[Ed. note: All statistics in this post do not reflect Thursday night's game against the Thunder — which will be accounted for in next week's column.]
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Here’s a picture representing the Mavs’ performance this week.
Here’s another one.
Ok, last one.
Just kidding, one more.
The Mavs had a truly awful week — perhaps their worst in years. They went 0-3, had an average point differential of -21 (which easily could have been worse), and weren’t remotely competitive in two of their three outings.
On the other hand, the schedule was incredibly tough, and it’s not as though one bad week means it’s time to disband the team and ship off all non-essential personnel to Siberia. See, that’s called silver lining. And you’re about to see even more of it as I attempt to somehow glean three hot performances from this week.
Week 9 (Heat, @Grizzlies, @Spurs)
1) Dirk’s Recovery
Horrifying as it was, the Mavs’ 2.5-hour beatdown at the hands of the Spurs wasn’t a wholly awful experience. A bit before the game in San Antonio, the Mavs revealed that Dirk Nowitzki would be making a surprise return from knee surgery. Dirk’s return wasn’t enough to prevent the Mavs from being run out of the Spurs’
glorified metal barn gym, but it was still a welcome sight. And Dirk actually performed fairly well in limited minutes off the bench: 8 points on 3-of-4 (75%) shooting and 6 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. As Dirk gets back into game shape, the Mavs will start looking like a much different team than they have for the past two months. Maybe it will be enough to make a late playoff push, maybe it won’t. Either way, the big German is back. Praise deity.
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No team with Dirk Nowitzki at its core will ever be wholly conventional, but the Dallas teams of the last half-decade have become strategically tamer than some of the outlandish groups pieced together under Don Nelson’s tenure. The Mavericks iterations of the last few seasons have all had their quirks, but Rick Carlisle has largely remained true to positional orthodoxy in his lineup machinations. Carlisle demonstrates a clear willingness to push buttons (as evidenced by masterful lineup control in last year’s playoffs), but the cogs in his machine were largely in line with positional expectation.
All of that is about to change, as the Mavs have revamped their roster by adding a ridiculous amount of versatility. Tyson Chandler is long gone, and while his departure may leave Dallas with few precious traditional centers, the Mavs have other, more ambitious plans in mind.
“We still have the prototypical starting center in Brendan [Haywood] that’s still the quote-unquote ‘aircraft carrier,’” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “But now we’ve got the flexibility to slide Dirk [Nowitzki] a little bit over there, slide Lamar [Odom] over there a little bit, which gives us a whole different wrinkle. These guys are three-point threats. It’s kind of a different way to attack a same problem.”
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- Chris Tomasson, NBA FanHouse: “Once again, Nowitzki has a picture of the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his locker to serve as his motivation. ‘That’s been there for a while,’ said Nowitzki, who signed a four-year contract last summer after becoming a free agent. ‘It’s going to basically stay there hopefully for the next four years. Hopefully, I’ll get one before then, and I’ll take it down. Or I’ll leave it up until I get a second one. That’s really what it’s all about now. I don’t think I personally have to prove or achieve anything (other than) just winning the ring. So that’s what I’m working on.’”
- Tom Haberstroh broke down the league’s 10 most untradeable contracts (Insider), and our very own Shawn Marion (four years, $32.2 million remaining on his deal) made the list at no. 10: “Already 32 years old, the veteran small forward will almost undoubtedly enact his $9 million player option in 2013-14, when he’ll be 36. Mavs owner Mark Cuban can probably stomach the $32.2 million outstanding on his deal, but that doesn’t mean it was a wise contract in the first place.” DeSagana Diop (three years, $20.8 million remaining) also made the list at no. 7.
- The Mavs will play an outdoor preseason game against the Suns on Saturday night, but Dirk Nowitzki won’t.
- Dee Brown won’t make the Mavs’ regular season roster, but he feels like he’s getting better year by year.
