Another Pass

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 23, 2012 under Commentary, Roster Moves | 4 Comments to Read

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The limitations of post-deadline roster moves require teams to telegraph their intent, to some extent; there could be no surer sign of a signing to come than when the Dallas Mavericks — a team with a full roster — requested waivers on Sean Williams on Thursday. There would be no need for roster flexibility without an immediate candidate in mind, and per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas will soon sign Kelenna Azubuike — a player the Mavs have coveted ever since his D-League days — to a minimum contract for the remainder of this season with a team option for next year.

Azubuike flies well under the radar for some reason, but brings a rather complete package to the table for a role player: he defends well, has put up some stunning percentages from the outside (he’s a career 41-percent shooter from beyond the arc), and taps into his natural athleticism by being an active cutter. He’s not all that much of a shot creator, but could be a great, low-cost option on the wing if everything goes according to plan.

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The Difference: Sacramento Kings 110, Dallas Mavericks 97

Posted by Holly MacKenzie on March 10, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

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Box score Play-by-Play Shot Chart Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • It figures that the game I pick to recap is a blowout. Disclaimer before we go any further: I am a huge Isaiah Thomas fan. I will try to temper this as we talk about what went wrong with the Mavericks in Sacramento. It wasn’t pretty, people. Not even a little bit.
  • A rough start really doomed Dallas. The team had five of their 17 turnovers in the first quarter, including four of them in the first four minutes of the game. Sacramento took advantage, scoring nine points off of those turnovers in the opening session. The Kings jumped out to a lead quickly, leaving the Mavs to play catch up all night.
  • After finding himself on the bench at the end of the Suns game on Thursday night, Jason Terry (game-high 23 points, 10-for-18 fgs) was looking to get himself going early against the Kings, and was one of the bright spots for the Mavs offensively in the first half. He kept the Mavs in it by coming up with a bucket to temper the crowd every time the Kings seemed to be on the verge of really blowing things open.
  • While Dirk Nowitzki started off 2-for-2 from the floor, the team didn’t make it a point to get the ball to him in the first quarter and things went downhill from there as Dirk wasn’t ever able to get going. He shot 1-for-5 in the second quarter, 2-for-4 in the third and then 0-2 in the fourth. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
  • The Mavericks just looked sluggish tonight. Perhaps they were tired from last night’s loss to the Suns, but their defense wasn’t doing them any favours against the Kings. A five-point swing for the Kings: Jason Thompson gets his own offensive rebound, finds Chuck Hayes open under the hoop for an easy two. Next possession:Francisco Garcia steals the ball from Nowitzki (Mavs turnover #6) and finds John Salmons for a three.

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The Difference: Phoenix Suns 96, Dallas Mavericks 94

Posted by Kirk Henderson on March 9, 2012 under Recaps | 9 Comments to Read

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Needless to say, this was not the start Dallas wanted for its lone back-to-back-to-back of this season. Though there is much we could discuss in a game that saw both teams take double-digit leads, this one was lost in the third quarter. Dallas had trouble all game with the Phoenix pick and roll, and when the Mavs’ hot shooting finally cooled in the third, the Suns sprinted ahead with an 18-4 run. Dallas allowed 34 points in the second quarter after only allowing 44 in the entire first half. Moving forward, Dallas has to get more out of Jason Terry (six points, two rebounds, one assist), a more efficient Vince Carter (18 points on 21 shots, no free throws attempted, five rebounds, four assists), and better game-to-game consistency from Rodrigue Beaubois (five points, two rebounds, two assists).
  • Despite the final outcome, there were many bright spots for Dallas. Lamar Odom (15 points, four rebounds, two assists) played his second-straight solid game, contributing throughout the box score and making his presence felt.  The real surprise of the night came from Sean Williams.  With Brendan Haywood still dealing with a high ankle sprain, when Mahinmi picked up his second foul with just under six minutes to go in the first half, Williams stepped in and played an admirable game (including two excellent blocks).  Shawn Marion (whom, as Rob Mahoney reminds us, must be managed carefully) continued his incredibly consistent play on both ends of the floor (12 points, eight rebounds), and by the end of the first half, he had guarded a Suns player of every position. (On a Suns note, its really, really impressive to see Grant Hill doing much of the same thing Shawn Marion does, only at age 39). It’s easy to overreact when the team loses a winnable game like this one; just remember that the season-long slate is a grind. All we can do is look for signs of improvement in every game.

Kirk Henderson is a member of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Kirk on Twitter: @KirkSeriousFace.

