Ignore the offensive impact the big man makes at your own risk of ending up on his highlight reel.
Chandler will knock down the occasional midrange jumper, but the vast majority of his points come around the bucket. Or well above the rim. Chandler, whose field-goal percentage annually ranks among the NBA’s best, is especially effective at catching lobs and finishing in rim-rattling fashion.
That facet of Chandler’s game was on full display during Thursday’s Mavericks home opener, when he scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four alley-oop finishes and a putback dunk.
The dunks might only count for two points each, but there is a ripple effect to Chandler’s rim attacks that goes far beyond firing up the crowd.
“It opens up the whole floor for us,” small forward Chandler Parsons said. “When he screens and he rolls, it has to draw in the weak side. They have to pick their poison. They have to either tag him on the roll and allow a shooter to get an open shot or we’re going to find him at the rim. He’s probably the best pick-and-roll guy in the league just rolling to the basket and forcing the defense to collapse.”
The term “floor spacer” typically applies to shooters such as Dirk Nowitzki, who demands so much attention that it opens up the lane for opponents. Chandler, as well as second-team center Brandan Wright, space the floor by forcing opponents to respect their dives to the rim.
Both of the Mavs’ athletic bigs, whose huge catch radiuses give guards the luxury of just lobbing the ball up near the bucket, excel at rolling to the rim. And if defenses overplay the initial pick-and-roll action, Chandler and Wright both have a knack for slipping the screen and going right to the rim, which is how Chandler caught a long-distance lob from point guard Jameer Nelson against the Jazz.
It presents a dilemma for defenses, who obviously don’t want to give up high-percentage dunks. Do they let the guard get deep in the lane? Do they cheat off the shooter spotted up on the weak side?
“That puts the pressure on the defense,” Nelson said. “If a guy gets a wide-open shot, that’s him getting them that shot.”
The big men also get a lot of lobs when they aren’t involved in the initial pick-and-roll action, especially when defenses cheat to prevent a popping Nowitzki from getting an open shot. That opens an avenue into the lane for the ball handler, and if the opposing big man steps up, Chandler or Wright often get the opportunity to throw down.
It helps that the Mavs have so many players capable of creating off the dribble. In two games, Chandler has caught lobs from Nelson, Parsons and Monta Ellis after they’ve gotten into the lane and drawn his defender. It’s a safe bet that there are plenty to come from Devin Harris and J.J. Barea for Chandler and Wright as well.
“That makes the game so easy,” Chandler said. “The beautiful thing is we have guys that are very skilled, guys that play at a high level and it makes my job easier. It’s fun out there at times because you can see it happening before the play develops."
You can also see it later on the highlight shows.
Parsons stunk it up in the season-opening loss in San Antonio and started slow in the home opener against the Utah Jazz. After misfiring on 14 of his first 17 shots of the season, Parsons settled into a nice groove Thursday night.
It was a heck of a way to bounce back from his five-point, 2-of-10 debut for Dallas on Tuesday night, when he missed a decent look at a 3-pointer that would have been a game-winner against the Spurs.
"You never want to play like I did that first game, but every guy has nights like that," Parsons said.
Parsons and the Mavs firmly believe the $46 million man will have many more nights like this, particularly if he remains aggressive. That won't be a problem for a player whose confidence borders on cockiness.
"I like everything about Parsons," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He plays hard; he is decisive with what he is doing. The last shot of the game the other night, I loved the way he stepped into it aggressively and confidently. He is going to play his game.
"By the time All-Star break rolls around, people are going to look at him and say this is one of the best young players in the league."
That's pretty high praise from his coach, huh?
Well, the 26-year-old Parsons didn't necessarily think so.
"I hope they look at me like that already," Parsons said. "There's a reason why I came here. I want the next step in my career and I want to show how good of a player I can be. With these guys I'm playing with, with this coaching staff, this offensive system, I think it's a perfect fit for me and I think I'll flourish in it."
After five rough quarters, Parsons provided some proof.
No doubt that Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons form a fine trio. But Funkadelic would be a better fit if you want to go back decades to find a musical group that sums up the Mavs.
