Dallas Mavericks 89, Boston Celtics 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 9, 2010 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2010-11-09 at 1.02.08 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas91.097.854.530.312.520.9
Boston95.651.77.729.214.3

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
-William Shedd

Defense is predicated on calculated risk, and when properly executed, this is what those risks look like. Lots of long two-pointers (Boston shot 31 shots between 16-23 feet and made just 12 of them). Rotations that expose the defense temporarily, but are balanced by a strong presence at the rim. A huge, potentially game-winning shot, put in Rajon Rondo’s hands some 24 feet from the basket. Even the best defense can’t stop everything, but if a team focuses on what’s important and cedes the rest, they can debilitate opposing offenses enough to win games like this one.

The Mavs weren’t flawless in their execution, but we focus primarily on the defense, this is precisely what the Mavs should hope to achieve on a nightly basis. If all goes according to plan, this defensive performance — though fine on its own merits — should be completely unremarkable. This needs to be the regular for Dallas. This needs to be a trademark. This needs to be the schoolwork proudly displayed on the fridge for a day until a new assignment takes its place, rather than some mantle piece riddled with dust. The Mavs have the potential to be this good defensively if they execute properly, and on this night they did just that.

The Mavs also have the potential to rival the league’s elite if they execute properly on offense as well, yet on this night they did anything but. Dallas committed 19 turnovers in a 91-possession game, which might be borderline impressive if it weren’t so maddening. The Mavs can’t expect to win these kinds of games with regularity if their turnover rate is hovering around last night’s mark of 20.9. Dallas’ hot shooting this season has managed to balance out their turnovers, but the shots won’t always fall. This team can’t always hang its hat on high-percentage shot-making, even if they’re working to create more high-percentage looks than ever. The turnovers need to come down, even if it’s hard to peg any specific reasons for the unexpected bump. As I mentioned yesterday, the symptoms are obvious, but if anyone has a proper diagnosis for these sudden turnover concerns, I’m all ears.

Luckily, Dirk Nowitzki (25 points, 9-16 FG, seven rebounds, four turnovers) was relentless in his drives to the rim, Jason Terry (17 points, 5-11 FG, four assists) was patient and fought for open looks in the half-court offense, and Tyson Chandler (12 points, 5-5 FG, 13 rebounds, two blocks, zero turnovers) introduced the alley-oop as an item of cultural relevance in the Dallas metro area, and J.J. Barea (12 points, 4-7 FG, three assists, three turnovers) scored just enough, even if he overstepped his bounds a bit.

The Celtics have a number of excuses/justifications if they choose to play those cards. Maybe they were looking ahead to a game against the Miami Heat. Maybe they were physically or mentally exhausted in playing the second night of a back-to-back. Regardless, Dallas was the superior squad last night. They executed more effectively, shot more efficiently, hustled more consistently, and attacked more strategically. The Mavs were ready for this game, and they earned a win. That’s important. That’s what you can take away to keep in your back pocket. Whatever goes on in Boston’s camp is their problem, but Dallas came in with a well-constructed plan and enacted it properly.

Closing thoughts:

  • Tyson Chandler was fantastic. Nowitzki’s offense was obviously instrumental, but Chandler (Gold Star spoiler alert) was obviously the Mavs’ most effective player. He didn’t create any of his offense on his own, but by relying on his teammates to feed him the ball at the proper moments, Chandler was always in the right spot offensively. He finished each of his opportunities, and demanded that the Celtics’ defense account for him, praise that hasn’t been applicable to a Mavericks’ center, well, ever. On defense, Chandler didn’t re-write the rules of help defense, but he recited them from memory to perfection. He stepped up and challenged any Celtic who dared attack the basket, and even recovered fully to challenge his own man at the basket in some cases. He never stopped. Chandler clearly understands that a defensive possession is only finished after his team secures the rebound, and he worked tirelessly to challenge as many shots and potential shots as possible before concluding each and every possession. Books aren’t written about those who do exactly what they’re supposed to, but for his efforts on this night alone, I vote Chandler worthy of a memoir.
  • DeShawn Stevenson started in place of Jason Terry, as Rick Carlisle opted to redistribute the Mavs’ strongest scorers. He answered by hitting a pair of three-pointers and chasing Ray Allen around for 14 minutes, and that’s an unquestionable success. I’m not sure it makes a world of difference to have Terry starting or coming off the bench, as both designations can be balanced by his usage in particular lineups. However, if Stevenson can hit reliably from distance and put in that kind of defensive effort nightly, I’d have no problem with him assuming the starting job until Rodrigue Beaubois’ return.
  • Caron Butler knows that the season has started, right?
  • The Mavericks have absolutely no respect for Rajon Rondo’s jumper. So much so that J.J. Barea once forgot that Nate Robinson had subbed in for Rondo, and gave up a wide open three-pointer without even pretending to contest.
  • I’m not sure who this Brendan Haywood is, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the old one come back. Haywood had a nice contested slam and grabbed a few boards, but he had a lot of trouble defending Kevin Garnett, Semih Erden, and Glen Davis. I know the matchup wasn’t favorable; Haywood would have been far more useful had we seen more of either O’Neal, but Jermaine played limited minutes and Shaquille sat this one out. I understand that puts Haywood in an awkward position, but he has to do better. He has to provide better help, he can’t let Erden beat him to rebounds, and he can’t give up points on the low block so easily. There’s no problem being patient with Haywood given what he’s capable of, but if this is par for the season’s course, Mark Cuban is going to have plenty of sleepless nights, holding his wallet close.
  • Even after all of the barking and strutting, I still love watching Kevin Garnett play. As long as he milks that pump fake and turnaround jumper, it doesn’t much matter to me what he’s said or done. Garnett — the player — is still terrific in my book, even if Dirk gave him serious trouble with his drives. Also: KG is so brutally effective from the high post against the zone. He backs down a shoots jumpers over JET, while having the passing savvy to abuse any double-teamer that comes his way.
  • If you think this game was in any way decided by officiating, stop. The free throw discrepancy was that large for a reason, and the Mavs’ aggressive third quarter mentality was a big part of that reason.
  • Hail Jason Terry, who in his infinite wisdom, opted to foul Ray Allen with 1.5 seconds left in the game. The Celtics had collected an offensive rebound after Rajon Rondo’s three-point miss, and the Dallas defense was in slight disarray. The Mavs had a foul to give, and Terry took it while he could. Not only is that a smart move irrelevant of the result, but the fact that Dallas was able to completely smother the ensuing inbound pass and force Garnett into a contested turnaround from the far corner…well, you can’t ask for much more. Pitch-perfect execution in all regards by Dallas down the stretch, and a great judgment call by Terry.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: Tyson Chandler. I wouldn’t hang the Mavs’ hat on this iteration of Chandler showing up for every game, but Mavs fans should be thankful he was so effective last night.
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Heard It Through the Grapevine

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

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

Also, if I may:

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

Back to business as usual:

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

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on August 4, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Josh Howard (via Art Garcia): “No matter what was said about me, people never knew me.” Howard also says that he doesn’t think he was appreciated by the Mavs’ front office.
  • Rolando Blackman has joined the coaching staff of the Turkish national team as an assistant.
  • From @mavstats: Out of 173 fourth-quarter free throw attempts last season, Dirk missed only seven. That’s good for 96-percent.
  • Basketball-Reference.com is now including photos on some of their player pages. Tim Thomas’ is a classic. (Hat tip: Tom Haberstroh)
  • 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.”
  • Shawn Marion with Kid Rock. Just because.
  • 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.
  • Coincidentally, the Wizards had to renounce the rights to James Singleton so that they could re-sign Josh Howard. However, even without his rights, the Wizards are still considering bringing back James Singleton for next season.
  • 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.
  • Make a note: Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle are releasing another Basketball Prospectus annual. A must-buy for serious NBA fans, particularly those of you out there that are statistically inclined.

UPDATE:

  • 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.”
  • Jason Kidd, experimenting with a new look.
  • 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).

Rumor Mongering: Happy Together

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 8, 2010 under Commentary, Rumors | 2 Comments to Read

Ed. note: Now that the Mavs have re-signed Brendan Haywood and the Celtics have signed Jermaine O’Neal, consider this a comparative piece explaining the Mavs’ choice. Haywood was the better option all along for a number of reasons, and if it came down to Dallas choosing between which center to pursue, they made the right call.

