Dallas Mavericks: Fresh Fit

DALLAS – Big man Chris Kaman was concerned he’d be out of sync offensively after a three-week layoff due to a strained right calf.

Kaman couldn’t have looked much more comfortable than he has in his first two games with the Mavericks.

Kaman shot 8-of-10 from the floor in Monday’s win over Portland and dropped his shooting percentage. He’s sitting at a pretty .842 clip from the floor after scoring 32 points on 16-of-19 shooting off the bench in a couple of blowout wins.

The 7-footer, who was anointed the best offensive center in Mavs history as soon as the ink was dry on his one-year, $8 million deal, is scoring in a variety of ways. He’s knocking down midrange jumpers, getting buckets from the block and even taking opposing big men off the dribble.

That versatility makes Kaman a fine fit in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow offense, in which set plays are called as infrequently as possible.

“I’m not going to have those kinds of games every night,” Kaman said. “You can’t expect someone to shoot 8-of-10 every night. But be patient, be smart, take the right shots for the team -- I want to do that. That’s something that’s important to me. I’ll continue to focus on that and see where it gets me.”

At some point, if Kaman can stay healthy, it’ll get him in the Mavs’ starting lineup. Kaman isn’t complaining, but he’s clearly not too keen on coming off the bench.

“I don’t even know what’s going on really with that right now,” Kaman said. “I’ve just been playing when I get my chances and going in there and giving my effort.”

Carlisle’s primary reasoning for keeping Kaman out of the starting lineup is because it makes it easier to limit the big man’s minutes, a priority with Kaman working his way into shape again after the injury-induced layoff.

The fact that Kaman, who believes his rebounding will improve as his conditioning gets better, has created major mismatch problems off the bench is a bonus.

“He’s come in and played against second-unit guys,” Carlisle said. “Teams haven’t game-planned for him a whole lot and we’ve been moving the ball a lot. We’re not really running plays for him. He’s another guy that has a good feel for the game and works himself into good spots on the court.”

As Kaman mentioned, he can’t be expected to keep up this extreme efficiency. But Kaman’s size, shooting touch and versatility gives the Dallas offense a weapon it’s never had before.

That’s why it’s so important to keep the durability-challenged Kaman as healthy as possible. And that’s why Carlisle is exercising caution with Kaman’s minutes now despite the center’s spectacular offensive production.

“I’m still a little sore after games and in the morning,” Kaman said. “Take my time and be patient. I don’t want to overdo it and stick myself where I was two weeks before. It’s important to do the smart thing and the right thing and play when I can.”

Fresh Fit: Darren Collison attacks off dribble

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
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LOS ANGELES – Darren Collison, determined to master the intricacies of the Mavericks’ offense, spends much of his free time studying film of mastermind Jason Kidd’s work from the last few seasons.

Collison is far too polite to say it, but he didn’t see much attacking off the dribble.

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That’s the biggest change with the Mavs’ change of the point guard. The 39-year-old Kidd developed an allergy to paint in his advanced age. The 25-year-old Collison’s best attribute is his ability to attack the basket.

“That’s what I was brought here for -- my speed and quickness,” said Collison, who was acquired along with Dahntay Jones for Ian Mahinmi in a sign-and-trade deal. “I try to get into the paint as much as I can.”

Collison lived in the lane in the opener, killing the Lakers with his quickness. The majority of his team-high 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting came in the paint, where he hit five of his seven attempts. He also had four assists and helped create several other good looks for teammates with his penetration.

“It was a great mixture of aggression to score and aggression to make plays,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Collison had four buckets within 10 feet of the rim against the Lakers. By contrast, according to HoopData.com, Kidd scored only seven times in that range all of last season.

“My teammates have been in my ear to attack,” Collison said, “and that's what I'm gonna do.”

That’s a big difference between the Mavs’ new point guard and his predecessor.

Fresh Fit: Vince Carter in crunch time?

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
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Vince Carter’s role in the Mavs’ revamped, Lamar Odom-less rotation is clear. He comes off the bench at small forward, allowing Shawn Marion to slide to power forward when Dirk Nowitzki comes off the floor.

The question is whether Carter or Marion will join the Mavs’ closer committee of Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry during crunch time.

