirk Nowitzki. Guarding Dirk is an unenviable task and a near-impossible one, but Sebastian does a fine job of pointing out a few of the things that tend to give Dirk trouble. It’s well worth a read, even if I don’t necessarily buy the notion that Sean Williams is a disciplined enough defender to draw the Dirk assignment. I’m not sure the Nets have better options, but Williams? On defense? Against an offensive player notorious for his footwork and ball fakes? I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Donnie Nelson will play the waiting game before hiring a new general manager for the Frisco job, mostly due to a potential return for Del Harris after this season’s conclusion. It’s a savvy move by Nelson, and I have a feeling that his patience on this won’t go unrewarded. Also, check out Matt Moore’s reaction here.
  • Shaun Powell of NBA.com ranked the top fifteen off-season moves…and failed to include or even mention the Mavs’ acquisitions. I guess the integration of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden has been so seamless as to elude public perception entirely, despite the fact that both are helping their team (and looking more comfortable doing it) than just about everyone south of Jamal Crawford on that list. (link via a Fanshot by DOH on Mavs Moneyball)
  • Let the Rodrigue Beaubois vs. Devin Harris debates begin!
  • Chris Sheridan on the newly christened Nets coach (and acting general manager), Kiki Vanderweghe: “Like those front office folk, Vandeweghe was attending the news conference because he had to. His ambition is to run his own NBA team from the front office — not from the bench. Thorn, who noted that all three of the coaches he has hired in New Jersey — the recently departed Lawrence Frank, Byron Scott and Vandeweghe — had no prior NBA head-coaching experience, said he spoke to six people regarding the position. Note that he didn’t say he interviewed six people, only that he spoke to six people, before informing Vandeweghe that the job was his. ‘Rod is a very persuasive guy, and much smarter than I am,” Vandeweghe said. “I want to thank Rod for not necessarily making it my choice.’ Vandeweghe was asked: Did you ever want to be a coach? “‘Not until Rod called me yesterday,’ Vandeweghe said. ‘But it’s a challenge, and you embrace the challenge. I’m sure all the coaches I’ve had are laughing at me right now.’”
  • Donnie Nelson, reflecting on the Mavs prior to the Kidd-Harris deal (via Tim MacMahon): “The reality is that we had a whole lot of scoring and our best passer was Dirk…He’s the guy you want taking the shots, not creating shots for other folks. That was a group that was missing a quarterback in the worst way.”

No Game Is an Island: Company Men

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 10, 2009 under Previews | 3 Comments to Read

The Houston Rockets visit the Dallas Mavericks
7:30 CST

When the Mavs and the Rockets met in the 2005 playoffs, Houston appeared to be on the cusp of elite status. Not only did the wing-center combo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming make sense on a very basic, basketball level, but McGrady’s offense was an excellent counterpoint to Jeff Van Gundy’s Yao-anchored defense. The rest of the roster was appraised as paper-thin, but solid contributions from a stable of role players sopped up minutes like a Bob Sura-shaped sponge. Houston very nearly downed Dallas in the first round, before an improbable comeback (and a Game 7 dismantling) ended the Rockets’ run before it truly began.

But as people in the future are ought to do, we know now that it was never meant to be. Yao and McGrady have alternated breakdowns, JVG was chased from the head of the bench to the broadcast table, and the rest of the roster has been turned over in its entirety.

What’s even more tragic is that for the most part, the Rockets’ “downfall” was instigated by events almost entirely outside of their control. So much hinged on the knees and back of McGrady and the legs of Yao, and that’s a load those bones were not built to bare. A string of unfavorable and unlucky injuries dropped the ceiling on an entire franchise, left two star athletes in limbo at critical points in their careers, and likely cost Van Gundy his job.

Meanwhile, the Mavs have been to the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals. They’ve won 67 games and brought home an MVP award, a Coach of the Year Award, and a 6th Man Award. They defeated the older brother Spurs, took down deserter Steve Nash, and have yet to win less than 50 games. The Mavs have won and accomplished plenty, largely because Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, the linchpins of execution and chemistry in Dallas, have had sterling health over the last four seasons.

Trade the medical records of Dirk/Terry for that of Yao/McGrady, and the entire Western Conference is radically altered. Not only would the rosters of the Mavs and the Rockets be radically different, but titles would assuredly change hands, reactionary trade moves would be impacted, and who knows what would have happened to Ron Artest.

