In Part One of my conversation with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, we discussed the recent disappearing act of Dirk Nowitzki’s shot attempts, Rick Carlisle’s coaching and the whacky twists and turns the point guard position has created for the team this season.
Part Two really digs into the meat and potatoes for the Mavericks. This summer will once again present a crossroads of sorts for Dallas. There’s also a decision the Mavericks made after winning their championship in 2011 that will likely hover around the franchise for quite some time. Lowe discusses the hindsight look at that as well as looking at the legacy Dirk Nowitzki will imprint on the league.
Let’s dig in. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.
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Box Score — Play-By-Play — Shot Chart – Game Flow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- There has never been a player quite like Shawn Marion (11-16 FG, 2-3 3PT, 26 points, 11 rebounds), and it is unlikely that there will ever be another Shawn Marion in any future of ours.
- He is basketball’s quiet genius performer, a gifted hardwood artist with the ability to paint a floor canvas with the contrasts of subtlety and bluntness, each swirling in needless but potent conjunction.
- He glides towards the basket, he hoists an awkward three-point jumper, he defends your best player, and he does so with a consistency that is all to rare within this worldly toil.
- A wise man once said, “There is no truth – only Shawn Marion’s jumper and all that comes with it.”
- His game represents quite possibly everything (but no single something) that there is to be known about basketball and what the sport can achieve.
- All that is to say, I enjoyed the way Shawn Marion played tonight.
- And the rest of the Mavericks followed his glorious lead admirably.
- The Mavericks have lost very few games this season when O.J. Mayo (19 points, 6-13 FG, nine assists, two turnovers) has passed well, and that trend continued quite easily against a Warriors’ team that seemed unable to keep up with a vibrant Dallas squad.
- A similar belief could be stated regarding Darren Collison (18 points, 5-9 FG, 3-4 3PT eight assists, two turnovers), though perhaps to a lesser extent, as his ball movement has been a grade more consistent than that of Mayo.
- Both players helped the Mavericks capitalize on a plethora of open three-pointers throughout the game, most of which the Warriors didn’t, or couldn’t, close out on with any great urgency.
- I’m willing to bet that any performance involving 17 assists and four turnovers from the Mayo-Collison combination will lead to a Mavericks’ win.
- Have I mentioned how quietly great at basketball Shawn Marion is?
- The prestigious “Best Plus-Minus In A Blowout” award goes to elder post defense statesman Elton Brand (5-9 FG, 11 points, 11 rebounds) who earned a nice +32 in a cool 29 minutes, while determinedly controlling the lane as only he can.
- If you would have told me pre-game that Steph Curry (8-23 FG, 1-3 3PT, 18 points, four assists, five turnovers) would take 23 field goals with only three of them being three pointers, I probably would have said something like: “No.”
- Politely, of course.
- That lack of attempts falls in part to the Mavericks, who did a solid job of committing to the perimeter and limiting Curry and the rest of the Warriors to a 6-16 three-point mark.
- The Warriors played without the aid of Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bogut, each of whom is an important piece to the team’s exciting puzzle.
- Bogut has scarcely played for the Warriors this season, so that holds somewhat lesser bearing.
- But it’s safe to say that Golden State missed Jack’s steady presence on a night like tonight.
- That is to say, a night in which no other Warrior player could do much of anything on the offensive side of the ball.
- An NBA schedule sure is rigorous.
- This is a pretty fun picture, and a solid example of the Dirk Yell.
- Part of the reason Vince Carter has suddenly become more valuable this season is his surprising improvement on the defensive end (the Mavericks are consistently better on defense when Carter is on the floor), and while the sample size is inherently small, this is visual proof.
- It’s very difficult to play 13 minutes without a field goal attempt in NBA play, but Andris Biedrins (eight rebounds) managed such a feat tonight. I don’t think such a choice is necessarily problematic, but it’s interesting.
- In conclusion, I’m confident that Shawn Marion made this jumper.
Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — Game Flow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- Before Friday night’s game against the Hornets, Dirk Nowitzki (7-19 FG, 19 points, nine rebounds) said, “We consider this a must-win.” Though I agree this game felt important after three consecutive discouraging losses, it’s important to remember the extent of a long season, and how these losses, however painful, strike against even the best of teams. All the same, tonight’s game was possibly the worst loss the Mavericks have endured since facing consecutive blowouts to open the season. The Mavericks trailed for almost the entirety of a game against a generally dismal opponent, and were rebuffed consistently upon attempting various comebacks. For a moment, it seemed as though the Mavericks might escape with a close victory, but Jarrett Jack’s (5-12 FG, 15 points, six assists, five rebounds) difficult jumper with less than twenty seconds remaining gave the Hornets an insurmountable four-point lead.