There is no poetry to Brendan Haywood’s game. Many of his moves lack polish, and he isn’t easily captured in cliché. Haywood is simply an effective individual defender and a capable finisher at the 5 who is somehow unspectacular enough to live comfortably under the radar and skilled enough to be a vital part of the Mavs’ off-season plans. Regardless of what you’ve read elsewhere, Haywood is the option at center. Any reasonable alternative (Chandler, Biedrins, Jefferson, Shaq, etc.) save from Jermaine O’Neal would be a clear defensive downgrade, and none of those players can boast Brendan’s two-way utility.

That’s why it warms my heart that the Mavs are now linked to the fairer O’Neal, even if he’s not quite the catch that Brendan is. Their defensive abilities are certainly comparable, but what worries me most about Jermaine are his offensive delusions and relatively inferior rebounding. Last season, O’Neal averaged about six more FGAs per 36 minutes than Haywood, despite the fact that the two are roughly equal in terms of their offensive efficiency. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be rather important for O’Neal to not see his roles on the Mavs and Heat as congruent. Miami’s dearth of scorers last season afforded Jermaine an opportunity to be more of a focal point, whereas he would fall down a few pegs on the Mavs’ scoring ladder.

If not for a few rather glaring asterisks on O’Neal’s application, he could be considered Haywood’s equal. Jermaine is 31 going on 60, and heavy minutes, significant usage, and a long NBA career have sent O’Neal’s athletic abilities through a meat processing plant. Even though Haywood isn’t likely to improve from here on out, his career is at least moving laterally, which in this case functions as an advantage. O’Neal’s injuries are also a bit of a concern, as he’s played 70+ games just twice in his last seven seasons (Haywood played five 70+ game seasons over that same span).

However, the most frightening footnote of all — fair or unfair — is O’Neal’s latest playoff performance. Jermaine completely disappeared against Boston’s defense in the first round, when Miami needed offense more than ever. Dwyane Wade desperately needed some kind of help to make the series competitive, but Jermaine could only manage 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds on 20.5% shooting. In case you’re curious, that’s good for a 2.5 PER. The Celtics were operating at a special level all throughout the playoffs, but that’s the same level at which the Mavs hope to compete. If Jermaine couldn’t even manage to be competent against the turned backs of the Celtics while all eyes were on Wade, would he really be a wise choice for the Mavs’ starting center?

Haywood was merely himself during the Mavs’ abbreviated postseason run, and made three more field goals than O’Neal (12 to 9) despite taking about half of the attempts (21 to 44). He didn’t step outside himself, defended well when given the opportunity, and played the victim almost as well as Rodrigue Beaubois. There should never have been any dispute over who was Dallas’ rightful starting center, yet Brendan was denied both minutes and opportunities on the basis of some ridiculous criterion. It didn’t stop him from posting a 19.3 PER over six playoff games, but Haywood was clearly restricted from making his full impact by forces outside his control.

A Haywood-O’Neal center tandem would be fantastic for Dallas, but it’s admittedly a bit of a long-shot. The Mavs and Jermaine were both reportedly interested in a union, but since, the Celtics have emerged as the front-runners to sign O’Neal. On top of that, Miami is a legitimate option for Brendan Haywood if they fail to entice LeBron James (luckily, there doesn’t seem to be any other serious competition). LeBron would eat up the cap space with Haywood’s name on it, and while his joining with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be the bane of the league at large, it would be a positive development for the Mavs. With no one left to bid against, Dallas would likely be able to come to reasonable terms with Brendan, and the starting five for next season would be secured. Throw in a coup for Jermaine and good return on Dampier, and the Mavs have the potential to be one of the most complete teams in basketball.

