Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 15, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas: “The Mavericks had no centers under contract when free agency started. Now they have four. Don’t be surprised, though, if the one of the new arrivals is traded again before the season starts…provided that the Mavericks can find a taker for Alexis Ajinca…ESPNDallas.com has learned that the Mavericks have been asked [by Ajinca's agent, Bouna Ndiaye] to shop Ajinca in the hope they can find a team that might be able to offer him more hope for minutes.” As DOH noted at Mavs Moneyball, this does offer some hope for Omar Samhan to make the final roster. Not too much, though. Three centers isn’t necessarily crowded, but it’s certainly cozy.
  • Dirk is still unsure if he’ll play in the World Championships this summer, but has decided to play for Germany in next year’s Olympic qualifier provided he’s healthy.
  • Brendan Haywood will start next year. Tyson Chandler will not. Tyson Chandler does not seem to mind this. Crisis averted!
  • By Jermaine O’Neal’s estimation, the Celtics have a better chance to win it all next year than the Mavs do. Hard to argue with that given Dallas’ early exit and Boston’s incredible (and seemingly improbable) run to the Finals.
  • Rick Carlisle will head down to Senegal this summer to take part in the Basketball Without Borders program.
  • Most comparable statistical projection for Brendan Haywood? Erick Dampier. Eerie. Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus thinks the Mavs overbid for Haywood, but he is fairly high on Ian Mahinmi. Count me among those interested to see what Ian can do with some regular playing time.
  • Kelly Dwyer on the Dampier-Chandler trade: “It’s a great deal for the Mavericks. They had no use for a plodder up front in Dampier with Brendan Haywood re-signed, so adding the athletic Chandler as a counterpoint helps this team moving forward, even if he misses the de rigueur 25 games a year. Chandler’s contract expires next summer, so he’d be off the books after a one-year trial.” Though Chandler may only be a slight upgrade over Dampier if one at all, there is something to be said about variety. Dampier and Haywood are similar players, whereas Chandler can give the Mavs a different defensive look.
  • John Hollinger (Insider), also on the trade and where the Mavs stand: “What Dallas really needs to vault itself to elite status is a first-rate perimeter player; at the moment, the Mavs man those positions with several 30-something former stars but no current ones. With none available to be had with the Dampier contract, they did the next best thing. By adding Chandler, the Mavs retain the rights to a top defensive center. Additionally, he has a $12 million expiring contract, which gives the Mavs maximum flexibility to pursue other trades during the course of the season. No, it isn’t quite as alluring as being able to waive Dampier and clean the books entirely, but it’s a useful asset.”
  • Team USA looks incredibly thin at center this year, so Tyson Chandler has been added to the tryout roster.
  • It seems like Gerald Green’s basketball experiences have helped him grow as a person, but have they helped him grow as a player?

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 11, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Mavs fans only saw a few different shades of Shawne Williams, and none of them were particularly pleasant. However, as is the case with most NBA players, his story is a bit more lush and complex than that.
  • Sebastian Pruiti breaks down the tape of Dominique Jones’ first summer league game.
  • John Hollinger weighs in on Brendan Haywood’s new deal with the Mavs: “Here’s the conundrum, however, if you’re Dallas: What were the alternatives? Haywood was getting serious attention from several contenders and was likely to get an outsized contract someplace, although only the Mavs could give him a six-year deal. And in a market where he, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were the only true centers, and with everybody wanting size to match up against the Lakers and Magic, there was no doubt he’d command a premium. Moreover, nabbing Haywood was the key to two other pieces of Dallas’ offseason strategy — trading Dampier’s non-guaranteed contract to a team looking to shed money, and using its midlevel exception to reel in still more talent. The Mavs couldn’t do the first without keeping Haywood to have their bases covered at center, and they couldn’t do the second without signing their own player (Haywood) rather than somebody else’s. So Haywood will be overpaid in 2010-11 and comically overpaid by 2015-16. It’s a bad contract, for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad decision.”
  • Gerald Green didn’t really seem to enjoy playing in Russia all that much.
  • David Thorpe on Omar Samhan, specifically his performance in Game 2: “The thing I like best is that he’s emotionally engaged in the game. Everything means something to him — his teammates, how they’re playing, how he’s playing. He’s invested in the game — but not just how he’s doing. We all knew he had scoring talent and good hands, but unless he can improve his athleticism, it’s going to be hard for him to show those skills on a nightly basis.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz on Rodrigue Beaubois, from the same SL Roundup: “So much of what Beaubois does off the dribble is predicated on the success of his quick release from long range. If he’s not hitting, defenders grow a lot more comfortable trying to contain him.”

