You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Washington isn’t a particularly problematic matchup for Dallas, yet games between the two teams seem to be a bit more interesting than they should be. With a little over a minute and a half remaining in the fourth quarter, Jordan Crawford hit a pull-up jumper to erase the final points of the Maverick lead. Any team in the league can be dangerous in a one-and-a-half minute time frame, and facing that kind of scenario in a very winnable game is exactly what the Mavs should aim to avoid. Luckily, it didn’t matter; following Crawford’s make, Tyson Chandler scored on a tip-in, John Wall turned the ball over, and Dirk Nowitzki was fouled on a three-point attempt. That gave Dallas just the buffer they needed to secure a win, but this was far from a reassuring victory.
The Mavs’ defense wasn’t poor per se, but it certainly wasn’t good. The buckets surrendered in transition to Wall et al are understandable, but the more glaring breakdowns were those that occurred in half-court settings. As usual, the initial contests were strong, but the inability to secure defensive rebounds make things unnecessarily difficult. The Wizards posted a 20.4 offensive rebounding rate, and that effort combined with low turnovers and decent shooting made Washington unexpectedly competitive. The rebounding has to get better; if JaVale McGee and Kevin Seraphin are giving Dallas trouble on the glass, what happens when the Mavs play even stronger rebounding clubs?
Tyson Chandler (23 points, 10-14 FG, 13 rebounds) was the game’s unquestioned standout, as the Wizards failed to account for his presence in any offensive setting. Just one dunk for your viewing pleasure:
Chandler’s most important bucket and his most emphatic bucket both came off of offensive rebounds, but Jason Kidd (three points, 14 assists, eight rebounds) set up Chandler for the bulk of his points. JaVale McGee is a skilled shot-blocker, but clearly lacks the defensive awareness to compete with a consistent lob threat.
Dallas played as well in their transition offense as they have all season, and produced some truly beautiful sequences. The ball movement was terrific throughout the game, but particularly so as the Mavs looked to set each other up for fast break finishes like this one:
Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 6-18 FG, 9-11 FT, seven rebounds, three assists) had an understated impact, leaving Chandler, Shawn Marion (13 points, 4-6 FG, 10 rebounds, three turnovers), and Jason Terry (25 points, 10-18 FG, four assists) to soak in the limelight. Dallas doesn’t win this game without Nowitzki’s 11 free throw attempts, but Marion played a superb all-around game while Terry funneled in some efficient scoring to compensate for Nowitzki’s poor shooting night from the field. If I can dote on Marion’s game for just a second more: no Maverick does a better job of closing out on three-point shooters, and his speed and length paid off in challenging a Nick Young corner three attempt with under a minute remaining.
Chalk this one up as the first big hiccup in Rodrigue Beaubois’ (two points, 1-7 FG, three rebounds, three assists) return. Beaubois played just 13 minutes of action, and Carlisle was right to keep his minutes down; the Mavs’ designated savior was drawing back rim on all of his jumpers, and blew a wide open layup attempt at the start of the third quarter. The Mavs even tried to run a staple alley-oop set from their 2009-2010 repertoire to get Beaubois going, but the set ended in a mistimed jump and a missed layup.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
At no point during this game were the Wizards denied access to what could have been theirs; the Mavs looked infinitely beatable throughout, and generally refused to erase the doubt in the result despite holding all of the cards. Dallas defended fairly well, had Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 7-11 FG, four rebounds) a step closer to normalcy, and attempted a whopping 37 free throws. Yet if Washington were, well, a better team than they are, the game could have tilted anywhere along the way. The Mavs won the game, but the Wizards certainly did their part to lose it.
Tyson Chandler (18 points, 5-10 FG, 18 rebounds, eight offensive boards, four turnovers) was again dominant, and forced another team with weak interior defense (though not without shot-blocking, it’s worth noting) to foul him repeatedly on deep catches and offensive rebounds. Chandler has attempted 11+ free throws in three of his last four games, despite playing fewer than 33 minutes in each. Think about that. Chandler is, on some nights, the consistent source of free throws that the Mavs have long needed. Dallas may not be able to dump the ball to him in the low post, but the team’s willingness to find Chandler and the Tyson’s creativity in finding open spots around the rim have created a pretty viable threat.
