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?

It’s Pressing: Post-Game Pressers from Mavs-Spurs Game 4

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.

Hit the jump for the full post-game treatment courtesy of the press conference types (Carlisle, Pop, Dirk, George Hill) as well as  a number of other locker room interviews following Game 4:

Read more of this article »

For the Revolution: Dampier Fined for Comments on Game 3 Officiating

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 26, 2010 under News | 4 Comments to Read

According to a release from the league, Erick Dampier has been fined $35,000 for his comments on the officiating after Game 3 in San Antonio. Here’s the quote from Damp that drew the wrath of the league office:

“When we play defense we’re under a magnifying glass, but when we’re on offense, there’s no magnifying glasses. You’ve got to call it both ways. Dirk drives, he doesn’t get fouled. they drive on the other end and get a little ticky-tack foul. So keep it consistent. Don’t be one way or another. Its on us, too. We’ve gotta take the ball to the basket, make contact, draw the foul, and go to the free throw line. Whoever handles the ball’s gotta drive to the basket and create contact.”

A dollar is only what you make of it, and in this case Damp has dropped 35k of them to exercise his freedom of speech. Vive la liberté! Vive la revolution! Vive la Dampier!



It’s Pressing: Post-Game Pressers from Mavs-Spurs Game 3

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 24, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by D.Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.

Tons of quotes here from the locker room and post-game press conferences, so dig in. I’ve bolded items of interest for various reasons, but if nothing else, at least check out Damp’s comments about the officiating.

See the Mavs and Spurs BARE ALL after the jump.

Read more of this article »

San Antonio Spurs 102, Dallas Mavericks 88

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 22, 2010 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

Wait until the next big rain, you will see the trees fall down.
-Billy DeCosta

Teams become the things they do. So it shouldn’t surprise you that after an entire season of climbing out of substantial holes, the Mavs were going to make a run at some point. After giving up plenty of ground in the second and third quarters, Dallas’ deficit hit rock bottom at 20, was whittled down to 10 in three minutes, and was brought within five points in the fourth. It just wasn’t enough. The Mavs have had so many comeback victories this season that it’s easy to forget about the nights where they came up a little bit short, and this game serves as a bit of a heartbreaking reminder. All of those regular season games counted, just like this one did, and all of the habits and tendencies formed during those games invariably resurface at some point. Though Dallas is certainly improved, they can’t escape who they are or who they’ve been, and unfortunately that’s a team that’s given up leads to their opponents before attempting to claw back.

It almost worked, but the Mavs’ defense was too accommodating early, the shooting was too bad for too long, and Tim Duncan clubbed Dallas’ comeback hopes repeatedly with improbable shot (floating baseline hook while leaning out of bounds) after improbable shot (deflected hook shot that ended up back in his hands, allowing Tim to train a push shot from close range just before the shot clock expired).

Dallas finished the game shooting 36.5% from the field, which makes the fact that they were within five points of San Antonio in the fourth quarter all the more impressive. Some of that is shot selection: the Mavs are still a jump-shooting team, and Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler, and Jason Terry missed their fair share of jumpers. That doesn’t even come close to telling the full story, though, as Dallas had a lot of good looks that simply couldn’t find the bottom of the net. This was an absolutely frigid shooting night for the Mavs, who were only able to stay competitive thanks to their 19 makes on 20 free throw attempts and a huge night from Terry (27 points, 9-of-19 FG, 3-of-7 3FG, three assists).

Aside from Terry, the Maverick offense was stagnant and ineffective. Solid ball movement still created plenty of open looks, but there wasn’t enough in the way of player movement. There were far too many isolation plays even for Dallas’ iso-heavy offense (I’m looking at you, Caron), far too many passes caught while standing still. Guys like Butler, Marion, and Terry are good enough to make plays in those situations, but they really shouldn’t have to. Not to the magnitude they were asked to do so on Wednesday night, and that’s a big reason why Dallas finished the evening with just 88 points (104.4 offensive efficiency). The Spurs defense was solid, but not suffocating. The worry isn’t that San Antonio is going to lock down the Mavs, even if they were far more successful on Dirk in Game 2 than they were in Game 1. The worry is that Dallas will freeze up offensively like they did last night, and that when the shots stop falling the defense won’t be able to hold ground.