Guess Who’s Coming to Vegas?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 3, 2010 under Commentary, News | 2 Comments to Read

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

Vegas Summer League is not only a who’s who of emerging, just-drafted talent, but also a nice survey of the draftees, foreign prospects, and campus legends of yesteryear. It’s as much about investigating newfound talent as it is about rediscovering those that have long been buried. Shan Foster is such a prospect, even if he’s never really gotten a fair NBA shake. However, two notable names have popped up on Vegas roster that should be somewhat interesting to Mavs fans: Gerald Green and Mo Ager.

Green is a typical false prophet; though his raw materials may seem divine, the final product spins truths and speaks falsehoods. His insane physical skills have somehow blasphemed both the laws of nature and his own basketball future. He’s had chances in Dallas, in Houston, in Minnesota, and in Boston, but no good ever came of it. Just scoring bursts, heat checks, and defensive headaches.

This summer, Gerald will have the opportunity to flex those same skills for the Lakers. Regardless of what happens, understand that this is exactly the kind of competition Green was made for: unglorified pick-up ball with only the slightest preparations. I doubt every shot will be his for the taking, but he’s going to get his fair share, and there are times where he’ll look like a legitimate NBA pro. He’s not. Or at least, he wasn’t, the last we saw of him. Players can and do change, but unless there was a cataclysmic shift in Gerald’s psyche, all of the flash in the world isn’t going to turn him into a real boy.

Ager, who will be playing for the Hornets, is something else entirely. While much was never really expected out of Mo from those on the outside, he’s still a former first rounder and a bit of a wayward selection. The Mavs’ brass selected Ager with the 28th pick in the ’06 draft, and they can only hope the 25th pick in the ’10 draft doesn’t turn out similarly. I’m very excited to see what Dominique Jones is capable of in the big leagues, but the similarities between he and Ager are painfully apparent. Mo was never quite as prolific, and they aren’t identical physical specimens, yet it’s clearly not impossible for Jones to follow a similar career path. All of this will be determined with far more certainty at a later date, but for the moment, Dominique is perhaps even less likely to pan out as an NBA mainstay than he is to go the way of Mo.

A World Away, a World Ago

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 21, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment


Video via Angry Trey’s Blog.

Why yes, that is Gerald Green. And Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Tearing up the 2010 Russian Cup. Some sweet dunks by both, although Green and Pops eventually lose to a guy who basically just does slight variants of the same dunk over and over. Remind you of anybody?

Some pretty creative dunks in there, though, and even the basic slams are impressive. I’d take this crew over the 2010 NBA Dunk Contest field any day.

Musings on Sloan: Yesterday

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 10, 2010 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Sometimes it’s hard to get coaches, managers, and owners to speak up concerning the current goings-on of the team. Everything is played so close to the chest, and it’s almost like the media and the team stand diametrically opposed at times. Consumers of sports media want to know how things work — what went into making this decision, why this guy and not that guy, etc. — and ask the almighty “Why?” But the members of the team itself are also somewhat reliant on keeping that information internal. After all, you never know who might hear what, and specifics are, in this case at least, a team’s worst enemy.

But I applauded Mark Cuban’s willingness to talk about some of the Mavs’ decisions in the past, if only because it helps those of us on the outside to fill in the gaps. It’s nice to know why this or that was done, even if it’s a year or two later. And then again, sometimes when talking about decisions from the past, guys like Cuban still tip their hand a bit (perhaps intentionally). Read as much into this quote from Cuban as you’d like:

Sometimes [the players] need prompting [to figure out the best play], and the ones who don’t figure it out…I mean it’s true that’s a great point theres a subset of players that don’t figure it out, that cant figure it out, that don’t think. Those are the ones that are so blessed talent-wise that you try to make it work  — like we had Gerald Green. [To the Celtics' Mike Zarren] You guys have had Gerald Green.

I just look at him and think ‘Oh my God!’ There are things that he’ll show you that are just ‘Oh my God!’ and then he just doesn’t understand the game of basketball and hopefully he’ll figure it out someday but you just keep giving him those chances. He ran out of chances (so far) this last time.

On its own, I think he’s just talking about the hyper-athletic Gerald Green and players of his ilk. But this topic was a recurring theme for Cuban in many of his panels: a guy that just can’t figure it out, that doesn’t think on the court, that isn’t a smart basketball player. Now, I could be mistaken here, but I seem to remember a lot of similar criticism being lobbed at a guy who played for the Mavs not too long ago. It would be completely unfair of Mark to take explicit pot shots at Josh Howard through media channels, but would I put it past him to perhaps offer a veiled criticism of Josh’s game? Not at all.

