Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd

Looking for answers in late Rondo benching

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
12:55
AM CT
DALLAS -- The two point guards the Dallas Mavericks acquired in blockbuster trades since the end of last season sat next to each other on the bench during crunch time Friday night.

It's certainly no surprise to see Raymond Felton, the tax in the Tyson Chandler trade, riding pine with the game on the line. But it's rather alarming to see Rajon Rondo sitting with his warm-ups on and a towel over his head for the final 5:12 when his teammates are trying -- and failing -- to pull out a hard-fought win over the Chicago Bulls.

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo was not on the court late as the Bulls won in Dallas.
After all, owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle often rave about Rondo's proven clutch prowess after Dallas' nearly-two-year pursuit of the four-time All-Star finally ended in a deal being consummated with the Boston Celtics in mid-December. The Mavs coveted Rondo because he reminded them so much of Jason Kidd, a savvy point guard who consistently rose to the moment in crunch time.

So why the heck was Rondo a highly-paid courtside spectator when it mattered most against the Bulls?

"Coach's decision," Carlisle said after the 102-98 loss at the American Airlines Center.

Good, then we're asking the right guy. What was the logic behind that decision?

"A decision that the coach makes," Carlisle said, and that little dance went on for a few more questions, making for some entertaining sound bites but revealing nothing.

That, of course, leaves the door wide open for speculation. Kind of like opponents often leave Rondo, a notoriously poor shooter, wide open on the perimeter.

And that leads directly to the most plausible theory for not playing Rondo down the stretch against the Bulls.

The Mavs were in comeback mode, trailing by eight points, when Carlisle decided to replace Rondo with Devin Harris. Shooting and floor spacing were at a premium in that situation, and Harris is a much more effective 3-point threat.

Would it be wise for Carlisle to say that for public consumption? Of course not.

Just ask former Mavs coach Avery Johnson. That was the reason he provided after benching Kidd for the final 34 seconds of a loss to the San Antonio Spurs soon after the Mavs made a blockbuster trade for a former All-Star point guard in 2008. That certainly didn’t go over well in the locker room or work out long term for Johnson, who was fired after the Mavs' first-round exit that season.

Let's be clear here: That's where the comparisons to that Kidd crunch-time benching and Rondo riding pine with Friday's game on the line should end.

There isn't any friction brewing behind the scenes between Carlisle and Rondo, who made a point to say he appreciates what his coach has done for him during their brief time together and attempted to downplay the issue.

"Life is too short to complain about not playing five minutes of a big game," said Rondo, noting that he has the maturity to handle these sort of situations now, unlike when he bumped heads with Doc Rivers early in his career with the Celtics. "Like I said, I'm a competitor. I'm pretty sure you guys know that I wanted to be in the game, but it didn't happen. I did my best to cheer my teammates on."

Of course, benching Kidd seven years ago was a factually flawed decision. By that point of his career, Kidd had become a pretty good 3-point shooter, better than Jerry Stackhouse, whom Johnson put on the floor instead of Kidd in that crunch-time situation in San Antonio.

Rondo, with his funky form, is still at least a summer's work away from being even a mediocre 3-point shooter. Many cited Rondo's poor shooting -- 25.9 percent from long range for his career -- as reason for concern about his fit within the Mavs' high-powered flow offense when the trade was made.

The Mavs' offensive efficiency has slipped from sky-high before the trade to pretty good since Rondo's arrival. Their defensive efficiency has improved dramatically, addressing a glaring need for the Mavs, but Rondo didn't have a great night on that end, either, as evidenced by Bulls point guard Derrick Rose's 20 points, 18 of which were scored in the first half.

So a case can be made that Carlisle made the right decision, especially considering that Rondo wasn't effective in his 26 minutes, finishing with 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers.

However, it directly contradicts his comments after Rondo played a key role in the Mavs' 14-4 run to close out the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, when he struggled most of the game before sparking the critical spurt with a floater and baseline jumper. ("A guy like that, you've just got to put him in there in crunch time and let him do what he does," Carlisle said then.)

It can also easily be argued that the best rebounding guard in basketball shouldn't have been watching from the bench on the final possession. Rondo couldn't do anything to prevent Rose from grabbing the offensive rebound with 4.7 seconds remaining that essentially sealed Chicago's victory, forcing the Mavs to foul.