The defense really didn’t. Dallas finally increased their defensive intensity over the game’s final 15 minutes, but it wasn’t enough to make up for plays like this one:

Or this one, that happened just moments later:

That’s pretty much exactly what happened in Game 2. The Mavs made their own mini-runs in the first and second quarters, but flurries of offensive success could only barely cover up for how dismally Dallas performed the majority of the time. The Spurs’ lead had already hit double-digits going into halftime, and the Mavs were really struggling to put points on the board with Dirk Nowitzki (24 points on 24 shots, 10 rebounds, four assists) suddenly mortal.

There were a number of differences between Game 1 and Game 2, but the most notable was the play of Richard Jefferson. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s an NBA player. After putting up a four-point (on 1-of-4 shots), two-turnover stinker on Sunday night, RJ finished with the same two turnovers, but a far more palatable 19 points (7-of-12 FG) and seven rebounds. Throw in another nice performance from each of the Spurs’ three stars (a combined 64 points), and that’s a tough game to win…especially when the Mavs are only making 36.5% of their shots. The first question that should come to mind over Jefferson’s performance is a valid one: can it be replicated? Based on RJ’s inconsistency this season, it’s hardly a given. I wish this was an area in which I could offer insight, but how could anyone say with any certainty what Jefferson will do in Game 3?

Jefferson will justly get his due as the game’s difference-maker, but San Antonio doesn’t pull out this victory without their breadwinner. Tim Duncan (25 points, 11-of-19 FG, 17 rebounds) was fantastic, and even though Brendan Haywood made Duncan’s looks as difficult as possible in the fourth, sometimes that’s not good enough. Tim is, at absolute worst, the second most effective “traditional” offensive post player in the league, and one of the best of all-time. There are going to be nights where he’s blocked by Erick Dampier (especially as Duncan gets older and older), but there are certainly going to be nights where he wins games outright with his ability to score down low. Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood worked hard defensively, Duncan was just on another level last night.

Dallas just didn’t play very well on either end. The Mavs couldn’t stop Duncan, gave Jefferson too many opportunities to get to the rim, and allowed Parker and Ginobili to make an even bigger impact than their already impressive box score contributions suggest. On offense, Dallas just couldn’t connect on their open looks, played sub-par (but not irredeemable) defense, and were completely Duncanized in the middle of their crucial fourth-quarter surge. A bit more could have gone wrong for the Mavs, but so, so much more should have gone right. Chin up, Mavs fans; Dallas displayed flukey, Stormtrooper-like accuracy, JET is alive and kicking, and all the Mavs have to do is win a best-of-five series starting on Friday. It’s not going to be easy, but you shouldn’t have expected it to be.

Closing thoughts:

  • San Antonio’s spot-up shooters are quite important. In Game 1, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson, George Hill, Keith Bogans, and Roger Mason combined for nine points and made just one three-pointer between them. In Game 2? Bogans received a DNP-CD and Mason went scoreless in six minutes, but Bonner, Jefferson, and Hill combined for 31 points (12-of-25 FG) and four made three-pointers. That’s a huge difference in role player production, and in truth, it could have been much worse. Dallas wasn’t contesting San Antonio’s three-pointers particularly well at all, and dodged a few bullets on completely uncontested Spur threes that just didn’t go down. On the occasions that Dallas did contest, they were pretty successful. For comparison’s sake, take a look at this first clip, in which George Hill gets a wide open look at a corner three:

    And this one, in which Jason Terry scrambles to deter Hill from taking the shot. George ends up settling for a tough, two-point leaner, which is a micro win for the Mavs’ defense:

  • Dirk shot 4-of-7 from within six feet of the basket, but once he stepped outside that six-foot radius, he was 5-for-17. Ouch.
  • I’ve read in several places that Popovich’s defensive strategy entailed maintaining one-on-one coverage on Dirk, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. San Antonio also seemed to be doubling Nowitzki when he put the ball on the floor, just like Dirk saw in the 2007 series against Golden State. Video on that to come later.
  • J.J. Barea isn’t doing to well defensively, but his five points and three assists in 10 minutes of play weren’t too shabby. The Mavs’ net production with him on the floor was +1, which tells us what we already know: Barea is a decent stop-gap point, and his marginal offensive contributions can help to balance his defensive lapses. Related: another DNP-CD for Rodrigue Beaubois.
  • Brendan Haywood looked pretty bad on pick-and-rolls, though a more thorough analysis should be made before giving a declaration one way or another. Whereas most of the other Mavs were still showing strongly on screen-and-rolls, Haywood simply hung back to cover a potential roll man. I’m not sure whether that was a Duncan-specific assignment or Haywood botching the game plan, but either way it opened up opportunities for Tony Parker to penetrate into the lane and for Manu Ginobili to hit the dagger three. Otherwise, his help defense was excellent in halting penetration, and his D on Duncan, while ultimately unsuccessful, was still solid.
  • A rough shooting night for Jason Kidd, who went 1-of-4 from three and 1-of-7 overall. A few of those threes go down, and we’re looking at an entirely different game.
  • DeJuan Blair had another empty night with four rebounds and no points in 11 minutes. Spurs fans should be thankful that Antonio McDyess (four points, but nine big rebounds) has been playing some effective minutes at center.
  • Caron Butler is a hard guy to criticize sometimes, because he plays extremely hard. From his first game as a Maverick, effort has never been a question. The downside is that he often is so focused on trying to score on his man that he puts blinders on. It’s something we saw often from Josh Howard, as well. Sometimes Butler’s focus ends up with him hitting a tough step-back jumper or getting to the rim for a layup, but often he ends up hoisting up a tough, contested jumper when he should have passed to the open man.
  • Not only was Jason Terry shooting the ball much more efficiently last night, but he was much more aggressive. Freeing up JET was clearly a Carlisle point of emphasis between Game 1 and Game 2, and you could tell from early in the first quarter that Terry was looking to attack the San Antonio defense:

More Than a Feeling

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 21, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read


Video via ESPN Dallas.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by admin on under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Mark Cuban hates the spurs.
  • Gregg Popovich thinks Dirk is faking it (via Jeff Caplan): “I thought sometimes we fouled him, sometimes we didn’t. But you know what’s going to happen in a game. You get calls one way or the other. He’s great at selling it… He did make some tough shots there, no doubt about it, but he’s also a Hall-of-Fame player so he’s going to make those shots. It’s not like it’s the first time he’s made a tough shot, that’s for sure.”
  • Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell presents a very good, very detailed analysis of how the Spurs defended Dirk in Game 1 and how they should defend him in the games to come.
  • Former Mavs stat man Wayne Winston (via 48 Minutes of Hell) talks Mavs-Spurs Game 2 adjustments.
  • We all know Popovich is a great coach but Rick Carlisle ain’t no slouch either. Mark Cuban on Coach Carlisle (via the Dallas Morning News): “Rick is a very cerebral coach and that comes through in its shining glory in the playoffs. You don’t get a chance in the regular season to play the chess match because you don’t have enough time. He’s not looking to create Brand Carlisle, not that Pop is. He’s not about coming up with sayings that make people know who he is. He’s an amazing, brilliant X’s and O’s coach.”
  • Mike Fisher of Dallas Basketball explains why Erick Dampier is starting.
  • As Dwight Howard repeats as Defensive Player of the Year, Shawn Marion comes in 13th place in the voting. Really? I have to disagree with the voters here. Now I’m not saying Marion should have won but he certainly should have placed higher than 13th, as he was arguably the NBA’s best defender against the league’s premier small forwards.

Foul Ball

Posted by admin on April 20, 2010 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

Sunday night, the Mavericks attempted 34 free throws to the Spurs 14. If you’ve been a Mavs fan since before 2006, you know how it feels to be on the short end of this stick.

The game was called very close, which was surprising knowing the previous battles between these two teams. This is a long-standing, heated rivalry that is typically very physical. The referees haven’t been known to call ticky-tack fouls when these two teams meet. They’ve usually just let the players play. Last night that wasn’t the case, as almost every small touch foul was called…on the Spurs.

It’s hard to argue that the game was called fairly, because the Mavericks still hadn’t committed a foul yet in the 3rd quarter when the Spurs were in the bonus. And this was before the “Clamp-a-Damp” technique thrown out by Popovich.

By no means am I complaining about this. Sometimes teams just get the calls, and it can happen on any given night. I highly doubt Bennett Salvatore said to himself before the game, “You know, I feel bad for the way I’ve treated the Mavericks before, so I kind of owe them one.” Things like this just happen every once in a while, and it’s fairly normal for playoff games.