I’m not sure if Cuban was looking to send a message or just got stuck on a particular topic at multiple panels. But that doesn’t stop Green’s story from being any less of a condensed caricature of Howard’s career. I wouldn’t dare play team psychologist here, but from where I’m sitting, Howard’s troubles always seemed to be more mental than physical. It’s undeniable that he faced a lot in rehabbing and returning from various injuries, but the game within the game has always been to keep Josh on the same page as everyone else. He was fed shot attempts early in the first quarter, and there’s absolutely no doubt that he was treated differently than other players. That’s what it took to keep him functioning as a member of the team, and so its what the Mavericks did.

They hoped he would figure it out someday but they just kept giving him those chances. Josh just ran out of chances this last time.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 12, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • We’re just a hop and a skip into the season, and former Mav Brandon Bass and almost Mav Marcin Gortat are in Marc Stein’s list of the top five players most likely to be moved. It’s strange how these things work out.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladimir Vysotsky, and Gerald Green. It all makes sense, trust me. (via A Stern Warning)
  • The Mavs are tied for the most road wins in the Western Conference.
  • The JET has only good things to say about Erick Dampier (via Eddie Sefko): “The big fella has to play, plain and simple…We got to have Erick Dampier on the court. I don’t care what team we’re playing against – big lineup, little lineup, what have you. He has to be out there. He’s having an outstanding year, and whatever we have to do to keep him out there, we have to do.”
  • Erick Dampier himself on his success within the offense (also via Sefko): “We know teams aren’t going to leave Dirk or Jet…On the pick and roll, if I set a good pick, it’s going to be either a walk-in layup or open jumper for the guard or a dunk for me…That’s just basic basketball. We don’t have to make it complicated.”
  • J.J. Barea has had his fair share of struggles, but you wouldn’t know it after last night’s game. Barea was a game-changer, and in the locker room, he was treated like one.
  • That Tim Thomas issue? A non-issue.

Nearing the End of the Free Agent Bazaar

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 23, 2009 under Commentary | 28 Comments to Read

It’s nearing that time, kids.  The time when regrettable mid-level deals are forged and signed with blood, when fits-like-a-glove veterans are snatched up for pennies on the dollar, and when the yearly projects (Oh, hi Gerald.) find their new temporary home in which to fail to make the jump.  Late summer is truly a magical time for basketball fans.

The Gortat Incident seems years in the past, and while that episode may have trampled some hope for the upcoming season, there are still some serviceable free agents out there.  Most of them can be had on the relative cheap and still provide meaningful production.  Some of them can even do so in ways that would maximize a Mavs’ investment.

The biggest questions should be centered around how these potential Mavericks could change the team’s outlook towards the free agent Mavs in limbo: Ryan Hollins, Gerald Green, and James Singleton.  It’s no secret that the Mavs have some, shall we say, “issues” in the middle.  There’s Erick Dampier and a whole lot of nothing.  Will Dirk shift over?  Are any of the relative unknowns on the roster ready to body up in the paint?  Hard to say.  But the lack of “real” centers (whatever that means anymore) on the roster is a definite point of concern.  Ryan Hollins isn’t quite the remedy we had in mind when the off-season started, but locking him up for next season should be viewed as a necessity.  Brandon Bass won’t be around to log minutes at the five and muscle up on the inside, so a combination of Hollins and makeshift 5s will likely have to do the job.

That is, unless the Mavs are particularly enamored with one of the centers still swimming around in the free agent pool.

It seems like the Mavs have seen just about all they need to see from Gerald Green.  If circumstances were different, like if the Mavs were desperately trying to fill their roster rather than trim it, I could see everyone’s favorite/least favorite slammajamma prospect stick around for another year.  But there’s really no incentive to make an obligation to G-Money.  He wasn’t dynamic or even singularly effective enough last season to warrant special consideration, and given what the Mavs already have to work with, committing additional dollars and a roster spot to the Green dream seems pretty foolish.

Singleton’s place with the team is even more ambiguous.  James hustled his way into Maverick hearts last season and proved to be a rebounding machine.  It’s questionable how much floor time would be available to Singleton with Shawn Marion being worked into the mix, but James is an ideal guy to fill out a roster and bring energy off the bench.  But again, with the roster crunch the Mavs are in at the moment, it could be tough to bring Singleton back.  Doing so would likely require a trade or a waiver, which may be more trouble than a 10th man is worth, especially if another free agent option is deemed superior.

