The Followill Report
TV play-by-play announcer Mark Followill has started a new blog, The Followill Report, and here are his stories:
April 24, 2007
Well I certainly didn't see this series with Golden State playing like it has up to this point. At worst I saw Dallas and the Warriors even at 2 up to this point but instead the Mavs stand one loss away from a stunning elimination. I think first we have to examine some reasons why the Mavs are in this position before examining how they climb out of this hole. But perhaps I just made the most important point. They can still climb out of this…it is not over but unfortunately I am hearing that from too many places leading into Game 5.
There are a number of reasons why Dallas is in this place to begin with. First of all Golden State seems like they have a different guy stepping up every night. I know everyone is pointing to Baron Davis and rightfully so. Davis has been the dominant player in the series. Hitting momentum changing shots, be they half-court prayers, three pointers late in the shot clock and driving to the hoop…you name it, he’s done it. However in addition to Davis who has had two 30-plus point scoring efforts, you have two others Warriors who have scored over 30 in a game in this series in Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson. And then add on to that Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus have all had big nights at least once. While Barnes has been the most consistent of the four changing games with energy and hustle, the other three have all shined at different times. Only Al Harrington has consistently played below par for the Golden State. Meanwhile Dallas does not have one guy who has played at a consistently higher level than we are accustomed to them playing. Yes, Stackhouse, Terry, Josh Howard, and even Diop have all had moments but across the board it clearly has not been enough. And of course the reason that those players are among those under focus is because Golden State’s game plan has been to take away Dirk. They have swarmed him with multiple defenders forcing him to give up the ball. When he has shots have not been hit on a consistent basis by others. The aggressive double-teaming tactics have also frustrated Dirk to the point where probably has passed it too often and has not taken the kind of shots he should. For one example, in game four rising up for a jump shot and then dishing to Buckner only two have him miss twice in close. It was an unselfish play true but probably a shot Dirk should have taken.
Finally on the issue as to why Dallas is down is they have just not finished quarters strongly on a consistent basis. I don’t know if anyone can explain what it is about that aspect of the game but it is there. Poor finishes to quarters, besides the obvious fourth, generally have a carry-over impact. Game four was an incredible example of this. The Warriors had a significant run to end the half, capped by Davis tying half court shot and then they made another run late in the third punctuated by Davis’ steal and dunk. That set the stage for their run to win the game with Davis playing a huge role in that. While Dallas saw possession after possession take on a similar pattern of perimeter passing ending with some sort of forced late in the shot clock attempt or worse yet a turnover that in several cases was created by a mental mistake or the surprisingly swarming Golden State defense. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised since they let the league in steals but certainly I think they are playing on that end of the floor at a higher level and in an even more ball-hawking way than we all expected.
So now the question is where do we go from here. For Dallas this literally boils down to the absolutely simplest of thought processes. I know it is sports cliché but it is truly one game at a time. You can’t look at it like you have to win three in a row. There is no point in worrying about a game six before you win a game five and and no point in thinking of a game seven if you don’t take game six. Win a game, stay alive, go from there, and tackle the next challenge. That has to be the mindset for Dallas right now.
Obviously Dirk has to be more of a factor. He must take more shots and take advantage of every opportunity to go quickly in transition before the defense is set and all of the chances he gets against smaller defenders or single coverage. I love that we saw Dirk as more of a distributor this year but he is not the probable MVP for nothing. He can carry this team. Yes he needs help from Terry, Howard, Harris, Stack etc but he has to be the man too.
I did an interview today where I was asked to give Mavs fans hope. I can do that in a number of ways. First of all, 67 wins gives me hope. You don’t win 67 games by being chumps. They are more than capable of winning three in a row. The other thing is you are not trying to accomplish something that is impossible. The odds are long but eight teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win best of seven series. Most recently in the first round of 2003 and 2006 when it was Detroit beating Orlando and the Suns knocking off the Lakers respectively. In a five game series some seven years ago Dallas with a young Dirk came back to win three straight against Utah to pull off a huge upset. It can happen!
There is reason to hope. And while I certainly understand the gravity of the situation and understand that it may not happen, I am dug in and will hold out hope until the end.
April 24, 2007
I decided to take an extra day for a deep breath after the Game 1 loss to the Warriors. So not only can you see this recap on the website blog but also for those of you who subscribe to inside dish. I know some of you think this is toeing the company line or drinking the Kool-Aid but I am honestly quite calm about where the Mavs stand in this series. Let me share with all of you some thoughts that hopefully might ease some of your concerns. First of all there is no reason to expect Dallas to shoot 35-percent and for Dirk to go 4-for-16. Of course I still maintain Dallas is a better team by virtue of winning 25 more games over the course of the regular season. Also the Mavs all year long have proven to be very good in adjusting after losses. In addition there are a number of scenarios where good teams who have gone on to win titles have lost the opener of an early series. As a matter of fact, the Spurs lost the opener of the playoffs in their last two championship seasons. In 2003 in the first round to Phoenix and then won the series in six and two years ago the Spurs lost an opener to Denver and then went on to win that series. Read the recap of game one of last year’s second round series between New Jersey and eventual champ Miami. The story made it sound like the Heat had major problems matching up with New Jersey. The Heat won 4-1 after stumbling on their home floor in the opener. Don’t forget the Mavs themselves won series last year against the Spurs and Suns after dropping openers. So there is plenty of evidence out there demonstrating a game one loss doesn’t mean the end of the world.
From an X and O standpoint Dallas will have to make some adjustments. It will be interesting to see if Dallas moves towards a bigger game two lineup. The two combined to play only 18 minutes in game one. Certainly we can all understand that it is a tough matchup for either one to try and cover Al Harrington, I think that if Golden State wants to try and exploit that then let em. Considering all of the Warriors weapons I would much
rather have Al Harrington with the ball in his hands than Baron Davis who blew up for 33 in the first game or Jason Richardson. On the offensive end of the floor Dallas will need to do a better job of trying to get inside and create opportunities to score the ball that way.
From a psychological standpoint the Mavs looked tight. It reminded me of the beginning of the season. You can’t really prove my theory but I thought that a big reason behind the 0-4 start was a team that was just thinking about getting back to the Finals to get their shot at redemption. Well you can’t get back to the Finals in November and the team learned that lesson early. They took the necessary steps to get in the best position to be successful going into the post-season. Well perhaps in similar fashion the Mavs started the playoffs thinking about their desire to get back to the Finals for their shot at redemption. Of course we all know there are steps to take in this process as well and you can’t reach the Finals on April 22nd. Perhaps the Mavs learned that lesson quickly and won’t play quite so much like they feel the pressure. I wish the Mavs did not have to wait 72 hours to play but I really believe this group has come to far and will make the proper adjustments to bounce back.
April 11, 2007
Blogging to you from Minnesota…where we woke up to snow on the ground this morning and the #1 seed clinched as of a Monday night win over the Clippers. It was a thrill to see the Mavs wrap that up for the first time in team history on their home floor. And getting that last thing taken care of now gives the Mavs five games over the final week to rest those that need it, sharpen those that need it for the post-season and also give some developmental minutes that can help them in the immediate future since Kevin Willis could get quite a few minutes and minutes that can aid in the development of long range projects like Maurice Ager. Ager, by the way, had a very productive 25 minutes against the Trailblazers on Saturday. He had two very impressive dunks, hustled back on defense and got a great block, and played much more under control and did not try to force anything.
We’ll learn more tonight and in the next few days about what Avery is planning for the last week. He said before the Clippers game on Monday that once he did clinch he had a perfect world plan for the last week in terms of managing the fine line of getting rest but staying sharp and he also said he had a contingency plan. It sounds like Dirk and Jerry Stackhouse missing the Timberwolves game was part of the perfect world plan. I’m not so sure about Erick Dampier who got hit by Elton Brand in the first quarter Monday night and that appeared to really bother the strained right shoulder that kept Damp out of the Phoenix game. However the injury is not anything that is cause for alarm at this point. Damp did not go on the trip to Minneapolis and we will see where it goes from there.
The first round playoff opponent is very much up in the air. Four teams could still be the 8th seed. Theoretically five could be although it appears Denver has pretty much taken care of business and will be 6 or 7 unless they basically lose out down the stretch in their final five games. The Lakers have four games left (home with the Clippers and Seattle and on the road against the Suns and Kings). If they win two of those they clinch at least the 7th seed. The Clippers slipped out of the eighth place tie with Golden State by losing last night in Oklahoma City. Now you have the Warriors in 8th at 38-40 with the Clippers a half-game back at 37-40. The Clippers will likely have the tie-breaker (division record) if those two end up tied but compare the schedules. The Clippers play at the Lakers and Suns and at home against Portland, Sacramento and New Orleans/Oklahoma City. Meanwhile Golden State is on the road against the Kings and Trailblazers and at home against Minnesota and Dallas next Tuesday. It certainly looks like the Warriors have an easier road but the Clips at least have the benefit of the tie-breaker. The Hornets are still clinging to faint hopes at 37-41. They obviously have to win out and some unexpected results in some other games too and with the other schedules and their own schedule featuring only one home game against Denver and a road trip to Houston, Sacramento and the Clippers it seems like a very tall order.
The trio to watch here is the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors. There are critical games on Thursday, Friday and Sunday so check in with me here Monday morning and I will have another breakdown for you….this one could easily go down to West Coast games on the final night of the season while the Mavs are playing out the string in Seattle.
March 23 , 2007
Greetings to you all from Boston…its been awhile but I haven’t had just a whole lot to say lately. Maybe everyone is getting a little caught up in the dog days of the season. Not to say this isn’t a great ride but how many times can you say over and over what a great team Dallas is. And of course I know there was a lot of disappointment over the Phoenix loss last week but I think the lesson to be learned out of it that Dallas proved and Phoenix didn’t is that it is very important not to let emotional hangover linger from any result, be it a win or loss. Dallas to their credit came back two nights later and although it might have looked like emotional hangover, I think you have to give a lot of credit to how Boston played that night. Remember those same Celtics who took the Mavs down to the wire won the next night at San Antonio. Meanwhile Phoenix even admitted that the emotional they spent on that game affected them in losses to Detroit and Denver over the weekend. Again the lesson learned, be it an emotional win or loss you have to leave it behind you when the next game rolls around. Dallas to their credit did that well enough that they have rattled off four in a row and are right back to where they were in terms of leads over the Suns and Spurs before their stumbles to the Warriors and Suns last week.
Dallas has looked good so far on this road trip. They did a very impressive job of finishing the game in Detroit. They played a fabulous defensive game in New York and had some very good defensive stretches against the Cavaliers as well. In this four game win streak Dallas is doing a very good job of elevating their defensive play in the second half. In the case of the Boston and Detroit games it was after poor defensive first halves but in the case of New York and Cleveland it was a continuation of a tone established in the first half. As a matter of fact in the last four third quarters the Mavs are allowing just over 17 points per quarter on 31-percent shooting. Very impressive indeed! Keep in mind they have been doing this without Greg Buckner and Devean George. George hooked back up with the team today and those two at least have a chance of playing here in Boston. In George’s case the Mavs are going to be super cautious with him. For one thing he is not going to wear a brace on that sore right knee but rather a knee sleeve because apparently that brace was bothering him and aggravated the soreness. Also Avery said last week he did want to play him much more than about 12 minutes a game for the rest of the regular season and also did want to play him on the second night of back to backs. Obviously getting him right for extended duty in the playoffs is the focus for Avery Johnson right now.
