Asset Management

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on February 14, 2013 under Commentary | 5 Comments to Read

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The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.

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Once More, With Feeling: The Four Factors

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 26, 2010 under Previews | 8 Comments to Read

Dean Oliver, in his book Basketball on Paper, isolated four factors (by dissecting offensive and defensive rating) that determine success in the NBA:

  • Shooting
  • Rebounding
  • Turnovers
  • Free throws

That’s it. An entire game of nuance and complexities boiled down to four bullet points.

Of course it’s never quite that simple, as Oliver readily admits. Still, behind these four headings lies each team’s central offensive and defensive successes and failures. The four factors are a step beyond your run-of-the-mill counting statistics, but still a bit of a reach from your more advanced metric. These measures give tremendous insight into a squad’s particulars, and in my estimation, they’re essential to evaluating the performance of any team.

slingshot

Shooting

As measured by effective field goal percentage. Mavs’ 2009-2010 eFG%: .506 (13th in the league); ’09-’10 eFG% allowed: .495 (15th)

We think of the Mavericks as a team of shooters, mostly due to the sheer number of mid-range jumpers that the Mavs take and make. Dallas shot a better percentage from 16-23 feet than any team in the NBA last year, and hit at nearly two full percentage points better than the second ranked Raptors. Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler, and Jason Terry are mostly to both blame and praise for that success. The Mavericks are thus great at hitting the most inefficient shot in basketball, and considerably less effective (relative to their competition) as the shots get more and more efficient. Dallas just doesn’t have a lot of scorers tasked with taking efficient shots, and the result, while propped up as a Mavericks strength, makes for some inefficient shooting overall.

Dallas may shoot 43.2% on long two-pointers, but the Lakers made 44.0% of their shots in the 10-15 foot range, the Raptors shot 50.9% within 10 feet, and the Cavs converted 66.2% of their looks at the rim. It’s impressive that the Mavs shoot as well as they do on long twos, but shot selection continues to plague the Mavs’ overall offensive efficiency. Backing those same attempts to the three-point line or moving them in closer to the basket would drastically improve the Mavs’ overall shooting numbers, but alas, doing so would either require a significantly restructured offense or a pretty drastic change in personnel.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with Nowitzki, and both Butler and Terry are capable offensive sidekicks. The problem is that when all three are operating for the same team in the same space, the damage to the offense goes further than it would in similarly limited offenses. Put all of a team’s primary scorers in one range, and the team’s offense will struggle. Put all of those scorers in one range as far away from the basket as possible without giving them the added benefit of a three-point attempt, and it’s a testament to Nowitzki, Butler, and Terry that the Mavs aren’t even worse offensively.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem very likely to change. Those three players are still central to the Mavs’ offense, and even if Rodrigue Beaubois’ scoring talents become featured as anticipated, he isn’t reshaping the entire plan of attack on his own. He’ll help to boost the Mavs’ eFG% with drives to the rim and solid three-point shooting, but this is one area in which a healthy dose of Beaubois will only result in modest benefit.

The Mavs were equally unimpressive in their ability to contest high-percentage shots. It’s not that the Dallas defense was woeful in that regard — you’ll find that the Mavs a solid team across the board in many of these measures, but perhaps plagued by the fact that they’re merely solid — they just weren’t up to the elite caliber that those within the organization have targeted as a goal.

The Mavs ranked 13th in the league last season in FG% allowed at the rim, and 15th in FG% allowed within 10 feet. Both fine marks, really. Just not acceptable for a team that needs to be aiming a bit higher. Taking away as many high-percentage shots as possible is key for Dallas, particularly because their own offensive attack is lacking in those same attempts. They need to limit that discrepancy as much as possible, and to this point, they haven’t been able to do so to the degree necessary for extended  defensive success.

Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler are both essential if the Mavs plan to improve their effective field goal percentage defense, but it’s also vital that Dallas’ perimeter defenders continue to play tight on opponents’ three-point shooters. The Mavs ranked 10th in the league last season in their opponents’ eFG% off of threes, and that kind of effort will again be necessary for Dallas to improve their overall shot defense. If Haywood and Chandler can perform better as a tandem than the combination of Dampier, Gooden, and Haywood did last season, Dallas’ opponents will not only have more of their quality attempts contested by the Mavs’ center duo, but will also be deterred from seeking out such shots in the first place. The Mavs need to keep their opponents’ out of the paint as much as possible, and the arrival of Chandler — a quality post defender and excellent defender of the pick-and-roll — to complement Haywood could provide Dallas with just the defensive boost they need.