With that in mind, let’s take to the list of the remaining free agents that should interest the Mavs:

1. Lamar Odom, F (unrestricted) – Lamar is the big fish.  He’s plump from chomping on that Championship gold, and is a long shot (at best) to land with the Mavs; Even if Odom isn’t feeling the love from the Lakers, the Heat would likely one-up the Mavs in terms of both fit and personal preference.  Oh, bother.

You also may notice that Odom is about as bad of a fit as you can get given the current core.  LO can is a forward, and both of his natural positions are waist-deep in talent.  Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Josh Howard form one mean forward rotation, and finding room for Lamar Odom in that mix would definitely be tricky.  But Odom is unique and talented enough that those concerns come later.  If you can grab Lamar Odom as a free agent, you do it.  Period.  He’s as versatile as players get in this league and now championship-validated, which is a rather powerful thing to add to a resume.

2. Rasho Nesterovic, C (unrestricted) – I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, Rasho is big, he’s white, and he’s lumbering, but this guy is definitely better than you think he is.  I can’t think of a single facet of Rasho’s game that would warrant calling him a beast, but supposing the Mavs are truly looking to fill minutes at the 5 with free agent imports, I see them doing no better than Nesterovic.  Offensively, he won’t provide much.  Strictly a garbage buckets, open dunks and layups kinda guy.  But on the defensive end, that’s where Rasho is valuable.  Having two serviceable centers who can play D is a luxury few teams have in today’s NBA, and though Erick Dampier and Rasho Nesterovic are neither big names nor offensive juggernauts, together they could go a long way towards slowing down the league’s back-to-the-basket types.

3. Carlos Delfino, SG (restricted) -Delfino is a baller.  His game is smooth and he’s a fine shooter (.490 eFG on jumpers), but unfortunately one who is decidedly average from behind the arc (.356 for his career from three).  Delfino offers a prototypical look that would allow the Mavs to run slightly more conventional lineups from the bench.  He slashes, he hits his midrange looks, and he’s a solid defender; Carlos Delfino is a player just waiting for the right opportunity, and I feel like the Mavs could be a great fit.  Delfino would blossom with some offensive talent around him, and with all the loaded guns the Mavs are packing, he should have no problem getting open looks.  The two-way shooting guard that the Mavs have craved may be a vagabond Argentine…or at worst, he slides in as a rotation wing with a diverse game.

4. Von Wafer, SG (unrestricted) – Von Wafer is a ruthless scorer.  He’d cut the throat of a kitten for a bucket, but that same drive makes him a bit of a black hole.  For what it’s worth, he also had trouble getting along with Rockets’ coach Rick Adelman, perhaps the most players’ coachy of players’ coaches.

Wafer may never tighten the screws that keep his head on his shoulders, and that’s likely the red flag that has kept the Mavs away.  If Wafer can’t learn to play nice with his coach and his teammates, he’ll never be able to thrive in the shot-in-the-arm role that best suits his game.  I don’t think Wafer has the talent or potential to pan out as a top-level scorer, but he would rock it as a punch off the bench.  The Mavs already have that covered with a cat named Jason Terry.  You may have heard of him.  But if Von has trouble finding a home and re-enters the market for bargain value, the Mavs would be stupid to pass up the depth…unless Wafer’s even more troublesome to a locker room than I give him credit for.

5. Ike Diogu, PF (unrestricted) – Diogu may not seem like a fit at first glance, but he could be incredibly useful as a post threat on the second unit.  Ike would slide into Brandon Bass’ role as an undersized PF/C, though his game is more drop steps and less money jumpers.

Diogu’s counting stats won’t wow you, but he’s never really had an ample opportunity to strut his stuff.  His career high in minutes is just a shade under 15, and as such his career averages are decidedly pedestrian.  But when you scope out Diogu’s efficiency numbers and per-minute numbers, they’re truly stellar.  Behold, Ike’s stats per 36 (via Basketball-Reference.com.  Click here to see a larger version.):

That’s typically not the level of production you pick up late in free agency.  And more often than not, you don’t find these players pining away on the wrong end of a rotation for the first four years of their career.

6. Leon Powe, PF (unrestricted) – Leon Powe could turn out to be a great investment, but the returns will be delayed.  He’s currently rehabbing from a torn ACL, which is injury-speak for no bueno.  Logic and precedent tell you not to offer a guaranteed contract to a man with jelly knees, but logic and precedent aren’t staring down a short frontcourt rotation that could use a quality big.  Sheesh, the nerve of those two.