Brian Cardinal (nine points, 3-8 3FG, four rebounds) started in the spot formerly held by Sasha Pavlovic, and though I’m unsure of just how long a tandem of Cardinal and Dirk Nowitzki can coexist defensively, it worked well enough on Monday night. Then again, I’ve underestimated Cardinal almost every step of the way. I thought of him as a decent three-point shooter, but he’s become the Mavs’ best. He’s hustled at each of his NBA stops, but Cardinal really does do so many of those fabled “little things.” I figured any claims of his defensive adequacy were probably overstated, yet he manages to hold his own. Cardinal’s not a long-time starting option, but for the moment, he’ll do just fine.
Dallas’ ball movement was certainly notable. The Mavs assisted on 27 of their 34 field goal attempts, and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry combined for 19 dimes between them. This was really one of those holistic concepts, though; the ball movement around the perimeter was fantastic, and virtually every Maverick was giving up good shots for better ones. Kidd and Terry were particularly brilliant, but the entire team deserves credit for forcing the Wizards to commit and then exploiting their rotations.
It’s practically heresy to wish the Mavs to be less than they are, but every time Ian Mahinmi (seven points, two rebounds, one block in just eight and a half minutes) hits the court I think of what it might be like if this team were in a different place. Mahinmi isn’t a cornerstone, but his activity level is impressive. Mahinmi’s feel for the game isn’t natural. He’s worked hard to get to where he is now, and it’s unlikely that he’d ever evolve into stable, starting center material. But wouldn’t you love to know for sure? For now, Mahinmi is a better player than the Mavs can find minutes for, but he’s a terrific luxury to have.
The Wizards picked up their fifth team foul with 9:05 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas went on to attempt 17 free throws in the frame. Matters a little bit, no?
I wouldn’t say that Dirk is ready to resume business as usual, but this was by far his most comfortable game since his return from injury. Nowitzki took advantage of going to work against Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis, and Trevor Booker, who provided far less opposition in the post than Nowitzki has seen in recent games. He was able to back his Wizards opponents down, and shot fake his way to the free throw line on several occasions, which is far better than the desperate heaves we’ve seen from Nowitzki in the last week or so. It’s apparent that Dirk wants to recapture his potency, but this was his most legitimate advance toward that end.
Also: this isn’t a pass that Dirk could have made even as recently as two or three seasons ago, and not only because Tyson Chandler is a more capable finisher than Erick Dampier:
In case you didn’t know, Nick Young (6-20 FG) and Andray Blatche (4-17 FG) are remarkably skilled in firing up shots without a moment’s consideration. It’s as if every reasonably well-positioned catch transitions seamlessly into a shot attempt. It’s some kind of credit to them both that they play without doubt, but it’s a bit of a red flag that they play without discretion.
“The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.”
Game one is technically in the books, even if it’s not much more than a token. Unfortunately, for those of us out of market, it all came second-hand. Without the distinct privilege of watching 48 minutes of riveting preseason action myself, I’m inclined to defer to those who did. But don’t leave this to writers and journalists alone. Have some insight on one of the Mavs from last night’s game? Sound off in the comments.
Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “According to the coaching staff, [Jason] Terry had five deflections and caused three loose balls. This is a huge development because coach Rick Carlislehas maintained that defensive intensity is what Terry has to improve on to keep racking up the 30 minutes per game that he’s averaged over most of his career. When asked if Terry can do that, Carlisle said: ‘Why the (heck) not?’ Terry’s defensive tipped balls – even more than his three steals – made Carlisle smile. Terry, too. ‘That’s what we’ve been concentrating on,’ he said. ‘That’s what I have to do.’”