The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, Dallas Mavericks 91

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 6, 2012 under Recaps | 4 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas92.098.948.211.922.516.3
Oklahoma City103.343.443.434.116.1

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The closing moments of Monday night’s game offered a disturbing bit of possibility — Jason Terry may no longer be the player who simply does well in clutch situations, but one who demands that the ball go through him. Dallas’ final two offensive possessions were relatively basic high pick-and-roll sets involving Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, and on both occasions JET refused to hit an open Nowitzki on the three-point line (where Nowitzki had only made four of his six attempts on the night) in the name of calling his own number. If Terry were in a position where he had a lane or a step on his defender, that’s a perfectly acceptable decision. Yet in this particular game neither was the case; Terry didn’t necessarily break the play(s), but he sure as hell hijacked it.

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The Difference: Oklahoma City Thunder 104, Dallas Mavericks 102

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 30, 2011 under Recaps | 7 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas95.0107.447.218.930.412.6
Oklahoma City109.563.538.120.027.4

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Moral victories may be the panacea of foolish NBA fans, but I have a very hard time classifying this absurd 48 minutes of Mavericks basketball as anything but. Just days removed from getting trounced by the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets in back-to-back home games, the Mavs were right back where they were last May: fighting down to the wire with an impressive Oklahoma City Thunder team, scraping together runs for a chance to take the game.
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The Difference: Denver Nuggets 115, Dallas Mavericks 93

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 27, 2011 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas98.094.947.427.611.919.4
Denver117.355.734.223.815.3

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Give the Mavericks credit: they didn’t lose this game solely on offense or defense alone, but managed to clam up and crumble simultaneously. They turned the ball over on nearly a fifth of their possessions. They started with a well-intentioned transition defense, but spend most of the game lightly jogging in the Nuggets’ dust. They allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions. These first two games have been ugly in a way this franchise hasn’t seen in a long time, and hopefully those universal struggles don’t persist for too long.
  • Delonte West (two points, four assists, three steals) grabbed his first formal start after becoming the de facto starter for the second half of the opener against the Heat. In theory, it was a good move; West is the hands-down best defensive option the Mavs have against Ty Lawson (27 points, 10-15 FG, 3-6 3FG, four rebounds, four assists, three steals). That theoretical decision didn’t do much good against the Nuggets’ outright fast breaks and transition-induced mismatches, but West was still the right call for starting responsibilities.
  • Turnovers aside, the Mavs actually looked much improved offensively in the game’s opening quarter. There were some productive sets, and various players worked well together in strong-side action. It wasn’t anything resembling the offensive sophistication that earned Dallas their first title, but in such dire times, Mavs fans should take what they can get.

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Now in Session

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2011 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

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This year’s preseason campaign may be more important than the lead-in exhibitions of a standard season, but there’s still only so much that can be digested from a mere prologue. Still, we can glean hints of the year to come, even in the context of games that don’t matter. With that, here are eight observations from the Mavs’ two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, laced with a nice balance of optimism and gloom:

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What’s Another Erlenmeyer Flask?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 19, 2011 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | Be the First to Comment

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Another day, another low-key signing by the Mavs with a potential payoff far greater than the risk. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas is currently finalizing a two-year deal for former New Jersey Net and Texas Legend Sean Williams. It’s not a spectacular acquisition, but Williams — who wore out his NBA welcome during his tour in New Jersey from 2007-2010 — steps in as an immediate impact shot blocker with the potential to be a more complete defender.

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Return to the Sidelines: An Interview with Del Harris

Posted by Rob Mahoney on October 19, 2011 under Interviews | Be the First to Comment

Donnie Nelson may not have snagged the salesman he had intended to replace Nancy Lieberman as the head coach of the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate in Frisco, but in the process, he landed one hell of a coach.

Bruce Pearl, the Legends’ initial candidate in their coaching search, and Del Harris, who worked as the Legends’ GM last season and will take over the coaching reins, are cut from fundamentally different stylistic cloths. Each is successful in their own way, but the latter brings an unprecedented résumé to the D-League coaching ranks. Harris is an incredibly accomplished coach at virtually every level of competition, and though he’ll still be selling the Legends as a product, his primary function will be in bringing that vast experience to his dual role as head coach and general manager.

Even with that kind of pedigree, Harris will have his work cut out for him. The Legends were stacked with borderline NBA talent last season, but have lost a handful of noteworthy contributors to foreign leagues. With just 15 days remaining until the D-League draft and a bit more than a month left before the Texas Legends’ season opener, Harris took some time to talk with me about how the D-League might be impacted by the NBA lockout, his statistical approach to coaching, and the future of the Legends.

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MAHONEY: You’ve been with the Legends in a managerial role before and you’re going to continue in that role next season. Did anything about managing in the D-League surprise you?

