Dallas Mavericks: Derek Fisher

Forget about Andrew Bynum’s bum knees for a few minutes. Do the Mavericks really want to bring another 2011 Laker to Dallas?

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Maybe the third time would be the charm. The first two members of that squad -- the two-time defending championship team that ended up being barely a speed bump in the parade route around these parts – who later joined the Mavs were disasters in Dallas.

Lamar Odom goes down as one of the greatest disgraces in Dallas sports history. He went from Sixth Man of the Year to scrub during the lockout, and his lack of effort for the Mavs was just embarrassing. The man stole Mark Cuban’s money for a season, continuing to cash checks after Cuban finally had his fill and kicked Odom off the team.

Oh, and the protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up to get Odom seemed like chump change at the time, but it’s handcuffing the Mavs as far as trade assets go (they can't trade future first-rounders) and indirectly helped deliver Dwight Howard to Houston. The Rockets, who acquired that pick from the Lakers, shipped it to Oklahoma City as part of the blockbuster deal to get James Harden, which made recruiting Howard a realistic goal.

And the Odom deal/debacle can get even worse for Dallas. What if the Mavs aren’t good enough to give OKC the pick while it’s top-20 protected through 2017? Can you imagine the Thunder getting a high lottery pick from the Mavs right as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are reaching the middle of their primes?

Derek Fisher's layover in Dallas didn’t cause a whole bunch of collateral damage, other than hurt feelings. At least he had the decency to stop being paid when he quit on the Mavs.

The 37-year-old Fisher lasted a few weeks as the Mavs’ starting point guard before deciding he wanted to spend quality time with his family. That, of course, was a politically correct way of Fisher freeing himself to wait for an opportunity with a contender to come up.

Can the Mavs trust Bynum to pack his heart if he moves to Dallas? Of course not. But it isn’t like there are better big man options available.

We are talking about a guy whose motivation was questioned many times during his stint with the Lakers. This is a dude who quit on Phil Jackson in the legendary coach’s last stand, a broom-waving blowout in Game 4 of the 2011 West semis at the American Airlines Center.

Mavs fans’ strongest memory of Bynum is of his cheap-shot body slam of J.J. Barea, guaranteeing that the big man could exit the Game 4 rout early instead of enduring the embarrassment for 48 full minutes. Who can forget Bynum ripping off his jersey like a pro wrestler as he headed into the tunnel while being hollered at by Cuban and 19,000 other fans?

Do the Mavs really want that guy on their roster? Do they want to test their luck with another 2011 Laker?

In ideal circumstances, the answer would be absolutely not. But Bynum represents the Mavs’ only hope to hit a home run this summer, so they’d roll the dice on his character if his knees don’t scare them away.
It’s probably painful for the Mavericks’ front office to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder during these playoffs.

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Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gives his take on the contrasting styles of the Pacers and Knicks, Carmelo Anthony, Bulls-Heat, Tom Thibodeau, the state of the West and more.

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Derek Fisher is essentially doing exactly what they envisioned when they signed the five-time champion point guard to a veteran minimum deal early in the season. He’s knocking down open jumpers at a ridiculous rate (61.3 percent from 3-point range), drawing charges and doing all sorts of savvy type of dirty work and serving as a plus-minus monster (plus-21 per 48 minutes).

Of course, the Mavs had no control over Fisher’s decision to leave Dallas. And Mark Cuban’s hard feelings have been well chronicled regarding Fisher’s late-season change of heart over the value of family time once a contender called.

Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made that the Mavs would have at least extended their playoff streak if Fisher would have stuck around. But he’s not even the best point guard playing for the minimum in these playoffs.

Imagine if Nate Robinson would have been on the Mavs’ roster.

Lil’ Nate is the buzz of the Eastern Conference playoffs right now – having just dropped 27 points and nine assists despite getting 10 stitches in his lip during Chicago’s Game 1 upset of the Miami Heat – but he was a journeyman desperate for a job in the offseason. He accepted a partially guaranteed minimum deal to join the Bulls.

Robinson, the 5-foot-9 former slam dunk champion, has always had a Jason Terry-like borderline irrational type of confidence. And that hasn’t always gone over well, which is part of the reason he’s played for five teams in the last four seasons.

