Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 28, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

First, in case you didn’t have time to check out all of my season preview work, here’s a quick run-down so you can catch up:

Also, if I may:

  • If you’re following me on Twitter, you probably already know this, but in addition to my work here, at Hardwood Paroxysm, and at ProBasketballTalk, I’ve also joined the New York Times’ Off the Dribble Blog as a contributor. Keep an eye out there for some more of my general NBA work, though I’m sure the Mavs will inevitably pop up from time to time.
  • Matt Moore and I recently launched Voice on the Floor, an NBA audio blog (striving to be an NPR for the NBA, in a way) that has been a blast so far. It primarily consists of extended interviews from Moore, as well as spoken word essays from myself and various contributors. I’m very excited about the project and its potential, so I hope you guys will tag along.

Back to business as usual:

  • Since 2000, no player in the NBA has had more 25 & 10 nights than Dirk Nowitkzi. Not Tim Duncan, not Kevin Garnett, not Shaquille O’Neal. No one.
  • Dirk Nowitzki on Tyson Chandler (via Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com): “He’s just so unbelievably active, I’ve never seen anything like it…He’s got to be the best runner at the 5 position and one of the most athletic 5’s right now in this league…he covers a lot of ground out there and he’s plugging holes for us defensively.”
  • I guess this kind of confirms something Nancy Lieberman hinted at back in July: Moussa Seck seems set to be a Texas Legend.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Turnovers were this team’s flaw all last season, and nothing changed in the season-opener. Twenty-one turnovers led to 28 Dallas points. As a tennis guy (no double-fault is good, but some are far worse than others), I buy Larry Brown’s principle that there are acceptable turnovers (daring passes, intended to make for easy baskets, that just don’t work out), and unacceptable turnovers (lazy ballhandling at mid-court that leads to easy opponent scores). Wednesday the vast majority of the turnovers were the ones that scorch you. Especially so with a Jason Kidd pushing the ball for the other team.”
  • Adventures in overstatement: According to Jason Kidd, having Tyson Chandler as a lob option “changes the whole game.” Right. It’s handy, sure, but game-changing? Play-changing, perhaps. It forces opponents to be conscious of him on the roll, but let’s not get carried away.
  • The Mavs committed more money this off-season to free agents than any other team, save the Heat.
  • Charlotte looked like kind of a mess last night, which prompted David Arnott of Rufus on Fire to engage in an interesting exercise: if on were writing Bobcats scouting reports based solely on last night’s game, what would they say? Follow over to RoF an leave your thoughts, but we could do the very same for the Mavs here.
  • Brendan Haywood didn’t start last night, but he’s playing nice so far (via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News): “Sometimes things don’t go the way you plan. You just got to make the best of it.”

Dallas Mavericks 101, Charlotte Bobcats 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2010-10-28 at 7.43.53 AM

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The future is plump with promise.”
-Maya Angelou

The Mavs finally raised the opening night curtain, and if anyone claims to have predicted that grand of a reveal, they’re lying. Dallas didn’t just play out their first game of the season. They put on a show. There was sleight of hand. There were pyrotechnics. There was brilliant execution throughout, barring one rather tragic stretch bridging the first and second quarters. If that first 48 minutes was any indication, this season promises to be far more fantastic than anticipated.

Dallas started the night with a 16-0 run, and though every point of that advantage was squandered by the midway point of the second quarter, it was but a simple demonstration of what this team is capable of. Not ‘capable of,’ in some distant sense, either, like when discussing adolescent potential or a purely hypothetical call to action. The Mavs were capable of being a great team as of this afternoon, and for this game against the Charlotte Bobcats (I know, I know), they became one. The cynic would rightfully ask if this kind of production is sustainable. I don’t know. No one does. But the Mavs looked damn impressive last night, didn’t they?

Offensively, this was the best we’ve seen the Mavs in some time. Their already impressive efficiency (111 points per 100 possessions) would be off the charts if not for a late first quarter slip-up, in which a lineup of J.J. Barea, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood allowed the Bobcats to go on a pretty brutal run. Up to that point, Butler had been getting to the rim fairly effectively. A few clanged jumpers and a handful of Barea turnovers later, Charlotte had erased the Mavs’ early lead and started to forge one of their own. A line switch brought a reversal in fortune, and from that point on, Carlisle didn’t make the same mistake. Clearly a bench unit isn’t the way to go, nor is running any lineup where Butler is expected to create offense without significant help.