Hinging the frontcourt rotation on Powe’s knee could be a gamble, but if the Mavs aren’t satisfied with what they’ve got (Ahmad Nivins included.  He looked like a player in summer league, but you never know what to expect from a team with a full roster.), then they could opt for a low-salary, option-based deal with Powe.

7. Rashad McCants, SG (unrestricted) – He’s young, he’s available, and he’s a scorer.  Unfortunately, he’s not much else.  McCants is a mouth with a jumpshot, but enough of both that he could inject some swagger and balance the court with his range.  As long as the deal is within reason, McCants could be the extra gun arm needed to shoot the lights out.  He also just so happened to work out with the team a few weeks back, so he’s got that on his side.

8. Keith Bogans, SG (unrestricted) – Bogans is one of those defensive-stopper types who grabbed the label through lack of alternatives.  Bogans doesn’t have much going for him offensively, but he’s a good option as a spot-up shooter on the perimeter.  Luckily for the Mavs, that’s pretty much what they’re looking for in a shooting guard.  With the offensive talent the Mavs have, sometimes optimizing the offensive flow is as simple as spacing the floor and going to work.  When the double teams come, shooters are in position, and if they don’t, you’re looking at a high-quality shot for one of the Mavs’ offensive weapons.  It’s hard to say exactly where such a player would fit in minutes-wise, but if the Mavs are looking for back-up plans in case playing Howard at the 2 goes South, they could do worse than Bogans.  Itty bitty problems: Bogans is no spring chicken, so what you see is pretty much what you get, and there are definite redundancies in the games of Keith Bogans and the newly-signed Quinton Ross.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 3, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, via TrueHoop: “On the day Gerald Green was given a blank page to write the next chapter of his career, he took one of sports most used idioms to a new level in describing his eagerness to prove he belongs in the NBA. ‘I’m so hungry I could eat this phone,’ Green said during a telephone interview Wednesday, the day he became an unrestricted free agent…’It’s been a roller-coaster,’ said Green about the start to his career. ‘It’s gone up and down and in circles. But I don’t ever give up.’ It’s low-risk, high-reward players like Green that Thunder general manager Sam Presti has become known for targeting. Green turned only 23 in January and figures to be four years from entering into the prime of his career. For now, he’s seemingly a cost-effective option that potentially could provide Oklahoma City with another perimeter shooter and rangy defender on the wing…Gym rats like Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming, Green said, taught him the value of hard work. And with the help of former Mavs assistant coach Mario Elie, now with Sacramento, Green said he’s blossoming into more than just an athlete and has developed a better understanding of fundamentals and basketball concepts. Elie has worked on Green’s footwork and got him studying more film during his free time. When asked what areas of his game he’s seeking to improve this summer, Green responded, ‘Everything, but really I want to be that defender that I know I can be.’ It’s a desire that could raise some eyebrows in the defensive-minded Thunder’s front office.”  “Rangy defender” is definitely one way to put it.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse reviews Marcin Gortat’s season, and give some pretty heavy praise.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, via Ball Don’t Lie: “Looking to address the Charlotte Bobcats’ need for a backup power forward, general manager Rod Higgins has contacted agents for Antonio McDyess and Brandon Bass…Higgins said both discussions were preliminary, but he made it clear either one could fill a hole on the depth chart. ‘You look at our roster, and he makes a lot of sense,’ Higgins said of 6-foot-8 Bass, who played a total of four NBA seasons with the Hornets and Mavericks. ‘But he’s going to have options, too.’”
  • A case against re-signing Jason Kidd, but one that essentially boils down to “OMG 2010!”  I don’t see the cap numbers being there, Kidd or no Kidd, for the Mavs to make a run at a max contract free agent.  Regardless, any cap space the Mavs have or don’t have will likely hinge on Josh Howard’s team option for that season.  It’s also worth noting that letting Kidd bolt this summer would likely turn into a disastrous campaign, which puts another feather in the cap of the Nets.  The Nets have the Mavs’ draft pick in the 2010 draft, and a regular season failure only makes the Kidd-Harris trade look that much more foolish.
  • Kidd ranked as the 19th highest-paid American athlete, while Dirk ranked 16th among his international peers. (via TrueHoop)
  • Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni’s thoughts on Jason Kidd, via Alan Hahn of The Knicks Fix: “There’ll always be that talk. I thought he had a great year this year. I though he played well. I think he was shooting better than he ever has. So there are a lot of parts of his game that are getting better . . . I think he’s got another two or three years left in him at the highest level…At least. Stockton went until his was 40-something. Athletes today, there’s a little bit of change and they can contribute in a lot of ways another four, five years. I don’t think you ever know and at some point it’s going to catch up with you, but he’ll always be important for what he does with a team for a few more years to come, for sure…I was always asked the same thing when we got Steve Nash at 32, does he have anything left? They have it left. They keep themselves in shape. Life has changed a little. And it’s up here (points to his head). If you have it up here, you can go. He’s still excited and hopefully a new challenge will help him to achieve more. Hopefully.”

