The Mavs free agent plans are now completely in focus: the team has no intent to overpay to keep Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, and J.J. Barea, and all three are likely to sign elsewhere as a result. It’s an unfortunate development given all that the Mavs accomplished last year, but again, I find it hard to fault Mark Cuban for his reluctance to lock up the team’s finances for the next four to five years.
As such, the Mavs currently have just 10 players under contract. Lower-salary free agents like Brian Cardinal, DeShawn Stevenson, and Peja Stojakovic could end up returning to Dallas, but the Mavs would still need a few more pieces if they wished to completely round out their roster. There aren’t many means through which Dallas can pick up free agents at this point; any players courted would need to be candidates for either the taxpayer mid-level exception (a $3 million window that can be used to sign players to deals for up to three years) or the veteran’s minium. With that in mind, here are some of the names that have popped up in connection with the Mavs:
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- No formal recap of last night’s game; I had a final today, and that video was about all I could muster. But it was essentially a one quarter affair. 49 points in one quarter will go a long way, and in this case the Mavs used it as an excuse to turn in a substandard defensive effort. There were stretches where the zone completely befuddled the Nets, but the man defense repeatedly allowed New Jersey’s lesser players free looks at jumpers, runners, and layups. You don’t want to rail too much on a team that just took down a desperate opponent in convincing fashion, but the Mavs’ D is once again a work in progress.
- Also, you could tell Rick Carlisle had no intention of letting last night become a true contest. From the opening tip, the Mavs were pushing the ball at every opportunity, and attacking the Nets’ D with ball movement (albeit with some early turnover troubles) and aggressive offensive moves. The defense couldn’t keep up in the first, but everything came together in the second, when a slight defensive turn allowed the Mavs to run out to a big lead.
- A gigantic panel (plucking names from all over the basketball map) named Dirk Nowitzki the 8th best player in the NBA today. Jason Kidd is the only other Maverick in the top 50, and he’s #23. Some of the names at the bottom of the list (Elton Brand, Michael Redd) make me raise an eyebrow, but I’m not here to pick nits.
- Erick Dampier finally revealed what kept hims sidelined for eight games: a random numbness in his arm. Glad to hear (for Damp’s sake, and the Mavs’ sake) that it’s not serious.
- Jason Kidd is playing some brilliant basketball.
- Mark Cuban tries to talk Nets fans off the ledge (via Dave D’Alessandro): “The guys on the court don’t like being embarrassed,” he said. “There’s going to be a time for every team where you’re not going to win – that’s just the nature of the beast. You have to go through that rebuilding process, and it’s never comfortable. Some teams do it better than others, other teams avoid it longer than others. But it’s brutal…The Mavericks spent a whole decade trying to rebuild, and now it’s forgotten.”
- Skeets is sold on the Mavs.
- Not Mavs news, but certainly Dallas news: LeBron James is backing off his claim that he’ll be competing in this year’s dunk contest. It’s still 50-50, but it’s hardly the guarantee he offered last year.
- Just in case you’re not done soaking up the Nets’ misery. You sadist, you.
Photo from AP Photo/Morry Gash via ESPN.
Box Score — Shot Chart — Play-By-Play — GameFlow
“There is no greater sorrow than to be mindful of the happy time in misery.”
Well, that sucked. The Mavs could do no right in their 133-99 humbling by the shooting hand of the Milwaukee Bucks, an outing in which the Mavs’ offense came up as lame as its defense. If you name a classic defensive blunder, it’s likely that the Mavs committed it in this one; the gambles were fruitless, the close-outs on shooters were awful, and the rotations were either sloppy or nonexistent. Milwaukee simply ran a relay race last night, with the baton passing from Ramon Sessions (perfect 7-7 from the field) to Richard Jefferson (near triple-double) to Charlie Villanueva (32 and 10) to Michael Redd (27 points on 16 shots). Not only could the Mavs not keep pace overall, but were virtually beaten at every position. This game is certainly Exhibit A1 in the case against the Mavs’ defense.