HARRIS: No, not really. Everything is a little different in the development league compared to, say, college or the NBA’s principal league itself, but it’s still basically the same work. You try to work together with everybody — the owner, the coaches, and all the various front office entities — try to put together the best team you can. It all kind of comes under the heading of teamwork.”

MAHONEY: It seems like D-League management is pretty unique in that there’s so much roster turnover from year to year. How do you grapple with the fact that in the off-season any number of your players could find jobs overseas or in other leagues? How do you game plan from year to year and maintain any kind of consistency?

HARRIS: Everybody is in the same situation, so it’s not like anybody’s unique in the league itself. It’s not that unlike college or high school — and I have coached at every level that there is to coach — where you’re going to have turnover every year in high school and in college. So this is very akin to that process. Even now in the NBA it’s not uncommon for teams to turn over as many as seven spots, and the Mavericks themselves turned over nine spots one year recently. So with the advent of such ease of free agency in the NBA, that’s not that uncommon these days for a general manager and coach to anticipate having loss.

Just look at the Mavericks right now. I can’t mention any NBA players’ names because I work for the NBA, but there are a number of key free agents for the Mavericks for example this year, and once they can get back into business they have a very similar situation to what we have. In our case we have to replace three of our most key players. Our point guard went to the NBA so I can’t mention his name. Joe Alexander and Sean Williams were two of the top five players in the league and were two of the maybe three best big men in the league. Joe is in Russia and Sean is in Europe — Spain, I think — playing, so we have to replace those three key spots the best way that we can.

MAHONEY: You made Matt Rogers the team’s first ever draft pick last year and recently announced that he’ll be back with the team next year. Walk me through Rogers’ game and your impressions of his first season in the D-League.

HARRIS: Well, Rogers had an up-and-down year, partly because he blew out his ACL at the end of his college career — at which he was nonetheless voted the number one player in Division II basketball. He was a bit hampered, as last year was a rehabilitation year for him, and yet he did alright. We had one of the best teams in the league. We had five guys at one time or another who were first round draft picks when they came out of college on our team. So Matt held up pretty well for a rookie in what is actually a pretty tough league. We’re looking forward to this year for Matt because of his health continuing to get better and [him having] more confidence in his knee. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and the year of experience will help him.

MAHONEY: The only other official player announcement thus far has been Justin Dentmon, who also had a pretty good rookie year. What kind of role do you see for Dentmon this season, and what improvements do you want to see in his game?

HARRIS: Dentmon had a strong year and again: he’s a key player. We may have to depend on him to play a little bit more point guard than he did last year and that’s something he would have to make some improvements upon, which he should be capable of doing. He is a key guy.

MAHONEY: I’ve heard and read opinions from both sides as to have the NBA lockout might affect the D-League. What impact do you think the ongoing lockout will have on the D-League and the Legends?

HARRIS: Well, the positive thing is that we’re playing, and that people can come and watch high level basketball. That’s part of it, so any negatives after that are relatively inconsequential to the whole process. But from a coaching standpoint, it’s not as good of a situation in terms of getting talent because the best way for us to do that is after the the NBA has had their final cuts. Those players that don’t make it [onto an NBA roster] can choose to go into the D-League draft and that’s where we end up getting some outstanding players. We would have evaluated them during the preseason, so we know who the guys are that are on the bubble and we have a good list of guys in a pecking order that we’d like to take. Well, we don’t have that this year.

The other thing is that there are guys that are going over to Europe — into lesser leagues, even — because they don’t know if the NBA is going to play this year, and the main purpose of playing in the D-League for less money is that this is where you have the best opportunity to get into the NBA this year if you didn’t make it in training camp. So we don’t have that element going for us now because they don’t even know if there’s going to be a league or a schedule — they don’t know one way or another. Second, they don’t know what the process would be as far as training camp if there is an NBA league to go on this year.

So from my standpoint as a coach, I’d say it’s a negative, but as a general manager from a franchise standpoint, it’s actually kind of a good thing.

MAHONEY: The lockout negotiations really aren’t good for anyone involved in the NBA world, but some good things could potentially come out of it. There were some rumors that maybe the NBA would be revisiting the way players are assigned to the D-League, maybe extend the age to which they can be assigned, or allow for injured players to rehabilitate there. What’s your take on the current assignment system, and if there are any improvements that can be made on it?

HARRIS: Well, those things would have been discussed in any event. They are things that were brought up before we knew there would be a lockout, and even though it’s a contract year, these are things that would have been brought up anyway. Obviously we think that it would benefit the NBA itself if there were some expanded opportunities for players to play in the Development League. We think it would help at the top and we think it would help us here at the D-League level, with the caveat that it does increase that volatility of your roster. You could be planning how you’re going to play the next game and then find out that morning that you’ve got two guys coming down from the affiliate team and that kind of changes your program. But all and all, I think it would be a good thing.

