LAS VEGAS -- If the Mavs (No. 16 seed) are going to win the Las Vegas Summer League championship, they’re going to have to win five games in six days. That tough task begins with an opening-round matchup against the 17th-seeded Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
In order to advance, the Mavs are going to have to try to quickly correct the issues they had in the preliminary round.
Rebounding has been a problem in the summer league. In the preliminary round, Dewayne Dedmon ranked 89th with 3.7 rebounds per game. Second-year forward Jae Crowder was 59th at 4.3 rebounds per game, and second-round prospect Ricky Ledo ranked 75th overall at 4.0 rebounds. And the Mavs will be without Bernard James, who is in Dallas for personal reasons. He has missed the team’s last two games.
“The other guys have got to step up,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “The guys can’t seem to get our hands on balls on offensive rebounds. On the other end, we’ve got to check out better.”
Josh Akognon, who ranked fifth overall in scoring in the preliminary round with 19.3 points per game, certainly realizes that the team is missing something without James.
“We miss him a lot. He’s gritty and tough,” Akognon said. “He won’t let anyone slack. If someone isn’t helping, he’ll let you know. He’s the sergeant.”
In addition to the rebounding issue, the Mavs also want to make the most of their opportunities at the free throw line. Dallas left 11 free points off the board out of their 30 attempts against the D-League Select team on Tuesday night. Dallas shot .630 percent from the line in the preliminary round.
With the helter skelter style that the summer league presents, foul calls and subsequent trips to the free throw line come early and often. Learning from their mistakes at the line Tuesday was clearly a point of emphasis during the team’s shootaround Wednesday, as the team could not continue practice until Crowder made a free throw. The team would step away to the side and stayed quiet as Crowder lined up his free throws. The coaching staff would try to distract him at the last possible second.
As the leader of the team, the staff wanted to put Crowder in a pressure situation that could prepare him for those end-of-game situations. If he missed the free throws, the team would have to run full-court sprints.
To his credit, Crowder hit the clutch free throws. Like the rebounding, Crowder and the rest of the Mavs will have to transfer their work on the practice court to game time.
With the tournament structure, the team can’t look back at the losses. They must focus on the game that is directly in front of them.
“These guys all know that we’re very close,” Mathis said. “We’ve just got to keep sharing the ball and doing the things that we need to do to get better to get the win, move on an advance.”