There are some things to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. First of all Dallas is in position perhaps on their return home to set a new franchise record for wins in a season. They are at 56 right now and the record is 60 set in 2002-2003 and tied last year. They have three more on this trip and then two home games against the Bucks and Knicks next week. So it will be possible to tie and conceivably set the record before the home crowd. Also, Dirk Nowitzki and Jerry Stackhouse are both less than 100 points away from reaching 15,000 for their respective careers. That’s quite an accomplishment as it has only been done 104 players in the history of the league, the most recent is Tracy McGrady who did it Tuesday night.
March 02 , 2007
I thought Bob Ortegel made a really good point as we were winding up the broadcast of the Minnesota game on Tuesday night. This after a game where the Mavs set a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a game and lowest opponent fieldgoal percentage as well. Bob said there should be a new record book for this season given all of the records this year’s Mavs squad is setting. For example just look at the last week alone because in addition to the defensive records set in the game on Tuesday you have a franchise record t15 game win streak after the victories over Cleveland and Orlando. Also the Mavs completed their first perfect month going 10-0 in February. With the win in Minnesota they are now 11-0 on the second night of back-to-backs. They have now won 22 straight home games and overall have won 36 of 38. The run is simply astounding.
While you never want to take anything for granted, the Mavs are now really in position to have a 16 game win streak going into the Laker game in LA Sunday. First they have to take care of business against New Jersey on Tuesday and while it would be foolish to dismiss teams with talents like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter we are talking about a team that just lost a back to back to Boston and Philadelphia, two of the worst teams in the league. Dallas has taken care of business against teams like that. As a matter of fact Dallas is 33-2 against teams below .500. However, Saturday should serve as a lesson in not taking things for granted. Orlando came in here having lost 18 of their last 24 and gave Dallas a heck of a game. The Mavs may have taken the best shot Orlando had to offer. The Magic actually had a six point lead early in the fourth but between key baskets from each member of the JET-Dirk-J Ho trio and critical stops late in the game the Mavs were able to bring home the win. It was a game that I actually thought was one of the three or four most exciting home wins of the year.
What really impresses about this season is not just the awe-inspiring numbers but they way the Mavs have stayed so grounded. They aren’t talking about their streaks or back-to-backs record or their lead in the West, which is now 5 games over Phoenix by the way.
They stay in the moment and worry about what they can take out of the last game to make themselves better for the next one. Of course a lot of that is because of the mindset established by Avery Johnson. I am sure a lot of it is drive from what happened in the Finals and that they haven’t won a championship. And Greg Buckner even mentioned before the game last night that their lack of respect from some national media keeps them grounded. A lot of people are picking San Antonio or Phoenix as the teams to beat and Buckner says that keeps the team focused because again he realizes that they aren’t going to get their just due from some until they hoist a trophy.
On the injury front, the Mavs are still waiting on Devean George to get back from his right knee sprain. He has gone through some gameday shootarounds and might be up for a practice today. The Mavs certainly could use him back by the time they play Kobe on Sunday as his size and defensive ability was missed against Lebron James.There doesn’t appear to be any rumors with any teeth to them anyway regarding the open 15th spot on the roster. The Reggie Miller stuff obviously isn’t something to get worked up about. The Mavs, if they fill the spot, say they want a veteran who won’t upset the locker room chemistry. Considering how good that chemistry is that is a very important aspect to this thing. While getting an extra big guy or another point guard insurance policy wouldn’t hurt. I am not sure there’s much of a sense of urgency to fill that spot right now.
February 22, 2007
Well the Mavs were one of the last to the All-Star break and they are one of the last to get started afterwards. It certainly seems like the break was good for rejuvenating this team and its coaching staff as they head into the final 29 games of the season with obviously quite a bit a stake. The Mavs appear to be set to win just their second division title in their 27 years as losing a nine-game lead at this point would seem impossible. They have a four game lead over Phoenix for the best record and while that conceivably could be lost since they play them twice, its still tough to envision them giving up that edge considering how well they have been playing.
The Miami game is intriguing for any number of reasons. Of course it will be a crowd full of bloodlust with the Heat making their only appearance here this year since what went down last June. There is the DWade-Dirk war of words which is supposedly cooled off during All-Star weekend and of course there is the chance to become just the fourth team in NBA history to have three double digit win streaks in one season as the Mavs gun for their 10th straight.
Part of what makes this one special is that the Mavs are basically throwing a Dirk for MVP night. All of you coming to game will get Dirk for MVP T-shirts as hopefully the national exposure to this will make a lot of people out there realize that Dirk deserves it. He’s the best player on the best team…he scores, rebounds, sets up his teammates better than ever before, play hurts, shoots high percentages, steps up in pressure situations and is just all-around matchup nightmare. What more could you ask for from an MVP.
As far as the Wade-Dirk thing…its pretty clear everyone associated with the Mavs has a right to be ticked off. However the one guy that was directed at appears to be the least miffed about it and that of course is Dirk. It’s a real sign of his maturity that something like that doesn’t get to him. While Dirk is a leader and he is deserving of the MVP all he cares about is winning a title…not what anyone else is saying about him. Honestly I’m not even worked up in a lather about what he said. Face it, you can’t blame a guy for sticking up for their accomplishment. On this side of the fence we all agree that the Mavs did give it away, the bottom line is Miami has the jewelry – painful as it may be to swallow. Truth or not, if I were in Wade’s shoes or anyone else for the Heat for that matter I would be bothered if I heard the other side saying things like they gave it away. I think we all have to be honest with ourselves on this and realize that none of us would like another group of people to take something away from our achievements. The best thing about it is that it can be settled on the court.
I don’t so much mean it will be settled in this game either. While it will be nice to win and will be a bummer to lose, this game in late February really doesn’t prove much. Yes the Heat are back to full strength and have their coach back but its still a game that in the picture is relatively meaningless in the big picture of what the Mavs are trying to attain this year. What matters is what hopefully comes down in about four months. Plus as I write this Wade hurt his shoulder tonight in Houston so maybe they won’t be full strength…and as I finish this up they just lost to the Rockets by 10. Where those the Houston Rockets who just scored 112 points in a game? Whether or not Wade plays though it still is an eagerly anticipated night that I am sure will deliver plenty of entertainment.
February 9, 2007
This has been a bit of a lull in the schedule for Dallas. The Mavs have had some days off and no offense intended but haven’t exactly been playing the highest caliber opponents. Over the last week and a half they’ve played four games and all of the opponents have been below .500. All of the wins haven’t been easy either.
The Timberwolves made it in an interesting game last weekend by slowing the Mavs down with a zone defense. Last week in Memphis with Dallas on the second night of a back to back, the Grizzlies hung around and made Dallas really sweat in the final minute because of a barrage of long three pointers by Mike Miller and Chucky Atkins. Dallas however like the good teams in this league do, managed to find a way to make plays late in the game to win. It can be a basket at the right time or a series of key defensive stops. The Mavs play in close games this year and their ability to make the necessary plays is yet another big story in their building of the league’s best record.
Tonight the Mavs look for a franchise record setting 17th straight home win. The competition gets a whole lot stiffer with the Houston Rockets in town. The Rockets aren’t expecting Yao Ming back until late Feb. or early March but they have more than held their own without him (15-5) thanks in large part to Tracy McGrady. We all saw how McGrady can dominate when he lit up the Mavs for 21 points in the first quarter of a game at American Airlines Center on January 16th. It took physical defense by Devean George in the second half to slow him down and get him off his game a little bit, but even then he still ended up with 45.
Another reason the Rockets are continuing to pile up wins with Yao is their outside shooting. Point guard Rafer Alston is definitely a three-point threat you have to pay attention to, but the most dangerous sharpshooters are Shane Battier and Luther Head. Both of them have hit a healthy dose, more than 40-percent, of their three-pointers this year. Of course Jeff Van Gundy teams slow down the game and play defense and that accounts for their ability to overcome Yao’s injury. Dikembe Mutumbo has been extraordinary considering he’s the league’s oldest player at 40-years and almost 8 months. His rebounding and shot blocking anchor the middle and Chuck Hayes and Juwan Howard help the rebounding cause as well.
A few other assorted ramblings before moving on. I was certainly disappointed for DJ Mbenga who tore an ACL on Wednesday night against Memphis. He is out for the year.
For those of you wondering what they might do about the third center spot, well they could just stand pat and make do with what they have. That would mean spot minutes for Austin Croshere at center and also Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who is back from the D-League.
If they want to add someone, they would first have to cut a player to make room. The list of options is very short. About the only D-League guy with any NBA experience to speak of that doesn’t belong to another team is Loren Woods. If you’re looking for an old guy who isn’t playing right now, about the top of your list is Antonio Davis or Ervin Johnson, who happens to be from New Orleans like a certain head coach we know around here.
January 30, 2007
I found it interesting that Dirk Nowitzki mentioned in a story after the Kings game Saturday night that January was as tough of a month as he has experienced in the NBA. The Mavs did played 8 of 11 on the road with a lot of those games against high caliber competition and they basically hit three corners of the country, Miami, LA and Toronto. I have no doubt that caught up to them big time for the game in Chicago on Thursday. It was a once in a blue moon sort of game where every facet of the Mavericks system was off kilter. It was a credit to how hard they played and how ragged the Bulls were at times that they kept it competitive. It’s funny because it didn’t seem as daunting looking at it on paper at the start of the year but no question it has been a very rough month…how impressive it is the Mavs have come through it with only two losses so far.
Gutsy, was the word Avery used to describe their two point win against the Kings Saturday. He’s right because the Kings threw some impressive punches at Dallas. Ron Artest was dialed in from the beginning. The Kings reserve post players were very strong offensively…I’m speaking of Corliss Williamson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby hit some big shots to keep it close in the fourth quarter also.
Two of the biggest reasons Dallas outlasted the Kings were Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk had such a fine fourth quarter. He had 11 points and scored on a stepback move, going to the basket, a three pointer and a late fadeaway jumper. He also had two pretty impressive assist passes during the fourth quarter. The many dimensions to his game were on display and it’s why I think he is the MVP.
Meanwhile it was nice having the old Devin Harris back. Between getting his bell rung in Indiana and that case of the flu, Harris hasn’t been terribly consistent lately. On Saturday though it was the old Harris…attacking the paint, applying offensive pressure, getting to the line and he even had a dunk. It was a very good sign.
Let’s not forget the two good wins in Florida last week too. Returning to Miami and winning there may not have meant the world but I can promise you there would have been an uproar had they lost that game. The Heat played hard but as the Mavs did two nights later in Orlando they responded with baskets and stops when their opponent, with I might add the home crowd behind them, made fourth quarter surges.