The foundation is there for defensive improvement, but its up to Haywood, Chandler, and co. to build on it.

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Rebounding

As measured by offensive rebounding rate (ORB%). Mavs’ 2009-2010 ORB%: .243 (26th); ’09-’10 ORB% allowed (roughly equivalent to DRB%): .263 (15)

The easiest way to diagnose the Mavs’ offensive rebounding troubles is to trace the line from system to production. The Dallas offense often pulls its second big (Nowitzki, Marion, Cardinal) far from the rim, forcing the rest of the lineup to either hit the offensive glass or retreat to defend a potential break. Having Jason Kidd helps out here, but the rest of the bunch? Jason Terry? Caron Butler? A post-Phoenix Shawn Marion? They’re not the proper group to make up for the deficit on the offensive glass.

Defensively, Dallas has a collection of solid rebounders but few impressive ones. Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler are both quality board men, but neither is a standout in that regard. Nowitzki collects his fair share of boards, but his rebounding rate has dropped bit by bit over the last few seasons. Marion has regressed into a nice rebounder rather than an elite one, and the Mavs’ tendency to play smaller lineups undoubtedly hurts their efforts on the glass. Putting good rebounders at every position has helped the Mavs get this far, but without a single proven rebounding machine on the roster, I’m not sure they’ll be able to climb much higher.

Tyson Chandler may provide an improvement on the offensive boards over Erick Dampier, but overall, Dallas is the same collection of effective but unspectacular rebounders they were a year ago. Plus, some of the best rebounders of last year’s bunch — Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries — have been shipped out in the last year, meaning the addition of Chandler and a year’s worth of Brendan Haywood will have to first off-set those losses in order to bring an improved regular season mark.

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Turnovers

As measured by turnover rate (TOV%). Mavs’ 2009-2010 TOV%: .122 (3rd); ’09-’10 opponents’ TOV%: .138 (11th)

Here’s the thing: Jason Kidd turns the ball over as often as he ever has. 21.4% of his possessions end in a turnover. Yet Dallas still turned the ball over less often than all but two teams in the league. Kidd aside, the Mavs are unfathomably careful in their offense.

That starts with Nowitzki. His combination of high usage rate (28.8%) and low turnover rate (7.8%) are startling, even when cast against the league’s other elite players. Comb through the history books, and in only eight instances has a player (with an 800-minutes played prerequisite) posted a turnover rate lower than 8% and a usage rate higher than 28% over the course of a season. Three of those instances belong to Dirk. Two of them belong to Michael Jordan. This is a special, special place in the league pantheon that Nowitzki inhabits.

The Mavs’ correspondingly low turnover rate has a lot to do with Dirk having the ball in his hands more than any other player on the roster, but most of his higher-usage teammates are also impressively protective. Jason Terry, for example, had the seventh lowest turnover rate of all players who used more than 22% of their team’s possessions while on the floor last season. Caron Butler was also notable for his lack of turnovers, even if some of Butler’s other decisions with the ball are a bit confounding. Dallas puts the ball in the hands of players like Nowitzki, Butler, and Terry, while limiting the touches of turnover-prone bigs like Brendan Haywood, Erick Dampier, and this season, Tyson Chandler. The shots may not always be distributed in the most efficient manner possible, but the possessions are typically used by those least likely to senselessly give up the rock. The Mavs, as a result, are able to hedge some of their other offensive limitations by their quantity of attempts.

Considering that Dallas’ biggest offensive contributors will remain mostly the same (with the exception of the slightly turnover-happy Beaubois moving up in rank) from last year to this one, the Mavs should be pegged for a similar lack of turnovers in the coming season.

On D, the Mavs actually force quite a few turnovers considering how little they foul. Dallas ranked seventh in the league last season in defensive play rate (a per-possession measure of of steals, blocks, and drawn charges), and between Caron Butler, Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Jason Terry, they have a number of perimeter players eager to jump passing lanes and strip driving players from behind. It’s not a full-on pressure defensive scheme, but the Mavericks do force their opponents to cough up the ball a fair bit. Not enough to make them an elite defensive outfit mind you, but enough to keep them afloat on their way to another successful season.

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Free throws

As measured by FTM/FGA. Mavs’ 2009-2010 FT/FGA: .226 (15th); opponents’ FTM/FGA: .206 (6th)

Two Mavericks posted excellent free throw rates last season: Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler. Naturally, those two Mavs have some of the lowest per-minute field goal attempt averages on the team, so their high free throw rates are rendered nearly irrelevant.

