The Rundown is back. Every Monday (unless there’s a better feature to run with), The Rundown will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, with a unique spin. Simply put, it is your Monday catch-up on all things with the Dallas Mavericks.
The week was highlighted with trade rumors, determining if Dirk Nowitzki’s basketball game was dead and actual basketball. As usual, it was an up and down week for the Mavericks. The final game before the Rundown, against the Los Angeles Lakers, might prove to be the moment where people might need to find nails for the 2012-13 coffin for Dallas. There’s still time for them and they’re not mathematically out of the picture, but that loss against the Lakers will hurt in a big way. Let’s take a look at the week for that was for Dallas.
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 Mavericks have failed consistently when trailing in close contests this season, which made the Mavericks last-minute triumph on Friday night feel particularly rewarding. Mike James (2-4 FG, 1-2 3PT, five points) and Vince Carter (7-13 FG, 5-7 3PT, 22 points, nine rebounds) nailed consecutive essential threes in the final minute, the latter of which secured the Mavericks’ win.
Vince Carter’s three served as a nice reminder of why the Mavericks appeared so reluctant to trade Carter as the deadline neared. He’s been frankly great in comparison to expectations this season, through an amalgam of three-point skill, defensive improvement, and solid rebounding. Few players fulfill their roles as well as him, and never was that more true than in the final momentous seconds of a badly needed win.
Dirk Nowitzki (10-17 FG, 2-3 3PT, 25 points, seven rebounds, four assists) controlled the game offensively from the mid-range areas, namely on the right side, and continued his trend of looking progressively more comfortable serving as the Mavericks’ primary focal point on any given possession. The spacing Dirk creates just by finding a jumper rhythm early on is absolutely vital to the Mavericks three-point shooting and scoring efforts (Dallas was 8-20 from three tonight).
A couple of other thoughts: Bernard James (2-2 FG, four points, six rebounds, seven blocks) played an aesthetically pleasing and effective game tonight. He finished well, rebounded very well, and defended tenaciously. Seven blocks in 15 minutes is pretty impressive, no matter how you view it. I also want to mention how well the Mavericks passed tonight: 26 assists to 12 turnovers, a ratio I’d partially assign to Dirk’s presence and partially to the measure of perimeter spacing the Hornets allowed, which the Mavericks seized strongly.
Thermodynamics (n.) – the science concerned with the relations between heat and mechanical energy
Welcome to Thermodynamics: Post All-Star Weekend Edition. What does that mean? It means the Mavs had only one game this week, which renders pretty meaningless a weekly hot-cold column like this one (yeah, okay, this column is always meaningless; I see you, wise guy).
Instead of making this a hot-cold column exclusively about the Mavs-Magic game, let’s also expand into some of the fun off-court shenanigans going on in the world of ball.
Week 17 (Mavs v. Magic, All-Star game, trade deadline)
Vince Carter’s run at the end of the third quarter against Orlando last night caused one of the most intense and sudden momentum shifts you’ll ever see in an NBA game. The Mavs had been lethargic for the entire frame, were already down six points, and looked like they might be on the path toward a home blowout loss. Then OJ Mayo makes a huge hustle play to block a JJ Redick layup, and Carter scored on an alley-oop dunk four seconds later.
Four seconds. That’s all it took. From that point on, the Mavs dominated the game. Carter hit two more threes to end the quarter, and that was pretty much all she wrote. The Mavs dominated the fourth (complete with a totally gratuitous spinning-dance-move-assist-into-celebratory-arm-gesture pass from Carter to Marion), and the Magic walked off the court with a 15-point loss.
Carter also left his mark this week on an event where he wasn’t even present. During Saturday night’s dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, eventual champion Terrence Ross donned Carter’s old Toronto Raptors jersey and threw down a beautiful windmill dunk. Given that the Mavs had no players participating in All-Star festivities for the first time in two decades, it was a nice treat to see a current Mav represented in some capacity (actually, it was two Mavs — Dahntay Jones, live and in the flesh, assisted with one of Jeremy Evans’ dunks as well). And hey, old man Carter can still ball a bit.
Dallas started the “second half” of the season on a good note as they recorded a 111-96 victory over the Orlando Magic. The Magic now are a whopping 3-26 since Dec. 20. The game was defined by one play. The Mavericks double digit lead in the first half quickly evaporated and they found themselves trailing by six points in the third quarter. Jameer Nelson stole the ball away from O.J. Mayo. Nelson passed the ball to J.J. Redick for a breakaway layup. Mayo hustled down the court and was able to pin the ball against the rim. He recovered the ball and delivered the high heat on a lob pass to Vince Carter for the slam dunk. The play triggered a 13-0 run. Dallas closed the game on a 21-8 run en route to the victory.