But Robinson has the game of a hyperathletic J.J. Barea. He’s got the ability to score in bunches – as a 3-pointer shooter, off the dribble, as a pick-and-roll initiator. It’s certainly intriguing to think about how he’d fit as an off-the-bench sparkplug playing with Dirk Nowitzki.

There didn’t seem to be a fit for Robinson in Dallas last summer, when Delonte West was on the roster to back up Darren Collison and provide what the Mavs hoped would be a healthy edge. (Yeah, so much for that.)

Might the Mavs and Robinson be a match this summer? His game would definitely work in Dallas, but his playoff performance could be putting him out of the Mavs’ price range for a backup point guard.

Buy or Bye: Mike James

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
11:30
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video ESPNDallas.com will estimate the market value for each of the Mavericks' eight free agents and examine their worth to the Mavs in a once-per-day series.

Mike James


Mike James was a heck of a pickup off the scrap heap for the Mavericks. But he certainly isn’t a long-term solution for their glaring hole at point guard.

Give the journeyman credit. He worked his way back into the NBA via the D-League for the second consecutive season and contributed much more to the Mavs -- the 11th team of his NBA odyssey -- than anyone other than himself anticipated.

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Should the Mavericks buy into or say goodbye to Mike James?

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James actually started the last 23 games of the season and was relatively productive during that span, averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range. The Mavs went 15-8 in that stretch, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive until the final week.

James has said he hopes to play two more years for the Mavs. However, the odds of him being given a two-year deal are significantly less than the Mavs’ puny chances of winning the lottery.

Maybe James can be an insurance policy again for the Mavs, but there’s no good reason to guarantee a roster spot to a player who has been available in the middle of the season each of the last four years.

2012-13 stats: Averaged 6.1 points, 3.1 assists, 1.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 1.2 turnovers while shooting 37.3 percent from the floor and 38.4 percent from 3-point range in 19.2 minutes per game.

Age: 37

Comps:

Derek Fisher – Averaged 5.3 points, 1.4 assists, 1.1 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.9 turnovers while shooting 34.2 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 17.4 minutes per game. Played this season for prorated veteran’s minimum salary.

Pablo Prigioni – Averaged 3.5 points, 3.0 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.1 turnovers while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from 3-point range in 16.2 minutes per game. Played this season for the league minimum.

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Rick Carlisle joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' disappointing season and what needs to happen for them to get back to the playoffs.

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Chris Duhon – Averaged 2.9 points, 2.9 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 0.4 steals and 0.9 turnovers while shooting 38.2 percent from the floor and 36.3 percent from 3-point range in 17.8 minutes per game. Signed a four-year, $13.25 million salary during the 2010 offseason.

Jeremy Pargo – Averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 assists, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 steals and 1.3 turnovers while shooting 39.6 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from 3-point range in 16.8 minutes per game. Played this season for prorated veteran’s minimum salary.

Estimated contract: If James gets invited to a training camp, it’s likely to be for a nonguaranteed veteran’s minimum deal.

Mavs' top priority: Upgrade point guard

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
11:59
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The Mavericks will explore all potential avenues of improving the talent on their roster, but upgrading at point guard is the top priority.

While Darren Collison confidently declared Thursday that he believes he could start for any team in the league, the Dallas decision-makers clearly don’t share that opinion. After all, they opted to start Derek Fisher and Mike James over Collison in a season that president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson described as a “point guard odyssey.”

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Donnie Nelson joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' season and the importance of this summer.

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The Mavs might welcome Collison back as a backup, depending on the price. They’ll search this summer for a long-term starting solution at a spot that coach Rick Carlisle calls “the most important position in the league.”

“We’ve been spoiled with Jason Kidd and Stevie Nash before,” Nelson said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Galloway and Company. “I think the quarterback position is just a really, really important one. I’d say that that’s up there.

“That’s no disrespect for anyone. Darren Collison did a terrific job with a tough situation, and we’d certainly be open to the conversation of him coming back, but (upgrading point guard) has got to be in my mind first and foremost.”

The pie-in-the-sky scenario: Sign Chris Paul. Of course, the odds of him ditching a talented, young Clippers team to come to Dallas to play with a mid-30s core are awfully slim. As Mark Cuban recently said, he’ll be rooting for teams with free agents the Mavs might target to lose early in the playoffs. Would Paul consider leaving the Clippers if they flame out in the first round?

