Homecoming

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 24, 2011 under News | Be the First to Comment

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From Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

While explaining his decision to participate in Chris Paul’s charity game in his home town of Winston-Salem, N.C., earlier this month, Wizards free agent forward Josh Howard joked that “people still want to see me play.” But being around that thrilling, high-flying environment convinced Howard that he should organize his own event in Dallas, the city he still considers home since being traded to the Wizards in the deal that shipped Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to the Mavericks at the trade deadline in 2010.

With the lockout wiping out the first two weeks of the regular season and more cancellations expected to follow after failed negotiations last week, Howard is taking advantage of the opening to host a charity game on Nov. 12. Players expected to participate include Howard’s Wizards teammates John Wall, Andray Blatche and Nick Young; his former Mavericks teammates Jason Terry, Marquis Daniels, DeSagana Diop and Quinton Ross; Portland Trail Blazers forward and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge; New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack; Mavericks guard Corey Brewer; Minnesota forward Anthony Randolph; Toronto forward Reggie Evans; Sacramento Kings draft pick Isaiah Thomas; and former NBA player Damon Jones.

Marquis Daniels, ‘Gana Diop, Quinton Ross, and Damon Jones are semi-headlining a charity game hosted by Josh Howard in Dallas. Ain’t life grand?

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 12, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 17, 2010 under xOther | Read the First Comment

  • This flew around the internet yesterday, and rightfully so. Dan Steinberg did a tremendous job of giving color and context to a team that many others might have found completely unremarkable. Of course it was completely the opposite, and Steinberg’s work has given us almost a fly-on-the-wall (supposing said fly could also provide us a look inside the heads of the most interesting Wizards) view of one of the NBA’s most entertaining locker rooms.
  • Mark Cuban is looking into the possibility of playing a regular season (or playoff) game at Cowboy Stadium. Based on my experience at the All-Star game, I definitely think it’s a cool idea. But as far as playing a playoff game there, I do have a question: is playing at Cowboy Stadium, an arena with which your players are hardly familiar, the wisest use of your playoff home court?
  • Vince Thomas of NBA.com (via DOH): “It’ll be May, when [Caron] Butler is at the podium, answering questions after slapping up a 25-8-5 night in a playoff win. That’s when fans everywhere will turn to each other, shaking their heads and say, ‘Man … I didn’t know he was this good.’”
  • Here’s some video of Flip Saunders, Josh Howard, Quinton Ross, and James Singleton after Wizards’ practice. Singleton talks about not exercising his right to veto the trade, Howard says his ankle is only 75-80% healthy, and Flip likes Josh’s abilities as an open court player.
  • Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “I believe the new guys’ unfamiliarity of the system is the reason J.J. Barea jumped back into the backup PG role, ahead of Roddy Beaubois. I understand your ire, but think about it: Butler and Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson don’t know the plays, don’t know the calls, don’t know the signals. Is Roddy Beaubois – a rookie who himself is just now getting comfortable with the playbook, not to mention with English – fully equipped to handle the unusual requirements of this quarterbacking situation? Rick Carlisle’s decision was that he was not ready. That’s not a defense of the JJB results. Don’t even ask me to defend the long-term notion of a Jet/JJB backcourt pairing. Again, it’s just an explanation for the thinking on this night. I do want you to consider this, though: You do know, don’t you, that Carlisle WANTS Roddy to win this job, right?”

Perspective: A Swingman, A Defensive Center, An Abe Lincoln Tattoo

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 15, 2010 under Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

Perspectives of all kinds from various media members, from the blogosphere to the mainstream, on the Mavs’ big trade:

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: “Butler has long been a minutes sopper. He’s not going to go off for 30 points consistently, but when he’s at his best he brings extended all-around production, and that means a lot to a team that doesn’t have much depth like the Mavericks. He’s not only replacing Josh Howard’s minutes, but he’s taking minutes from Jose Juan Barea by pushing Jason Kidd down a position for longer stretches. And while Barea’s contributions are to be appreciated, the Mavs can’t be more than second round fodder if he’s playing 20 minutes a night. And he’s averaged 21.9 thus far this season. This depends on Butler picking it up, however. It wasn’t just his unfamiliarity with Saunders’ offense, he was clearly alternately taking possessions off, and jacking up shots. He made no effort to immerse himself in an offense that could have really played to his strengths, and he’ll be hooking up with another coach (Rick Carlisle) that demands that plays actually be run properly. He’ll also be hooking up with one of the best coaches in the NBA, so here’s hoping he’s aware of his luck. The turnaround will be on Butler. If he pulls himself above the muck of the middling and the average, and turns into the Butler of old (even with fewer shots and fewer chances to dominate), these Mavericks could have a chance. If he pulls the same routine we saw in Washington, the Mavericks might as well be starting Josh Howard.”

