On ESPN.com’s Future Power Rankings (assessing which NBA teams have the brightest future overall, not merely looking to next season, Dallas was ranked 14th. About what you’d expect from a strong, but fairly old roster with just one young player of note: “The Mavericks continue to be more of a “now” team than a team looking to the future, which explains their low-ish ranking for a contender…The Mavs’ up-and-comers consist of one guy: 21-year-old point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, whose potential is still a question mark. On the financial front, the free-spending Mavs are projected to be over the salary cap until 2011 or, more likely, 2012. The good news for Dallas fans is that owner Mark Cuban is creative and has perpetually found ways to keep the Mavs competitive. After 10 consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins, this is a hard franchise to count out.”
The Mavs have a new official off-site blog called Mavs Fast Break. Looks to be more or less the same coverage from Earl K. Sneed and a few others, but with a new layout that should make everything easier to find.
Andres Nocioni is on crutches because of his involvement with Argentina’s national team. This is every NBA owner’s/GM’s/coach’s nightmare: players injuring themselves while doing anything other than playing for their team. Fingers crossed that Beaubois, Mahinmi, and Ajinca can avoid Noc’s fate this summer.
Dan Shanoff (via J.E. Skeets): “The NBA has done a spectacular job of turning itself into a 11-month-a-year league. Beyond the regular season and playoffs, there was the John Wall Lottery in May, the Draft in June, July’s free-agent insanity…And even into August — which should be a dead zone — the league has three things it can stand on: The schedule release (yesterday, which was big enough), the World Basketball Festival (in two weeks) and, of course, Shaq about to sign with the Celtics.” This couldn’t be more true in the wake of the free agent bonanza. The FIBA World Championships are right around the corner, and from there we’ll practically roll into training camp and media day. All of this is to say something I’ve noted many times before in this space: there has never been a better time for information-hungry basketball fans. There is so much worthwhile analysis out there to consume on a daily basis (even in the off-season), and it’s all readily available with a few keystrokes. The fact that the NBA is now relevant for so long plays a big part in that.
Mark Cuban on allowing NBA players to participate in international competition (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, hat tip to DOH at Mavs Moneyball): “I think there is zero upside as a league. We are allocating our best players to work for another corporation. I don’t see the logic. And as far as the argument that the World Championship builds demand, find me one fan who can name the players on the pre-Redeem Team squad. The only reason we allowed Tyson (Chandler) to play is because it’s a good rehab opportunity. So I guess if we only allowed players who were coming back from injuries and needed the rehab, I would be all for it.”
Dirk is the all-time leader in three-point shooters made by a player seven-feet or taller. Behind him? Andrea Bargnani. Bargs has a long way to go before catching up to Dirk, but he’s only 24 and has been shooting a lot more threes than Nowitzki. No question Dirk should go down as the seven-foot shooter to date, but if we look strictly at volume, Bargnani could definitely surpass Nowitzki in 3PM somewhere down the line (Link via ShareBro Skeets).
On Frisco’s current President of Basketball Operations Spud Webb’s performance in the 1986 slam dunk contest: “I totally remember he was like 3-foot-5-inches tall and he did this amazing 180-degree reverse double-pump slam,” Hawks fan Eric Davis said of the 5-foot-7 Webb, who was 4-foot-9 and dunked from the foul line the last time Davis told the story. “Spud really wasn’t much bigger than a basketball. He just blew everybody away in the final round when he rode into the arena on a hamster, ripped off his G.I. Joe doll uniform warm-up pants, threw the ball at the backboard, ran between a small child’s legs, jumped up to Dominique Wilkins’ palm, and springboarded off it to do a 360-degree two-handed dunk.”
Go here, right now, and play with one of the neatest NBA toys the internet has to offer.
Josh Howard responds, again, after claiming that he’ll refuse to respond to the allegations that he missed a regular season Mavericks game due to a hangover. Here’s Josh, via Holly MacKenzie of The Score’s Nothing Easy blog: “It makes me wonder. It makes me wonder, what was all of the hard work for, but it was for myself at the end of the day. It’s kind of sad, hearing all of the lies coming out of there. Especially when I’m gone. Why would you want to talk about a guy who did so much for your organization and he’s gone?”
This flew around the internet yesterday, and rightfully so. Dan Steinberg did a tremendous job of giving color and context to a team that many others might have found completely unremarkable. Of course it was completely the opposite, and Steinberg’s work has given us almost a fly-on-the-wall (supposing said fly could also provide us a look inside the heads of the most interesting Wizards) view of one of the NBA’s most entertaining locker rooms.
