- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor in chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.
1. Does Dirk Nowitzki need to be more assertive offensively?
Gutierrez: At this point in the season, I don't think he needs to necessarily be more assertive on offense. What have the Mavs been saying since they won the title? Their goal was to make Nowitzki the second-best player on the team. It's extremely early, but now that he is, everyone is concerned about Nowitzki? New players are being incorporated and he's letting everyone find their groove. There's no need to panic. Dirk Nowitzki will be fine.
Taylor: I don't know if the answer is assertive, but I do know heading into the Washington game Dirk had not made more than five baskets in the last four games, which is not nearly enough. So whether Dirk needs to be more assertive or whether Rick Carlisle needs to call more plays that give him opportunities, all I know is Dirk needs to be more involved in the offense.
MacMahon: Yes. Dirk doesn't need to ever pass up a decent look. There have been times this season that he's passed to an open teammate instead of taking a jumper when he had a little room. There's no need for that. You're the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history. When in doubt, let it fly.
2. Jae Crowder is clearly the most improved Maverick. What are your expectations for Crowder the rest of the season?
Gutierrez: Crowder will regress to the mean over the next few weeks, but we'll have to wait and see what the mean actually is. He shot 38.4 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from beyond the arc during his rookie season. Coming into the league, Crowder didn't have a jumper. If he can hover around being an average 3-point shooter, which I think is possible, that's a big development for the Mavs. The jury is still out on whether he can be an all-around threat for the team.
Taylor: In the NBA, the name of the game is consistency. I love the work Crowder has done in the offseason to make himself a true 3-point threat, but he was 2-for-5 with four points against Milwaukee and again against Washington. I think he'll be a consistent member of the rotation and he'll eventually get up to about 25 minutes a game.
MacMahon: He can be a quality rotation player, a guy who gives the Mavs about 20 good minutes per night. His shooting percentages are obviously going to drop -- he's sitting at .583 from the floor and .542 from 3-point range -- but he's put in enough work on his shot and his body to be a complementary offensive threat. The key to Crowder being a consistent contributor, however, is for him to be a mini-Matrix on defense. The Mavs need him to be versatile enough to guard good scorers at a few different positions. He's been up to the task so far.
3. How concerning are Vince Carter's early-season struggles?
Gutierrez: There's a mild concern when you think about the fact that Carter is going to turn 37 in early 2014. That's a lot of tread on the tires. That said, I'm going to chalk up the early-season struggles to a slump. Carter's shot looked very nice during the preseason, so he showed that he's still got it. The Mavs have enough depth on the bench this season that can help alleviate when someone is slumping. He should come around.
Taylor: Vince is what he is at this point of his career. On the nights he feels it, he can play 25 minutes and get you 16 points. On those nights he doesn't, he needs to play 15 minutes. This is what age does to a player. On a given night, he can still explode for 25, you just have no idea when it will happen. Vinsanity has retired. Vince Carter can still help the Mavs.
MacMahon: Carter snapped out of a mini-slump with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting in Tuesday's win over the Wizards. The Mavs need that kind of performance to be closer to the norm for their sixth man. Father Time will be a factor some nights, but the Mavs will keep Carter's minutes in the mid-20s to make sure he's as fresh as possible and are counting on him to be productive in that limited time.