Sunday, January 30, 2011
How will post-Sasha, pre-Peja Mavs look?
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- The Mavericks' season is breaking down into distinct segments of varying lengths and results. There was the opening blazing-hot segment, a 24-5 start to the season. Then came the the injury segment when Dirk Nowitzki and then Caron Butler went down and the team went rudderless. Figure that one at 14 games with the Mavs going 4-10.
Then there was the Sasha Pavlovic segment. During the course of two 10-day contracts that came to an end with the 6-foot-7 forward being waived after Saturday's win over Atlanta, his 10th game with the team, the Mavs trended toward a return to normalcy. Pavlovic started the last six games and the Mavs won five, including the final four.
The key was Pavlovic played well enough as a starter at small forward to allow the Mavs to move Shawn Marion back to a reserve role where he and Jason Terry have combined to give Dallas one of the more explosive benches in the league. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle clearly prefers the punch he gets off the bench when he subs in Terry and Marion as a pair.
"When we can have Jet and Marion off the bench, we just feel like that’s a positive for us; just seems to work well," Carlisle said. "DeShawn Stevenson, when he was starting at the 3 [small forward] during a certain period of time, he did fine, but his minutes were going up, up, up and it just helped to have another player [Pavlovic] that could step in there."
But, the Mavs' front office opted not to sign Pavlovic for the remainder of the season, which brings the team to yet another critical segment. Call this one the post-Sasha, pre-Peja segment. Pavlovic became expendable when the Mavs signed 6-10 veteran forward Peja Stojakovic last week. Only Stojakovic continues to try to rid himself of knee irritation that's limited him to just eight games this season.
"Where do we go from here?" Terry asked shortly after learning Pavlovic had been let go. "We don’t know, but I can imagine, Stojakovic, hopefully this means he’s going to be healthy and out there playing."
Not exactly. At least not yet.
Carlisle on Saturday said Stojakovic is not expected to join the team on its upcoming three-game road trip, which means he'll be out for at least the next four games starting Monday night as theMavs seek a 4-0 homestand against the Washington Wizards, who are 0-23 on the road.
That game starts this new segment because Marion will likely step back into a starting role, again throwing a wrench into Carlisle's rotation. Eventually, Stojakovic figures to take the starting spot. His return is close, he and the the team assure, but the actual time frame remains uncertain.
It's not the best timing to lose Pavlovic and have to wait for Stojakovic at a time when a team that couldn't score 90 points during the injury segment is suddenly moving the ball around famously and has averaged 106.3 points in the last three games.
"I think our chemistry now is starting to get back to where it was at the beginning of the season," center Tyson Chandler said after Saturday's win. "At the beginning of the season we were playing on a string. We knew everybody’s sweet spots. You knew exactly what guys were going to do on the floor without even thinking about it. When guys went out, it shook that up. It was difficult to rebound from because now you’ve got different guys stepping in."
And now, another adjustment heading into the post-Sasha, pre-Peja segment?
"Yeah," Chandler said. "Definitely."
Of course, this new segment will eventually transfer into the return-of-Roddy Beaubois segment ...