I started this entry talking about the month of January and now it closes with one more back-to-back. It’s remarkable to me and I think an under-reported part of the Mavs season that they are 9-0 on the second night of back-to-backs this year. The second game is Memphis on Wednesday but first Seattle comes in here on Tuesday night.
We all know that the Sonics are an inconsistent lot but they are dangerous because guys like Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour can get hot and a player like Chris Wilcox is athletic enough inside to cause the Mavs some issues. They will likely come in a little ticked at themselves as they had sort of a Mavs-esque performance from Chicago as they really laid an egg against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
The Grizzlies on Wednesday sport the worst record in the league and they have a disgruntled star in Pau Gasol. The intrigue here though is former A&M head coach Tony Barone is the interim coach and they have implemented a high-octane offense. They have cracked 110 points nine times in the month that Barone has taken over for Mike Fratello. Of course they are giving up a ton of points too but it still could cause issues for the Mavs especially because of the back-to-back thing.
January 20, 2007
I starting to enjoy this writing to you from our plane…its what I am doing on a late Saturday morning on the way to Miami. For each person that is part of this organization on this plane today I wonder what sort of memories this stirs up. Bob Ortegel is across the aisle from me right now and I want to ask him but he is asleep and Coop has headphones on behind me so I don’t want bother him. I guess it really doesn’t matter what memories it triggers…what happened here last June is history and can’t be changed now. I have liked some of the things that I have heard from the Mavs…Avery saying after the Lakers game that they don’t run from anyone and Jerry Stackhouse saying that really the talk of what happened last June only comes up in the locker room when reporters come in and ask about it. I was reading another quote from Stackhouse where he said they were a shot away from being out in the second round and so they had a great run and they will be better prepared for the Finals experience if they get back. Now that’s what I like to hear. Because that is someone who is doing what I ranted about two months ago at the beginning of the year…meaning its time to put the disappointment in its proper perspective but be proud of what was accomplished. And as Stack said the truth of it is you can’t avenge what happened in the Finals in a regular season game in January.
I haven’t heard if Shaq will be back for the game. He had knee surgery over two months ago and has been practicing. His injury after four games is clearly a big reason why the Heat are 18-21. In addition, Pat Riley is on a leave of absence for hip and knee surgeries and Ron Rothstein is directing the club and Dwayne Wade, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker have all missed chunks of time with injuries. Wade when healthy has been fabulous this year, averaging 28 points and 8 assists a game. We all know Wade’s game is about going to the basket and scoring or getting to the line which he does to the tune of over 11 times a game this year. Alonzo Mourning has played fairly well given all of his circumstances in the absence of Shaq. For all of the issues they have had to face this year, they have gotten their act together recently. After falling a season-high six games below .500 earlier in the month they won four straight road games out West and have won 5 of 7. It was perhaps the proverbial trap game on Friday night in Philadelphia and despite a furious rally from down 17 in the third quarter they still lost in overtime to the lowly Sixers.
On the Mavs front this week, they had two impressive home wins. Against Houston on Tuesday, Devean George played a big role as Dallas finally found an answer for Tracy McGrady. T-Mac lit up Dallas for 21 in the first quarter and while he still ended up with an eye-popping 45…he cooled off greatly in the second half and much of that was due to the pesky defense of Devean George and to a lesser extent Greg Buckner. George was sensational on the other end as he hit 3 of his 4 second half three’s in the third quarter rally. Dallas was down by 13 at one point but between George, Josh Howard and another big fourth quarter from the MVP Dirk the Mavs charged back and won.
The win over the Lakers on Thursday was impressive as well as Dallas just hit them with a haymaker in the second half…basically making Kobe a non-factor in the fourth. I know the Lakers had won a road game in San Antonio the night before but this is a good team and Dallas just took em part. The Mavs dominated the boards…outrebounding the Lakers by over 20. Devean George once again was a big factor as he started for flu-ridden Devin Harris. He scored 14 points for the second straight game…Howard and Dirk were superb again and Jason Terry had just a sensational night running the offense. JET dished out 13 assists and found players for open jumpers and going to the basket. His passing and for the matter the teams’ passing this year has been a very underrated aspect of hitting the midway point of the season at 33-8…which is tied for the best midway point mark in franchise history.
January 14, 2007
This is a new one…blogging to you from the plane as the Mavs head back from Toronto. Unfortunately, the ice storm has us sort of in limbo right now. I’ll know, probably before I am done writing this whether or not the weather will allow us to get home or be diverted to the milder climes of San Antonio and we come home tomorrow. It’s not the first time I have experienced this in nearly seven years with the team. In the 02-03 season we got stuck in Orlando on my birthday (Feb 26) of all things, and couldn’t come home until the next day because of freezing weather back home. I hope we all get good news here soon…
Meanwhile since my last entry the Mavs have won four straight and three have them have just been sensational victories. Winning by three in Utah, two in Indiana and one in Toronto have made for a thrilling week of games to broadcast. There are so many things to talk about regarding these games. First of all, Dirk has had an all-world week. I can’t believe he isn’t winning over voters for the MVP with the way he has played in the three close ballgames. He had 38 against Utah, 43 against Indiana and 38 again at Toronto. Obviously there were big shots hit on drives to the basket, three-pointers, mid-range jump shots and making frequent trips to the foul line. Of course it isn’t just about the shots Dirk hits but it’s the other things he does that makes him the MVP. He came away with big rebounds, had nice assist numbers and look at the two things that happened in the final seconds of the win in Toronto. On a jump ball between Greg Buckner and Chris Bosh with nine seconds to go, Bosh initially tipped it toward teammates but Dirk stepped in and redirected it to Josh Howard and of course it was the attention of two defenders that Dirk drew on the game-winner that freed up J-Ho for the lay-in with .9 to play. By the way don’t forget Dirk defended Anthony Parker on a desperation three at the buzzer. He defended Jermaine O’Neal on a key miss late in overtime in the Indiana game as well. He is going everything in this stretch for Dallas.
Dirk got help from his teammates too…Jason Terry has been money on three’s starting in the second half of the Utah game. After a couple of tough games, he came to life as the Mavs started their rally in Salt Lake. He hit a huge triple over Danny Granger late in regulation in Indiana plus he knocked down four of them as they came back from down 15 in the third quarter against the Raptors. Then you’ve got Josh Howard, hitting the game winner in Toronto, getting a key stickback late in overtime in Utah and a game saving block on Danny Granger in the final seconds of OT. Erick Dampier’s rebounding has come back with 10, 8, and 10 in the last three games. Devean George is making big defensive plays, Devin Harris is drawing charges and breaking down defenses with his quickness.
They were all great wins this week but that win in Toronto was something else. The Raptors have a nice young nucleus with Dallas’ Chris Bosh, former Longhorn T.J. Ford and rookie Andrea Bargnani. They were lighting up Dallas in the first half as they rained in 6-of-7 threes, but Dallas roared back in the fourth, hung around down the stretch and made the critical stop and shot in the waning seconds. Maybe the most amazing number is that Dallas led for all of 18 seconds in the game. They had a 17 second stretch of leading by a point inside of three minutes and then of course grabbed the lead and win on Howard’s basket with nine-tenths of a second remaining.
With the Mavs at 31-8 and with the bevy of close games they are winning lately they are developing the mental toughness that is so important to Avery Johnson. This team has stared down tough teams in hostile road environments and hit huge shots and made critical stops to win games. The ability to come back from big deficits that was so important last year but had deserted them early this year is back with double digit comebacks in their last four road wins. Unfortunately for Dallas, January gives them no breathers on the schedule. They just played 12 games in 20 days and now they come home for two tough Western Conference teams, the Rockets and Lakers and then go on the road to play the Heat, Magic and Bulls next week.
Remember e-mails are welcome at email@example.com and oh by the way it looks like the weather is going to give us enough of a window to get home tonight. I wrap this up on our descent into Dallas. I hope everyone is safe and warm, by the time this is posted it will be pretty bad out there so do take care.
January 8, 2007
Blogging to you today from Salt Lake City where the Mavs are getting ready for the conclusion of their road trip against the Utah Jazz tomorrow night. Sadly, their winning streak came to an end last night in Los Angeles. It was eventually going to end a some point but tying the franchise record win streak would have been a great feather in their cap. A recent trend in the winning streak is the key you point to in Sunday’s loss and that was fourth quarter defense. The Mavs had allowed 16.5 points over their last four fourth quarters on 26% shooting. But the Lakers nailed for 33 points in the fourth…with 14 of them from Kobe Bryant and when he wasn’t scoring he was passing and getting his teammates the ball for either open looks or to make an extra pass to get a teammate an open shot…namely Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic. Both of those guys hit several big fourth quarter baskets including three 3-pointers by Vujacic en route to a career hit 16 points. Yes there were some head scratching calls late too that hurt the Mavs cause. Replays clearly showed Vujacic had a foot on the arc on his three pointer that put the Lakers up two in the last minute and on the next possession Smush Parker clearly got Jason Terry on the wrist on a drive to the basket. Of course those two things did not lose them the game but they certainly didn’t help. The larger issue was simply giving up too many open shots in the fourth quarter. However it shouldn’t blemish what the Mavs have accomplished over the last month and most notably in this stretch of 10 games in 16 days that started just after Christmas. The Mavs have won 7 of the first 8 with a back-to-back coming up to round it out tomorrow and Wednesday at home against Portland. Anytime you come through a stretch in the NBA like this and produce these results I think you have to be pleased. What makes the difference between a great run over this span of 10 games and a very good one will be determined by what happens in the next two nights. However even then there isn’t a breather because Dallas has to go right back on the road and face an Indiana team that will be looking for payback, they will have home games the following week against the Rockets and Lakers and a trip that includes their first crack at the Heat this year plus trips to Orlando and Chicago, two of the better offerings from the East. This month of January is a bear schedule-wise!
Whatever disappointment you might have felt about the Lakers loss, I certainly hope you felt just as much as exhilaration over the Spurs win on Friday night. The Mavs absorbed a pretty big punch from the an angry Spurs team in the first half and bounced back with big time defense in the second half. Dallas has done a nice job of demonstrating they can win games now without huge nights from Dirk but when the big games roll around so much still centers on the big German. He poured in a season high 36 points and much like he did in the November win down there, he came up money in the fourth quarter. Josh Howard came to life in the second half and once again Devean George had two big plays late in the game. Often his big plays are tough rebounds or steals or forcing stops on the defensive end. That night it was two critical layups. George really seems to have adapted to the Avery system and has been a major factor in several wins in the streak. He is a versatile defender that can guard several positions on the floor. For a guy who doesn’t have big rebounding numbers he seems to have a knack for coming up with boards at the right time and his shot on most nights has been falling. A lot has been made this year of the Mavs bench scoring being down but they are still getting production. George does the little things to help you win games and is scoring more lately too. Greg Buckner has given the Mavs a hard-nosed defensive option. Hopefully the 14 points Jerry Stackhouse scored on Sunday is a sign that he is back on the road to getting healthy. While Gana Diop hasn’t been the huge surprise he was last year, he is providing good backup center minutes most nights with his rebounding. His shot blocking is a little down but that came back to life with four of them in Los Angeles. You’re talking about a solid 9-man rotation there and that is realistically what you are looking at come playoff time anyway.