"We have a lot of ways to hurt you," Parsons said after matching Nowitzki for game-high honors with 21 points in the Mavs' 120-102 rout of the Utah Jazz.
Just ask the poor Jazz.
Granted, the playoffs are a pipe dream for the rebuilding Jazz, and Utah looked tired while playing for the second consecutive night. But the Mavs, with their waves of offensive weapons, will make a lot of teams looked gassed.
This was "One Nation Under a Groove" indeed for Dallas.
Seven Dallas players scored in double figures, with Al-Farouq Aminu, Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler and Devin Harris joining the Run DMC dudes. The Mavs made their first eight shots from the floor and shot 55.3 percent for the night. Dallas scored 69 points by halftime, when their pacing and spacing actually might have caused coach Rick Carlisle to crack a smile.
"Offensively, we looked great out there," said center Tyson Chandler, whose 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting featured three highlight-reel finishes of alley-oops. "The pace was incredible, nobody overdribbling, the ball just moving and dictating the shot. It's our style of basketball."
It is beautiful basketball, the kind that allows sellout home crowds to free their minds and have their rear ends follow.
The offensive brilliance of the Mavs, an elite team on that end of the floor last season that made major offseason upgrades, begins with the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history. The big German was at his efficient best against the Jazz, needing only 13 shots to get his 21 points.
But there is less offensive burden on Nowitzki than perhaps at any point of his Hall of Fame career. That's because the Mavs have such a vast arsenal of attackers, finishers and shooters.
Parsons, the $46 million restricted free-agent addition who bounced back from a dreadful debut with a fine performance against the Jazz, does a little bit of everything. He can create for himself and teammates off the dribble. He can slash. He can post up. He can shoot the 3.
This week's return of J.J. Barea, the pick-and-roll pest who played a key role in Dallas' 2011 title run, gives the Mavs four healthy guards who have proven they can beat opponents off the bounce. They're all at their best as pick-and-roll trigger men but can also play off the ball. And they all embrace the Mavs' mission to keep the ball moving. Even Ellis (14 points, six assists versus Jazz), who arrived in Dallas before last season with a reputation as a me-first gunner but has fit in phenomenally well with the Mavs.
"I don't think we have any selfish guys out there," Nowitzki said. "We want to share the ball. We want to look for open shots. We want to play for each other. We have a lot of playmakers."
The Mavs also have two athletic big men who excel at running the floor and finishing above the rim in Chandler and Wright, who combined for 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting, with several of those buckets causing the crowd to get on its feet. Nowitzki forces the defense to gravitate toward him because of his perimeter shooting prowess; Chandler and Wright pull in the opposite direction or exploit the holes around the rim.
"You've got to pick your poison," Parsons said.
Or just enjoy the electrifying show.
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and the Dallas Mavericks celebrated the return of two key pieces from the franchise's only championship team in a 120-102 victory over the Utah Jazz in their home opener Thursday night.
Tyson Chandler, the center and emotional leader when Dallas beat Miami for the title three years ago, had 13 points and six rebounds in his first home game since leaving in free agency not long after celebrating the crown.
J.J. Barea, the diminutive guard and 2011 NBA Finals spark who was re-acquired a day earlier, got a standing ovation when he came off the bench late in the first quarter. He had four points.
Derrick Favors had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who fell behind by 30 points in the first half of a tough back-to-back after an opening loss to Houston at home.
DALLAS -- This was just a matter of how badly the Dallas Mavericks would blow out the Utah Jazz.
The Mavs started fast against an inferior team that was playing for the second straight night -- making their first eight shots -- and never let the Jazz in the game. Seven Mavs scored in double figures, led by 21 points apiece from Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons.
Recovery of the game: Parsons followed up his 2-of-10 Dallas debut by missing six of his first seven shots from the floor. But he kept attacking and ended up with a fine line: 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds and two assists.
Air show of the game: The Mavs looked like Lob City in the first quarter. Tyson Chandler welcomed himself back to the American Airlines Center in rim-rocking fashion with a little help from his teammates. In the first few minutes of the game, Jameer Nelson and Parsons drove into the teeth of the Utah defense and delivered lobs to Chandler, who ferociously finished with two hands on both occasions. Chandler celebrated the second slam with a primal scream at midcourt as the crowd roared with him. Nelson also threw a long-distance lob to Chandler later in the quarter for another highlight throwdown. Al-Farouq Aminu got into the act by catching an alley-oop from Devin Harris on the final play of the first quarter.