Mark Cuban is looking into the possibility of playing a regular season (or playoff) game at Cowboy Stadium. Based on my experience at the All-Star game, I definitely think it’s a cool idea. But as far as playing a playoff game there, I do have a question: is playing at Cowboy Stadium, an arena with which your players are hardly familiar, the wisest use of your playoff home court?
Vince Thomas of NBA.com (via DOH): “It’ll be May, when [Caron] Butler is at the podium, answering questions after slapping up a 25-8-5 night in a playoff win. That’s when fans everywhere will turn to each other, shaking their heads and say, ‘Man … I didn’t know he was this good.’”
Here’s some video of Flip Saunders, Josh Howard, Quinton Ross, and James Singleton after Wizards’ practice. Singleton talks about not exercising his right to veto the trade, Howard says his ankle is only 75-80% healthy, and Flip likes Josh’s abilities as an open court player.
Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “I believe the new guys’ unfamiliarity of the system is the reason J.J. Barea jumped back into the backup PG role, ahead of Roddy Beaubois. I understand your ire, but think about it: Butler and Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson don’t know the plays, don’t know the calls, don’t know the signals. Is Roddy Beaubois – a rookie who himself is just now getting comfortable with the playbook, not to mention with English – fully equipped to handle the unusual requirements of this quarterbacking situation? Rick Carlisle’s decision was that he was not ready. That’s not a defense of the JJB results. Don’t even ask me to defend the long-term notion of a Jet/JJB backcourt pairing. Again, it’s just an explanation for the thinking on this night. I do want you to consider this, though: You do know, don’t you, that Carlisle WANTS Roddy to win this job, right?”
Perspectives of all kinds from various media members, from the blogosphere to the mainstream, on the Mavs’ big trade:
Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: “Butler has long been a minutes sopper. He’s not going to go off for 30 points consistently, but when he’s at his best he brings extended all-around production, and that means a lot to a team that doesn’t have much depth like the Mavericks. He’s not only replacing Josh Howard’s minutes, but he’s taking minutes from Jose Juan Barea by pushing Jason Kidd down a position for longer stretches. And while Barea’s contributions are to be appreciated, the Mavs can’t be more than second round fodder if he’s playing 20 minutes a night. And he’s averaged 21.9 thus far this season. This depends on Butler picking it up, however. It wasn’t just his unfamiliarity with Saunders’ offense, he was clearly alternately taking possessions off, and jacking up shots. He made no effort to immerse himself in an offense that could have really played to his strengths, and he’ll be hooking up with another coach (Rick Carlisle) that demands that plays actually be run properly. He’ll also be hooking up with one of the best coaches in the NBA, so here’s hoping he’s aware of his luck. The turnaround will be on Butler. If he pulls himself above the muck of the middling and the average, and turns into the Butler of old (even with fewer shots and fewer chances to dominate), these Mavericks could have a chance. If he pulls the same routine we saw in Washington, the Mavericks might as well be starting Josh Howard.”
John Hollinger, ESPN.com (Insider): “So how much better does that lofty sum make Dallas? Based on player efficiency rating, it doesn’t move the needle much. Our Trade Machine analysis is that the swap improves Dallas by only one win for the remainder of the season, largely because this season the difference in performance between Butler and Howard is much smaller than generally perceived. In fact, statistically, there’s been virtually no difference between the two players over the past four seasons, including this one, in which Butler’s numbers have been down just as sharply as Howard’s. For the Mavs, the success of the trade might come down to the names in agate type, not the headliners. That is, Haywood and Gooden may be fairly similar in terms of PER, but look at plus-minus stats and a very different picture emerges. According to Basketballvalue.com, Dallas gives up 11.25 points per 100 possessions more with Gooden on the court, one of the worst marks in basketball…On the other hand, Haywood’s plus-minus numbers over the past half-decade have been spectacular. This season, for instance, Washington is 8.46 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court…That said, the deal overall still leaves me with more questions than answers. How is Butler going to defend opposing shooting guards when he can’t even guard small forwards? How will the Mavs juggle minutes up front between Haywood and Erick Dampier, especially when they’re likely to play extended stretches with…Nowitzki playing the 5?…Without such a second trade…it appears the Mavs are spending a total of $30 million just to improve their odds of making the second round. Even after this deal, I don’t like their chances to beat Denver or Utah, let alone the likes of the Lakers.”
