On a night when the Mavericks were sporadically competitive against the San Antonio Spurs, coach Rick Carlisle was completely miffed.
After a 111-86 loss to the Spurs -- the Mavericks’ sixth consecutive loss -- Carlisle said he was prepared to use drastic measures to force improvement on what he feels like is an underachieving team.
“The last week, I’ve had to literally scream in the face of two guys in practices and shootarounds to get the point across and I will do that,” Carlisle said. “And I will continue to do that. If I have to start suspending guys for not doing things they’re supposed to be doing on the court, I’ll do it. And Mark [Cuban] and I will get into it about that. But somehow, things have got to change and it can’t just be about that it’s a tough schedule. It just can’t.”
For Carlisle, the Mavericks are a perplexing team. Even though they have nine new players on the roster, Carlisle said their talent is good enough to compete with the better teams in the league.
“I’ve said it repeatedly that I like the roster,” said Carlisle, who rejected all excuses. “We’re over 30 games into the season. We’re not that new. We got to fix it.”
The maddening part of the Mavericks' performance for Carlisle -- and probably for fans, too -- is that the Mavericks have their moments. During a 15-minute period that started midway through the first quarter, the Mavericks outscored the Spurs 35-24.
The problem was that stretch began with the Mavericks trailing 20-6.
“It’s a 48-minute game, so we’ve got to be better early, we’ve got to be better late,” Carlisle said. “I don’t want to get into a dialogue on the parts of the game that were OK. It’s not what this organization has been about since Mark bought the team. This is a stretch that is unprecedented, really. It’s bad. We’ve got to fix it and it starts with me. I’m taking the blame for it.”
Carlisle’s level of irritation was a surprise to Dirk Nowitzki, who played his fourth game since returning from knee surgery.
“That’s a little aggressive,” Nowitzki said. “I never heard anything like that.
“But it starts with the players. We need to compete at all times and I said it numerous times, we’re not as talented as the top teams are. That’s pretty obvious. So we really have to make up for it by playing harder, by scrambling on defense, rebounding and five guys being in there scrambling, boxing out, getting the ball. If we take the ball out of the net every time down we’re going to have trouble.
“I’m not sure if that helps if you’re start suspending people left and right.”
Although Nowitzki was only 3-of-9 from the field with eight points and five rebounds, he said he was making progress physically.
“I felt 10 times better even though I had nothing to show for it,” he said, “but just the way I was moving. Today I had a lot more pep in my step. I was really moving even though my shot wasn’t really going, but I felt I had more spring in my lift. So that’s a good thing.”
The Spurs scored the first two points of the game and never trailed. Even when the Mavericks made runs, the Spurs never flinched. They moved the ball crisply and had numerous open shots -- and they hit most of them. They shot 50.6 percent from the field for the night.
Again, the Mavericks had good moments. But a good play here and there was not enough for Carlisle, who undoubtedly is not pleased with the Mavericks’ 5-10 month of December. That is the worst month in the Cuban era -- the worst since they were 4-10 in December 1999.
“Right now, you’d have to question everything,” Carlisle said. “I’ll just leave it at that. And again, I’m still going to stay on record saying I believe in the group. But we’ve all got to do better. And it starts with me.”