- Kurt Helin, my fellow ProBasketballTalk-er, had a chance to interview Caron Butler. Here are Butler’s thoughts regarding what the Mavs’ areas for improvement in the coming year: “Controlling the glass, focusing on defense. Because we can score with the best of them. We have a great player, we have a Hall of Fame point guard and whole bunch of other guys that want to get it done and are willing to sacrifice whatever to win. We’ve just got to put it all together and we will.” Butler also noted that he’s been working with the needs-no-introduction Tim Grover.
- Kevin Arnovitz has a great interview with Texas Legends’ coach Nancy Lieberman, who is getting serious mileage out of her catchphrase (which you may remember from my interview with Lieberman earlier this summer): “Making the irregular regular.” Here’s Lieberman on her voice as a coach, and what the voice will mean to men who haven’t had all that many female basketball mentors: “I think the end message will be similar, but the methods and how they get the information could be different. I’m excited about it because I’m not going to be in practice f-bombing people. That won’t be me. I’ll be firm and I’ll be fair. We won’t tell people what to do. We’ll explain what we’d like them to do. We’ll show them what we want to do. Then, they’ll do it. I will work their tails off. Trust me. I’m not as nice as I’m faking it on this conversation. I will work them really hard, but I’ll love them on the other side. And they need to know they’re loved and cared for. But that doesn’t mean you can walk over me, through me. That won’t happen. But look, I’m going to kill my guys so I might as well be nice to them. I have high expectations. I haven’t made it in a man’s world for 35 years by being soft, scared or insecure.”
- Mike Krzyzewski on Tyson Chandler’s play for Team USA, via Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: “Tyson has been outstanding. We have a relationship from the 2007 qualifying team (and in 2008 when Chandler came close to making the Olympic team) … He doesn’t need the ball. He’s stronger. I bet he’s at least probably 15 pounds heavier and stronger than he was in 2007. He feels healthy.”
- Have $25 burning a hole in your wallet? Then do I have the deal for you. (H/T: Scott Schroeder)
- Josh Howard, infused with Devean George’s trade veto power.
- Caron Butler thinks the Heat could make it to 73 wins. The Bulls’ sacred 72-win mark is seemingly unbeatable, but next year’s Miami Heat have definite advantages those Bulls were never afforded. The ’95-’96 Bulls are certainly one of the best teams to ever lace them up, but is Caron wrong? Isn’t the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — with Chris Bosh and a hell of a supporting cast — enough to at least bring the Heat into the discussion?
- Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups are two big, strong point guards that have made the most of their size by posting up smaller opposing guards. The Mavs have dabbled with using Jason Kidd in a similar capacity, but he just doesn’t have the scoring chops for it. Regardless, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down what it is that makes Miller and Billups so effective in the post.
- Kelly Dwyer is ranking the top 30 players in each of the five conventional positions, beginning with point guards. You can see the first installment (30-21) here, and the second (20-11) here. Jason Kidd comes in at #12, which may seem a bit harsh, but consider the 11 PGs likely to top Kidd in Dwyer’s rankings (in no particular order): Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson (already confirmed as #11), Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Devin Harris, Tony Parker, and Tyreke Evans. Of those 11, which would you pick Kidd to best in the coming season?
- Jeff Fox of Hoops Manifesto takes a stab at listing the top 10 Mavericks of all-time.
- Rodrigue Beaubois’ surgery was successful.
- From Caron Butler’s blog on HoopsHype: “Aside from the Tyson Chandler trade, my team has had a pretty quiet offseason. I’m not surprised. We had a great roster already. The management looked at the team and thought change wasn’t needed.” Well…that’s certainly one interpretation of the summer’s events.
“Yeah. That went well.”
-Captain Malcolm Reynolds
As much as we’d like for the Mavs to down the Magic on a night like this, it’s not reasonable to expect it. For one, the Magic are far and away the superior team. Plus, it’s the second night of a back-to-back for the Mavs, and they’re coming off an overtime finish and a plane ride home, no less. I know the Mavs don’t need any excuses at this point, but the realities of the NBA regular season do influence performance from time to time, and this one was off those times.
It’s no surprise that the Mavs stuck with the Magic before slipping in the second half. I didn’t quite expect them to post an effective field goal percentage as low as 40.7%, but that’s what happens when everyone’s shooting turns a bit wild. The only Mavericks who could score were Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 24 but took 22 shots to do so, and Jason Terry, who finished with similar efficiency in scoring 16 points on 16 shots. They “carried” the offense, but only because the first half was so low-scoring that even an inefficient night from the Mavs’ two primary scorers kept them close. Decent defense from both sides DOMINATED the first 24 minutes, provided your understanding of defensive domination includes both teams missing open jumpers, committing unforced turnovers, and lacking any kind of offensive cohesion.