- Perhaps more concerning than this possibly isolated bad loss are Dirk Nowitzki’s recent shooting woes. Dirk has now shot 33-85 from the field over the last five games, a stretch in which the Mavericks have posted a predictable 1-4 record. Tonight’s performance fell in step with those recent struggles. After a decent first half performance (3-6 FG), Dirk’s jumper looked flat throughout the second half (4-13 FG), and several shots, many of them well-defended, barely grazed the front of the rim. Oddly enough, Dirk only looked comfortable shooting tonight from an area in which he’s struggled to thrive all season: behind the three-point line (5-8 3PT). When Dirk can’t find a scoring groove, the Mavericks are capable of struggling to beat even the worst of teams. This game illustrated that idea both succinctly and painfully.
- On the positive side of things, Rodrigue Beaubois (11-17 FG, 25 points, four steals, three assists) was a joy to watch. Beaubois is at his best when he chooses to attack the basket willfully and carefully. The speed of Beaubois often proved too much for Greivis Vasquez (1-6 FG, two points, seven assists, six rebounds) and Jarrett Jack, who are definably on the slower side of NBA guards. Beaubois’ game often succeeds or fails on the basis of his lofty floater, a shot that he executed perfectly time and time again. The Mavericks’ guard rotation remains an undefined work in progress, but Beaubois will earn himself a consistent place if he continues to play the effective and imitable style of basketball he embodied Friday night.
- More befuddling and damaging than Dirk’s struggles was Jason Terry’s (1-9 FG, two points) complete inability to find a semblance of rhythm. Terry has appeared out of sync in recent weeks, and this performance felt like a culmination of poor shot selection and questionable spacing. The scoring punch of Terry has become increasingly necessary with Delonte West injured and Vince Carter struggling, and his inability to provide this necessity simply served as another inescapable detriment to the Mavericks’ chances of victory.
- What the Hornets lack for in talent they do their best to make up for in effort and coaching. Monty Williams has quickly garnered a reputation as a strong defensive coach, and rightfully so. The Hornets swarmed the Mavericks’ ball movement for the large part of the game, and did a great job of harrying both Terry and Dirk with defensive traps. It’s impressive to see a team destined for a high-lottery choice give such impressive effort, and it’s this energy that has propelled the Hornets to victories in five of their last ten games.
Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin, only this time that margin is only one point, and the one corresponding bullet is really just a multi-paragraph bit that sticks to one basic theme.
If this were the Mavs’ first questionable performance in some time, this might be an understandable loss. After all, for whatever reason, professional teams are no strangers to letdown in a game like this one; Chris Paul watched from the sidelines, and a team that is so reliant on him for offensive stability seemed dead in the water against a quality club like Dallas. That clearly wasn’t the case, and while a one-point loss after a number of improbable Hornet makes isn’t the most torturous outcome for the Maverick faithful, this performance is an extension of the team’s depressed play of late. The Mavs are considered contenders because of what they’re capable of, but they certainly haven’t been living up to their top billing in recent weeks.
A slow, 82-game march toward the playoffs characteristically consists of wins and losses of most every type. There are blowouts in either direction, heart-breakers, momentum-shifters, near-losses, statement affairs, and everything else one can possibly imagine. Most teams don’t get through the year without experiencing them all, and thus all are a regular part of the in-season cycle. This is different. This is not a single loss or even a single pair of losses. It’s not a dropped game against a star-less team, or an underwhelming performance to wrap up a road trip. This loss is an indictment. It’s an indication of real weakness, and its a reason why I’m still hesitant to put Dallas on the same platform where San Antonio and Los Angeles currently reside.
The Mavs rank 28th in offensive rebounding rate and 13th in defensive rebounding rate, and they allowed themselves — Tyson Chandler aside — to be thoroughly out-muscled and out-hustled to rebound after rebound. That kind of thing doesn’t change against the likes of Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol, and it’s likely among Rick Carlisle’s concerns for this team moving forward. As strong as they’ve been at times on defense, the Mavs allowed a team with Jarrett Jack as the initiator of its offense to produce at a rate of 106.9 points per 100 possessions, all while Jack cackled with every bucket or assist. Trevor Ariza missed every single one of his 10 field goal attempts, David West shot 5-of-12 from the field and had a respectable but underwhelming 16 points, and the Mavs still didn’t win. Dallas couldn’t quite make it out to the perimeter to contest Marco Belinelli, despite the fact that none of Belinelli’s teammates were really posing that much of a threat. Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler excluded, Dallas just didn’t have the firepower; those who were scoring somewhat efficiently couldn’t create more opportunities against New Orleans’ defense (or else weren’t given the opportunity), and those who tried (Rodrigue Beaubois and Jason Terry, primarily) didn’t have much success. Jason Kidd went 0-fer on seven attempts for good measure.