UPDATE 11:59 AM CST: According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Jermaine O’Neal has agreed to sign with the Boston Celtics. Well, it was fun while it lasted, folks.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 1, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • Regardless of whether Nowitzki wants fanfare or not, the Mavs have launched DFWDigsDirk.com for fans to show support for ze German. Nothing too special, but the Mavs’ official store is offering a 41% discount on all Dirk merch as part of Dirk’s honorary week.
  • Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “…I would be shocked if the Mavericks don’t hang around the hoop and try to get a rebound in the Chris Bosh situation. People have been downplaying Bosh because he may end up being a package deal with LeBron James. But Bosh met early today with Houston GM Daryl Morey and if the Rockets are making a push for Bosh on the basis of pairing him with a perhaps-healthy Yao Ming, the Mavericks can do better than that. If the package deal with LeBron falls through, the Mavericks should be in the hunt for the 6-10 hometown kid, even if he’s a little reluctant to play in his backyard and put that extra pressure on himself. Dirk would help him alleviate it.”
    Even though the Mavs may look like a better team on paper, the Rox are far and away the more likely Bosh destination. For one, Houston has a plethora of interesting assets (their own draft picks, the Knicks’ draft picks, young talent, expiring contracts) that could tempt the Raptors in a sign-and-trade, but the bigger issue is Bosh’s willingness to suit up for Houston. He’s a far more natural fit alongside Yao than he is alongside Nowitzki, and don’t think for a second that Chris doesn’t know that. Considering how set he is on playing power forward, he may be the least attainable free agent out there.
  • Even though the summer’s premier free agents give the Mavs a nice pipe dream to chase, the far more realistic option is an Al Jefferson/Andre Iguodala style trade without the red tape of free agency.
  • The Nets have signed Brian Zoubek to a make good contract, which guarantees him a spot in training camp but not a roster spot. Bummer. Devan Downey (Sacramento) and Mac Koshwal (Detroit) have also been picked up for Vegas Summer League.
  • According to ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon, the Mavs were one of the teams to contact Matt Bonner. He wouldn’t be a bad get as far as bench bigs go, really.
  • Keep this page bookmarked, it will no doubt come in handy. This one, too.
  • Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported that Miami and Cleveland have legitimate interest in Brendan Haywood, which appears to be true. However, he also reported (as did Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) that there was potential for a double sign-and-trade involving Brendan Haywood and Shaquille O’Neal, which was denied by Marc Stein. It makes sense; sources with the Cavs might indicate that a trade was in the works, because it’s likely that Cleveland would initiate such discussions. However, there would be no reason at all for the Mavs to entertain the idea of bringing in O’Neal.
  • In case you didn’t hear, Josh Howard is an unrestricted free agent. Sign-and-trade???
  • Two days later, and this is still hilarious.
  • Donnie Nelson clearly prefers veteran free agents to undrafted ones, and for obvious reasons. There are a number of intriguing veteran options to be had on the market for a chunk of the Mavs’ MLE, but I can’t help but wonder: does that also open the door for a D-Leaguer or two?
  • Caron Butler on Twitter, back on Tuesday a little before midnight: “About to check out twilight ill get back and let you’ll know what’s good holla”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

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

Dreams of Things to Come: A Look Ahead to 2010 Free Agency

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 29, 2010 under Commentary | 13 Comments to Read

The Mavs’ potential for off-season turnover exists regardless of how deep they go into the playoffs. Given the unique financial circumstances afforded to the Mavericks this summer and the never-ending arms race that exists between NBA teams, no one should be surprised to see Dallas make significant changes this summer even if they somehow stumbled their way to an NBA title.

The reason for that is Erick Dampier. Due to the unique performance-related incentives of Dampier’s contract, he can be traded this off-season and then his entire 2010-2011 salary can be subsequently voided. That makes him an invaluable piece in a potential sign-and-trade, supposing Mark Cuban and the Mavs can entice one of this summer’s bigger talents and manage to convince a rival GM to play ball.That’s what makes Dallas’ off-season outlook so difficult to predict: if the Mavs are to acquire anyone of note this summer by using a sign-and-trade, they’ll have to do it with the blessing of the team said player is deserting. Accurately gauging how willing another GM may be to do such a thing requires an intimate knowledge of management style, manager personalities, ownership complications, and overall team strategy that goes far beyond my pay-grade.