MAHONEY: I saw you speak at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference back in March, and you talked about integrating advanced stats into your coaching style. Do you think there’s room for detailed statistical analysis in the D-League, and does it make sense economically and infrastructurally for teams to pursue that information even on a minor league level?

HARRIS: Well, obviously there are a lot of considerations at any level, but particularly so at the Developmental League level. But you don’t have to be overly concerned about costs with most of the metrics that matter most to a coach in the NBA. I’ve been doing metric analyses since the 60s and was the first in a lot of areas in the 80s to implement electronic data systems and things when I was coach and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Bucks. Then that continued on with the Mavericks in a more elaborate system of metrics. But the basic metrics that I use for coaching a game really only involve basic chart-keeping, so we will be utilizing things that I’ve done for over 40 years to evaluate our points per possession, our pace of the game, our momentum. I can train a guy to do that in 10 minutes.

MAHONEY: We’ve seen — and you have a longstanding relationship with Donnie — Donnie Nelson as a manger, but what kind owner is he, and what is his involvement like with the Legends?

HARRIS: Donnie Nelson is a jack of all trades and a master of most of them. He’s a dynamo and he’s a terrific owner, and just a great public relations guy — he sells the program really well. He’s very supportive of his people, and he lets them operate. He has a good front office here, headed up by Bill Boyce, who also has some excellent people working with him. We have a young fella who has a good future named Malcolm Farmer that does a lot of the heavy lifting. He and the other owners — particularly evan Wyly — are really terrific to work with. He’s great all across the board.

MAHONEY: I saw in another interview you did with Zach Lowe over at Sports Illustrated that you mentioned you were teaching a class at a local college. What are you teaching and at what school?

HARRIS: The class is entitled “Team Building” and it’s based on a book I have written but not published that’s basically Team Building: Developing the Point Guard Within You. I teach at Dallas Christian College and it involves basically four elements in team building, starting with purpose (or mission) and then developing leadership skills, and third, enhancing communication, and ultimately ending in relationship building. We use my book as a text and I start with the sports idiom and then translate that down to the secular world as to how there might be applications in corporate america, or in institutions such as education for those who are going into teaching, or church work for those who are going into that area, and families which most of them will be going into. Then I take it down to the spiritual application.

So we use those basic principles and how they all interrelate from the sports to the secular to the spiritual. It’s exciting. I thought we’d have 15 in the class and we have 35, so it’s a little bit more people than I had anticipated, but it’s been very interesting for me.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 19, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Your sizable news du jour: Dallas may be among several teams interested in acquiring Carmelo Anthony without the guarantee of a contract extension, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. It’s indicated that the deal would likely have to include at least three parties, so you can close up the Trade Machine for now unless you want to get really zany.
  • Rick Carlisle isn’t too high on his team these days. From Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “Asked to take his team’s pulse at the 10-game mark, [Carlisle's] assessment was frank: “I think it sucks.” And with that, it became clear that the Mavericks have plenty of work in front of them. Carlisle must again re-configure playing rotations with Butler back in the lineup. Beaubois, when he returns, will force another adjustment. The defense has been commendable much of the time, but when it’s been bad – like that third quarter, when the Hornets shot 72 percent and forced seven Mavericks turnovers – it’s been terrible. ‘We’ve got to get tougher,” Carlisle said. “I’m not into looking back. I’m into what’s going on right now and what’s going on tomorrow and the next day. You can’t get in situations where we get distracted by officials’ calls. This is a game about aggression and poise. You have to have the right amount of both.’”
  • Caron Butler seems pretty convinced that he’ll be a long-term starter.
  • From Marc Stein for ESPN Dallas: “In just the latest indication that the purportedly deep supporting cast repeatedly promised going into the season isn’t delivering, Dallas is being outscored by 23.1 points per 48 minutes with Nowitzki off the floor through 10 games. The Mavericks, by contrast, are outscoring the opposition by 13.8 points per 48 minutes when Nowitzki is on the floor.” Yikes.
  • The Legends lost their season opener last night to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 115-123. I didn’t have a chance to catch the game myself, but from what I understand there wasn’t all that much defense played by either team. Antonio Daniels finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. Sean Williams added 15 points, five rebounds, and five blocks. Kelvin Lewis chipped in 18 points (on 19 shots, but he did score 12 in the first quarter alone) and six assists. Justin Dentmon led the Legends in scoring with 21 points off the bench, but he turned the ball over four times.
  • Speaking of the Legends, Rashad McCants is set to join the team soon, per Donnie Nelson, and will start pretty much immediately. Glad to be putting that episode to rest.