Wednesday, January 29, 2014
3 Points: Should Devin Harris start?
By Tim MacMahon
Mavs guard Devin Harris is playing well since returning to the court.
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. Should Rick Carlisle consider starting Devin Harris? If so, who comes off the bench?
Gutierrez: Carlisle says they’re scientific with their research in regards to anything. Considering a switch is an obvious move, but I don’t think it actually happens. They’ve already spent more than half of the season with the existing backcourt in place. Dallas doesn’t have enough margin for error to go through growing pains to only have a possibility of improving. Just have Harris continue to come off the bench and have him be the shorter version of Shawn Marion. By that, I mean let Harris patch up whatever problem Dallas is struggling with within a given game. The current setup is working, so let it be.
Taylor: No. No. No. We're always so quick to overreact every time someone has a good stretch whether it's Jae Crowder or Shane Larkin or DeJuan Blair. Let's see if Harris can play the way he's been playing for 3-4 weeks before we even think about putting him in the lineup. Jose Calderon has been running the offense fine and his 3-point shooting has been tremendous. If you want to shave his minutes and give a few more to Harris, then fine. But let's not disrupt Calderon and the rotation by moving Harris into the starting lineup.
MacMahon: It’s an idea worth considering at some point because the Calderon/Monta Ellis combination is so bad defensively. The Mavs’ defensive rating with that duo on the floor (107.3) would rank second to last in the league. In an ideal world, Ellis would come off the bench in a Jet-like role, but that’s a move that requires significant ego massaging and can’t be made midseason. It’ll be interesting to see how often Harris plays instead of Calderon or Ellis at crunch time, but Carlisle made it clear that he’s sticking with the starting backcourt. “I like that there’s continuity, there’s familiarity,” Carlisle said. “We’ve worked a lot to this point to get a lot of things going the right way, and I just can’t see throwing a big upheaval into it right now. I just don’t think that’s the way to go.”
Dirk Nowitzki, who has gone back to wearing a knee sleeve, looks to get past the Pistons' Greg Monroe.
2. Is Dirk Nowitzki wearing a sleeve on his left knee again reason to sweat or no big deal?
Gutierrez: Anything that revolves around Nowitzki’s knees has to signal a blip on the caution radar. He’s getting up there in years and the stiffness he’s feeling in his knees likely isn't going to magically disappear. He’s obviously a fierce competitor, so he’ll tough out any kind of issues he’s going through. Even with all of that, the sleeve went away earlier in the season and he’s been fine up until now. As long as nothing major comes in terms of an injury, the sleeve just might make cameo appearances periodically. If scheduled absences turn into unscheduled ones, concern officially needs to be raised. Until then, we’ll give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt.
Taylor: Everything happens for a reason. If Dirk didn't need the sleeve, then he wouldn't be wearing it. So, yes, it's a big deal. He's wearing the sleeve because something doesn't feel right. All we can do is hope it doesn't develop into something more serious. The Mavs are already trying to limit his minutes and they gave him a day off last week to help his body. He's 35. Anytime he has even slight discomfort, it's a big deal.
MacMahon: It’s definitely notable, but it’s not a big deal. Not with Nowitzki coming off a 28-point, nine-rebound performance in which he was 10-of-16 from the floor. He’s dealing with some stiffness in the knee, which he readily admits tends to happen with old dudes, but it’s not a structural issue. This is just part of the constant maintenance required for a 35-year-old to play heavy minutes, much less at an All-Star level.
3. Let's continue our Twitter conversation here. What would you be willing to offer Lance Stephenson to try to steal him from Indiana this summer?
Gutierrez: Dallas has put themselves in a position since 2011 to where they could remain flexible as they continue their pursuit of the next superstar. Lance Stephenson is likely not going to emerge as a superstar, but he will be an incredible asset to any team he’s on. Dallas will have money to pay someone to be “the man” as Nowitzki continues to slowly meet Father Time. I like Stephenson, but not enough to pay him as “the man” for the next generation. Numbers wise, I think he has the potential to be a better player than Ellis, so I would pay him no less than $8 million per season, but I likely won’t go much higher than that. If you’re going above that, you’re going against your philosophy that you’ve established.
Taylor: I don't know about all the dollars and cents, and I don't care. I'll put it like this: You don't give a guy huge money that will potentially hamstring you from making other moves unless you think he's an All-Star caliber player. If you think Stephenson will be a perennial All-Star, then pay the man. But a max contract also means you want him to be a leader and a tone-setter and a guy who wants the responsibility of being "the man." If Stephenson doesn't want all of the responsibility that comes with the money, then let him go somewhere else. If he wants that or you think he wants that, then sign him.
MacMahon: The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of making Stephenson an offer that could make the luxury-tax-fearing Pacers pass. I don’t care if the Mavs get criticized for overpaying a guy who has only established himself as a really good role player at this point. He’s a 23-year-old who does a lot of things well. He’s a defensive stud, holding opposing shooting guards to a 10.7 PER, according to 82games.com. He’s averaging 14.2 points on 49.9 percent shooting and has a lot of room to grow offensively. He joins Kevin Durant as the only players averaging at least seven rebounds and five assists per game this season. The Golden State Warriors have no regrets about giving Andre Iguodala a four-year, $48 million deal, and he’s a 30-year-old who has achieved his potential. If you’re the Mavs, why not offer Stephenson a little more than that? Maybe he isn’t capable of developing into a superstar. At worst, he’d be the second-best player on the Mavs’ roster with the potential to get better.