In spite of all of the injuries that have plagued the Rockets, they’ve won over 50 games in three out of the four years since those fateful 2005 Playoffs. That group of middling peripheral talent was swapped out for a more complete role playing cast under the careful, calculating watch (and maybe calculator watch) of Daryl Morey. The wacky world of advanced statistical analysis has built surprisingly competent teams in Houston, with this year’s outfit being no exception. Despite the fact that most players on the roster shouldn’t be considered a primary or even secondary offensive option, Houston is locked with Dallas for the top spot in the Southwest Division. That’s a hell of a rally for a squad missing their top two players, who also happen to be the floor generals for both ends of the court. With no McGrady or Artest to provide the scoring punch, the Rockets are STILL 8th in the league in offensive rating. And with no Yao inside, the Rockets are STILL in the top half of the league in defensive rating. Those are decent numbers for any team, much less one thought to fall out of the playoff race entirely.

I’d like to think that in the bizarro universe I’ve painted for you, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would be able to accomplish the same, or at least a comparable product. Like Morey, both Cuban and Nelson are known for the ingenuity. Combine that innovative side with a willingness to pull the trigger on potential deals, and you have the ingredients necessary to assemble a scrappy, underdog squad. There’s no way of knowing whether Josh Howard and Erick Dampier (and Devin Harris?) could lead a team to the playoffs with a Rockets-esque cast, but I have no hesitation in saying that it would be difficult to put the Mavs and Rockets in better hands.

Here, There, and Everywhere

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 9, 2009 under Commentary, Previews | 4 Comments to Read

First of all, if you’ve got $10 to spare, I’d definitely recommend picking up (or really, loading down) a copy of Basketball Prospectus 2009-2010. It’s well worth the dough for over 350 pages of statistical projections and detailed analysis, and in particular, Will Carroll’s feature piece on microfracture surgery. In the interest of full disclosure, I did contribute a blurb for the Mavs section. That said, Kevin Pelton, Bradford Doolittle, and all the contributors have put together a fine, fine book, and I’d consider any NBA fan’s preseason preparation to be incomplete without it.

Second, Kyle Weidie from Truth About It was kind enough to do a Q&A swap with me in anticipation of tonight’s game against the Wiz. You can see my answers to Kyle’s Mavs-centric questions here, and here are Kyle’s answers to my queries:


Rob Mahoney: Who should get the start at shooting guard for Washington?

Kyle Weidie: Well, he’s probably one of the least popular choices in D.C. these days (outside of anything the Redskins do), but I’m going to go with DeShawn Stevenson over the other contenders of Nick Young, Randy Foye and Mike Miller. Because of the other options to backup Arenas at the point (Mike James and the currently injured Javaris Crittenton), Foye will have to fill that role coming off the bench. Miller would be my second choice to start, but his diverse talents will be better served with him being a facilitator for the second unit. And with Young, scoring is not a problem … so I’d rather him pack a punch in that area supplanting the efforts of the Big Three (Arenas, Butler, Jamison).

Stevenson, if fully recovered from back surgery this past off-season … and it’s been so far so good with him, fits well with the Big Three. Partially because he’s started alongside those guys before, but mostly because if he doesn’t try to do too much, he can keep lanes open with his ability to knock down spot-up threes, and since he’s probably the Wizards’ best perimeter defender, he can help alleviate concerns in that area from Arenas and Jamison.

RM: I’ve often considered Brendan Haywood to be one of the more underrated centers in the league. If you were creating a comprehensive list of all the centers in the NBA, where would Haywood rank?

KW: I’ve asserted that Haywood is a top five center in the East with the potential of being in the top 10 league wide. Overall, he’s an underrated player and is the key to the Wizards defense, especially since he’s such an intelligent player who knows how to communicate. On the offensive end, Haywood has been rather robotic in the past, but evidently has developed a mid-range jumper this summer, which is available for bigs in Saunders’ offense, and could really open up the floor for his teammates.

In the East, I’m only putting Shaq, Dwight Howard and Al Horford 100% above Haywood. Sure, we could start arguing when you drop names like Tyson Chandler, Kendrick Perkins, Brad Miller, Jermaine O’Neal, Andrew Bogut, Brook Lopez, and Andrea Bargnani. But I think Haywood wins out because of a variety of issues that each of those guys face (durability, one-dimensional, inexperienced, not really a center, etc.).

