Heard It Through the Grapevine 3-19-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 19, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • Brandon Bass does his best Dirk impression, and I must say that it’s top notch.
  • Carlisle’s answer to the rebounding quandary: go big or go home.  Damp, Bass, and Singleton are all candidates to play big minutes.  From Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:  “Carlisle has watched the Mavericks’ poor rebounding in the last three games and knows the best chance to rectify it is to keep his strongest players on the floor whenever possible. ‘[Singleton] will be in there sometimes with Damp and Dirk [Nowitzki], and we’re very big,’ Carlisle said. ‘But whoever’s out there, we’re going to have to scramble to get rebounds because the discrepancy of possessions is going to get you after awhile.’”
  • I would definitely argue that the Mavs are better than the average (median, I guess) team, but it’s hard to argue that in terms of grouping, they fall in the middle of the pack.  Apparently that makes Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News a sad, sad panda: “These Mavs aren’t nearly good enough to turn it on whenever they feel like, which they should know by now, but apparently don’t. You can’t look at this team and find reasons for hope. No one really knows if or when Josh Howard is returning from his ankle injury. And we certainly don’t know if he’ll be effective when he does come back. Then there’s the Mavs’ current defensive woes, which have forced them to play considerably more zone than they did early in the season. While the zone has been an effective tool, they struggle to rebound when they use it. That’s because once the shot goes up, each player must find an opponent to box out, which takes effort. It’s among the reasons why Detroit had 27 second-chance points, while scoring 35 points in the fourth quarter. In its last three games, Dallas has been outrebounded by an average of nine a game. ‘We have to do it collectively,’ Rick Carlisle said. ‘It has to be part of a team’s consciousness to fight for the ball. We have to do better.’”
  • The Mavs’ zone really messed with the Lakers’ offense.  So much so that they spent the majority of Monday’s two-hour practice working on how to attack it.  That, my friends, is awesome, but also exactly why it won’t work in the playoffs.
  • It’s all about perspective.  Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com looks at two teams with eerily similar records that just so happen to be playing each other tonight; one is on top of the world, and the other’s fan base is hanging their collective heads: Atlanta has 14 games to go. Eight of them are at home and six of them are on the road, and the Hawks are 40-28. Dallas has 14 games to go. Eight of them are at home and six of them are on the road, and the Mavs are 41-27. So why is Atlanta’s Josh Smith saying things like, ‘You see us out there playing with smiles on our faces and playing so hard. … Where we go this season is really up to us.’ And meanwhile, why are the Mavs having to apologize for barely beating the Pistons? Did you see what NO did last night, winning on a missed Minnesota jumper at the end? Did you see what Denver did last night, winning by the same sliver over Memphis? Well, almost no matter what the Hawks do from here, this will go down as arguably their best regular season in more than a decade. And the Mavs? The decade it littered with 50-win seasons. So some fans yawn.”
  • Enjoy the Madness today.  My bracket already took a hit and a half with LSU beating Butler and Memphis almost losing to 15-seed Cal State Northridge.  I kind of have Memphis beating UConn and going to the Final Four.  Yikes.

New Orleans Hornets 104, Dallas Mavericks 88

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2009 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein

Yes, it happened again.

In few businesses is it acceptable practice to take a product of dubious quality, repackage it, and shove it down the consumers’ throats.  Personally, I kind of want my couple of hours back.  I feel like I just sat through Transmorphers.

Let me start with the excuses.  Chris Paul is a tough matchup for any player in the league, much less Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, and Antoine Wright.  There’s a reason why he’s the best point guard in the league, and it’s not because he allows himself to be contained.  The Mavs were on tired legs, after playing their fourth game in five nights.  It’s unfortunate scheduling, to be sure, but the difficulty of which was exaggerated by the dismal showing against Oklahoma City.  Josh Howard was still visibly hobbled by a tender ankle, and the soreness that traditionally comes with back-to-backs left him settling for jumpers and shooting blanks.  He did not return in the second half, and the Mavs collapsed.

