What’s in a Name?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 10, 2010 under News | Be the First to Comment

The name search for the Frisco D-League team is now over, as the Mavs’ D-League affiliate for next season will be the Texas Legends. It was definitely the best of the three finalists (with the two lesser names being the Texas Shooters and the Texas Stallions), though I still think the online submission process could have produced something far better.

Still, Legends they will be, even if that name is more than a bit presumptuous. Doesn’t having a name like ‘Legends’ put a bit of pressure on a D-League team that still lacks an actual roster? If they’re anything less than legendary will the arena explode like the head of a contradiction-pondering robot? Or at the very least, aren’t they just asking for a scoff and snide remark from fans every time they drop a game?

Then again, this is the D-League. There are Red Claws, Mad Ants, and the Armor. Those names are all pretty awesome, but they’re certainly off the beaten path. Legends continues in that same vein, even if it is quite the moniker for a first-year team to live up to.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 1, 2010 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • We’re down to three possible names for the Mavs soon-to-be Frisco affiliate in the D-League: the Texas Shooters, the Texas Stallions, and the Texas Legends. I’m partial to Legends out of the three, but I still think there has to be a better name out there.
  • Sebastian Pruiti broke down the Grizzlies’ final play in regulation over at NBA Playbook, and it’s a sequence so miserable that it’s worth reliving. Plays like that are proof of just how much late-game execution matters; have we seen the Mavs do anything even comparable all season long?
  • Tickets for the first two games of the Mavs’ first round playoff series will go on sale this Saturday at 10 AM local time. You can buy your tickets here.
  • Dirk’s post-game scrum from last night. Here’s Rick Carlisle as well.
  • An interesting tidbit: Out of all four teams to have won 50 games in 10 consecutive seasons, only one of them did so with the same leading scorer in each of those seasons. Care to guess which one?
  • Vince Carter should be available for tonight’s game against the Mavs after missing most of Orlando’s last game with a toe injury.
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com includes Shawn Marion on his ballot for first team All-Defense, and I tend to agree. In terms of forwards, Marion is an excellent selection. He’s right up there with Schuhmann’s other choices (Varejao, Garnett, and Gerald Wallace) in my mind, it’s just a matter of preference.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 4, 2010 under xOther | 3 Comments to Read

  • Ladies and gentlemen, the ever-quotable Dirk Nowitzki, in reference to Andre Miller’s 52-point night and Monta Ellis’ 46-point night: “That’s what we do. We get guys contract extensions.”
  • I’m thrilled that guys like Coby Karl and Anthony Tolliver are being called up from the D-League, but they’re not exactly reppin’. Josh Howard went to work against Karl in the post time and time again with plenty of success, and neither Tolliver nor Karl could contribute much of anything in terms of points last night.
  • The attendance goal for the All-Star Game: 100,000.
  • Jeff “Skin” Wade can’t help but wonder if Rodrigue Beaubois is already actualizing a bit of his potential as a defensive difference-maker: “After the game Rick Carlisle mentioned that Rodrigue Beaubois is already developing into one of their better on-the-ball defenders out on the perimeter. There’s a need to have him on the floor because of the athleticism he brings to an older team, but with virtually all of his minutes outside of the New York game that Jason Kidd missed coming at the off-guard, he’d be eating into minutes where the Mavs have guys like Jason Terry and Josh Howard who need to be on the floor…Against the Warriors, he received all of the available backup point guard minutes in the second half. I’m fascinated to know what the plan had been had he not gotten hurt against Utah. As the Mavericks try to find ways to keep opposing guards from enjoying career nights against them, will Roddy B at point guard be a factor for his defensive spark as much as the potential for him to get some offense going coming off the bench?”
  • Everything is A-OK with Dirk’s thumb.
  • SLAM’s Holly MacKenzie checked in from Toronto with an important announcement from last night’s Nets-Raptors game: “It was fun to see former Raptor Kris Humphries have a double-double off of the bench. It was not fun having two women scream his name every single time he was even remotely near the Nets bench.” Miss you, buddy.
  • Del Harris wants to return to work the Frisco-Dallas connection, though it’s not official as of yet whether or not he’ll slide right back in as GM in Frisco.
  • Chad Ford (Insider) names Josh Howard as one of the 20 players most likely to be moved by the deadline. Here’s his blurb on Josh: “Howard, at age 29, is having the worst season of his career and has struggled to play alongside Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion. But other teams have interest because his contract has a team option for next year, which means a team can acquire him now and decide this summer whether to keep him as player, hold on to him as a 2011 expiring contract or decline the option and take the savings right away. The Raptors and Kings have been rumored to have the most interest.” Just as a note of interest, Caron Butler is listed at #4, Andre Iguodala #5, Kevin Martin #12, and Chris Bosh at #15.
  • Dirk will participate in the “Shooting Stars” competition representing…well, the state of Texas. With no WNBA team in sight, “Team Texas” will borrow Nowitzki, San Antonio’s Becky Hammond, and former Rocket Kenny Smith.