Luckily, Dirk Nowitzki isn’t too far behind, rate-wise, as he remains the Mavs’ primary source of free throw attempts. Take out Nowitzki, and Dallas has some serious problems getting to the line. Even Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas’ great hope, has trouble getting to the line with regularity. Maybe that was a case of an unknown rookie guard getting calls relative to his reputation, but Beaubois nonetheless failed to match his otherwise impressive scoring style with a high frequency of free throw attempts.

Beaubois would need to make a concerted effort to drive more than ever if he were to boost the Mavs’ free throw rate single-handedly, though a shift in Caron Butler’s shot selection could also help the Mavs in this regard. I wouldn’t wait on Caron to give up his jab step-jab-step-pump-fake-pull-up-18-footer routine any time soon, though. Dominique Jones won’t be impacting the Mavs’ free throw rate much in his rookie year (how could any player do so with the limited playing time projected for Jones?) but he’s worth keeping an eye on. Jones’ ability to get to the line paid huge dividends for him in college, and if ever given consistent minutes, it seems likely that he could replicate that same free throw shooting regularity.

The Mavs don’t foul much. They pick their spots to apply defensive pressure, and they don’t send opponents to the line all that often. It’s obviously both a blessing and a curse, as the Mavs’ lack of aggressive defensive plays could be one of the reasons why they’re a middling defensive team, even if it prevents their opponents from taking freebies from the stripe. With that in mind, this is a defensive ranking that I’m sure Rick Carlisle and his staff wouldn’t mind seeing take a little dip. If the Mavs are fouling more often, it could be indicative of  more effective defense overall. Then again, it could just mean that Dallas is handing out points to their opponents, putting them back at square one after trying to treat a symptom as a disease.

All in all, it’s probably not worth worrying too much about how often the Mavericks foul, so long as the rest of their defense holds course. It’s nice to have opponents shoot free throws infrequently, but it’s nicer to have a more oppressive defense that limits opponents’ shooting effectiveness and forces even more turnovers than the Mavs currently do.

Many thanks to Basketball-Reference and HoopData, both completely indispensable in the making of this post and in life as a follower of the NBA in any capacity.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 8, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Mark Cuban explains why he thinks LeBron James will stay in Cleveland. His thesis: “When in doubt, go for the love.”
  • Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas: “Asked his goals for the coming season, Haywood laid it out there: 12-10-2 — as in 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots a game (and he added that he’d like to get closer to 2.7 or 3.0 blocks a game). Haywood has averaged at least 2.0 blocks only in the past two seasons. So, all of his stated numbers, if reached, would be career numbers and the Mavs would be thrilled.”
  • Count Rick Carlisle among those happy to have Haywood back.
  • Eric Freeman of The Baseline thinks that the Mavs overpaid for Brendan Haywood, but with Mark Cuban cutting the checks, it hardly matters. I’d definitely agree than having Cuban as the owner gives the Mavs a hell of a fall-back plan. They’re always able to survive a bad contract or two by flat-out eating it, and that’s a luxury that only a few NBA teams can afford to do regularly.
  • Drew Gooden will wear #0 for the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, the Wizards, Nets, Heat, Knicks, Kings, and Clippers are all interested in signing Josh Howard. New Jersey, with Avery in the saddle…seriously?

For a Limited Time Only: A (Kind of) Signed Playoff Portrait of People and Creatures Tangentially Related to the Dallas Mavericks

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 27, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

For a Limited Time Only will periodically feature ridiculous Mavericks merchandise, but is mostly just a rip-off of The Sporting News’ First Cuts blog and ‘Phenomenal Swag’ as popularized by Ball Don’t Lie. Cheers, inspirational blog bros.

The Mavs sent out the following email, with an exclusive offer for the beautifully confusing artwork pictured above:

As a valued Dallas Mavericks customer, you have the first opportunity to purchase a giclee replication of this one-of-a-kind, pencil-drawn piece by sports artist Pat Payton.

 The artwork, which commemorates the Mavericks’ run during the 2010 NBA Playoffs, comes in two different sizes – 24×36, priced at $495 and 8×10, priced at $75. All proceeds from the sale of these giclees benefit the Dallas Mavericks Foundation.