John Hollinger, ESPN.com (Insider): “So how much better does that lofty sum make Dallas? Based on player efficiency rating, it doesn’t move the needle much. Our Trade Machine analysis is that the swap improves Dallas by only one win for the remainder of the season, largely because this season the difference in performance between Butler and Howard is much smaller than generally perceived. In fact, statistically, there’s been virtually no difference between the two players over the past four seasons, including this one, in which Butler’s numbers have been down just as sharply as Howard’s. For the Mavs, the success of the trade might come down to the names in agate type, not the headliners. That is, Haywood and Gooden may be fairly similar in terms of PER, but look at plus-minus stats and a very different picture emerges. According to Basketballvalue.com, Dallas gives up 11.25 points per 100 possessions more with Gooden on the court, one of the worst marks in basketball…On the other hand, Haywood’s plus-minus numbers over the past half-decade have been spectacular. This season, for instance, Washington is 8.46 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court…That said, the deal overall still leaves me with more questions than answers. How is Butler going to defend opposing shooting guards when he can’t even guard small forwards? How will the Mavs juggle minutes up front between Haywood and Erick Dampier, especially when they’re likely to play extended stretches with…Nowitzki playing the 5?…Without such a second trade…it appears the Mavs are spending a total of $30 million just to improve their odds of making the second round. Even after this deal, I don’t like their chances to beat Denver or Utah, let alone the likes of the Lakers.”

Bethlehem Shoals, FanHouse: “Regardless, this deal is as lopsided as everyone thought the Pau Gasol was in the spring 2008…That transaction spurred Dallas’s acquisition of Jason Kidd, the Suns’s wholesale conversion to the church of Shaquille O’Neal, and the Cavs trading their entire team and coming up with Delonte West where once Larry Hughes was…at the time, it felt like everyone was loading up for the end of the world…For the Mavs, it was a fine time to make a move. Butler was there for the taking, their 2010 hopes were always slim – locking down Dirk should be enough – and Kidd’s days are numbered. But all of us little people want to know: Will this deal set off another arms race, or be seen as an isolated case of opportunism?…Suppose, though, that Dallas trade is interpreted as a sign, and every other big team moves. Cleveland pairs Amare and LeBron, Wade and Bosh become best friends in Miami. Would these be trial runs, ploys to keep these superstars close to home, or actual long-term plans that just happen to unfold a few months in advance?…Dallas has raised the stakes; ergo, Cleveland and Miami might be in a scramble to win a title and seriously contend (respectively). Or, an equally likely possibility: Dallas goes for it now, as Boston might, because their window is closing. However strange it may sound, the more cluttered this season becomes for the Cavs or Heat, the fewer promises/surprises they have to pull once 2009-10 winds down.”

Kevin Pelton, Basketball Prospectus: “Having Butler means Rick Carlisle has the kind of flexibility with lineups he anticipated coming into the season. For the most part, Shawn Marion has played at small forward, stepping into Howard’s old role as a starter and rarely swinging down to the four-spot. A forward duo of Butler and Marion could be very difficult for opponents, especially with Dirk Nowitzki creating matchup problems at center at times…Besides their financial situation, Dallas was in an ideal situation to upgrade at the trade deadline because the Mavericks’ position in the standings has been better than their play on the court. At 32-20, Dallas is just 2.5 games behind second-place Denver in the Western Conference and fourth overall in the West, but the Mavericks’ have outscored opponents by just 1.7 points per game. Even accounting for a more difficult schedule than average, their +2.2 schedule-adjusted differential is 12th in the league in eighth in the conference. As a result, you’d expect a correction in Dallas’ record the rest of the way, but this trade may prevent that from happening and allow the Mavericks to take advantage of their good fortune so far.”

Josh Howard, Washington Wizards:

Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images.

Mike Fisher, DallasBasketball.com: “We often talk about the Mavs “having a plan’’ as opposed to simply “spending to assemble a Fantasy Basketball Team,’’ or worse, grab-bagging their way through moves. This? It all looks like the result of ‘having a plan.’’…A Draft-Day trade. A Summer of 2009 free-agent Sign-and-Trade. A minor deal with New Jersey. A major deal with Washington. And (with the help of ‘JES’ and David Lord of the 75-Member Staff) here’s what Dallas has done, depth-chart-wise, with its dollars and sense:

Shifted from paying $94,743,434 for:
Dampier – Hollins – Williams
Nowitzki – Bass – Singleton
Howard – George – Stackhouse
Wright – Green – Carroll
Kidd – Terry – Barea
and drafting BJ Mullens

To paying $87,707,016 for:
Haywood – Dampier
Nowitzki – Thomas – Najera
Marion – Stevenson
Butler – Terry – Carroll
Kidd – Beaubois – Barea
with Calethes, Nivins, OKC’s 2010 2nd-round pick an a $2.9 mil trade exception[.]”

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: This is hardly just a Caron Butler trade, however. In fact, for the Mavericks, the big prize of the day may well be center Brendan Haywood…The Wizards have been pretty miserable this season. But they have been dramatically less miserable with Brendan Haywood on the court. Basketball Value pins his adjusted plus/minus at better than plus-eight points per 100 possessions. That’s one of the top 30 ratings in the NBA, ahead of the likes of Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and even Caron Butler. 82games.com says that Haywood is part of the Wizards’ nine most effective lineups. When a player has those kinds of plus/minus statistics, but is not an All-Star, if typically means he knows something about playing D. When he’s on the court, Brendan Haywood grabs about 18% of the available rebounds. At age 30, that’s the best rate of his career. It’s also good for 21st in the NBA, in nice company with Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and the like. It’s also slightly better than Drew Gooden, whose place Haywood would take in Dallas.