When any other lineup was on the floor, the Mavs paced their offense to a rather beautiful rhythm. Everyone shared the ball. Everyone (even Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry) cut to the basked and worked toward open space. The sets were almost completely devoid of isolation play, and Jason Kidd (12 points, 2-3 3FG, 18 assists, three steals, just one measly turnover) was generating some obscenely good looks for his teammates. I’ve previously mentioned the impact that Kidd can have on players like Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, all perfectly useful players but ones lacking in shot creation. This game was an excellent case study in the other primary impact of Kidd’s playmaking: generating wide open looks for the team’s most efficient offensive weapons. It’s by Kidd’s hand that Nowitzki (28 points, 11-13 FG, 13 rebounds) and Terry (22 points, 10-15 FG, six assists, four steals) were able to have such tremendous nights, and the three engineered a stable, replicable brand of pass-happy offense.

That’s right. Replicable. Kidd won’t pick up 18 dimes a night and Nowitzki won’t average 85% shooting for the year, but the elements that made the Mavericks so successful on both the break and in their half-court offense can be accomplished on a nightly basis. The looks were just that good, and while Charlotte’s defense looked positively flummoxed by a maestro at work, Dallas should be able to accomplish something similar even against more effective defensive fronts. Dallas just needs to keep moving, and extend the beautiful flow that brought them their first victory through the rest of the season. If Mavs fans can be bored with these types of performances by the end of the year, Dallas will be among the league’s true contenders. The design has been detailed, now the Mavs just need to mass produce.

Dallas looked terrific defensively, but that’s almost to be expected against a team like the Bobcats. Take an already depressing offense, replace its starting point guard — a sturdy if unspectacular creator who excels in pick-and-roll situations — with a young, shaky, score-first point man, give them limited time to gel, and you have…this. It didn’t help that Larry Brown benched Stephen Jackson for the game’s final 16 minutes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, but Charlotte’s defensive limitations go far beyond any of Brown’s substitutions. They’ll starve for scoring all season, and though Tyrus Thomas (22 points, 8-15 FG, six rebounds) came out of nowhere to lead the team in that department, the Bobcats aren’t likely to get that kind of contribution consistently. As poorly as Charlotte performed on offense in this game, they actually have the potential to be even worse.

Not that Dallas didn’t have a little something to do with that poor performance. The Mavs forced the ball out of Stephen Jackson’s hands early, and gradually transitioned into a more balanced defensive style that contested just about everything within the arc while causing plenty of turnovers. Charlotte’s effective field goal percentage on shots within 10 feet was just 23.6%, a testament to fine work by Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood, and a Maverick defense free to swarm from the perimeter. Dallas gave Boris Diaw, Gerald Wallace, and D.J. Augustin license to shoot from the weak side as they smothered anyone attacking the basket, and the results were very manageable. The same approach clearly wouldn’t work against a team with reliable three-point shooters, but for the Bobcats, it was a perfectly drawn scheme.