Stat of the game: Mavs centers Chandler and Brandan Wright combined to go 11-of-12 from the floor, scoring the majority of their 27 points on dunks.
Video of the game: This Run DMC video, produced by the Mavs' outstanding creative team, debuted during the first quarter and will be a viral hit. It features Nowitzki, Ellis and Parsons -- Dirk, Monta, Chandler -- dressed like the '80s rap group and dropping Mavs-specific rhymes. Nowitzki is a great sport but an awful rapper, even by NBA standards.
A lot has changed since Barea’s first stint with the Dallas Mavericks -- including his jersey number, which is No. 5 now because Monta Ellis owns No. 11 -- but not the comfortable feeling Barea gets from being part of the franchise that developed him from an undrafted prospect to a key part of the 2011 title team.
After negotiating a buyout of the final season of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves and clearing waivers, Barea rejoined the Mavs on Monday, signing a deal for the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million.
“I wish I would have never left, but things happen,” Barea said after Monday’s shootaround, his first workout with the team since rejoining the Mavs. “They happen for a reason.”
Of course, Barea’s bank account is happy he left his second home. Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who made creating salary-cap space a priority after the 2011 lockout, offered only a one-year deal, so it was an easy financial decision to accept Minnesota’s four-year, $18 million offer.
Barea said he appreciated being treated with respect during his three seasons with the Timberwolves, but he’s refreshed to be back in Dallas with a team that is a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
“I missed it,” said Barea, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since starting the last few games of the 2011 Finals. “I’m excited to be back. The best five years of my life were here. Hopefully we can get this going again.”
The 6-foot Barea, who has career averages of 8.3 points and 3.4 assists, adds another proven, experienced playmaker to a crowded Dallas backcourt rotation. With Jameer Nelson and Ellis entrenched as the starters, Barea joins Devin Harris and Raymond Felton as off-the-bench options, although Felton is still at least a week away as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain and serves his four-game suspension.
The Mavs didn’t make any promises about playing time to Barea. In fact, he didn’t discuss his role with coach Rick Carlisle until after he had agreed to the deal to return to Dallas.
“Whatever they need me to do, I’ll be ready,” said Barea, expressing his trust in Carlisle to figure out the best combinations.
Said Carlisle: “We’ve got a lot of options, so there’s a lot of different ways we can go and a lot of different things we can do situationally depending on size and matchups and this, that and the other.
“It’s a good problem to have and I’m happy we have it.”
And Barea is happy to be back home.
1. What will the Mavs’ record be, and which teams will finish above them in the West?
Gutierrez: Game one against the Spurs didn’t change any preconceived thoughts I had about the Mavericks. They’re going to be a beast on offense, extremely deep, and have room to grow defensively. Provided that they stay healthy, I can see a 55-27 record in the West, earning them the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round. The top three seeds, in no particular order: are the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.
MacMahon: The Mavs will be fighting for the fourth seed behind the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers. Dallas was an elite offensive team that upgraded in that department during the offseason. If the Mavs can be decent defensively, they’ll really be dangerous. It took 54 wins for a West team to get home-court advantage in the first round. The Mavs will hit that number, but it might not be enough to open the playoffs at the American Airlines Center.
Taylor: 56-28, finishing behind San Antonio, the Clippers and Oklahoma City.
2. Rank the five best players on the Mavs.
Gutierrez: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler, and Devin Harris. Nowitzki and Ellis should be self-explanatory. I lean more toward Parsons over Chandler due to his versatility on offense and potential as a defender. In terms of importance to the team, Chandler means more than Parsons, but the talent favors the young forward. I selected Harris because of the potential to be the best two-way point guard on the roster.