Marc Stein (@STEIN_LINE_HQ), ESPN.com: “In response to any suggestion out there that Haywood could have been held onto by Wiz: Mavs would never have done this deal without Haywood[.]“

Kyle Weidie, Truth About It: “In Butler, Dallas knows they are getting a former All-Star, but they don’t know if he’ll be compatible. Sure, Butler liked to be seen on the scene, but he always kept it classy. Caron Butler is a good guy with strong character. But can his game get along with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki? Will he adjust for them as he did not do for Flip Saunders? Brendan Haywood has been playing motivated enough in a contract year, what happens to the games of Butler and DeShawn Stevenson in their respective fresh starts?”

Mike Prada, Bullets Forever: “It’s not just about getting no talent back or not clearing enough salary to get under the luxury tax this year.  It’s not just about sacrificing two somewhat valuable assets for nothing more than a little extra room under the luxury tax and flexibility in 2011.  It’s not just about bringing in two guys who aren’t great characters and would take away minutes from the young players. No, it’s about the coalescence of bad planning, a bad read of the market, a lack of creativity, misplaced priorities and a lack of understanding about what the fans want and what they want to hear.  That’s why this trade stinks.”

Mike Jones, Mike Jones Sports: “Did the Wizards come up on the short end of the stick by not being able to get a draft pick in the mix? Possibly. But given Washington’s situation — their 17-33 record and the fact that it was no secret that they needed to blow this team up — they didn’t have as much leverage as they could have. I’m told they approached — and continue to approach — the trade deadline with somewhat of a checklist. They wanted/want to make deals that give them A) salary relief, B) young talent and or C) future picks. The Wizards would have viewed a deal that gave them all three as fantastic, a deal that gave them one of the two as great, and a deal that at least gave them salary relief as pretty good. Since they didn’t really get any young talent in this trade, then this is a pretty good trade because in it they got a former All-Star in Howard and a player with starting experience in winning situations in Gooden, who also provides a low-post presence. And they get two players (Ross and Singleton) that they can evaluate.”

Dave Berri, Wages of Wins Journal: “Given this roster, how good are the Mavericks today? Looking back at Table One we see that Howard was the least productive player on the Mavericks this season.  So replacing Howard with Butler is an upgrade.  And once again, Haywood is very productive.  Consequently, it’s possible the Mavericks could win about 21 of their final 30 games (this estimate is based upon my guess of how many minutes each player will play down the stretch).  Had the Mavericks stayed the same, this team could have expected to win about 17 more games.  So in terms of the final standings, this move doesn’t really alter the final record dramatically. But that’s because there are only 30 games left.”

Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards Press Release: “Our four new players bring versatility and the experience of playing in a winning situation. Josh and Quinton can each play both the shooting guard and small forward positions while providing athleticism and outside shooting.  Drew can play both the power forward and center positions and he and James give us an inside presence that combines skill and toughness.”

James Singleton, Washington Wizards (via Eddie Sefko): “I’m finally going to get a chance. I think it helps both teams and it’s the best situation for me, really. I spoke to coach Carlisle and I told him he did right by me. I think it will work out good for me and good for both teams.”

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brandon George): “[I] love [Caron]. There’s one thing about this league, you can’t substitute toughness. He’s very good everywhere he’s been, in LA, Miami and now Washington. He’s a very, very good player who complements a lot of good players. He was an All-Star last year, and he’s definitely one of those guys you have to key on when you play him.”

Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks (via Brandon George): “Caron’s a great player and Haywood, and those guys will definitely help us. The big thing as a whole, we haven’t played well since the new year. Even taking away talking about a trade, us as players, we have to play better and get more wins under our belt…We’re a veteran ball club, so it shouldn’t be as big if we were a younger team and trying to fit in. They just have to come in and do their job, and we have some great guys who will make them feel welcomed and have fun doing it.”

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (via Brad Townsend): As a franchise sometimes, you’ve got to make tough decisions. It’s always tough and sad to see teammates leave, especially when you’ve played with them for a long time like we have with Josh. We’ve been through battles with him. So it’s always tough to see guys go, but sometimes a franchise has to move on and make decisions…It’s going to be tough to get everyone together that quick. We’ve got a tough stretch with four games in five nights, but nothing is easy in this league and you’ve got to go out and earn it. Hopefully we’re going to put some basics in Monday, just a couple of plays, tell them our defensive philosophy and go out and play. That’s what good players do, play off each other.”

