Dallas Mavericks: Derrick Rose
|Mavs center Brendan Haywood gives his own percentage chance on Deron Williams coming to Dallas. |
"When I saw the deal I thought he would definitely have to consider staying just because Joe is that talented," Haywood said. "If you look at that team as constructed right now if they get D-Will back; if you give me D-Will, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, a big man at (power forward) and Brook Lopez at (center); people forget Brook Lopez averaged 20 points per game, he’s very valuable and he was hurt last year. That team right there, to me, is already the second-best team in the East, right behind Miami with (Chicago Bulls point guard) Derrick Rose recovering from that knee injury."
The 7-foot Haywood certainly has a future in broadcasting if not with the Mavs. He's still under contract for three more seasons at around $27 million, and if the Mavs do use the amnesty clause on him, the team will be on the hook for his full salary, but it will not count against the cap. Haywood is well aware of the D-Will ramifications.
"I follow it (free agency) very closely," Haywood said. "For me, I have to see who goes where to see if I’m even in Dallas next year. Guys like myself, Shawn Marion, we have to follow it closely because we have no idea if we’re going to be here or not."
Regardless of the Johnson acquisition, Haywood said not to discount the fact that the Nets can pay Williams about $25 million more than the Mavs. Even though Williams could potentially make up that money with a second max contract in Dallas, Haywood said players tend to look at the guaranteed money on the table at the moment.
"Most guys look at the money that’s guaranteed, where they can get the most money at," he said. "So, if they do the state income tax and it comes out where Dallas ends up almost the same thing, then maybe he comes to Dallas. But I don’t think the state income tax is going to save him $25 mil. So at the of the day, most guys look for where it’s the most guaranteed money because that’s the only thing you know for sure."
And then, of course, there's the ongoing Dwight Howard situation, and at least the slim possibility that the Nets could still acquire him in a trade with the Orlando Magic. Brendan, are you paying attention to the Dwightmare?
"I watch the Dwight Howard As-The-World-Turns saga every day to see what’s going to happen today: 'I’m coming, I’m staying, I want to go, I want to stay,' " Haywood said, mocking the Magic big man. "No one knows what’s going to happen up there. It’s something different every day."
CHICAGO -- Rodrigue Beaubois squirmed on the United Center floor, grasped his left hand with the crooked ring finger and wailed. Thoughts raced that the third-year guard's luck had once again run out on the cusp of the postseason.
"Oh man, he was yelling," Dirk Nowitzki said, barely cracking a smile. "I thought we were going to have to put him down, he was yelling so loud. But he was all right. I looked over and his finger was just a little sidewise."
The initial sight of his unnaturally bent finger unnerved Beaubois. Could it be as bad as the right ring finger that Delonte West dislocated and broke in mid-February that made him miss the next 21 games?
"That's why I was kind of scared when I saw that," said Beaubois, a victim of his first dislocated finger. "Finally, it wasn't that bad. At first I didn't know."
n a span of four minutes of the second quarter, Beaubois went from snapping his finger in the jersey of Chicago Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer to writhing in pain, a second empty postseason flashing before his eyes. He walked to the locker room, his left arm pinned to his side, his fingers outstretched and as stiff as a No. 2 pencil.
And before anyone had even noticed, Beaubois -- his ring finger popped back into place and squeezed next to his middle finger with white tape -- was back on the bench.
Moments later he was back on the floor. The 6-foot-2 guard, who got an important start with Jason Kidd and Jason Terry taking the night off, put on a show against the Eastern Conference's best team and last season's MVP.
Beaubois' 16 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter -- five assists and six rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes didn't lead the Mavs to a victory. Dallas lost 93-83 in a game that was closer than the score indicated, but Beaubois went mano-a-mano with Derrick Rose for large chunks of time, turning in an overall effort that his teammates needed to see.
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"We needed his veteran leadership to make passes and not turn the ball over," Dirk Nowitzki said after Saturday's 94-89 loss to the Grizzlies, the Mavs' third defeat in four games. "We definitely need it. Hopefully we’ll see him at some point (this) week and keep the troops together, stay healthy and make a push here towards the playoffs."
No one seems sure when Kidd will be back in uniform. The club's original timetable had Kidd missing four games through Memphis. Dallas reconvenes Monday for practice before beginning its final nine games starting with a one-and-done home game against Sacramento on Tuesday followed by a four-game swing out west (Portland, Golden State, Lakers, Utah) that could prove critical to securing a playoff berth.
