“Now let the charade end!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
When I first inquired to Rob Mahoney about joining the Two Man Game team, I made a single request. I asked Rob if I could write about Derek Harper at least once a year. In my opinion, Harper hasn’t received the recognition he deserves. It’s the start of a new year, a good time to look back on the Ye Olde Mavericks. As a gift to myself, I’m taking this day to write about no. 12, and I’m leading the charge to get his number retired.
Here’s a secret. You are far more likely to get Mark Cuban to respond to your emails if you’re a season ticket holder. Start the email with an account number (I had a ten-game package, nothing too fancy). Almost a year ago, I wrote to Cuban:
Before Dirk Nowitzki retires and a whole new generation is considered for retired numbers, I believe Derek Harper is one essential member of the early Mavs who deserves the honor. Yes, there is Aguirre and Donaldson, Perkins and Tarpley, but only Derek Harper hits all the reasonable criteria for retired numbers — (1) greatness as a player, (2) long term commitment to the team, (3) long term impact on the franchise. I’m not the type of fan who believes retired numbers should be given out liberally. Once you have Davis, Blackman, and Harper, I think the pre-Nowitzki Mavs have been appropriately represented. Are there any plans to retire #12 before we get to #41?
I then went on to complain about the red t-shirts (see my last column) and tried to defend Lamar Odom. It was still early in the season. Mark Cuban responded:
brilliant minds think alike.
we agree across the board [smiley face]
stay tuned and thank you for your support of our Mavs !!
No privacy footnote included. Here you go, a year-old The Two Man Game exclusive with Mark Cuban.
You have to give Cuban credit. His response was affirming. He answered my questions, and yet he was still vague and noncommittal. If he agrees that those red t-shirts are cursing the team, why launch them into the crowd? If you agree that Derek Harper’s number should be retired, why not retire it? I have a few theories on his “we agree across the board” statement. It could mean:
Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Get off my back.
Be patient. The t-shirts will be gone once we run out of t-shirts, and we have a lot. We’ll retire Derek Harper’s number the day before Nowitzki’s.
I think almost every Mav should have their number retired… but it ain’t gonna happen.
I didn’t have time to give you a more honest answer.
So, why Derek Harper? A player who never played in an All-Star game, a player who wasn’t even the Mavs’ top draft pick in 1983, and a player who is often remembered for his terrible rookie error in the 1984 playoffs when he dribbled out the clock sending the game against the Lakers into overtime. If this is all you see, you’re missing one of the most important players to shape the culture and legacy of the ‘80s Mavs, one of the most dedicated and proud Mavericks (during a time when being a Maverick wasn’t always a point of pride), and yes, the greatest point guard for this franchise. Let me explain.
“I am power incarnate! To Galactus, nothing is impossible!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
For the first time in a long while, the Mavs have a sizable crop of rookies on the roster. Jae Crowder (who was selected with the 34th pick) has received the most attention. However, we shouldn’t immediately surmise that he’s the star selection of the trio; who knows what kind of player Bernard James or Jared Cunningham will develop into over the next year or two? Also, Crowder himself may level off as a player or might even continue to improve beyond our expectations. There’s simply no telling beyond our best guesses. If only we had a time machine, so we could glimpse into the future and get a sense of their fate.
Think about that for a second. You have a time machine, and let’s pretend you aren’t going to use it to kill Hitler or revisit household pets long since gone. Let’s pretend you can only use it as a general manager for the Dallas Mavericks. Fantasy draft spirals into the fantasy genre. What would you do? (Feel free to post in the comments.)
The ‘80s would be a good place to start. The Dallas Mavericks had several high draft picks — the 1st and 9th selections in 1981, 4th overall in 1982, 9th and 11th in 1983, 4th in 1984, 8th in 1985, and 7th in 1986. Credit should be given to Dallas Mavericks general manager Norm Sonju — he did well. There wasn’t really a dud in the bunch. The Mavs acquired Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Bill Garnett, Dale Ellis, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, and Roy Tarpley with those picks. Include the acquisition of James Donaldson, and you have a team that competed against Magic Johnson’s hall of fame Lakers to the seventh game in the Western Conference Finals in 1988.