Michael Lee, Washington Post: “[John] Wall later intercepted an Ian Mahinmi pass intended for Kidd and zipped down the court to make a left-handed layup. But his best play was actually a pass: a lob from beyond the three-point line to JaVale McGee (13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks) that McGee caught and dunked with two hands over Brian Cardinal. ‘That was the hypest play for me,’ Wall said of the alley-oop to McGee. ‘The main thing was getting the jitters out of the way and having chemistry down pat with my teammates.’”
Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas: “After two injury-marred seasons, [Tyson] Chandler is completely healthy again. He looked a lot like the dude who averaged a double-double for the Hornets in 2007-08 during his debut in a Mavs uniform. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting (including one oooh-inducing alley-oop), nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes. “‘I loved Chandler tonight, and I’ve loved him every day of training camp,’ coach Rick Carlisle said. ‘He’s really bringing not only energy, but he’s bringing some vocal leadership and personality to our team, which we need. He’s a very, very welcome addition.’”
Tyson Chandler: “They came out and threw a press at us and threw a zone at us. Those were things that we weren’t prepared for and some things that we haven’t gone over in practice. But, that is what preseason is for. We need to learn. Tomorrow we will go over some things for the next game.”
Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: “Four of [Gilbert Arenas'] five makes were assisted upon; two of those came from running off-ball screening action, and two came as he made himself available at the three point line in transition and off an offensive rebound. The one non-assisted make came on a sweet baseline jumper against the mis-matched Jose Juan Barea (that natural scoring ability Gil still has). Out of the four misses, only 1.5 accounted for “bad attempts” — The good misses being wide open in transition and when Marion gave him too much room at the top of the key. The bad miss came when he pulled up for three in transition when driving action clearly would’ve created something for Blatche down low or Hinrich in the corner. The half bad attempt was Arenas’ last as he tried to post his old buddy DeShawn Stevenson. It was a close shot, but going in the direction of help. In terms of changing his game for the team, Gilbert might just be okay … but I can’t speak for him otherwise.”
Dan Devine, Ball Don’t Lie: “No catchphrases here … just a note that Hudson, a training camp invitee who spent time last season with the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies (as well as the D-League’s Maine Red Claws and Dakota Wizards), showed similar late-game flair during Summer League. Given the video evidence, if they don’t already call him Cool Lester Smooth, they might want to think about it. (Or, whoever “they” are might not want to start doling out “Wire”-related nicknames based on stuff that happens before the games start to count. Which would be fair, I guess.)”
Rick Carlisle on Dominique Jones (via Earl K. Sneed): “(Jones) is a strong, tenacious type player, and I think down the road he’s gonna be a guy that’s gonna be depended on to guard the best players on a lot of nights. No question.” High praise from a coach who doesn’t dole out these kinds of superlatives easily.
Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas supposes that Tim Grgugrich, who served as a guest coach for the Mavs throughout training camp, could be a candidate to join the Dallas coaching staff full-time: “Marion worked with Grgurich during their time together in Phoenix. Marion praised his subtle communication with players, to teach and translate information and ideas about the game’s nuances and geometry, and to share it in a way that, like Terry, excites players. Grgurich became well-known for his partnership with Gary Payton in Seattle and today some of the game’s top talent attends his under-the-radar camp in Las Vegas every August.”
Flip Saunders isn’t quite sure who his starting five will be tonight against the Mavericks. Also, John Wall is excited to play against Jason Kidd.
Since the Phoenix Suns acquired Hedo Turkoglu from the Toronto Raptors via trade, Alvin Gentry has faced an endless stream of questions concerning Turkoglu’s position (he’s currently slated as a power forward) and what it means for the Suns’ defense. Here is his response (via Josh Greene): “Hedo will be fine. There are certain fours nobody handles in the league. I love when somebody says, ‘How will you guys guard Dirk Nowitzki?’ The last time I checked, no one else could guard him either. In those situations, we’ll do the best we can. My philosophy has always been, ‘They have to guard him on the other end of the floor.’ Sometimes that’s the best defense. The team that scores the most points wins the game. We were the best defensive team 62 times last year.”