- They’re a few days old by this point, but there was plenty of Dallas love in the annual NBA GM survey. Among the most significant: 11.5% of GMs (tied for 3rd) think Dwane Casey is the league’s top assistant coach, 28.6% (T-1st) think Dirk is the best at his position (which marks the first year of Dirk’s career that Tim Duncan wasn’t the leading vote-getter), and 21.4% (1st) think that Rodrigue Beaubois is the international player most likely to have a breakout season.
- Mark Cuban doesn’t hate Don Nelson…anymore.
- John Stockton is the prototype for aging NBA players hoping to remain productive, and Jason Kidd hopes to follow in his footsteps as he continues to play on the brink of 40. Brendan Haywood chimes in: “He takes good care of his body and he’s a consummate professional. He can play forever.”
- Michael Lee of the Washington Post, on Josh Howard’s recovery from a left knee injury: “His improvement has been such a revelation that the Wizards may soon see him on the floor in the next few weeks. ‘If you watch him on the floor doing skeleton runs, you’d think that he could play that night. He’s pretty advanced. A lot more advanced than what we thought, but we’re going to take our time,’ Coach Flip Saunders said. ‘I would anticipate that he’ll probably facilitate things in the next two or three weeks. We’ll kind of take our time and see where we are at. We’re not going to push him back, but we’re not going to push him to get there. We’re going to make sure he’s back close to 100 percent.’”
Whether wide-eyed, confident, or completely brash, all rookies share in their need to learn. Each first-year player earns a ticket into the big leagues by way of their physical skills, but from there, no rook is excused from the pursuit of basketball betterment. Needless to say, it’s a gradual process of refinement, familiarity, and growth, and each player moves at their own pace.
That said, don’t mistake player development for a solo endeavor. Even though nothing (and no one) can force a given player to put in quality time on the practice court or in the film room, professional athletes are blessed with coaches, trainers, and the most sacred of all, mentors.
The relationship between mentor and protégé is often assumed. Because Jason Kidd is experienced, Rodrigue Beaubois is not, and the two happen to play similar positions, Kidd must be his mentor. Kidd must take him aside to teach him the tricks of the trade, to coach him up on reads, to impart invaluable wisdom on how to succeed as a creator in the NBA. That could very well be the case, but the fact that we assume it to be is a bit problematic. Additionally, the fact that we treat these mentor-protégé relationships with any congruency whatsoever is pretty ridiculous. Just as each player has his own path, he too has his own choice in mentor.
It has nothing to do with position. As Kevin Martin mentioned in an interview with Kevin Arnovitz last week for TrueHoop, Brad Miller, a completely dissimilar player in nearly every regard, had a notable impact on the young Martin:
“With Brad and me, it was always on the court. And I also got a chance to watch him and Peja [Stojakovic] play a lot my first year because I didn’t really play too much. He and Peja had a great connection. I knew I was a lot quicker and had a lot more agility than Peja. So at the beginning, I would always do everything so fast. I’d be too fast before the cut, during the cut, after the cut. Brad would say, “Slow down! You’re faster than everybody out here, but you have to read it!” He showed me the ins and outs of making those cuts and reads — when to come around. Like when a guy plays under you, come around and take the jumper. And when a guy is playing you tight, you just go back door. Brad taught me how to play.”
Jump to San Antonio, where George Hill credits Spurs’ assistant Chad Forcier for his development, even with an All-Star point guard in his midst. Ask Kevin Garnett who helped to shape him as a player and person, and he’ll answer with Sam Mitchell, Terry Porter, and Malik Sealy. Turn to Dirk Nowitzki’s career, and the clearest formative influences are Holger Geschwindner, Don Nelson, and Steve Nash. The relationship needs a unique fit to function properly, and though a positional senior might have a lot to offer from a technical standpoint, that doesn’t always make it a natural pairing.
