Practice report: Mavs struggle to find identity without Dirk
Earl K. Sneed reports from the Dallas Mavericks' Monday practice, as the team tries to find an identity and solve turnover issues without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.
Practice report (12/17/12)
Mavs struggle to find identity without Dirk
With Nowitzki’s return from arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19 still lacking a timetable, the Mavericks (11-13) returned to the practice court Monday morning hoping to build that identity on the fly. But as the team prepared for Tuesday’s matchup against Philadelphia, the absence of No. 41 continued to remain apparent.
“Whenever your best player is out, you know, you’re going to struggle to have an identity,” veteran point guard Derek Fisher confessed. “That’s who the franchise is built around, that’s who the team is recognized most by, is by No. 41. He makes everybody’s game more efficient and better, so as soon as he gets back on the court I think the identity of the team can build around that. We have no idea when that will be, so until then it’s just a matter of creating an identity each night.
“Assistant coach [Jim] O’Brien and I were just talking about how from a lineup perspective very few times have the same five guys consistently been on the court together for long stretches of time so far this season,” he continued. “And so, as we’ve talked about trying to develop trust and chemistry and understanding of how to play with each other on the offensive and defensive end, it would help to have some consistency and lineups out there in terms of injuries, fouls and different things that are causing these issues.”
But at the center of the Mavs’ issues has been their inability to protect the ball, averaging 21.7 giveaways during losses at Boston, Toronto and Minnesota. And as they await the return of their go-to player, cutting down on costly turnovers remained the focus for the Mavericks as they also battle through their team chemistry issues.
“It’s just a matter of being under control,” Fisher said of the mounting turnovers. "Because we’re a team that plays with pace, sometimes you’re just going too fast, so sometimes you have to slow down. That doesn’t mean move slow, but just mentally slow yourself down and make sure you’re reading situations the right way on the floor.”
“To be honest, we’ve done uncharacteristically stupid things,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added. “We’ve got to work to correct it, I’ve got to teach these guys better and we’ve got to keep studying it. … You can’t throw the ball through the nose of a defender and have it come out his [tail] and then to a teammate.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs hope to correct those uncharacteristic mistakes Tuesday night, while trying to avenge a 100-98 loss in Philadelphia on Nov. 27. The team is also expected to welcome center Chris Kaman back Tuesday morning for shootaround, after the 7-footer was excused from Monday’s practice to attend a family funeral.
Note: The Mavericks return home and host the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, trying to avenge a 100-98 defeat in Philly on Nov. 27. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.