I truly feel in my heart of hearts that the Mavs are looking at a big payback game against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. The Mavs aren’t real fond of losing as we know and especially getting drilled like they did in here last month. Utah’s physicality up front poses challenges for Dallas. Carlos Boozer is just a fabulous low post player with strength and skill to score inside. He can put it on the floor and finish right or left handed with equal effectiveness. Memhet Okur is a solid jump shooting threat who rebounds well and as we know Andrei Kirilenko is a rangy, dangerous defender with his shot-blocking ability in addition to the fact he plays passing lanes very well. This team rebounds opponents by an average of six a game and they execute Jerry Sloan’s offense very efficiently. Certainly the stage is set for a tough game that will be physical and intense. It won’t be a game for the timid. But I see a Mavs team that has really developed some tough-mindedness in the last month and that is what Avery wants from his team as much as anything. The implementation of the system while not nearly complete is probably about where it should be at this stage of the game according to Coach Johnson. I just get the feel this Mavs team was embarrassed by their performance here last month and they owe the Jazz one. Find out if that computes to a win when the Mavs play at 8:00 on TXA 21 on Tuesday night.
January 1, 2007
So the calendar has turned to 2007 and I hope all of your had a safe New Year’s Eve and are off to a great start towards a happy, safe and healthy 2007. You can definitely say that 2006 went out with a huge bang for the Mavericks with two of the most exciting wins of the year in their last three games.
I bet I must have interacted with a dozen people in the aftermath of the Phoenix game who talked about what a great game and win that was. Once again the value of defense was on display as Dallas down by seven in the middle of the fourth quarter ran off four straight stops to get right back in the game. While the defense was making stops the Mavs were getting transition chances from Devin Harris who had a couple of highlight reel drives to the basket. Of course then Josh Howard had a spectacular finish on a lay-up that briefly gave the Mavs the lead in the last thirty seconds before Shawn Marion’s basket set the stage for Dirk’s heroics.
Dirk was the only option on the final play as the Mavs went to him on the right win against Marion. I think the key was how quickly Dirk rose up for the shot. He wasn’t as predictable as he has been sometimes against the quick-handed Marion. Perhaps the clock had something to do with it but Dirk was off the floor quickly to get a pretty good look over Marion and bury the shot.
Of course you can’t let Jason Terry’s game get lost in the shuffle that night either with 35 points. Terry just looks like a completely different player than the one that started the year and of course Avery Johnson’s decision to put the basketball in his hands more often had a lot to do that.
After taking care of business against an injury-depleted Hornets team on Saturday the Mavs traveled to Denver for a New Year’s Eve game with the Nuggets. Denver is missing some guys with Melo and JR Smith still suspended and Nene hurt but the playing field was definitely leveled a little when word came down that Dirk was out with a sinus infection plus Dallas was playing on the road on the second night of a back to back. I thought Allen Iverson was fantastic for the Nuggets. His defense sparked Denver after an early lead of nine points for the Mavs…they turned the game around late in the first and by the middle of the third Denver had a ten point lead. But once again it was defense that triggered a slow but sure Dallas comeback. Erick Dampier controlled the paint with blocks. Josh Howard and Devin Harris were drawing charges and Devean George was making big defensive plays.
It was just such a grind it out kind of win that you had to walk away being impressed. Josh Howard had another night of all-star numbers with 28 points and 17 rebounds. Avery called it their best win of the year and their defense held the Nuggets to a season low in points. And of course don’t forget it was their 10th straight victory. Wins like this are a sign of character and if anyone thinks this team isn’t developing that mental toughness that is so important to Avery well just look at the last two weeks. The great win over Phoenix and their first two double digit comebacks of the year in games where they were without Dirk, remember he went down in the first quarter of the Seattle game and the team rallied from down 14 in the second quarter.
Those Sonics are here tonight and while not sounding like I am overlooking them because Avery sure won’t let them but that mental toughness that is developing is really going to be important given the upcoming stretch of schedule. They have already met up with Suns and Nuggets in a period where they are playing the other teams that make up the top six in the West. Coming up on the road starting Friday they have San Antonio, the L.A. Lakers and the Utah Jazz. That is going to be some must see Mavs basketball.
December 26, 2006
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. This to me truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I still get into the festive holiday spirit and it was nice to have three days between games to soak everything in…despite a little head cold that came up for me that make me sound like I have a clothespin holding my nose shut on tonight’s broadcast.
Speaking of which, we will be on tonight at 7:30 on FSN Southwest for the Mavs at home against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are a young team who are dangerous to knock off some good teams, E.G Cleveland, San Antonio, Utah, Orlando and Detroit. However that young talent doesn’t come together on an anywhere near consistent basis as evidenced by their 7-19 record. They played Dallas close in a matchup five weeks ago in Charlotte but as you would expect Dallas made shots and smart plays down the stretch that the Bobcats did not to escape with an eight point win. Emeka Okafor is their most notable player. He leads the league in blocks at nearly three a game and had some ferocious stuffs in an eight block performance against Dallas last month. He also has 14 double-doubles. I loved Adam Morrison at Gonzaga and I suppose he has to be receiving early rookie of the year consideration. He is after all leading rookies in scoring at over 13 points a game. However he is doing it very inefficiently…shooting under 37% from the field. He also doesn’t rebound very well for a player of his size.
The Mavs posted three more great wins in the days leading up to Christmas. Once again another great start propelled them to a win over the Kings. That one followed the typical Mavs formula this year of great in the first and fourth and not so much in the second and third quarters. In Seattle, a very impressive win after Dirk’s first quarter ankle injury. The Mavs clamped down defensively in the second half and saw Erick Dampier just put on a monster performance. Also I really thought Devean George stepped it up when he had to increase his minutes in the second half with Dirk on the shelf. It was nice to see Dallas display some of that comeback spirit from last season when they had 13 double-digit comebacks. The Supersonics game was their first of this season. Devean George continued his good play, this time picking up for an injured Jerry Stackhouse in the Mavs rout over the Clippers. George his 5-three pointers and was one of three Mavs who hit the 20-point plateau. This one didn’t follow the typical Mavs pattern. Their start was only so-so…leading by four after one. However in the second and third quarters they were magnificent and the game was over after three with Dallas pouring on by 38 at that point.
I want to close by talking about Dirk because once again I feel compelled to point out his toughness. It was simply amazing that he was out on the floor 48 hours after what looked like it could have been a severe ankle injury in Seattle. Fortunately he was lucky in that he was already on the floor when Chris Wilcox stepped back on his ankle. Sprains are much worse when your entire weight is coming down and you roll the ankle. That’s the medical explanation for why he was able to come back so quickly. The other aspect though is just that he is so much tougher than people give him credit for being. I just wonder how many ankle sprains he returns quickly from or shots to the face that he takes going to the basket before people who don’t follow the team closely realize it.
December 18, 2006
The sign of a good team in the NBA is beating teams you should beat and the Mavs did just that over the weekend. The games weren’t terribly attractive and the Mavs definitely had some lulls in the games but they beat turmoil-stricken Philly and injury-ravaged New Orleans. Add in Wednesday’s home win against the Lakers and the Mavs have a little three game winning streak going right now. The common thread through these three games is the Mavs have been very good in the fourth quarter of all three on defense. They have allowed 20, 18, and 21 points in the last three fourth quarters with all three of those teams shooting less than 40-percent in those fourth quarters. Getting stops at critical stages late in games in instrumental to success in Avery’s view and it was an area he felt like that had been lacking in some earlier in the season. Hopefully this is the sign that they are getting much better in that important aspect of the game.
The intrigue surrounding the game on Saturday was of course that it was one of the six the Hornets are going to play in New Orleans. So it was my first opportunity to see New Orleans after Katrina. The French Quarter doesn’t look much different than it did before but as we all know that was the area of the city that sustained the least damage. The crowds are definitely down…it was particularly noticeable I thought walking around during the afternoon. There was the typical Saturday night debauchery on Bourbon Street but even that wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I have seen in the past. But the city is coming back to life. The locals I engaged with questions about what life was like there now were friendly. I saw plenty of familiar Bourbon Street sights. They still do karaoke at the Cats Meow…the clientele of Pat O’Brien’s get younger every time I go (or I am getting older), and there’s plenty of cheesy tourist gift shops with vulgar yet amusing t-shirts. The occasional over-served person still falls down on the street causing a head shake or chuckle among the rest of us and the pizza at 2:00 in the morning (and I am not embarrassed to say I was out that late) was as good as ever.
On the flip side of the recovery of the tourist areas though is what’s happening in the Lower Ninth Ward. Laura Green and I went over there Saturday afternoon. We went through Bywater neighborhood to get there…amid abandoned shotgun houses still with spray paint on the front in some cryptic code to note when the house was searched and what or who was found there. And let me tell you it’s an eerie sight when you cross the Industrial Canal to go to the Ninth Ward. There are large areas of open fields, that you don’t realize until you get close enough to see a slab foundation that houses once stood there. There are still houses that are just mangled piles of rubbish…houses with FEMA trailers next to them and every once in a while you go buy a house that actually appears to be habitable. It wasn’t uplifting obviously. It was very moving and frustrating that 15 months after the fact that the rebuilding is so painfully slow. It clearly is still a region that needs a lot of help and I hope as fellow Americans we don’t forget about them. I’m not criticizing our government because believe me I know I don’t have all the answers…I know it’s a difficult, tedious process. This is just observations of one guy who would really like to see New Orleans come back strong. I’ve had a lot of good times over the years in that city and I wish those people nothing but the best. New Orleans is a city with personality…it has an aura. I love its electricity and its eccentricity. I know it has its drawbacks to a lot of people but I’m convinced, especially after spending a weekend there that world is better with a vibrant New Orleans with all of its idiosyncratic culture and charms.
Regular readers know what a fan I am of great writing and on the plane to Sacramento Sunday I read an entire book. Our stats guy in New Orleans, a really good guy named Tommy Cooper gave me a book called 1 Dead In The Attic. It was a collection of columns by Chris Rose that ran in the New Orleans Times Picayune from shortly after the storm until the end of 2005. It was a wonderful book. The columns he wrote were real and raw. There were plenty of stories of despair and heartache but I was so drawn to his ability to intersperse that with wit, a little humor when appropriate and a real gift for story telling. Most importantly, what I took away from the book was yet another lesson about the resiliency of the human spirit. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. So if you are interested in such things, check it out.