Each 24×36 giclee includes:

  • Hand-enhancements by the artist, who spent 144 hours creating the original piece
  • Seven replica player autographs – Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier, Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood
  • Authentic artist autograph with individual number
Custom frame and premium quality acid-free suede matte
  • Limited edition of 210
  • $495 + $50 shipping and handling

Each 8×10 giclee includes:

  • Seven replica player autographs
  • Authentic artist autograph with individual number
  • Custom frame
  • Limited edition of 2010
  • $75 + $25 shipping and handling

For the paltry sum of $495, you can have a portrait of (clockwise) a Ninja Turtle, Evan Eschmeyer, Drew Gooden with a tan, a meerkat, Dirk Nowitzki, Popeye Jones, and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, complete with all of their fake autographs. It’s for a great cause — the Dallas Mavericks foundation works with youths all over the metroplex — and who could say no to the must-own piece of barely Maverick-related memorabilia of the season?

Auld Lang Syne

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 25, 2010 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read


“I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?”

We’re more than a month removed from the Butler-Haywood trade, and it’s already easy to forget that it was also the Howard-Gooden trade.

Josh’s exile from Dallas was long-awaited and highly anticipated by some, but for all of his struggles late in his Maverick career, his six and a half year stint with the team was undoubtedly a success. Could Howard have accomplished more as a Mav? Absolutely. Those shortcomings are well-documented, and hardly need to be revisited here. But the positives — his emergence, his All-Star appearance, his influence in the playoffs even as recently as last season — deserve numerous reminders. I can’t help but feel that his successes will always be overcast by his failures and limitations, which is a shame.

Whether we remember it now or not, there was a time where this guy meant something to Mavs fans. He stood as a pivotal component of the Mavs’ future, and he ended up that way…even if his final function as a Mav was to bring in two very good players.

Caron Butler took up some editorial space in the Washington Post to give a final goodbye to his fans in D.C. Josh Howard didn’t quite do the same, but the sentiment in a post on his blog seems equally sincere (via commenter ‘pau’):

I reflect fondly on my time in Dallas.

It was a wonderful experience. I was just talking to somebody earlier about how in my rookie year Marquis Daniels and I came in with people like Steve Nash, Dirk of course, Michael Finley, Tony Delk, Travis Best, Antawn Jamison.

Those were the veterans that I came up under so I was able to learn a lot from the jump. Then I went through my career with Don Nelson and Avery Johnson as my coaches, then the last two years with Rick Carlisle.

Coach Carlisle and I agreed on a lot of things and we had a great relationship. I wish the Mavericks the best. The trade did them good just like I think the trade did Washington good until I got hurt. I’m a fan of the game and I’m glad they’re out there playing hard, doing what they’re doing. I learned so much from playing under those coaches and with that team, so I have the utmost respect for Dallas.

I may not miss the step-back jumpers, but I will miss Josh.

Drew Gooden is a bit of a different story. He’s no stranger to being dealt, as he’s now playing for his ninth team in eight seasons. One: that’s ridiculous. Two: that’s incredibly unfortunate. Three: those of us that haven’t been in the NBA really can’t even begin to understand exactly what that’s like, to be uprooted so many times with the subtext of every move being that you’re not integral and you’re not good enough.

It’s a business. I know. I’m sure that as a player, you can feed yourself that line to make everything a little bit easier. But nine times in eight seasons? With a tenth likely on the way this summer? That’s tough. Gooden deals with it well (“But there’s been nothing bad about what happened for me, playing on a lot of different teams.”), and maybe it honestly doesn’t matter to him. Maybe he’s a true mercenary, a gun for hire that makes few judgments on the specifics of his employer.

I don’t buy it. Art Garcia of NBA.com asked Gooden about his departure from the Mavs for NBA.com (emphasis mine):

I was kind of upset because I committed myself to the team and I was so focused on winning and making a run to get in the playoffs. I knew how valuable that was and I wanted to do whatever it took to help the team accomplish that goal. I totally committed myself and bought into what coach (Rick) Carlisle was saying from the time he brought me in here. To leave that way, I was highly upset.

That doesn’t sound like “nothing bad” has happened for him, it sounds like he was leaving a situation and a team that he rather fancied. And that team, or at least its leader, fancied him too (from Marc Stein’s piece on Gooden for ESPN Dallas):

Asked if the Mavs miss Gooden’s contributions off the bench, Dirk Nowitzki said: “Hell, yeah.”

