Thermodynamics: Week 18

Posted by Travis Wimberly on March 1, 2013 under Commentary, Recaps | Read the First Comment

Ice

Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy

It wasn’t the worst week of the Mavs’ season, but it was arguably the most excruciating. It started off with a solid win in New Orleans, then slid rapidly from frustrating (against LA) to inexcusable (against Milwaukee) to downright comical (against Memphis).

Let’s hit all those points in a bit more detail as we wrap up the best and worst of the week.

Week 18 (@Hornets, Lakers, Bucks, @Grizzlies)

FIRE

1) Elton Brand

Brand’s production this week was impressive across the board. He scored well and efficiently, averaging almost 13 points per game on 22-of-40 (55%) cumulative shooting. He pulled down almost nine rebounds per game (despite averaging just 25 minutes and conceding many of his boards to Dirk, discussed next), including an impressive 14-rebound performance against the Bucks. He also defended the post well for most of the week, matching up at various points against Dwight Howard, Larry Sanders, Drew Gooden, and Marc Gasol. Brand didn’t exactly shut any of those guys down (although Howard did have a pretty pitiful game in Dallas), but he worked very hard to make things difficult for them. That segues nicely into the most impressive thing about Brand this week: his effort. Brand played exceptionally hard the vast majority of the time he was on the court. Nowhere was that effort more apparent than against Milwaukee, where Brand repeatedly beat multiple Bucks players (with position, no less) to loose balls and free rebounds. He was a disruptive force in the middle, which is something the Mavs have sorely lacked for most of the year. Sure, Brand’s in a contract year, but the pride with which he plays is palpable. At the right price, I personally would welcome him back next year.

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Retiring 12

Posted by David Hopkins on January 1, 2013 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

retiring12_hopkins

“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 !!

m

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:

  1. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Get off my back.
  2. 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.
  3. I think almost every Mav should have their number retired… but it ain’t gonna happen.
  4. 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.

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Lingua Franca

Posted by Shay Christian Vance on November 2, 2012 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

treviSomewhere in New York this week, someone may have said that it’s raining cats and dogs. To most Americans, this strange phrase would make perfect sense. But it is purely an English creation, utterly meaningless in most non-English speaking countries, and useless outside of making the locals think you’re lost and confused. In his book Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation, polyglot, professor, and master wordsmith Umberto Eco dissects the realities and difficulties of translating a work of art from language to language, or even from art form to art form. Eco ponders whether a modern day Italian reading the Divine Comedy in its original form, outdated connotations of words and phrases included, has any advantage in understanding the text over an American student reading a translation that has converted those same words and phrases to their modern English equivalents. Trying to navigate a clear path to the translation is not easy. It’s a negotiation, a compromise; a translator can stay true to the actual words or try and replicate the ideas, trying to find the ground that validates the author’s intentions.

In Eco’s case, his abilities as a linguist allow him to translate his books into languages outside his native Italian. For those languages in which he feels his vocabulary is insufficient, he hand-picks a translator and work with them to recreate his ideas as accurately as possible. Much effort is spent on the idea of translation in the NBA as well, especially in establishing how a rookie’s skills will translate to the NBA from its collegiate equivalent, or how a player’s skills might translate from one squad or system to another. But unlike the author and professor, basketball players are not always making their own choices in regards to where they end up. They’re not always translating their own work. If a player’s previously shown ability in college or another team is the original text, then the coach and the GM are the translators that manipulate those words into the language of their team.

The Mavericks game against the Lakers on opening night was a perfect case study on this subject, with a focus on the performance of two point guards. Both teams went into this game with marked changes to their respective rosters. For the Mavericks, those changes were largely believed to be to the detriment of the team (or at the very least, not to Dallas’ advantage). For the Lakers, the additions came by way of adding a two-time MVP and the best center in the league to their starting five. The future did not look bright for Dallas as Dwight Howard has as many Defensive Player of the Year awards as Dallas had starters who had never played a regular season game as a Maverick. And yet the team that, on paper, improved the most, seemed at times lost.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 99, Los Angeles Lakers 91

Posted by Connor Huchton on October 31, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