Obviously there are degrees of severity for such injuries, and at 39, who knows how Kidd will respond once he does return. Reigning league MVP Derrick Rose is expected to return today from a groin injury that sidelined the 23-year-old for 12 games.
"Who knows, right?" owner Mark Cuban said. "There’s nothing to lead us to believe that he won’t be fine when he does come back."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle declined to get into specifics about Kidd, who did not make the trip, on Saturday at Memphis other than to say that he is improving. Kidd hasn't had much of a season, but it's clear the offense flows much more freely with the 18-year veteran at the controls.
"Of course it will change, he’s our floor general, but we’ve got to make it work until he comes back," Shawn Marion said. "We don’t know when he’s coming back. We can’ t be just harping on that. We put ourselves in position to win these games and we’re not doing it."
Adding to the problem is that Delonte West is not only playing with essentially one hand, it is quite apparent that he is gimpy from a twice-twisted left ankle. West made 6-of-7 shots for 14 points last Wednesday in the home win over Memphis. Then he twisted his ankle during Friday morning's shootaround and again during the game. He is 7-of-21 from the floor since for 18 points.
"I'm not going to get into Kidd's status because I don't have an updated report on it," Carlisle said prior Saturday's game. "He's doing better, but I'm not going to get into a timetable right now."
"We've got 32 left and this stretch right after the break is critical obviously -- nine games in 12 days," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway & Co. on Friday. "I don't know if that kind of stretch has ever happened. It's happened some this year with teams and this will be the first for this franchise and it's going to be tough, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
Heading into the break Carlisle said he would tell his troops to enjoy the time off and come back ready to roll.
This week starts the much-talked-about nine-in-12 sequence that ends next week with the lone back-to-back-to-back of the season. As for this week, it includes four games in seven nights packed into two home-road back-to-backs.
Here's a look:
Tuesday: vs. New Jersey Nets (10-25), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Welcome back Avery Johnson. Welcome home Deron Williams? The Colony native is high on the Mavs' wish list this summer. And wondering whether Williams will address his pending free agency and his desires is about all the intrigue that the Nets' visit should provide. Now, if the Mavs come out of the break sluggish, they could be dealt an ugly setback coming off Wednesday's home loss to the Lakers. Seven of New Jersey's 10 wins have come on the road, including recent victories at Chicago (without Derrick Rose) and at the Knicks. Still, these guys are 2-8 in their last 10.
Wednesday: at Memphis Grizzlies (19-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: This is where things should get interesting. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies couldn't beat the Mavs, never, ever. The tables have turned recently and the young Grizz are a bona fide threat in the West. When (if?) Zach Randolph returns they'll be downright dangerous. The Mavs come into town on the second night of a back-to-back while the Grizzlies will be waiting to resume their season following the All-Star break. They're 13-5 at FedEx Forum and have won seven of 10 overall. None were of landmark quality, but confidence is brimming.
Friday: at New Orleans (8-25), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Hornets can jump up and sting, just ask Jeremy Lin. New Orleans went into the break having won four of six games with the victory at Madison Square Garden being the feather in their cap. They don't score much, but they don't give up much either, and the Mavs' big men better keep an eye on Chris Kaman (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg last seven games). The Hornets are actually better on the road than at home (3-14), so the Mavs, after a day of rest, need to bear down and make sure they pad their record against a team they should beat.
Saturday: vs. Utah Jazz (15-17), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The wayward Jazz will make their way to Dallas after two home games against Houston and Miami. They face the Mavs the night after playing the Heat. A Utah team that lost 10 of 13 heading into the All-Star break has plummeted out of the playoff mix. The reunion of Devin Harris and Josh Howard just hasn't clicked. With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back and both traveling, this is one in which the Mavs must defend their turf against a spiraling club that is 3-11 on the road.
Rose isn’t the only superstar not scheduled to make a trip to Dallas. Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic also won’t visit the Mavs. (It is possible Howard, the epicenter of the NBA’s trade rumor mill, could play in the American Airlines Center for another team.)
The other Eastern Conference teams that won’t make it to Dallas this season are the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons.
The schedule-maker didn’t do the Mavs any favors with the cities they’ll miss. They’ll still make stops in all the East’s playoff venues from last season with the exception of Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the eighth-seeded Indiana Pacers. The Mavs also won’t go to Milwaukee, Charlotte, New Jersey, Washington and Toronto.
The NBA Finals MVP and 13-year Mavs veteran beat out Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and the NBA's 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose.
After accepting the award, Nowitzki spent time with ESPN Radio morning show co-hosts Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg. Nowitzki touched on his beautifully ragged spontaneous rendition of "We are the Champions" from the American Airlines balcony overlooking Victory Plaza after the parade.