Coach Rick Carlisle’s answer in Utah was Carter, who played every minute during the fourth quarter and three overtime periods. That put three of the four most prolific active fourth-quarter scorers on the floor for the Mavs, as only Kobe Bryant has more career buckets in the final frame than Nowitzki, Terry and Carter. Carter also ranks below only Bryant and Nowitzki for game-winning shots made among active players.

Of course, it should be noted that the 35-year-old Carter’s production has dipped the most by far of that closer quartet.

Carter hit a couple of big shots – a pair of 3-pointers that were critical in forcing the first overtime – but those were the only shots he hit in the fourth quarter and overtimes of the loss to the Jazz. Meanwhile, the Mavs’ most valuable defender watched from the bench.

Carlisle, as tends to be the case, was vague about the reasoning for his decision to play Carter instead of Marion with the game on the line. He mentioned that Carter was playing well, leaving out the fact that Marion didn’t appear to have much in the tank, registering only four points and two rebounds in 23:51 during the Mavs’ fourth game in five nights.

Carlisle’s decision also could have been influenced by the Jazz’s lack of an elite wing scorer. It’s hard to envision Carlisle opting for Carter over Marion in crunch time when Dallas needs to defend someone like Bryant, Manu Ginobili or Kevin Durant during the first round of the playoffs.

Fresh Fit: Mavs need more from Vince Carter

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
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DALLAS – The Mavs’ loss Saturday night in Memphis will always be remembered as the final game in the Lamar Odom error, er, era.

The Mavs hope that it’s also a meaningful game for their other high-profile post-lockout addition.

Vince Carter has been in a pretty nasty slump since the All-Star break, averaging 8.0 points on 36.3 percent shooting, significant dips from his pre-break numbers (10.9 points, 44.2 percent shooting). He had one of his most efficient offensive games in months against the Grizzlies, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He had a total of 14 points on 6-of-25 shooting in the Mavs’ other three games last week.

The Mavs, who rank 23rd in the league in points per possession, need much more of that from the 35-year-old Carter, a 20,000-plus-point career scorer who was signed in large part to take offensive pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki.

“That’s a positive sign,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Carter’s performance in Memphis. “The things you look at is who’s out there on the floor with him, matchups, other things. We’ll continue to look at it. He’s an important guy for us because he’s a spacer of the floor and he’s a guy that can make things happen in the post and things like that. He’s a vital part of this team.”
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DALLAS – The Mavericks need Delonte West and Vince Carter as much as ever this week.

The early results weren’t encouraging.

West will be the starting point guard while Jason Kidd recovers from a strained right groin, which will sideline the Mavs’ 39-year-old floor general for at least three more games. That means West won’t play much, if any, shooting guard, which ensures that Carter will have to play relatively heavy minutes.

The Mavs’ starting backcourt combined for nine points on 4-of-15 shooting in Monday’s lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Carter had three points on 1-of-6 shooting. West had six points on 3-of-9 shooting and dished for four assists.

A lot is being asked of West right after he returned from a five-plus-week layoff due to a fractured right ring finger. He had a phenomenal performance in Friday’s comeback win over the Orlando Magic, but West is still experiencing significant pain in his surgically repaired finger and probably will the rest of the season. Coach Rick Carlisle mentioned that West had to sit out of practice for several minutes after taking a shot to that finger Sunday.

The 35-year-old Carter’s numbers have dipped significantly in the second half of the season. He has averaged only 8.0 points on .355 shooting since the All-Star break, compared to 10.9 points on .442 shooting before the break.

Fresh Fit: What will Delonte West's role be?

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
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DALLAS – There is no doubt that the Mavs will put Delonte West to good use when he returns from a fractured right ring finger, which will probably happen in the next week.

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The question is how coach Rick Carlisle will opt to use West.

Will West start in the backcourt with Jason Kidd? Will he spell Kidd off the bench? That might depend on the matchups each night, according to Carlisle. The coach recognizes that the starting lineup with Vince Carter at shooting guard is the Mavs’ best plus-minus unit, but he also knows that Shawn Marion could use a break from chasing around all those quick point guards.

“There’s a lot of possibilities when you get a guy like Delonte back because he’s a two-position player,” Carlisle said. “His presence can impact other positions. More than anything, we’ve got to get him healthy first and then it will lighten Marion’s load defensively.”