If Rondo had been in the game on that possession, the odds of Carlisle getting the opportunity to draw up a potential game-tying or winning play for the dynamic, clutch scoring duo of Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki would have dramatically increased.

This actually isn't the first time Rondo has been a crunch-time spectator for the Mavs. He sat the final 51.2 seconds of the Mavs' 108-104 overtime win over the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 13 despite making an improbable stepback 3 with 1:14 remaining to give Dallas the lead for good.

Carlisle explained that by saying Rondo had a sore Achilles tendon. The Mavs cited that ailment when Rondo sat out the next night's loss against the Denver Nuggets, but that didn't stop some skeptics from being suspicious that the Mavs feared the Kings intentionally fouling the point guard, who is shooting 30.2 from the free throw line this season.

If Rondo's shooting is indeed the reason for Carlisle sitting him down the stretch, it presents some other questions. Two pop to mind.

Is this going to be a somewhat regular thing? We'll find out as the season goes on.

If so, how much is Rondo really worth to the Mavs? We'll find out this summer when it's time to talk money with the pending free agent.

No Kidd-ing: Rondo deal ends PG search

December, 19, 2014
12/19/14
9:50
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DALLAS – The long, winding path to find a worthy successor for Jason Kidd took several painful twists for the Dallas Mavericks over the past 2½ years. It's finally over.

Welcome to Dallas, Rajon Rondo.

It’s not a coincidence that Rondo reminds the Mavs' brass an awful lot of Kidd in style, substance and circumstance of their arrival.

"We're kind of taking a page out of the championship run," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told ESPNDallas.com after putting the finishing touches on the trade to get Rondo, which required the Mavs to give up center Brandan Wright, small forward Jae Crowder, point guard Jameer Nelson, a protected first-round pick and a second-round pick.

"This is a true pass-first point guard that guards and rebounds. The closest thing that we've had to that is J-Kidd, and that worked out OK."

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
Brian Babineau/Getty ImagesJason Kidd helped Dallas to a title, which is just the path Rajon Rondo would like to emulate.
The Rondo-Kidd comparison isn't perfect. At 28, Rondo should be in his prime and much more athletic than the 34-year-old version of Kidd that joined the Mavs for a second stint after forcing a trade from the New Jersey Nets before the 2008 deadline. Kidd had developed into a dangerous spot-up shooter by that point of his career, something that certainly can't be said for Rondo (25 percent from 3-point range) right now.

But there's good reason that Rondo has been frequently compared to Kidd since he broke into the league, including by Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, who coached Kidd in Phoenix. The similarities between Kidd and Rondo, two triple-double threats every time they put on a uniform, are remarkable.

Kidd was, without question, one of the premier passers in NBA history, ranking second all time with 12,091 dimes. Rondo is putting together that kind of résumé, ranking among the league’s top two in assists per game for the fifth consecutive season.

"Guards like that -- I played with Steve [Nash], J-Kidd and now Rondo -- they almost thrive more from getting another guy an open shot at the basket than scoring themselves," said Dirk Nowitzki, the future Hall of Fame power forward and longtime face of the Mavs franchise. "That's how they think in their head. It should be fun for all of us. We got to keep moving and get used to probably some crazy passes that we haven't seen around here in a while."

They are rare breeds as point guards who rebound like power forwards. The 6-foot-4 Kidd wouldn't have 107 career triple-doubles unless he consistently crashed the boards and chased down long rebounds. The 6-foot-1 Rondo leads all NBA guards in rebounding this season with 7.5 per game.

They're also crafty defenders with strong, quick hands. (Kidd ranks second all time in steals; Rondo is among the league leaders in that category on an annual basis.) They're also point guards who are willing and able to put up a defensive fight against much bigger foes, which is especially important when paired with a smaller shooting guard, whether it's Jason Terry with Kidd or Monta Ellis with Rondo.

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"I can see the parallels as far as two tough point guards, gritty toughness," said center Tyson Chandler, another title teammate of Kidd's. "Rondo displays it differently than Kidd did, but Kidd is one of the fiercest competitors that I've ever been around in my life."

Maybe most importantly to the Mavs, Kidd and Rondo are born winners, the kind of guys whose competitive fires roar after leaving rebuilding franchises to play for a legitimate contender.

"J-Kidd was a competitor," Rondo said. "He wanted to win. He did a lot of intangibles on the court to make his teammates and his team win games, so I would say I compare to that. I love to compete. I love to win."