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Rick Carlisle joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' disappointing season and what needs to happen for them to get back to the playoffs.

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Paul will be the perfect fit, but the Mavs must be prepared to find their point guard of the future somewhere else. They might be able to draft next season’s backup with the 13th overall pick, assuming they don’t get amazing lottery luck, but a team determined to drastically improve its basketball IQ isn’t going to hand the reins to a rookie to run the show for 30-plus minutes a night.

It’s time for the Mavs to find a proven veteran point guard to fill Kidd’s shoes.

“I don’t know exactly what style, but the guy’s going to have to be able to score,” Carlisle said on Galloway and Company. “The guy’s going to have to be able to come off screens and hit shots, because when you’re come off screens from Dirk, you’re going to be open because of the way guys play him.”

A quick look at some of the other potential long-term upgrades available in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs have been involved in trade discussions about Calderon, as recently as midseason, when he got dealt from Toronto to Detroit in the three-way Rudy Gay deal. Calderon, who turns 32 in September, is a pass-first point guard who is a very efficient offensive player. He has career averages of 7.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game and is an excellent shooter (.483 FG, .399 3s, .877 FT). His flaws: He doesn’t penetrate well and is a poor defender, especially against speedy point guards.

Monta Ellis: The 27-year-old is not really a point guard. He’s a scorer (career 19.4 ppg) who sometimes plays point guard. He’s dangerous off the dribble and trouble in transition, but Ellis jacks up a lot of long jumpers and doesn’t make very many. He attempted 328 3s this season despite hitting only 28.7 percent, the lowest of any player with at least 200 tries. The idea of Ellis running pick-and-pops with Dirk Nowitzki is intriguing, but can a guard who has never averaged more than six assists per game in a season be counted on to consistently deliver Dirk the ball in prime scoring situations? And Ellis doesn’t exactly have a great defensive rep, either, despite his high steals totals.

Jarrett Jack: Jack, who turns 30 in October, is coming off his best season, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists as the sixth man for a playoff team with Golden State. He’s an excellent midrange shooter and very effective hitting floaters off the dribble. He has a low turnover rate, the kind of strength and toughness Carlisle wants in a point guard and hit a lot of clutch shots for the Warriors this season. But Jack is really a combo guard who has never averaged more than 6.3 assists per season and struggles defensively against quick point guards. Like Kidd, he’s actually better defending shooting guards.

Brandon Jennings: Can the former lottery pick flourish under Carlisle’s coaching? Would it be worth offering enough to the restricted free agent for Milwaukee not to match? The 23-year-old Jennings, who has butted heads with his Bucks coaches, is on the record saying he’d love to play with Dirk and for Cuban and Carlisle in Dallas. His shooting percentage might soar in that situation, but the fact that it’s 39.4 percent for his career is a red flag. So is his slender frame (6-foot-1, 169 pounds). Oh, and so is the fact the Bucks have occasionally benched him during crunch time down the stretch this season. But Jennings (17.5 ppg, 6.5 apg this season) has shown enough flashes of brilliance to at least make him intriguing.

Jeff Teague: He’s a restricted free agent on a playoff team that has a ton of cap space, so the Mavs would have to overpay to get Teague. The four-year veteran is a quality young point guard, averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists this season, but it’s difficult to envision the Mavs throwing a ton of money at him.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is best suited as a scoring sixth man, not a starting point guard. He’s a good spot-up 3-point shooter and knocks down a lot of midrange jumpers off pick-and-rolls, but he’s never been more than an average driver or distributor. Plus, Williams has major durability issues, having missed at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons, including 36 with the Jazz last season, when he averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 assists.

There are, of course, other ways for the Mavs to acquire point guards. Hey, maybe Cuban can come up with some kind of multi-team deal that lands Rajon Rondo in Dallas.
DALLAS – Lamar Odom, whose one-year stint with the Mavericks was one of the biggest disgraces in Dallas sports history, returns to the scene of the crime Tuesday night.

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The court of public opinion has found Odom guilty of first-degree basketball fraud for his antics last season, when his out-of-shape body went through the motions with the Mavericks while he left his heart and mind in Los Angeles.

Khloe’s little Lam Lam was acquitted on one count of attempted murder on the Mavs’ soul. After all, Odom can’t be reasonably accused of trying during his four months of failure in Dallas.