But sometimes it all works out. Sometimes a grouping is just too obvious to not work, and Mavs fans should hope that to be the case with Jason Terry and Dominique Jones.
Jones is putting in some pre-camp work with Terry and Rick Carlisle, with a specific emphasis on getting into game shape and refining Jones’ shot. Carlisle and his staff have the development of players like Jones in their collective job description, but for JET to work with Dominique is a little something extra. It’s a neat match. Terry and Jones may approach the game in completely different ways, but that’s part of what makes JET an excellent mentor candidate. Terry can help to work on Jones’ weaknesses as a player. He can teach Jones how to create space for himself against taller opponents. He can teach Jones the value of jumper repetition. He can teach Jones how to navigate the rough waters that all “combo guards” are forced to sail.
Maybe nothing ever comes out of this, and Jones’ current work is classified as a nice, one-time clinic with a Mavs vet. Still, these workouts have the potential to create a fairly interesting relationship between a rookie with a lot to learn and a successful player with plenty to teach.
Maverick fans have endured plenty over the last ten years. They witnessed the rise of a Western power only to see it pale to the empires in San Antonio and Los Angeles. They grew to love and adore Steve Nash and Michael Finley, only to see both walk out the door. They’ve seen the Mavs go deep into the playoffs only to come up short. The last decade of Maverick basketball was graced with incredible successes but also unforgettable heartbreak.
The greatest shame isn’t that those heartbreaks occurred — though each instance tragic in its own way — but that too often we allow them to overshadow the greatest era in franchise history. Your Dallas Mavericks have won 50 games in 10 straight seasons, and though that may not compare to the singular joy of winning an NBA title, it speaks to the brilliance, commitment, and savvy that has marked the last decade in Dallas.
Only three teams in the history of the NBA — the classic Celtics, the Showtime Lakers, and the Mavs’ eternal foils in San Antonio — can claim such an honor, and that means plenty. Professional sports teams of any kind rarely experience this kind of prolonged success, as it takes an all-too-rare combination of terrific talent, smart management, and the right circumstances. The former two are what have allowed the Mavs to be so good for so long, but let’s not forget the important of the latter, especially since the importance of chance seems to be today’s theme. Dirk Nowitzki is no doubt the figure most central to the Mavs’ success over the last ten years, and during that period he has never played fewer than 76 games. That’s a testament to Nowitzki always keeping himself in incredible shape, but also to a phenomenal string of good fortune. He’s had no freak injuries, no lingering problems, no significant surgeries. We’re not celebrating the Mavs’ incredible accomplishment without Dirk as a nightly fixture, and thanks to his record of pristine health.
As I mentioned, though, this is a situation where the overwhelmingly influential factor is performance. Performance over a sample size so large that luck is rendered irrelevant. Nowitzki has been surreal over these last ten years, and the way he’s championed the Mavs year after year is nothing short of remarkable. This is truly an all-time great that we have the privilege of watching night after night, and watching him go to work at the elbow or in the low post should be nothing short of breathtaking. If nothing else, understand this: there’s never been anyone like Nowitzki and I’m not sure there ever will be. You’d think that if the NBA were to extend until the end of time, eventually we’d see a player in the Dirk mold, and from a strictly mathematical standpoint I can’t disagree. But the unique combination of everything that makes Dirk Dirk is so odd that I can’t imagine ever seeing it again in my lifetime. There may be a seven-footer that shoots like Dirk. There may be a seven-footer that can score like Dirk. There will not be a player who can do what Dirk does with his size, with his gifts, with his fundamental understanding of the game.
Of course it’s not just that Nowitzki has been unique, but that he’s been spectacular. Only players of certain skill sets and ability can survive as the focal point of an offense without having their game “solved,” but Dirk is one of those players. He’s never had to do it all on his own, but the Mavs have operated through Nowitzki over the last ten years, and he, and the Mavs, have performed brilliantly.