We’re supposed to be done with all that.  Come what may, the Mavs are supposed to overcome all, and prove that they have what it takes to win on the road, much less win against the league’s elite.  It seems painfully obvious at this point that that’s just not going to happen.  Chalk it up to the lack of defensive execution, the lack of firepower, or the almighty excuses, but Dallas just isn’t getting it done.

That was readily apparent against the Hornets, who are rolling with the punches en route to the playoffs.  Tyson Chandler was almost traded?  So what?  He came back from injury as a man on a mission, and he’s been playing some great basketball of late.  Peja Stojakovic sidelined?  So what?  In steps Julian Wright, and Chris Paul makes sure the team doesn’t miss a beat.  So naturally, when faced with a Maverick team brimming with confidence after a great win against the Spurs, the Hornets got their hits in early, endured the eventual run, and then finished with a fatality.  It wasn’t ‘Flawless Victory,’ but it was ugly.

No one is blameless, and that starts at the top.  Rick Carlisle clearly did not have this team ready to defend the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop, and I can’t even begin to explain why.  It’s the Hornets.  They have Chris Paul, David West, and Tyson Chandler.  How could you not see this coming?  Based on their track record, I don’t expect a complete denial of P&R basketball, but some resistance would be nice.  It’s tough to defend with players this skilled, but rolling over and dying whenever you see a pick just isn’t acceptable.  Well, it shouldn’t be acceptable.

That’s where Dirk (27 points on 19 shots, 7 rebounds, 0 turnovers), who had a brilliant game offensively, came up short.  The Mavs played man to man and a matchup zone, but nothing could hide Dirk.  They put him on Tyson Chandler and they put him on Sean Marks.  Then he was caught watching the ball or switching onto Paul, and that was game over.  Should Dirk have been switching onto Chris Paul in the first place?  Well gee, that there’s an idea.  But it wouldn’t be fair to focus on Dirk’s faults when he was just about the only thing going offensively.  Dirk was money, hitting open and impossible shots alike.  He combined stellar midrange play with some good work around the basket, and even sprinkled in a three.  The Mavs have some serious work to do on the defensive end, but let’s not forget: the Hornets haven’t even come close to figuring out how to stop Dirk Nowitzki.

This is where the offensive superlatives end.  The next highest point total for the Mavs was Jason Kidd’s 13, which came on 4-11 shooting and trust me, it sounds better than it was.  Kidd was basically in a practice gym for most of the game, shooting open jumpers against a team that refused to respect his shot.  And that’s what we’ve been getting all season with Kidd; one night he’ll not only stick the dagger, but twist it in the opponent’s back, and the next he’ll be a complete offensive liability.  When Chris Paul has 27 points (10-18 FG) and 15 assists, Kidd’s 13 and 2 just isn’t going to cut it.

For what it’s worth, Chris Paul didn’t really torch Jason Kidd.  Barea, Terry, and Wright each had their shot at guarding CP3, and the Mavs switched to a matchup zone in part to stop Paul’s penetration.  Nothing was particularly effective.  But in the background looms a bigger problem: how many players can the Mavs hide defensively?  Dirk is hardly a stud on that end, Jason Terry has his troubles, and Jason Kidd, despite his particular defensive strengths, isn’t able to guard point guards.  Something’s gotta give, and when everyone’s trying to hid behind one another, someone is going to be exposed.

Jason Terry and Antoine Wright couldn’t provide the shooting to support the offense in Howard’s absence.  The Hornets played heavily to Terry’s right, fully aware of his awkward post-injury handle to his left.  He took tough shots, and missed some makeable ones.  Antoine Wright on the other hand, was trying to do too much.  He pump faked the three and attempted a drive almost every time he touched the ball.  His intentions were noble, but the results less so.