To the Sea and Back

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 3, 2010 under News | Be the First to Comment

Some potentially great news for those keeping close tabs on the soon-to-be Mavs D-League affiliate in Frisco: Del Harris, who was once tapped to be the GM of the Frisco team, has left his position as an assistant coach with the Nets. The very same position, you may recall, that took Harris away from Frisco in the first place. Below is the statement from Del himself, via Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger:

This is to announce that I have decided to return to my home in the Dallas, TX area after two months with the New Jersey Nets. Even though we have had a difficult time winning as many games as we had hoped to, I enjoyed very much my time with my good friend, GM/interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, the Nets players, organization and the local community. All were positive and helpful. I had not experienced such a losing situation since 1983, but because the players are such good people, the losing of games did not become the chaotic situation that has happened to so many teams who were locked into a total rebuilding year.

The reason for the timing of my return is that I came to help Kiki in his first venture into team coaching. I have seen Kiki go from a man who was trying to encourage a team that was down to one who has developed a good sense of coaching. I believe in these recent games there is strong evidence that the team has gotten over the hump and will be much more competitive the rest of the way. This experience will help Kiki in his role as general manager immensely. Every GM can gain from having the coaching experience.

My sincere thanks to Rod Thorn, Kiki, the Nets players and organization for the opportunity to experience the Nets and the good people of the New Jersey area. As difficult as this year has been for the Nets and their fans, I look forward to seeing the Nets capitalize on the moves they have made that have put them in a position to develop into an elite team over the next couple of years and on into the future.

Assuming that Harris will return to work with Frisco seems perfectly reasonable. After all, he left for New Jersey on the most pleasant of terms, and Donnie Nelson has wisely decided to wait on filling the position. After all, the team has no roster and no name, so is it really that pressing to have a general manager when other capable basketball minds are already on the staff? But now the opportunity has arisen to bring Harris to Frisco, and it’s entirely likely that Nelson and Harris are already a few steps ahead of all of us.

UPDATE: Donnie Nelson is, somewhat predictably, welcoming Harris back with open arms (via Tim MacMahon): “I told him the GM chair will be open…It’s there for him. We’re fully hoping and expecting he will come back.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 2, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • There was supposed to be another installment of Moving Pictures up this morning, but I’m having trouble uploading it to YouTube. Stay frosty, I’ll post it as soon as it’s available.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching has pieced together a fairly conclusive scouting report on defending Dirk Nowitzki. Guarding Dirk is an unenviable task and a near-impossible one, but Sebastian does a fine job of pointing out a few of the things that tend to give Dirk trouble. It’s well worth a read, even if I don’t necessarily buy the notion that Sean Williams is a disciplined enough defender to draw the Dirk assignment. I’m not sure the Nets have better options, but Williams? On defense? Against an offensive player notorious for his footwork and ball fakes? I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Donnie Nelson will play the waiting game before hiring a new general manager for the Frisco job, mostly due to a potential return for Del Harris after this season’s conclusion. It’s a savvy move by Nelson, and I have a feeling that his patience on this won’t go unrewarded. Also, check out Matt Moore’s reaction here.
  • Shaun Powell of NBA.com ranked the top fifteen off-season moves…and failed to include or even mention the Mavs’ acquisitions. I guess the integration of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden has been so seamless as to elude public perception entirely, despite the fact that both are helping their team (and looking more comfortable doing it) than just about everyone south of Jamal Crawford on that list. (link via a Fanshot by DOH on Mavs Moneyball)
  • Let the Rodrigue Beaubois vs. Devin Harris debates begin!
  • Chris Sheridan on the newly christened Nets coach (and acting general manager), Kiki Vanderweghe: “Like those front office folk, Vandeweghe was attending the news conference because he had to. His ambition is to run his own NBA team from the front office — not from the bench. Thorn, who noted that all three of the coaches he has hired in New Jersey — the recently departed Lawrence Frank, Byron Scott and Vandeweghe — had no prior NBA head-coaching experience, said he spoke to six people regarding the position. Note that he didn’t say he interviewed six people, only that he spoke to six people, before informing Vandeweghe that the job was his. ‘Rod is a very persuasive guy, and much smarter than I am,” Vandeweghe said. “I want to thank Rod for not necessarily making it my choice.’ Vandeweghe was asked: Did you ever want to be a coach? “‘Not until Rod called me yesterday,’ Vandeweghe said. ‘But it’s a challenge, and you embrace the challenge. I’m sure all the coaches I’ve had are laughing at me right now.’”
  • Donnie Nelson, reflecting on the Mavs prior to the Kidd-Harris deal (via Tim MacMahon): “The reality is that we had a whole lot of scoring and our best passer was Dirk…He’s the guy you want taking the shots, not creating shots for other folks. That was a group that was missing a quarterback in the worst way.”