Some notes before the quotes:
- Vince Carter went 4-of-9 from beyond the arc against the Magic on Wednesday and recorded 14 points and a season-high eight assists in 26 minutes off the bench. It was his 10th game with four-plus 3-pointers this season. Carter had only one game with four-plus treys all of last year (5-7, at Phoenix 1/30/12). He has shot 14-of-23 (.609) from deep over his last three games. Carter has also hit at least one 3-pointer in each of his last 12 games. It’s tied for his longest such streak this season (he made at least one trey in 12 straight games from Nov. 17 through Dec. 12). Prior to this season, the last time Carter made at least one triple in 12 straight games was from Dec. 10, 2010 through Jan. 22, 2012, when they hit at least one 3-pointer in 16 consecutive games.
- Elton Brand went 5-for-6 from the field and 5-for-5 from the line before intermission and led all players with 15 points in 15 first-half minutes. It was the most points he scored in any half this season (previous high: 14 points in the first half vs. Minnesota Jan. 14). Brand finished with 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. The Mavericks improved to 3-1 this season when he scores 17-plus points in a game.
- Shawn Marion (17), Elton Brand (17), Vince Carter (14), O.J. Mayo (13), Dirk Nowitzki (12) and Mike James (season-high 12) all scored in double figures for Dallas in the win. The Mavericks improved to 11-5 this season when they have at least six players in double figures.
- The Mavericks recorded only nine turnovers against Orlando on Wednesday. The Mavericks have now recorded 12-or-fewer turnovers in each of their last five games.
- The 42 first-quarter points were the most by the Mavericks in any quarter this season (previous high: 40 points in second quarter vs. Washington Nov. 14). Prior to Wednesday’s game, the most points Dallas scored an opening quarter this year was 39 at Houston Dec. 8 (outscored Houston 39-24 in the first quarter). The Mavericks have now scored 30-plus points in the first quarter in three of their last four games.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ victory over Orlando.
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
With 2:03 in the third quarter and Dallas down 79-73, Darren Collison took a three point shot which rebounded badly off of the front of the rim. Vince Carter made an attempt at a tip out and Shawn Marion and J.J. Redick chased the rebound past half court. Marion saved the ball from going out, slapping it towards an open O.J. Mayo. Oddly, Mayo did not react to the ball bouncing towards him. Jameer Nelson hustled and beat Mayo to the ball and passed to a cutting Redick for a lay in. Somehow, Mayo recovered defensively and blocked Redick’s lay up attempt. Mayo grabbed the rebound, drove the length of the floor and found Carter for an ally-oop dunk. This play, and the following Carter three pointer, brought the momentum back to Dallas in a game they could not afford to lose.
I rewound and watched this particular sequence five times. As delightful as the end result was, that Mayo was even beaten to the ball by Nelson is inexcusable. Mayo was closer, but made no attempt to get the ball. The Maverick announcing crew made no mention of this initial lack of effort and I wonder if they would have had Redick converted the lay in. Though the narrative will be “O.J Mayo’s effort saved the day” and it did, apparently Dirk pointed out post game that Mayo should’ve gotten to the ball before Nelson. In a way, it felt like the O.J. Mayo experience in a nutshell: unbelievable poor decision making followed by a high light reel play.
Vince Carter had a season high assist night, dishing eight out in a mere 26 minutes and only posting one turnover. His best assist occurred in the fourth quarter: Carter stole an outlet after an Orlando rebound and whipped a behind the back pass to Shawn Marion for a dunk.
The Mavericks have the league’s worst point differential in the first six minutes of a game this season. An emphasis on getting off to a good start was an apparent sticking point during all star break practices. The Mavericks answered the call, outscoring Orlando 22-14 in the first six plus minutes and scored 51 points in the first 15 minutes of game action.
On Tuesday, Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned Darren Collison’s atrocious defense, saying Collison is “lost on defense, prone to confusion and especially to veering way off course negotiating picks. Point guard defense matters, and Collison’s is a big net negative.” Early in the season it felt as if the main Maverick problem was the lack of a solid rim protector (and because I pine for Tyson Chandler). As the season has progressed it’s become glaringly obvious that the Maverick back court would have a hard time staying in front of a bolted down park bench. Orlando is not a good basketball team and that the Mavericks had trouble stopping their penetration all night long is really concerning.
Elton Brand (17 points on 6 of 9 shooting) showed his value repeatedly against the Magic. His shot making abilities bolster the Dallas offense, particularly on nights when the Big German’s shot won’t fall. At the end of the first quarter, he scored on three straight possessions: a face up jumper from the left block, a driving lay up after facing up on the same block, and a fall away jumper from the free throw line. His lift may be limited, but in the right situations he can carve up a defense.