MacMahon: Nowitzki, Parsons, Ellis, Chandler, Harris. Nowitzki is a no-brainer as a future Hall of Famer who is still playing at an All-Star level. Parsons over Ellis is a tough call, especially considering that I had a courtside seat in San Antonio, where Ellis lit it up and Parsons stunk it up. But Parsons is a much more versatile player who is an ascending talent and should bloom in Rick Carlisle’s system.
Taylor: Dirk is still the Mavs' best player, followed closely by Ellis, Parsons, Jameer Nelson and Chandler.
3. Who will be the leading scorer?
Gutierrez: I originally thought about the safe answer in Nowitzki, but I’m going to go ahead and shift course by saying it will be Ellis. There will be plenty of times over the course of the season where Nowitzki will just be used as a decoy or Rick Carlisle will use his “gravity” to suck in the opposition. Chandler Parsons is going to benefit from this, but Ellis will likely reap the rewards most. Nowitzki will get his, but Ellis should take another step up this season and be the team’s leading scorer.
MacMahon: Mark Cuban said he doesn’t think any Maverick will average 20 points per game this season due to Dallas’ depth and balance, but I disagree. The big German will put up 20-plus for the 13th time in 14 seasons. His shots might go down a bit, but I’ll bet the quality of his looks increases, especially from 3-point range. Expect Ellis to match his scoring average from last season (19.0) and Parsons to chip in 17 or 18 points per game.
Taylor: Ellis will lead the Mavs in scoring this season because any time the Mavs are blowing a team out or getting blown out, Nowitzki will take a seat on the bench and save his legs for another day.
In other words, Nowitzki would remain one of NBA's most efficient shooters but be relied on by the Dallas Mavericks less than ever.
His mere presence -- and the gravitational pull he has on defensive rotations -- creates space for the rest of the Mavs to do what they do best.
"Basically, my job is now to spread the floor for the guys," Nowitzki said a few days before the Mavs opened the regular season. "I'm there to really help spread the floor and get my guy out of the way for them."
OK, it's not as though the Mavs want Nowitzki to stand on the wing and wait for the ball to come his way occasionally. After all, he's the 10th leading scorer in NBA history and ranked 12th in the league last season with 21.7 points per game.
But the Mavs want to continue to ease the offensive burden on Nowitzki, making his minutes less physically demanding by not running a lot of isolation and post-up plays for him.
"We want there to be a balance," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We want him to get shots off of being a screener. We want him to get shots off of being a guy that's spotted up when guys are driving it. We want to get him shots in transition."
In the season-opening loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki might have been too much of a complementary piece. According to NBA.com's player-tracking data, Nowitzki had 48 touches, which ranked fifth on the team. He scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and said he "probably should have forced it more" when the Mavs' offense hit a rut in the third quarter.
Nevertheless, Nowitzki is excited about spending many possessions as a spot-up threat on the weak side and trailing in transition a lot.
"We can attack from all angles," Nowitzki said. "I don't have to post up a ton. I don't have to do the [isolation] thing, which is taxing now and hard for me if you do it a lot.
"Tyson's so good at rolling and finishing above the rim. It sucks a lot of defensive guys in and then we've just got to make the right plays. Is it the [spot-up] shooter? Is it the drop-off? Is it shooting it yourself? If we read that correct, we can have some defenses scramble, and that's what you want. You want a defender running at you. ... We can be a fun offensive group, that's for sure."
DALLAS -- J.J. Barea, a fan favorite from Dallas' 2011 championship team, is rejoining the Mavericks.
After clearing waivers Wednesday afternoon, Barea signed a veteran's minimum deal with the Mavs, who released second-year guard Gal Mekel to make room on the roster.
"We could not be more excited to have J.J. back in a Mavericks uniform," Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "He was a key contributor in bringing a championship to Dallas. A player with his experience and leadership will be a great addition to our team."
Barea finalized a buyout Monday with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who signed him to a four-year, $18 million deal following the Mavs' title run.
The 6-foot Barea spent the first five seasons of his career with the Mavericks. He primarily served as a sparkplug off the bench but started the last three games of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, a move that helped the Mavs win each of those games.
Parsons doesn’t need to be reminded that his three-year, $46 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks was made possible after Dirk Nowitzki agreed to a massive hometown discount, a three-year, $25 million deal that is less than half the market value for the future Hall of Famer. But just in case, the big German has made a sarcastic demand of his new teammate.