But the Mavs’ complete failure to do anything that could be classified as defense was exaggerated by their equally inept effort on the offensive end. Shot after shot rimmed out, and layup after layup met iron or the open palm of an anxious Bucks’ defender. Dallas finished with a 36.6% mark on the night, with the normally reliable Jason Terry being the primary culprit at 3-13. This team only goes as far as Terry and Nowitzki allow it to go, and if both aren’t clicking at the right times, the Mavs typically lose. It’s a simple formula that’s only hedged by an outrageous game from Jason Kidd or a night where Howard throws the team on his back for stretches. Dallas’ shots just weren’t falling, and despite an impressive march to the foul line (39 attempts, 17.5 more than their season average), nobody on this side of Dirk could meaningfully affect the scoreboard in an efficient manner.
Don’t even get me started on Erick Dampier’s no-show against a team he was supposed to dominate.
Josh Howard’s play on the offensive end (for the first half, at least) was one of the few bright spots we can take away from this disaster. He didn’t settle for the typical crossover/pull-up jumper combo on the isolation, and it really showed when Howard erupted for 16 early. That said, he faded fast, scoring just 3 in the second half. It’s worth noting that Dirk put up 30 points, but scoring 30 in a 33-point loss is a bit like winning “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”
For once we saw the Mavericks show up in the first quarter and show the other team who, exactly, is boss. But the early lead wasn’t enough to withstand a Buck blitzkrieg: Milwaukee posted runs of 21-8, 18-8, 19-2, and 25-4. These are your 2008-2009 Dallas Mavericks, folks: failing to show up for games left and right, champions of the ‘Great Disappearing Defense,’ and finding ways to piss away leads against teams they should be beating handily.
Terry also tweaked the wrist on his non-shooting hand, but the injury didn’t seem to be major. Give your thanks to the basketball gods.
GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT:
The Gold Star of the Night goes to any Mavs fan that could stomach watching this game from beginning to end. All I know is that by the time 48 minutes expired, I had a shattered sense of optimism, a splitting headache, and the taste of vomit in my mouth. I can’t imagine Rick Carlisle felt much better.
“No [game] is an Island, entire of itself; every [game] is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any [game]‘s death diminishes me, because I am involved in [Fan]kind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
-John Donne, with a little help from yours truly
No Game is an Island will be the gameday previews here at The Two Man Game. The goal is to establish context for each contest; after all, “every game is a part of the main.” Rather than focusing on each individual contest, the emphasis will be on identifying the importance of games in larger contexts, identifying symbolism and archetypes, and declaring the trends and implications of each of these “almost meaningless” regular season battles. Enjoy.
The Dallas Mavericks visit the Milwaukee Bucks
7:00 CST, FSN SW
The story of how Don Nelson (the elder) fleeced the Bucks in the 1998 draft is practically a Dallas folktale. It explains the creation story of the team as we know it, the genesis of the “new-look” Mavs that learned little by little how to harness the powers of a scrawny, seven-foot German kid. The Mavericks have committed plenty of blunders in terms of trades and acquisitions, but on that fateful day in 1998 the Dallas front office got themselves a doozy.
It’s been said that since that time, the two franchises found themselves shot in opposite directions. The Mavs climbed up the Western Conference ladder behind Dirk, Michael Finley, and Steve Nash, and the Bucks found themselves even further submerged in the tar pit of perpetual mediocrity. Makes it kind of strange that both the Mavs and the Bucks find themselves at 9th place in their respective conferences today. Of course the Mavs have a big advantage in terms of record (Wild Wild West, y’all) at 24-17 compared to the Bucks’ 20-24. But if either team finds themselves stuck just outside the playoff window, it all counts the same. The Mavs may end up being the prettiest girl who never got asked to the dance, but she’ll be sobbing into her pillow just the same as that homely chick who has been wearing paisley for the past ten years. It’s definitely funny to see how things work out. In spite of the considerable talent on the Mavs’ roster, this is still a team trying to find that coherent identity with which to push forward. After 41 games, I really have no idea “who this team is,” in an abstract sense, and I’m not sure that the players and coaches know any better than I do. The Bucks are equally lost, but many of their players are still developing and finding themselves. Michael Redd is their guy of the moment, but the whirlwinds in ‘Waukee constantly beg for a coup.
As far as the Mavs have come since 1998, a look across the conference divide places them on-par with the very team they got the better of. But where the Bucks have the hope of youth and development (Ramon Sessions, Charlie Villanueva, Andrew Bogut, Joe Alexander), the Mavs are holding out for the light’s to flicker on. The talent is there and the coaching staff is there. The culture and the fanbase have been there. We’re waiting for our second creation story, and all we can hope is that sometime between now and April, the Mavericks’ fortunes light up and actualize their own potential.