- Your Dallas Mavericks are the biggest underachievers of the decade. Not exactly the kind of accolade you’d like, but the facts speak for themselves in this case: A decade of good teams and opportunities have brought back little in terms of hardware.
- On a similar note, John Hollinger named the Mavs the best team of the decade to not win a championship. Yup. Shawn Marion was also dubbed the second most underrated player of the 2000s.
- Kevin Pelton ranked the 2005-2006 Mavs the 16th best team of the decade, as determined primarily by point differential: “Take away the NBA Finals and this is your best runner-up of the decade. Actually, take away the last three games and one quarter of the Finals and this is one of the best teams of the decade. For that matter, take away Bennett Salvatore and … never mind.”
- Go ahead and add a sore hamstring to Josh Howard’s list of lingering injuries.
- I spend a lot of time defending Erick Dampier, but this time, he’s gone and done something (or rather, said something) so completely nonsensical that I wouldn’t even think to touch it. Carl Landry is all kinds of tough.
- There’s a popular notion that the ‘feeling out’ process between a team and its coach is critical to establishing a functional relationship. That may be true, but Rick Carlisle is firmly opposed to the next step in the process, in which the players become a bit too comfortable.
- Mavs’ second round pick Nick Calathes talked to HoopsTV about playing in Greece, his college experience at Florida, and of particular interest to us, his future with the Mavs: “I talked to coach Carlisle since I’ve been here and I have talked to Mark Cuban. I was going to play in the summer league (Las Vegas), but FIBA made a rule saying that I couldn’t. So I have stayed in close contact with them throughout the year. I think Dallas could be a great fit for me, maybe in the future, but right now I am focused only on Panathinaikos and hopefully we can win the Euroleague championship again this year and we’ll go from there.”
- ‘Where are they Now?’, featuring Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Mo Ager.
- An unexpected weapon in the offense this season: the Jason Kidd-Erick Dampier pick-and-roll. The two biggest surprises in Erick Dampier’s game have been his hands and his quickness going up with the ball, both of which are absolutely critical to the PnR’s success.
- Just in case you forgot, the Mavs don’t shoot threes all that well, and don’t score at the rim. Two-point jump shots are the bread and butter of the Dallas offense, and while that doesn’t translate to elite offensive efficiency (or hasn’t…YET), it is what it is. The Mavs are some of the best in the biz at what they do. It just so happens that what they do isn’t the most efficient way to but a ball through a hoop.
- Matt Carroll is the master of his domain. Unfortunately, that domain begins and ends with the confines of the practice facility.
- The player of the decade isn’t Dirk Nowitzki, and it’s not Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, or Kevin Garnett, either. Tim Duncan is the one true king of the 2000s, and his glory is indisputable. Mavs fans have had the fortune and misfortune to see Duncan go to work on many occasions, and while that’s hardly a good thing for Dallas, it’s a great thing for fans of the game. Hail, hail, Tim Duncan.
- If this year’s All-Stars were determined by advance statistics (adjust plus-minus, and PER, specifically), then…well, Dirk would still be a starter. Some of the other selections may surprise you, though.
The first all-star balloting returns are in, and there’s plenty of good news for the Mavs. Here are the Western Conference tallies by position:
|Steve Nash||272, 135|
|Chris Paul||248, 049|
|Jason Kidd||207, 247|
|Jason Terry||131, 422|
Vote counts via NBA.com.
Shawn Marion actually ranks 7th among forwards, not that it matters all that much. But the strong showings by Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry are indicative of not only the Mavs’ solid start, but the nice voting bump given to players of the hometown team. Not that Dirk and Kidd don’t deserve their respective places in the polls, but the precedent just isn’t there to expect such fan support for Terry or Marion.
Tracy McGrady, who hasn’t played a NBA game since the early 1800s, is the big surprise. And the good news is that supposing the voters come to their senses (as they typically do by the second or third returns), Jason Kidd has a legit shot at a reserve spot. Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul figure to be the starters when all is said and done, and Steve Nash is well-deserving of a reserve selection. But aside from those three, which guard is more deserving than Kidd? The other elite guards of the West have struggled in one way or another, and though there’s a solid list of candidates (Ginobili, Williams, Roy, Parker), there’s no clear front-runner. Kidd’s Dallas affiliation would also win him a bit of favor as a reserve selection, as the coaches tend to do the hometown players a solid (a la David West in New Orleans). If that’s the case, it would be the first time the Mavs have had two players in the All-Star Game since 2007, when Josh Howard was chosen by the coaches.
The Houston Rockets visit the Dallas Mavericks
When the Mavs and the Rockets met in the 2005 playoffs, Houston appeared to be on the cusp of elite status. Not only did the wing-center combo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming make sense on a very basic, basketball level, but McGrady’s offense was an excellent counterpoint to Jeff Van Gundy’s Yao-anchored defense. The rest of the roster was appraised as paper-thin, but solid contributions from a stable of role players sopped up minutes like a Bob Sura-shaped sponge. Houston very nearly downed Dallas in the first round, before an improbable comeback (and a Game 7 dismantling) ended the Rockets’ run before it truly began.