That last sentence is incredibly important, though. Dallas has experienced quite a bit of turnover since 2000, just like any other team, but Dirk was never on his own. The difference is that the Mavs are blessed with the greatest owner in sports. Mark Cuban not only is willing to invest heavily in the team, but also in finding and maintaining good coaches and good managers. Even the worst Mavs coach over the last decade — take your pick between Don Nelson, Avery Johnson, and Rick Carlisle — was excellent, and though the tenures of both Don and Donnie Nelson as managers of the Mavs were hardly unblemished, they both managed to build a contending roster year after year. Sometimes that roster included Antoine Walker or Evan Eschmeyer. Happens even to the best of ‘em. The important thing is that mistakes were always identified and rectified, as Walker was flipped for Jason Terry and Eschmeyer included in a swap for Antawn Jamison. The Mavs’ managers have always made calculated risks, and more often than not they paid off. The results kinda speak for themselves.
The last ten years have been an incredible ride. I know today is the perfect day for a trip down memory lane, and I’ll be diving pretty heavily into the nostalgia myself. The situation definitely calls for it. Keep in mind, though, today, tomorrow, and every day until the end of the Nowitzki/Cuban era in Dallas: this, what we have right now, is very rare. Cherish it. Appreciate the fact that Mavs fans have never in the last 10 years been biding their time in April waiting for the draft lottery. Appreciate that even the most dismal of the last 10 seasons have begun with plenty of hope. Appreciate that for all the times the Mavs have revamped and retooled, they haven’t missed the playoffs and they haven’t missed that 50-win mark.
In the grand scheme of things, 50 is just a number. That it may be, but 50 is also a prompt; it may not mean much on its own, but as a reminder deeply embedded in context, it means everything. It means that even without the championship, the Mavericks have been one of the most successful franchises in the NBA over the last ten years. That golden validation would have brought something special to an era of Maverick basketball that rightfully deserves it, but even with an empty spot on the shelf where the Larry O’Brien should have been, 50 wins reminds us of the heart, the hard work, and the triumphs that have made the last decade so worthwhile.
- It’s no secret that J.J. Barea struggles on defense, but I’m shocked by his honesty when asked about the most difficult part of being an undersized defender (via Eddie Sefko): “Everything…They always try to post me up. And a couple times, on pick-and-rolls, I was late switching, so I was holding, trying to do anything, and they got me a couple times for fouls…It’s a workout for me. But I’m going to keep doing it. They give you six fouls, so you might as well use them.”
- Don Nelson finally got his big payday: $7 million right out of Mark Cuban’s wallet. Now all that’s between Cuban and Nelson is bad blood.
- This year’s team has a different relationship (in terms of on-court need) with Josh Howard than before. Bethlehem Shoals nails it: “I’ve been among the many, possibly misguided, folks who have long felt the Mavs’ successs depended heavily on Howard. That’s despite thinking that Dirk is a very strong candidate for MVP so far. This season, it might not be about getting Howard’s head on straight, or figuring out his role on the team, but about he and Carlisle managing his PT so it benefits all parties involved. That’s the kind of challenge that can really bring out the best in a coach and player—or prove to be a huge distraction that blows up in the team’s face.”
- According to the infamous Tim Donaghy, Mark Cuban may have been a referee target (via Tim MacMahon): “Obviously Mark was very outspoken in regard to the referees. Referees have personal vendettas that they take out on certain players, coaches and owners. Mark was certainly one of those people.” Corruption! Scandal! The 2006 Finals! So many exclamation points, and for me, just one question: why are we still listening to this guy?
- Fish looks back at the Mavs’ off-season moves with a quarter season in the books. From where we sit now, it’s hard to poke holes in Donnie Nelson’s summer strategies.
The Mark Cuban-Don Nelson Chronicles are water under the bridge. Though that water may never flood, it looks like raw sewage and smells like something that’s passed through the system of a sick old woman. No matter how much we try to ignore those past events and continue on our way, the stench that lingers around the franchise is undeniable.