Instead, the best way to predict which players could interest the Mavs is simply to analyze which among them may be the most attractive. Unfortunately, that also hinges greatly on the status of the Mavs’ own unrestricted free agent, Brendan Haywood. Haywood is a franchise center. He’s a capable big that can catch and finish, he’s a top-notch interior defender, and he helps well. Should Dallas lose him to another team this summer, their irrefutable free agent strategy would be aimed at securing another big man. Dampier seems like a lock to be moved; should his salary become fully guaranteed for net season by Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson’s choice, he’ll be owed $13 million next season. I consider myself a stronger advocate of Dampier than most, and I’ll be the first to admit that his level of production doesn’t even whiff that price tag. The allure of dropping Damp’s salary — either by trade or by cutting him loose should the right opportunity not present itself — is simply to great for him to remain a Maverick at his current salary, which makes Haywood an essential piece in the free agency equation. We know that Dirk Nowitzki is not a center, and should Dallas be left Haywood-less, they would essentially have four options:

  • Sign a cheap, veteran center for the minimum to start and play major minutes for the team. (Read: disaster.)
  • Try to acquire a center like Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ian Mahinmi, or Jermaine O’Neal using the mid-level exception.
  • Try to acquire a power forward and play him at center, either through a desperate grab for Chris Bosh, a run at a mid-level guy like restricted free agent Luis Scola, etc.
  • Scrap the free agency dream entirely and try to trade Damp to a team looking to get out from under their center’s contract (Nene, Andris Biedrins, etc.).

How Haywood’s negotiations go this summer obviously hold enormous implications for the Mavs’ off-season plans, so speculating beyond that point is probably fruitless.

So consider me without fruits; I can’t help but think that a number of stars could look awfully good in a Maverick uniform.

LeBron James is this summer’s big prize, but the likelihood of him somehow ending up in Dallas is incredibly slim. It’d be nice, sure, and the Mavs would probably offer him the best chance to compete immediately of any potential destinations. The team is already established in Dallas, and that’s enticing. Then again, do you know where the team is also already established? Cleveland. Who knows how this year’s playoffs will affect LeBron’s decision, but title or not, I like the odds of him sticking with the Cavs.

Chris Bosh also seems like a pipe dream, mainly due to two factors: Bosh does not want to play center, as he’s expressed time and time again in Toronto, and he wants to be The Man, which he wouldn’t be in Dallas. The key in the Mavs acquiring any signed-and-traded free agent is the player’s desire (not just willingness) to come play for Dallas, and Bosh could be described as lukewarm at best when approached about the possibility of playing in his hometown.

Instead, if I’m the Mavs, I have my eyes fixed on the fortunes of two players, one of which is an incredibly unlikely target and the other only mildly unlikely: Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson.

Caron Butler is only the illusion of a starting shooting guard. He can, in theory, shoot, score, handle the ball a bit, and defend. He just doesn’t manage to do the former two efficiently, and his defensive abilities are competent and only likely to diminish with his age. Butler’s Game 5 explosion was so welcome because of the contrast it posed to his typically inefficient scoring nights, and having other scoring threats like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry around Butler hasn’t elevated his efficiency like we thought it might. He’s more or less the same player he was in Washington, only playing well into April.

That leaves the Mavs still looking for a legitimate 2-guard, and the combination of Damp’s contract provisions and Butler’s expiring deal gives Dallas a unique opportunity. They could potentially offer a team like Miami or Atlanta a player of Butler’s caliber in a sign-and-trade, while also allowing them to dump a bit of salary in exchange for Dampier’s deal. The ability of those teams to acquire Damp and then cut him immediately at no cost is something that no other team in the league can offer in a sign-and-trade, which does give Dallas a bit of an edge. Enough of an edge to willingly sign off on the departure of a franchise player? Probably not, but the Mavs are hoping so.

The wild card in all of this is Rodrigue Beaubois. The rook quickly carved out a niche for himself as a highly efficient scorer, and he hasn’t even begun to actualize his full potential as an NBA player. Few players come into the league with the gifts that Beaubois possesses, and should the right prize be available, Dallas may dangle him as trade bait. Teams may not be eager to give up their star player for Butler and Damp’s savings alone, but if Cuban and Nelson are willing to include a rookie guard that has star written all over him? I’m guessing they’d at least get their phone calls returned.

As for the two players I specified, it’s simple: shooting guard would be the Mavs’ biggest hole in the rotation if they can hang on to Haywood, and Jason Terry wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate, even his prime. JET still has plenty left and is ideal as a sixth man, but just doesn’t have the size or defensive aptitude necessary to guard opposing shooting guards well, and isn’t very good at guarding opposing point guards, either. Terry is much improved on the defensive end, but even those improvements don’t have him quite where he would need to be in order to be a highly effective starter.