“It was like going to war with wet gunpowder,” Donnie Nelson said after the Mavs parted ways with the veteran in April, summing up the Lamar Odom saga in Dallas.

Alas, the punishment for Odom’s hoops felony is pretty light. Other than a permanently stained reputation for the former reality show star, all Odom has to deal with is the wrath of the American Airlines Center crowd during the Los Angeles Clippers’ lone visit this season.

It’s safe to assume that Mark Cuban will join a sellout crowd in giving Odom a cold welcome. Cuban admits to muttering bad things about Odom under his breath during the Mavs’ two road losses to the Clippers earlier this season. The boo-every-time-he-touches-the-ball treatment would be appropriate.

You can’t blame Cuban for still being furious about Odom’s fraud. Forget what seemed like a steal of a deal backfiring in the Mavs front office’s face. Odom made Cuban look like a fool for having his back over and over again to the point of being perceived as an enabler, especially during Odom’s bizarre post-All-Star-break sabbatical, when the owner met with Odom at the W Hotel to talk him into rejoining the team while the rest of the Mavs were in the midst of the lockout-compressed season’s most grueling stretch of games.

Cuban finally had his fill of Odom’s bull by April 7, well after home fans had started booing him. After seeing Odom loaf through four first-half minutes in Memphis that night, Cuban angrily confronted him in the locker room, repeatedly asking if he was “in or out.” Odom’s response of “stop playing games” didn’t satisfy the owner, who decided to send Odom home for the rest of the season, paying him to just go away.

Oh, and the Mavs aren’t done paying for the Odom ordeal.

Dallas still has to give up a first-round pick to complete the Odom trade. It’s now the property of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who acquired it in the James Harden deal from the Houston Rockets, who acquired it from the Lakers along with Derek Fisher (how fitting) for Jordan Hill.

The pick is top-20 protected through 2017, so the worst-case scenario is that the OKC gets a lottery gift from its Interstate 35 rival in 2018, just before Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook turn 30.

Maybe the Odom deal, which was made possible by the trade exception created in the sign-and-trade that sent Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks, was the basketball gods’ way of punishing Cuban for breaking up a team coming off an NBA title.

The basketball gods certainly didn’t enact any vengeance on Odom. He landed back in Los Angeles with the contending Clippers, making the full $8.2 million salary in the final season of his contract to serve as a role player on arguably the NBA’s best bench. (The fact that Dallas was able to trade Odom for essentially nothing instead of having to pay his $2.4 million buyout was considered a minor win for the Mavs.)

Odom hasn’t exactly regained his Sixth Man of the Year from 2010-11. In fact, he’s averaging a career-low 4.1 points per game while shooting an unsightly 38.8 percent from the floor, numbers that are a continuation of his drastic offensive decline last season. However, Odom has been a contributor for the Clippers since getting in reasonably decent shape, averaging 5.8 rebounds in 20.4 minutes and playing good defense.

“He’s in a situation that’s really perfect for him,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, taking the diplomatic route. “He’s a defender, rebounder and can play off of other people. He’s having a really good year for them.”

Mavs fans have every right to interrupt that “really good year” by making Odom miserable for one night.

Darren Collison best suited as a backup?

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
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DALLAS – Darren Collison is one of the NBA’s best backup point guards.

That’s a backhanded compliment to a 25-year-old who entered the final season of his rookie contract determined to prove that he was a solid starter in this league.

That, however, is the reality of Collison’s role right now and most likely for the rest of the season. The Mavs are 5-3 since 37-year-old journeyman Mike James became the starting point guard, and coach Rick Carlisle has indicated on several occasions that he believes Collison’s game is best suited for coming off the bench.

Collison accepts his role. That doesn’t mean he embraces it – and it isn’t the ideal situation he’ll search for in free agency this summer.

“In my heart, I know I’m a starter,” Collison said. “I know what I’ve done. As of right now, I’m just trying to help the team win.”

Carlisle emphasizes that he still considers Collison, who was demoted for Derek Fisher earlier this season, to be as important to the team now that he’s a reserve than he was as a starter.

"Even though he’s an off-the-bench guy at this point and time, I view him as one of our starters," Carlisle said. “Much like Jason Terry was for four years here. Jet was one of our better players, but he came off the bench and gave us a lot in that role. We need Darren to do the same thing."