Bethlehem Shoals, FanHouse: “Regardless, this deal is as lopsided as everyone thought the Pau Gasol was in the spring 2008…That transaction spurred Dallas’s acquisition of Jason Kidd, the Suns’s wholesale conversion to the church of Shaquille O’Neal, and the Cavs trading their entire team and coming up with Delonte West where once Larry Hughes was…at the time, it felt like everyone was loading up for the end of the world…For the Mavs, it was a fine time to make a move. Butler was there for the taking, their 2010 hopes were always slim – locking down Dirk should be enough – and Kidd’s days are numbered. But all of us little people want to know: Will this deal set off another arms race, or be seen as an isolated case of opportunism?…Suppose, though, that Dallas trade is interpreted as a sign, and every other big team moves. Cleveland pairs Amare and LeBron, Wade and Bosh become best friends in Miami. Would these be trial runs, ploys to keep these superstars close to home, or actual long-term plans that just happen to unfold a few months in advance?…Dallas has raised the stakes; ergo, Cleveland and Miami might be in a scramble to win a title and seriously contend (respectively). Or, an equally likely possibility: Dallas goes for it now, as Boston might, because their window is closing. However strange it may sound, the more cluttered this season becomes for the Cavs or Heat, the fewer promises/surprises they have to pull once 2009-10 winds down.”
Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus: “Having Butler means Rick Carlisle has the kind of flexibility with lineups he anticipated coming into the season. For the most part, Shawn Marion has played at small forward, stepping into Howard’s old role as a starter and rarely swinging down to the four-spot. A forward duo of Butler and Marion could be very difficult for opponents, especially with Dirk Nowitzki creating matchup problems at center at times…Besides their financial situation, Dallas was in an ideal situation to upgrade at the trade deadline because the Mavericks’ position in the standings has been better than their play on the court. At 32-20, Dallas is just 2.5 games behind second-place Denver in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the West, but the Mavericks’ have outscored opponents by just 1.7 points per game. Even accounting for a more difficult schedule than average, their +2.2 schedule-adjusted differential is 12th in the league in eighth in the conference. As a result, you’d expect a correction in Dallas’ record the rest of the way, but this trade may prevent that from happening and allow the Mavericks to take advantage of their good fortune so far.”
Josh Howard, Washington Wizards:
Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images.
Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: “We often talk about the Mavs “having a plan’’ as opposed to simply “spending to assemble a Fantasy Basketball Team,’’ or worse, grab-bagging their way through moves. This? It all looks like the result of ‘having a plan.’’…A Draft-Day trade. A Summer of 2009 free-agent Sign-and-Trade. A minor deal with New Jersey. A major deal with Washington. And (with the help of ‘JES’ and David Lord of the 75-Member Staff) here’s what Dallas has done, depth-chart-wise, with its dollars and sense:
Shifted from paying $94,743,434 for:
Dampier – Hollins – Williams
Nowitzki – Bass – Singleton
Howard – George – Stackhouse
Wright – Green – Carroll
Kidd – Terry – Barea
and drafting BJ Mullens
To paying $87,707,016 for:
Haywood – Dampier
Nowitzki – Thomas – Najera
Marion – Stevenson
Butler – Terry – Carroll
Kidd – Beaubois – Barea
with Calethes, Nivins, OKC’s 2010 2nd-round pick an a $2.9 mil trade exception[.]”
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: This is hardly just a Caron Butler trade, however. In fact, for the Mavericks, the big prize of the day may well be center Brendan Haywood…The Wizards have been pretty miserable this season. But they have been dramatically less miserable with Brendan Haywood on the court. Basketball Value pins his adjusted plus/minus at better than plus-eight points per 100 possessions. That’s one of the top 30 ratings in the NBA, ahead of the likes of Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and even Caron Butler. 82games.com says that Haywood is part of the Wizards’ nine most effective lineups. When a player has those kinds of plus/minus statistics, but is not an All-Star, if typically means he knows something about playing D. When he’s on the court, Brendan Haywood grabs about 18% of the available rebounds. At age 30, that’s the best rate of his career. It’s also good for 21st in the NBA, in nice company with Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and the like. It’s also slightly better than Drew Gooden, whose place Haywood would take in Dallas.
Marc Stein (@STEIN_LINE_HQ), ESPN.com: “In response to any suggestion out there that Haywood could have been held onto by Wiz: Mavs would never have done this deal without Haywood[.]“
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: “In Butler, Dallas knows they are getting a former All-Star, but they don’t know if he’ll be compatible. Sure, Butler liked to be seenon the scene, but he always kept it classy. Caron Butler is a good guy with strong character. But can his game get along with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki? Will he adjust for them as he did not do for Flip Saunders? Brendan Haywood has been playing motivated enough in a contract year, what happens to the games of Butler and DeShawn Stevenson in their respective fresh starts?”
