Heard It Through the OPENING DAY Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 26, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie previews the Mavs’ season, which he pegs for 52 wins (though Dwyer notes that such a mark is easily beatable by this collective): “…as much as age sets in, and as much as a lack of depth will likely keep the Mavericks away from the ranks of the championship contender, Dallas will still field a sound rotation of basketball players that will give them a chance to beat every team – every single one of them – soundly on any given night. Even if Jason Kidd won’t be able to pop jumpers all night as a threat off of a screen and roll, and if Dirk finally does decide to not act like an All-NBA player, the core is good enough to keep this team competitive, and in the race for that distant second spot behind the Los Angeles Lakers.” Also, the Brian Cardinal picture is worth a click-through alone.
  • Check out The Basketball Jones’ season preview for the Mavs, and while you’re at it, the Jones’ first full-length episode of the season. Rejoice!
  • Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “I suppose there is a fine line between being ‘detail-oriented’ and being a ‘dictatorial control freak.’…let’s put Rick Carlisle and the Mavs coaching staff in the former category, shall we? Remember one of Rick’s main gripes about his players in the San Antonio playoff series: Dallas didn’t win its share of the “50-50 balls,’’ that is, the loose balls on the floor that can be gathered up to gain or retain possession, that can be fast-break starters, momentum-grabbers, game winners. On Sunday, guess what the Mavs worked on? Hustle and angles and attacking, all as they relate to loose balls. A basketball version of football’s ‘fumble drills,’ basically.”
  • Von Wafer (Celtics), Mo Ager (Timberwolves), Jeremy Lin (Warriors), D.J. Mbenga (Hornets), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Hornets), Shawne Williams (Knicks), and Malik Allen (Magic) all made opening day rosters. Jake Voskuhl, Dwayne Jones, J.R. Giddens, and Joe Crawford did not. (Thanks to Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside for compiling a hell of a list.)
  • From Sports Illustrated’s “NBA Enemy Lines” feature, in which an opposing scout gives his take on a given NBA team: “Their big pickup, Tyson Chandler, is important to them because teams anticipate being able to penetrate from the top against Kidd, Terry and Barea, who all have a hard time keep anybody in front of them. So now the Mavericks should be able to bring over a big guy to meet the penetration, whether it’s Chandler or Brendan Haywood. The fundamental problem remains on the perimeter, but at least now they have some long and mobile big guys who are capable of changing shots. Haywood doesn’t excite anyone too much, but he’s serviceable as a long guy you have to shoot over. I hear people saying he’s soft, but I think that’s a bad rap. He’s effective and he has a nice right hook. Most of the time he’ll be able to turn to that shoulder and get off the shot whenever he wants.” For the record, haven’t heard much of anyone calling Haywood soft. You?
  • A handy tidbit from Jason Terry (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “We have 17 of 26 games at home to start the season, so we need to set a tone.”
  • Shawn Marion has a lot of faith in Tyson Chandler’s ability to make an impact on defense.
  • Tyson Chandler, from his official site: “To do that, we have to have strong leadership and it’s been great working with a dedicated owner like Mark Cuban. Cube, as we call him, is dope. He’s a cool-cat. He obviously loves the game and he loves to be around it. We know that we have a passionate owner and that’s always a good thing. His only motivation is to win championships…I’m so happy to get a chance to play with two of the best in the game at what they do in Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. J-Kidd is the ultimate professional. He comes in to work every day and he sees things that I don’t even know if a coach can see. But he sees them in real time, right there on the floor, in the flow of the game. He’s an incredible passer and he’s definitely going to improve my game. Dirk has always been an incredible scorer and an assassin on the offensive end and that’s coming from me being on the other side. Now, getting to watch that daily, I see why he’s one of top players in our league. He’s almost unstoppable.”
  • Mark Followill’s scouting report on Dominique Jones for DallasBasketball.com: “Jones has the strength, tenacity and desire it would appear to defend well at this level, although he has been caught reaching a few times this preseason rather than playing solid defense by using his feet. The weakest part of his game right now is definitely the outside jump shot. Improving that doesn’t appear to be a mechanical issue, but more about spending time in the gym working on it and developing confidence.   I’ve seen some good decisions from him with the ball when he drives in terms of passing. I don’t think that makes him a point guard, but its good he can make smart decisions if he is going to be getting down into the paint with regularity.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on September 10, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • Rodrigue Beaubois reflecting on Game 6 of last season’s playoffs, in which Rick Carlisle opted to sit him in favor of Jason Terry and Caron Butler (via Eddie Sefko): “It’s some tough choices for coach,” he said. “If we had won, it would have been great. It’s just a coach’s decision. I just need to be ready when they call my name. For sure it was difficult. It was a very important game and we lost it. It was tough. I was feeling great. But it’s all good. That was last year. I’m focused on this year.”
  • A few other notes from the same Sefko piece: Beaubois fully intends to play for the French national team next year as they attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, and though he’s no longer using crutches, he’s still in a protective boot.
  • Mark Cuban, and his $100,000 donation to the city of Dallas. Cool, but as Trey Kerby noted at Ball Don’t Lie, it may not be entirely altruistic.
  • Joe Crawford, whose rights the Legends selected in the D-League expansion draft, has been invited to camp with the Sacramento Kings. J.R. Giddens, who played for the Mavs’ summer league team, has also been invited. The Kings are clearly looking for a prospect to survive the intra-camp competition, as Luther Head, too, has been brought in to compete for a roster spot.
  • In the latest edition of The Works, Tom Ziller and Bethlehem Shoals revisit the Z-graph, an illustrated representation of position-based skills.
  • Dirk Nowitzki will do voice work for one of the worst shows on television.
  • Josh Howard still dresses like Josh Howard.

