You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
Don’t look now, but Mavericks basketball is fun again. Delonte West turned his second game filling in for Jason Kidd into something special, as from the very beginning he was creating some truly spectacular shots off the dribble. West found Brendan Haywood in the right spots, turning the typically clumsy center into an occasional weapon. He created situations that put so much pressure on Detroit’s defense that Dirk Nowitzki was left wide open on the weak side. He worked the ball around, made a living off of his silky handle, and picked up six steals to just five points to make his Kidd imitation complete. It’s been a true pleasure to see West go to work for the Mavs this season, and this seems like a good a time as any to remind you that this guy is playing for the league’s minimum salary. I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but hot damn did Dallas get one of the steals of free agency.
Preface: garbage time, Detroit Pistons, etc. But Brandan Wright…wowza:
Supposing the roster can hold the weight of collective expectation, can a team ever really have too many project big men?
Apparently not. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dallas will soon sign wayward forward Yi Jianlian to a one-year contract, filling out their 15-man roster and completing a trinity of low-cost gambles for a rotation big man.
Any and every Mavs-Nets game presents an obvious platform to re-examine the Kidd-Harris trade. I get that. But what it shouldn’t present is a trade framework in which one team must win and the other must lose. That’s not what any trade is about, much less the exchange of a high profile, Hall of Fame point guard and a young up and coming star.
The fact that New Jersey is, at the moment, drowning in a sea of futility, is more or less irrelevant. Devin Harris is no longer a Mav, and while I still wish him the best and like to watch him succeed (as well as tons of other likable players on that Nets roster), it’s not really Dallas’ problem anymore. Rather than point out the fact that Jason Kidd is playing better basketball than Devin Harris is this season, can’t we just praise Kidd for rebounding, shooting, and passing the ball like age doesn’t mean a damn thing? Rather than point out the Mavs’ far superior record to the Nets (which was a given, in my mind), can’t we simply appreciate the Mavs’ early successes, both offensively and defensively? The conflict between the Mavs and Nets is so artificial that it’s ridiculous, as the only source of contention seems to be the anxiety of the fan base here in Dallas.
The Kidd-Harris trade was not about making New Jersey a bad team, and it shouldn’t matter much from a Mavs-centric perspective that they are. The intrigue of a historically bad start is understandable for fans of the league and the game, but it doesn’t for one second change the value Dallas received in the deal. As of this very second, the trade is probably a win for Dallas. Kidd is playing truly inspired basketball, and he’s been a crucial part of the Mavs’ current roll. There’s simply no way that the offense functions so smoothly with the ball in Harris’ hands, even if his presence does create match-up problems and provide additional scoring. That isn’t a slight against Devin, just the acknowledgment that Kidd is a different kind of point guard whose talents make more sense in the context of this Maverick team.
The Nets didn’t sign on the dotted line with the intention of getting better today, or even tomorrow. That much is certain when you trade a point guard of Kidd’s caliber for a younger, developing talent and a pair of first round picks. One of those picks has already borne fruit in the form of Ryan Anderson. While that may not seem like much, Stan Van Gundy has made the claim that Anderson’s involvement in the Vince Carter trade was required for the swap to come to pass. That trade not only brought in Courtney Lee, a solid shooting guard with a future as a role player at the very least, but also gave the Nets all kinds of cap flexibility going forward. So the Kidd deal not only brought in the point guard of the future, but cleared cap space, brought in additional young talent that complements the core, and still adds the unknown benefit of a 2010 first rounder. To me, that’s not a loss for the Nets, regardless of what their record looks like.
We’re talking about basketball, and the natural inclination is to treat any team interaction as a contest. But to deem one team a winner does not make the other a loser. Though the jury seems to be changing its verdict on the Mavs’ side of the deal (and the new contract he signed this summer, for that matter), that doesn’t change the fact that the Nets desperately needed to reload and restructure their team. And for what it’s worth, they’ve assembled a strong group of young pieces. Harris remains one of the best young point guards in the NBA. Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Terrence Williams provide the Nets with all kinds of options at the wing offensively (Lee’s 3-point shooting, CDR’s mid-range game, Williams’ slashing and ball-handling abilities), and plenty of weapons defensively. Brook Lopez looks has already figured out what it takes to be a NBA center, even if he didn’t show it against the Mavs. And Yi Jianlian…well, he’ll always have that magical workout against the chairs. I know things in Jersey are dour right now, but with new ownership, a big move on the way, plenty of young talent, and tons of cap space, this team is doing the rebuilding thing right.