Michael Lee, The Washington Post: “They surrendered Butler, Haywood and Stevenson in what essentially is a salary dump that provides almost $15 million in cap relief for the 2010-11 season. Ross is the only player the Wizards receive who is signed through next season. The deal would also provide nearly $2.6 million in luxury tax relief this season for the Wizards, who will ship out $19.7 million in salaries while getting back $17.3 million. Coupled with the savings that the Wizards will already receive for suspensions to Arenas and Crittenton, the luxury tax penalty could be reduced by nearly $7 million.”

Falling Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 13, 2010 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 9 Comments to Read

UPDATE: Per Stein, the deal is official. (Confirmed by Marc Spears)

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported last night that the ongoing trade negotiations between the Mavs and the Wizards have turned serious. Super serious. As in, we could have an official trade by later tonight. That’s a big jump from “the Mavs are interested in Caron Butler,” and based on the Mavs’ rumored acquisitions? I don’t see how Dallas fans could be anything but pleased.

The deal as reported would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross, and (possibly) James Singleton to Washington in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. Butler will undoubtedly be the headline-grabber in Dallas, the real prize here may be Haywood.

Drew Gooden has been solid for the Mavs this year, but Haywood is a legitimate game-changer at center. He’s one of the most physical defenders at the position in the entire league, and an offensive superior to Erick Dampier. Dwight Howard ranked Haywood as the third best defender in the league, and an in-depth look at Haywood’s D over at Bullets Forever only tells us more of the same; the Mavs are adding a center that instantly upgrades their interior defense and rebounding, two things he was able to do in Washington despite some truly miserable circumstances.

Then of course, the Mavs would hope that Caron Butler can return to form, or at the very least, improve on Josh Howard’s production as a Mav. It’s incredibly difficult to tell which parts of Butler’s game are due to a genuine regression and which parts simply come from playing for a terrible team at a terrible time, but Caron has a lot working in his favor with the Mavs. Rick Carlisle is a top-notch coach, and Dirk Nowitzki is an insanely talented and productive player. Jason Kidd makes things so easy on offense, and having an offensive threat like Jason Terry and a defensive weapon like Shawn Marion relieves a lot of pressure. On top of that, Mark Cuban spares no expense in making his players comfortable, and the outlook of the team as a whole is decidedly more optimistic than that of the Wiz. It’s amazing what a change of scenery and a different disposition can do for a player’s performance, and Dallas has all of the ingredients necessary to facilitate a Butler resurgence.

DeShawn Stevenson is the filler element, and he’s essentially the price the Mavs have to pay for Butler and Haywood. Once upon a time he was something of a defensive stalwart, but even that aspect of his game has faded in the last two seasons. Now he’s merely an Abe Lincoln-tatted headcase with an overinflated ego and marginal on-court effectiveness. Stevenson can be destructive, but if his minor distraction is what it takes to bring such substantial talent to the Mavs, then Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have certainly pulled a fast one on Ernie Grunfeld (or at the very least, managed to capitalize on Grunfeld’s misfortune).

It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.

Rumor Mongering: Counterproductive Problem Solving

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 8, 2010 under Rumors | Be the First to Comment

On TrueHoop, ESPN’s Chris Sheridan notes that Milwaukee center (and former Mav) Kurt Thomas could have a new home by the trade deadline:

ESPN.com has learned that Thomas, the 37-year old backup center/forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, has emerged as a fallback trade option for the few playoff-bound teams (including Portland, Dallas and Cleveland) open to the idea of taking on additional salary.

Dallas owes a 2nd rounder to Indiana and has the option of sending its 2010 or 2011 pick to the Pacers, and the Mavericks are also owed a 2010 second-rounder by Oklahoma City — although the Thunder keep it if it falls between Nos. 31 and 45. Dallas also does not have a one-for-one salary match for Thomas other than Drew Gooden, who is a better player than Thomas. (The Mavs do have a $2.9 million trade exception from the Kris Humphries trade to New Jersey, but that exception is not large enough to absorb Thomas’ deal.)

As Sheridan notes, acquiring Kurt Thomas would be a tricky proposition for the Mavs. The Bucks will move him if they can score a very minimal asset — a second round pick, the standard trade chip of cap-clearing deals. But that requires Milwaukee’s trade partner to be $3.6 million under the cap, or in possession of a trade exception to trim that number.

But here’s the catch: teams that are over the cap, like the Mavs, can’t use trade exceptions to absorb incoming player salaries if the value of a single trade exception does not exceed the incoming player salary. Or, if the Mavs were to include actual players in the deal to even out the salary for trade purposes, they still wouldn’t be able to receive salary worth more than 125% of the outgoing salary. All of this is to say that the Mavs are stuck in a position where they can’t use a trade exception to acquire the player they want, which if Sheridan’s sources are correct, is Thomas.

There’s one hypothetical deal that the Mavs could throw Milwaukee’s way: Quinton Ross, Tim Thomas, and J.J. Barea for Kurt Thomas. Make no mistake: this is a horrible deal for Dallas. Ross and Thomas are great guys to have at the end of your bench, and I’m convinced that the Mavs could get back more for Barea than a 37-year-old center with an expiring contract. But if the Mavs somehow end up with additional depth via another trade (say, one involving Josh Howard) and are convinced that Thomas is the answer, there is at least one option where the salaries match. It would only save the Bucks’ a few hundred thousand dollars and wastes Barea on a team with no need for a point guard, but it can technically be done.