Mid-Birth Crisis

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 1, 2009 under News | 3 Comments to Read

The Frisco D-League team doesn’t have a name, uniforms, or even players, but they’ve already undergone their first substantial change. Del Harris was announced as the team’s first general manager, but Harris was summoned by new Nets’ head coach Kiki Vanderweghe to be his top assistant.

It’s hard to find a coach more experienced and respected than Del Harris, and handing him the reins of the Mavs’ new D-League affiliate was a sound move by Donnie Nelson. I’m definitely curious to see what kind of basketball mind Nelson chooses to complement Nancy Lieberman and Spud Webb as the core of Frisco’s staff, but losing an established basketball mind with an established (and Dallas-based) reputation hurts. Despite only being with the Frisco organization for about a month, Harris’ departure leaves some big shoes to fill.

Cheers to long-time friend of the franchise Del Harris for the new gig, even if I wish he were still in Frisco.

Coloring Outside the Lines

Posted by Rob Mahoney on November 6, 2009 under Commentary, News | 2 Comments to Read

In life, in love, in highly competitive games of Scattergories, and of course, in basketball, there exists a delicate balance between convention and innovation. Knowing when to stick to the “tried and true” and when to take the leap is what separates the good from the truly great. Such discretion should be the ultimate goal of Donnie Nelson and Evan Wyly as they try to mold the yet unnamed Frisco NBDL team, and the earliest returns show them to be doing just that.

In my mind, the Spurs are the model. Though Marcus Williams, Ian Mahinmi, Malik Hairston, and the rest of the Austin Toros crew (bothpast and present) have yet to make a serious NBA impact, the organization seems to be doing things…ahem, the right way. Patience is a must when it comes to this process, as simply being at the helm of a D-League franchise doesn’t improve the intrinsic value of its parts. But if you put in the time and the effort from scouting to system implementation, you’re going to see results.

The notification that the Frisco Blankers will be running Rick Carlisle’s system is a wonderful start. First and foremost, Frisco will be a Mavs’ farm team. D-League assignees will be able to get some burn in the minors, but in the same in-game contexts that they’ll see in the big leagues. There obviously won’t be any Dirk Nowitzkis in the NBDL, but getting that in-game experience is vital for understanding the spacing, movement, and roles in Carlisle’s sets. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but those things are pretty important, especially for role players on the cusp of making it into the lig.

That’s exactly what’s going on in Austin, where D-Leaguers are learning the nuances of Gregg Popovich’s defense, and the proper ways to stand in the corner and nail threes. The Toros have already begun to bear fruit for SanAn, as Anthony Tolliver and a slew of Austin alumni served as rotation players late last season. They weren’t brilliant, but they were competent, and that’s exactly what the Mavs should expect to see coming out of Frisco. And that’s exactly what Del Harris, newly appointed general manager and old friend of the organization, will be looking for.

If given the opportunity, this system will produce role players. Donnie knows his way around the D-League block, as J.J. Barea was mined from that very system. That’s a pretty sizable asset to conjure out of thin air, and expect Donnie to find more and more serviceable players as this venture goes on.