J.J. Barea is probably a better comparison, but you get Carlisle’s point.

Collison’s minutes haven’t seen too steep of a drop since he stopped starting. He averaged 31.1 minutes in 51 starts, compared to 24.8 in the last eight games.

Collison’s production isn’t drastically different in the reserve role, either. He has averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor in the last eight games. As a starter, Collison put up 12.6 points and 5.7 assists per game, shooting 46.7 percent from the floor.

The biggest difference: Collison's plus-minus has been plus-51 in the last eight games; it’s minus-101 in his 51 starts.

“I think he’s in his wheelhouse right now,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “He’s very comfortable. And I think he gets the opportunity to kind of analyze the game before he plays it now. The game slows down and he’s playing at a really high level.”

Collison acknowledged that there are some benefits to coming off the bench. He gets to study the flow of the game for the first five minutes, and he typically tries to use his speed and quickness to increase the tempo. Plus, he feels that he has a little more freedom as a reserve.

“As a starter, you kind of want to get everybody involved the first five minutes,” Collison said. “When you come off the bench, everybody’s kind of already had their touches. You want to be a little bit more aggressive coming off the bench.”

Given the choice, Collison wants to be a starter. But that’s not an option in Dallas right now. Whether it is somewhere else will be determined in the free-agency market this summer.

Deron Williams doesn't deserve Dallas boos

March, 20, 2013
3/20/13
9:06
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DALLAS -- Mark Cuban, the Mavericks’ unofficial boo leader, didn’t hesitate to highly recommend that fellow MFFLs loudly direct their wrath at Derek Fisher on Sunday.

What about Deron Williams tonight?

Cuban is keeping his mouth shut on that one. Or he at least didn’t reply to an email inquiring about the subject. And he intentionally avoided making the trip to Brooklyn to see the Mavs play the Nets at the beginning of the month because, he explained, “I don’t need to be on the back page of the New York Post.”

That’s probably wise. No need for Cuban to give an opposing star any additional, fresh motivational fodder. (That worked out so well with Kobe Bryant, huh?)

Besides, Williams doesn’t deserve to be booed during his annual trip to the American Airlines Center, an arena the native of nearby The Colony described last year as his favorite in the NBA.

Unlike full-of-it quitter Fisher, Williams didn’t do the Mavs wrong. He just politely and professionally declined their halfhearted recruiting pitch and decided to move to Brooklyn with the Nets.

You can debate whether Williams made the right decision. You can argue that he’d have been better off as the centerpiece of a two-year rebuilding plan in Dallas instead of being stuck on a roster with bloated contracts in Brooklyn, which will be handcuffed by the CBA in its attempts to make the upgrades necessary to become a legitimate contender.

Cuban could have made those points in a face-to-face meeting with Williams in July, but he opted to have Michael Finley join Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle as the point men for the most important free-agency pitch in franchise history. Filming "Shark Tank" on the West Coast was Cuban’s priority, hence the halfhearted recruiting pitch.

If you’re still upset about Williams not coming home this past summer, boo Cuban, not the point guard.

Cuban is the one who has said that he didn’t really want Williams anyway -- and the whole "Shark Tank" deal seems to support that statement. (Cuban, who has taken some reality=show-related heat from Dirk Nowitzki, has vowed to keep his schedule clear for the first two weeks of July this summer.)

It was only after Cuban declared that he believed the Mavs were “better off” without him that Williams fired back, telling New York reporters that he might have signed with the Mavs if Cuban had only made the effort of meeting with him and answering his questions. That back-and-forth fizzled out quickly, and nobody else with the Mavs has any ill will toward Williams, whose concerns about being left to carry the Mavs by himself if Nowitzki went down seemed pretty prescient in the first two months of the season.

“He’s still a friend of mine,” Nowitzki said before the Mavs’ trip to Brooklyn. “Obviously, he didn’t come join us, but I wished him luck then.”

For the Mavs’ wish for a win to come true, they’ll probably need to contain Williams, who struggled through his own health issues for the first half of the season but is suddenly performing like an elite point guard again, averaging an efficient 23.4 points and 7.7 assists since the All-Star break.

No need for the AAC crowd to add any fuel to Williams’ fire with boos that would just make Mavs fans look bitter.