Denver Nuggets 106, Dallas Mavericks 105

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 9, 2009 under Recaps | 45 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot Chart — GameFlow

When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.
-Mark Twain

There are losses that make you want to yell and scream.  There are losses that make you want to roll over and die.  And then, there are losses that leave you staring in disbelief, mouth agape, as if the life has been sucked right out of you.

Or, if you’re like me, it’s a rotation of the three until I successfully recover from my postgame stupor.

In general, I try to avoid the thing that nobody wants to talk about but everybody wants to talk about: officiating.  There’s a certain give and take to the ref game, and I respect that.  But tonight is different.  Although a  blown call in the fourth quarter technically carries the same weight as one in the first, the critical mistake of the officiating crew in the final seconds of Game 3 was the biggest dagger I’ve seen in these playoffs.  In one missed call, Dallas fell from a hopeful 1-2 to a funereal 0-3, a death knell in NBA basketball.  It’s up for debate whether or not the Mavs had a real chance at winning this series, but one suddenly silent whistle made any debate irrelevant.

No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit, and though winning some games would dress up the series in its Sunday’s finest, the Mavs don’t appear to be a team that can buck that trend.  Every piece of evidence imaginable would point to the Mavs losing this series, and can’t even convince myself, much less you, otherwise.

What makes last night’s loss so painful is that the Mavs did what they needed to to win.  Nene (5 points, 2-10 FG), a dominant force in Games 1 and 2, was neutralized by a more effective frontline and a defense aware of his presence.  Josh Howard was revived from ankle hell to score 14 points, grab 7 rebounds, and play some commendable defense on a white-hot Carmelo Anthony.  Dirk (33 points, 16 rebounds) was absolutely wonderful, and managed to actually build upon his prior brilliance by adding an impressive 15 free throw attempts to his series resume.  Jason Kidd and Jason Terry each broke out of their respective slumps, with Kidd running the break with mastery and Terry hitting the (original) biggest shot of the game to put the Mavs up 4.  But all of that was wiped away when Antoine Wright tried to use the Mavs’ foul to give with two seconds remaining and was denied by official Mark Wunderlich, who saw no reason to stop the play and allowed Carmelo a free look at a game-winner.  This isn’t a complaint about a questionable call — NBA president of league and basketball ops Joel Litvin confirmed the boo-boo — but rather voicing the frustration of a clear error that denied the Mavs a chance at this series.

The thought that history will likely remember this day as a Nuggets’ triumph rather than an officiating failure pains me, but credit to Denver for clawing their way through this game.  It wasn’t always pretty and, to be frank, wasn’t always effective, but they managed to perservere despite a lot of things going wrong.  Foul trouble and poor execution be damned, the Nuggets weren’t going to see themselves embarrassed, and that mentality just so happened to get them face-to-face with a winning jumper.  Luckily for the Nuggs and their fans, Melo didn’t blink.

Brandon Bass (16 points, 5 rebounds, 12-14 FT) was awesome.  He alone dominated Chris Andersen (plagued by foul trouble) and J.R. Smith (plagued by poor shot selection being J.R. Smith), and played tough interior defense while Erick Dampier was resting.  Early in the game, it looked as though Ryan Hollins may have supplanted Bass as the back-up center, but Bass played with exactly the kind of energy and discipline that he needs to be effective on a regular basis.  The free throw attempts are clear evidence of his assertiveness around the basket, but that kind of quantification hardly tells how important he was to the Mavs’ offense.  In the first half, Dirk sitting on the bench meant a scoring drought.  But once Bass started hitting his stride, he afforded Nowitzki some much-needed rest and the team a much-needed weapon.

Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups…were Carmelo Anthony (31 points, 8 rebounds) and Chauncey Billups (32 points).  They had the kind of big games that you expect from players of their paygrade, and there was no chance that Denver even sniffs a win if those two don’t contribute huge baskets and meaningful plays at both ends.