Kyle Weidie from Truth About It dug up a pretty bizarre account courtesy of Lola Natisa, a friend/acquaintance of Brendan Haywood. This anecdote is very much of the unconfirmed variety, but worth noting regardless (excuse the lengthy quote and the non-basketball subject matter). Natisa wrote on her blog: “Brendan Haywood is an uncomfortably tall basket ball player who has recently signed with the Dallas Mavericks. When he was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this year, my friend Daylon (who knew Brendan from Charlotte) thought it would be cool to show him what Dallas had to offer. It was a Sunday night right after my gig at the House of Blues and the only place that was really jumping in Dallas was a night club called Wish. Brendan is a guy who enjoys muliti-cultural environments because they tend to be much safer, and the women seem to be much much nicer. After going out with him a few times, I can’t disagree with his preference. I’m not sure why…… but black women plus a night club, can add up to rude/bitter/unattractive results at times (lol) FYI: the black woman reading this and is offended, is the black woman that produces these unattractive results. Anyway, we warned him that this night for this club sometimes can become a little hood. Brendan listened to what we had to say and he asked, “Now, is this club just a little hood or is it Josh Howard hood”? I had never been to a Josh Howard party nor had I met him personally, so I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. That was until I recently sang the National Anthem at Josh Howard’s Celebrity Softball Charity Game. All I can say is Josh Howard is sooo much more hood then just hood. His staff of hometown homeboys who sometimes need to ‘smoke one’ when under pressure were an interesting trio. The after party at the House of Blues looked like a Big T’s Bazaar fashion show. There were over sized gold chains, discount baby phat outfits and ass…just a whole lot of ass (tragic just tragic). Needless to say the night at Wish with Brendon and Daylon wasn’t Josh Howard hood. Hood is just that hood…Josh Howard Hood is hood on steroids, everything hood times ten.”
Say what you will about Jason Terry the player, but Jason Terry the person is about as endearing as they come. It’s from a bit of a fluff piece, but here’s Terry, via Gary Herron of the Rio Rancho Observer (H/T DOH at Mavs Moneyball): “I’ve been blessed and fortunate just to be in the business as long as I have. The ‘life expectancy’ of an NBA player is four years; I’ve been in the league now 11 years. I’ve been primarily healthy throughout my career, haven’t had any major injuries. Blessed with some big contracts; I have a beautiful family.”
From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas: “Cuban said Mavs head athletic trainier Casey Smith, a member of the Team USA medical staff, has reported that Chandler appears to have regained the explosion he had prior to ankle injuries that ruined the past two seasons.”
Guess who declared for the Korean Basketball League draft? If you guessed Samaki Walker, you’re a deeply disturbed individual. And totally right.
David Thorpe ranked the top rookies that played in Summer League, and Dominique Jones came in at #10 (Insider): “Jones is super competitive on both sides of the ball and capable of putting up points in bunches. Possessing a great frame for a combo guard, he has every chance to be this year’s Marcus Thornton — ready to play from day one and having the confidence to play in the fourth quarter.”
Kevin Arnovitz got SUMMER LEAGUE LEGEND Jeremy Lin on the phone for a few to get his reactions to the post-Vegas whirlwind. Among other things, Lin reminisced about his game against John Wall and the Wizards Summer League team: “Roddy [Beaubois] was hurt so I got a chance to get a little more playing time in the first half, which helped a lot because I got a chance to get comfortable. Going into the fourth quarter, we were down. I wanted something to happen. I was just, like, playing. It just felt like it was college again. I was just, like, out there. It felt very, very comfortable and very relaxed. It was such a natural feeling. It wasn’t like that with most of the other games. In those other games, it was more like, “Wow, this is a job interview. I have to perform well.” I had that kind of pressure. But in the Washington game, going against John Wall in the fourth quarter, trying to come back, I was just playing off instincts. It was the best quarter I had in summer league at the best possible time. If the Dallas Mavericks weren’t scheduled to play the Washington Wizards, I might not be in the NBA.”