Brandon Bass and James Singleton logged a combined 25 minutes, and I don’t understand why.  Erick Dampier can’t guard David West and protect the rim at the same time.  So if Dirk is on the floor, the Mavs aren’t getting much of an advantage by playing Dampier over Singleton or Bass.  Both have the strength and speed to bother West, and would likely be better at contesting after the pick.

After the first half, it really seemed like the Mavs had a shot.  They had played just one good quarter, and yet found themselves all square going into the 3rd.  That changed in a hurry, as the Mavs’ offense turned impotent and Chris Paul found new and exciting ways to remind you that the Mavs can’t guard him.  You’re not going to shoot 39.5% from the field and win many games.  That applies when the Mavs play Sacramento or Washington, much less when they play a team as good as the Hornets.

Some random thoughts:

  • Henry Abbott has ruined basketball for me.  Since reading his series on the traveling rule, I can’t stop watching feet.  Among the Mavs, Jason Terry is probably the biggest culprit.  Whenever he receives the ball on a pass, it seems like he prances across half the court, and whenever he gets the ball on a handoff, he’s taking steps immediately.
  • Moving screens are EVERYWHERE.  I’m actively worried that Dirk’s going to get whistled for them, and David West has turned it into an art.
  • As Erick Dampier rolled to the basket for what he thought was an alley-oop, James Posey ended up knocking him flat on his back.  All of Damp’s weight and all of that force…straight into Damp’s back and elbow, as he fell straight to the floor.  Not cool.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Dirk Nowitzki, if only because no one else on the Mavs even came close to helping.  Dirk was awesome offensively, and finished with 27 points on 50% shooting, and 8-9 FTs.

A Diamond in the Rough

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 2, 2009 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

25 minutes: 19 points (7-10 FG), 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
34 minutes: 14 points (5-10 FG), 14 rebounds
21 minutes: 2 points (1-2 FG), 7 rebounds
25 minutes: 12 points (5-6 FG), 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks
33 minutes: 12 points (4-8 FG), 16 rebounds, 1 steal

That’s some pretty ridiculous production from an end-of-the-bench hustle player who is making around $800k for the season.  Five games, four ridiculous flurries.  Based on his total production for the season, Singleton registers 12.5 points per 36 minutes and 10.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.  Over his last five, he’s coming in at 15.4 points per 36 (on 61.1% shooting) and 15.1 rebounds per 36.  That is bananas.

With Singleton, it’s as much style as it is substance.  He rips rebounds out of the hands of star players, he swats shots into the front row, and his dunks probably send war veterans into shell shock.  He complements Dirk’s ‘invisible’ dominance with an impossible to overlook display of effort and tenacity.  On top of it all, he’s a few steps removed from the downright nasty intimidators of the league.  Singleton’s drive and passion come with an air of professionalism.

The man’s a maniac on the floor and he’s playing like he’s never played before.  So what’s not to love?  Well, with Singleton, there’s one small problem: he’s currently playing center for the Mavs, and he happens to be just 6’8”.  He’s out-playing the 6’11” Dampier and has shown a better ability to guard the league’s more mobile power forwards and centers, but is he capable of being the Mavs’ starting center?

In a word: no.  The future of the center position is a huge issue for the Mavs, and Singleton could end up playing a prominent role…as a reserve.  It’s hard to argue that the 5 is evolving, mostly due to a lack of traditional post men.  It isn’t a good or bad thing, it just is.  Does that mean that Singleton will be able to play big minutes against the faster, smaller neo-centers?  Absolutely.  But is that approach really going to be effective against the occasional true center?  The Dwight Howards and Yao Mings and Shaquille O’Neals?

Erick Dampier isn’t a premier defensive center in the league, but it’s an incredibly underrated aspect of his game.  He has the size and strength to make life hell for big men.  Dampier also has one more feature that Singleton does not: motivation issues.  In 2006, the two-headed center of DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier was fine and dandy.  All was right in the world.  Since that time, however, we’ve seen the most pronounced criticism of Dampier take center stage: Damp’s outbursts are merely glimpses into a world of fantasy.  Damp will never be the type of center that can provide superb production on a regular basis.  For every 15 and 15 game, there’s a 2 and 2 game.