Better to save your venom for a deserving target. On a related note, Lamar Odom comes to town next week.

Sarcasm drips as Cuban discusses Fisher

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
7:43
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DALLAS -- Sweat wasn’t the only thing dripping from Mark Cuban during his customary pregame workout on the stairstepper Tuesday night.

The sarcasm poured when the subject turned to Derek Fisher signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder a little more than two months after requesting his release from the Mavericks for family reasons.

Cuban, who said there was “no side deal” regarding family issues when Fisher signed with the Mavs, sarcastically claimed he understood Fisher’s decision to resume his career with a contender.

“His kids are older,” Cuban said. “It’s easier to fly in and out of Oklahoma City than Dallas. I understand that. It’s a decision a parent has to make. Every parent has difficult decisions to make.”

Moments later, Cuban added: “A lot can happen in 65 days.”

This marks the second consecutive season that a former Laker has quit on the Mavs. Unlike Lamar Odom, Fisher at least had the decency to stop cashing paychecks signed by Cuban.

Asked if he planned to stay away from ex-Lakers, Cuban said, “In protection of my [Twitter] timeline, I’m not going to say anything.”
DALLAS – The 25-year-old point guard drifted in and out of the starting lineup, often an easy target for frustrated Mavericks fans and media -- not to mention his coach -- during a losing season.

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Steve Nash turned out to be a pretty darn good player after that experience.

That’s not necessarily to compare Darren Collison to Nash. It’s simply using one of the best point guards of this generation – and a foundation piece of the Mavs’ rise from longtime laughingstock to legitimate contender – to illustrate how much a point guard can improve in his mid-20s.

However, if you’re curious, Collison’s numbers this season compare extremely favorably to Nash’s in 1990-2000, when the future Hall of Famer was frequently booed during his second season in Dallas.

Collison’s averages this season: 12.9 points on .483 shooting, 5.2 assists, 2.3 turnovers and 1.5 steals.

Nash’s numbers in 1999-00: 8.6 points on .477 shooting, 4.9 assists, 1.8 turnovers and 0.7 steals.

[+] EnlargeRick Carlisle
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireDarren Collision has looked like a much more confident point guard since returning to the starting lineup.
Nash’s numbers took a major leap in the final month of that season, when the perennially miserable Mavs finished strong to end up 40-42, jump-starting the Mark Cuban era. We might be witnessing Collison turning the corner now, when the Mavs still have time to salvage a playoff berth out of what’s been a disappointing season so far.

Collison, who had the challenge of learning a new system while running the offense on a newcomer-loaded roster, has looked like a much more comfortable, confident point guard since regaining his starting job after Derek Fisher returned to his rocking chair and the one-game Dominique Jones experiment ended.

In the last 14 games, Collison’s points (15.5), assists (5.5) and shooting percentages (.530 on field goals and .536 on 3-pointers) are up and his turnovers (1.8) are down.

“He’s gotten better and better,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

Yet Carlisle still won’t commit to using Collison to close games, often turning to a 37-year-old man on a 10-day contract in clutch situations. Mike James helped the Mavs close out wins recently against the Kings and Rockets and was on the floor for the final minutes of regulation and all of overtime in a loss to the Thunder.

The decision on who plays point guard in crunch time will be made on a game-to-game basis, according to Carlisle. The coach appreciates James’ veteran presence and physical defense. Truth be told, Carlisle must have trust issues with Collison, whose struggles have contributed to the Mavs being 8-17 in games that were within three points in the final minute.

The mild-mannered Collison isn’t one to complain – and Carlisle points out that the starting point guard enthusiastically cheers when he’s riding pine in crunch time – but he admits that it bothers him to sit with the game on the line. His approach is to try to prove with his performance that he can help the Mavs win, which is exactly what he did by drilling a clutch corner 3 in the final minute of Sunday’s win in Orlando.

“I’ll fight,” said Collison, who is on his third team in four seasons and will be a restricted free agent this summer. “I’ll keep fighting. I’m very resilient. And I’m understanding. If it’s not my time, or if coach goes in a different direction, then I understand that. I can only play hard for the minutes I get. … I sure believe when I get my opportunity again, I’m going to make sure that I make the most of my chances.”