Realistically, like Kidd's later years in New Jersey, Rondo didn't have a chance to win on a consistent basis since the Celtics stripped down the team around him in the summer of 2013.

The Mavs believe the circumstances, and not the right knee Rondo had surgically repaired after tearing his ACL in January 2013, is the primary reason the four-time All-Star point guard hasn't consistently seemed to have the same type of intensity during the Celtics' rebuilding process as he did while Boston was battling for titles.

"When you taste a championship, you want more," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. "When you're not in that circumstance, it can be deflating at times. Rajon rose above it and competed every night, but great players are better with great players around them. As coach [Rick Carlisle] mentioned, the best is yet to come."

The Mavs believe Rondo, like Kidd, is at his best in the moments that matter most. That is supported by the fact that Rondo's career postseason statistics (14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals per game) are better across the board than his career averages.

The Mavs also see in Rondo the same kind of innate ability to make all kinds of crunch-time impact that Kidd had. Carlisle refers to it as resourcefulness, a knack for finding a way to win.

"He's one of those guys that in the last two minutes of a close game, he can make amazing things happen," Cuban said. "So that's his greatest similarity to J-Kidd."

That's something the Mavs have been missing since a graying Kidd decided to leave Dallas to spend his final NBA season with the New York Knicks. It wasn't for a lack of effort.

Dallas got turned down by Deron Williams despite offering a maximum deal. The Mavs never even got a chance to make a max-salary recruiting pitch to Chris Paul.

A long list of point guards -- Darren Collison, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Jose Calderon, Nelson -- auditioned as Dallas' starter. None were more than a temporary plug at the position for the Mavs.

The revolving door stops with Rondo.

Cuban made it clear that Rondo, who like Kidd was traded to Dallas in the final season of his deal, is definitely not a "rent-a-player." The point guard is the final piece to a starting five that stacks up well against any in the league, a group the Mavs intend to keep together at least as long as the 36-year-old Nowitzki keeps knocking down jumpers.

That all sounds good to Rondo, who wants to be part of another championship parade and truly believes that is possible with the Mavs.

Rondo has developed a bit of a reputation for surliness, but he was all smiles after landing in Dallas on Cuban's private jet Friday afternoon, going through a 2˝-hour physical exam and meeting with the media.

At this point, Rondo is kind of like a Kidd in an NBA candy store.
Nowitzki, Terry, HowardGetty ImagesThe Mavs' trio with the most playoff wins: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28.
Tim Duncan has earned the right to be recognized as the premier power forward in NBA history, but he’s also had the good fortune of being flanked by a couple of fellow future Hall of Famers for most of his career.

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Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker made NBA history with the Spurs’ Game 1 win over the Thunder in the West finals Monday night. It was their 110th playoff win together, matching the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper for the most ever by a trio.

When Dirk Nowitzki’s career is done, he might wonder what would have been if he’d enjoyed such continuity with co-stars.

Nowitzki’s tenure as part of a big three was too brief, broken up by the time he was 26 because Mavericks management believed that Steve Nash was too brittle to reward with a big contract. Nowitzki, Nash and Michael Finley restored respectability to the franchise, but that trio won only 18 playoff games together.

The Mavs’ trio with the most playoff wins: Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Josh Howard with 28. That’s followed by Nowitzki, Terry and the immortal Erick Dampier with 25, and Nowitzki, Terry and Jason Kidd with 24.
Here are four words that might confuse Dallas Mavericks fans: Darren Collison, playoff hero.

Collison, the scapegoat for many of the Mavs’ crunch-time failures during their miserably mediocre 2012-13 season, keyed the Los Angeles Clippers’ comeback from a 22-point deficit in Sunday’s series-evening Game 4 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, making several impact plays with his speed as part of a three-guard late lineup, including a couple of layups that were the Clippers’ last two buckets.

“Game ball goes to Darren Collison,” L.A. star Chris Paul said.

What a moment for Collison, whose one-season stint in Dallas was so disappointing. He arrived with hope that he’d have a chance to prove he could be a long-term solution as the Mavs’ starting point guard and ended up getting demoted for an elderly, off-the-street replacement ... twice.

Collison, who signed a two-year, $3.9 million deal this summer, has been a great addition to the Clippers. His stats (11.4 ppg, 3.7 apg) are actually down a bit from last season, but not nearly as much as the pressure on him.