West was coming off the bench when he suffered his gruesome injury on Feb. 15, when the bone popped out of the skin after he tried to make a steal against the Nuggets. He had told Carlisle that he enjoyed playing point guard with the second unit.

But West, whose return could significantly cut Rodrigue Beaubois’ playing time, isn’t picky about which position he plays or when he’ll get his minutes.

“I’ll play backup center if it’ll help this team win games,” West said. “That’s all it’s about. It’s not about scoring points. The All-Star game is over with. It’s about winning basketball games.

“We’re kind of talking too soon. We’ve got guys that are playing well. We’ve got a nice rotation. Even with me coming back, for the moment, my job is to root guys on and keep them motivated. I got to be the best guy at that and do my part. We’ve all got a part to do. Whatever they give me or whatever it is, I’m going to do it at the best of my ability.”

In West’s mind, his role isn’t about playing point guard or shooting guard, starting or coming off the bench. It’s about his mentality.

“I’m a guy that gets in there and gets after it [on] defense” West said. “I try to get some momentum plays and just create tempo.”

It's up to Carlisle to figure out how best to implement West's skills, intensity and intangibles.
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Shawn Marion's sore knee might have forced the Mavericks to give us a glimpse of Vince Carter's future.

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With Marion resting the last two games, Carter slid over to small forward and had a couple of solid performance. Carter averaged 12.0 points on 53.3 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the impressive wins over the Spurs and Nuggets.

The majority of Carter’s minutes this season have come at shooting guard, but that could be changing. When Delonte West returns – hopefully next week – the Mavs will have quite a logjam in the backcourt.

Rodrigue Beaubois has been in and out of the rotation this season, but he’s earned a role with his recent performance. West provides toughness and defensive intensity that the Mavs need, plus he has playmaking skills. You know sixth man Jason Terry will get his share of the minutes at shooting guard.

While West and Beaubois also play point guard, there just aren’t enough minutes at the 2 to go around when all the Mavs’ shooting guard options are healthy.

The Mavs don’t have such great depth at small forward, especially if Marion’s knee continues to bother him. Lamar Odom has struggled to make the transition from playing power forward in L.A. to getting minutes at both forward spots in Dallas. Carter has proven capable of being productive as a small forward.

Matching up against bigger wings takes away one of Carter’s best attributes, his post-up ability. However, he’ll have a quickness advantage against most small forwards and his 3-point shooting ability gives the Mavs a floor-spacer at that spot.
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DALLAS -- Lamar Odom has met expectations since his return from a self-imposed 10-day sabbatical.

“I’ve been pleased with how he’s played since he’s been back,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

So much for holding Odom to high standards, huh?

Odom has actually been slightly less productive since his return than he was before the All-Star break. He has averaged 6.7 points on 34.8 percent shooting and 3.8 rebounds in the last six games.

Odom’s nightly performances are kind of like his jump shots. For every one that’s good, there are two that are off.

Odom has teased the Mavs with his talent in the last week and a half. Carlisle was giddy after Odom’s triumphant return, praising the 13-year veteran for playing with energy when Odom contributed nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 18 minutes during the win over the Jazz.

The only thing notable from Odom’s next two outings was owner Mark Cuban hollering at him to hustle after a ridiculous display of loafing led to a breakaway layup for the Knicks. It’s one thing to go 1-of-9 from the floor, as Odom did in that game, but the failure to put forth minimum effort is inexcusable.

Odom rebounded from that performance with one of his better offensive games of the season, playing aggressively while scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the loss to the Suns. He had a combined total of seven points the next two nights.

So it goes with Odom.

It wasn’t a good week for any of the Mavs’ veteran newcomers. Delonte West (finger) and Brandan Wright (concussion) were sidelined by injuries. Vince Carter averaged only 5.6 points per game during the 1-4 week, going scoreless in a couple of the losses.

Carter, West and Wright have at least all been significant contributors for long stretches this season. The Mavs are still waiting for that to happen with Odom, not that it’s expected at this point.
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The Lamar Odom saga has dominated discussion of the Mavs since the All-Star break. Delonte West and Brandan Wright are recovering from injuries. Vince Carter is the lone newcomer in the rotation who isn’t dealing with drama.