In the second half, members of the Magic just took turns exposing various aspects of the Mavs’ defense. Orlando utilized its numerous perimeter alternatives on the pick-and-roll, exploiting the Mavs’ tendency to double down on Howard following his strong start to hit three after three. Mickael Pietrus (24 points, 7-8 FG, 6-6 3FG) was especially dangerous in that regard, and he was absurdly effective from the corners. Jameer Nelson (14 points, seven assists, six turnovers) joined in on the fun to hedge the damage of his dismal first half, and his ability to hit from mid-range and his patience in the pick-and-roll was a big reason why the Magic’s third quarter offense was so effective. Then, Vince Carter (19 points, 8-17 FG, seven rebounds) beefed up his production in time to cushion Orlando’s lead, and Pietrus finished with nine of the Magic’s final 10 points to protect it from a late Maverick rally.
It was just a matter of time before Orlando’s defense came around. Dwight Howard (18 points, 20 rebounds, five blocks) is one of the league’s most influential defensive forces, and every block (and even goaltend) made the Mavs more and more nervous around the basket. Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood passed up looks at the rim due to Howard’s very presence, and many more Mavs faked themselves out of a rhythm as they approached the basket. There are certain award races this season that have discussions or arguments involved. Defensive Player of the Year is not one of them. No player in the league has a more profound impact on the defensive end, and that’s just as obvious in what he does do (block shots, get mad rebounds, show aggressively on screens) as what he doesn’t (deter opponents from coming in the lane, alter shot selection).
Otherwise, there’s not much to say. The half-court offense was stymied by an elite defense, the Mavs blew plenty of their opportunities in transition, and the better team won. Dallas looked off, was forced into too many tough shots, and couldn’t convert their easy ones. That’s not exactly a winning formula on any night, much less one where the opponent is a true contender and one of the hottest teams in the league.
The closest thing Dallas had to a hero was J.J. Barea (16 points, 7-9 FG, two steals), who put on something of a one-man comeback in the fourth quarter. Barea, the very man so many Mavs fans are desperately trying to bury as an offering to Rodrigue Beaubois, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone, including Dallas’ last seven. As much as we’d all like to carve out minutes for Beaubois, Barea still deserves to play. He’ll have nights where he’ll struggle to keep the offense in control or where his shot is a bit errant. That’s why he’s a reserve and not a starting-caliber guard. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve to play or even rightfully deserve the back-up point guard job. It’s crucial that Rick Carlisle keeps his options open, and more important than cementing the back-up PG role is doling out minutes based on the merits of each players’ recent performance. On this night, for example, Rodrigue finished with just two points on 0-of-3 shooting and two turnovers. He may have the potential to produce in greater volume than J.J. (hello, 40-point night), but Barea was by far the more productive player against the Magic. The debate should never have been about getting more minutes for Beaubois, but rather for getting more minutes for the players that deserve them.
- Brandon Bass (eight points, two rebounds) doesn’t always crack the rotation for the Magic, but he played well in 12 minutes. His defense was a mixed bag (some things never change, right?), but offensively he was a nice boost.
- Caron Butler (three points, 0-4 FG, three rebounds, three turnovers) is really struggling right now. On the bright side, his poor shooting isn’t shifting him into chucking mode, but he really needs to establish his value on the offensive end. Otherwise, he’s probably not worth the minutes. I’m not saying Butler should frequently try to take his man one-on-one, but what is Caron providing on the floor during these stretches where only Dirk or JET is clicking on offense? Part of that is the tendency to milk the hot hand, which is fine. It’s after the hot hand cools off that the problems begin to surface, and ideally that’s where you’d like to see Caron chip in.
- Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood combined for 10 points and 18 rebounds, which is alright, I suppose. Both were clearly upstaged by Dwight (as is to be expected), but the defensive effort was there even if neither could properly hold Howard down. The Mavs began their coverage of Howard with a variety of double-teams coming from different angles at different times, but to no avail; Dwight showed off a variety of post moves (including a beauty of a lefty running hook) and found his open teammates on the perimeter. He’s such a tough cover in this system, and that was before the Magic’s outside shooting really started clicking.