But as people in the future are ought to do, we know now that it was never meant to be. Yao and McGrady have alternated breakdowns, JVG was chased from the head of the bench to the broadcast table, and the rest of the roster has been turned over in its entirety.
What’s even more tragic is that for the most part, the Rockets’ “downfall” was instigated by events almost entirely outside of their control. So much hinged on the knees and back of McGrady and the legs of Yao, and that’s a load those bones were not built to bare. A string of unfavorable and unlucky injuries dropped the ceiling on an entire franchise, left two star athletes in limbo at critical points in their careers, and likely cost Van Gundy his job.
Meanwhile, the Mavs have been to the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals. They’ve won 67 games and brought home an MVP award, a Coach of the Year Award, and a 6th Man Award. They defeated the older brother Spurs, took down deserter Steve Nash, and have yet to win less than 50 games. The Mavs have won and accomplished plenty, largely because Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, the linchpins of execution and chemistry in Dallas, have had sterling health over the last four seasons.
Trade the medical records of Dirk/Terry for that of Yao/McGrady, and the entire Western Conference is radically altered. Not only would the rosters of the Mavs and the Rockets be radically different, but titles would assuredly change hands, reactionary trade moves would be impacted, and who knows what would have happened to Ron Artest.
In spite of all of the injuries that have plagued the Rockets, they’ve won over 50 games in three out of the four years since those fateful 2005 Playoffs. That group of middling peripheral talent was swapped out for a more complete role playing cast under the careful, calculating watch (and maybe calculator watch) of Daryl Morey. The wacky world of advanced statistical analysis has built surprisingly competent teams in Houston, with this year’s outfit being no exception. Despite the fact that most players on the roster shouldn’t be considered a primary or even secondary offensive option, Houston is locked with Dallas for the top spot in the Southwest Division. That’s a hell of a rally for a squad missing their top two players, who also happen to be the floor generals for both ends of the court. With no McGrady or Artest to provide the scoring punch, the Rockets are STILL 8th in the league in offensive rating. And with no Yao inside, the Rockets are STILL in the top half of the league in defensive rating. Those are decent numbers for any team, much less one thought to fall out of the playoff race entirely.
I’d like to think that in the bizarro universe I’ve painted for you, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would be able to accomplish the same, or at least a comparable product. Like Morey, both Cuban and Nelson are known for the ingenuity. Combine that innovative side with a willingness to pull the trigger on potential deals, and you have the ingredients necessary to assemble a scrappy, underdog squad. There’s no way of knowing whether Josh Howard and Erick Dampier (and Devin Harris?) could lead a team to the playoffs with a Rockets-esque cast, but I have no hesitation in saying that it would be difficult to put the Mavs and Rockets in better hands.
- Creeping into my list from Friday: Dwyer’s ranking of the top ten defenders of the decade, which includes Jason Kidd at number 8. Kidd’s not that defender anymore, and he probably wasn’t during his first stint with the Mavs, either. Still, give the guy his due.
- It’s hardly news by now, but Stephen Jackson wants out of Golden State…and back in to Texas. Jax is a Port Arthur native looking to come home, and also a quality two-way shooting guard with a big contract and apparently a distaste for the current climate in the Bay area. More to come on Jackson’s potential place in Dallas, but on paper it would make the wings awfully crowded.
- More on Jackson here, here, here, and here.
- Tracy McGrady could be back sooner than initially thought.
- The Mavs apparently talked trade with the Jazz about Carlos Boozer, but I’m almost thankful we were spared from that headache.
- The Rockets defense is stupid good. Ron Artest was already the best perimeter defender in the league, with Shane Battier not far behind. You combine those two with a shot blocker in Yao Ming and an aggressive defensive gameplan, and you’ve got quite a powerhouse on your hands. Losing McGrady for the season and Rafer Alston via trade was supposed to hurt the Rockets’ offense, but in the process they may have also ditched their two worst defenders in favor of more minutes for Battier and bullish point guard Kyle Lowry. (EDIT: But don’t take my word for it. Read Kevin Arnovitz’s redonkulous breakdown of the Rockets’ defense on LeBron James in last night’s game.)
- It can’t ever feel good to be traded. Even though on a lot of levels I’m sure it feels good for a Pau Gasol to go from a team like the Grizz to a team like the Lakers, it’s also a team giving up on you. Whether you’re the star, a role player, or a bench warmer, the knowledge that the general manager and coaching staff that you trusted does not believe that you can help them win games (even if it’s not the case) has to hit hard. Antoine Wright reflects on his feelings about his trade to the Mavs a year ago (Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News): “‘I felt betrayed a little bit because I wasn’t supposed to be in the trade,’ Wright said Thursday. ‘[The Nets] said ‘Don’t worry about it. Go on vacation.’ Then I’m in Miami [during the All-Star break] and I’m looking at the bottom of the screen and I’m going, ‘Wright? Is that me?’ That was the first I heard of being traded.’ Sure enough, that was Wright’sname crawling along the ticker. ‘That’s when it hit me that I was a throw-in,’ he said.”