He also said he doesn't expect the lockout to last very long.
"I really can't see this going on too long," Nowitzki said. "I think that the game is at a great stage; I think The Finals having been watched by so many people as it has been in a long time. I just think both sides have to come together. It's always a little give and take, not one side is going to get everything. So, hopefully we're going to get by this period and both settle in and get a deal done. I just can't see us having another long lockout."
Awards still ahead include the Mavs going for "Best Team," and Nowitzki is up for "Best Male Athlete."
DALLAS – Jason Terry just will not shut up.
It doesn’t matter how much Dirk Nowitzki tries to get his longest-tenured teammate to pipe down. It’s not going to happen.
“I told him I was going to put him on a no-interview policy,” Dirk said, recalling a moment after Terry provided some bulletin-board material earlier in the playoffs. “But he didn’t follow that, either.
“He’s a very confident young man. He believes in himself. That’s what I like about him.”
Dirk just doesn’t like the fact that Jet rarely hesitates to express his confidence to any reporter within shouting distance. That was the case this week, when Terry dismissed questions about LeBron James’ dominant clutch defense on him by openly doubting whether The Chosen One could keep it up for seven games.
It seemed like a foolish statement, considering that LeBron had just finished shutting down the league’s MVP. Chicago’s Derrick Rose shot 6.3 percent from the floor when defended by James during the Eastern Conference finals, a major reason why the Heat finished off the Bulls in five games.
Terry, who believed in these Mavs enough to get the Larry O’Brien Trophy tattooed on his right biceps way back in October, didn’t drop his head just because James shut him out in the fourth quarter of the Mavs’ Game 1 and 3 losses. That’s not how Jet flies.
Terry speaks his mind ... and then tries his hardest to back up his big words.
He wasn’t great in Game 4, but he was good enough. Terry wasn’t thrilled by scoring 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting, but he produced under pressure. His eight points in the fourth quarter helped fuel the Mavs’ comeback, as was the case in Game 2.
Yes, Jet missed some open jumpers late in the game that could have spared Dallas from the last-minute drama. But he made good on his vow to attack James, his much bigger foe, running LeBron through a maze of screens and taking him off the dribble on two straight possessions to start the crucial 17-4 run.
“I like this mentality,” Dirk said. “We need him to be aggressive.”
For that to happen, it seems that Terry has to motivate himself by running his mouth. He admits as much, saying nobody puts more pressure on him than he does on himself.
Terry flaps his gums so often and so colorfully that coach Rick Carlisle compared him to two trash-talking legends he’s been around during his days in the NBA: Reggie Miller and Larry Bird.
“Jet says what he says, and he has his reasons,” Carlisle said. “I don’t necessarily need to know what they are. But I think the one thing he knew was that once he says some things, he’s going to have to back it up.
“So I give him a lot of credit. It’s a lot easier to stay low key and sort of go with the flow.”
That’s just not Jet’s style. For better or worse -- and there has been plenty of both during his Dallas tenure -- it’s never put up or shut up with him. He’s always going to talk big, and he’ll either bask in the glory of backing it up or deal with the disappointment.
“That’s Jet,” said DeShawn Stevenson, the only other Maverick who can give Terry a run for his money as a trash talker. “Jet says some things on his mind that he doesn’t even know what he’s saying. But that’s Jet. He does it in card games, he does it on the bus. You’ve got to love him for that.”
Or hate him for it, as the Heat probably will by the end of the Game 7.
DALLAS -- LeBron James finishes Game 3 with 17 points and nine assists. He had four assists in the fourth quarter, including the no-look, behind-the-back pass to Chris Bosh, who drained the game-winning jumper in the 88-86 win on the Mavs' home floor.
Yet, James is being ripped for shrinking from the superstar spotlight? The Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls might quarrel with that notion. The Dallas Mavericks likely would, too. It was just a week ago that Wade was the one queried about the state of his health -- he must be injured! -- because his scoring dipped against the Bulls in the East finals while James hit the big shots and, by the way, shut down Derrick Rose.
Yet, here is Wade tormenting the Mavs like it's 2006 -- sans the free-throw parade -- averaging 29.0 points on 56.7 percent shooting. James? He's averaging 20.3 points on 51.1 percent shooting, 6.0 assists and 6.7 rebounds. And then there's this: In the fourth quarter of the three games, the man James has guarded, mostly Jason Terry, has scored five points. Terry was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter Sunday night.