- Though the Mavs often looked a step slow, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Dallas really competed in this one, and kept fighting to trim the lead even when a comeback seemed impossible. The loss still hurts (especially in the standings), but the fight is important.
- Orlando finished 14-of-24 from beyond the arc. Ouch.
The Mavs don’t have a very good track record when it comes to finding value late in the draft, though selecting Josh Howard with the final pick in the first round back in 2003. But the stakes have never been higher, with the Mavs’ few young assets weighing their options in free agency and the Mavs’ 2010 pick in the hands of the New Jersey Nets. This one counts big time, and it’s up to the management and the scouting team to find the diamond in the rough.
It’s tough, but hardly impossible. Quality players pass right under the noses of many a team year after year, leaving latent value late in the draft. The Mavs pick at 22, which is just a shade closer to the lottery than to the Mavs’ customary position at the draft’s tail.
Here are the picks at 22 this decade:
2008 – Courtney Lee
2007 – Jared Dudley
2006 – Marcus Williams
2005 – Jarrett Jack
2004 – Viktor Khryapa
2003 – Zoran Planinic
2002 – Casey Jacobsen
2001 – Jeryl Sasser
2000 – Donnell Harvey
Three of those players (Courtney Lee, Jared Dudley, Jarrett Jack) have shown rotation player chops. Lee is the most notable as the starting 2 guard of an impressive Orlando team just one win away from the Finals. In fact, if the Mavs could magically re-draft Lee this year, they’d be in pretty good shape.
Just for fun, here are picks in the late first round (20+) :
Courtney Lee (22)
Nicolas Batum (25)
Wilson Chandler (23)
Rudy Fernandez (24)
Aaron Brooks (26)
Renaldo Balkman (20)
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kyle Lowry (23)
Shannon Brown (25)
Jordan Farmar (26)
Jarrett Jack (20)
Nate Robinson (21)
Francisco Garcia (23)
Jason Maxiell (26)
Linas Kleiza (27)
David Lee (30)
Jameer Nelson (20)
Delonte West (24)
Kevin Martin (26)
Boris Diaw (21)
Travis Outlaw (23)
Kendrick Perkins (27)
Leandro Barbosa (28)
Josh Howard (29)
Tayshaun Prince (23)
Nenad Krstic (24)
John Salmons (26)
Brendan Haywood (20)
Gerald Wallace (25)
Jamaal Tinsley (27)
Tony Parker (28)
Morris Peterson (21)
It’s certainly worth noting that even the 2005 draft, predicted to be a weak draft class among pundits and largely looked at as a failure in comparison to its contemporaries, still produced productive players late in the first round. Blake Griffin is no Tim Duncan and the consolation prizes may have their flaws, but that doesn’t mean true commodities can’t be found late in the first.
Next week I’ll start examining potential picks for the Mavs, starting with those rumored and confirmed to have scheduled workouts with the team. Some of those players seem poised for success on the pro level, and others may not even be top competitors in the D-League. As fans, we can only hope that MGMT not only makes the right decision in assessing the talent of a potential pick, but also in picking talented players to fill holes in the Mavs’ rotation.
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”
The Mavs put together another complete performance, but this time around things were different. This wasn’t against the Warriors, or the Heat. This one was big, and it was against the contending Orlando Magic. I like what I saw.
Somehow, a Dallas outfit that has been miserable in guarding the three point line turned a group of “snipers” into kids with cap guns, firing blanks at every opportunity. A lot of credit goes to both Carlisle and the players themselves, who combined a solid gameplan with excellent execution. Looking to the box score, it may seem like the Mavs were absolutely grilled inside. This is entirely true. Dwight Howard awakened his inner Hakeem as he threw in hook after hook, and he finished the night with 35 and 11. But this time, Dwight’s dominance was by design. Erick Dampier has shown himself to be a capable one-on-one post defender in the past, and tonight he was given the task of derailing Howard with no help from the weak side. That not only forces Dwight to (theoretically) force up errant shots, but also keeps the ball out of the hands of Orlando’s shooters, who typically capitalize on Dwight’s ability to draw double teams. Nuh-uh. Not last night. Wing defenders were all over the place, and their efforts were bolstered by a poor shooting effort by the Magic. Even when they had open looks, the Magic shooters were hearing Maverick footsteps. Or maybe they were just cold. Whatever.