"I told him every dinner on the road this year is on him," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com over the weekend, "because it's my money anyway."
That’s the kind of ribbing that Parsons takes on a regular basis from Nowitzki.
“He’s just hilarious,” Parsons said. “Like, I never would expect him to be how he is. His personality is very sarcastic. It’s like his personality is kind of to hate on you in a way, but you know it’s out of love.”
Parsons is happy to pick up the check for Nowitzki. In fact, Parsons has been generous with others in the franchise. He bought lunch for every employee in the Mavs’ business office on Wednesday, paying to have four boxes of burritos delivered.
His Dallas Mavericks ranked among the NBA’s elite offensive teams last season and upgraded during the offseason. Scoring points won’t be a problem.
After relentlessly emphasizing defensive details throughout training camp and preseason, Carlisle looked forward to the test of facing the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the season opener.
The progress report wasn’t pretty: The Spurs shot 52.9 percent from the floor and hit half of their 28 3-point attempts in San Antonio’s 101-100 win Tuesday night.
“We just have to be better,” Carlisle said. “It's as simple as that. Once again, they got us a lot late in the shot clock. We just have to keep working.”
Center Tyson Chandler is the only player in the Mavs’ starting lineup who has earned a reputation for being an above-average defender, so it will take a lot of work for Dallas to be decent defensively. Two of their best players have defensive flaws that can’t be fixed. Power forward Dirk Nowitzki won’t get more athletic at the ripe old age of 36, and shooting guard Monta Ellis isn’t going to grow any taller.
There's no point in trying to put lipstick on a pig. (No, that's not a fat joke about the small forward/jeans model who coach Rick Carlisle rudely suggested during the preseason should drop a few pounds, comments the coach apologized for a couple of days later.)
"It sucks to play like that on the first game, but it's only one of 82 games," Parsons said. "It's going to take some time getting used to play with everybody, but it's just one of those nights where I couldn't get anything to fall. I've got to be better."
The Mavs can reasonably hope that this will be Parsons' worst offensive outing of the season. Only four times during his three seasons with the Houston Rockets did Parsons make two or fewer field goals on 10 or more attempts.
Needless to say, none of those off nights drew nearly as much national attention as this stinker. That's part of the bargain when a guy gets a 1,500-percent raise and emphasizes how much he looks forward to increased responsibility after being part of the supporting cast for James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston.
Parsons, who never got in a groove despite Spurs starting small forward and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard watching from the bench due to an eye infection, has no problem with that.
The Mavs' other big guns did their parts against the Spurs. Shooting guard Monta Ellis, who emerged as a surprisingly efficient scoring sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki after signing a three-year, $25 million deal before last season, led all scorers with 26 points and dished out six assists. Nowitzki scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and was 7-of-11 from the floor.
They just didn't get any help from Parsons, who is expected to make an already elite offense even better. Not that anyone with the Mavs, who still had a chance to win despite the Spurs scorching the nets (14-of-28 3-point shooting), is searching for a panic button after Parsons has played .004 percent of his three-year contract.
Nowitzki noted that a few of Parsons' shots went in and out. Carlisle and several players reminded reporters that this contest counted only once in the standings.
"He's going to be fine," Carlisle said. "I like an awful lot of the things that he did do."
Parsons' night started with such promise. His first bucket as a Maverick was highlight material, a driving tomahawk dunk over Tim Duncan and Danny Green a few minutes into the game.
His next bucket didn't come until 2:42 remained in the fourth quarter, when he stepped into a clutch 3-pointer like he'd had the hot hand all night.
Parsons didn't hesitate to launch a 28-footer with the game on the line, either, despite Boris Diaw closing out on him. In hindsight, he should have. When Parsons reviewed video of the play, he saw that he had time to swing the ball to an open Ellis.
"But I'll take that shot any day at the end of a game," Parsons said. "I've got to step up and knock it down next time."
Like most shooters, Parsons prides himself in having a short memory. His dreadful Dallas debut is definitely a night he'd like to forget.