Carter also isn’t making much of an impact recently.

In the 1-4 stretch since the break, Carter is averaging only 6.8 points on 37.5 percent shooting. He’s basically been invisible in two losses, scoring two points in 22 minutes against the Nets and playing 10 scoreless minutes against the Thunder.

Carter had established himself as somewhat of a go-to guy early in games. That hasn’t been the case lately, however, and the Mavs have trailed after the first quarter in all four of their losses since the break.

Carter’s lone double-digit point total in this span came off the pine, when he had 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the loss to the Hornets, when Rodrigue Beaubois made a spot start (against a team known to have interest in trading for him, coincidentally or not).

The Mavs want to keep Carter in the starting five because that lineup is by far their best in terms of plus-minus. Carter has the team’s best individual plus-minus total, too.

But Carter has yet to get his game started since the break, a significant reason why the Mavs have struggled so badly in the first quarters.

Fresh Fit: Mavs cling to hope for Lamar Odom

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
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The Mavericks continue to expect Lamar Odom to be a “valuable contributor,” owner Mark Cuban insists.

That, however, seems less and less likely each passing day, especially while Odom is away from the team.

There is no timetable for Odom’s return from Los Angeles, where he’s been since Wednesday to tend to his ill father. Odom missed the loss to the Lakers before the All-Star break, and it’s uncertain how much he’ll be available during the seven-city, nine-game, 12-day stretch the Mavs begin Tuesday night against the Nets.

Who knows what kind of shape Odom will be in – physically or mentally -- when he returns?

We all know that Odom has struggled more this season than any other year in his 13-year career. That’s obvious just by looking at his stat line, which features career lows by far in points (7.7), rebounds (4.5), assists (1.7) and shooting percentage (.357).

The issues Odom has had finding a rhythm and fit with the Mavericks will still be unresolved when he returns. They’re likely to remain a work in progress for the rest of this condensed regular season.

Maybe Odom, like big man Brendan Haywood last season, can get it together in time to be contribute to a playoff run.

At this point, that seems to be the best-case scenario.

Fresh Fit: Grind getting to Vince Carter?

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
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DALLAS – Much has been made about managing Jason Kidd’s minutes and the challenging impact Delonte West’s injury has on that mission.

The Mavs need to be careful with Kidd’s backcourt partner, too.

That’s not news to coach Rick Carlisle, who has mentioned that he’s confident that Vince Carter will continue to make a significant impact for the Mavs as long as they keep the 35-year-old’s minutes in the mid-20s per game. It’s probably not a coincidence that Carter’s game has been off since he played a season-high 37 minutes in Friday’s win over the 76ers.

In the two games since then, Carter has averaged 6.5 points on 31.2 percent shooting and grabbed only four rebounds in 53 minutes. The lack of life in Carter’s legs was most apparent when he tried to soar for a fast-break slam over Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal, who is nowhere near the rim protector he used to be, and got stuffed.

When Carter has fresh legs, he’s still capable of vintage Vinsanity moments. Just ask Emeka Okafor. It looks like the grind might be getting to Carter.

The eight-time All-Star should benefit from rest during this All-Star weekend, but the Mavs need to be careful with Carter while West recovers.

Fresh fit: Vince Carter better than expected

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
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DALLAS – Mark Cuban considered it a no-brainer to sign Vince Carter for the mini-midlevel exception.

But Cuban readily admits that he’s getting a much better bargain than he anticipated for Carter’s $3 million salary.

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Everybody knew Carter could still score a little bit. After all, “Half Man, Half Amazing” is creeping up on 21,000 career points. Carter’s passing ability, especially out of the post, and defensive intensity have been pleasant surprises.

“Vinsanity is down to get dirty,” Cuban said.

Vinsanity is down to do whatever it takes to win.

If that means coming off the bench, Carter is cool with it, having done so 10 times this season. If that means starting, he’s happy to do it.

Carter came to Dallas because he desperately wants a championship ring. He’s even hungrier for that to happen after witnessing the banner-raising and ring ceremonies.

“This is something that can complete my career,” Carter said. “I want it for a lot of reasons. I just feel like I’ve done a lot in the league, been through a lot, seen a lot, accomplished a lot, but that’s the ultimate goal. Having that chance, I’m excited about that.”