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume V

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 21, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | Be the First to Comment

In lieu of a delayed recap of the Mavs final game at the Vegas Summer League, I’ve opted for a player-by-player review based on their exploits. If you’ve come in search of some analysis of Moussa Seck that’s probably more serious than it should be, actual praise for Mouhammad Faye, or a first look at Ian Mahinmi, you’ve come to the right place.

Rodrigue Beaubois: Experience is important, but Beaubois didn’t demonstrate much growth in terms of running the point. He had his moments — a read here, a read there — but this was not a particularly successful trip for Rodrigue. However, Beaubois did show off his pull-up game a bit, something he didn’t do with much frequency last season with the Mavs. Granted, he didn’t have much of a chance; pull-up threes are the kind of shots Beaubois is able to take in Summer League, but probably shouldn’t be taking with the actual team. There are better shots to be had when playing with Dirk Nowitzki et al. Aside from that wrinkle, Beaubois played off the ball a bit too much and didn’t blow me away as a traditional point guard prospect. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth noting.

Dominique Jones: Dominique Jones isn’t quite a bull in a china shop — he stands just 6’5”, after all — but at the very least he’s a Tasmanian devil in a Pottery Barn. It’ll be nice to see if Jones can get to the basket (and to the free throw line) consistently against bigger and badder NBA regulars, but he passed his first exam in that course with flying colors. Jones isn’t a particularly versatile scorer just yet, but his driving abilities are sealed and ready for NBA use. He has a quick first step. He’s incredibly strong. He can drive in both directions, finish with contact, and attack the basket in a variety of ways. Jones may seem like a black hole at times, but he’s not an unwilling passer. He’ll find his teammates, but there’s no question that his offensive focus is to score as frequently as possible, regardless of who’s defending him.

However, as I mentioned in my game-by-game recaps, Jones was just as excellent defensively. It’s still very early, but Dominique looks like a player that could be defensively viable at both guard positions, and his tenacity on that end is beyond impressive. His technique still needs work, and he needs to continue to develop to become a better team defender. However, Jones looked remarkable in showcasing his one-on-one defensive abilities (staying in front of his man, bodying up, contesting shots, etc.).

Jeremy Lin: It’s not easy to walk into a gym where every unheralded prospect is looking to make a name for themselves and do just that, yet Lin earned himself an NBA contract on the strength of his play at Summer League. Jeremy has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors, which is pretty remarkable considering the Mavs were Lin’s only Summer League invite.

Lin surprised a lot of people with his ability to keep pace athletically, which was thought to be one of his bigger weaknesses coming into Summer League. It looked like a non-issue, even as Lin was asked to check John Wall. Jeremy looked strong in the open court, but he also impressed with his vision and decision-making in half-court sets. I don’t know of Lin will ever have the talent necessary to be a full-time starting point, but it’s not hard to imagine him providing scoring and playmaking off the bench in a regular capacity.