 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 begins with defense. From season to season, as the Mavericks’ roster changes, grows, and bends, the theme of strong, systemic defensive style remains the same under the tutelage of Coach Rick Carlisle. Despite missing two of the team’s better offensive players in Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, the team’s energy never waned defensively. Darren Collison (17 points, four assists, 8-12 FG) spring-boarded along the perimeter, harrying Steve Nash (seven points, four assists, 3-9 FG) to a dismal performance. Shawn Marion (5-11 FG, 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists) played like the defensive-focused Hall-of-Famer he is. And Elton Brand (eight points, 11 rebounds, 3-10 FG) served as a constant breath of isolation defense fresh air. Brand bothered Dwight Howard (19 points, 10 rebounds, 8-12 FG, 3-14 FT) at every turn, and managed to limit his and other Lakers’ bigs opportunities to dominate the game for any significant stretch.
  • The Mavericks’ offensive cohesion was a surprise of the most pleasant kind. Nine Mavericks’ players had seven points or more, and apart from O.J. Mayo’s late game struggles, almost no player’s production came with a dose of moderate inefficiency. The ball moved with crispness, best exemplified by a late-game play in which Darren Collison passed to a cleverly positioned Elton Brand near the elbow, who in turn quickly passed to a rolling Shawn Marion for a smooth dunk. This transition from a two-man game situation to an immediate matchup advantage, simply through an act of positioning by Brand and the team’s general offensive flow, was a brief, pretty moment of basketball, and one that nicely summed up a night of fun movement.
  • Jae Crowder (eight points, 3-7 FG) and Rodrigue Beaubois (11 points, five assists, 4-8 FG) provided a seamless transition between Mavericks’ rotations through their energized play, both offensively and defensively. Crowder and Beaubois are perhaps the two most exciting players on the team until Nowitzki returns, so their success provided a welcome sight of hope for concerned Mavericks’ fans.
  • Beaubois’ five assists actually led the team, highlighting a fairly strong performance in only 17 minutes of action.
  • It must be noted that this Lakers’ team is not yet fully formed and clearly lacks chemistry at the moment, but it is equally worth noting how much vitality a less-than-healthy Mavericks’ exuded in juxtaposition to the Lakers.
  • Eddy Curry (3-7 FG, seven points, four rebounds) and Brandan Wright (14 points, five rebounds, 5-5 FG) must also be commended for their efforts in the place of the injured Chris Kaman, as both filled in admirably in their own way. Wright finished gracefully and efficiently at the rim as he always does (while exceeding expectations, which he also has a knack for doing), and Curry provided a moderately effective defensive presence for stretches of the game.
  • An important key to the Mavericks’ victory was how well the team collectively played to its own strengths. Collison and Beaubois used their speed and mid-range game, Marion found space for those oft-used six-foot floaters, Wright demonstrated the advantages of wingspan near the rim, and Brand helped move the ball between the perimeter and key with quickness and alacrity.
  • How the Mavericks react to an unexpected victory will be very telling in regards to the team’s continued chances until Nowitzki returns. Rhythm existed on both offense and defense tonight to an almost astounding extent – is the team capable of producing a similar effort on back-to-back nights without the overwhelming talent needed to coast?

A Meditation on Movement

Posted by David Hopkins on October 30, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

movement_hopkins

“I have need of a new Herald…” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

Tonight, Darren Collison debuts as the Mavericks’ starting point guard. I wrote last week about the expectations that burden and bless O.J. Mayo, and in some regards, it’s amazing how similar the fates of Mayo and Collison are. Both had standout rookie years. Both had starting-caliber production, but were moved to bench. And both have been acquired by the Mavericks to “replace” popular guards, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd. However, while Mayo will be scrutinized for his ability to reproduce Terry, most people are letting Collison off the hook. After all, we know he’s no Jason Kidd. Shrug your shoulders and move on, right? It’s as if Mavs fans collectively agreed there are only two kinds of point guards — good point guards who play like Jason Kidd and then everyone else.

Darren Collison is not Jason Kidd. Kidd has this ability to make the ball magically appear in the hands of whomever he wants. If Kidd wanted the child in section 111, row M, seat 3 to get the ball, then by god, that child would have the ball. Collison can’t do that. But what Collison offers is, in some ways, just as mythic and powerful: Speed. It’s Collison’s birthright, and crucial to every bit of his NBA success.

From the 2012-13 edition of Pro Basketball Prospectus:

“Collison’s best asset is no secret. The son of two sprinters—his mom was an Olympian in 1984, representing Guyana—Collison might be the league’s fastest player from end to end.”