But what’s important to remember in all of this is that the Mavs are not the Spurs, despite what Avery Johnson may have once led you to believe. Even if the Spurs-Toros connection is the blueprint, it’s essential that Nelson and Wyly aren’t afraid to step outside their bounds. Do what works, and to hell with what’s been done before. The D-League is the perfect place for experimentation, which is why I found great pride in the announcement that Nancy Lieberman will not only be the first female head coach in the NBA sphere, but also the coach of our soon-to-be-beloved Frisco squad. That’s absolutely tremendous, as the Mavs are not only exploring new avenues to scout playing talent, but coaching talent as well. No other NBA team employs a female coach on their staff, which puts the Mavs in a position to not only be progressive, but also opportunistic.

Nancy Lieberman knows basketball. It’s impossible to predict exactly what kind of coach she’ll be, but no one will know until the Mavericks do. That’s a terribly convenient position to be in. And though the common fan may not associate the Mavs with the avant garde, their extension into the D-League represents this organization’s mentality in the Mark Cuban era: keep thinking, keep trying, and keep flying.

The Future is Soon

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 18, 2009 under Commentary, News | 3 Comments to Read

NBDL President Dan Reed and Mavs exec Donnie Nelson announced at a press conference this afternoon that Nelson’s ownership group has purchased the already existing NBDL team the Colorado 14ers, and will move them to Frisco, TX for the 2010-2011 season.

This, contrary to what you may think you know about the NBDL, is big news.

But before we get to the facts, let’s look into the fog:

  • The team that will play in Frisco is currently nameless.  Nelson dropped the news that the name will be decided in some kind of fan contest,  and will be the Texas _______.  I’m thinking Rangers.  Or maybe Longhorns.
  • The Mavs are not officially affiliated with the 14ers (which will be renamed upon their arrival in Frisco for the 2010-1011 season)…yet.  They won’t be until next summer.  Meaning everything going on between now in then in regards to Nelson’s convenient little relationships with both teams will have to go without assignments of current and soon-to-be Mavs.

So currently, the Mavs aren’t quite on level with the Spurs in regard to their D-League ownership of the Toros.  In fact, ths situation is slightly different considering that Donnie Nelson, and not Mark Cuban, will be the owner of the _____s.  Nelson would conceivably still have near complete control of basketball operations, but it should be noted that the ownership groups are indeed different.

All of that said, I fully expect Nelson to take full advantage of the Mavs’ new little brother.

The Frisco team will likely have one, maybe two other NBA affiliates.  That’s fine by me.  Though exclusivity is my preferred method of D-League ownership, having a Mav at the helm is the next best thing.  Officially, the Mavs are allowed just two players on their roster to be assigned to their affiliate.  But obviously due to Nelson’s position with the team, he can have complete influence on how the remaining roster spots of the team are filled.  Plus, he gets an excellent look at the skills of the other affiliates’ assignees, which is perhaps just as valuable.  Nelson put a strong emphasis in the press conference of having all of these prospects within such close proximity.  All of the prospects on the team are just a short drive away, and readily available for dissection (figuratively, I hope) and evaluation.

Every team in the NBA can use more depth, and a D-League farm system is an ideal manufacturer.  The coaching staff will be in the know as to the franchise’s specific goals and methods, the players are hand-chosen by Nelson himself, and the entire on-court laboratory is but a hop, skip, and a jump from the Mavs’ front office.  The NBDL may fall short in churning out star power, but it can be a welcome and capable resource in terms of delivering role players to a team in desperate need of some.  Antoine Wright, Ryan Hollins, and James Singleton are all useful players in some regard, but have some serious flaws.  Having control of the Mavs’ D-League affiliate would not only expedite the search for capable, young role players in the future, but also the development of some of those players now.  It’s essentially a year-long summer league with a pool of prospects ripe for evaluation, and allows the Mavs to turn an on-and-off program of prospect hunting into a full-time scouting and developing dynamo.  Nelson has been tremendously successful in digging up talented players from the scrap heap, most recently with J.J. Barea and Brandon Bass.

This endeavor is completely worthwhile for the Mavs, especially as they focus on retooling for the future.  In that vein, Tim Varner wisely advised to keep the timetable realistic.  Bureacratic red tape already prevents the team from moving to Frisco until the 2010-2011 season, meaning the full benefits of team ownership will be delayed until then.  I have no doubt that Nellie Minor is already trying to figure things out in regard to the roster, but even with that in mind it is going to take time for these benefits to take shape.  The presence of the D-League in Frisco is a tremendous boon for the Mavs, but it’s simply a means toward better evaluation and development, not a catalyst.  The process won’t necessarily be expedited beyond reasonable expectations, but rather made more thorough.  The help is coming, Mavs fans.  But as always, we’ll just have to wait.