This is about as good as it gets for opening night. Let’s just hope it’s not as good as it gets for the entire 2010-2011 season.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Mavs have never lost to the Bobcats. The all-time series between the two teams stands at 13-0 after last night.
  • It looks like Jason Terry will round out the starting unit after all. No chance Carlisle shuffles the deck after a performance like this one.
  • Oddly, Tyson Chandler started rather than Brendan Haywood. I was under the impression that the starting gig was Haywood’s to lose, but apparently that part of the negotiating process was a little less explicit than initially reported. Or the Mavs have completely gone back on their initial promise. One of the two. Either way, Chandler looks to be the starter for now (and deservedly so, based on their performances last night), though it’s hardly set in stone.
  • Caron Butler had three turnovers, all traveling violations. Exploding to the basket off the catch is clearly an uncomfortable maneuver for Butler at this juncture.
  • Brendan Haywood was largely invisible, in spite of his defensive contributions. The box score (two points, three rebounds) is fair to him. Not exactly a compelling case to overtake Chandler as the starter.
  • Seven of Kidd’s 18 assists led to made FGs right at the rim.
  • The first bucket of Dominique Jones’ career was a long two-point jumper from the left corner. Huh.
  • Dallas was impressive in how quickly they triggered the transition game, and even more impressive in their execution on the break. Kidd ran the show expertly, and once he got the Mavs running, wouldn’t hesitate to wait for trailers on the secondary break. Plenty of NBA guards only know one gear in transition, but Kidd’s patience on the break is remarkable.
  • Shawn Marion is trying to shoot more threes this season, but the early returns weren’t pretty. An 0-fer on two attempts last night for Shawn, including an airball.
  • In the second quarter, Marion was defending Wallace on the perimeter, and somehow forced a jump ball while Wallace was in the triple threat. Marion received no statistical credit for the play whatsoever, but it was one moment among many that attest to his defensive savvy.
  • Remember, Dirk Nowitzki ended the regular season of last year on a consecutive free throw streak, and he picked up right where he left off with a 6-of-6 night at the line. His streak of consecutive regular season makes now stands at 78. Minnesota’s Michael Williams holds the record for the most consecutive free throws made with 97 (March 24-Nov. 9, 1993).
  • Chandler was a bit out of control in the fourth quarter, as he was involved in a series of tie-ups and strange fouls. He and Gerald Wallace both received a technical foul for one of the entanglements. This is pretty much par for the course with Tyson; he’s rather emotive. He also fouls a lot. Put the two together, and he can get himself into trouble.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: There were so many fantastic performances in the NBA last night that somehow Kidd’s 18-assist evening will probably be overlooked. It’s a shame, because it was an exhaustive exhibition of his creative wizardry. He threw a lob to Chandler. He hit teammates streaking up the wings on the break. He fed JET as he curled around a screen. He found Dirk on a backdoor cut. Kidd did it all, and made it look easy. 18 A’s, but it felt like 50.

Heard It Through the Weekend Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 13, 2009 under xOther | 4 Comments to Read

  • Rick Carlisle cracks open the basketball dictionary (via Earl K. Sneed): “The definition of a franchise player is one who wants the responsibility for winning or losing…[Nowitzki] wants the ball in his hands when the game is being decided and the only thing he’s thinking about when he gets the ball is finding a way to win the game…That’s why Dirk is going to be one of the all-time greatest.”
  • Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops runs his own numbers, and Mavs fans might not want to look at the net efficiency of Dallas’ bench. A rough return for Q-Ross, and a tough outing for Tim Thomas and Drew Gooden. Brett also notes that last night’s game was a rarity: the Mavericks won the game despite having a negative net efficiency. (Note: you’ll notice that according to the numbers I included in the recap, that was not the case. The four factors numbers I typically use are based on estimated possessions, whereas Brett’s numbers are based on actual, empirical possessions.)
  • Old friend of the Mavs DeSagana Diop is still a Bobcat, although you probably wouldn’t know it from last night’s DNP-CD. Tyson Chandler’s the obvious starter and Nazr Mohammed has been playing well of late, but Larry Brown can’t find a minute or two for a defensive center like Diop? When asked, ‘Gana was just as confused (via Eddie Sefko): “I wish I had an answer…I don’t know [why I'm not playing more], but all I can do is keep working hard.”
  • David Arnott of Rufus on Fire on Dirk’s game-winner, or more specifically, Boris Diaw’s defense of it: “[Diaw] did play the best defense possible on Dirk Nowitzki at the end of OT. Maybe Hakeem Olajuwon blocks that shot. Maybe.”
  • Sometimes, when you’re so incredibly frustrated that your team dropped a winnable game to a superior opponent, you write something like this: “I’m not going to recount it here in detail but the officiating was worse than brutal tonight.  You could sense as much as the Bobcats headed into the 4th quarter up by eight, 70-62.  The Mavs were struggling, yes, but Mark Cuban was at his manipulative best by trotting out The The Protectors of Freedoms and Liberties on the sidelines complete with Gary ‘Lt. Dan’ Sinise leading the charge.  What official in his right mind is gonna let this many war veterans go home unhappy with a loss to the Charlotte-freakin’-Bobcats?  Thus we had several magical off-the-ball fouls on the ‘Cats to get them into the penalty early in the quarter and combined with the team’s sloppy handling of the ball (18 turnovers to 13), allowed the Mavericks to come back and tie the game, send it into overtime and let Dirk go to work.” How insidious!
  • Dirk’s scoring is a given in clutch situations, as is Jason Kidd’s defense.