Haywood was coming off a career year before he missed most all of last season with a freak injury to his wrist ligament. This being a contract year for him, he has even more reasons to prove himself. All I’m saying is…. keep an eye on him.

RM: Gilbert Arenas has made it very clear that he intends to be all business this season. Does it hurt the Wizards’ marketability/fun-factor to have a less eccentric Gil?

KW: It may hurt his personal marketability, but as far as the team, winning is that end-all-be-all of cures. Winning is fun, marketable, and will help ease Abe Pollin’s pain of paying the luxury tax. I mean, it’s not like Arenas can’t be funny … he has an upcoming TNT/NBA spot with Rainn Wilson … but so far, he’s been all business on the court and off … and when it comes to dealing with local media (he refuses to talk to any media, actually).

I think a lot of it is with him being out so long, Arenas wants to get his swagger back on the court before he kicks his marketing swagger into gear. But even with being out for the past two seasons, his jersey is still the 15th most popular in Europe and 14th in China. In the end, just like the team, winning will bring Arenas back to relevancy. And as soon as that happens, the folks at adidas will be very happy.

RM: Antawn Jamison remains one of the lone bright spots from the Mavs’ 2003-2004 season, even if he never really had a proper place in Dallas. It’s unmistakable that the 2004 trade that sent Jamison to Washington has significantly affected the fates of both franchises, but given everything that we know, would you be for or against the trade of Devin Harris/Jerry Stackhouse for Jamison?

KW: As great as Devin Harris has turned out to be, I still do the trade 100%. Not only is Jamison a good ‘character’ guy, but without him, the Wizards would not have made that four-year playoff run between ’04 and ’08. Surely other moves would have been made had Grunfeld not made the trade, but Jamison fits well with the current unit of Arenas and Caron Butler. Plus, the guy is still a highly capable rebounder and scorer, with a tricky offensive game that will diminish at a much slower rate than most players his age (he turned 33 in June).

RM: Which non-Dirk Mav do you anticipate will give the Wizards the most trouble?

KW: I’m probably going to give Shawn Marion the nod over Jason Terry. The Wizards got killed on the boards, especially offensive rebounds, against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Marion is tough to keep track of and hard to block out. On Thursday, Flip Saunders said he was going to let Nick Young come off the bench to chase Terry around … and that will be a very difficult task for the third year player still trying to learn the ropes on D. However, I think not allowing second chance points is more key to the Wizards’ success.