Antoine Wright will be playing in Sacramento next season. He’s not a great offensive fit next to Tyreke Evans, but I still like Wright as a defender, as does Tom Ziller.
Mike Prada ranked the league’s 30 GMs, and put Donnie Nelson in the 10th slot: “Ultimately, Nelson hits a lot of singles and doubles, and that’s not a bad thing for a team that is willing to spend and will therefore never have or need cap flexibility.”
“He doesn’t owe you anything. He is not a representative for every Asian-American kid. He is just Jeremy Lin.”
John Schuhmann of NBA.com, from Team USA training camp in Las Vegas: “Tyson Chandler is wearing the Zoom LeBron III, personalized to protect his toe.” Chandler seems more and more likely to make Team USA’s final cut, even after early reports indicated that he came into camp out of shape.
Rodrigue Beaubois played a pretty miserable game. In almost sixteen minutes, Beaubois went scoreless, but still managed to pick up five fouls and turn the ball over three times. He suffered a bit of a high ankle sprain during the game, which does help to explain his hesitation and ineffectiveness. However, even with the injury as an alibi, this was a weak performance for Rodrigue.
With Beaubois sitting most of the game due to injury, there was an offensive void to be filled. That’s where Dominique Jones came up big, and Jeremy Lin, Omar Samhan, and Ian Mahinmi made notable contributions. Dominique had a high-usage outing (with Beaubois sitting, Jones ran the offense for extended stretches) but sitll a remarkably efficient one: He scored 28 points on 17 shots, shot 53% from the field, and only turned the ball over twice. Typically I’m more of an advocate of evaluating skills in Summer League rather than production, but Jones’ outing was too impressive to ignore.
However, Jones’ best work was on the defensive end. Dominique was matched up with the prodigious John Wall, and though Wall finished with a fantastic 21 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, Jones’ ability to anticipate Wall’s moves was very impressive. The #1 pick may have gotten his, but he shot just 4-of-19 from the field in doing so.
Kevin Arnovitz on Dominique Jones: Jones played the point at South Florida and can distribute the ball in traffic, or make use of himself off the ball. He recorded four assists on Thursday and turned the ball over twice, which is a minor miracle for an active, high usage guard in summer league action. ‘I love the point guard position, as people can probably tell the way I work with the ball,’ Jones said. ‘But whatever the Mavericks need me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to prepare myself and learn from Jason Terry and Jason Kidd so that when the time comes at either position that I play, I won’t be a liability.’ For an aging Dallas squad, the time might come sooner than later — and Jones seems far more of an asset than a liability.”
Jeremy Lin had his best Summer League performance yet. He threaded a long bounce pass through two defenders to a cutter. He picked off a lazy pass and sprinted out for an open court dunk. He sliced to the basket and found an open teammate on the other side of the rim. He unleashed a breathtaking spin on a shot attempt that was unfortunately led to an offensive foul call. He stuck with John Wall on defense. Lin looks every bit an NBA player, and at this point the only thing separating him from that official status is an invite, not skill.
Here’s my fellow Hardwood Paroxite, Zach Harper (also of Cowbell Kingdom and Talk Hoops), on Lin’s performance: “Jeremy Lin and John Wall faced off in the fourth quarter of the Wizards-Mavericks game in Vegas and pretty much played each other to a standstill. That’s right. An undrafted Harvard, SMAHRT kid, point guard went toe-to-toe with the number-one pick in the NBA draft and sort-of held his own. The final box score will show John Wall with an impressive 21 points (let’s just forget about the 4/19 shooting), 10 assists and seven rebounds. But it won’t show that the majority of the Lin’s 11 fourth quarter points were the result of him getting the better of the ‘best player in the draft’ for times than Wall will care to remember. Lin and Wall played the equivalent of an iso chess match on the hardwood game board. The kid from the Ivy League refused to back down from the YouTube sensation and while Wall walked away with the highlight reel, Lin walked away as the fan favorite.”
