So what exactly is going on here?
December, 27, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- This certainly isn't the Lamar Odom the Dallas Mavericks expected, especially after he posted 14 points and seven rebounds in the first preseason game just a few days after arriving from Los Angeles.
Odom has scored 10 points combined in the Mavs' first two games, and at the pace he's on, he'll have 66 field goals at the end of the season. He was 1-of-10 in the 115-93 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday and 1-of-6 against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
But, Odom -- and add two underwhelming showings by Vince Carter -- is not nearly at the top of the worry list. Defense is.
"You can go from being great to being the goat in basketball and then make a play again, but if you don't play defense the way you're supposed to, then you don't give yourself a chance to be great," Odom said. "We're just not doing what we're supposed to. I'm not going to say it's effort. We play hard. Just because you play hard, that don't mean you play right. You can play hard but still get your ass busted."
Jason Terry, however, did criticize the team's effort in allowing 220 points in the first two games and an uncountable number of layups and dunks. The Mavs have allowed 30 points or more in five of eight quarters and 28 in a sixth. They've been outrebounded 98-68 and outscored on the fastbreak 51-22.
To suggest that effort has no place in the discussion would seem somewhat disingenuous. The Mavs remain a veteran team with decorated players.
"No question, no question. If you're watching guys lay the ball up on you time and time again, that's not Maverick basketball," Terry said. "Being together on a string, that's what we built this thing on, and that's not happening right now. We've got three different strings out there, and it's not working."
Several levels of factors are in play. Obviously, the roster alteration is a major adjustment, and the shortened training camp didn't help. Dallas didn't play a full roster in either preseason game and entered Sunday's opener virtually cold turkey. The first blowout loss to the Heat, in which they led by 35 points early in the third quarter, could almost be excused away.
Miami is the favorite to win it all this season, and it wanted a little instant payback against the Mavs. But, to have the Nuggets, a team that also has experienced expansive change from last season, dunk its way to a 20-0 spurt before halftime and lead by 33 late in the third quarter was demoralizing.
"I’m surprised that we haven’t played better, but I’m not surprised the way teams have come at us," coach Rick Carlisle said. "That’s going to be a fact of life, so we’re all going to have to be ready for that."
Next up is a road challenge at the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has continuity, like the Heat, and twice blew out the Mavs in the preseason.
"We’re an older team, and we probably needed an extra two weeks of training camp, but we don’t have it, and all the younger, more athletic teams look better right now than we do," Dirk Nowitzki said. "But, eventually, hopefully, we’re going to turn the corner. I still have faith in this team. I like all the pieces. We just need to work a little harder here, and we’re going to go through some rough stretches here at the beginning."