L.A. didn’t ask Collison to replace a legend, as the Mavs did after scrambling to fill Jason Kidd’s shoes. They signed Collison to complement a perennial All-Star point guard.

(Read full post)

DALLAS -- Mark Cuban offered high praise Sunday evening for Brooklyn’s head coach.

The Nets’ front office? Not so much.

Only a couple of Western Conference contenders, the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, have better records than rookie head coach Jason Kidd’s Brooklyn Nets since the calendar flipped to 2014. That success prompted Cuban to be complimentary of the coaching job performed by the former Mavericks point guard.

“In 2014, he’s done a phenomenal job,” Cuban said before the Nets’ overtime win over the Mavs on Sunday night. “They’re playing well. His style works. And they are who their record says they are.”

However, Cuban didn’t back off his early-season comments that the Nets were an example of a team that is “stuck” with a bloated payroll and veteran-heavy roster with extremely limited avenues of upgrading. In early December, after Brooklyn had stumbled to a 5-13 start, Cuban cited the Nets’ situation as his fear for the Mavs had he opted to keep Dallas’ 2011 title roster intact under the new collective bargaining agreement.

“I still look at it the same way,” Cuban said before the Nets’ 107-104 overtime win over the Mavs on Sunday night. “Nothing’s changed.”

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DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki must be glad that he doesn't have to see good friend Jason Kidd the rest of the season.

Kidd was much more fun to be around when he was helping Nowitzki get open shots instead of scheming to keep the big German from getting good looks.

Nowitzki couldn’t buy a bucket Sunday night at the American Airlines Center, finishing with only 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting during the Dallas Mavericks’ 107-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/LM OteroThe extra defensive attention commissioned by ex-teammate Jason Kidd coaxed Nowitzki into an especially poor shooting game.
It was one of the worst shooting nights of Nowitzki’s surefire Hall of Fame career. There have been only three games in his 16 seasons in which he made so few field goals and had more attempts.

"I’ve got to make some shots," Nowitzki said after Dallas dropped to 2-2 on this homestand, putting them in eighth place in the Western Conference. "I’ve just got to swallow this one and keep working."

Give Kidd, the Nets coach best known around these parts as the point guard of the Mavs’ title team, credit for taking advantage of his unique insight into his former teammate's game for coming up with a plan that flustered Nowitzki.

"We got lucky," said Kidd, whose Nets are an East-best 27-10 since the calendar turned to 2014. "Against talented players like Dirk, you just hope that they miss. Guys made it extremely tough. We showed him different looks, gave him different guys on him. He had some great looks that he usually makes. Again, we just got lucky tonight."

Kidd can attribute Dirk’s dreadful night to luck, but it’s not a coincidence that Nowitzki also struggled during the Mavs’ loss in Brooklyn earlier this season, going 5-of-15 from the floor. Kidd knows Nowitzki’s sweet spots as well as anyone, and he schemed ways for the Nets to get the ball out of Nowitzki’s hands or make him uncomfortable when he had it.

"It was tough," Nowitzki said. "I kind of hesitated too much. I was kind of always waiting for the double-team instead of just playing my game. They mixed it up. Sometimes, it didn’t come, and I was looking around [for] where it’s coming from. They had me off balance.

"J. Kidd did a good job with that game plan there. He did the same thing in Brooklyn, but the shots I do take, I’ve just got to make them."

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DALLAS – The Mavericks who earned championship rings figured it was just a matter of time for their former floor general.

Coach Jason Kidd, the former Mavs point guard who will be wearing a suit and no tie on the Brooklyn Nets’ bench Sunday night at the American Airlines Center, was considered a joke by many as 2013 came to an end. His sudden transition from old point guard to young head coach had been a train wreck, as the team with the highest payroll in NBA history was 10-21.

Since then, the Nets have the Eastern Conference’s best record at 26-10. The only West teams with better records in 2014 are Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs and Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers, squads with proven championship coaches.

“He’s doing a great job,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after Saturday's practice. “One of the [hardest] things about coaching is being able to bring a team out of a tough period, and he’s been phenomenal. They are a very talented and well-coached team.”

Kidd’s success comes as no surprise to Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, who benefited greatly from the future Hall of Fame point guard immensely high basketball IQ during his second stint in Dallas.