That’s quite the glowing endorsement for Drew’s service as a Mav. And he was so close to coming right back to Dallas a la Ilgauskas, but it wasn’t in the cards. Gooden’s path continues to go where it’s always taken him: around the NBA to stop after stop, with teammate after teammate, playing for coach after coach.

Gooden was only a Maverick for about half a season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what he did for the Mavs. As with Howard, I think there’s a natural inclination with Gooden to point out what he can’t do without proper respect for what he can. He was able to play some center for the Mavs, which was absolutely crucial while Erick Dampier was sidelined with various injuries. He didn’t help the Mavs to a huge win streak during that time, but he helped Dallas to tread water at a particularly vulnerable time. Pretty important.

Neither Howard nor Gooden will see their number hanging from the rafters, and frankly the thought is a bit ridiculous. Each does deserve the appropriate amount of kudos, though, even a month removed from their Maverick exits.

Dallas Mavericks 106, Los Angeles Clippers 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 24, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
-George Bernard Shaw

It’s the Clippers, but it’s something. After playing three quarters of embarrassing basketball just a night prior against the Hornets, the Mavs turned things around 360 degrees. Dallas started strong, built a double-digit lead and groomed it in the second quarter, and experienced an incredible drop-off in the third before rallying to an utterly dominant finish.

What caused the Mavs’ unexpected let-down to start the second half? Well, Dallas shot 6-for-23 in the quarter, which was the only one in which they didn’t top 50% shooting. Meanwhile, the Clippers seemed to be in a constant state of free throw shooting: LA attempted 16 free throws in the third alone, which is just four short of the number that Dallas attempted in the entire game. The Clips won the turnover margin and the offensive rebounding margin for the quarter, and even though their shooting from the field wasn’t dreadfully effective either, the freebies were enough to erase the Mavs’ fourteen-point lead coming out of halftime. Oh, and who has two German thumbs and was thrown out for mumbling under his breath? This guy:

Maybe the ejection was warranted, or maybe it wasn’t. Who knows? What we do know is that for a ten-minute stretch in the third quarter, the Clippers were incredibly aggressive and the Mavs looked lost. We’ve seen this before, when Dirk’s elbow became better acquainted with Carl Landry’s mouth: when Dirk leaves the game due to abnormal circumstances, the Mavs fall apart. In that contest they pulled it together enough to rally back and force overtime, and in this one they regrouped in between the third and the fourth.

Part of that was because whoever called the initial play of the fourth for the Mavs, either Rick Carlisle or Jason Kidd, set everything ablaze with an old favorite:

It was only the beginning for Rodrigue Beaubois, who finished his 15 minutes of playing time with 10 points and three rebounds. The Mavs don’t have any better options off the bench as a situational scorer, and Beaubois continues to deliver time and time again. Does that me he can take over the back-up point responsibilities and run the team efficiently? Undecided. Most of his time in this game (and this season) has him working off the ball. Nights like these are a clear reminder that Roddy deserves playing time, but with his ability to play the point still in question, something has to give. the minutes have to come from somewhere, and what point do you sacrifice the minutes of the Mavs’ wings in favor of Beaubois?

It wasn’t an issue last night, because Dirk’s ejection gave the Mavs a prime opportunity to go small. Very, very small. When Dallas vaulted into the fourth on the strength of a 22-3 run, they were fielding a lineup of Kidd-Terry-Beaubois-Butler-Haywood. We’ve seen them run the three-guard lineup in the past with Dirk and Dampier, but shifting Butler to the four opened up a unique opportunity for minutes and, apparently, a unique opportunity to blow the top off of the building by pushing the pace.

Beaubois stole the show a bit, but it was Jason Kidd (26 points, 12 assists, six rebounds) that transformed a shaken team into a juggernaut in a matter of minutes. He had 13 points and four assists during tide-receding fourth, triggering the Mavs’ transition attack with his quick outlet passes and defensive rebounding. It was his 37th birthday, and he was a monster.

Unknowingly, the Mavs utilized a three act structure in taking down a most unspectacular foe, making what could have been a cruise control win into a carefully structured dramatic masterpiece. Overdramatic? You betcha. It’s against the Clippers, for blog’s sake. But it’s something.