I can’t see how Thomas would solve the Mavs’ problems, though. He would give Dallas another traditional center, albeit one that doesn’t operate from the low post on offense and isn’t really the answer to shoring up the defense. Thomas is a fine one-on-one post defender, but why bother if Kurt won’t offer much in the way of a team defensive concept? He’s a fine player to have, but I’m just not sure he’s worth the headache of involving a third team or completing the trade mentioned above.

Thomas has averaged just 13.3 minutes per game for the Bucks this year, along with 2.6 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Oh, What a Tangled Web

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 29, 2010 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:

“We got to get the ball in people’s hands who can put it in the basket, that’s the bottom line,” Jason Terry said. “Their bench outplayed us all night. Clear as day. It can’t happen. They just outplayed us.”

Jason Terry’s not wrong; the trademark of a functional offense is appropriate shot selection. The distribution of possessions in last night’s game was mostly regular, with one glaring exception: Dirk Nowitzki was anything but a part of the offense in the fourth quarter. Much credit goes to the Suns’ defense, but quality offensive outfits find ways to get shots for their best scorers.

Earlier this week, Matt Moore unveiled a graphical display of each team’s offense in terms of usage (percentage of possessions used by a player while he’s on the floor) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Here’s a look at the Mavs’ offense:

Starting from the top of the graph and going clockwise, players are ordered in terms of their possession usage. The white area of the graph represents the player’s PER, with the two optimally being relative close, or at least proportional (though, it’s definitely worth noting that usage and PER are in no way measured by the same scale. They’re completely different metrics.). So let’s break it down on a player-by-player basis, shall we?

HIGH USAGE PLAYERS:

Dirk Nowitzki (23.20 PER, 29.16 usage) – Dirk is the king of the castle. The top banana. The big enchilada. The MVP-caliber power forward who has the license to shoot any shot he wants any time he wants it. It’s his prerogative. Nowitzki is the team’s most effective and consistent scorer by far, and the team appropriates possessions to him accordingly.

Josh Howard (11.36 PER, 24.37 usage) – Lo, our first hiccup. Josh has had a rough season in terms of efficiency, but it hasn’t stopped him from chucking up shots at will. It’s ye olde premise of shooting oneself out of a slump…only Howard’s still mired in it. To Josh’s credit, he’s performing better since his return to the bench. But the high number of field goals attempted and high number of turnovers send his usage rate to, at least, upper tropospheric heights. It’s one thing for Josh to be an ineffective, “invisible” player, but Howard was routinely making his team worse by being ineffective while using up a lot of possessions. That’s a definite no-no, and one of the biggest reasons why the Mavs have struggled offensively with Howard in the lineup.

Rodrigue Beaubois (14.24 PER, 22.94 usage) – Having a high usage point guard is a bit unusual, but the situation with Beaubois is a bit more complicated. For one, he’s played a vast majority of his minutes this season off the ball, which puts him in a position to shoot more than your average combo guard. Playing alongside a pure distributor like Jason Kidd doesn’t hurt in that respect either, nor does starting with other low usage players like Shawn Marion and Erick Dampier. Once Roddy was relegated into duty as a deep reserve, his occasional minutes were rare chances to showcase his abilities. It’s only natural that those at the end of the bench will put up shots during garbage time, and while I wouldn’t call Beaubois selfish by any means, he was certainly determined to get his.

Jason Terry (15.68 PER, 22.45 usage) – In theory, this usage is about right. Terry recorded a career high in usage rate last year (25.56), but with the additions the Mavs made in the off-season and the full-time return of Josh Howard, that number was sure to dip. What’s more troubling is JET’s merely average PER, which is his lowest in his career excluding his rookie year. Terry’s efficiency has started to pick up, but he’ll need a pretty stellar second half to meet his career numbers. Still, the important thing isn’t how Terry’s production is represented statistically at the end of the season, but how he performs from now until then. What’s done is done, and though JET’s poor shooting has played a role in plenty of Dallas losses, it’s far more important that he shoots well going into April than going into February.

MID-LEVEL USAGE PLAYERS:

Kris Humphries (15.30 PER, 21.58 usage) – Checking Humphries’ numbers over the course of this season (both in New Jersey and Dallas), I can’t help but think that the Mavs weren’t properly utilizing Hump’s talents. He was impressive, but not overwhelmingly so. Could that be because Hump was primarily playing out of position? It seems a logical argument to me, but 82games doesn’t agree. Could it be that he wasn’t valued enough in the offense? Possible; his relatively high usage rate would seem to betray the notion, but keep in mind Hump’s incredibly high offensive rebounding rate. He was creating possessions on his own, for the most part, and most of his shot attempts were coming around the basket. It goes against the scouting report I would write on Hump, but is it possible that New Jersey has figured something out about Kris Humphries’ game that the Mavs could not? Or is this just another case of a big man on a bad team boasting a bloated PER?