After all, the rift between Nelson and Cuban influenced more than a few personnel decisions, the direction of the franchise, and a certain 2007 first round playoff exit by our fair Mavs. Gulp.
There’s no real point in boiling things down to a personal level; this is more a disagreement between two gents than it is a true basketball headline. But deep within the court transcripts are testimonies of events from both perspectives. It’s a glimpse into the machinery that once powered the Dallas Mavs, and though it’s undoubtedly skewed by the parties involved, at the very we flesh out some of the details.
You can view the entire transcript here thanks to the Dallas Morning News, and they’ve chopped down two sections of interest (the story behind Steve Nash’s departure and Don Nelson’s exile) for your reading pleasure. If you take the time to read the entire thing, some sections certainly come off as petty. There will be more than a few arched eyebrows. But when you’ve got a personal, working relationship between two guys that has been utterly destroyed by millions in “blood money” owed, harsh words on both sides, and possibly some hexes, curses, or voodoo dolls involved, things are going to get a little emotional. Things get to be a little…much. (Hat tip on the DMN link to Tom Ziller at FanHouse.)
But for those of you that don’t enjoy cramming in 800 pages of legal testimony over your weekend, I’ve pulled a few things that I found interesting:
Nellie expounds on the beginning of the end of his relationship with Mark Cuban (p 131-134):
Nelson: …I think it was in game three in the playoff series, we are in the finals for the West. We had our best team, and I had a really legitimate chance to beat them. And it was game three, I believe, and it was in our place. And Nowitzki dislocated his kneecap in a very dangerous injury…you dislocate your kneecap, it’s a very difficult injury…I had that particular injury, Elgin Baylor had it when I played with the Lakers the year that I was there, and so I am familiar with the injury. And so had a practice day, he couldn’t practice, he had some swelling. And we played the next day, and there was no way that I could see him playing in that next game. And he wanted to play, and he was out shooting on the court. He could stand there and shoot, you know, shots; but if you asked him, which I did, I went down to the court and asked him to run and move, he couldn’t do it. Well, basketball is a pretty fast game…Mark came into the – into my office and wanted him to play. And I said, I just couldn’t play him. There is just no way he could play in a playoff game or an NBA game. And he argued his point and sent the doctor in.
The doctor said it would be okay to play him. He couldn’t hurt it any more, and it would be okay to try him in the game. And I told the doc that I couldn’t play him. You know, I was here to look after Nowitzki. His dad when we signed him as a rookie told me that I was his American father and to look after him. And so I didn’t want to jeopardize this great young player’s career for a basketball game, no matter how important it seemed at the time…I never thought [our relationship] was the same after that.
Nellie was apparently miserable his last year in Dallas. According to Nelson, he had no say in the signing of free agent center Erick Dampier (though that’s the kind of signing anyone would try to wipe their hands clean of) and wasn’t the biggest fan of Damp as a player (p 144):
Nelson: I let [Avery Johnson] coach a few games while I sat next to him and helped, and then he took over for me when I missed some games because of surgeries. And that was the enjoyable part of the season. Nothing else was enjoyable. We – we didn’t have Nash. We had kind of a new team. We had players that I didn’t really identify very well with, Eric Dampier, for example, the money that – even more money than they were going to pay Nash, I think Dampier signed for more than we were even talking about Steve Nash. And I considered him to be a very doggy player that they totally overpaid.
Perhaps the most alarming testimony to fans of the franchise is the indication that Donnie Nelson intended to take Pavel Podkolzin, everyone’s favorite oversized Russian and NBA irrelevant, with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft. Nelson (the elder) claims that he personally talked Donnie out of picking Pavel at 5, even after being wronged by Mark Cuban and the franchise as a whole (147-148):
Nelson: …And the following year, I assumed I was in charge of the draft. Little did I know, no one told me that changes had been made, and I went into the draft and my son was in charge, and I didn’t know that.