Mike Prada, Bullets Forever: “It’s not just about getting no talent back or not clearing enough salary to get under the luxury tax this year. It’s not just about sacrificing two somewhat valuable assets for nothing more than a little extra room under the luxury tax and flexibility in 2011. It’s not just about bringing in two guys who aren’t great characters and would take away minutes from the young players. No, it’s about the coalescence of bad planning, a bad read of the market, a lack of creativity, misplaced priorities and a lack of understanding about what the fans want and what they want to hear. That’s why this trade stinks.”
Mike Jones, Mike Jones Sports: “Did the Wizards come up on the short end of the stick by not being able to get a draft pick in the mix? Possibly. But given Washington’s situation — their 17-33 record and the fact that it was no secret that they needed to blow this team up — they didn’t have as much leverage as they could have. I’m told they approached — and continue to approach — the trade deadline with somewhat of a checklist. They wanted/want to make deals that give them A) salary relief, B) young talent and or C) future picks. The Wizards would have viewed a deal that gave them all three as fantastic, a deal that gave them one of the two as great, and a deal that at least gave them salary relief as pretty good. Since they didn’t really get any young talent in this trade, then this is a pretty good trade because in it they got a former All-Star in Howard and a player with starting experience in winning situations in Gooden, who also provides a low-post presence. And they get two players (Ross and Singleton) that they can evaluate.”
Dave Berri, Wages of Wins Journal: “Given this roster, how good are the Mavericks today? Looking back at Table One we see that Howard was the least productive player on the Mavericks this season. So replacing Howard with Butler is an upgrade. And once again, Haywood is very productive. Consequently, it’s possible the Mavericks could win about 21 of their final 30 games (this estimate is based upon my guess of how many minutes each player will play down the stretch). Had the Mavericks stayed the same, this team could have expected to win about 17 more games. So in terms of the final standings, this move doesn’t really alter the final record dramatically. But that’s because there are only 30 games left.”
Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards Press Release: “Our four new players bring versatility and the experience of playing in a winning situation. Josh and Quinton can each play both the shooting guard and small forward positions while providing athleticism and outside shooting. Drew can play both the power forward and center positions and he and James give us an inside presence that combines skill and toughness.”
James Singleton, Washington Wizards (via Eddie Sefko): “I’m finally going to get a chance. I think it helps both teams and it’s the best situation for me, really. I spoke to coach Carlisle and I told him he did right by me. I think it will work out good for me and good for both teams.”
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brandon George): “[I] love [Caron]. There’s one thing about this league, you can’t substitute toughness. He’s very good everywhere he’s been, in LA, Miami and now Washington. He’s a very, very good player who complements a lot of good players. He was an All-Star last year, and he’s definitely one of those guys you have to key on when you play him.”
Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (via Brandon George): “Caron’s a great player and Haywood, and those guys will definitely help us. The big thing as a whole, we haven’t played well since the new year. Even taking away talking about a trade, us as players, we have to play better and get more wins under our belt…We’re a veteran ball club, so it shouldn’t be as big if we were a younger team and trying to fit in. They just have to come in and do their job, and we have some great guys who will make them feel welcomed and have fun doing it.”
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (via Brad Townsend): As a franchise sometimes, you’ve got to make tough decisions. It’s always tough and sad to see teammates leave, especially when you’ve played with them for a long time like we have with Josh. We’ve been through battles with him. So it’s always tough to see guys go, but sometimes a franchise has to move on and make decisions…It’s going to be tough to get everyone together that quick. We’ve got a tough stretch with four games in five nights, but nothing is easy in this league and you’ve got to go out and earn it. Hopefully we’re going to put some basics in Monday, just a couple of plays, tell them our defensive philosophy and go out and play. That’s what good players do, play off each other.”
Michael Lee, The Washington Post: “They surrendered Butler, Haywood and Stevenson in what essentially is a salary dump that provides almost $15 million in cap relief for the 2010-11 season. Ross is the only player the Wizards receive who is signed through next season. The deal would also provide nearly $2.6 million in luxury tax relief this season for the Wizards, who will ship out $19.7 million in salaries while getting back $17.3 million. Coupled with the savings that the Wizards will already receive for suspensions to Arenas and Crittenton, the luxury tax penalty could be reduced by nearly $7 million.”
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last night that the ongoing trade negotiations between the Mavs and the Wizards have turned serious. Super serious. As in, we could have an official trade by later tonight. That’s a big jump from “the Mavs are interested in Caron Butler,” and based on the Mavs’ rumored acquisitions? I don’t see how Dallas fans could be anything but pleased.