Tim Thomas (15.58 PER, 21.13 usage) – Tim Thomas is pretty versatile, but make no mistake: his job is to shoot the ball. Sometimes that involves working the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop. Sometimes it involves spotting up from the corner. And more often than you’d think, it involves setting up on the low block. As for the PER? It’s among the best outputs of Thomas’ career. Can’t ask much more from Thomas than what he’s given the Mavs in limited playing time this season.

Drew Gooden (16.82 PER, 20.15 usage) – In coming to Dallas, Drew Gooden was asked to occupy different spots on the floor and change his position entirely. So naturally, he’s responded by putting up solid numbers at an efficient rate…just as he’s done throughout his career. PER doesn’t really measure defensive performance, and that’s largely a reason why Gooden is rated so highly. But in terms of offense, the Mavs have a clearly above average player occupying their back-up center spot…which isn’t something that a lot of teams in the league can say (only Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Charlotte, by way of these rankings). That makes his usage rate completely understandable, especially given the help that the Mavs need in terms of bench scoring.

J.J. Barea (12.61 PER, 19.94 usage) – Like Beaubois, Barea has logged plenty of time as the 2. Rick Carlisle clearly finds great comfort in having two ball-handlers on the floor, and J.J.’s drive and kick style is different enough from Kidd’s more traditional point guard play and Terry’s pull-up game that the skill sets aren’t redundant. In the Tony Parker mold, J.J.’s passing is a product of the threat of his scoring, which contextualizes his high possession usage. As for the PER? Well, Barea’s good, but not that good. He’s a solid back-up point man, and perfectly capable of taking over a game when he’s on a roll. But the rest of the time his production falls right in line with his role on the team. A good back-up point is hard to find, and though Barea’s game is definitely flawed in a few ways, he qualifies.

Matt Carroll (5.74 PER, 18.31 usage) - Matt Carroll used to make basketball shots. Now he just shoots basketball shots. And sits on the bench. A lot.

LOW USAGE PLAYERS:

Shawn Marion (15.67 PER, 17.57 usage) – Though Marion’s on-court offerings have been translating to the scoreboard lately, that’s not quite in his job description. Shawn’s primary objective is to defend, and the rebounding and points that come as a result are simply organic byproducts of the game. Marion gets rebounds because he’s a natural rebounder, nevermind the fact that Nowitzki, Dampier, Gooden, and Kidd are all strong relative to their positions. Marion gets points because he’s open, and because Jason Kidd knows what he’s doing. But without impressive game totals in points, rebounds, etc., Shawn’s PER was never going to be sky-high.

James Singleton (9.13 PER, 16.81 usage) – Despite James’ occasional delusions of jumpshooting grandeur, he usually sticks to the script. Singleton is in the game as an energy guy first and foremost, and strictly speaking his contributions should be limited to defense and rebounding. But you throw a guy some shots every now and then, even if he’s not necessarily great at converting them. His usage is in a range where it’s hardly damaging, and his extremely limited playing time makes it a virtual non-factor regardless.

Jason Kidd (15.68 PER, 12.90 usage) – What more can I say about Jason Kidd? He makes the offense go. His instincts as a point guard are All-World, and though he isn’t the box score stuffer he used to be, his offensive numbers on the season are still quite solid. Kidd’s no longer the type of star you can build a team around, but he is the kind of star that can produce quality shots for himself and his teammates. He doesn’t turn the ball over that much or force many shot attempts (hence the low usage), but he doesn’t have the kind of top-notch statistical production needed to register a higher PER (hence…well, the low PER).

Erick Dampier (15.92 PER, 12.52 usage) – Basically in the same boat as Shawn Marion. Dampier is fighting the good fight by cleaning the glass, setting picks for his teammates, and scoring on minimal shot attempts.

Quinton Ross (5.74 PER, 9.49 usage) – Not applicable. I think Q-Ross is a solid contributor to a team like the Mavs, but nothing he does on the court would translate to PER.

Dallas Mavericks 128, New York Knicks 78

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 25, 2010 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.0140.765.119.829.411.0
New York85.736.024.438.618.7

Every act of creation is, first of all, an act of destruction.
-Pablo Picasso

How do you even begin to make sense of a game like that? It was the largest win in franchise history. It was an on-court massacre unlike anything we’ve even dreamed of, and it was so violently actualized that children would probably have been best served covering their eyes. The Mavs didn’t even need Jason Kidd, who missed the game for personal reasons, to post their season best in offensive efficiency (140.7 points per 100 possessions). And they didn’t need Erick Dampier, who missed the game due to his knee effusion, to register their most effective defense performance since November 13th (85.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Mavs were shorted a critical piece on both ends of the court, and still went on to pillage Madison Square Garden and burn it to the ground.