Dallas Mavericks 98, Charlotte Bobcats 97: Abridged

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

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

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If you can’t excel with talent, triumph with effort.
-Dave Weinbaum

Those of you conscious of the outside world may have noticed that, with a few exceptions, I don’t post game recaps on the weekends. That’s (kind of) about to change. I’ll now be posting an easily digestible recap in bullet-form, which serves two purposes: it provides more game-related content for contests that matter, and allows you and me both to get some Mavs in and get on with our weekend. Let’s go to work.

  • Mark Cuban couldn’t have picked a more perfect game for “Seats for Soldiers” night. It’s probably the greatest of the Maverick traditions, and there really couldn’t be a worthier cause.
  • Tonight, Dirk was Dirk when it counted. His 14 of 34 shooting is actually better than it seemed, as most of those 20 misses came off of very make-able shots. Some by Dirk’s standards (fading jumpers, but with ample space), and others by anyone’s (layups, wide open shots). But regardless of all the shots to draw rim, Dirk looked untouchable in the clutch.
  • The Mavs looked like a team that needs the scoring of Josh Howard. Having the last laugh doesn’t equate to offensive proficiency, and with the Mavs completely unable to convert in the second half, Josh’s shot creation would have been an incredible boost.
  • Dirk’s big shots will get all the highlight love, but Erick Dampier and Shawn Marion are the true unsung heroes. Not only were they everywhere on defense, but Marion and Damp chipped in seven offensive rebound each. When the Mavs are shooting 39.8% from the field (and 41.4% eFG), that means everything. Combined, Damp and Marion totaled 29 points (12 of 17 from the field), 33 rebounds, three steals, five blocks, and just three turnovers. Yowza.
  • J.J. Barea showed his full range. For a quarter, he was brilliant; all of his passes were finding their targets and each of his attempts was finding the net. But once he started blowing possessions (a certain non-shot at the end of the second quarter comes to mind) and botching his defensive duties on the pick-and-roll, he becomes an instant liability. See, here’s the thing: Dirk, JET, Kidd, Josh, Damp, and Marion can all afford to make mistakes. They just bring so much to the team in other respects, and J.J.’s contributions are of the less essential variety. I can understand both sides of the Beaubois-Barea argument, J.J.’s lows are much more emphatic than his highs, but he still chipped in 10 points (4-9 FG, including two 3s) and five assists to just two turnovers. For now, the Mavs will just have to accept both sides of Barea’s spectrum.
  • There are few offensive possessions I hate more than those that end with a Drew Gooden jumpshot.
  • Basketball games can always be boiled down to details, and two stick out. First, Larry Brown’s decision not to call timeout on the final possession of regulation. Dirk had just hit the game-tying bucket, and rather than take a minute to regroup one of the league’s most ineffective offenses. Instead, Gerald Wallace, who otherwise had played a spectacular game, ended up wasting away the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Anyone think LB might want that possession back? And second, Tyson Chandler made the regrettable decision to foul Jason Terry on an inbounds play in overtime. It put JET on the line for a freebie in a game decided by one point, and while it was hardly the only possession that could have decided the final result, it’s easy to point the finger at a play like that.
  • Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton were terrific. Not only in slashing to the basket, which you’d expect, but in the mid and long range game as well. And that’s not even mentioning their work on the defensive end, which was top-notch.
  • Even though the offense wasn’t very good, the Mavs’ ball movement was sublime. The ball was getting into the right hands, but just couldn’t find its way through the basket.
  • Another fine showing from the Mavs’ zone defense. I can’t even begin to understand what that means considering just how bad the Bobcats’ offense can be on its own, but it seemed to slow down Stephen Jackson (28 points on 25 shots) enough to make a difference. Rick Carlisle threw a handful of defensive looks at Jax, and though Jason Kidd played some superb man defense late in the game, the zone look was plenty effective.
  • Take a look at the minutes column for the Mavs, and tell me Rick Carlisle doesn’t find comfort in his starters. Kidd, Dampier, Nowitzki, and Marion all logged 40+ minutes, while Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, and Quinton Ross played a combined 27 minutes.
  • Marc Stein: “Most devastated locker room I’ve seen this season: Charlotte. Bobs crushed by this 98-97 OT loss in Dallas. G-Wallace and Jack especially”