Closing thoughts:

  • Drew Gooden (26 points, 20 rebounds) came to play. He would have had a double-double with points and offensive rebounds alone, and while he doesn’t harbor ill will towards the team for his current circumstances, don’t think for a second that he didn’t want to turn a few heads during his grand return. Gooden went 8-for-21 from the field, but made up for his poor shooting by grabbing his own offensive boards and leading the Clips’ free throw assault (10-of-10 from the line).
  • Erick Dampier started in place of Brendan Haywood, though it’s still unclear whether it was to jump-start Damp or as a message to Haywood. Either way, Haywood was not only more effective, but more engaged. He finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
  • Caron Butler is struggling. Really struggling. Four points and six rebounds on 2-of-9 shooting for him last night, which is the kind of stat line that had Josh Howard scapegoated all over the internet. I’m glad he had the sense to halt his attempts at single digits, but the Mavs are going to need more from Butler on offense, especially if Dirk is unexpectedly out of the lineup.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of the Mavs’ first half. Good execution and energy, which is important regardless of opponent. We’ve seen this team sleepwalk through first quarters before, and it’s a good thing to see them ready to perform from opening tip.
  • Another culprit of the Mavs’ third quarter struggles: transition defense. Jump shots led to transition opportunities, which is what you get with this team. But the same transition D problem that plagued them against New Orleans reared its ugly head in the third. When the Mavs started getting back on defense and set up in the zone, the Clippers’ pace and production slowed down considerably.
  • The Mavs’ third quarter implosion and fourth quarter explosion were almost instantaneous. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Dallas’ 14-point civilization was constructed, burned, and pillaged by nightfall, reimagined, and built anew by morning light.
  • Dirk only played 19 minutes before his ejection, but he neared point-per-minute status with his 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He did a great job of creating and making his usually “difficult” shots, but Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood also did a tremendous job of freeing up Nowitzki with screens.
  • Travis Outlaw still likes to take Travis Outlaw shots.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 19, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • A thought: had the Mavs not slumped in January, would Cuban and Nelson still have pulled the trigger on the deal for Haywood, Butler, and Stevenson?
  • Drew Gooden’s stats playing for California teams? 14.24 PPG and 9.55 RPG (Updated stats based on Benjamin Hoffman’s concept for the Times’ Off the Dribble Blog, here). The daydream of Gooden returning to the Mavs is long since dead, but man…wouldn’t that be something? And speaking of Drew Gooden…well, this.
  • Mike D’Antoni is confident that the Mavs will compete for the title.
  • Jason Kidd v. Opposing coach, round two (via Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News): “Late in the first quarter, Kidd was going for a loose ball along the sideline in front of the visiting bench when Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro grabbed it from the air. Kidd said he asked the official if he had jumped for the ball, what would have been the call. Kidd said the official told him that then it would have been the Mavericks’ ball. Toward the end of his banter with the official, Kidd slanted his eyes toward Del Negro and smiled. In late February, Kidd charged into Atlanta coach Mike Woodson along the sideline and drew a technical foul on Woodson for being on the court. ‘I’m always trying to learn how we can get the ball,” Kidd said. “I know Vinny, so I wasn’t going to run him over or anything.’”
  • Dirk Nowitzki: mathematicsized.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 25, 2010 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • Shawn Marion gives Kobe Bryant a hell of a view. (via Steven Ligatsa)
  • As Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com reported last night, Caron Butler will no longer be allowed to chew straws while on the court. The NBA has decided that the practice is dangerous, and they’re not wrong. But as Skeets notes at BDL, the resonant question of the ban is not “Why?” but “Why now?” It’s not as if Butler picked up the habit on the plane from Washington to Dallas, and The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg had a feature on Butler’s habit back in 2007. That’s mainstream awareness of a dangerous habit…and here the league is taking action nearly three years later. Butler likely cares more than you or I will, but come on, league office. Come on.
  • @mavstats: “Mavs have allowed 91.7 pts/game since All-Star break – 2nd best in NBA (MIA 87.4).”
  • Just in case you still thought it was up in the air: Drew Gooden will not be bought out of his contract with the Clippers
  • Kelly Dwyer on last night’s game: “Marion was fantastic. So was Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry. The Mavs haven’t been a knockout offensive team this year, but for some reason I still expect those shots to go in. What got me was the defense, the defense that then allowed Dallas to run its screen and roll attack in delayed transition and put Los Angeles away. The Mavs always look like a 60-win team to me, and though I shouldn’t let my own expectations cloud an accurate appraisal of this lot, it was good to see the Mavs play this well. Beating Los Angeles, by five. At home. On the second night of a back-to-back for El Lay. Nevermind.”
  • My HP compatriot, Matt Moore, is rather high on the Mavs: “Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood. Are you serious? With Terry, Beaubois, and Dampier off the bench? Are you serious? Why is this not a bigger deal? The Mavericks have to be the most under-the-radar made-the-playoffs-every-year-for-a-decade, loaded-with-All-Stars, holy-crap-they-match-up-with-anyone, division-leading team in the league. The fact that they won that game tonight without Butler is phenomenal to me. Butler is exactly the kind of guy you want to guard Bryant. He’s not going to shut him down, no one can. But it would allow Marion to guard Odom, Dirk to guard Pau, and so on…They’ve got something considerable there. The Western Conference playoffs are going to brutal, and good. Even if LA still comes out on top, the field looks much tougher than it did at the start of the season.”
  • Sebastian Pruiti breaks down why the ending of Lakers-Mavs last night was different than the ending of Lakers-Grizzlies the night before.
  • Darius, of Forum Blue and Gold: “I continue to be impressed with Jason Kidd.  Has he lost a step?  Yes.  He is 36.  But his control over a game – especially offensively – and ability to run a team remains the highest level.  Combine that with his not-so-fluky-anymore improvement shooting the long ball and you’ve got a player that hurts you when you double off him and can dissect you with passes for his mates when you pay too much attention to Dirk or Terry.”
  • C.A. Clark of Silver Screen and Roll: “Jason Terry must have a cloaking device.  He must be able to press a button and become invisible, only re-appearing when he has the ball behind the 3 point arc.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with for how ridiculously open he was for most of tonight’s game.  Terry took 8 three pointers, and I think 6 of them were taken without a Laker within 5 feet of him.  Some of those open shots were because Derek Fisher can’t keep up with Terry around screens, but more of them were due to the Lakers simply forgetting to guard him.  In this, the entire Laker back-court was accountable.  Kobe let JET have open looks.  So did Shannon Brown.  Farmar didn’t slow him down, and Fish can’t slow anybody down.  Terry ended with 30 points on 20 shots, and the Mavs took what could have been a very winnable game for the Los Angeles Lakers, 101-96″