- Part 3 of Dirk’s interview with Five Magazine.
- Rick Carlisle on Josh Howard, echoing my thoughts in this post yesterday (Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News): “His spirits are better. You can just tell the way he’s bouncing around the court. The game’s a lot more fun when you’re not in some kind of pain.”
T-Mac’s out, Rafer just got traded, and it’s doubtful that Kyle Lowry and Brian Cook will have cleared their physicals by gametime. Trap game? You bet.
The Mavs are playing well, and could end up getting ahead of themselves. Yao Ming historically has done well against Erick Dampier, and shackled Damp from accomplishing much of anything. Ron Artest is still the game’s premier wing defender, and he’ll make Josh Howard’s (and maybe Dirk’s) life a living hell. At this point in the game, the Dallas Mavericks are a better team than the Houston Rockets. But if you’ve watched the Mavs this season, you should know that that fact might not stop them from blowing this one.
Or maybe those were the old Mavs. One could only hope. Was it really so easy? Hand the reins to Kidd, hire Darrell Armstrong, and call it a day? The defensive problems still linger, but the rotations have been better, the individual efforts have been stronger, and the rebounds are triggering the offense. The offense stagnates at times, but I credit that more to the absence of Terry than any serious strategic flaw. But after months and months of deliberation about who to trade and who to blame, I’m still watching the Mavs with a cautious eye. Good things rarely come so easy.
This may seem like a contradictory message from my morning mantra. It is, in a sense. It’s hard to trust this team, and so I’m left in an awkward middle ground; the Mavs have shown enough life to spark my hopes, but they’ve waffled on their potential so many times this season that I should know better. Still, in my heart of hearts, I want this team to be great. I want the Mavs to rise up the Western ladder. I want them to go out tonight and punk the Rockets. I’m even hopeful that all of those things are possible. We won’t have a good litmus test until Terry returns, but in the meantime let’s get this party started, shall we?
- You know you’re for real when you’re sweating spirits. Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: “‘We definitely had a good sweat,’ Dirk Nowitzki said, ‘and some of the guys obviously had to sweat some of the booze out from over the break.” And with that, the Mavericks declared themselves purged of any toxins from the pre-All-Star portion of the season, or any they may have picked up over the weekend.’
- David Lord’s last resort trade scenario? Antoine Wright and Jerry Stackhouse for Mikki Moore and John Salmons. I don’t love Mikki Moore’s game, but he’s a decent back-up center and a good guy. Not that that’s exactly an applicable skill. Still, a pretty good trade for both sides.
- The Mavs play the Nets tonight. Devin Harris plays for the Nets. The trade deadline is tomorrow. Prepare to be bombarded with considerations, “looks back,” and nostalgia. Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offers a decidedly nonconfrontational perspective on Kidd-Harris a year later: “The humorous part of the argument is that a year later, both sides were right. Avery Johnson, Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban were right and so were Rod Thorn and Lawrence Frank. The Jason Kidd-Devin Harris trade has worked out fine for the Mavericks and the Nets. Kidd has been the engine of a team that has gone 29-14 since a difficult 2-7 start under a new coaching staff with a new system. With total freedom that he had never experienced as a professional, Harris has thrived in New Jersey, although he has tailed off a little from his torrid start.” I’m sure plenty of people would disagree. Of course if the Mavs’ play of late lasts into the playoffs, everyone might be singing a different tune.
- David Moore of The Dallas Morning News continues on that note, offering a black-and-white evaluation: “The eve of this one-year anniversary is the perfect time to reflect on how the deal went down and assess its impact. Thanks to the NBA, by the way, for inviting Devin Harris and the New Jersey Nets to American Airlines Center to commemorate the event. Debate the merits of the exchange all you want and marvel over Harris’ ascension. It’s fun. But remember, the Mavericks acquired Kidd for one reason and one reason only: to return to the Finals. If the team fails to do so while he wears a Mavericks uniform, the trade was a bad one.”
- Big news of last night: Tracy McGrady will miss the rest of the season and plans to undergo the game-altering microfracture knee surgery. Depending on how you view the Rockets, this is either a good thing (T-Mac is a ball-stopper, takes too many contested jumpers, etc.) or a bad thing (he’s a team leader and a former All-Star). Regardless, injured McGrady wasn’t doing them any good. I’m somewhere in between the two camps, but I do think that the Hornets losing Tyson Chandler trumps this. Houston still starts Shane Battier and Ron Artest on the wings, and that’s nothing to scoff at.
- Rick Carlisle, via Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “‘I am not anticipating a big trade,’ the coach said after the afternoon session. ‘I expect (the post-deadline roster) to look a lot like it does now.’” BO-RING.