"I think you're concentrating on one side of the floor. All you're looking at is the stat sheet," James quipped at a reporter who suggested he is 'shrinking' from the moment. "Honestly, I'm a two-way player. Since D-Wade had it going offensively, so we allow him to handle the ball, bring it on offensively. You should watch the film again and see what I did defensively. You'll ask me a better question tomorrow."
For James, the only 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward in the league today that can run the point, to be ripped for not scoring 30 points a night seems, at best, shortsighted. Consider that he draws the Mavs' best defender, Shawn Marion, and is instantly swarmed on the perimeter. Wade benefits from the lighter defensive matchup against DeShawn Stevenson, the ultra-competitive, but still 38-year-old Jason Kidd and the 6-2 Terry.
The matchups dictate that Wade should be the dominant scorer with James serving more as a facilitator. His 6.0 assists in the Finals are one fewer than Kidd, one of the best passers in the game's history, is averaging.
The Mavs have to find an answer for this two-headed monster that has the Mavs constantly playing from behind and making it difficult for Dallas to find consistent scoring beyond Dirk Nowitzki.
If the Mavs are to win their first championship, they'll have to win consecutive games in this series at some point. Games 4 and 5 at home would seem to be their best chance. It won't be easy. The Heat have not lost more than one game in any series this postseason.
The last time the Heat lost two in a row? Turn back the calendar to March 8, the last of a five-game skid.
"Games get tougher as you get deeper into the playoffs. We know that," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't know the number of times we climbed out of holes, but it's just always going to make the game harder. So, our overall game, yes, is going to have to be better from start to finish."
MIAMI -- When the physical freak with the defensive end’s frame defends Jason Terry in Game 2, the Mavs’ high-scoring sixth man swears he’ll be ready.
That wasn’t the case in the Game 1 loss, when Miami’s LeBron James grounded Jet in the second half. Terry went scoreless after halftime, managing to fire off only three shots in the two quarters after the Heat gave James the assignment of harassing Terry.
“It was a big adjustment, something we weren't prepared for,” said Terry, who scored 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting in the first half. “We seen it, we made our adjustment and we'll be prepared in Game 2.”
Unfortunately for Terry, it’s not that easy to adjust to King James’ defense. Just ask the MVP. Chicago’s Derrick Rose made only 6.3 percent of his shots while defended by James during the Eastern Conference finals, a major reason why the Heat finished off the Bulls in five games.
“He’s amazing -- 6-8, 260 or whatever and he moves like a football running back,” Dirk Nowitzki said of James. “He can guard any position on the floor.”
There was a lot of speculation that the Heat would sic James on Dirk down the stretch in the Finals. But that matchup didn’t materialize during Game 1, as Miami opted to mix in a decent amount of double-teams on Dirk while putting the defensive stopper on his scoring sidekick.
Miami still managed to make it relatively tough on Nowitzki, who finished with 27 points on 7-of-18 shooting. The Heat took Terry completely out of the equation after halftime.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called it “a very high compliment by putting their best defensive player on him.” He’ll get no argument from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, although he was coy about whether that was part of the game plan or an adjustment.
“He’s a big key to what they do, so we’re trying to treat him with an appropriate amount of respect,” Spoelstra said. “It has to be with a team concept. LeBron is one of our better, most impact individual defenders, so that was something that happened. We’ll see what happens in the next game.”
The Mavs anticipate that Jet will get the King James treatment again, especially late in games.
Terry was coy about the adjustments, saying he’d try to get transition looks and stand in the corner and let James guard him in halfcourt sets.
“I don’t want to give away all my secrets,” Terry said.
Carlisle also emphasized the need to get Terry going in the flow game -- which will only be possible if the Mavs don’t let Miami whip them on the glass again -- and added that Dallas needs to do a better job screening. If James is going to guard Terry, the Mavs should at least make him use energy by running through mazes of picks in halfcourt sets.
One thing the Mavs won’t do is give up on going to Terry just because he’s being guarded by James. Their offense would be too one-dimensional, and they can’t just ask Dirk and his nine healthy digits to carry the load.
“Even though they put [James] on [Terry] in the fourth quarter, we have to keep going to Jet,” Nowitzki said. “He’s got to produce for us.”
The Mavs need Terry to do what the MVP couldn’t. Those adjustments and the Mavs’ execution better be good.
DALLAS -- LeBron James stuffed the stat sheet as usual during the Eastern Conference finals, but his most impressive work in the series came on the defensive end.