The deal as reported would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and (possibly) James Singleton to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. Butler will undoubtedly be the headline-grabber in Dallas, the real prize here may be Haywood.
Then of course, the Mavs would hope that Caron Butler can return to form, or at the very least, improve on Josh Howard’s production as a Mav. It’s incredibly difficult to tell which parts of Butler’s game are due to a genuine regression and which parts simply come from playing for a terrible team at a terrible time, but Caron has a lot working in his favor with the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a top-notch coach, and Dirk Nowitzki is an insanely talented and productive player. Jason Kidd makes things so easy on offense, and having an offensive threat like Jason Terry and a defensive weapon like Shawn Marion relieves a lot of pressure. On top of that, Mark Cuban spares no expense in making his players comfortable, and the outlook of the team as a whole is decidedly more optimistic than that of the Wiz. It’s amazing what a change of scenery and a different disposition can do for a player’s performance, and Dallas has all of the ingredients necessary to facilitate a Butler resurgence.
DeShawn Stevenson is the filler element, and he’s essentially the price the Mavs have to pay for Butler and Haywood. Once upon a time he was something of a defensive stalwart, but even that aspect of his game has faded in the last two seasons. Now he’s merely an Abe Lincoln-tatted headcase with an overinflated ego and marginal on-court effectiveness. Stevenson can be destructive, but if his minor distraction is what it takes to bring such substantial talent to the Mavs, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have certainly pulled a fast one on Ernie Grunfeld (or at the very least, managed to capitalize on Grunfeld’s misfortune).
It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.
“Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.”
How do you even begin to make sense of a game like that? It was the largest win in franchise history. It was an on-court massacre unlike anything we’ve even dreamed of, and it was so violently actualized that children would probably have been best served covering their eyes. The Mavs didn’t even need Jason Kidd, who missed the game for personal reasons, to post their season best in offensive efficiency (140.7 points per 100 possessions). And they didn’t need Erick Dampier, who missed the game due to his knee effusion, to register their most effective defense performance since November 13th (85.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Mavs were shorted a critical piece on both ends of the court, and still went on to pillage Madison Square Garden and burn it to the ground.
The first quarter was competitive, but by the end of the second the Mavs had established a double-digit lead that would only grow and grow. They held the Knicks to just 13 points in the third frame, while pouring in an incredible 38 of their own. There was no specific dominance; Dirk (20 points, 6-12 FG, five rebounds) and Terry (20 points, 8-12 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) shared the honor for the team-high in points, but they were two of just seven Mavs in double figures. The real question isn’t which Mavs did well, but which ones didn’t. And the real answer is…well, no one. 11 Mavs logged minutes, each scored at least four points, and everyone but James Singleton shot over 50% from the field. Even the seldom used Matt Carroll finished with seven points on 3-4 FG, the highest total of his Maverick career.
It’s indisputable that the Mavs played fabulously on Sunday. You don’t win a game by 50 points playing so-so, good, or even great basketball. This was a once-in-a-something collision of white-hot offense, terrific defense, and an opponent that isn’t particularly great at either. But once we’re a day removed, what does this win even mean?
For one, it shows what the Mavs are capable of. This team isn’t offensively challenged, even if they’ve seemed that way throughout most of the season. And while I wouldn’t expect such ridiculous production every night, this collection of players has clearly been underachieving on that end of the court. Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s struggles are well-documented, but just as crucial is finding scoring elsewhere; Drew Gooden (15 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks), J.J. Barea, and the rest of the reserves are still a bit inconsistent, and though they don’t need to necessarily be dependable on an individual basis, there needs to be some accountability among the bench collective. Again, don’t expect them to reach this level of production or efficiency (and definitely not opportunity) on the regular, but when called upon, the reserves need to respond as they did on Sunday.
Also, it shows that the offense is capable of performing without the calming influence of Jason Kidd. J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals) and Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 5-8 FG, 3-6 3FG, five assists, six rebounds, five turnovers) did a tremendous job of keeping the ball moving, and the team totaled 25 assists without their primary facilitator and statistical leader in that category. That’s an impressive feat considering how many points the Mavs were able to put on the board, and an even more impressive one considering the substantial playing time and production of nontraditional offensive threats. Dallas was able to rest its starters plenty, and in doing so, should have experienced some a drop-off in offensive production; instead, a fourth quarter that prominently featured Beaubois, Matt Carroll, Quinton Ross, James Singleton, and Tim Thomas (a lineup that played the final eight minutes) actually managed to add to the lead by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter to the Knicks’ 22.