Looking at the season series, the Mavs  attempted 96 Free Throw Attempts to the Spurs 84. In games one and four, the Mavericks had more FTA (27 to 19 in game one and 28 to 20 in game 4). In games two and three, the Spurs had more (24 to 21 in game two and 21 to 20 in game three). The only game the Spurs won was the first game, where the Mavericks shot 8 more free throws than the Spurs. On the season, though, the Spurs have been better at getting to the line. The Spurs finished the season tied for 18th in the league with 1,969 FTAs and the Mavericks were ranked 25th with 1,870 FTAs. Bascially, neither team has been spectacular at getting to the line, which is suprising considering Tony Parker’s driving game and Dirk’s knack of getting fouled on jumpers.

How does this affect the players? Well, the whole reason Popovich called for intentional fouls on Dampier was to get the ball out of Nowitzki’s hands, to take the Mavericks out of the flow of their offense. It didn’t quite work, but with the Mavs aiming to push the tempo, having to stop and inbound or shoot free throws would technically take them out of their game, and made Dallas run more half-court offense. The Spurs may have been cautious defensively due to the frequency of foul calls, but they maintained their focus and energy on the offensive end. San Antonio shot 50% from the field as a result, but they didn’t seem to adjust to how closely the game was being called. Matt Bonner drove a few more times than Spurs fans probably wanted him to, but Parker and Ginobili didn’t drive as much as they normally do. A more aggressive approach by the Spurs’ guards would have almost forced the referees to call more fouls on the Mavericks.

Basically, Game One was an anomaly to how these teams have played all season. Between the two teams, the free throw attempts are very similar, so don’t expect this to become a trend, particularly after the Spurs have had a chance to revise their approach. If anything, expect Game Two to be loosely called, with the referees allowing a lot of contact. After having a chance to review the film from Game One, it’s likely that the officiating crew will give both teams more leeway on defense.

That being said, here are some points to look at moving forward:

  • Dampier played very good defense on Tim Duncan Sunday night. Haywood had 10 points on 4-5 shooting. In close games during this series, don’t be surprised if Carlisle does offense/defense substitutions between these two.
  • Caron Butler (22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) had his best game as a Maverick. It is absolutely essential for him to keep playing that well if the Mavs are to make a deep playoff run.
  • Jason Terry had another off night, though he did hit a jumper and a corner three late in the fourth that could boost his confidence going into the next game. For a streaky shooter, a little confidence is all he needs to go from a slump to a monster series.
  • Gregg Popovich is one of the all-time best at making adjustments. Expect an entirely different game plan Wednesday night (especially against Dirk), because that’s just how Popovich works.
  • As Rob said, I doubt we’ll see Beaubois this series, he’s just too inexperienced and Barea has had some great games against the Spurs in the past. I do think Najera will make a couple of appearances, especially if Popovich tries the Clamp-a-Damp again.

Dallas Mavericks 117, Los Angeles Clippers 94

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 13, 2010 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.0128.660.819.322.211.0
Los Angeles103.349.414.527.516.5

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.
-Epictetus

What exactly do you make of a team doing everything it’s supposed to do? In most cases, a veteran team with 54 wins and (at least) the 3rd seed in a fiercely competitive conference needs not the satisfaction of an April win over the Clippers. This Dallas team is technically in such a position, but they’re hardly the playoff ideal; they haven’t been on a month-long tear, the defense isn’t as proven as you’d like, and there are still questions as to how the Mavs’ center duo will perform against a conference full of capable bigs.

Still, it’s impossible to deny how positively dominant the Mavs have been in their last three games, in which Dallas has demolished a trio of inferior opponents and nearly secured the no. 2 seed in the process. They don’t have a month’s worth of momentum on their side, but the way the Mavs have been able to establish early leads with their starters, maintain the advantage using the reserves, and limit the minutes of the central figures gives plenty of reason for optimism. There’s no question that this team has the talent to rain fire through April, May, and June, it’s just a matter of talent maximization and execution. Neither has been in question for the last week, and the Mavs’ +18.3 point differential over their last four games (+22.3 over their last three) signifies the seriousness of Dallas’ preparation and play. This team is ready to roll.