Jeremy Lin’s journey in Vegas was a gradual unveiling. Initially, he showed an ability to make simple, effective passes and finish in the lane over NBA shot-blockers. Then came a surprising diversity in his drives and moves to the rim, which is essential for long-term success on the perimeter in the NBA. Lin also added a few threes for good measure, giving team officials reason to hesitate before inking his jumper as a weakness on the scouting report. Finally, Lin really showcased his defensive abilities by pressuring ball-handlers and attacking the passing lanes. He’s hardly a finished product, but Lin can do a bit of everything.

Omar Samhan: Dexter Pittman may be a rotation player for the Miami Heat this season, but Omar Samhan couldn’t even secure a spot on an NBA roster. This makes very little sense. Though Pittman is probably the more intriguing athletic specimen (buried underneath his robust exterior is a definite NBA athlete), he clearly doesn’t have the proper understanding of how to use his size to his advantage. Samhan does. Neither player is in optimal NBA shape, but if we’re looking at which prospect has a better understanding of mechanics, spacing, and talent utilization? There’s no debate. Samhan works his way into the low post to drop a baby hook, while Pittman spins and elbows his way into an offensive foul.

Pittman is just one of many. With so many raw center prospects in the NBA that never find actualization, it’s a shame that players like Samhan can’t even get their foot in the door. Omar is a very poor defender if pulled out to the perimeter, not a sure thing in the post against real NBA bigs, and would have his minutes capped by poor conditioning. Still, he was able to score and rebound well against some of the better centers Summer League had to offer, which has to count for something.

For some reason or another, it’s acceptable for a wing player to be an intriguing, one-dimensional scoring talent, but blasphemous for a center or power forward to do the same. Samhan may not be a great NBA rebounder or defender, but would there really be anything so wrong with getting a few free offensive possessions out of him in the low post?

Ian Mahinmi: Ian had an abbreviated Summer League run, but he showed glimpses of what we can expect next season. Mahinmi rebounded very well in fairly limited minutes, and while he wasn’t a dominant offensive force in any particular game, he showed off a few skills that should be helpful in real NBA games. He has a nice mid-range jumper that can keep defenses honest. Mahinmi looks quicker on his feet than any other Maverick big. He’s not afraid to offer help from the weak side. Mahinmi isn’t the strongest finisher, but at least in Summer League he was able to go up strong and draw fouls.

Mahinmi will frustrate some fans with the holes in his game, but provided we stay focused on what he can do (come on, he’s the third center on the roster, after all) rather than what he can’t, I think it’ll be very clear how cool it is to have a guy like this on the team as an insurance policy.

Mouhammad Faye: While Mouhammad Faye didn’t quite have a Jeremy Lin-style explosion, I feel he played pretty well in Vegas. Faye will never be an impact player offensively. His influence on that end will always be strictly complementary, which means that the most important skills he can showcase are the ability to hit open jumpers and finish freebies at the rim. He did both. Faye’s defense could possibly get him a chance with an NBA team some day, as he’s both well-equipped (Faye is listed at 6’9”, but has Stretch Armstrong limbs) and hard-working. It’s very, very difficult to gauge defensive success in the Summer League because of how sensitive those skills translate to a 5-on-5 game with more experienced opponents. Moving from Vegas to the NBA regular season won’t make a made three rim out. It won’t make a smart pass into the wrong move. But a successful individual defender in Summer League could end up flubbing when forced to be part of something more.

For now, that’s where Faye is. He needs three-point range before he’s given a serious NBA shot anyway, but he also needs to prove that he can operate effectively as a team defender. That’s exactly what he’d be able to do in the D-League, if the Mavs choose to make him a part of the Texas Legends’ inaugural run.

Faye is already 25. He’s not going to overhaul his game by the time his career is through. Still, based on the strength he’s shown as a defender, he could be an interesting guy to have on the wing. Faye really needs to bulk up if he’s going to play as a combo forward (he’s a bit slight even to guard NBA 3s at the moment), but he has the makings of a pretty impressive NBA defender.

Shan Foster: Shan Foster is the mythical three-point shooter who can’t shoot. Foster shot 46.9% from three during his last season at Vanderbilt, but he just doesn’t look all that comfortable spotting up at the NBA three-point line. He shot just 25% from beyond the arc in Vegas, and that’s not even close to what it would take to secure Foster a spot on an NBA roster. He’s not a bad defender, but Shan really doesn’t do much offensively except shoot. I wouldn’t call him a black hole, but he certainly doesn’t make plays. He doesn’t drive. He doesn’t post up. He spots up frequently, and misses far more than he should.