James Singleton, on the other hand, has gone through a career of rejection.  He wasn’t drafted, and spent last season out of the league entirely.  His style of play makes him seem expendable, but he’s surprisingly valuable.  Singleton has unquestionably been the better of the two over the last five, but which is more likely to come off the pine and still contribute?  It may be a pity, but motivation is a very real issue in professional sports.  If you buy into the fact that starting actually means something (which to some, it does), then Singleton outplaying Damp could seem like a travesty to the rotation.  In a perfect world, that would be true, but it’s just too easy to simultaneously accommodate Dampier and hide Singleton’s lack of height in his current shot-in-the-arm role.  It gives Carlisle options, the importance of which should never be discounted.

I’d hate to overstate the significance of such a small sample size, especially when four of the five games came against fairly inferior teams (Toronto, OKC, Milwaukee, Sacramento), and Singleton’s worst game of the bunch was coincidentally against the San Antonio Spurs (although Duncan and Ginobili missed the game due to injury).  I’m not ready to pronounce Singleton the Mavs’ savior.  What he is, however, is a helluva back-up plan at the 5.  His career per-minute numbers are impressive enough to feel optimistic, but the strategy should still be to default Dampier.  If he has trouble on the defensive end or lacks energy, you throw Singleton into the mix and see what happens.  It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s likely the best one the Mavs have under the circumstances.  The Mavs still don’t have that dynamite option at center, but if Singleton can continue to do as Singleton does, Rick Carlisle may have just stumbled into a way to solve his back-up center problems.

Rumor Mongering: It’s All Gooden

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under News, Rumors | 4 Comments to Read

From Marc Stein:

[Drew] Gooden was formally waived by the Kings shortly after 11 p.m. ET on Sunday night. He had to be released by 11:59 p.m. to be playoff-eligible for his next employer. Gooden was due $7.1 million in the final season of his contract.

San Antonio and Dallas are among the teams that will be chasing Gooden hardest this week, sources said, with the Cleveland Cavaliers expected to land the other prominent veteran who reached a buyout agreement Sunday night: Oklahoma City’s Joe Smith.

Tell me this a week ago, and I might be interested.  Drew Gooden is a decent scorer (notably not a back-to-the-basket scorer; Gooden’s game is almost exclusively face-up) who can play spot minutes at center, but any interest I would have had in Gooden has been curtailed by James Singleton’s ridiculous play of late.  I’ll side with Brandon Bass and Singleton, two quality players who already know the system and don’t quite share Gooden’s poor defensive reputation.

Then again, might feigning interest in Gooden be worth it just to prevent San Antonio from getting more frontcourt depth?

Dallas Mavericks 109, Toronto Raptors 98

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/LM Otero.

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You don’t mind the rain if you haven’t seen the sunshine.”
-Unknown

Kidd hit 10,000 assists.  Jason Terry returned.  The James Singleton tour rages on.  Let the good times roll.

For one night, not much went wrong in the world of the Mavericks.  Unless you’re J.J. Barea, who ended up -8 in point differential and -2 in teeth on the night.

Photo by Mike Stone/Reuters (via DMN Mavs Blog).

Ouch.

Chris Bosh posed a lot of problems for the Mavs, but that’s bound to happen.  Dampier just isn’t mobile enough to keep up with him, and Brandon Bass/James Singleton lose in height what they make up in speed.  The results on that front were fairly predictable: 28 and 10 for Bosh, and early foul trouble for the aforementioned Mavs.  To their credit, Bosh shot just a hair under 50% and didn’t really explode.  28 points is great production, but surprisingly manageable given the Mavs’ offensive explosion and the Raptors’ lack thereof.