So I was conducting my normal business, talking to my scouts, and Donnie was there. And Donnie wanted to draft this big Russian, I forgot his name. He’s a seven six guy from Russia. We had the fifth pick, and Donnie wanted to take him number 5. And I watched a lot of film of this kid, and [blacked out].
Donnie wanted to draft this guy number five. And we had just lost Steve Nash. We needed a point guard. We had Jason Terry, but – coming in, I think, but he wasn’t a point guard. So it was clear. There were three good point guards in the draft.
And I said, Donnie, I cannot take that Russian five. And he asked me if I would go in the men’s room. I went in the men’s room with him and he informed me that I wasn’t in charge of the draft. And I said, oh, really? Well, who is? He said, I am. And I said, well, it’s nice of somebody to tell me.
And I said, well, if that’s the case, then as your father I’m asking you don’t draft [blacked out] and Donnie didn’t. He took Devin Harris, and then he got another pick and took this big Russian.
The very idea that the man currently at the Maverick helm once dreamed of squandering the return value of the Antawn Jamison trade (much less the potential drafting of Devin Harris) on Pavel Podkolzin is equally shocking and distressing. Saying that Pavel was a non-factor is putting it nicely. Not. Good.
And finally, one completely out of left field: Golden State Warrior Kelenna Azubuike was apparently on the track to becoming a Mav, until some shady dealings described by Mark Cuban pushed him the Warriors’ way. I’m not sure if these dealings are actually dealings or if they’re even shady to begin with, but the picture is definitely painted in a way that would implicate Don Nelson as some sort of prospect thief (p 179):
Cuban: During that season Donnie had helped, and I think Nellie may have participated as well, Sydney Moncrief get a job as the D-league coach for our D-league affiliate. And Donnie had come to me and said, look, there’s kid that we’re going to put in the D-league to help get some experience named Kelenna Azubuke, and we really like this kid. You know, we think he can contributed, maybe not be a starter, but be a second team player, second unit player, and – at the minimum, but let’s see how he plays in Fort Worth. And we did that. And Nellie had a better relationship than we did with Mr. Moncrief, I guess, and Mr. Azubuke went to play for the Warriors.
- What a difference a defense makes. Well, and a lackthereof for Golden State. But should you be at all surprised that Don Nelson, in a showing of accountability and egotism, made it all about the Warriors? From Tim MacMahon of The Dallas Morning News Blog: ” “You can credit their defense if you want,” Nellie said, “but I would think it’s our lack of movement and execution and a whole bunch of other things.” “
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie seems to agree: “Kudos to the Mavs for putting up 117 points in their first game after a tough road trip, but that was a freakin’ lay-up line.”
- If you merely say that the Mavs are inconsistent on defense, you probably aren’t doing them justice. Their defensive efficiency over the course of the season reads like a seismograph. But Jeff Caplan of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram chimes in with a bewildering stat: “Mavs coach Rick Carlisle consistently emphasizes the most glaring statistic of the season to underscore his team’s defensive inconsistency. No team in the league owns a greater disparity in the points it allows in wins vs. losses. When the Mavericks are victorious, they give up, on average, fewer than 92 points. When they lose, it balloons to nearly 110.”
- One of the things I love about Rick Carlisle’s system as opposed to Avery’s is that it’s more of a meritocracy. Dirk, JET, and Kidd are largely going to get their minutes. But otherwise, if you’re working hard, in a rhythm, and playing smart (in practice and in games), you’re going to get some burn. But if you’re turning the ball over, not playing defense, and making mental mistakes, you’ll get a comfy seat on the bench. What did this mean for last night’s game? It means Carlisle gives Dampier a chance to play his game against teams going small. Sometimes it works (Warriors), and sometimes it doesn’t (Knicks). But the important thing is that he’s getting that chance, and based on Damp’s performance last night, it can make quite a difference. From Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: ” “When they go little, make them play on the inside and see what happens,” said Dampier, explaining that it’s just as important to make a small-ball opponent match up with you, rather than vice-versa. “One of their little guys is going to have to guard me. I just tried to be a presence with rebounding and defense.” ”
- The Mark Cuban-Don Nelson court proceedings are still drawing headlines. Yuck.