Dallas Mavericks 97, Miami Heat 91: Abridged

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 21, 2010 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

  • Just a lovely win. You’d like to see the Mavs really take advantage of a Miami team that’s missing Dwyane Wade, but a quality win is a quality win. After all, these are NBA players. Sometimes all that separates a benchwarmer from a contributor is opportunity, and with Wade out of the picture, the Heat’s lesser talents got a chance to strut their stuff. So what appears to be a clear victory is often hardly so simple. Case in point: Daequan Cook. Cook is averaging 5.6 PPG this season on 32.5% shooting. So naturally, with double the minutes and over double the shots, Cook caught fire and dropped a season-high 22 on the Mavs while shooting 50% from the field. Is part of that poor defense and open opportunities? Most certainly. But to throw away Cook’s performance merely on the basis of the Mavs’ faults is a bit misguided. Yes, Daequan has had a pretty miserable year, and his night definitely qualifies as a bit of a fluke; expecting 22 points from him on a nightly basis would be downright foolish. But that doesn’t mean that every once in awhile the man can’t catch fire, and on this night he did just that and had the freedom to cash in.
  • If the first half of the season was predicated on the Mavs building early leads and holding on for close wins, the post-trade Mavs’ success has been based on staying competitive and winning late with lock-down defense. Dallas used a 9-0 run late in the third quarter and a 7-0 run late in the fourth to keep the Heat at bay, and each wasn’t so much an offensive explosion as an exercise in staying in position, being patient on defense, and forcing turnovers or misses.
  • Jason Kidd was particularly effective defensively, and he’s playing with an incredible amount of energy on both ends right now. Kidd finished with 21 points (5-8 FG, 3-5 3FG), 11 assists, five rebounds, and three steals in what turned out to be a perfect cap for his impressive week. Player of the game, player of the week, and the player most essential to making Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler more comfortable in the offense.
  • Speaking of Haywood and Butler: it the Mavs had played this game pre-trade, there’s no way they would’ve escaped with a victory. With Drew Gooden guarding Jermaine O’Neal (18 points, 9-15 FG, 13 rebounds, four turnovers)? Jermaine drops 25 or 30. With the Mavs having to rely heavily on Josh Howard, considering Jason Terry’s 0-for-10 night? Josh may have scored a bit and played reasonably well, but to say that his offense has come and gone this season would be a gross understatement. Instead, Butler put together his best offensive performance as a Maverick in scoring 20 points on just 13 shots (with 54% shooting to boot!) while rounding out his line with four rebounds and three assists, and Haywood had his first double-double as a Maverick with 11 points and 11 boards. Kidd may have stolen the show, but those two were absolutely crucial to the victory.
  • I don’t know what else to say about Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 10-21 FG, five rebounds, two assists), aside from the fact that it was one of those nights. Aside from a cold fourth quarter, Dirk was draining jumper after jumper, primarily due to Dirk finding holes in Miami’s defense and Dirk’s teammates (particularly Kidd) finding him at exactly the right moment. The chemistry is already there for those who have been Mavs all season long, and it will get there between Mavs new and old. Those feeds from Butler to Dirk will start getting crisper and crisper, and soon enough, these guys will seem like a part of the family.
  • The Dallas bench scored just six points. That kind of showing makes miserable look good, appalling look appetizing, and insufferable seem, well, sufferable. Dallas isn’t going to win many games with that type of showing from the bench, regardless of who is coming off the pine.
  • Defense is a headache from reading and re-reading scouting reports. It’s a sweet TV spot. It’s technique, athleticism, anticipation, and blind luck all rolled into one. It’s holding a team to 12 points in the third quarter on 5-of-13 shooting with six turnovers.
  • If nothing else, the trade and the All-Star break have given the Mavs a youthful exuberance. Oklahoma City may have trumped Dallas with their energy out of the gate, but since then, the Mavs have been anything but lethargic. Kidd is all over the court and swinging the ball, and Shawn Marion (11 points, 5-6 FG, five rebounds) is running the break as well as he has all season.
  • I’m greatly anticipating the first successful Jason Kidd-Brendan Haywood pick-and-roll lob. It’s coming.
  • I don’t know whether his production trumps what Kris Humphries would have been able to bring to the table, but Eddie Najera is providing some solid minutes at center for a Dallas team with few alternatives. With Dampier out (he’s still sidelined with that nasty open dislocation), the Mavs are leaning heavily on Haywood and Najera to man the middle. Both are doing a terrific job thus far.