I’m sure you know by now that basketball is a “game of runs.”  To be perfectly frank, I don’t expect the Mavs to come remotely close to locking teams down; the foundation just isn’t there.  Instead, the key is to appreciate stretches of successful defense and a team-wide ability to counter offensive runs.  Any success the Mavs are going to have in the playoffs is based on their ability to endure and strike back.  If they roll with the punches and land some of their own, they’ll be just fine.  Otherwise, they just stand there taking hit after hit to the kisser and forget that they control their own destiny in their hands.  The Raptors are far from a great team, and their laundry list of problems runs much longer than ours.  Still, the Mavs answered virtually every Raptor run with one of their own, and capped off their offensive explosions with some nice D.  An ideal turnout against a less than ideal opponent, but we’ll take it.

Of course it doesn’t hurt when the Mavs coaxed the Raptors into 37.4% shooting on jumper after jumper.  The defense was active and effective, but the Raps didn’t help their cause last night.

Jason Kidd may have totalled 10,000 career assists, but that milestone came in a game where he actually showed some assertiveness.  He did the usual Kidd thing, firing passes all over the court at angles no one else even knew existed, but he also refused to pass up layups and open shots.  He finished with 9 points and just 7 shot attempts, but I promise I’m not crazy.  One of the most infuriating things to watch is a point guard penetrate all the way to the rim but defer to a jumpshooter.  Kidd and Boston’s Rajon Rondo are the league’s primary culprits, and it’s just one of the examples wherein unselfishness can be a detriment.  I appreciate the effort and the thought process, Jason, but you’ve beaten your man.  Just finish the job, eh?

Great success for Maverick shooting guards.  Antoine Wright decided that Jason Terry ain’t got nothin’ on him, and went off for 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first half alone.  Beautiful.  His 9ish second half minutes wouldn’t even come close to matching that production, but Wright’s line on the night was still enough to get me smiling.  Jason Terry looked surprisingly un-Jason Terry-like in the box score (8 points, 3-9 shooting), but he’s back man.  Baby steps.  The dude was out there wearing a Power Glove.  I’m glad to see #31 back on the floor and that purty jumper, even if it is errant and forced for a few more games.  Missed you, JET.

What can be said about James Singleton (12 points, 16 friggin’ rebounds…8 of which were offensive) that hasn’t already been said about the Incredible Hulk?  Singleton may not have a few bad movies and a completely overrated late 70s television series that has the benefit of the vintage lens to his name, but if you’re a Maverick opponent, you’re not going to like him when he’s angry.  Lucky for Mavs fans, he plays like he’s angry all the time.  Singleton is rebounding like a maniac, active as hell, and trying to tear down the rim with dunks on fast breaks and dead balls alike.  While I lament the fact that he’s three inches short of being our ideal center, I applaud his energy, skill, and intensity.

Lost in Singleton’s meteoric rise up the Maverick depth chart has been Brandon Bass.  He’s getting fewer and fewer minutes at center, but Sunday night was an excellent reminder that the man can still ball.  He’s still a tad turnover-happy, but his finishing ability is pretty superb, and when he doesn’t finish on his first attempt he’s almost always in position to give it a second go.  Stay within yourself, young squire, and I will love you forever.

Can you believe I’ve gotten this far without even a mention of Dirk Nowitzki or Josh Howard?  Dirk only had 24 points (8-19 FG), 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.  Yawn.  His typical brilliance was trumped only by his usual subtlty, ‘invisibly’ anchoring the Mavs’ attack.  (On another note: why is the word invisible always used as a pejorative when it comes to basketball?  There’s something wonderful about blunt domination, but I can see the advantages of killing an opponent without them knowing they’re being killed.)  Howard continues to boggle the mind.  His 16 points tells you he did fine on the offensive end, which is true.  But 0 steals and 0 blocks?  Just another example of the deception of the box score.  The team continues to excel whenever Howard hits the floor, and his somewhat empty statline is balanced by a +15 for the game.  Well done, chaps.