Beyond that, it’s impossible to say. All we can hope is that team-wide production trends upward after such a dominant performance, and that the Mavs find themselves a way to level out and resolve their consistency issues.
Oh, and if you’ll allow me to step away from the season contrasts and the bigger picture for just a second: Your Dallas Mavericks just beat a team by 50 points. Fifty. Points. Despite how negative my assertions may seem in this recap, nothing on this planet can take away the fact that the Mavs completely obliterated another NBA team by an ungodly margin. They played what was probably the closest thing to flawless basketball I’ve seen out of a Maverick team ever. It’s almost unfair to expect more than that, but a game’s just a game and the Mavs have miles to go before they sleep.
As is to be expected in a game like this, the Mavs provided plenty of fuel for the highlight reel. James Singleton threw down a monstrous jam. Tim Thomas worked baseline for a contested throw-down. And Roddy Beaubois brought out the oooohs and ahhhhs with this.
Drew Gooden’s plus/minus for the night? +41. Unbelievable.
A fifty-point blowout, an empty-the-bench fourth quarter, and Eddie Najera still doesn’t play. Still waiting on Najera’s first minute on his second stint with the Mavs.
Josh Howard came off the bench again, with J.J. Barea taking the place of Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Drew Gooden started in place of Erick Dampier, giving the Mavs a starting five of Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Gooden.
Beaubois was getting playing time as early as the first quarter, and was clearly determined to make an impact. Sometimes that resulted in turnovers, but sometimes it resulted in spectacular plays (both offensively and defensively) for himself and his teammates. Roddy has a lot of growing up to do before he’s ready for a full-time gig, but this guy is still ready, and waiting, to contribute.
Josh Howard didn’t hav ea great game, but he had a tidy seven points on six shots, and played some nice perimeter defense. Howard still struggles to defend the post, though…which probably sounds worse than it is given the lack of small forwards with real skill down low.
Jared Jeffries, who is averaging 4.6 PPG for the season, dropped 12 points in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting. A little surprising to say the least, especially if you’re familiar with Jeffries’ limited offensive game. And somewhat predictably, he missed all of his field goals the rest of the way, and added just two more points off of free throws.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Rodrigue Beaubois. If you’re going to make me pick and choose between all of the Maverick contributors, I’m going to tag the guy who hasn’t played many meaningful minutes in the past month and a half. He’s a truly engaging player, and though his opportunity may not come today, games like these keep us looking forward to tomorrow.
“Winning isn’t always finishing first. Sometimes winning is just finishing.”
It’s easy to start with what went wrong against the Sixers, but one thing certainly went right: with the game on the line, the Mavs got the ball into the hands of a proven killer, put him in his comfort zone on the floor, and just watched as a relentless 76ers comeback was wiped away by a gentle splash of the net. Yet again, the Mavs were in a position to demoralize their opponents, the plucky, hard-working, but outclassed Philadelphia 76ers. And yet again, they capitalized.
The fact that Jason Terry was able to create his first clutch imprint of the season is icing on the cake. A shot like that (combined with JET’s clutch pedigree) establishes and diversifies the Mavs’ options in close games, which can only be a good thing.
Also: if you’re Willie Green, do you find solace in the fact that you blanked Jason Terry to the best of your ability and contested the shot well? Or do you find depression in the realization that it wasn’t good enough?
Based on the execution in the first half, it shouldn’t have ever come down to JET. The Mavs played a half of completely balanced basketball, holding the Sixers to 33% shooting while shooting 50% themselves, keeping pace in the rebounding battle, and maintaining the edge in the turnover margin. Provided they kept playing solid basketball, the Mavs had provided themselves enough of a cushion to coast to an easy victory.
Jason Kidd (22 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, four steals, three blocks, 5 for 8 from 3-point land) was reason #1 why everything was rosy at halftime. Kidd brought the heat early and often, connecting on three of his four 3-point attempts in the first en route to a 13-point, 4-assist first quarter. If leaving Kidd open on the perimeter was a strategic decision on the part of Eddie Jordan, it came back to haunt him. That quarter (and this game) was Kidd’s most prolific scoring display of the season, and the early momentum gained from his sudden outburst was a huge factor in determining how the first half would play out. As Philly adjusted to the threat of Kidd’s offense, the passing lanes opened up for the Mavs. Dallas registered 18 assists in the first half, compared to Philadelphia’s seven.
But Terry’s soul-draining shot may have been the only thing to go according to plan in the second half. Not only did the Sixers crank up their attack in the second half, but they toed a line between assertiveness and control. On offense, Philadelphia found a rhythm, but their moves were deliberate and controlled. Every offensive sequence didn’t unfold smoothly, but the Sixers, a relatively limited offensive team, never quite seemed out of sorts in the second half. I’m not sure if their gusto was due to a rousing locker room speech or if they simply picked up on the Mavs’ vulnerability, but their performance was pretty inspired.