Added Carlisle: “We were in here Saturday practicing and I talked to him about end-of-the-game stuff and I said this is something that’s going to be on me to decide who finishes. Keep doing the good things you’re doing and you’re going to be in these situations a lot. I just know that. And sure enough, that’s how it turned out on Sunday.”

While Carlisle’s commitment to Collison as a starter has wavered, the coach deserves credit for Collison’s development this season.

Carlisle has invested countless hours in working individually with Collison, as well as his 25-year-old backcourt partner O.J. Mayo. The guards spend most mornings getting grilled by Carlisle in film sessions or on the floor shooting with him.

Dirk Nowitzki has made a point several times to mention that he's proud of the way the young guards have responded to Carlisle's hard coaching. As Collison said, players with thick skin prosper under Carlisle.

“We’ve had a lot of tough love from coach,” Collison said. “Coach has been in our face from Day 1. It’s all about a learning experience. He just wants us to get better. He just wants us to continue to improve. Rick is going to tell us like it is. He’s going to be honest with us. It’s the reason why we’re improving every day.”

How much better can Collison get? A certain Maverick from the recent past proved it can be tough to predict a point guard's ceiling sometimes.

Mike James is a poor man's Derek Fisher

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
2:32
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The Mavericks miss Derek Fisher despite Darren Collison’s impressive production since the savvy old point guard’s sudden departure from Dallas.

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Marc Stein of ESPN.com joins Ben and Skin to talk about Dirk Nowitzki's current mindset.

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That’s why the Mavs agreed to a 10-day deal Monday with 37-year-old point guard Mike James.

“Looking for the closest thing to Derek Fisher out there,” a Mavs source said.

That doesn’t mean Collison will lose his starting job again. He shouldn’t. And not just because Collison has played pretty well since Fisher’s exit, averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 assists and 1.8 turnovers while shooting 53.3 percent from the floor while starting the last six games.

James, unlike Fisher, hasn’t been a starting point guard in the league for a long time. He last started for a 19-win Washington team in 2008-09. James, who has career averages of 10.4 points and 3.6 assists, has played a total of 15 NBA games in the last three-plus seasons.

James, who scored 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting in a blowout win Saturday during his D-League audition with the Texas Legends, might be able to help the Mavs with his veteran savvy. Perhaps he’s a better option as a backup point guard than Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones.

But a poor man’s Derek Fisher definitely shouldn’t take minutes away from Collison.

Ex-Lakers don't fare well in Dallas

December, 23, 2012
12/23/12
10:58
AM CT
Let this be a lesson for Dallas' front office: Don’t sign any more members of the Lakers squad the Mavericks swept during the glorious summer of 2011.

Derek Fisher made his Dallas departure with much more dignity and a lot less drama than Lamar Odom did last season, but there are some similarities to the ex-Lakers’ abbreviated stints with the Mavericks. They never fully committed to the Mavs, paying lip service to their temporary franchise but leaving their hearts in Los Angeles.

The Lam Lam charade lasted most of the season, with all sorts of twists and turns and terrible performances. Fisher had already booked his flight home by the time there was any public hint that he wasn’t fully on board in Dallas, and he had actually played pretty well by 38-year-old point guard standards during his nine games with the Mavs.

At least Fisher was apparently up front with the front office, warning them that he might decide at any point that he’d rather spend time with his family than be the Mavs’ starting point guard. Of course, the NBA players’ association president was in full politician mode when he joined the Mavs, preaching about being here for the long haul and building relationships with his new teammates.

“I told the guys today, this is not a pit stop,” Fisher said the day he arrived in Dallas. “This is not kind of the final whatever before I decide to retire soon. I’m here to give everything I have to help this team right now and continue to build as we go through this season.”

Pffft. In hindsight, that’s about as believable as the “flu” that caused Rick Carlisle to think Fisher was unavailable for Tuesday’s game against the 76ers, when Fisher surprised folks by showing up and starting. He played for five minutes before suffering a knee injury that would have sidelined him for a couple of weeks, offering a convenient excuse to call it quits.

It’s about as believable as the “personal issues” that prompted Odom to take a 10-day sabbatical in the middle of last season, not too long before Mark Cuban finally had his fill and kicked Khloe’s little Lam Lam off the team.

Perhaps the premature exits for the ex-Lakers are fitting. After all, the most embarrassing day while wearing purple and gold had to be sending Phil Jackson into retirement with a broom-swinging blowout at the American Airlines Center.