Two guys that do have that defensive ability — in addition to elite offensive skills — are Wade and Johnson.

Wade is the dream that probably shouldn’t even be chased. For one, because Miami and Chicago are considered the favorites to acquire him. Rightfully so, as both can try to pair him with very talented players, and both boast some sort of hometown advantage. I’m confident one of those teams will land Wade, and they’ll be very, very happy together.

The Mavs could still have an opportunity to play home-wrecker here, supposing Pat Riley is willing to play along with Cuban and Nelson’s plans. I don’t see that as even a remote possibility, but again, I’m not Riles. Maybe he’s very high on Beaubois, or decides he wants to give Caron another go with the Heat, or maybe just wants to do right by Wade for all that he’s done for the franchise. These are not probable scenarios but they are scenarios, and the Mavs would be considered fools if they didn’t do their due diligence when the top shooting guard in the league (yeah, I said it) becomes available.

There would be, of course, that one thing. That one little thing. That one little he single-handedly (we’re not counting officials) destroyed the Mavs in the 2006 Finals thing. It would certainly make the relationship…interesting. There were comments exchanged from both sides in 2006-2007, the thought of the series still stings most Mavs fans, and I can only offer one piece of advice to all parties involved: get over it. This is Dwyane Wade. He’s a remarkable player with a hell of a career still ahead of him, and even though it’s extremely unlikely he’ll wind up a Maverick, the very thought should have Mavs fans sending him love letters and fruit baskets. They don’t come much better than Wade, and regardless of the past between him and the Mavs, his talent and Dallas’ needs should make him a top priority.

Consider  Joe Johnson the back-up plan. He’s older, less efficient on offense, a bit slower on defense, and generally not as Dwyane Wadey as Dwyane Wade is. That doesn’t mean he would be anything less than an excellent addition for Dallas. Messing with Atlanta is always a mess, but I think Beaubois could pose an intriguing piece for the Hawks in particular. There’s no reason that Rodrigue can’t do everything that Mike Bibby currently does, only with better activity on the defensive end, better driving ability, and impressive length. He could be a perfect point guard if the Hawks continue on with Mike Woodson (or at least his offensive and defensive systems), and Atlanta may find the idea of getting Beaubois back in a sign-and-trade far more palatable than letting Johnson walk.

However, as talented as Johnson is, there are two concerns. For one, giving a 29-year-old a five or six year deal could end up being a nightmare, especially with the new CBA likely decreasing the possibility of such long-term, lucrative deals in the future. Second, a lot of Caron Butler’s more irritating habits also exist in Johnson, Joe is just better. He’s still a jumpshooter and a lot of his offense in Atlanta has been isolation-centered, he’s just a better player than Caron. Whether that’s good enough to put the Mavs over the proverbial hump or not is unknown, but it’s certainly not a bad start.

It’s almost trite at this point to say “stay tuned,” but that’s exactly the approach Mavs fans should take with regard to the team’s future. So much of what the Mavs will be able to do depends on who wants what, who goes where, and what teams have which options on the table. Fathoming all of that a few months in advance definitely qualifies as impossible, and all that we’re left with is a microscope fixed on the free agent class, an ear on every news and legitimate rumor available, and a head full of pipe dreams and possibilities. The dominoes will be falling soon enough, and we know Mark Cuban will be ready to pull the trigger. Until then, all eyes should rest on Brendan Haywood, who could very well determine the Mavs’ free agent destiny.

Rumor Mongering: Is This Really What We Want?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 15, 2009 under Rumors | 9 Comments to Read

Chris Broussard, ESPN:

Phoenix has also fielded calls from other teams that have inquired about [Shaquille] O’Neal, including the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks. While getting talent in return is a priority, the Suns’ desire for financial relief is real, which means they will likely trade O’Neal and his $20 million contract this offseason.

…Dallas could send the Suns Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier, but the Suns have little interest in the Mavericks’ plodding center, especially since he has two years and more than $23 million left on his contract. [emphasis mine]

First things first: the reason why Dampier is a valuable trade chip is because that second year on his contract that Broussard cites is actually unguaranteed money.  Damp is very nearly a free agent, and that’s likely the only reason why he’d turn a head in the trade market.