King James completely took the MVP out of games during crunch time. Chicago’s Derrick Rose shot 6.3 percent when defended by James during the series, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That’s not a typo -- six-point-three.
As the Mavs do with Jason Kidd, the Heat tend to sic James on the opposing superstar during crunch time. Listed at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, and gifted with amazing athletic ability, there might not be a more versatile defensive player in the NBA than James.
LeBron proved he could shut down an elite point guard. How about one of the most productive power forwards to ever play the game?
Dirk Nowitzki will be prepared if Miami decides to assign James to the Mavs’ MVP with the game on the line.
“We’ve got to be ready for whatever,” Dirk said. “If LeBron’s at the 4 (power forward), we’ve got to adjust. But I don’t think that’s anything we haven’t seen all year. We’ve seen small lineups, we’ve seen bigger lineups.”
They saw the Lakers try to defend Dirk with Ron Artest, but only briefly. In fact, that experiment lasted only four possessions, with Dirk going to work on post-ups and producing six points and dishing for an assist when L.A. came with a double-team.
Maybe LeBron, who is taller and quicker than Artest, could have more success defending Dirk. It’s probably more likely that Udonis Haslem, who gave Nowitzki some trouble in the 2006 Finals, will defend Dirk down the stretch. The Heat could then use James to guard Jason Kidd and double Dirk on occasion.
“I think they’re a great five-on-five man team that rotates,” Nowitzki said. “They’re quick on their feet, they’re athletic and long and they go with a lineup where they have no point guards out there with [Mike] Miller and [Dwyane] Wade and LeBron. They cover a lot of ground.
“They have Haslem back, who is one of the best defenders at the 4 position. They’re a very good team defensively, so we have to make sure we’re not playing one-on-one. We have to move the ball and do all the things that got us here.”
One of the things that got the Mavs here was Dirk delivering down the stretch. That has to continue to happen, no matter who defends him.
|Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle hops on GAC to chat about the lack of deal before the trade deadline, liking what they have and not focusing on what others have done. |
There is a certain amount of truth to Carlisle's statement, but really, who's fooling who? None of those players rival the consistent threat to create and get in the paint as at least one player on every contender: Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose.
"I like to shoot jumpers, we all know that," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Jet loves jumpers. And Peja. And Kidd at this stage is a spot-up shooter and a great playmaker, but not really a paint kind of guy. We need guys off the screen-and-roll to get in the paint and J.J. was unbelievable with that before the [All-Star] break. Roddy is going to do the same thing."
Lack of penetration killed the Mavs in the first-round playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Without it, defenses can load up Nowitzki and stick on the perimeter shooters. The Spurs turned the Mavs' offense into a stagnant mess that struggled to score 90 points. There was zero flow, nothing came easy and nothing came inside.
It's what's made Roddy Beaubois' long-delayed return such an excruciating wait and so necessary.
With that said, does the Dallas Mavericks' playoff success ultimately hinge on the ability of their two 6-foot and under guards getting in the paint?
"Those guys are going to be important without question, but penetration comes from every position," Carlisle said. "It doesn’t just come from the guys playing the backup point position."
The Mavs don't score a lot of points in the paint. When the jumpers are falling as they have been during the Mavs' latest hot streak of 14 wins in 15 games, the offense looks great. But, their inability to get in the paint as has been the case in numerous playoff series is a killer. Dallas ranks near the bottom of the league in points in the paint this season, but Carlisle said the team typically meets the number of penetrations they set as a goal for each game, although they want to take whatever that number is higher.
"I would say it’s a must to do a better job of getting in the paint, especially in the playoffs when the defense is a lot better," said the 5-foot-11 J.J. Barea, who is averaging a career-high 9.3 points and has scored well above that for nearly two months. "But, we still got to be a lot tougher than we’ve shown in the past defensive-wise, rebounding-wise. Getting into the paint is a must. We’ve got to be doing that."
The Mavs have two additional weapons this season they believe improve the offensive dynamics. Center Tyson Chandler can be an alley-oop machine and can be a pick-and-roll weapon the Mavs haven't had from that position. Peja Stojakovic ranks fourth on the NBA's all-time 3-point list and joins dangerous perimeter shooters in Nowitzki, Terry and Kidd, who, as everyone knows, has turned himself into an above-average spot-up 3-point shooter.
The belief is that penetration from Beaubois and Barea, each of whom are averaging about 20 minutes a game and have handled the ball frequently in the halfcourt when on the floor with Kidd, can drive, force defenses to collapse and leave multiple snipers to take aim.