As someone who has watched Dirk’s entire career, I feel obligated to comment on Andrea Bargnani.  Dirk was the hopeful projection when Toronto drafted Bargs with the 1st overall pick, and it’s kind of silly.  It’s not that Bargnani isn’t talented, or that he doesn’t have some of Dirk’s skills.  Their approaches to the game are just fundamentally different.  Dirk’s ungodly efficiency is a product of a natural high ground, a high release, and a sweet shooting stroke.  What he lacks in athleticism and mobility he makes up for in footwork and precision.  Bargnani doesn’t share Dirk’s dominant shooting touch, as much as he loves to shoot.  But he does show a willingness and an ability to drive and finish, which is something in it’s own right.  He’s 23 and has all the time in the world, but for those still hoping to see Dirk 2.0, keep this in mind: Nowitzki is the exception, not the rule.  There has never been a player that combined Dirk’s size and shooting touch, and it may not be so soon before we see another.  Bargnani still has work to do (rebounding might be a point of emphasis), and I think he’ll turn out to be a swell player.  He’s only 23 after all.  But don’t be all that surprised to see plenty more 18-points-on-18-shots games.

Things are looking good for the Mavs lately.  That means we’re primed for a loss, right?

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to James Singleton.  I’ve denied him his proper due for far too long, and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse with a sick 8 offensive rebounds and 8 defensive rebounds.  Encore!

Dallas Mavericks 110, Oklahoma City Thunder 108

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 28, 2009 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images.

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“Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own.
-Erica Jong

To say that last night’s game has me drowning in ambivalence would be an understatement.  Wins just don’t get more bittersweet.

The call with the Mavs has been to play defense when it matters, and they did just that.  Down the stretch, the team came up with big stop after big stop to not only come back from 12 down, but to keep the Thunder at bay.  Credit that to Carlisle’s unabashed use of the zone, which turned OKC’s lineup of non-shooters into turnover machines.  Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green picked up the slack in a big way, but their work wasn’t easy.  Are Westbrook and Green elite scorers?  Not exactly, but when players get hot (or in this case, aggressive in their efforts to get to the line), the general measures of defensive success are bent ever so slightly.  I’m not thrilled that Westbrook scored 14 or that Green scored 7 in overtime, but I’m definitely pleased with the significant ruckus the Mavs’ defense was able to raise.

That’s not to say that the defensive effort was complete.  There’s a distinct reason that the Thunder turned a 5 point deficit into a 12 point lead, and it’s not solely because the Maverick offense went cold.  The Thunder should have no business taking the Mavs to task on the offensive end without Kevin Durant, even with a parade to the charity stripe.

There are games where Jason Kidd’s lack of scoring is a significant deadweight.  This was not one of those games.  Kidd was far from an offensive dynamo in terms of his scoring output, but I’m not at all displeased with what he did for the Mavs’ offense.  When the double-teams tried to curtail Dirk (who finished with 41 and was the Clutchotron 5000), Kidd was the principal influence on the Mavs ability to move the ball to the open man (either directly or through the ‘hockey assist’).  He came up big with two huge threes and went 4/4 on some crucial free throws (imagine that!).  Ballin’.

But where were Josh Howard and Antoine Wright?  Two of the crucial cogs in the post-Terrian Dallas attack?  They were there.  That’s about it.  Howard was plagued by foul trouble and bothered by Thabo Sefolosha.  His recent uptick in defensive activity was counterbalanced by a few extra whistles.  In spite of all that, Howard was +19 for the game, good for best on the team.  Wright on the other hand, was out of the game for the entirety of the fourth and overtime.  He wasn’t hitting his shots, but Wright wasn’t exactly terrible; his drop-off can be largely attributed to a Maverick surge behind Kidd and Barea in the backcourt.

James Singleton is a monster.  That is all.