But I wouldn’t read too much into the O’Neal rumors regardless.  Broussard makes it crystal clear that the Suns aren’t willing to send away Shaq for savings alone, as doing so would be Steve Kerr leveraging the franchise straight into the ground.  He broke up the core, brought on the departure of a beloved coach, and changed the style; getting rid of Shaq isn’t just admitting defeat, but admitting that no small move can make things right.  It’d send a bad message to Steve Nash, to Amare Stoudemire, and to the fanbase (including those ever valuable season ticket holders).

Damp and Jerry Stackhouse are the trade chips most often linked to O’Neal and his mammoth contract, and it’s unlikely that saving a few bucks will be enough to inspire Kerr to send his career into a tailspin.  Robert Sarver may pull a lot of puppet strings with dollar signs in his eyes, but I just don’t see this one happening in the name of a few million.  If the Mavs somehow included a signed-and-traded Bass, that’s a possibility.  If they include Josh Howard, that’s a possibility.  If they even included J.J. Barea, the Suns might pay attention for a few seconds.  But Dampier and Stackhouse alone?  I wouldn’t count on it.

I’d Love to Post

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 9, 2009 under xOther | 5 Comments to Read

I really would. I’m fighting off some nasty flu-like symptoms, so I’m going to keep this brief.  The Mavs are suddenly really, really good at basketball.  For the second straight game, they completely dominated a Western power on both sides of the ball, and blitzed the opposition with brutal offensive efficiency, tenacity on the boards, and consistent defensive execution.  Phoenix and Utah both boast offenses that are dangerous in their own right, but last night’s poignant victory was all the more significant because it came at the expense of everyone’s ‘dark horse’ (if everyone is picking them, are they still a dark horse?) for the playoffs, it was unrelenting and superhuman, and it clinched Dallas’ place in the playoffs.  Oh, yeah, and just so happened to push the Mavs and Jazz into a tie for 7th, just one game behind the Hornets at 6th.

A few links for you to consume in my drowsy, sinus-pained absence:

  • Tim MacMahon dreams of Chris Paul in a Mavs jersey, and who am I to be a dream-killer?  I do know this, though: if George Shinn is really looking to cut costs, trading away your best player, main ticket draw, and only hope of getting to the playoffs might not be the way to go.  It’s definitely an option Cuban should pursue, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
  • Mark Cuban answers the Shaq rumors.
  • Danny Bollinger has an interview up with Jason Kidd.
  • Matt Moore is reconsidering the Mavs, and his thoughts are worth a look.
  • David Moore isn’t, and is holding on to his convictions.  His thoughts are worth a look.
  • Art Garcia is the man.  Josh Howard is the man.  A match made in heaven.

Heard It Through the Grapevine 4-7-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 7, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • From Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “‘What’s important is that we’re jelling at the right time,’ said Wright, adding that Sunday’s win over Phoenix ‘was a big game for us to see where we are mentally…I don’t know too many teams that want to see the Mavericks right now. They can say what they want, but we’re a dangerous team.’ Perhaps. But moving up a rung or two on the playoff ladder would do more to get everybody’s attention than talking about it. ‘With the way our schedule is set up, this is a great test to see if we can make any noise,” Jason Kidd said. “We’ll be battle-tested.’”  I wouldn’t be so sure, Antoine.  A lot of teams want a piece of Portland, but when faced with the prospects of playing Portland or playing Dallas, who do you think the Lakers would pick?  The Mavs have definitely been impressive, but those of us with long memories know that can’t last forever.  Let’s just hope that this time around it lasts much longer, and is demonstrative of some real progress.
  • Todd McKean lists the Mavs among the best teams to never win a championship on TrueHoop.
  • It’s possible that Manu Ginobili’s injury won’t impact the Mavs whatsoever, unless Dallas can break through to the second round.  But it’s still huge news, and still game-changing to those of us looking at a basketball scene that isn’t exclusive to Dallas.  Check out the takes of Graydon Gordian and Tim Varner at 48 Minutes of Hell, and Matt Moore at Hardwood Paroxysm.
  • This was one of those posts that sat in my browser as a tab all day long, and when I finally got around to really reading and appreciating it, I was sorry that it had taken me so long.
  • Mike Fisher with some chatter that Shaq would like to play in Dallas.  Yeah, I think we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.