Aside from that, the only other Maverick-killer was their inability to secure defensive rebounds.  The Nuggets grabbed 13 offensive boards, many of which were converted into impressive tip-ins and dunks.  That’s a disheartening way to end a play, especially when Dallas’ half-court defense seemed much improved from the first two games.  They were putting the Nuggets in tough spots, but Birdman or Kenyon Martin would swoop in for an easy jam as the ball bounced off the rim.  We’ve asked the Mavs to improve their defense and they responded, which makes those easy put-backs that much more harrowing.

Closing thoughts:

  • Well, Gerald Green played a full 9 minutes, and it wasn’t pretty.  Josh Howard and Antoine Wright’s foul trouble left Carlisle digging into his bench, and Green rewarded his generosity with 0-4 shooting, 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks, and 3 fouls.  Ai yai yai.
  • In case you missed it, you can actualy re-watch the game in its entirety here.
  • Say what you will about Antoine Wright “giving up” on that final play, but I don’t see many faults with his play.  If he challenges the shot, there’s actually a decent chance that Anthony catches him jumping from out of position, draws a foul, and gets three free throws (or maybe even more if the foul was flagrant).  If he even challenges the shot, there’s still a chance that a whistle negates his efforts.  And all of this is taking place in about a second flat, fleeting moments in which Wright is expecting play to be stopped by a tweet.
  • Josh Howard was called for an offensive foul on a play where he drove into the lane and warded off a defender by kicking out his foot…which you may remember was almost the exact play that won a regular season game for Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets against the Mavs back in January (check the clip here at the 1:50 mark, although it’s pretty bad quality).
  • Damn.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Brandon Bass.  Dirk has been playing well all series long and deserves his props, but Bass provided something both unexpected and delightful tonight.  Shooting 14 free throws off the bench in just 25 minutes is quite a feat, and Bass is quite a player.

Big Yellow Taxi

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 30, 2009 under Commentary | 8 Comments to Read

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

This summer Kidd will become an unrestricted free agent and there’s a good chance that the Cavs will again look into his availability. He has said he wants to remain a Maverick, but Sunday he certainly made it seem like playing alongside James in Cleveland was a viable option. “I could sit and watch from the bench,” Kidd said. “[LeBron] is so talented, he’s going to get guys wide open shots. So we’ll look at free agency and what happens for me next year.” The Cavs are thrilled with point guard Mo Williams, who became an All-Star this year. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another, especially if Kidd were to accept a more limited role, as he did for Team USA. Though the Cavs have Delonte West and Daniel Gibson who can handle the ball, they don’t have another true point guard on the roster.

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:

After Sunday’s loss to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kidd said he tries not to think about James calling him and suggesting a reunion next season. The two became friends when they played together for the U.S. Olympic team. “Yeah, that’s a hard call,” Kidd said. “You don’t want to answer the phone. I just have to explore my different options I’m going to have this summer.” Kidd tries not to think about the summer. There’s plenty of season left for the Mavericks. But with the Mavericks playing the Cavaliers, it was inevitable the subject would come up. “I could sit here and watch from the bench,” Kidd said, joking that James plays much the same way he does.

How do two very reputable beat writers cover the exact same event and the exact same quote in such drastically different ways?  Is there really enough subtext in Kidd’s comments to add fuel to everybody’s fire?

Mike Fisher has an eloquent response at DallasBasketball.com:

Eddie’s story doesn’t say that. It says Kidd “laughed” as he was talking of “sitting on the bench” while LeBron starred. But Kidd did not dismiss anything. He did the opposite. He addressed something. And he did so in the wake of a 28-point loss to the very team that is ostensibly planning on courting him. One of the Mavs players visiting Cleveland and leaving the impression that he might want to play there next year? Even if he was just being polite? Now I’m even more tired and more pissed.

I don’t blame him one bit.  That comment is kosher for the routine, casual nature of pre-game questions.  But following one of the Mavs’ worst losses of the season, I’m not sure I want one of the Mavs’ star players laughing at all, much less joking about the possibility of ditching the team in the off-season.

But that’s not the real worry here, is it?

The concern is that just over a year ago, the Mavs’ sent their young starting point guard and two first round picks to New Jersey for a chance to waltz with the venerable Jason Kidd, and there is a realistic chance that they’ll be left with nothing this summer.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

The growing sense in Dallas is that there are only two threats to the Mavericks’ hopes of re-signing Jason Kidd this summer.