It certainly didn’t help the Clips’ cause that Baron Davis and Eric Gordon missed the game along with the long-sidelined Blake Griffin. The former are starters for a reason, with Baron acting as resident superstar (though he hardly performed at that level this season) and Gordon a solid supplemental scorer. Instead, the Mavs faced off against the delightfully average stylings of Steve Blake (who actually had a decent night with nine points, 13 assists, and three turnovers), and the useful but wonderfully limited Rasual Butler (10 points, 4-15 FG, three rebounds, three assists). Mavs-Clippers isn’t a particularly fair match-up even when L.A. is functioning at full strength (sans Griffin), but to deny the Clips two of their more productive players while playing against a would-be contender honing in on the playoffs is just cruel.

Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-13 FG, 3-3 3FG, eight rebounds, three assists) was almost mythical in his level of efficiency; his points nearly doubled his shot attempts (13), he scored more than a point a minute (1.11 ppm if we’re being precise), and he finished with just one turnover. Even more impressive was that only one of his nine made field goals (and of his 13 attempts, for that matter) came within fifteen feet of the basket: a converted layup at the 4:09 mark in the first quarter. Come one, come all, to the Dirkus Circus, the greatest show on Earth.

Shawn Marion (21 points, 9-12 FG) returned after three games on the sideline, and his strained oblique didn’t hinder him in the slightest. Marion’s ability to run the break was a big reason why the Mavs were able to sprint out to a lead almost immediately, and the Clips were never quite able to recover from the sucker punch of the opening minutes. It’s tough to properly gauge Marion’s defensive ability in a game like this one, but his movement on the whole didn’t seem slow or hesitant.

It’s easy to like where the Mavs are right now, and Wednesday’s game against the Spurs should at the very least provide an interesting test. Should Dallas win against San Antonio, the two teams would be locked into their respective positions and would meet in the first round. That should create a pretty odd dynamic for Wednesday night, in which Gregg Popovich, ever the gamesman, could conceivably choose to rest his veterans in an attempt to fold to the Mavs (San Antonio would likely find Dallas to be a better match-up than Utah). Even if Pop chooses to play Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and co., both teams would be trying to win the game without tipping their hand too far; the truly effective stratagems would need to be saved for the playoff series, which could leave the Mavs’ final regular season game as a battle of sheer talent and will rather than the precise execution of a more complicated game plan.

Closing thoughts:

  • DeShawn Stevenson could very well have earned a playoff role after his performance in the last few games. His defense against opposing scorers (O.J. Mayo, Tyreke Evans) has been commendable, and last night he balanced his defensive success by looking damn good on his jump shot (11 points, 4-7 FG, 3-4 3FG). Marion will still be the Mavs’ go-to defender for tougher perimeter threats, but having another solid wing defender coming off the bench is quite a luxury. If Stevenson works out as a decent 2-guard alternative, the Mavs would have an absolute glut of talent and versatility at the position, with Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Stevenson, and Rodrigue Beaubois all capable of producing at the off-guard.
  • The Mavs had 37 assists on 45 made field goals, with 22 of those assists coming into the first half. The ball movement was crisp on the break but equally impressive in the half-court, where the Mavs’ point guard trio of Jason Kidd (12 points, 12 assists, four turnovers), J.J. Barea (two points, seven assists, zero turnovers), and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, five assists, six rebounds, zero turnovers) easily established the momentum to break the struggling Clippers.
  • Also worth noting: the Mavs interior passing was rather terrific. L.A. ranks third in the league in blocks per game, and the Dallas bigs turned that strength into a weakness. With a slight hesitation and a well-timed pass, the Clips’ help defenders were soaring into the air to block nonexistent shots while various Mavericks exploited the soft underbelly of the Clipper defense. Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood finished with three assists apiece.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois filled in for Caron Butler (strained hip flexor, mostly a precautionary rest) in the starting lineup and had an excellent game. He connected with Kidd on his trademark alley-oop and by the end of the first quarter, Beaubois already had nine points (4-5 FG), four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
  • Minutes distribution: Dirk – 23, Kidd – 29, Marion – 26, Terry – 21. Love it.
  • DeAndre Jordan (10 points, 13 rebounds) finished with a nice stat line, but the bulk of that production came after the game had already been decided. That doesn’t discount everything he able to accomplish, but it certainly hurts his case that his most effective stretches came against the Mavs’ reserves or after Dallas was already in cruise control. He also looked pretty lost defensively against Dirk Nowitzki, though he can hardly be blamed for that; Dirk isn’t a typical match-up for Jordan, and Nowitzki is a tough cover for even the most accomplished defenders in the league. I’m still very high on DeAndre, though, and I’m very anxious to see what kind of player he’ll become in five years. He and Blake Griffin have the talent to make up a pretty special PF-C tandem.
  • via @mavstats: “#Mavs finish with 27 road wins, most in NBA this season and tied for 3rd most in team history”
  • Six points for Matt Carroll! Boomshakalaka!
  • Programming note: I’m not sure why I stopped offering game-by-game four factors data, but those tables will be included in the recaps just as they were earlier in the season. Enjoy.