Dirk scores 41, but the offense was hardly a well-oiled machine.  The Mavs defense gets stops late, but allows the Durant-less Thunder to push them to the limit.  The Mavs went off on a 16-0 run to avoid disaster, but still nearly blew it against an inferior team missing their best player.  Hey, if they gave us definitive answers and consistent play, they just wouldn’t be the Mavs.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to none other than Dirk Nowitzki.  41 points (16-30) is always tasty, but Dirk did a great job of shooting and deferring at all the right moments for all the right reasons.  Welcome back, Dirk.

No Game Is an Island: All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 25, 2009 under xOther | Read the First Comment

The Dallas Mavericks visit the Milwaukee Bucks
7:30 CST

Bounce back.  Response.  Answer.  Whatever you’d like to call it, the Mavs need to show something real and tangible tonight.  The blown game against the Celtics was disappointing, implosion against the Rockets was embarassing, and last night’s disaster was inexcusable.  Jason Terry is missing some games, but that doesn’t give anyone the excuse to go out there and lay an egg.

The wins against Orlando and Portland were meaningful, but their significance are completely eclipsed by the number of disappointing losses the Mavs have endured in the month of February.  The team’s win percentage on the season is .589.  They’ve won 6 out of their 10 games so far this month and yet they’re taking alternating steps forward and backwards, ignoring the opportunity to gain ground in favor of jogging in place.  It’s good exercise I hear, but it’s not going to get you anywhere.

What really sickens me is how the Mavs have wasted golden opportunities via the exploits of the back end of the rotation.  Antoine Wright has found new life with consistent minutes, attacking the basket and defending well.  J.J. Barea sometimes seems like the only active player for games at a time.  Brandon Bass is money on his short-to-midrange jumper, and his rebounding on both ends is commendable.  James Singleton has been a monster.  When you take all that they’ve done in Terry’s absence, this team should be better.  They really should.  If production is a factor of talent as well as the give and take of touches and minutes, Terry’s injury and the bench’s success have provided plenty of give.  The team as a whole just has yet to take advantage, and that burden goes top down from Carlisle, to Dirk, to Kidd, and to Howard.

The Mavs need a win tonight, if for no other reason than to prove they still can.  It’s a strange thing to say for a team on a .600 month, but winning in the Maverick way and winning in a legitimate, contending way haven’t exactly been similar lately.  Beating the Bucks doesn’t hold any inherent glory, but for a team still striving to create some sense of cohesion going forward, games like these are ever-important.  The clock is ticking, Mavs.

San Antonio Spurs 93, Dallas Mavericks 76

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Eric Gay.

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“You never find yourself until you face the truth.”
-Pearl Bailey

Last night, in a fit of symbolism, I filled a glass half-full with water.  I then put on a Tony Parker mask, and proceeded to demolish said glass with a sledgehammer.  Abandon hope, all ye who follow this team.

I went into last night’s game thinking ahead.  If the Mavs beat the Spurs, that would give them some legitimacy.  It could be a big win for a team that has fallen, risen, and seemed on the verge of settling somewhere in the middle.  Then I hear the announcement that on top of Ginobili’s absence, Tim Duncan will also be missing the game.  No more signature victory, but still a way for the team to gain some confidence against mostly reserves.  Needless to say, that’s not exactly what happened.

A quick point guard caused lots of trouble for Jason Kidd, so Carlisle tried J.J. Barea on him.  Said quick point guard then caused lots of trouble for Barea, and we lose.  Come on guys, this act is getting a little tired.  Channel point guards towards the shot blockers, rely on the rotations, force him to get rid of the ball, and make Fabricio Oberto make a damn move.  There is one fundamental flaw in the execution of this strategy: they ignored it entirely.  Rick Carlisle decided to be reactionary last night, and pulled Dampier from the team’s gameplan entirely rather than make subtle adjustments.  James Singleton did an awesome job in filling Damp’s role on the boards, but he just doesn’t have the height or reach of a 6’11” brick wall.  I’m not sure that Dampier could have made a tangible difference in the outcome in this game, and I’m inclined to doubt it.  But wouldn’t it have been nice to know?  We’ve discounted Dampier in a lot of situations, but sometimes he can be a real asset on the floor — even for games for which he seems ill-suited.