J.R. Giddens: I just don’t see it. Giddens plays hard, but he doesn’t seem to have a particularly good grasp of where to be on the court. One could appreciate him solely for his hustle, but too often is he forced to rely on it based on his own mistakes. He seems like a pretty decent positional rebounder, but considering Giddens really failed to show any standout NBA skills aside from his athleticism, I’m not sure he’s cut from the NBA mold. A good player, but unfortunately he just doesn’t seem good enough.

Moussa Seck: Ever the project, Seck’s height is undeniably attractive in an NBA setting, but he has a long way to go before he’s ready to use it. Not only did Seck really only shine offensively when putting in an easy dunk, but his body needs a lot of work before he’s NBA ready.

Consider Yao Ming. The guy is built like a tree, and even with the amount of upper and lower body work he’s done throughout his career, he still has trouble staying healthy. Such is the life of the league’s giants, who have the principles of physics working against them.

Seck could benefit a lot — particularly in the strength and conditioning departments — from playing in the D next season, and I have a sneaking suspicion we may see him in Frisco. But until he puts in the work to make his body NBA-ready, he’s not worth having a particularly serious discussion about. I will say this: Seck may not be all that mobile, but he can surprise people as a shot-blocker for pretty obvious reasons. If Seck could ever bulk up enough to at least put up a fight on the glass, he could find enough minutes to be a difference-maker on the defensive end. Teams simply have to account for him when he’s on the floor, even if Seck lacks a natural feel for the flow of the game.

DeShawn Sims: I was a bit more impressed with Sims’ play in the Orlando Summer League than I was with his performance in Vegas. Sims is a tad small for a natural 4, and his largely face-up game only reinforces that fact. He’s not a great rebounder, but it’s not for lack of effort; Sims puts in the work on the boards, he’s just not all that tall, strong, or athletic. He could be worth an extended look, but Sims doesn’t seem like the kind of talent that would take the jump from Summer League to the NBA all that well.

Amara Sy: Strong, but awkward. Aside from the occasional bizarrely soft jumper, Sy really didn’t look like a basketball player. He got a bucket now and again, but I’m not exactly sure what it is that he’s supposed to do on the court. He’s not a good rebounder (though he really should be, given his strength and athleticism), doesn’t have much touch around the rim at all, and isn’t more than a passable NBA player. Sy seems like a lock to continue in the D-League for a spell before floating back across the Atlantic.

Josh Mayo: Pretty quick, but doesn’t have the blinding speed necessary to make a difference as a 6-foot-flat point guard in the NBA. Mayo didn’t have much of a chance to display his talents behind Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Jeremy Lin, but he also played incredibly pedestrian basketball when he did make it to the floor.

Eric Tramiel: If he ends up in Frisco, it will be solely as a ticket draw (Tramiel came out of UNT, which is about a 30 minute drive from the Legends’ new home). Tramiel didn’t play badly per se, but his defense — while competent — wasn’t impressive to make up for his no-show offensively. It’s tough for guys in Tramiel’s position to impress NBA scouts, but there are also reasons why players of his ilk struggle to even find PT in Summer League.

Darryl Watkins: Big body. Not horrible. Disappears, both on the court and from the Summer League roster.

Adventures in Summer Leaguing, Volume I

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 10, 2010 under Commentary, Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

I wish Summer League lent itself to delicate prose, but unfortunately it’s basketball best consumed in bullet points. There aren’t narratives per se, but the minutiae beg to be absorbed:

  • Rodrigue Beaubois returned to Summer League to refine his point guard skills, but you wouldn’t know it from his first game. Rodrigue put up 16 shots (including nine threes, of which he made none) and was aggressively pursuing shots as the game went on. Dallas actually ran the offense through Dominique Jones and Jeremy Lin a fair bit. Not a crime, but also not indicative of much development.
  • Jones is even stronger than expected. We knew he was a bull of a shooting guard who thrived by getting to the rim at South Florida, but he’s displaying every bit of that ability against his SL competition. It’s not quite the NBA, but it’s a good start. Jones looks quick enough to get around his defender, even if most of his moves were relatively unremarkable straight-line drives. He was very effective, and reasonably efficient: Dominique finished with 19 points on 13 shots, with his low FG% (38.5%) hedged by his frequent trips to the line (12 FTAs). Five turnovers is no good, but at this point that just sees like the sour point of Jones’ game. He does one thing extremely well for a late first rounder, and the rest will have to come along as he goes.
  • Omar Samhan didn’t have a hugely productive night, and he’s not exactly set to dominate against even SL competition. Mobility really didn’t seem to be all that much of an issue, but he didn’t convert on NCAA-caliber post moves. He is doing good work, though. Even though Samhan didn’t put up many attempts, his post game is refined enough to make an impact. He also showed some touch in the face-up game, connecting on a few long two-pointers. Defensive impact: TBD.
  • J.R. Giddens works to hedge his mistakes, but the problem is that he makes entirely too many of them. He’s a decent athlete with a mid-range jumper, but doesn’t seem to know how to put it all together. He abandons his defensive position, works to get the ball offensively but is probably counterproductive in doing so, and isn’t all that versatile. Giddens is good Summer League filler, but not an NBA player.
  • SMU product Mouhammad Faye played well. His 12 points and eight boards were far more fun than I expected we’d get from Faye, but he was just as impressive defensively. He’s 6’9” but a long 6’9”, and looks like he could slide into a niche NBA role as a resident defender/rebounder. Definitely a natural SF, but I suppose he could play PF in a pinch.
  • One of the things that bothered me about Beaubois’ performance was the way in which he surrendered control of the offense. As I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with letting Jones or Lin initiate offensive sequences, but Beaubois simply shifted between phases of scoring (or attempting to) and deferring. There was no middle ground, he was either spotting-up while others made plays or created for himself off the dribble.
  • Moussa Seck is obviously a giant, but he doesn’t have the lower body strength or girth to fully utilize his size. Yao Ming isn’t solely a special athlete because of his work ethic and touch. He also has the strength and size necessary to claim position in the low post and box out. Seck doesn’t have that, and he may never.
  • Dominique Jones’ jumper, which has typically been listed as his most glaring weakness, isn’t NBA ready. He doesn’t look comfortable at all when pulling up, and looks to his J only as a last, last, last resort. That jumper will eventually be what separates Dominique from run-of-the-mill specialists, and the more he looks to diversify his offensive abilities (legit NBA three-point range would go a long way), the more undeniable his utility becomes.
  • Jeremy Lin may not get an NBA spot, but he’s going to play somewhere. And he’s going to play very well. He’d make a very good third point guard in the immediate future, and has the potential to be a reliable bench back-up. Not starting material, but he’s an intelligent playmaker, a capable scorer, and a better-than-advertised defender. When in dual-PG sets with Beaubois (or tri-guard sets with Beaubois and Jones), it was actually Lin that the Mavs put on the Nuggets’ Ty Lawson, not Rodrigue. Lawson still had a tidy 11 points while shooting very well from the field, but the assignment says something of Lin’s defense in itself.
  • Underwhelming: DeShawn Sims (who I expect will play a bit better and a bit more in the future), Shan Foster (who I don’t).

New Blood

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 2, 2010 under News | 5 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo.

The Mavs released their official Vegas Summer League roster today, and there are a few surprises:

Name#POSHTWTFROMYRS PRO
Rodrigue Beaubois3G6'2''182Guadeloupe1
J.R. Giddens5G6'5''215New Mexico2
Jeremy Lin7G6'3''200HarvardR
Amara Sy9F6'8''224FranceR
DeShawn Sims10F6'8''235MichiganR
Dominique Jones20G6'4''215South FloridaR
Shan Foster30G6'6''205VanderbiltR
Omar Samhan34C6'11''265St. Mary'sR
Mouhammad Faye35F6'9''215SMUR
Eric Tramiel42F6'7''230North TexasR
Moussa Seck44C7'4''220SenegalR

Mavs’ assistant coaches Monte Mathis and Darrell Armstrong will be the head and assistant coaches of the SL team, respectively.

Here are the prospects who participated in Mavs mini-camp, but didn’t make the Summer League roster: Jermaine Beal (Vanderbilt), Kelvin Lewis (Houston), Jamel White (Texas Wesleyan), Andre Emmett (Texas Tech; drafted by the Sonics in 2004), Tony Crocker (Oklahoma), Dwight Lewis (USC), Larry Owens (Oral Roberts/Tulsa 66ers), Derrick Byars (Drafted by the Blazers in 2007), Roderick Flemings (Hawaii), and Zivonko Buljan (TCU).

Larry Owens is probably the most regrettable omission, but the inclusion of Sy and Giddens makes up for it in my eyes. Sims isn’t a bad addition either, and while he isn’t ready for the pros just yet, he should be good in Vegas. There will be more to come later on the Summer League roster, particularly the new names.