I have never genuinely entertained the idea of the Hornets being viable there long term. I know they plan to go back but I have always assumed it would be a short-lived, failed experiment. It is going to be tough but I am really hoping they make it there. And its not because I would rather go to New Orleans than Oklahoma City…its because I believe it would be one more thing to aid in the healing of the city and some return to normalcy – at least however normal New Orleans can be. Maybe it will work out but they aren’t a fabric of the sports culture like the Saints and getting crowds to 41 night games is a much different challenge than eight football games.
I have rambled about a topic that perhaps a lot of you don’t care much about, but I do and this is my forum to talk about it. I assume that like me, all of you have interests outside of our favorite basketball team. Thanks to those of you who have made it through this and I will pay you back with a few thoughts about the game in Sacramento tonight. The Kings, while below .500 are a dangerous, talented team. They won at Utah Friday night and as we all know going into Arco Arena is never easy. Mike Bibby isn’t shooting the ball well this season and Kevin Martin’s scoring has dropped off after a sensational start to the year as well. Perhaps they are also still adjusting to new coach Eric Musselman. They were 8-5 before Dallas mauled them 17 days ago back home in what might have been the most impressive and complete game Dallas played this season. They led them at one point by 32 in the third quarter! Since then the Kings have lost 7 of 9. The concern here is that they will presumably play with some desperation and with a chip on their shoulder. Ron Artest did say he would definitely remember next time around the beating his team took in Dallas. So when one of the league’s most volatile personalities starts talking revenge, I get a little worried. You can check us out tonight on TXA 21 at 9:00.
December 13, 2006
The Mavs really took one on the chin against the Utah Jazz Monday night. There aren’t many nights you can say the other team outperformed you in every phase of the game but this is one of those nights. I truly can’t think of one area in which the Mavs were better than Utah and I suppose that is reflected in the 101-79 final score. Perhaps the Jazz were extra-motivated to get Jerry Sloan’s 1000th win at home and after losing on the road three nights before in Minnesota but it wasn’t just about motivation…this is a very talented team.
Carlos Boozer presents all sorts of problems. He is a prototypical power forward. He’s strong, he’s agile, he’s skilled and he can put it in on the floor and finish and do it left or right-handed with equal effectiveness. He was just a nightmare all game long. Meanwhile Matt Harpring provided some skill and grit off the bench and Andrei Kirilenko made some momentum changing plays on the defensive end. The entire Jazz team played with physicality and toughness all game long. They’re good but I look forward to Dallas getting another crack at em…and they will up there on Jan. 9th.
Meanwhile we get our first look at the Lake Show tonight. The Lakers played a Houston team without T-Mac last night and almost blew a 27 point 4th quarter lead. The Rockets Scott Padgett had two free throws to tie the game with 1:17 remaining and missed them both. Kwame Brown and Smush Parker made big baskets on the next two possessions to give them some cushion. Kobe struggled by going just 8-of-26 but as we all know he is capable of going nuts on Dallas at any time.
The reason for their 15-6 start, well there are a number. First of all, they had a schedule heavily front-loaded with home games. The Lakers played 16 of their first 20 at Staples with one of those being a “road” game against their fellow tenant the Clippers. With last night’s trip they started a stretch of 8 of 10 on the road. However it isn’t all just about their schedule…despite his off-season knee surgery Kobe has been very good so far this year averaging over 26 points a game. He missed two games at the beginning of the year while rehabbing his knee and missed a Friday night game last week against Atlanta with an ankle sprain. Luke Walton has been solid in the starting small forward role, averaging 13 points and nearly four assists and shooting over 53-percent from the floor.
The bad news for the Lakers is multi-dimensional power forward Lamar Odom went down in the first quarter last night with a right knee sprain and will miss at least a month it looks like. Odom is one of the league’s most versatile big guys who can score inside or out, rebound and pass. His void leaves Vladimir Radmanovic and Brian Cook to take his place and that is definitely a drop off.
A reminder that tonight’s game is a late one…it starts at 8:30 and we’ll see you on TXA 21 this evening.
December 8, 2006
This should be a great night to tune into Mavs basketball as they play for a chance to have a share of the best record in the NBA. At 14-6, they visit the 15-5 Utah Jazz who are the only team left with five losses after San Antonio fell to the Lakers last night. It will be our first up close and personal look at one of the surprise teams of the league and there will be the drama of longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan gunning for his 1,000th career coaching win.
Obviously great players have contributed to Sloan’s coaching success but don’t discount the fact that he like Avery Johnson is a system coach. Sloan is a no-nonsense guy who believes there is a way to play this game and he has stuck to it throughout his tenure in Utah, which by the way is the longest of any head coach in pro sports.
The challenges Utah presents are multi-fold. Of course point guard play is such an important part of any good team and with The Colony”s Deron Williams making big strides in his second year, that has played a huge role in the fast start for the Jazz. Williams can get to the basket…can knock down a mid-range jump shot and of course is a great passer. He averages over nine assists a game on a team runs its’ half court sets as well as anyone will in the league.
The trio for the Jazz up front complement each other very well. Power forward Carlos Boozer is finally healthy for one thing. Injuries limited him to only 84 games in his first two years in Utah. This year though Boozer is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game. He is a great interior scorer. Meanwhile you have a center who while he can score inside provides a great complement as a jump shooter. Of course I am speaking of Mehmet Okur. Okur scores over 15 points a game and when I say he is a jump shooter, I am talking about the ability to step out to the arc. He has taken 74 three pointers this year and hit at a clip of about 35-percent. Bringing it together at the small forward is do everything Andrei Kirilenko. He is a great defensive player who excels in the open court. His scoring and steals are down this year…maybe some of that is due to an ankle injury that kept him out for five games earlier this season. As we know though he is a great off-the-ball shot blocker and create fast break chances for his team with his defensive plays and is very capable of running and finishing in those up-tempo situations.
Meanwhile Dallas did a very nice job of jumping on Denver early Saturday night at home. I know Denver played a very tough back-to-back since they tipped off late for ESPN in a Friday home game against Miami but Avery wouldn’t let his own team use it as an excuse so you can’t discount Dallas’ win because of Denver’s situation. The Mavs hounded Carmelo Anthony into an 8-of-26 shooting night and that was his second lowest point total and the lowest team total for Denver this season. The Mavs meanwhile had a couple of injuries to Jerry Stackhouse and Austin Croshere but still rolled out a twist to the rotation. Anthony Johnson had his first DNP of the year as Jason Terry spent a lot more time with the ball in his hands and running point. It appears Avery is trying to do something he talked about last week before the New Jersey game and that is make sure Terry is getting involved in the rhythm of the game. Terry responded with a 24-point night and seemed to make more of an effort to get to the basket than he has been doing this year.
On that injury front by the way, Stackhouse did not make the trip tonight to Utah, meanwhile Croshere did and he is questionable for the game which you can see on FSN Southwest at 8:00. On the weather front by the way it snowed a couple of inches last night here in Salt Lake City…which I suppose doesn’t matter much but it at least gave me a minor distraction while watching a disappointing Cowboy game…ugh!
December 8, 2006
Well a couple of streaks came to an end for the Mavs on Thursday night. They lost for the first time at home since Nov. 6th, winning seven straight. They also lost a home game to an Eastern Conference team, something that hadn’t happened in 22 months…which just so happened to span 22 games. The Detroit Pistons did by playing Eastern Conference ball. They slowed the game down as Chauncey Billups did a great job of controlling tempo. We had been speculating on the TV broadcast that eventually some team was going to come in here ready to play at the start of the game after seeing what Dallas had been doing recently in first quarters at home. The Pistons were that team and Billups basically echoed those sentiments in his post game comments. The Mavs may not be a run and gun team but they definitely need to get in the open court and apply offensive pressure but they were stuck in half court game against Detroit. The Pistons also did a fabulous job of converting turnovers…taking 14 of them and getting 22 points and they were good on the offensive boards as well.
Jerry Stackhouse said after the game he had a sore groin that he might not have played with had he not been going up against a former team. He went scoreless in 18 minutes and they will need him and the rest of the bench for Saturday night’s game with high scoring Denver, especially because in addition to the obvious strengths for the Nuggets that I will address in a moment, they have a very productive bench. Denver has a douible digit scorer off the bench in Earl Boykins and Reggie Evans gets over eight rebounds in only 20 minutes per game. Rookie Yakhouba Diawara from Pepperdine has been a surprising contributor as well.
Of course the biggest challenge with Denver will be containing Carmelo Anthony. No doubt Melo is an emerging young superstar in this league. He leads the NBA in scoring at nearly 32 points a game and isn’t doing it by being a volume shooter…he is hitting over 51-percent of his shots and getting to the free throw line about nine times a game. One would guess Josh Howard will start out guarding him and what a challenge that will be, especially since the Mavs need Howard’s offense. He really does a great job of setting a tone early in these home games with quick starts – minus the Pistons game of course. Denver also brings in another young gun in JR Smith…who mired in anonymity for a couple of years with the Hornets. The 21-year old Smith has great range and is averaging about 17 points a game although going into a Friday home game with the Heat, Smith had slumped over his last four shooting just 37.5%. They flat stole him in an off-season trade with Chicago who had picked up Smith as a throwaway in the Tyson Chandler-PJ Brown trade. Also you can’t go to sleep on Andre Miller their point guard, who averages over nine assists a night and has a great mid-range game. Don’t forget up front about double-double guy Marcus Camby at center and we all know that Eduardo Najera can be plenty dangerous as an energy guy. He is starting at power forward.
The up-tempo Nuggets lead the league in scoring at 109 points a game. While their overall defensive numbers aren’t very good they will gamble and get steals and that results in easy baskets. The lead the league in steals and turnovers forced and as a result score an average of over 22 fast break points a game. This game will be a challenge for sure as the Nuggets came out of the gate slowly like Dallas but have been playing very well for the last month.
December 5, 2006
Well the Mavs will try and get a new win streak started tonight as I blog to you this morning from lovely New Jersey. It was disappointing to see the 12 game win streak end in DC last night but the coaching staff and players made so little of a deal out of it that it certainly isn’t that big of a thing that it ended because we all knew it would sometime.
Perhaps the surprising part is the Mavs were so badly beaten in two areas were they had excelled during the streak. Their starts have been fantastic and this Mavs team showed very little energy early on in the game and secondly the rebounding battle, where that lack of energy can manifest itself, was completely controlled by Washington. The Mavs had been outrebounded only once during their streak. Even in the second half when they made their comeback to make a 31-point game as close as 7 the Mavs failed to get some key defensive rebounds that could have further helped the cause.
There were some situations last night where the Mavs did a lot of things right defensively and just something thrown up there by Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison or DeShawn Stevenson went in but generally speaking the D wasn’t up to par last night and it will have to be better tonight. Holding Jersey down is the pretty simple formula to beating them. They are 6-2 when they score 100 or better and 1-7 when they don’t.