Effort definitely played a role, and the Sixers exposed the Mavs on the boards. For the second game in a row, the Mavs struggled to rebound, and the 60-37 rebounding deficit was every bit as bad as it sounds. Dallas managed just 12 rebounds in the entire second half, which is an unacceptable number against any opponent, much less a poor rebounding team like the Sixers. Philadelphia ranks 24th in the league in rebound rate (“the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds”), and yet the Sixer bigs dominated Dallas on the glass. Samuel Dalembert (19 rebounds), Thaddeus Young (7), Elton Brand (10), and Jason Smith (7) combined for 43 rebounds. Erick Dampier (1), Dirk Nowitzki (6), Drew Gooden (10), and James Singleton (1) combined for just 18. It’s tough to wrap your head around, and though Damp played limited minutes in his return, it doesn’t excuse the Mavs’ overall effort in terms of rebounding.
Last night’s game was conclusive evidence of the fact that when you outwork your opponent, good things are bound to happen. That is, unless you’re a results-oriented win-loss type of guy, in which the moral of the story is that regardless of how hard you work or how much you probably deserve to win, Jason Terry will stomp repeatedly on all of your hard work. Then he’ll go home and sleep like a baby.
As mentioned above, Erick Dampier made his return to the lineup last night. His mysterious illness is still, well, a mystery. Although his box score production was rather empty (three points, just one rebound, and one turnover), I liked what I saw from the Maverick defense with Dampier on the floor. It’s not like the Sixers have Monta Ellis, but the rim is better protected with Dampier in the game. Period.
J.J. Barea had a hell of a game. His 11-point 6-assist night is no doubt dwarfed by Kidd’s performance, but the playmaking and outside shooting of Barea were crucial in balancing the Maverick attack. J.J.’s night turned the three guard lineup into a productive bunch once again, as the trio of Kidd-Barea-Terry were responsible for all but one bucket during a 14-3 run in the second quarter.
Shawn Marion was moving with an obvious limp by the end of the game. That didn’t stop him from playing good defense on Andre Iguodala, but it’s something to keep in mind. Marion put together an unremarkable (14 points, 5 rebounds) but efficient (6-10 FG) offensive night, but in a game where every bucket counts, his contributions were much appreciated.
Kris Humphries (DNP-CD), Tim Thomas (DNP-CD), Quinton Ross (back), and Josh Howard (ankle) didn’t play for the Mavs. Although the latter is a foregone conclusion at this point, it’s unclear why Hump and Tim didn’t play. James Singleton was the primary beneficiary of the shift in the rotation. Singleton has averaged 15.7 minutes per game over the last three contests, up from just 4.4 minutes in the 15 games prior.
Iguodala got a pretty decent look to tie/win the game after Terry’s dagger…but it might have been intercepted by Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert clearly thought the shot was short, but from every angle of the shot I’ve seen (a whopping one), it looks like Iggy’s jumper had at least a chance of falling. So pat on the back for the big fella, and I hope he got a rebound (or a steal?) for that grab.
I got through this entire recap without really giving Dirk Nowitzki (28 points, 11-26 FG, zero turnovers) his due for another big scoring night. Dirk’s excellence is just assumed at this point, which is a testament to exactly how good he’s been this season.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to, without question, Jason Kidd. Terry’s shot was huge, but Kidd’s outstanding first quarter deserves an accolade, even if it’s only a sticker. Efficient scoring and solid defense went hand-in-hand for Kidd in the first, and the results for Kidd and the Mavs were simply brilliant. Kidd’s night was beyond vintage; Jason combined his usual court vision and D with uncanny accuracy as a spot-up shooter. It was quite a night for the future Hall-of-Famer, even in the context of his long and illustrious career.
This is a part of the multi-part season preview, Once More, With Feeling. To read an explanation, click here. To read Act I (the Network preview), click here. To read Act II (the Four Factors), click here. To read Act III (the Coach), click here.
Defining and maintaining a rotation is a bit of a delicate process for some folks, and a simple measure of brute strength for others; it’s either a continued exercise in tinkering and ego-stroking or a desperate attempt to jam fifteen square pegs into one giant round hole. As I discussed in the last segment, Rick Carlisle usually opts for the finesse approach.