"The good thing is when Peja’s out there, Jet’s out there and myself is out there, they got to give up something," Nowitzki said. "They’re going to give up some paint looks. Tyson’s been phenomenal rolling to the basket so they've got to honor that because you just have to throw it anywhere near the backboard and he’s going to catch it. We have a lot of weapons out there and that’s why we’ve been scoring over 100 basically every night. We won’t shoot the ball well every night, but two of the four or five shooters are going to show up."
No one with the Mavs wants to load such heavy pressure on Barea and Beaubois by saying their abilities to get in the paint and score or kick it out will determine how far the Mavs can go in the playoffs. Many other factors will also play into their ultimate survival or failure, but it's also not all that far from the truth.
"It's key, I’m not going to try to kid anybody about that," Carlisle said. "But, penetration is not only being able to line up a guy one-on-one and being able to beat him. It’s being able to get the stops and rebounds to get transition where we can get our shooters spotted up and that opens up space. And it comes in other forms -- post-ups, rim-runs, rolls to the basket, playing random flow basketball. The number of times we get the in the paint, we track all that stuff. When we get there a lot we win. And when other teams get there a lot we lose."
In his third season, Carlisle has the club at a record of 40-16 and positioned in the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. How he's gotten them to this point is what I find to be impressive.
First, consider how last season ended in San Antonio. Shawn Marion had his minutes slashed in the first-round series and left for the offseason seemingly confused and uncertain of his role. Caron Butler was benched for an entire half and, like Marion, had to wonder how he fit moving forward. Center Brendan Haywood and Carlisle didn't seem to see eye-to-eye (at the time, Haywood figured to be the best option as this season's starting center if he wasn't lost in free agency).
Jason Kidd, who had an awful playoff series, didn't show for the team's final day when players clear out their lockers, meet with coaches and then give a parting interview to the media. Carlisle played down Kidd's absence due to him being ill. Every other player attended.
Then there was the Roddy Beaubois imbroglio. Carlisle, already being criticized for not playing Beaubois more during the regular season, was being roasted after Game 6 for removing Beaubois before the fourth quarter in favor of the cold-shooting Jason Terry. Beaubois nearly single-handedly rescued the Mavs from an embarrassing beginning to the game, and then Carlisle's trust in his veterans didn't pay off.
So why should Carlisle be among this season's candidates for Coach of the Year?
|Ben and Skin caught up with Dirk Nowitzki over All-Star weekend and The Big German drops some DFW Digs Dirk lyrics on us. He also gives an answer that leaves us in awe of his greatness. |
During the offseason, Carlisle visited with Marion and Butler on their turf, provided his vision for this season and got both players to buy into unaccustomed roles. Marion has been terrific coming off the bench while playing about 27 minutes a game. Butler, up until his knee injury on Jan. 1, was emerging as a major offensive threat despite often not playing at all in the fourth quarter.
Carlisle listened to Kidd, Terry and Dirk Nowitzki when they went to him early in the season and told him DeShawn Stevenson could do the job as the starting shooting guard. He listened and the move paid off.
Throughout the season, Carlisle has managed to get his team to buy into a defensive mentality and he's fostered a genuine one-for-all mentality on the team, which, to no small degree, has been hammered home by center Tyson Chandler in his first season with the team.
When Nowitzki went down on Dec. 27 with a sprained right knee and Butler followed two games later, the team went into a tailspin, losing six in a row and 10 of 14 all-in-all. Throughout, Carlisle remained positive, pumped up his guys and they responded, with Nowitkzki continually improving, to win 13 of 14 heading into the All-Star break.
For some media members -- and no need to embarrass anyone here -- who may have predicted a greater chance of an implosion situation than an emerging Western Conference contender, the record, the communication, the good vibe in the locker room can all in some way be attributed to Carlisle.
Here's my top candidates for Coach of the Year:
1. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago: The first-year head coach has the Bulls at 38-16, three wins from matching last season's total. They've done it despite Carlos Boozer missing 18 games because of injury and Joakim Noah hasn't played since Dec. 15. Known as the defensive brains as an assistant under Doc Rivers at Boston, the Bulls rank second in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense. Of course, the Bulls are led by my leading MVP candidate Derrick Rose.
2. Erik Spoelstra, Miami: The greatest team supposedly ever assembled (but hardly to coach) stumbled out of the gates to a 9-8 record, dropping to that mark after another embarrassing loss at Dallas that included the LeBron James (accidental?) body bump on his coach, then a closed-door team meeting. The next day reports surfaced that players didn't have confidence in their 40-year-old coach. But, Spoelstra never flinched, never got intimidated and has the Heat at 41-15 at the break.