The Mavs have to slow down a great 1-2-3 combo in Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson and so everyone of those guys for Dallas has to pick it up after what may have been as bad of a collective night for those three together as starters as we have ever seen. Terry and Howard combined for only nine points…and the only reason Harris’ game stood out a little more is because he did do a good job of getting to the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
I must say it’s good to see how well Devean George is shooting the ball over the last two games. He is certainly capable of stretching defenses and has come through with six three pointers in the last two games. George just needs to stay healthy after dealing with those bouts with food poisoning and the right knee hyperextension cause it is apparent when he does stay healthy there are definitely minutes for him in this rotation.
November 29, 2006
Wow what a stretch it is right now for Dallas! It’s 10 straight wins for the Mavs and a chance for #11 tonight against the Toronto Raptors. Looking back at the last three wins you of course have to start the discussion with San Antonio. There was a great amount of mental toughness displayed by Dallas. They got defensive stops at key moments of the fourth quarter and their big guns delivered on offense at crunch time. Dirk and Jason Terry ran a lot of two-man game down the stretch and they were nails in the fourth quarter. Obviously some will be disappointed with not being able to keep the offensive pressure on after a 37 point first quarter but look San Antonio is a great defensive team. It’s only November but its still great to see Dallas win in San Antonio. As we discussed on the broadcast…the worm really turned on this thing for Dallas in terms of their confidence in San Antonio when they won a regular season game there last April.
The Mavs had every reason to come out flat Saturday against the Hornets…coming off an emotional win and with the Hornets sans Peja Stojakovic and David West. They were also playing their fourth game in five nights. But credit Avery for having this team ready to roll and not using any excuses for a flat start. They blitzed the Hornets out of the gate and the game literally felt over at 21-3 midway through the first quarter.
The Mavs came out strong against the Timberwolves too…going up by 12 in the first quarter. Of course Minnesota made a game out of it in the fourth…Dallas was up by 20 in the third and 17 early in the fourth before seeing the Timberwolves rally to tie. Rookie Randy Foye was great in the fourth quarter but from a Mavs perspective the problem was settling for too many jump shots and a lack of motion against a zone defense Minnesota threw at them. After getting a clutch basket from Josh Howard and then free throws from Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry, Dallas was up by two in the closing seconds and Erick Dampier made the defensive play of the night and one of the biggest of the year. His block of Ricky Davis on a drive down the lane was fabulous…doing it with the left hand too by the way. It’s another in a growing list of excellent performances by Dampier who has been one of the standouts for Dallas during their winning streak.
The Mavs get an interesting opponent tonight in the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors won last night in Oklahoma City. The game represents a homecoming for Chris Bosh. Bosh from Lincoln High School in Dallas is down a little bit points wise this year but is averaging over three more rebounds a game than last year. A visit from the Raptors also means an appearance by former Longhorn great TJ Ford who after a good start has slumped in the last two games. We will also get our first chance to see last summer’s first pick in the draft…Andrea Bargnani of Italy. After a slow start his playing time is up over the last five games and he is producing because of it. He has played at least 23 minutes for five games in a row and in those contests Bargnani is averaging over 12 points a game. You can check it out tonight on FSN Southwest at 7:30.
November 25, 2006
Well the Mavs needed a night like that tonight. It was a laugher against the Hornets at American Airlines Center. Not often in an NBA game is the tipping point in the first quarter but it was tonight. The Mavs raced out of the gate with a 21-3 start and never really looked back from there. It never got closer than around 10 points as the Mavs hit em in the mouth and the Hornets never got up.
Devin Harris was a big reason behind the good start…as he had a couple of nice finds and went to the basket. I just love how he is growing up as the starting point guard of this team. As we talked about on the broadcast he is getting better and it seems that improvement is visible on an almost game by game basis.
Another thing that impressed me was just how well the Mavs started when the had every reason not to do so. Off an emotional win last night and with the Hornets playing without Peja Stojakovic and David West, the Mavs probably could have sleepwalked through the first half but they didn’t. They didn’t take the Hornets for granted and gave their best right out of the gate and New Orleans just never had any way to match it after that.
The defense for Dallas continues to get better and Avery has got to like that. The Mavs held the Hornets to an opponent season low and in the last minute had a chance at tying the franchise record for an opponent game low. Dallas over the last five games is now allowing under 84 points a game.
So now a day between games after three sets of back-to-backs in the last week…it was very impressive to see the Mavs win each one of them and they will need this day off. Minnesota not only beat the Hornets on the road on Friday but they won at home against the Clippers tonight so the T-Wolves although the record might not say it will be tough.
November 24, 2006
The Mavericks have done such a fantastic job of turning things around in a short period of time but the now the schedule toughens up with a trip to San Antonio and home against the much improved Hornets in another early season back-to-back. The Mavs have a done a ton of good things to win seven in a row but clearly still have a lot of room for improvement.
On the offensive end the Mavs are better in several areas. First of all they are getting to the free throw line on a more consistent basis. And despite the 34 three-pointers attempted against Washington (most in a game for Dallas since March of 2002) they are generally doing a better job of trying to get to the basket…thus the free throw increase. Passing seems to be better as well…Dirk is routinely getting four and five assists a game and Devin Harris appears to be making an almost game by game improvement in terms of his comfort factor in running the offense. In addition, with Josh Howard I think Jerry Stackhouse has filled in as a starter quite nicely….he had a bit of a hiccup with a 2-for-14 against the Wizards but other than that Stack has been a solid starter. Meanwhile Greg Buckner and Austin Croshere have made the most of expanded roles with Howard and Devean George both hurt. Buckner hit some huge baskets, had a nice find of Jason Terry and a made a key defensive play late in the Charlotte game. Meanwhile Croshere made sure to keep himself ready to play despite not getting on the floor for a week and gave the Mavericks valuable and productive minutes in wins over the Grizzlies at home Saturday against the Wizards.
We are also seeing a team making strides on the defensive end of the floor too…holding three straight opponents to 85 of fewer points. The on-the-ball defense of guys like Devin Harris and Anthony Johnson was very good against Gilbert Arenas in the Wizards game but on a larger level there are just some strides being made in terms of Avery’s system that really seem to indicate the new guys are getting it. In addition, the players who have been here for awhile seem to be setting back into what Avery wants from them defensively.
Obviously, San Antonio is paying very well but this is a much better Dallas team than the one that had a very poor second half in a season opening loss to the Spurs. Josh Howard and Devean George are questionable for tonight. I am about to head to practice right now so if there is anything noteworthy regarding those guys I will update the blog after lunch.
November 18, 2006
Well the climb was completed quickly as the Mavs have dug out of the 0-4 start to get back on the right side of .500. Dallas shook away from a pesky Memphis team in a foul and turnover plagued performance but when the game mattered the Mavs rose to the occasion just enough to put em away. I thought this game was highlighted by great shooting from Jason Terry at times when Dallas really needed it – to either gain separation or not let Memphis get to far out in front. In addition, Terry was good getting long rebounds tonight as he had seven. And there were plenty of rebounds to get since Memphis only shot 36-percent, by far the best defensive field goal percentage of the year for the Mavs.
With injuries and foul trouble the Mavs bench got some contributions from the forgotten tonight. Austin Croshere played solid minutes off the bench. You knew he would though cause he is a pro and would keep himself ready to produce whenever called upon. He hadn’t been called upon in the previous four games but delivered tonight with 8 points and 5 rebounds in just 11 minutes. Maurice Ager scored his first points in the NBA tonight as well in the second quarter. Not that Anthony Johnson is forgotten but in extended minutes he had the highest assist game for any Maverick this year with nine.
There were definitely some ugly things out there tonight...21 turnovers for example but the Mavs did a nice job battling. They fought through the turnovers, injuries and foul trouble and played another nice fourth quarter. Their fourth quarter play has been significantly better in the last five games and although there was a little bit of a lull tonight they hit enough big shots to get it done. You also gotta like the rebounding as Dallas outboarded the Grizz by 16.
It wasn’t pretty back-to-backs rarely are. They got through and now have a chance to rest and travel for a day and then play at Charlotte Monday. If you think the Bobcats are a cakewalk, well remember they won in overtime at San Antonio a few days ago. So lookout….
November 13, 2006
It is amazing what a couple of wins will do for a team. As I said before there was no panic with this team but certainly this team needed to start winning games and the feel around this thing is significantly better after winning the last two contests on the road trip. Both wins were reminiscent of a lot of Maverick road wins last year as they were able to withstand a fourth quarter challenge from the home team with an energized crowd behind them. On the concerning side is the lack of fourth quarter scoring. That problem came up again in the Portland game – I think due to settling for jump shots and some untimely turnovers. As we know though from the last two years when you need points in a clutch situation the Mavs have a great option and like he has done time and time again Jason Terry delivered in the final two minutes with a three point play and a three-pointer. Terry’s shot has started dropping in the last two games and that has obviously made a big difference.
The Mavs also played some of their best defense of the year…especially in the first quarter. Everyone deserves accolades but in particular I would like to point how well Erick Dampier played against a red hot Zach Randolph. The Mavs executed their strategy of double teaming very well also but Dampier more than did his job particularly in the first half. Remember Randolph came into the game averaging 34 points in his last three games. He managed 20…most of them in the 4th quarter.
I love how Jerry Stackhouse is playing right now. His shots are generally coming in the flow of the offense and he is knocking them down. He is setting up his teammates as evidenced by his nine assists in Portland (his most as a Mav) and making hustle plays that remind you more of a 25-year old than a 32-year old. So far he is really helping the Mavs cope without the injured Josh Howard.
The Chicago Bulls were a trendy pick to be a force in the East coming into the year and still very well might be. They are just 3-3 but really only one of those losses is one they should kick themselves for and that was blowing a late lead at home to the Kings. A gritty defensive team last year, the Bulls beefed up their front line with Ben Wallace and PJ Brown and former Mav glue guy Adrian Griffin is getting a around 10 minutes a night for them also. It has resulted in the second best scoring defense in the league through the first two weeks.
My concern about the Bulls going into the year was could they score. So far they are scoring at an acceptable 97 points a game. Kirk Hinrich has been shooting lights out to start the year and Luol Deng is playing quite nicely so far as well. The Bulls need streaky Ben Gordon to get rolling though. He is shooting just 39-percent in six games. But as I said he is streaky and can get hot very quickly…he and Hinrich pose dangerous perimeter threats for the Mavs defense.
The good news is the schedule is starting to soften up a bit. The Mavs get three East teams in their next five games along with a back-to-back against struggling Memphis. Remember how dominant the Mavs have been recently against the East…winning all of their home games last year against East foes by an average of 16 points a game. On the bad side though, later this week the Mavs face their only stretch of four games in five nights this year.
November 9, 2006
Blogging to you from Phoenix on a late Friday morning and getting ready to head to Portland and I must say everything looks a whole lot better in Mavs-land today. Getting that first win was big last night. I know the first week of the season isn’t where titles are won and lost but everything is magnified at the start of the season and it’s tough when you come out of the gate slowly and you have the expectations that this squad has.