The first quarter was competitive, but by the end of the second the Mavs had established a double-digit lead that would only grow and grow. They held the Knicks to just 13 points in the third frame, while pouring in an incredible 38 of their own. There was no specific dominance; Dirk (20 points, 6-12 FG, five rebounds) and Terry (20 points, 8-12 FG, 4-6 3FG, four assists) shared the honor for the team-high in points, but they were two of just seven Mavs in double figures. The real question isn’t which Mavs did well, but which ones didn’t. And the real answer is…well, no one. 11 Mavs logged minutes, each scored at least four points, and everyone but James Singleton shot over 50% from the field. Even the seldom used Matt Carroll finished with seven points on 3-4 FG, the highest total of his Maverick career.

It’s indisputable that the Mavs played fabulously on Sunday. You don’t win a game by 50 points playing so-so, good, or even great basketball. This was a once-in-a-something collision of white-hot offense, terrific defense, and an opponent that isn’t particularly great at either. But once we’re a day removed, what does this win even mean?

For one, it shows what the Mavs are capable of. This team isn’t offensively challenged, even if they’ve seemed that way throughout most of the season. And while I wouldn’t expect such ridiculous production every night, this collection of players has clearly been underachieving on that end of the court. Josh Howard and Jason Terry’s struggles are well-documented, but just as crucial is finding scoring elsewhere; Drew Gooden (15 points, 18 rebounds, two blocks), J.J. Barea, and the rest of the reserves are still a bit inconsistent, and though they don’t need to necessarily be dependable on an individual basis, there needs to be some accountability among the bench collective. Again, don’t expect them to reach this level of production or efficiency (and definitely not opportunity) on the regular, but when called upon, the reserves need to respond as they did on Sunday.

Also, it shows that the offense is capable of performing without the calming influence of Jason Kidd. J.J. Barea (11 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals) and Rodrigue Beaubois (13 points, 5-8 FG, 3-6 3FG, five assists, six rebounds, five turnovers) did a tremendous job of keeping the ball moving, and the team totaled 25 assists without their primary facilitator and statistical leader in that category. That’s an impressive feat considering how many points the Mavs were able to put on the board, and an even more impressive one considering the substantial playing time and production of nontraditional offensive threats. Dallas was able to rest its starters plenty, and in doing so, should have experienced some a drop-off in offensive production; instead, a fourth quarter that prominently featured Beaubois, Matt Carroll, Quinton Ross, James Singleton, and Tim Thomas (a lineup that played the final eight minutes) actually managed to add to the lead by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter to the Knicks’ 22.

Beyond that, it’s impossible to say. All we can hope is that team-wide production trends upward after such a dominant performance, and that the Mavs find themselves a way to level out and resolve their consistency issues.

Oh, and if you’ll allow me to step away from the season contrasts and the bigger picture for just a second: Your Dallas Mavericks just beat a team by 50 points. Fifty. Points. Despite how negative my assertions may seem in this recap, nothing on this planet can take away the fact that the Mavs completely obliterated another NBA team by an ungodly margin. They played what was probably the closest thing to flawless basketball I’ve seen out of a Maverick team ever. It’s almost unfair to expect more than that, but a game’s just a game and the Mavs have miles to go before they sleep.

Closing thoughts:

  • As is to be expected in a game like this, the Mavs provided plenty of fuel for the highlight reel. James Singleton threw down a monstrous jam. Tim Thomas worked baseline for a contested throw-down. And Roddy Beaubois brought out the oooohs and ahhhhs with this.
  • Drew Gooden’s plus/minus for the night? +41. Unbelievable.
  • A fifty-point blowout, an empty-the-bench fourth quarter, and Eddie Najera still doesn’t play. Still waiting on Najera’s first minute on his second stint with the Mavs.
  • Josh Howard came off the bench again, with J.J. Barea taking the place of Jason Kidd in the starting lineup. Drew Gooden started in place of Erick Dampier, giving the Mavs a starting five of Barea, Terry, Marion, Nowitzki, Gooden.
  • Beaubois was getting playing time as early as the first quarter, and was clearly determined to make an impact. Sometimes that resulted in turnovers, but sometimes it resulted in spectacular plays (both offensively and defensively) for himself and his teammates. Roddy has a lot of growing up to do before he’s ready for a full-time gig, but this guy is still ready, and waiting, to contribute.
  • Josh Howard didn’t hav ea great game, but he had a tidy seven points on six shots, and played some nice perimeter defense. Howard still struggles to defend the post, though…which probably sounds worse than it is given the lack of small forwards with real skill down low.
  • Jared Jeffries, who is averaging 4.6 PPG for the season, dropped 12 points in the first quarter on 4-6 shooting. A little surprising to say the least, especially if you’re familiar with Jeffries’ limited offensive game. And somewhat predictably, he missed all of his field goals the rest of the way, and added just two more points off of free throws.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Rodrigue Beaubois. If you’re going to make me pick and choose between all of the Maverick contributors, I’m going to tag the guy who hasn’t played many meaningful minutes in the past month and a half. He’s a truly engaging player, and though his opportunity may not come today, games like these keep us looking forward to tomorrow.



Switcheroo

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 12, 2009 under News | Be the First to Comment

Predictably, Josh Howard will not be playing tonight. It’s all part of Rick Carlisle’s plan to ease Josh back into the flow early, and we should expect a similar arrangement for back-to-backs until told otherwise.