Having just turned 36 and facing an unavoidable pay cut from this season’s $21.4 million, Kidd hasn’t dropped a single hint about leaving the team that originally drafted him in 1994, focusing instead on trying to make sure the injury-plagued Mavs reach the postseason, preferably as nothing lower than the West’s No. 7 seed. Dallas certainly needs to keep Kidd after the goods it surrendered to New Jersey in February 2008 to get him — Devin Harris and an unprotected first-round pick in 2010 — but serious interest from either L.A. or Cleveland could be a real threat.

1. Kobe Bryant convincing big-guard-loving Phil Jackson and the Lakers to make a run at his dear friend Kidd with L.A.’s midlevel exception.

2. LeBron James convincing the Cavs to make a run at his dear friend Kidd with their midlevel exception.

…Dallas certainly needs to keep Kidd after the goods it surrendered to New Jersey in February 2008 to get him — Devin Harris and an unprotected first-round pick in 2010 — but serious interest from either L.A. or Cleveland could be a real threat.

Depending on how you prioritize the Mavs’ talent, Kidd could be anywhere from the team’s best player to the third best.  What he does at the point is irreplaceable given the current chips, and finding an acceptable substitute in a timely fashion given the Mavs’ salary cap situation would be nearly impossible.  That’s why, as much as it pains me to say it, the Mavs’ future rests squarely in the hands of Jason Kidd.  If Kidd opts to leave the Mavs this summer, any chance of contention in the near future leaves with him, and the rebuilding plan should go into effect immediately.

Assuming we actually have a rebuilding plan.

It would depress me greatly to see Dirk wearing any uni but Maverick blue, but is it really fair to him to ask him to stick around for a lost cause?  It’s an idea that’s been beat around all season long, but it’s one the Mavericks’ brass may have to confront head-on if Kidd skips town.  The bare bones roster would be significantly crippled, with Jason Terry and Josh Howard as the only other steady producers…if even they could be called that.

The Denver game made one point painfully apparent to me: Jason Terry is no point guard.  His ball-handling under durress is sloppy, and his wayward passes without so much as a hand in his face were inexcusable.  I previously thought that given the Mavs’ system, Terry could man the point alongside a playmaking 2.  Now, I’m not so sure.  His play could be markedly different if he was given a training camp to adjust, but my flirtation with the idea is all but dead.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Brandon Bass and James Singleton, two of the Mavs’ most important players off the bench, share Kidd’s unrestricted free agent status.  Singleton is coming off his first year with the team, and Bass off his second.  Both were acquired via free agency, so the Mavs don’t possess Bird rights (which would allow them to go over the cap to re-sign) for either player.  Essentially, the team would be left with the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception to sign Bass, Singleton (assuming he remains in the team’s long-term plans), a replacement point guard (within reason; think Kevin Ollie, Anthony Carter, Marcus Williams, Jason Hart) that pretty much has to be an unrestricted FA (lest their previous team match the offer sheet, as would likely be the case with restricted FAs), as well as Gerald Green and Ryan Hollins.

It’s hard to anticipate how the economy will play a role in all of this.  While the cap handcuffs the Cavs and the Lakers from offering big-money deals to Jason Kidd, the anticipated deals for Brandon Bass are a bit more difficult to anticipate.  On one hand, the economic struggles of many of the league’s owners could limit both the length and total value of any offers that Bass, a good not great power forward, gets.  But on the other hand, Mark Cuban is hardly the only opportunistic owner; it seems reasonable that there will be other front offices looking to take advantage of a seller’s market.  Harm could come even if Bass, Singleton, and Hollins (notably 3/4 of the team’s current center rotation) receive such offers without taking them.  For a team on such a tight budget, even driving up the price on the Mavs through competitive offers could still prove damaging.

Say what you will about Kidd, or about the Mavs’ chances with him as their starting point.  But right now, the team needs to hang on to the few assets that they do have, and Kidd is definitely near the top of that list.  We knew that trading for Kidd would limit the Mavericks’ window, but I never would have anticipated that his impending free agency would turn the entire franchise into a game of Kerplunk, potentially as the final straw that would cost the Mavs all the marbles.  No Kidd means no hope, and no hope means no justification for the contracts of Erick Dampier, Jason Terry, and Josh Howard.  That opens up an entirely new can of worms as to where precisely the Mavs go from there, but that seems like a conversation for the day that we lose everything.

Stock your bomb shelters, kids.  We could be due for the fallout.