The Mavs did the things against the Suns they did not do against Golden State and the Clippers. In all of those games Dallas got off to a good start offensively but they were unable to sustain it. Of course going against the porous Phoenix defense helped but they were able to execute in the fourth quarter much better than they did in any game this year. They attacked the basket and again some of that is a product of the Suns defense but that was an area of the game that was not clicking in the first week either. Defensively, there have generally been too many breakdowns as the games have gone on this year and although the Suns pose quite a challenge, the late game defense got enough stops (and the Suns made some mistakes) to get the job done.
I am really excited to see Devin Harris in the starting lineup. He may not be a traditional point guard either but he gives the Mavs a basket attacking option. Harris is young and still going to make mistakes but I am glad Avery is giving him a chance to develop and get minutes cause I really think it will pay off later in the year and of course come playoff time. We’ve seen in the games this week that there are going to be ups and downs with Harris. Those can be from game to game or within a game but Devin Harris is a player in my book and we need look no further than some of his performances in the playoffs last year to understand that. Look at the games this week…nice numbers against Golden State then a really bad shooting night against the Clippers. He had early foul trouble against the Suns but he came back and was pretty good in the second half before fouling out…on a ridiculous call I might add.
It was also nice to see Devean George on the floor this week. He did some nice things against the Phoenix – big rebounds, solid defense, and gave Avery an option in the frontcourt against the smaller Suns lineup. He didn’t do anything flashy…he was just solid like we expected him to be. That is going to be a nice addition to the Mavs roster.
I hope the win allows everyone to relax a little bit. I know a lot of you were concerned and in panic mode about the start. Like I said before, you are going to have rough patches over the course of a season. I understand it causes concern when that rough patch is right out of the chute but this team is too good with too good of a coach I might add to falter for a long period of time. It is a building process and you just don’t pick up where you left off last year. It’s a new year and the building blocks have to be put in place again. Now with the core of the team back, the building process may not take as long but it is a process.
I appreciate the e-mails I have been receiving. I feel like sometimes I have been holding e-mail therapy sessions considering the slow start but that is just fine. You can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. My counseling sessions don’t even cost much. One thing I did receive a few e-mails and comments in person about were my comments during the telecast of the Golden State game regarding the Western Conference title banner. I was really excited to see the banner put up there at American Airlines Center (despite the little snafu in the ceremony) and it has helped me put last year in the right perspective. No one was more devastated, sad, furious – pick your adjective – than I was over the loss in the Finals. But that is in the past and nothing can be done about it now. I know some people are over it but I don’t think some are – inside and outside of the organization. It’s time now to realize that what the Mavs accomplished in winning the West for the first time ever last year is something to be proud of. Last year was a great, great thrill for all of us and it’s time to look back with pride at the good things done rather than wallow in the disappointment of what was not done. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about being satisfied. There is still another step to be taken. However you can still appreciate the steps that were taken last year and look back on them in a favorable light. At least I feel like I am that place now. Just my two cents…
November 6, 2006
I get the sense from what people are asking me, the limited things I have heard on talk radio and some e-mails I have received that Mavs fans want some answers after the team’s 0-2 start. I almost get the feeling a little panic is setting in right now. Well my first bit of advice would be to take a deep breath, relax, and realize there are 80 more of these suckers to go. I’m not really sure I have any answers or magic words or whatever to soothe your concerns. I just think I have enough perspective to realize the six bad quarters in your first two games does not a failed season make. NBA championships aren’t won in November.
We discussed something at the beginning of our broadcast of the Houston game and that is that I also get the feeling from many folks, maybe even from some people around the team, that they just want it to be April right now and be playing the games that really matter. Of course we all know though you can’t do that. Getting to April and the playoffs and hopefully back to the NBA Finals is a long, long road. You take those first steps on that road when camp starts and unfortunately it’s pretty evident that the Mavs are a few steps behind on the journey as compared to this time a year ago. Of course it doesn’t mean they can’t catch up and I fully expect them to do so. It is however going to take a little more patience than perhaps some of us anticipated.
From what I can tell it really boils down to the fact that this team had a bad pre-season. Injuries and the integration of new players into the system put the team behind schedule. What have we learned in watching the Mavs over the last six years? We have learned how important chemistry and fitting the parts together is to the team success. Right now the chemistry isn’t there and the pieces of the puzzle haven’t fit together yet. It isn’t an excuse, it is just a fact. Speaking of schedule, that hasn’t helped the Mavs either as they have come out of the gates facing a San Antonio team with an Alamo-sized chip on the shoulder based on what happened last spring and a Rockets team with Yao looking dominant and much better outside shooting than last year. The Rockets hit the Mavs with an early haymaker and Dallas never fully appeared to clear the cobwebs after that.
The Golden State game is no cure-all for this Mavs team either. Who knows how the Warriors will play for Don Nelson in his return to Dallas. They certainly demonstrated they can pose problems for Dallas last year in winning 3 of 4 games. They can be a very potent, quick-striking team offensively but have not shown that this year. Their three most dangerous offensive weapons aren’t shooting well at all and I am speaking of Jason Richardson, Baron Davis and Troy Murphy. Richardson isn’t nearly 100-precent after off-season surgery on his left knee. Murphy appears to be struggling because he has to wear a facemask to protect a broken nose suffered in the pre-season. Nellie was counting on those two outside shooting threats to spread the floor and so far they haven’t delivered. The Warriors are getting nice production from three different young guys. Centers Ike Diogu of Garland and Andris Biedrins of Latvia are performing nicely early on and young guard Monta Ellis is their leading scorer. I remember being quite impressed with Ellis’ ability to score in a late-season game against Dallas last year. That shouldn’t be a big surprise considering what a prolific scorer he was in high school in Jackson, Mississippi.
November 1, 2006
I can’t remember in six years of working the Mavs a more delicious season opener. The hated Spurs come to town in the first of many wars between these two fantastic, and as evidenced by the playoff series last year, evenly-matched teams. I mentioned some concerns yesterday about the Mavs at the start of the year but San Antonio demonstrated last year with a 2-7 pre-season that you can still start a regular season just fine. Remember the Spurs got out to a 16-3 start last season. Also, the Spurs have shown in their past years that a slow first four to six weeks isn’t the end of the world. It has happened on several occasions that San Antonio has started a year slowly and then rounded into form in December and January and gone on a tear for the rest of the season. Dallas may have gotten over the hump last year but there is still plenty to be learned from the way they do their business in San Antonio.
As far as some thoughts on the Spurs, the minor ankle sprain apparently wont keep Tony Parker out of the starting lineup tonight. Having seen it year after year, we know that stopping Parker’s penetration is a big problem for the Dallas defense. All of the reports from San Antone indicate Tim Duncan is healthy and ticked off and that’s not a good combo. Diop and Dampier will absolutely have their work cut out for them tonight.
While I mentioned earlier there are things to still be learned from the Spurs, San Antonio made moves in the off-season to counter Dallas. The Spurs changed their center position. They traded Rasho Nesterovic, and lost Nazr Mohammed in free agency to Detroit. They added athletic Francisco Elson from Denver and a young project from New York in Jackie Butler. And actually second year NBA guy but longtime international vet Fabrico Oberto has been starting at center. The Spurs are definitely more athletic there…whether or not that translates to success remains to be seen.
Bottom line, I can’t wait for the energy of that building tonight as the Mavs meet their biggest rival. And like I said, there will be a whole lot more slugfests between these two, not only in the regular season but I bet come May too.
Well the ship is about ready to come out of dry dock and the long voyage, at least hopefully long voyage, for the Mavs is about to begin. As has been drilled into my head by my broadcast pal Bob Ortegel, predictions are pretty much useless. As a matter of fact, I shut it down in that regard pretty much during last year’s playoff run. But I’m writing this thing to share some opinions so what the heck. Actually I’m sort of hedging the prediction I was quietly making in late September that Dallas would have the best regular season record in the league. I really felt the veteran depth Dallas added would propel to more than 60 wins and the best record but that was before the pre-season. And yes I know I shouldn’t draw many conclusions from the pre-season but who knows how this team may start because of all of the injuries and lack of on court time to develop chemistry and continuity in the exhibition season. Everything may be fine to start out the year but when you look at how tough the first five games are before the schedule hits an easier stretch it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility to hit a bump or two in the first week. Could that derail my prediction of best regular season record…who knows? Just keep an eye on it. For now, lets just talk regular season thoughts and then deal with the playoffs at the appropriate time.
Some thoughts on the Mavs for the year:
Avery- I think how he is handing the Finals loss is perfect. He doesn’t want them to forget about it. Yes it has to be put in the back of your mind when the ball goes up but he wants this team to use that pain and disappointment to drive them throughout the season. What he is teaching is definitely hitting home because the players talk about it now in the terms of “their vision” not “Avery’s vision”. His biggest challenge – finding a way to use all of the talent on this team, particularly the crowded backcourt.
Dirk- assists will go up, points might go down a bit. 3-point attempts may go down some too…but playing closer to the basket will allow him the chance to improve his offensive rebounding. The General really wants that. The only thing stopping Dirk from another 1st-team All-NBA selection will be if Tim Duncan is as healthy and ticked off as everyone says.
JET- a lot more shooting guard for him this year…with Devin Harris and Anthony Johnson capable of handling point quite nicely. Again, does the crowded backcourt mean his minutes go down and consequently his points? Maybe. But he will obviously be an important factor in crunch time with his defense-stretching range and cold-bloodedness with the game on the line.
J-Ho- maybe the reason JET and Dirk drop off a touch in scoring is cause this guy elevates his game as he has done each year so far. The contract distraction is removed and Howard worked on shooting the ball better and the results were there in pre-season He says he wants his steals and assists up too. He receives All-Star consideration but probably is left out cause there are so many talented forwards in the West.
Stack- after nursing sore knees in the pre-season he returned for the last two games. I suspect the Mavs will play it cool early in the season with Stack and not force too many minutes onto those knees which they need healthy come playoff time. About to turn 32 and driven by the disappointment of last year I think he becomes more of a leader, filling some of the Darrell Armstrong void – although again we might be talking about a guy who plays a little less and so as a result the stats take a bit of a dip.
Dampier- great training camp until he hurt his hip. No player may have benefited more from the Finals experience. He was thrilled to be a part of it and that taste will push him to be a more consistent player. I guess he comes off the bench to start the year since he missed that time in the pre-season.
Diop- looks more comfortable on the offensive end. Avery wants that from his centers. He’s in great shape and he’ll be just as good if not better in the most important aspects of his game, blocking shots and rebounding.
Greg Buckner- the guy is thrilled to be back here. I suspect he starts some at two guard this year. He gives the Mavs a tough perimeter defender but he has a little more offensive game than say a guy like Adrian Griffin. He took well over 200 3’s in Denver last year and hit at a 35% clip…
Devin Harris- the jump shot I thought looked better early in camp isn’t falling but his meal ticket is still his ability to penetrate. Hopefully he can stay healthy and be a force off the bench. Which I suspect is where he will be at the start of games…on nights when Avery might want to start Terry at two, I think the starter at point is….