Omega Man

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 12, 2010 under Commentary | 10 Comments to Read


Somewhere between the peach basket and this very moment, NBA players developed an obsession with starting. It’s as if coming off the bench is an automatic contention of a player’s nonessential value. I’m not sure whether it’s the spotlighted introduction, the respect from teammates, individual goal validation, or just a funny wrinkle in NBA culture, but guys seriously care about this stuff.

Let’s be honest, though: how many teams in the NBA actually start their five best players? There are several lottery clubs that are woefully lacking in depth for which that would be the case, but how about playoff teams? Boston, Phoenix, and Portland come to mind, but certainly a majority of playoff-bound squads have a more than serviceable reserve that rightfully deserves a place in the starting five, should those teams look to go top-heavy. That’s just not always the best approach, as match-ups, fit, and player motivation are far more important than who gets to fill up the GS column.

Still, it matters to players, and it affects their production. Case in point: Brendan Haywood, who for the moment is the Mavs’ back-up center. At first, one might be inclined to classify Haywood as they would Jason Terry. The importance of neither should be questioned, and it’s not so much about whether JET or Haywood gets the start as it is about whether or not they play effectively enough to justify big minutes. Terry often gets the benefit of the doubt in that regard, as shot-making is at a premium and there are few nights in which he’s out-performed by Caron Butler on offense. Haywood is a different story. In eight games as a reserve, Haywood has averaged just 22.9 minutes per game, which is a pretty significant drop from the playing time he was getting during Erick Dampier’s absence. That’s to be expected, but managing nine points and three rebounds (with three turnovers) in 18 minutes against OKC? Six points and four rebounds in 25 minutes against Portland? Haywood’s drop off is more than just linear scale.

It’s up to Rick Carlisle to figure out which buttons to press with both Haywood and Dampier, and though neither is producing at a particularly impressive level at the moment, at least we know Rick is pressing something. No one can accuse Carlisle of standing pat with his rotation and not challenging his players, because he has simply refused to hand out minutes on the basis of talent or reputation. He’s emphasized the importance of performance at every turn, and if you’ll pardon my use of cliche, that’s the right way. It’s impossible to say now, but Mavs fans can only hope that running a team the right way pays off, and that both Haywood and Damp will have productive playoff runs. Dallas doesn’t get very far without a functional center rotation, so Carlisle’s ability to put those two in positions to succeed as a tandem is pretty much essential.

Something else to consider with all of this is Brendan Haywood’s future. Haywood will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Mavs are clearly looking to retain him. Holding Brendan’s Bird rights gives Dallas the inside track, and the fact that Dampier could be moving on this summer should also increase the likelihood of Haywood staying in Dallas. Still, I can’t help but think that this bit of tension between Carlisle and his “center of the future” could end disastrously. Brendan “just works here,” but that doesn’t mean he’ll want to work here tomorrow if he’s not getting the respect that he thinks he deserves. That doesn’t mean that Rick should compromise his meritocratic rotation, but it’s worth noting that the Mavs are dealing with a potentially combustible element here.

It’s not that Brendan is some kind of troublemaker, but if denying him a starting gig is (in his mind) some kind of irredeemable wrong, he could very well sign elsewhere. That potential departure is where things are a bit flammable, as losing Haywood would not only be losing a starting-caliber center, but also a loss that makes Erick Dampier a bit less expendable. If the Mavs choose to trade Damp this summer as anticipated, lose Haywood, and can’t procure a decent center through other means, this team crashes and burns next year. There would literally be no hope of an extended playoff run, and playing Dirk in the middle isn’t even a remotely effective possibility. The long-term implications of Haywood’s “benching” are well-worth keeping tabs on, even if the entirety of the Mavs’ playoff ride stands between us and any real answers.