- Would you believe me if I said the Mavs have won four of their last six games?
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News talks about re-signing Kidd in a Q&A: “I’d say there’s a decent chance that Kidd signs a one-year deal with the Mavericks for $10 million or $12 million. That leaves the 2010 cap space unchanged and gives the Mavericks a point guard to hold the fort until Dwyane Wade gets here. Oops, I’m sorry. Did I write that out loud?”I’ve been wondering about Wade myself. He’s a phenomenal talent, one of the best players in the league in fact, but assuming that losing a Finals series is a sore wound that never really goes away, how does everyone feel about the idea of going after Wade? Are the Mavericks in enough of a hole that any great player will do? Or are there still those among us willing to “stick to their principles” and stick their noses up at the concept of attaining that “flopper?” Personally, I think anyone would be crazy to turn down a player of Wade’s caliber, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a Mavs fan with a long memory disagree.
- The Mavs are a good team. That’s where you have to draw the line, though. So when the Mavs’ front office refuses to throw in the hat and blow up the team on a gut response to a big loss, they’re probably in the right. Stepping away from the message board fodder, Nelson and Cuban have made us all aware that they don’t intend to rebuild, don’t intend to cash in on Dirk, and don’t intend to ship out Josh. The Mavs are among the eyes looking towards 2010, and until then it’s more about adding small pieces than making a big splash. From Jim Reeves of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram: ” “I don’t want to take that card away from Mark in 2010, because he’s shown he’s capable of pulling a rabbit out of his hat.” That’s why the Mavs will approach deals with caution this season, especially when it comes to adding big-money contracts. It’s why they’ll just as carefully think long and hard about whether to re-sign Jason Kidd when his contract expires, or exercise their 2010-11 option on Josh Howard’s contract. What the Mavs won’t do — not while the Dirk Window is still open — is step back into a rebuilding phase.”
- Jeff Caplan of The Forth Worth Star-Telegram, from Assistant Coach Armstrong: ” “I thought it would be a great opportunity for not only myself, but for guys that I played with [for me] to come up here and hopefully motivate them and push them to another level,” Armstrong said. “One thing about it, I was a leader on the floor when I played. I was a leader in the locker room and a leader on the bench. Avery [Johnson] gave me a lot of leeway to say things and the guys always responded…That was a good sign, not only for me, but for our team and for our players. That’s why I decided to come back and take on this opportunity and this challenge.” “
- EDIT: Forgot one. Austin Burton of Dime Magazine declares the Mavs one of five “Fake Contenders.” I don’t know who he’s been talking to, but I haven’t heard the words “contender” and “Mavs” in the same sentence (barring negatives and/or expletives) in what seems like a long time. From Dime: “Kidd can’t guard Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy (when Portland goes big) or any other fast point guard in the West. Howard isn’t as good as he was even two years ago. Dirk has his postseason demons. They don’t even use Jerry Stackhouse anymore, one of their better clutch scorers. Since winning Game Two of the ‘06 Finals, the Mavs have gone 3-12 in the postseason.”
I refuse to respond to the Stack comment, but I do have one question: if the Mavs are a “Fake Contender,” how is Portland not included? Their defense is pretty porous as well, and though Kidd can’t guard Chris Paul, neither can Steve Blake. Their power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, has a tendency to linger just out of the paint, nailing it from midrange. Joel Przybilla is good for interior D, and Oden is going through the ups and downs of a rookie year. I dare not poke Brandon Roy with a stick, because I think he’s great, but what makes Portland so much more legit than Dallas?