Anthony Johnson- really like what I have seen out of him so far. Just a solid pro. There are subtleties in his game that you don’t learn about when you don’t see him 82 nights that I have already picked up on. He is a great communicator on defense, he’s a strong player and has more leadership vibe than I knew. He wont score a ton but he knows how to run an offense. Some nights he may start and some nights his minutes may be very limited but whatever he is called on to do he will be ready to do it.
Devean George- again another solid pro…who can knock down an open 3, and defends well. He is adjusting to life away from the Triangle offense and that might take some time. With small ball more prevalent, don’t rule out him playing some time at the 4. When you think about the backcourt you have JET, Harris, Johnson, Buckner, and Stackhouse to play 96 minutes…well you can play Stack or Buck at 3 when Howard doesn’t play and you can get a few minutes for George at the 4 in addition to whatever backup small forward he plays.
Austin Croshere- wanted to see him shoot better in the pre-season but that got a little better late. A backup at the 4 and in some small ball offensive oriented lineups he can be on the floor with Dirk…he can defend and rebound better than Van Horn too. He’s a good three point shooter and hopefully he can hit his open jumpers like he did in Indiana. He shot better than 38% on three’s in three of the last four years.
DJ Mbenga- still not a lot of time on the floor for him as 3rd center but no doubt this guy has so much more of a clue than when he got here. He’s still pretty unpolished but you can put him in the game for short stretches and he won’t hurt you. His energy and athleticism can change the game in short spurts. Hopefully the foot injury is short-term.
Maurice Ager- the rook will be active for some games with DJ hurt. Obviously without injuries minutes will be hard to come by on this team for him and Pops Mensah-Bonsu and JJ Barea.
It’s a great collection of talent with a fantastic young coach to lead them Will the wonderful chemistry of last year be here again? Can they stay reasonably healthy? Will the loss in the Finals be in the proper perspective, so as to be a motivating not debilitating to their season. All in all it should be another wonderful year in a super-competitive conference. And keep in mind everyone in this tough conference will be gunning for them as the defending West champs. How do they respond the being the hunted rather than hunter? So many questions, finally we start getting answers tomorrow.
And oh by the way, for those of you getting back into reading this since the regular season starts, a reminder that e-mails are OK. I’ll get back to as many as I can…its email@example.com. Thoughts on the Spurs game later…
October 31, 2006
A text message from a very good friend late Saturday night is how I learned of the news Red Auerbach’s passing. I suspect a significant portion of you who read this are basketball savvy enough to realize what a legend this sport and this league has lost but I hope to you newer, younger and more casual fans of the game I can encourage you to learn more about a man who as Bob Cousy said “was an absolute giant” in the game of basketball.
Since his passing over the weekend, there have been a number of wonderful articles on the internet. In addition (here I go talking about my reading again) I would highly suggest a book I read last summer called Let Me Tell You A Story by the great John Feinstein. He has written many fantastic sports books and this one is a fairly biographical look at Red’s life, his influence on the game and the circle of friends who joined him for weekly lunches at a Chinese food restaurant in Washington DC. It is a tremendous read. All basketball fans I think would benefit from learning about his eye for coaching and talent, his ability to pull off a number of one-sided, his innovations on the game like the fast break and the concept of the 6th man, and you will get some laughs too cause the guy was one hell of a storyteller.
As far as the Mavericks go, I had a chance to watch some practice on Monday. Everyone looked healthy and I felt an elevated intensity as they get ready to start the regular season on Thursday. Certainly, there is probably a little concern because the myriad of injuries slowed the team’s progress through the pre-season and training camp. We will start getting some of the questions along those lines answered come Thursday night. I’ll share some thoughts about the upcoming season tomorrow….
October 25, 2006
Greetings from Pittsburgh, my first ever trip to the home of one of the Cowboys most hated rivals. Speaking of which, what a mess that was at Texas Stadium on Monday night but that is another story for another time. Much closer to my world is the Mavs’ final pre-season tune-ups for the regular season are this week starting with tonight’s affair against the Cavaliers here in the Steel City.
By all accounts the game tonight is supposed to be the dress rehearsal game if you will. When I received the game notes provided by the media relations staff yesterday on the plane there were no injuries listed on it so it appears everyone is available. It will be the first time on the floor for Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse. Meanwhile Erick Dampier returns after missing three games with a bruised hip. Clearly the Mavs are in position to use tonight’s game with Cleveland as the game to try and accomplish something because I would guess both sides will be extraordinarily vanilla when the Mavs and Spurs meet in San Antonio Friday night. That is of course less than one week away from when the two rivals open the regular season against each other in Dallas.
Saturday night’s pre-season win over Washington was actually pretty exciting. Of course we must state the obligatory…its just pre-season blah, blah, blah but I don’t care when it is or who is on the floor a 17 –1 run over the last five minutes of a game is fairly impressive. What might be more encouraging than anything else is how the Mavs starters watching from the bench carried on during the comeback. Dirk, J-Ho and JET among others were as into the rally as anyone at the arena. If players of that caliber are so supportive of guys like Maurice Ager and J.J. Barea then that’s a great sign that the togetherness that was so instrumental to last year’s success is developing again.
If I may make a correction - I just returned from the morning shootaround and apparently Erick Dampier is not going to play tonight. It looks like he will be back Friday night against the Spurs.
October 19, 2006
For a couple of reasons I haven’t done much with the blog during training camp. Most importantly, I’m not sure we are really learning much about the Mavs during the pre-season. Through four games, Dirk, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, and Devin Harris have yet to take the floor while Greg Buckner, Devean George, and Erick Dampier have missed some time with minor injuries also. See why they’re 0-4? It’s pretty much as simple as that.
All of the aforementioned players who have been absent for all or part of the pre-season games have had various bumps and bruises…or an ailment in Devean George’s food poisoning case but we aren’t talking about anything major. What I like is the big picture vision of Avery Johnson here. There is just no reason to push any of your main players too much in October when the plan is to be playing again into June. I would suspect that Dirk and Jet will each get into two or three pre-season games and have a chance to mesh with some of their new teammates and all should be fine when November 2nd rolls around and the San Antonio Spurs come to town.
As of before Tuesday night’s game, Avery claimed no one had distinguished themselves in the battle for the last roster spot. J.J. Barea, the point guard from Northeastern University is getting the most minutes. Ndudi (pronounced indy) Ebi, a 2003 first round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves out of Houston Westbury Christian High School is clearly the most intriguing from an athletic standpoint. Darius Washington, a rookie free agent who spent two years at Memphis, appears at least to me to be the best pure scorer. I say that despite some erratic shooting performances in games, cause I am factoring in some things I saw in the scrimmages in Denton and at Fan Jam. I don’t know I would read too much into Barea getting the most minutes. I think it is just a function of two point guards in JET and Devin being in street clothes. At this point, if one of them can demonstrate some level of consistency then that will allow them to separate from the pack. Certainly one might think that if no one is a clear favorite then go with the bigger and more athletically gifted Ebi. As any hoops fan or coach or personnel guy would point out you can’t coach size. One problem here is that the 6’9” Ebi has spent two years on an NBA roster (19 games in 2 seasons with Minnesota) and so he can’t be sent to the D-League for playing time. I don’t know if that is a hurdle for him to make the team in the minds of the Mavs’ braintrust.
I know I just devoted a lot of space to the competition for a roster spot that may not see one minute of the floor in a real game this year but there isn’t a much else terribly intriguing. I have seen some good things from Maurice Ager. He can defend. He can go to the basket. Like any rookie, he at times forces things and makes poor decisions but it looks like the Mavs might have another nice piece to the future puzzle on their hands here.
As always, comments and/or questions are welcome from any of you. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do read them all. I am not promising answers to all of them but I will try my best.
I mentioned earlier there were a couple of reasons I hadn’t blogged much so far. Over the summer, I read some fantastic books - one by John Meachem about FDR and Winston Churchill, another about Ronald Reagan and a couple by the noted historian, the late Stephen Ambrose. To me there is perhaps no more admirable talent than the ability to write well. Speaking publicly has always come with relative ease for me but writing is another story. As I spent some afternoons with my thoughts buried in these books it really motivated me to improve my writing skills. So while I have made no final decisions, I am thinking about blogging a little less often this year. I want this to be a worthy investment of your time and I would like it to be more eloquently written, as least as eloquent as talking basketball permits. I don’t just want to throw content up here for the sake of having something. I want there to be subject matter worthwhile to write about and when there is I hope to do a better job of writing about it. Having said that though, my mind isn’t made up…perhaps you all aren’t interested in seeing me try to become Ernest Hemmingway (read him too this summer) but just want as much Mavs info as I can get to you in a timely fashion.
October 10, 2006
Well, here we are again. Another Mavericks season is just around the corner. Some of you may have wondered where my blog disappeared to over the summer but after the colossal disappointment of the Finals…I just didn’t have it in me to write about it. I spoke about it on my day a week with Galloway and Company on ESPN 103.3 when I had to or when I made speaking appearances before local civic groups this summer. Each time I talked about it, the emotions roared to the surface again for me…sometimes anger, sometimes sadness, sometimes sympathy for the coaches and players because if it bugs me this badly imagine what they must feel. There are some others things I would like to say on this subject but in the interest of covering some other topics I will save it for later in the pre-season.
The start of training camp though means it is time to start writing a new chapter in Mavs history…hopefully one with a better ending. It was interesting to listen to the interviews we did for the TV broadcast on Monday at media day. From Avery to Dirk to Jet Terry to Stack to J-Ho to Devin Harris…all of them said they didn’t want to completely forget about the pain of losing they way they did in the Finals. This group seems to sort of embrace the disappointment as a tool to motivate them and drive them to finish the job this year.
Being in position to finish the job starts with the baby steps of the first week of training camp. I had a chance to watch three practices this week and the scrimmage Friday afternoon at UNT. I don’t know how much information you can gather from three training camp practices and a scrimmage but I will hit some bullet points….
Everyone is in shape- Avery talked about this on the first day of camp. Good to see that all of the guys did the appropriate training work despite the short off-season.
I noticed the especially in the scrimmage that DeSagana Diop looks more comfortable on offense. For those of you who saw the scrimmage you saw him hit a jump shot rather smoothly, roll to the basket effectively on pick-and-rolls and make some nice catches in traffic. He also scored on a putback.
Devin Harris’ jump shot definitely looks better. He didn’t make many in the scrimmage but the form looks more comfortable. He has got to knock down the 18-20 footers this year and that is of course why he spent so much of his summer working on it.
I think all of the veteran additions Anthony Johnson, Austin Croshere, Devean George and Greg Buckner will help this team. All of them are pros. We all remember Buck from his time here and he has improved his outside shot since then. In practice, Johnson is just a solid point guard and appears to be a pretty strong dude as well. George has very good defensive footwork from what I have seen in the practices and drills. Croshere tweaked his back a touch lifting weights this week so I haven’t seen much of him but I said all off-season long that he would be a better version of Van Horn. He can hit outside jumpers and defends and rebounds a little more than Keith did.
Everything is going smoothly so far and that seems to be the best news. I will check in more throughout the pre-season.