Nothing to be alarmed about whatsoever. As for the silver lining: Quinton Ross is expected to be back in the lineup tonight. He may not be the scorer that Howard is, but Q-Ross is a credible NBA defender that needs to find his place in the rotation. He doesn’t create shots, but Ross is a guy that demands floor time with his defensive abilities and tidy, Bowen-esque offensive game. Looking forward to seeing him back in uniform tonight.

Golden State Warriors 111, Dallas Mavericks 103

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 25, 2009 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Golden State103.0107.853.419.323.820.4
Dallas100.048.828.020.017.4

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret of disappointment.”
-Jim Rohn

Somehow it’s only fitting that when the Mavs are on the cusp of elite status, some familiar demons push them down a peg. I couldn’t care less that they were wearing Warriors uniforms, but yet again, quick point guards had their way with the Dallas defense time and time again, and the results were downright depressing.

Nothing in this game quite turned out as it should. That much should have been certain from the opening tip, when the probable turned questionable turned out Shawn Marion found his way to the bench in a suit. That much should have been certain when the normally careful, deliberate Mavs offense was turning the ball over just for fun. That much should have been certain when the impressive Mavs defense suddenly collapsed on itself rather than on penetration, and when I was begging for Dallas to pick up someone, anyone, in transition. What should have been an easy win over an undermanned team turned out an ugly loss to just six players, and if that didn’t keep each and every Maverick up last night with nightmares of Monta Ellis layups, then we have a problem.

The first half was just sloppy basketball on both ends, which you can live with provided the Mavs show some second half intensity. But despite having a deeper roster and more talented personnel, Dallas very much looked the part of the inferior team for the latter half of the game. The offense was completely out of sorts by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with the Warriors’ maniacal defensive strategy disrupting the Mavs’ flow plenty. It wasn’t as if Radmanovic was playing stellar defense on Dirk, or that the Warrior guards were locking down Terry; Golden State’s team defense (I know, it surprises me to type this as much as it surprises you to read it) just forced turnovers with help, double teams, and some sleight of hand (creating the illusion of a passing lane when there, in fact, was none).

The numbers don’t properly reflect just how out of sorts Dallas was when it mattered most, but Jason Terry’s infuriating turnover with the Mavs down four and just under a minute to play (video forthcoming) epitomized the night spectacularly. JET and Dirk, two machines created for the sole purposes of putting a ball in a hoop with no unexpected hiccups, combined for nine turnovers. Nine. As in, the titular Plan from Outer Space. The thing seven ate. Just to put things in perspective, before last night, Nowitzki and Terry combined to average just 3.2 turnovers per game.

The defense, as I mentioned before, was an abomination and hopefully an aberration. Though the Warriors themselves had plenty of turnovers, they more than made up for them with frequent and effective drives to the basket as well as the sweet outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (6-8 3FG) and Stephen Curry (2-4 3FG). Morrow simply had one of those games where you’re shocked to see any misses at all in the box score, as his confidence level and on-court positioning were pitch perfect. All the while, Monta Ellis had his way with just about every Maverick defender, in particular exploiting J.J. Barea on the left side of the zone defense. The only Mavs player that showed any effectiveness in guarding Ellis was rookie Rodrigue Beaubois, who managed to slow Ellis on a few drives while the Mavs were in man-to-man sets. Otherwise, the perimeter defense was a turnstyle, the rotation D nonexistent, and the interior D simply a means to the end of an Ellis three point play.

This loss isn’t the end of the world, but it should sting like hell. And it’s a shame, too. Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent night scoring the ball (28 points on 9-18 shooting), despite only getting a few touches during the game’s crucial closing stretch (Dirk had just three shot attempts in the fourth, none over the final 4:28). Jason Kidd (13 assists, 10 rebounds) had a spectacular night offensively, even if he had trouble with the quickness of the Warriors defensively. And Drew Gooden (14 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks) again filled in well for the ill Erick Dampier, providing the low post scoring the Mavs have always lacked against Golden State. But it was all for naught, and worse, the momentum the Mavs had been building over the last five games has essentially been shattered.

Closing thoughts:

  • File this game away as Exhibit A for why Rodrigue Beaubois should be eating into J.J. Barea’s minutes. Though Barea’s +/- on the night isn’t bad at all, he was clearly the weakest point of the Mavs’ D last night, and as such, the entry point for a lot of Golden State’s drives.
  • I’m a bit surprised we didn’t see more James Singleton, especially considering Quinton Ross missed the entire second half with back issues. The Mavs missed Ross’ D (and Marion’s, and Howard’s, for that matter), and probably could have used Singleton’s energy at either forward spot to ditch the woefully ineffective three guard lineup.
  • Tim Thomas is playing pretty well. I haven’t seen anything to worry about in terms of his shot selection or defensive intensity, though his mobility is pretty clearly limited by that knee injury. He looks rusty, but he’s still converting from the post and got his first look at a made three last night. Once the real, healthy rotation falls into place, I definitely see a few minutes for Thomas.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night Goes to…I won’t even bother.