“Who is the greater evil, Starchilde… I, the devourer of life that has run its course… or you, who denies existence to generations of the future?” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
I went to the library a few days ago. A little bit of a confession: I went to find a book on sports writing, preferably something that could teach me how to better use stats in my weekly column. I’m not really a “stats guy.” I could tell you that the Mavs were out-rebounded last night, 62-43, and I know that’s bad. That is bad, right? Kidding. I can handle the most basic box score stats. However, once the numbers start flying, calculating efficiency ratings over a ten-game spread for when so-and-so is only playing 20 minutes or less, I get confused. For the benefit of The Two Man Game reader, you have other well-qualified contributors on that masthead. For my Tuesday column, you’ll get something a little more of whatever it is that I bring to the table — wild predictions and haphazard insight into a player’s psyche? (Side note to my side note: I have created “The Galactus Bump.” Whenever I write about a player, the next week, they play better. I offer Dominique Jones as exhibit A.)
So, I’m at the library. I couldn’t find a magical “understanding stats” book. I’m sure it exists. Share your suggestions in the comments section. However, I did find this gem called The Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball Team Histories, written by Peter C. Bjarkman, Ph.D. (who refers to himself as “Doctor Basketball”), which was published in 1994. In this book, Doctor Basketball devotes a chapter to each NBA team and explains why they are terrible, except the Celtics and Lakers. Then, he includes an epilogue on a dozen of basketball’s greatest heroes. I like how he refers to Magic Johnson as “Magic” Johnson. And he must remind readers that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also known as Lew Alcindor. Because apparently, most people remember him as Lew?
I skipped all the other chapters to the one about the Mavs (page 387). Oh, how things have changed in Dallas. With Thanksgiving two days away, find this book, read this chapter and give thanks that Doctor Basketball did not write the final chapter on the Dallas Mavericks. I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments from this dreadful accounting.
Erick Dampier is making his list and checking it twice. Certain to be considered: Miami and Houston. A possible surprise: Atlanta. I’ve heard Utah may be interested as well, but I haven’t the faintest idea if there’s any reciprocation.
Josh Howard, on why the Wizards “took a gamble” on him for the coming season, and how the Wizards stack up with Howard’s former teams in terms of talent (via HoopsHype): “[The Wizards] see a natural-born leader. They got a guy that loves to win games, loves to play, has a total enjoyment for the game… I appreciate that they gave me the chance and I will take advantage of it...Oh, talent-wise the sky is the limit for this team. It’s a young team. Blatche, McGee, Nick Young, No. 1 pick John Wall and a host of other guys. These guys have tremendous upside. If we stay focused and stay dedicated to the game, the sky is the limit for them. I think that’s one other reason they brought me in here – to be a leader. I think I can take those guys on the right path.”
Here, you can cast your vote for the top Mavs of all time at each traditional position, but the race has long been decided: Steve Nash, Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, Dirk Nowitzki, and Roy Tarpley should win-out easily. There are other good candidates — Michael Finley, Derek Harper, and Jason Kidd among them, but those five were clear favorites from the tip. (EDIT: I stand corrected. Finley has surged to take the lead at SG. I love Fin, and I’m still shocked.)
For a journey down the other path, Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider, a fellow contributor at Hardwood Paroxysm, and one of the invaluable minds at HoopData, has identified the five worst statistical tenures for players of each and every team. Dallas’ bottom five: Devean George (’07-’09), Scott Lloyd (’81-’83), Darrell Armstrong (’05-’06), Bill Wennington (’86-’90), and Elston Turner (’82-’84). My initial reaction: isn’t there any way we could come up with a harsher distinction than “worst Maverick ever” for George? My secondary reaction: Armstrong doesn’t deserve to be on this list at all, if for no other reason than the role he played in the Mavs’ comeback, overtime win against the Toronto Raptors in February of 2006.