He carries the ball like Mercury, like Hermes, like Iris. Like a messenger from the gods, Collison can move.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 122, Phoenix Suns 99

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 31, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-01-31 at 12.32.09 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.0128.463.220.727.89.5
Phoenix104.251.325.017.111.9

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

  • So much of this brilliant offensive outing was built on the strength of the Mavs’ multi-angle drive-and-kick game. Initial penetration would draw defensive attention and lead to a kick to the corner, which would lead to a close-out and more dribble penetration and an ensuing kick-out from the wing, which would lead to an open three-pointer above the break. That cycle of dribble action may make it seem like the Mavs were getting nowhere, but having so may consecutive opportunities to put pressure on the opposing defense is hugely beneficial. Hence the scoreboard.
  • Which isn’t to say that the Mavs didn’t work the ball in other, less direct ways. Dallas’ ball movement was as crisp around the perimeter as it was from the inside out; despite the fact that everyone seemed to be connecting on their three-point attempts, the Mavs willingly rotated the ball around the perimeter to fully scramble the Suns’ defense and manufacture wide open attempts. They could have settled — in a sense — for good shots rather than great ones, but the ball never stuck to a single hot hand.
  • The basketball gods gave the Mavericks a gift: On the second night of a back-to-back — and following a hard-fought overtime game against the San Antonio Spurs — Dallas was given a crack at the struggling Phoenix Suns. Even better: They were given a crack at the struggling Phoenix Suns sans the one player that the Suns can never afford to lose. Again, hence the scoreboard.

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On The Ground Floor

Posted by Ian Levy on January 24, 2012 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2012-01-24 at 10.51.57 AM

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, HoopSpeakU, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

Every NBA offense begins with the same purpose – put the ball in the basket, preferably repeatedly and in a manner that’s not too straining. The pieces and approaches that are chosen to strive for that goal take an infinite number of forms. Through 18 games, the Mavericks’ offensive form has shape-shifted through a variety of ghastly and ghoulish looks.

This season, the Mavericks have scored 100.3 points per 100 possessions — the league’s 22nd most efficient offense. That’s a drop of 9.4 points per 100 possessions from last season, when they scored 109.7 points per 100 and registered the eighth most efficient offense in the league. The offense has regressed, significantly, in almost every area:

2011-20122010-2011
eFG%47.3%52.5%
TO%14.4%13.6%
ORB%23.6%24.1%
FT/FGA0.2240.222

Taking a look at the four factors, we see a team that’s getting to the line at roughly the same rate (still way below the league average), while shooting less accurately, turning the ball over more often and recovering fewer of their own missed shots. The fact that they’ve been able to start the season by winning 11 of 18 games is a testament to how much defensive compensation they’ve done.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 93, Phoenix Suns 87

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2012-01-23 at 10.50.19 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas94.098.945.735.818.811.3
Phoenix92.641.026.528.817.0

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

  • This was certainly more of a defensive win than an offensive win, though Dallas had a way of playing to the extremes on D. The Mavs did a good job of pressuring shots, clogging passing lanes, and preventing penetration in a general sense, but were periodically victimized by Steve Nash’s (eight points, 2-9 FG, 12 assists, three turnovers) typical pick-and-roll brilliance. The defensive execution on those high screen-and-rolls improved as the game went on, but as late in the third and fourth quarters we still saw the occasional breakdown in coverage that led to a wide open attempt for Marcin Gortat within five feet of the basket, or an open three-point look for a Suns shooter without so much as a mild contest. Dallas’ final defensive numbers were pretty solid, but it would be reassuring to see some steadiness in their execution. It’s easy to settle for improved effort and play in the second half en route to a win, but when a team is posting elite defensive marks for the season, they deserve a bit more scrutiny than an “all’s well that ends well” outlook would typically provide. Bravo for the rebound, but those first-half quirks can’t become too common.
  • Although Dallas struggled offensively overall (45.7% eFG%; 99.9 points per 100 possessions), this was an oddly dominant performance by the Maverick bigs. Brendan Haywood  (5-10 FG) scored Dallas’ first two buckets and finished with 10 on some pretty aggressive moves to the rim, Ian Mahinmi (4-7 FG, 9-12 FT) scored 17 points on just seven shots, and Brandan Wright came off the bench in the first half to play some productive minutes alongside Mahinmi rather than behind him. There was a stretch in the second quarter when every positive play on the floor seemed to be due to either Mahinmi or Wright, and their energy on both ends was crucial as Dallas figured out how to adjust their defensive coverage.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 98, Phoenix Suns 89

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 5, 2012 under Recaps | 2 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas91.0107.746.215.438.014.3
Phoenix97.868.212.224.416.5

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 Phoenix Suns clearly planned to smother Dirk Nowitzki (20 points, 7-17 FG, six rebounds, seven assists) with multiple defenders, and he made them pay with smart passes through and over the top of the defense. The precedent was set early in the first quarter: Shawn Marion set a baseline screen for Nowitzki only to find himself wide open under the basket just seconds later. Both defenders had rushed out to attack Nowitzki out on the wing, and in an efforts to satisfy their defensive emphasis, had forgotten about the other forward on the floor.
  • This was another very typical, low-scoring performance for Jason Kidd (three points, three assists, five rebounds, four steals), in which he manages to control the game in other ways. Nowitzki and Vince Carter helped Kidd enough in the playmaking department to make him a luxury in that regard, but his help defense was phenomenal against the Suns’ fluid offense. The game plan was simple: 1) Move Kidd off of Steve Nash as much as possible, 2) Allow him to dominate the passing lanes with his good timing and better anticipation, 3) Profit.

