Thursday, November 19, 2009
Where It's At: Good vibes
By Jeff Wade
The Mavericks are feeling pretty good about themselves these days. That's the kind of thing a coach hates to hear and will quickly pick you apart for sheepishly mentioning after a practice, but it's impossible to deny. You can see it on the faces of the players and team employees.
Despite a tiring stretch that saw Dallas play five games in seven nights, folks 'round AAC way have a little bit of a bounce in their step. And an overtime victory against those hated Spurs on ESPN last night makes a lovely lead-in for a promising weekend with a young and inexperienced Sacramento team heading in Friday.
Good vibes, my people. Good vibes.
And why not? Considering the injuries and offensive inconsistency we've seen to start the season, 9-3 is a rather tasty treat. Much of early campaign Mav talk centered on what the identity of this team will be with Shawn Marion and Josh Howard running the wings and filling the lanes on a potentially potent offense that experienced some significant grindage last year.
Thing is, that hasn't really materialized. Josh has played a total of 66 minutes thus far and is back on the shelf indefinitely with ankle pain. And Marion, who had yet to really find that ballin-outta-control groove he displayed in the preseason before his calf started going funky on him, twisted his ankle right out the gate in The Good Land and didn't return for the second half.
That's an MIA list that also includes a uniquely hush-hush Erick Dampier ailment that is requiring the attention of unidentified specialists and test results that won't be seen for another week. And that means 60 percent of your "starting lineup" ain't available.
So how extra-tasty is 9-3 is sounding now?
We can go on and on about Dirk once again carrying this team's offensive fortunes on his shoulders -- 73 points and a ridiculous array of clutch fourth quarter and OT buckets in a 48-hour span has pretty much come to be expected with that dude. If he's not bringing the big-time these days, wins will be tough to come by. That's a given.
But these Mavs are winning despite not finding the basket. The Mavs lead the league in winning games in which they shot below 44 percent. That'd be six lucky lotto tickets for a team that isn't too accustomed to getting it done when the shots aren't dropping.
A little deductive reason tells you that good things are happening on the defensive end of the floor. The Mavericks are bringing energy, effort and smarts to their defensive approach and it's paying off while the basket stays tiny for them. That won't be the case when they have all their guys. Others besides Dirk will start making some shots.
The really intriguing question is what happens to the minutes when everyone does come back -- assuming they do. The electric performances of French rookie Roddy Beaubois and offseason free-agent acquisition Drew Gooden seems to indicate that they need to be an important part of the rotation.
Not that we expect Gooden to consistently put up numbers like the absurd stretch of these last three starts of almost 17 points and 11 boards. But if he brings the type of intensity and effort we've seen here lately to the party every night -- then Damp and Drew is a center rotation worth getting excited about.
And as for the current Roddy lovefest that's gripping Mavs Nation? Well, I'd like to be cautiously optimistic. But the more I see of him, the more my reality becomes clouded with dreams of something special with this guy. And he hasn't even scratched the surface.