Many thanks to Kyle, and check back with him at Truth About It for more on tonight’s game.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 30, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • First order of business: DO THE JASON TERRY.
  • Henry Abbott has the beginnings of something absolutely sweet over at TrueHoop: a multi-post meeting of the minds with Mavs’ stat wizard Wayne Winston. Here’s an interesting excerpt on the 2006 Mavs-Spurs series and former assistant coach Del Harris: “…I have an infinite number of stories about lineups and how it can help you. The best example is about the Spurs/Mavericks series. Del Harris came to me before Game 2 (of the 2006 Spurs vs. Mavericks series). I love him to death, he’s a wonderful person. Boy, he’s a genius. When he was working with the Mavericks, he’d always ask me questions. He always knew the right question to ask. The numbers, by themselves, mean nothing. In the regular season, Adrian Griffin was terrible against the Spurs. They had a terrible offensive rating, which means they couldn’t score when he was in. So Devin Harris had a great rating against the Spurs, and Tony Parker had a lousy rating in those games. The coaches sort of knew that Devin Harris could handle Tony Parker, but this gave them a metric to prove that. So they started Devin Harris in Game 2 and they won by 20. Then we can do head-to-head — when one guy is on the court against another guy. When Marquis Daniels was on the court against Manu Ginobili, the Mavericks lost by a point a minute. So in Game 7, they didn’t play Daniels. Del Harris told me “we don’t know why this happens, but since you tell me Marquis Daniels is getting creamed, we didn’t play him.”
  • It’s tough to play an entire decade at the same position as Kevin Garnett. Dirk has a ringing in his ears but none on his fingers, and that’s really what’s setting apart two of the more statistically impressive players of the 2000s.
  • One of the reasons the Mavs signed Quinton Ross (according to Mark Cuban): past success against Carmelo Anthony.
  • Kevin McHale was at Mavs’ training camp. No, he’s wasn’t looking to resume his coaching career. And no, he wasn’t looking to resume his playing career, either. He was just doing a solid to ol’ pal Rick Carlisle, dispensing some free knowledge on the elusive championship mentality.
  • Just in case you’re curious, here’s an interview with the writer of the surrealist Dirk writings that may or may not be haunting your dreams.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 29, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • Does anyone else see this picture and think barbershop quartet?
  • Is there a better way to start the new season than to relive petty, forgettable memories from the previous one? Kenyon Martin doesn’t think so.
  • Is Devin Harris really the 24th best player in the league? I mean…really? (Just a few that SLAM chose to rank as inferior to Harris: Vince Carter, Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, Manu Ginobili, Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas, and obviously many, many more.)
  • Tim MacMahon noted a leaner, more refreshed Dirk at Media Day, which is plenty of reason for optimism. Nowitzki has no reputation for reporting out of shape, but to see Dirk return from a restful summer and still slim down will only help his mobility on both ends: “For the first time in a long time, Dirk looks forward to the grind of training camp. That’s partially because he didn’t play for the German international team this summer, a mutual decision he made with Mark Cuban. He didn’t touch a basketball for nine weeks before getting back in the gym with mentor/personal coach Holger Geschwindner. Don’t take that as a sign that Dirk didn’t work hard this summer. He dropped about a dozen pounds, weighing in at 243 pounds, the lightest he’s been since the early years of his NBA career. He slimmed down in anticipation of the Mavs playing at one of the fastest paces among NBA teams. ‘I feel good,’ Dirk said. ‘I think I’m moving pretty well. It should be fun.’”
  • If you chug some cough syrup and watch this video, you’d probably think you’re at Media Day.
  • Dirk’s assessment of the off-season moves, via Marc Stein: “I’m really looking forward to meeting all the new guys because we made some good moves. Obviously I think [Shawn] Marion can help us on both ends of the floor, address some [of Dallas' lack of] athletic ability. I think [Quinton] Ross is going to be able to guard some scoring 2s that have given us trouble. I think [Drew] Gooden is a nice piece. Tim Thomas gives us more shooting, which we need…I’m fired up. I’m ready to get this whole thing started. I’m ready to focus on having a great season.”
  • Mike Fisher from DallasBasketball.com listed a series of “off-beat” items from Media Day. Among them was a nugget that hopefully represents the camraderie that all great teams seem to have: “In a very short time – maybe a week of pickup games – JJ Barea, Kris Humphries and Matt Carroll have become pals. It’s also clear to me that Erick Dampier and Drew Gooden have a buddy-buddy chemistry that belies the competition they are about to engage in. Oh, and every time Dirk and Shawn Marion were in the same vicinity, they were always giggling about something or other. In fact, The Matrix behaves as if all his new teammates are actually old frat brothers, especially when it comes to poking fun at their advanced ages. The topper: When he insists that Erick Dampier has an endorsement deal with Rogaine.”
  • Shawne Williams is apparently not with the team, and the Mavs are looking to trade him.

So an Owner, a GM, and About a Million Stat Geeks Walked Into an Analytics Conference…

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 11, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

I mentioned it the other day in the Grapevine, but this last weekend marked the third annual MIT Sloan Sport Analytics Conference, and I’ve been regretting more and more that I wasn’t able to attend.  Luckily for me, more than a few of my blogleagues were able to make the trek, including some repping from the TrueHoop Network.

Among those that went was Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, who had the following to offer in a post yesterday:

…the day’s highlight was the Basketball Analytics panel moderated by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and made up of a reluctant Morey, Cuban, Hollinger, Dean Oliver of the Denver Nuggets and Mike Zarren of the Boston Celtics. Because the teams who make extensive use of statistical analysis believe it to be a competitive advantage, none of the employees wanted to be especially forthcoming. Morey was particularly circumspect.

Fortunately, Cuban was there to liven things up. While he did not share the specifics of how the Mavericks use numbers, Cuban did offer additional insight into the Jason Kidd/Devin Harris deal in the midst of an impromptu debate on the trade. Cuban was willing to essentially admit that Harris has the brighter future while arguing that Kidd better fit Dallas’ timeline and implying the value of the trade lay in having Kidd for two years and then taking advantage of his expiring contract.

Cuban also sparred with Zarren over which of the teams had the better offer for Kevin Garnett and offered his usual critique of the NBA’s refereeing, arguing that three of the 13 people on the court had 80 percent of the impact. When Cuban, discussing teams’ reluctance to share any of their analytical work with competitors, said he definitely doesn’t give anything to his division rivals in Houston, Morey shot back, “Except referee ratings.”