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 91, Phoenix Suns 83

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 28, 2011 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-03-28 at 3.50.06 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas90.0101.144.020.232.016.7
Phoenix92.243.117.527.916.7

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 prevailing storyline of this game should be — and is, for the most part — centered around the Mavs’ defense. Dallas’ first quarter D was embarrassing, and particularly so on pick-and-rolls and in transition, which just so happen to be the most elemental aspects of the Phoenix Suns’ offense. Rodrigue Beaubois had quite possibly his worst defensive showing of the season, and his blunders in defending the pick-and-roll were enough to erase the memory of him bothering Monta Ellis. Tyson Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki were hardly excused from blame though, and honestly it’s hard not to fault any Maverick on the floor. The Suns shot 13-of-23 (13-of-19 if you exclude their three point attempts) for the frame, and Steve Nash had seven assists in that quarter alone. Dallas turned it around, though. They put a lot more pressure on Nash as the game wore on, and actually rotated effectively beginning with the start of the second quarter. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Mavs’ D was in top form. The ball was taken out of Nash’s hands, and each attempt by Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Aaron Brooks, or Vince Carter to create was met with a strong defensive front. The Mavs will still have plenty to talk about in the film room, but overall the defensive turnaround was pretty astounding.
  • Related reading: Sebastian Pruiti’s breakdown of the Mavs’ pick-and-roll defense on NBA Playbook.
  • If only the offense were on-point. Although both Nowitzki and Jason Terry hit some big shots in the fourth, the Mavs struggled on offense to a truly ridiculous degree. Dallas alternated fits of turnovers with well-executed sequences ending in errant shots. The only savior? Offensive rebounding. The Mavs grabbed a rebound on over 32 percent of their misses, which when paired with their trips to the line and occasional makes, came up with just enough points to top the Suns. It’s only natural that when the defense starts functioning again the offense loses its luster.
  • One more saving grace: Jason Kidd. The Mavs may not need Kidd to be a scorer nightly, but when he’s committing turnovers and not really setting up his teammates, they do need him to do something. On Sunday, that something was scoring (and timely scoring at that, as Kidd made two huge catch-and-shoot threes last in the fourth) and defense. There’s no magic number of assists or points, but Kidd has to find ways to be productive when he’s struggling in other areas.
  • See what happens when Tyson Chandler can stay on the floor for 38 minutes? He had a sub-par first quarter, but ended up with 16 points and 18 boards, all while anchoring Dallas’ defense through the final three quarters. Chandler’s more than occasional foul trouble is a pretty big problem for the Mavs, and if they had to worry about his availability in addition to their other issues, it’s likely that Dallas would have lost this one. Brendan Haywood played reasonably well in his limited court time (he had four rebounds in a block in seven minutes), but Chandler is just in a different class.
  • As good as Chandler was, Marcin Gortat (20 points, 8-13 FG, 15 rebounds, four turnovers) had himself a game. Of course, most of his damage came off of pick-and-roll action in the first quarter; Gortat dropped 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the opening frame. From that point on, Gortat attempted just four field goals and committed four turnovers, which really speaks to the defensive work the Mavs did on Nash in the final 36. Limiting Nash’s options cuts off access to finishers and perimeter shooters, and though Gortat had a nice array of open layups and dunks in the first quarter, Dallas saw an end to that with ball pressure and sharper rotations.
  • J.J. Barea had a strange night. No Mav could match his dribble penetration, and Barea typically found a quality shot attempt for himself or a teammate at the end of his drives. Yet he ended up shooting 3-of-13 from the field, even though nearly all of his attempts were within reason. His five assists are nice, but that shooting percentage doesn’t quite do Barea’s play justice. It was just one of those nights where the shots — jumpers, layups, runners, everything — weren’t falling for him, even though his decision-making was sound.
  • I have no idea how Josh Childress ever fell out of the Suns’ rotation. It’s not just a nice, tidy 12-point, three-rebound, two-assist, two-block showing in this game, either. Childress is a player any team would be lucky to have, and though his unconventional offensive game makes him more difficult to fully utilize than a typical three-point marksman, slasher, or post-up threat, his combination of skills, smarts, and defensive ability make him a terrific addition.