The offense just rolled and rolled, snowballing into a monster during the late 3rd and early 4th. Josh Howard was aggressive early but struggled a bit with his shot, and Jason Terry seemed a bit off the entire night. That didn’t stop Dallas from claiming a 7-point lead at halftime, largely behind the efforts of Dirk Nowitzki (29 points, 12-21 shooting). Dirk was the anchor during the tough stretches, and his work was rewarded by a supporting cast that came around and a defense that made life easier for everyone in blue (body, not trim).
Ryan Hollins actually broke a sweat tonight, playing and fouling out in 11 minutes. Some of his fouls seemed ticky-tacky to be honest, but that’s the way it goes when you’re young, and that’s the way it goes when you’re Ryan Hollins. He still put his imprint on the game though, manning the center position for a key third quarter stretch in which the Mavs went +13. Hollins and Dampier didn’t exactly shackle Dwight Howard, but they did make him work for his points one way or another. Any other night, y’know, one where he doesn’t make around 10 hook shots, and Dwight’s stat line looks a lot more palatable to Mavs fans.
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson dislocated his right shoulder while fighting with Dampier for a loose ball. I’ve loved Nelson’s play all season, and it’s a shame that this had to happen just after Nelson’s first All-Star selection. Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Jameer. Although, it should certainly be noted that the Mavs didn’t win this game because Jameer went out. It certainly didn’t help Orlando, but the Mavs had already “imposed their will” on the game by that point. He probably could’ve made a difference down the stretch, but the Mavs won this game because they played well, not because Jameer went down.
Three blips on my radar: the Mavs bench was absolutely nuts tonight, standing at all times, jumping up and down, and really showing some love for their teammates. I love it. Second, the Magic play some really strange sound effect on made shots. It sounds like that toy laser gun you had when you were growing up, mixed with the intro synth on any prominent 80s pop song. Wacky. And third, I want to give some props to the Magic broadcast team. I watch a lot of basketball and I’ve heard some pretty biased/blatantly wrong commentary, but this crew was not only fair but incredibly knowledgeable. They avoided all the classic pitfalls regarding the Mavs, and from the small sample size I’ve heard of them (around 5 games on the season), I’ve been impressed.
Oh, and one final thought: as Mavs fans, we’re not often treated to exquisite dunks. Sometimes Bass will throw down something fierce, or Dirk will dunk on the break. But tonight, we witnessed something truly special. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Dunktacular Stylings of Sir Erick of Dampier.
The Gold Star of the Night goes to Jason Kidd, who provided some offense of his own while getting Dampier and co. involved as well. Dirk really needed a boost to get this team over the hump, and Kidd skipped the shot in the arm method and instead went straight for the jugular.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Orlando Magic
When boiled down to a purely theoretical framework, I think the Magic might have the best team in the NBA. They don’t have the best players and they’re not the most complete, but in terms of approach and personnel I’m not sure there’s a better way to do things. That could be because I see a little bit of the Spurs in the Magic.
As far as big men go, I don’t know that there are more philosophically different players than Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard. Duncan supplants technique and precision over athleticism and strength, a shockingly lethal array of bank shots, footwork, and baby hooks. His game reeks of calculation and blueprints, not gunpowder and rocket fuel. On top of that, his high post mastery has marked the free throw line extended as his kingdom. Dwight Howard has no such jurisdiction, but that doesn’t change the way they function within the offense. The San Antonio triumvirate functions because each individual brings something unique to the table, and because they can give defenses fits without stepping on each other’s toes. Beyond that, many a role player has found themselves on the receiving end of an open three-pointer or a hundred because of those three.
In a sense, Orlando is a dignified and yet deeply flawed San Antonio. Jameer Nelson is a point guard who’s quick enough to get where he needs to go on the floor, and yet shares some of Parker’s defensive limitations. Like a young Parker, Jameer has a singular midrange talent (jumper versus teardrop). Hedo Turkoglu provides offensive movement and a creator away from the point. He doesn’t have Manu’s explosiveness, but he supplements his talents with considerable size and a nice passing touch. Rashard Lewis is, for all intents and purposes, the super-scorer/role player that may have kept the Spurs from exploding into a ten year dynasty. The Magic are decidedly Bowen-less, and maybe that’s what separates them from the cream of the crop (possible). Or maybe it’s the difference between Howard and Duncan (likely).
We all know that Dwight Howard with a legit low-post skill set would be something to behold, but is it possible that his transformation could usher in a more far-reaching evolution of lovable, innocent Magic into the infinitely more exciting and smiley neo-Spurs?