3. Rick Carlisle, Dallas: See above.
4. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio: Blessed with good health this season, Popovich has the Spurs at 46-10, the franchise's best mark to this point and the best record in basketball. He has successfully transitioned the focal point of the offense from Tim Duncan to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, plus heavy doses of 3-point shooting, as the once-offensivelyboring Spurs are sixth in the league in scoring (103.5).
5. Doc Rivers, Boston: The Celtics might be oldies, but they're goodies. Rivers shunned retirement to come back for at least one more season and has his team playing great defense again (despite losing Thibodeau off his bench) and bearing down on a third trip to the NBA Finals in four seasons.
5a. Nate McMillan, Portland: To have that depleted roster sitting fifth in the West at 32-24 -- having won six in a row at the break -- is nothing short of miraculous, and he should probably be much further up on this list.
Through 21 games, Nowitzki is shooting 55.3 percent from the floor, blowing away any of his previous excellent shooting percentages. The lone season he shot 50 percent (50.2 in 2006-07), he won the MVP.
In 10 of the last 13 games, Nowitzki has clicked at 50 percent or better. In the last two games, he's 21-of-33 (63.6 percent). During the 13-game stretch, nine times he's scored at least 25 points and 12 times at least 20. Eleven times this season he's made at least 10 field goals.
How does his shooting percentage compare around the league?
It's really no contest.
Nowitzki, fourth in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 points per game, ranks fourth in shooting percentage among the league's forwards and 10th overall. But, the rankings alone don't accurately portray the precision of Nowitzki's shot-making.
Consider that among the top 10 in field-goal percentage, only Nowitzki -- and to a lesser extent Lakers forward Lamar Odom -- scores the majority of his baskets from the perimeter and not within five feet of the rim.
Also, Nowitzki's 17.4 shot attempts per game rank ninth-most in the league. Of the top eight shot-takers, only Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire (53.0 percent), Warriors guard Monta Ellis (48.3), Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley (47.7) and Bulls guard Derrick Rose (45.4) are shooting it better than 45 percent. Remember, Nowitzki is at 55 percent.
Also his 17.4 shot attempts per game are more than any of the nine players with a higher shooting percentage: Five more than Magic center Dwight Howard (12.6), who ranks seventh in shooting percentage at 57.9 percent; nearly seven more shots than Odom (10.9), who ranks sixth at 58.3 percent; 10 more than Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (7.4), who ranks second; and nine more than league-leader, Nuggets center Nene (8.2) at 62.6 percent.
While highly accurate from more spots on the floor and with a greater chance for error, Nowitzki is arguably the game's most reliable shot-maker going.
"You can’t just be a zone team. That’s just not going to work in this league because teams are going to adjust," Carlisle said. "But, look, it’s something that we have pride in. It’s something we work a lot on and it’s something we’ve got to continue to keep working on because we want to be the best zone team in the game."
According to guard Jason Terry, the Mavs are already that.
"We’re the best zone team in the league, by far," Terry said. "It’s not even close and I think it’s because we work on it and guys take pride in it. NBA teams just don’t prepare for zones as much as college teams."
Almost every NBA team does play some form of zone defense during a course of the game. If it's not an obvious 2-3 zone, principles of zone defense will show up in man-to-man coverage. But, the Mavs seem to be playing it a lot more than ever before and perhaps more than anyone in the league.
Carlisle started tinkering with the zone in his first year, increased its use last season and apparently has the team believing in the benefits of more zone this season. Carlisle said zone is not designed to cover up weaknesses, such as defensive mismatches on the perimeter against point guards such as Chris Paul or Derrick Rose or Tony Parker -- who the Mavs will see for the first time this season on Friday -- that can consistently beat their man and get in the paint.
"That’s not why we play zone," Carlisle said. "We play zone because it’s a defense that can be effective against any lineup if you know your job within the zone, if you can cover your areas and, most importantly, get your block-out assignments."
The zone, Carlisle said, is beneficial for the Mavs because it plays to a strength, tremendous length on the back line. The key for Carlisle's push to zone this season is the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. The athletic and agile center provides a wide wing span that anchors the zone when teammed with fellow 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki and either Shawn Marion or Caron Butler. And Chandler is quick enough to hop in and out of the lane to avoid a littany of defensive 3-second calls.
"It’s been great for us," Chandler said. "Sometimes teams have been hot, we go into zone and they get stagnant. At Atlanta it was huge for us because that’s a team that likes to play a lot of one-on-one, likes to drive. We played a zone and they’re looking at three guys in front of them. We went to it early in the [first] half. They were stagnant. If you can get a team to be stagnant three or four possessions in a row, it allows you to bust out."