For some reason, I felt Chris Kaman looked like a giant substitute history teacher with his bench wardrobe. Get well soon, Mr. Kaman.
During the week long break, I spent a fair amount of time watching Dirk Nowitzki highlights from the 2011 title run. To call him a different player now is a mild understatement. The level of explosive strength in his legs simply isn’t there in his moves this season. That’s an obvious side effect of his knee surgery, but it’s also been two seasons without a training camp for Nowitzki. Dirk hasn’t been ready to play in a way that he’d be satisfied with since the summer of 2011. It’s clear in the way he’s shooting, and while he looked better before the all star break, a 4 for 13 shooting night for 12 points is not a the kind of game Dallas can get from Dirk if they expect to make any sort of run for the final playoff spot.
Mike James (12 points, four assists) received back up point guard minutes and his numbers were solid. I think we’d all prefer Roddy Beaubois at this point, mainly because decent statistical nights like this one seem to bolster the confidence Jones has in himself. Prior to the game against Orlando, Jones was shooting a dreadful 26.9% from the field.
Case and point with Collison’s defense happened with 3:29 in the first quarter. Jameer Nelson saw Collison open himself up defensively as he anticipated a high screen. Nelson simply drove to the basket, right past a bewildered Collison. Shawn Marion had to leave his man and rotate to the driving Nelson, who passed to a wide open DeQuan Jones for a dunk.
The rare jump shot from Brandan Wright (eight points, eight rebounds) is something to see. He jumps very high and when he took and made one in the forth quarter on the right baseline, the ball nearly went out of the TV camera’s range, so high was his shot arc.
One of the simplest defensive principles when trying to stop fast break is this: you must make the ball handler make a decision. With five minutes in the first, Shawn Marion grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. He was facing a three on two with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo on the wings. Oddly, the two Magic defenders stuck with Mayo and Collison, never forcing Marion to do so much as alter his direction. Marion drove the length of the floor and finished with a monstrous dunk.
Dirk has been reduced to a jump shooter this season. His shots tonight all came within the flow of the Dallas offense, but the offense doesn’t seem to end up with Dirk getting the ball, back to the basket, in his former sweet spots. It’s unclear to me whether this is by design, a matter of the Dallas guards being unable to make entry passes, or if Dirk isn’t working for the ball the way he used to. Against the Magic, Dirk did not take a single shot closer than 12 feet from the rim.
Watching J.J. Redick move without the ball is entertaining. There wasn’t a single Maverick assigned to him tonight that had much success at all in staying in front of him. His career numbers compared to O.J. Mayo are not that different, but Mayo could learn a thing or two from Redick about how to get the most out of his talent.
This recap seems overly negative for a game Dallas won by 15. It was a close game from the 2nd quarter until the 5 minute mark of the fourth, when Carter hit a three to push the Dallas lead up to seven points. Within three and a half minutes the lead ballooned up to 18 points. This late game 14-0 run masked a number of problems which aren’t going away for the Mavericks.
Kirk is a member of the Two Man Game family. Follow him on Twitter @KirkSeriousFace for ranting about Dallas basketball, TV, movies, video games, and his dog.
An NBA All-Star roster without a single Dallas Maverick is a rare sight to behold. For the first time since 1998, Dallas fans had no familiar faces to celebrate. Dirk Nowizki, a Western Conference fixture since 2002, will return to Dallas from his first real “break” over All-Star Weekend in over a decade. He will return not from Houston, the All-Star host but, as reported by Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, Mexico. This joins the Mavericks’ dim playoff chances as an unusual new reality in Dallas.
Not all the unusual events in Dallas, however, have been negative. Lost in the return of Dirk Nowitzki, the revolving roster, the inconsistent play and the trade talk is another unusual occurrence. For the first time in a spell, Dallas has a rookie of value in former junior-college standout turned Marquette University graduate Jae Crowder. There is a persistent worry in Dallas over the the team’s ability to develop young talent — a weakness which fans overlooked because of quality overall team play. In 2013, however, the roles in Dallas have reversed; the team’s general malaise has eclipsed the promise of Crowder’s rookie campaign.
It’s time for another round of Bloom and Doom. For those that missed the first batch of it in December, here you go. January’s batch can be seen here.
In an effort to keep the discussion going, I sought out ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon for his opinion on pressing issues for the Dallas Mavericks. You can view MacMahon’s coverage of the Mavericks at ESPNDallas.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @espn_macmahon. Periodically, we are going to touch base and discuss topics with our own unique point of view.