But on top of the difficulties that come with appeasing the egos of professional athletes, Rick Carlisle also has the distinct privilege of fitting many multi-positional, versatile players into a series of coherent lineups. What is Josh Howard’s true position? Or Shawn Marion’s? Or Drew Gooden’s?
It doesn’t matter. The designation doesn’t matter so much as their contextual place within lineups and within the rotation. With a team that boasts such an atypical power forward and superstar, we shouldn’t expect each player to fall into neat little roles based on the expectations of their position. The reasons why Dirk Nowitzki is so brilliant are exactly because he’s not what you’d expect from a power forward. So when I say that Josh Howard will have no problem filling in as the starting shooting guard, I want you to grasp my full meaning. I don’t think that Josh Howard will be able to fulfill the ball handling and distributing responsibilities normally assigned to a 2 guard, but in my mind that doesn’t mean he can’t start alongside Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, and either Drew Gooden or Erick Dampier.
Photo via ESPN.com.
The Maverick offense is fairly unique in that even though it’s come along way since the plodding isolations of the Avery Johnson era, wing players have rarely had a role of the playmaking part of the offense. Aside from Jason Terry’s two man game with Dirk, the 2 is a position of scoring through cuts and jumpshots. Wings still create shots in one-on-one situations or the additional drive and kick, but the majority offense goes through the expert management of Jason Kidd or the high post savvy of Dirk Nowitzki.
With that in mind, why would Josh Howard and Shawn Marion be unable to coexist peacefully on the perimeter? Each is able to both shoot and slash, but in ways complementary of the other; Josh would rather shoot than slash, and Shawn would rather slash than shoot. But both are (at least) passable from three point range and fine finishers around the basket, which offers the Mavs a plethora of options in the half-court offense. Rare are the teams with two capable perimeter defenders, meaning in most cases either Howard or Marion will have free rein to do what they do best.
The other big question for the Mavs comes on the inside. Carlisle has opted to go with Dampier and Gooden as “co-starters,” with matchups determining the starter at center. That, more than anything, is reflective of the underlying theme of this year’s Mavs: flexibility. Gooden and Damp not only afford the Mavs a versatile approach to the inside game, but their unique contracts (Gooden’s unguaranteed contract and Dampier’s virtually expiring contract) will ultimately dictate the Mavs’ roster changes over the next year.
But while they’re both in Dallas, Gooden and Dampier will give the Mavs two very different looks in the middle. We know what to expect from Dampier: rebounding, on-ball defense in the post, the occasional dunk. But Gooden is more or less a wild card. We know that he’s a more gifted offensive player than Damp, but how will Drew fare on the defensive end? Determining when Gooden is the appropriate matchup will be Rick Carlisle’s first big test of the season, and assessing his offensive contributions relative to his expected defensive limitations. I’m not convinced that Gooden will give up all that much at center, but only time will tell how he will function within the Mavs’ scheme.
Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images.
You have to love the depth that comes with the Mavs’ new additions. Shawn Marion will fill many of the minutes as the Mavs’ back-up power forward, particularly in the rumored small ball lineup featuring the top five players in the rotation (Dirk, Kidd, JET, Howard, Marion). Quinton Ross also gives the Mavs a defensive stopper on the wing, either to neutralize particular perimeter threats or possibly to fill in as a starter for the injured Howard. Kris Humphries is poised to build on his solid preseason by playing as either big, and James Singleton/Tim Thomas fill the role of utility big based on specific need. I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent J.J. Barea, who proved against the Spurs that he’s capable of being a big-time difference maker. Rodrigue Beaubois will get some burn as the third point guard and occasionally as an off-guard, but he won’t get enough minutes to appease the Roddy-hungry MFFLs. I’m already salivating while we wait for Beaubois to actualize his potential, but for now we should all take deep breaths and try to be comfortable with the idea of limited minutes and some DNP-CDs for Rodrigue. All of his hopefully translates for more opportunities to thrive for the big names in Dallas. It’s so much easier to succeed in the NBA when surrounded by a decent supporting cast, and Dirk, Kidd, JET, and Josh have quite the ensemble.
I’m interested to see just how reliant the 2009-’10 Mavs are on the small ball approach. Putting Dirk at center certainly has its perks, but he does give up a bit defensively. We won’t really know for sure until Josh Howard returns from injury, but if last year was any indication (where Brandon Bass was a part of the Mavs’ most effective lineups), it could be Dallas’ trump card.
NBA.com compiled the top ten Mavs plays of 2008-2009, with a disproportionate amount of James Singleton. There’s even a Devean George sighting. I’m a fan of big shots and game-winners as much as the next guy, but I still can’t see how JET’s hanging dunk on Anthony Randolph didn’t top the list.