Derek Fisher era ends; Mavs PG problems continue

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
8:37
PM CT
The desperate move of signing Derek Fisher didn’t work for the Mavericks.

The five-time Lakers champ’s stint in Dallas lasted all of nine games, with Fisher pleading homesickness as he limped back to Los Angeles with a strained patellar tendon that would have sidelined him a couple weeks. He didn’t even play a second with Dirk Nowitzki before deciding he’d rather hang with his family -- and maybe wait for a call from one of L.A.’s teams -- than try to help the Mavs avoid their first lottery berth in a dozen years.

Now what at point guard for the post-Jason Kidd Mavs?

Feel like discussing the pipe dream of Chris Paul leaving the young, contending Clippers to help Dirk age gracefully in his golden years? Didn’t think so.

As the Mavs keep scouring the point guard scrap heaps, they’re kidding themselves if they think they have anything less than a disaster on their hands at the position. They’ve dumped Delonte West, dissed Dominique Jones, demoted Darren Collison and been ditched by Fisher in the last two months. Oh, and Rodrigue Beaubois’ third annual breakout season has been another dud.

Here’s a quick look at coach Rick Carlisle’s point guard candidates at the moment:

Darren Collison: Well, so much for the spin of Collison being mentored by Fisher. The Mavs' decision to bench Collison the week before Fisher was signed made it clear they don’t consider him anything more than a good backup, reaching the same conclusion as Indiana last season. Collison’s numbers with the Mavs (11.7 points, .446 FG, 5.1 assists, 2.5 turnovers) are pretty similar than the stats he put up as a Pacers starter. Collison’s defense and decision-making have been major disappointments in Dallas, but he is capable of scoring bursts. Collison, who left Friday’s game against Memphis after 10 tough minutes due to a reported illness, hasn’t justified the summer hope that he might be a long-term piece.

Dominique Jones: The Mavs opted not to pick up the option for next season in DoJo’s rookie deal and tried to trade him for a bag of deflated basketballs before the season, but he’s actually playing pretty well lately. He was the primary reason the Mavs didn’t get blown out in Memphis, putting up career highs of 13 points and seven assists in the loss. He’s a poor shooter (.356 FG) and finisher (.429 in restricted area) who definitely lacks polish. But Jones is a crafty-passing, physical dude with a chip on his shoulder because he doesn’t feel like he got much of a chance in Dallas.

Rodrigue Beaubois: Remember a few years ago when Roddy B’s future seemed so bright? He’s averaging 2.9 points on 31.7 percent shooting this season. Once declared by Mark Cuban to be all but untouchable in trade talks, dreams of Beaubois as a Mavs foundation piece fizzled long ago. It seems as if he’s just playing out the string of his Dallas stint.

Derek Fisher injury means guard by committee

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
12:44
PM CT
DALLAS -- Derek Fisher's strained right patellar tendon means other guards must step up in his place.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle talked about the opportunity that could provide players like Darren Collison, who will likely start, Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois.

"We have some depth at the point guard position and it's going to have to be done by committee," Carlisle said. "It's not as important who starts the game, but it's important how we approach it. We have guys that can do different things and bring different, positive things to the equation. (Fisher) played really well for us and helped us in a lot of different ways during that two-week period. We'll be out him for a while and these other guys have to hold the fort."

Collison is averaging 12.2 points per game and 5.3 assists this season, while Jones has 3.8 points and 3.1 assists in 11.4 minutes per game.

Derek Fisher to miss at least three games

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
11:40
AM CT
Derek Fisher will miss Thursday's game against the Miami Heat because of a right patellar tendon strain, the Mavericks announced.

Fisher suffered the injury during Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He will not travel with the team on its upcoming trip to Memphis and San Antonio.


DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki returned to practice Wednesday, but the Mavs' frontcourt depth might be near crisis mode Thursday against Miami.

Brandan Wright sprained his right ankle late in Tuesday's win over the 76ers, when his playing time increased because a strained groin sidelined Elton Brand. Wright and Brand are both considered game-time decisions for Thursday night.

The Mavs are still awaiting MRI results to determine the severity of point guard Derek Fisher's strained patellar tendon in his right knee.

"I'm assuming he's not going to play tomorrow," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think that's a pretty safe bet."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9