Ian Mahinmi looked good in his Maverick debut. He’s confident in his mid-range game, which is good, but he’s also not content to settle. Mahinmi attacked the rim whenever he could, including one impressive drive to the rim from the high post. Ian also rebounded fairly well, although the Mavs’ bigs on the whole did a poor job on the defensive glass. It’s tough to attribute specific blame when the defensive rotations are Summer Leaguerrific (forcing the bigs to step up and contest shots they shouldn’t have to, exposing the soft, chewy center of the defensive unit), but JaVale McGee and John Wall killed it on the offensive glass.
With Ian Mahinmi inserted into the starting lineup, Mouhammad Faye was relegated to reserve duty. He didn’t look as impressive against Washington. Though Faye’s defense was above average, it wasn’t notable, and he didn’t contribute anything offensively.
DeShawn Sims had his most productive game as a Mav, but I have a feeling he’ll be picked up elsewhere. Sims is a pretty decent NBA prospect, but the Mavs need an immediate contributor as the back-up 4. Plus, if they’re going to take a flyer on anyone from this roster, Lin seems to be the better find.
If I’m not mistaken, Shan Foster had his first drive of Summer League in Game 4. This is not a good thing.
The Nets’ honeymoon with Devin Harris is long since over, and they could be looking to trade him in anticipation of nabbing the #1 overall pick in the draft. This is more of an indication of John Wall’s value than it is Devin’s, but it’s interesting to see the way things have turned since the trade in 2008.
Brendan Haywood, on the difference in professionalism between Dallas and Washington (via Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog): “Um, yeah, it was very obvious. It was very obvious. They had established the way things were done around there, and you were forced to basically adhere to a certain standard. We came from D.C., and that wasn’t always enforced. In Dallas, it was something totally different, and we liked it. Just look at the structure, how things were done, the no-nonsense attitude and just how everybody got along and the family atmosphere. There was no agendas. That was something totally different for us.”
The French national team has some interest in Rodrigue Beaubois. It’s no secret that Mark Cuban isn’t fond of Dirk risking his health playing for the German team over the summer, and should Beaubois become the long-time Mav many want him to be, he’ll give Cuban headaches for another decade or so if he decides to play for France.
Late linking these, but so, so worth it: Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie presents the Most Bloggable NBA Photos. Mav appearances at #14, #9, #6 (former), and #2. Make sure to check out all of the selections though. Priceless.
Comparing players of different eras is always a tough task, given the myriad variables that need to be accounted for. But Neil Paine takes a stab at using a strategy from baseball analysis: rather than boiling the translation down to league-wide factors, Paine isolates team-specific factors. The methods are still a bit ambiguous to me (even though I like the idea in theory), but here’s the part that interests you: even if you transported all the NBAers of today to 1969, the era of Wilt, Russell, and Oscar, Dirk would still be third most prolific scorer in the league (behind Wade and LeBron). It’s all for fun, but it’s obviously more fun with a Mav near the top.
Brian Lewis of the New York Post, on Jerry Stackhouse’s chances of sticking with the team: “Jerry Stackhouse came and worked out and left without an offer, as did Jason Williams. The latter is now an unrestricted free agent. As far as Stack, a source placed their odds of signing him as somewhere between ‘under 50-50 and longshot.’”
Speaking of Stack, here’s a video of him on the receiving end of a John Wall slam. For those not in the know, John Wall is going to be your favorite player of all time. He’s not even in the NBA yet, but I’m already clearing shelf space for a John Wall bust.
Rodrigue Beaubois did his thing for the cameras at the rookie photo shoot, and appears to be set on wearing number 3. Boom, boom, pow. I’m heavy on the graphics today, apparently. These are the dog days of summer. (Photos via Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports.)