According to a report by Sport97, Jessie Begarin, a Guadaloupean and participant in Rodrigue Beaubois’ camp, was invited to tryout with the Texas Legends and his since been invited to Mavericks training camp. If this report is indeed true, you could be looking at a future Legend (capital L, y’all). (via DOH at Mavs Moneyball) EDIT: According to Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com, the Mavs/Legends don’t have any plans for Begarin after all.
Akis Yerocostas conducted an interesting exercise at his blog, Pick and Scroll, in which he launched a hypothetical expansion draft. I was consulted as an unofficial representative of the Mavs, in order to choose which players to “protect” for the purposes of the draft. See who I selected and who he ended up drafting here.
Tim Thomas, on his wife’s health (via Earl K. Sneed): “She’s healthy, she’s getting better. I don’t want people to think that she’s on her deathbed. I just want everybody to know we’re doing fine. She’s doing better. Who knows, if she gets better then maybe I’ll give it another try.”
This commercial for NBA 2k11 has nothing to do with the Mavs whatsoever, but is glorious nonetheless. Plus, the 2k series makes a mean game, to boot.
Rodrigue Beaubois goes shopping…at the MavGear headquarters.
On ESPN.com’s Future Power Rankings (assessing which NBA teams have the brightest future overall, not merely looking to next season, Dallas was ranked 14th. About what you’d expect from a strong, but fairly old roster with just one young player of note: “The Mavericks continue to be more of a “now” team than a team looking to the future, which explains their low-ish ranking for a contender…The Mavs’ up-and-comers consist of one guy: 21-year-old point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, whose potential is still a question mark. On the financial front, the free-spending Mavs are projected to be over the salary cap until 2011 or, more likely, 2012. The good news for Dallas fans is that owner Mark Cuban is creative and has perpetually found ways to keep the Mavs competitive. After 10 consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins, this is a hard franchise to count out.”
The Mavs have a new official off-site blog called Mavs Fast Break. Looks to be more or less the same coverage from Earl K. Sneed and a few others, but with a new layout that should make everything easier to find.
Andres Nocioni is on crutches because of his involvement with Argentina’s national team. This is every NBA owner’s/GM’s/coach’s nightmare: players injuring themselves while doing anything other than playing for their team. Fingers crossed that Beaubois, Mahinmi, and Ajinca can avoid Noc’s fate this summer.
Dan Shanoff (via J.E. Skeets): “The NBA has done a spectacular job of turning itself into a 11-month-a-year league. Beyond the regular season and playoffs, there was the John Wall Lottery in May, the Draft in June, July’s free-agent insanity…And even into August — which should be a dead zone — the league has three things it can stand on: The schedule release (yesterday, which was big enough), the World Basketball Festival (in two weeks) and, of course, Shaq about to sign with the Celtics.” This couldn’t be more true in the wake of the free agent bonanza. The FIBA World Championships are right around the corner, and from there we’ll practically roll into training camp and media day. All of this is to say something I’ve noted many times before in this space: there has never been a better time for information-hungry basketball fans. There is so much worthwhile analysis out there to consume on a daily basis (even in the off-season), and it’s all readily available with a few keystrokes. The fact that the NBA is now relevant for so long plays a big part in that.
Mark Cuban on allowing NBA players to participate in international competition (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, hat tip to DOH at Mavs Moneyball): “I think there is zero upside as a league. We are allocating our best players to work for another corporation. I don’t see the logic. And as far as the argument that the World Championship builds demand, find me one fan who can name the players on the pre-Redeem Team squad. The only reason we allowed Tyson (Chandler) to play is because it’s a good rehab opportunity. So I guess if we only allowed players who were coming back from injuries and needed the rehab, I would be all for it.”
Dirk is the all-time leader in three-point shooters made by a player seven-feet or taller. Behind him? Andrea Bargnani. Bargs has a long way to go before catching up to Dirk, but he’s only 24 and has been shooting a lot more threes than Nowitzki. No question Dirk should go down as the seven-foot shooter to date, but if we look strictly at volume, Bargnani could definitely surpass Nowitzki in 3PM somewhere down the line (Link via ShareBro Skeets).