Falling Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 13, 2010 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 9 Comments to Read

UPDATE: Per Stein, the deal is official. (Confirmed by Marc Spears)

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last night that the ongoing trade negotiations between the Mavs and the Wizards have turned serious. Super serious. As in, we could have an official trade by later tonight. That’s a big jump from “the Mavs are interested in Caron Butler,” and based on the Mavs’ rumored acquisitions? I don’t see how Dallas fans could be anything but pleased.

The deal as reported would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and (possibly) James Singleton to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. Butler will undoubtedly be the headline-grabber in Dallas, the real prize here may be Haywood.

Drew Gooden has been solid for the Mavs this year, but Haywood is a legitimate game-changer at center. He’s one of the most physical defenders at the position in the entire league, and an offensive superior to Erick Dampier. Dwight Howard ranked Haywood as the third best defender in the league, and an in-depth look at Haywood’s D over at Bullets Forever only tells us more of the same; the Mavs are adding a center that instantly upgrades their interior defense and rebounding, two things he was able to do in Washington despite some truly miserable circumstances.

Then of course, the Mavs would hope that Caron Butler can return to form, or at the very least, improve on Josh Howard’s production as a Mav. It’s incredibly difficult to tell which parts of Butler’s game are due to a genuine regression and which parts simply come from playing for a terrible team at a terrible time, but Caron has a lot working in his favor with the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a top-notch coach, and Dirk Nowitzki is an insanely talented and productive player. Jason Kidd makes things so easy on offense, and having an offensive threat like Jason Terry and a defensive weapon like Shawn Marion relieves a lot of pressure. On top of that, Mark Cuban spares no expense in making his players comfortable, and the outlook of the team as a whole is decidedly more optimistic than that of the Wiz. It’s amazing what a change of scenery and a different disposition can do for a player’s performance, and Dallas has all of the ingredients necessary to facilitate a Butler resurgence.

DeShawn Stevenson is the filler element, and he’s essentially the price the Mavs have to pay for Butler and Haywood. Once upon a time he was something of a defensive stalwart, but even that aspect of his game has faded in the last two seasons. Now he’s merely an Abe Lincoln-tatted headcase with an overinflated ego and marginal on-court effectiveness. Stevenson can be destructive, but if his minor distraction is what it takes to bring such substantial talent to the Mavs, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have certainly pulled a fast one on Ernie Grunfeld (or at the very least, managed to capitalize on Grunfeld’s misfortune).

It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.