Wednesday night’s game wasn’t a spectacular failure on either end of the court, but it was an occasion where Dallas ceded too much ground in every regard to a rudderless team. Make no mistake — without Chris Paul, that’s what this Hornets squad becomes, and that’s who got the better of the Mavs. Things were as they should have been at points throughout the game, but the significance of this loss goes well beyond what it means today. Maybe we can all look back at this game in a few months’ time and laugh, but for now it seems a pretty fitting asterisk on the team’s success: this year’s Mavs are very beatable, their defense is strong but not impenetrable, and their offense stable but not universally consistent.
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.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Indiana Pacers
It’s almost an irrelevant discussion by now, but as recently as a week ago, those with an eye to the Mavs pondered the perks of playoffs versus the lottery. This team almost certainly doesn’t have the chops of a championship contender (or if they have them stowed away in some secret compartment, I have yet to see them), so at best the playoffs are an extension to a season most view as an exercise in mediocrity. Sure, every team in the playoffs technically has a chance to win it all, but at what minute fraction of a fraction does it become more worth our while to try our luck at the lottery balls?
The Mavs are a veteran team, and that route isn’t exactly an appetizing one. Just making the playoffs is a bare bones accomplishment, but for a team of proud, veteran players, it could offer enough consolation to keep them from tossing and turning in bed every night for the next three months. And, of course, the financial incentives are well worth the Mavs’ while, especially when considering the team’s massive payroll and luxury tax payout.
Simply, the difference between potentially the 14th pick and the 20th pick or so isn’t worth the fuss. What the Mavs would gain in a (possibly) marginally more talented/productive player, they would almost certainly lose in whatever quantitative way there is to measure mental health. The hot line with the Mavs has always been that they lack the sort of fiery, on-court leader that forges championship mettle with his bear hands; if that’s as true as believed, then missing the playoffs with two future Hall-of-Famers, not to mention two players who fancy themselves borderline All-Stars, could be a stroke of death.
The Indiana Pacers find themselves in a similar discussion, but with a decidedly different outlook. For them, making the playoffs isn’t as much a testament to their longevity and a shallow fulfillment of their own personal expectations, but a fairly significant breakthrough for a roster that has been continually limited by circumstance. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, the team’s two best players, have battled injury all season. Almost every other rotation player has missed at least a handful of games, sometimes leaving a cast of role players to accomplish what teams at full-strength often struggle to do: win games. At their best, they’re world-beaters, a potent offensive club that overcomes deficiencies with a sense of direction. Sometimes the compass may be pointing the wrong way, but at least their direction is conclusive.
What would making the playoffs mean to the Pacers? I’d wager an awful lot; Jarrett Jack, Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy (though he’s injured) have never even tasted the playoffs, and it goes without saying that rookies Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush have yet to play their first postseason game. Something tells me that those players, Murph and Dunleavy in particular, might want to take a crack at the playoffs, even if it means nothing more than a beatdown at the hand of the Cavaliers. If it doesn’t happen this year, it would certainly be disappointing, but it’s also completely understandable given the myriad of injuries. The Pacers are in an oddly accomodating situation for a team on the playoff bubble; their injuries arm them with the perfect write-off, a playoff berth would bring a newfound sense of fulfillment and justification, and a draft pick in the lottery would only serve to help their cause next year with a healthy, matured roster.
That seems to be the theme with the Mavs in comparison to the rest of those on the fringes of relevance. These teams have been to the bottom, and they’ve seen just how dark it can get. Dallas, on the other hand, has glimpsed the summit. Though they’re stranded with no apparent means of reaching their goal, claims to fear their half-way camp much more than the fall. They could be in for a rude awakening when glorified visions of falling with style transform into the panic and fear of a freefall, but we’ll tackle that monster when we come to it. For now, the Mavs will do their best MacGyver, and try to fashion a pickaxe from dental floss, a tube sock, and a metal spork.