The 35-year-old Carter is putting up impressive numbers for a part time player, averaging 10.8 points while shooting .455 from the floor and .458 from the 3-point line, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 23.5 minutes per game.

But his plus-minus total, which is by far the best on the team, is a better indicator of Carter’s impact. The Mavs have outscored opponents by 161 points in Carter’s 563 minutes. The only players in the West with better plus-minus totals are Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and the Clippers’ Chris Paul.

“He’s been phenomenal for us, just phenomenal,” Cuban said. “He’ll contribute in any way he possibly can. He’s one of those guys, all he wants to do is win.”
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It’s been 25 games and the Mavs are still waiting and hoping for some kind of consistent contributions from Lamar Odom.

Even the most optimistic folks can’t expect Odom to make the kind of impact that he did as a Sixth Man of the Year for the Lakers last season. At this point, it would be a tremendous boost for the Mavs if Odom could become a productive 20-minute-per-night player.

Odom provided hope with his Jan. 27 performance against the Jazz, when he scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a win without Dirk Nowitzki. That outing, however, has been an exception.

Odom has a total of 24 points on 8-of-26 shooting in four games since that night.

If you’re searching for positives, Odom has three assists in each of the last two games. He’s been relatively active, averaging 5.3 rebounds in 20.5 minutes. He says he physically feels much better, having worked his way into something resembling NBA shape.

“I’m pretty close,” Odom said.

It’s just hard to tell from his offensive production.

Fresh Fit: 'Tear up any rotation sheet'

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
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Not many Mavs have defined roles, and certainly none of the newcomers do.

“You can tear up any rotation sheet,” coach Rick Carlisle said last week. “It’s going to be by the seat of our pants.”

Vince Carter accepted a reserve role early in the season and played well. He has excelled in the last couple of games as the starting shooting guard, scoring a season-high 21 points in the win over the Spurs and matching it the next night in a victory over the Suns.

Lamar Odom is back to coming off the bench after an up-and-down stint as Dirk Nowitzki’s fill-in at power forward. At this point, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is pretty much the Mavs’ eighth or ninth man, still searching for consistency as he works on his conditioning and tries to find a comfort zone in Carlisle’s system.

Delonte West, perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the first month of the Mavs’ season, is coming off the bench again after starting 14 games at shooting guard and another four at point guard during Jason Kidd’s previous injury layoff.

West’s shot had abandoned him for about a week, when the defensive tone-setter was also dealing with hamstring tightness that caused him to sit out Friday’s win over the Jazz. He was 3-of-15 over a three-game span before the Mavs headed to Phoenix. However, there is clearly no need to worry about West’s game after he scorched the Suns for a season-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting and dished out six assists in 28 minutes.

The Mavs will continue to be patient with Odom and hope he emerges as the kind of impact player he’s been for most of his dozen-year career. And they’ll hope that Carter and West continue to be among the NBA’s best veteran bargains, regardless of the roles they’re asked to fill.

Fresh Fit: Brandan Wright earning a role?

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
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DALLAS – The Lamar Odom saga continued Monday night when he followed up a miserable first half with a solid second half.

But the most encouraging thing that happened at power forward against the Suns occurred while Odom joined suit-sporting Dirk Nowitzki on the Mavericks’ bench.

Brandan Wright gave the Mavs eight minutes, 35 seconds of magnificently energetic basketball. The high-leaping former lottery pick with a minimum-salary deal scored five points and three rebounds, playing a key role in the Mavs outscoring the Suns by nine during his playing time.

Wright has consistently taken advantage of his inconsistent playing time. His per-36 minute stats this season: 22.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.6 steals.

Of course, the per-36 numbers are misleading because Wright’s minutes come in short bursts, often during garbage time. But they’re impressive enough to be intrigued.

The Mavs still have hope Odom will mesh with this team, although his Dallas stint has a distinct Antoine Walker feel to it so far. Newcomers Delonte West and Vince Carter (out now with a sprained left foot) have found their niches.

We’ll see whether Wright can earn a role. He’s making a case with the few minutes he gets.

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Monta Ellis
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20.3 4.4 1.8 33.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 12.0
AssistsR. Rondo 7.2
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4