Rebounding has been somewhat of a problem when playing zone. When in mand-to-man, it's easy to pick up your man and box out. In the zone, players cover an area and have to seek out a man to prevent a significant number of offensive rebounds, such as the Chicago Bulls turned 20 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.
But, it can also provide a changeup and lock up offenses that get on a run. On Saturday against Atlanta, as Chandler pointed out, the Mavs turned the zone early and it grinded the Hawks' offense into a funk, leading to a double-digit Mavs lead.
"They looked kind of hesitant when we put the zone out there," Terry said. "Our length is what gives the zone great ability to stop people. Teams that play one-on-one basketball and don’t have good ball movement tend to struggle more [against the zone] than teams that are used to swinging the ball around and making three or four passes."
Said Chandler: "The zone can be effective against anybody. It can be effective against a guy like Dwight Howard, who likes to iso [isolate] guys or use his strength. Instead of using his strength and, for example, trying to pin me under the basket, he’s got Caron Butler sitting in his lap. Against a guy like Joe Johnson, who’s used to lining guys up, being able to go one-on-one, being able to post smaller guards, now he’s looking at Jason Kidd at the top, me from the weak side, he doesn’t know where the help is coming from, so it can be difficult for offensive players."
Carlisle has turned to the zone with his smaller lineup as well, using Terry and J.J. Barea up top with Kidd at a wing and Nowitzki and either Chandler or backup center Brendan Haywood.
But, can a team ultimately be successful playing a lot of zone defense in the NBA where every team has two or three shooters that can knock down 3-pointers on a regular basis? While the Mavs might be using the zone more than just as a "change-up," it seems to be working.
They're fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 92.3 percent and sixth in field-goal percentage at 43.5 percent. They haven't been getting killed from 3-point range, ranking in the middle of the pack at 35.2 percent.
"If you understand anything about basketball, [every] team is playing zone these days," Nowitzki said. "You look at the Lakers. They might start in man-to-man, but once there’s some action on the strong side, the big guy comes over and zones it up. We played New Orleans, who is one of the better defensive teams this year. They switched everything down the stretch in the last five minutes, which really ends up being a zone. I think the best defensive teams are going to play zone with man-to-man principles and man-to-man with zone principles.
"Guys are just too good in one-on-one and they can beat their man at any time. So the zone is a great factor of taking guys out of what they want to do and just making them run something else; not killing you with pick and roll and not killing you with post-up and isos."
For the Mavs anyway, more zone is paying off.
Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah combined to grab more rebounds than the Mavs in Chicago’s 88-83 win Friday night at the American Airlines Center. Add in the rest of the Bulls and the battle of the boards was especially embarrassing.
“You’re just tempting fate too much,” Carlisle said. “When that happens, plays like the Gibson heave at the end of the clock, those go in.”
Carlisle was referring to Gibson’s shot-clock buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 2:37 remaining, which erased the Mavs’ last lead of the night. He picked up a loose ball 25 feet from the hoop and swished the first 3-point attempt of his career.
That accounted for three of the Bulls’ 25 second-chance points, more than triple the Mavs’ total. The Bulls had 13 points off second opportunities in the fourth quarter alone.
“We just absolutely got crushed on the glass,” said Nowitzki, who blamed himself for allowing Gibson to grab a career-high 18 rebounds. “I don’t actually think our defense was that bad. We forced them into tough shots. We’ve just got to come up with loose balls.
“It seemed like they played harder. They wanted it more. Once you do that, you let a team hang around and they get some lucky bounces.”
Part of the Mavs’ problem was that they had to play a lot of zone defense to prevent Chicago point guard Derrick Rose from killing them with penetration. That often results in rebounding mismatches and missed boxouts. With Rodrigue Beaubois wearing a suit and tie on the bench, the Mavs just don’t have anybody quick enough to defend explosive point guards one-on-one.
The Mavs have managed to be a decent rebounding team this season despite playing a lot of zone. But the athletic, energetic Bulls exposed the zone’s flaws and the Mavs’ mistakes.
“It makes it tougher if you don’t stick to your assignment,” said center Tyson Chandler, who led the Mavs with 10 rebounds. “We have the opportunity to be a good zone defensive team. I think percentage-wise, it’s been good for it. But what we have to do is finish the plays out.”
Added Carlisle: “Unfortunately, that is how you can lose games.”
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.