MacMahon likes to call it like he sees it. That perspective can hover on the other end of the spectrum from my optimistic viewpoint on things. You could say it’s a classic case of good cop, bad cop. Our different perspectives should make for an interesting conversation on hot topics revolving around the Mavs. This round of bloom and doom really hits the crux of it all with the team. Everything is right in MacMahon’s wheelhouse, and the second-to-last question might be the hardest one I’ve had to answer.
A few weeks ago, Kevin Pelton of ESPN looked at the best contracts in the NBA by multiplying a player’s WARP (wins above replacement level) by the average amount that teams pay for each WARP. I’d like to approach this same problem from a different angle: namely, how much value are teams getting out of the salaries they pay their players? Instead of looking at WARP, I’ll focus on win shares, another metric of player value. While Pelton’s methodology assumes that the overall NBA salary market is priced correctly (therefore attaching a value to each WARP a team pays for), my method makes no assumptions about overall pricing accuracy and instead seeks to evaluate relative player salary and performance.
At a basic level, my goal is to quantitatively evaluate the best and worst contracts in the NBA. To do so, I construct a simple metric that I call the “value ratio.” This is defined as: (Player Salary/Median Salary)/(Player Win Share/Median Win Share). In effect, I am comparing the amount over (or under) which a player is being paid vs. the median NBA player with that player’s production over (or under) that of a median player. Comparing salaries and win shares with median values serves as a way of normalizing these metrics and making them more readily comparable to each other. A simple way to think about this metric is the following: if the ratio is less than 1, the player is undervalued; if the ratio is greater than one, the player is overvalued; if the ratio equals one, the player is properly valued. In short, the most valuable players will be those with the smallest value ratios.
To get a more full picture of player production, Wang used a three-year average of a player’s Win Shares. To compensate for the fact that salary is not consistent in every year of a contract he averaged the per year salary commitments of this year and each remaining year on a player’s contract. There are several holes in his method, which he acknowledges at the end of his post, but if you know the context for specific players and specific teams, the stories told by his numbers become much richer.
Several Mavericks showed up in different places in Wang’s results. With a value ratio of 0.131, Elton Brand’s contract provided the 7th greatest value of any player who has played at least 500 minutes this season. At a value ratio of 0.259, Darren Collison’s contract provided the 10th most value of any player who had played at least 1,150 minutes this season. Driven by curiosity, I pulled together his results for all of the Mavericks to see how the team’s current crop of contracts rated in value.
The trade deadline is always an interesting time for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has always said two things when it comes to that time of the year: the team will always be opportunistic and don’t believe what you hear or read when it comes to them. The team is at a crossroads. The chances of making the playoffs are slim and the team has to do what they can to ensure they don’t waste any more time off of Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The deadline on the 21st is one way they can help build for the futre. How do the Mavericks assess things as the trade deadline approaches? Let’s look at the assets and what could be out there.
It turned out to be a historic night as the Dallas Mavericks recorded a 123-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Vince Carter made a season-high six 3-pointers against the Kings on Wednesday (he shot 6-of-9 from long range). His previous high triple total this season was five on two occasions. Carter’s fourth trey of the game at the 1:08 mark of the third quarter was the 1,600th 3-pointer of his career. He became the 11th player in NBA history with at least 1,600 career triples. His fifth trey at the 27.9-second mark of the third was his 100th three of the season.
With his sixth triple at the 2.9-second mark of the third quarter, he passed Larry Bird (21,791) for 29th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The 3-point basket gave him 21,794 points for his career. Carter went 3-for-3 from deep to the end the third quarter and scored Dallas’ final nine points of the period. Carter scored 26 points against Sacramento and now has 21,796 career points. Gary Payton ranks 28th all-time with 21,813 career points.
Carter went 6-of-9 from beyond the arc en route to 26 points in 23 minutes. It was his sixth 20-point effort of the season (4-2 record). It was also his third game with 25-plus points and his ninth game with four-plus 3-pointers this season. Carter exploded in the third quarter as he scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting (5-of-9 from long range) in only 6:33 of action.
Some notes before the quotes:
- With an offensive rebound at the 10:51 mark of the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki passed Mark Aguirre (1,259) for second place on the Mavericks’ all-time offensive rebounding list. James Donaldson is Dallas’ all-time leader with 1,296 offensive boards.
- The Mavericks recorded their 18th consecutive win against the Kings in Dallas. It’s the Mavericks’ longest ever home winning streak against one opponent.
- Darren Collison record 12 points and seven assists in 18 first-half minutes. His first assist of the second half (eighth of the game) was the 1,400th assist of his career. Collison finished with 18 points, four rebounds and nine assists in 29 minutes.
Here is the quoteboard for Dallas’ victory over Sacramento.