This marks three games in a row that Dirk has struggled.  Take a look at his stats:

@Houston: 4-18 FG (22.2%), 9 points
Sacramento: 6-13 FG (46.2%), 12 points
@San Antonio: 5-15 FG (33.3%), 14 points

He also has a total of 6 FTAs over that three-game stretch.  Dirk has spoiled us all with his hyper-efficient, seemingly effortless ability to score, so the importance of such a stretch is surely overstated.  It’s not as if the Dirk enigma has suddenly been solved, but it is the team’s star player going cold at a time where he needs to bring his A-game.  It’s not meaningful in a grander sense, but it is unfortunate given the team’s circumstances and what they hope to accomplish.

Every meaningful Maverick run (they were few and far between) was answered by a defensive breakdown.  A virtually uncontested Tony Parker layup.  A barrage of Michael Finley threes (man, he was dialed-in).  A Kurt Thomas put-back.  Boom, bang, pow.  Each punch to the gut had a visible effect on the Mavericks’ mentality, with heads hanging lower and lower as the lead went from bad to manageable to daunting.

Aggressive pressure limited the Mavs’ offense, and they just couldn’t capitalize in any meaningful way.  Jason Kidd was turned into a non-factor, Brandon Bass couldn’t provide any meaningful production, and Josh Howard was unspectacular.  Couple all that with Dirk’s offensive mortality and you have a recipe for disaster.  The Mavs failed to score twenty points in three quarters.  Ugh.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: James Singleton is the only player who would even come close to deserving this.  Singleton played the role of a more mobile, active Dampier, and what he lacked in size and shot blocking he made up for in effort to the tune of 14 points (5-10 FG, 2-3 3FG!!!) and 14 rebounds.  In a game that I wish was forgettable, Singleton was just about the sole bright spot.

Player Valuations: James Singleton

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 18, 2009 under Commentary, xOther | Read the First Comment

Specs: Small forward/power forward/center.  6’8”, 216 lbs.

2008-2009 Stats:  3.6 PPG, 2.9  RPG, 52% FG, 14.1 PER

Why we want him: Singleton’s a straight up hustla, yo.  From the second he steps on the floor, he provides instant energy and rebounding, gobbling up a delicious 15% of available rebounds.  Yum.  Singleton will never be confused with an offensive dynamo; his jumper is shaky and most of his points come off of dunks, layups or tip-ins.  Maybe it’s not a coincidence that he bears an uncanny resemblance to Erick Dampier on the court, because the two occupy the same functional space with the Mavs: hit the boards on both ends, go up strong when you get the ball, and play tough defense.  Singleton is one strong dude, and that combined with his “ball of energy” mentality makes him a world of hurt for opponents in short bursts.

Why they want him: They don’t.  Singleton spent his first two years in the league as a role player for the Clippers, before falling out of the NBA entirely last season.  Has he done enough this year to change some minds?  Maybe.  But it’s an easy role to fill and Singleton lacks the kind of go-to offensive move (be it in the post or on the wing) that would make him a real asset.

Trade value: Very low.  His value to the Mavs is much higher than his value to most other teams in the league.  The Mavs need aggressive, strong backups they can plug into either forward spot, and the lack of depth up front turns Singleton from an expendable benchwarmer to a multi-positional monster.  On top of that, Singleton’s contract is so reasonable that he probably wouldn’t even make a good salary throw-in.

Likelihood of Being Traded Before the Deadline: In honor of Jim Jackson, former Maverick and the most stereotypical NBA journeyman to ever journey, man, each player’s likelihood of being traded will be evaluated using the Jim Jackson Index (JJI; a scale of 0-5):

1 Jim Jackson out of 5.