“I knew it was bound to happen,” said Marion, who broke into the league with Kidd on the Phoenix Suns. “I take my hat off to that man. I started with him and I was fortunate enough to join back up with him and accomplish the goal we wanted to accomplish. I wish we could have gotten a couple more and it got cut off. At the same time, I wish him much success.

“He was an on-the-floor coach. I’m happy for him. I knew it was going to turn around up there.”

In his first season as a coach, Kidd has encountered major challenges in addition to dealing with high expectations in the nation’s biggest media market.

After making a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett (as well as since-departed former Mavs teammate Jason Terry), the Nets needed time to create chemistry, a period that was probably extended by Deron Williams’ injury issues. They lost starting center Brook Lopez for the season. At their advanced ages, Pierce and Garnett have durability issues, with Garnett now sidelined indefinitely due to back spasms.

Yet the Nets have emerged as potential challengers to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the East.

“He’s been doing a heck of a job,” Nowitzki said of Kidd. “They’ve had some injury problems all season long. But they keep winning after a tough start. I think he looks comfortable over there. He’s enjoying it, so I’m happy for him.

“It’s early. In life, or any profession, you have to learn and get better. This is just the beginning for him. He’ll get more experience and be even better. But he’s got all the tools. He’s got a great mind for basketball. We knew that already while he was playing. He’s going to be a great coach in this league, I think.”

Mavs mailbag: Dominant closer Devin Harris?

March, 11, 2014
3/11/14
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If the Mavs want the sixth seed, they’d better beat the Golden State Warriors tonight.

It’s a big game, but you’ve got a lot of time to kill before that late West Coast tipoff. Might as well jump into the mailbag.

On to your questions ...

What do you make of Devin Harris closing out games at PG? -- @MacSportsTalk on Twitter

As Rick Carlisle said about Harris’ overall performance the other night, what’s there not to like? Harris got the closing call over Jose Calderon the last two games, and the Mavs slammed the door on a couple of playoff teams, going on combined 27-7 runs against the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers after Harris checked back in for the stretch runs.

Harris
AP Photo/John F. RhodesHas Devin Harris earned the right to close games after his performance over the weekend?
In my mind, Harris has at least earned the right to be the closer until the Mavs don’t finish strong with him running the show. I’m not sure Carlisle feels the same way. If he feels floor spacing is of premium importance, he could go with Calderon.

But spacing the floor is really all Calderon has done for the Mavs during crunch time. Harris is much more aggressive on both ends of the floor and has come up with huge three-point plays off drives in each of the last two games.

Harris was a crunch-time hero over the weekend. I wouldn’t mess with that as long as it keeps being a good thing.

Did you know Dallas has two of the top 10 players in PER? And you’d never guess who the second player is. -- @chrisminjaelee on Twitter

Well, this isn’t actually true now, but you tweeted this before Blake Griffin’s big game knocked a couple of Mavs down a spot.

Still, you act like it’s stunning that Brandan Wright ranks 11th in the NBA in PER, one spot behind Dirk Nowitzki. It’s not like this came out of nowhere. Wright ranked 20th last season.

Wright is the only player with a top-40 PER who averages fewer than 20 minutes per game. Does that mean he deserves more playing time or that Carlisle is expertly picking spots for Wright to succeed? Sounds like a good question for 3 Points on Wednesday.

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Carter proud of former teammate Collins

February, 24, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Jason Collins became the first active openly gay NBA player Sunday night, and Vince Carter was certainly proud of his former teammate.

Carter and Collins played together on the New Jersey Nets from 2004 to 2008.

“I’m happy he’s back in the league,” Carter said Monday. “He’s a guy that plays extremely hard, sets hard screens. He knows the game very well.”

Still, Carter looks forward to the day when this isn’t a big deal anymore and players are no longer asked about it.

“It’s new. It’s the hot topic, so it’s gonna be asked about. But once the season’s over and it’s not his first time in every city, it’ll be over with,” Carter said. “I understand why (it’s a big deal). But at the same time, it was said, it’s done with, he’s played his game. We understand he’s the first openly gay player and all that. I think it’s time to move on.”

Carter thinks Collins is in the perfect situation in Brooklyn.

“He played with (now Nets coach) Jason (Kidd), but he also played with Paul (Pierce) and KG (Kevin Garnett) in Boston,” Carter said. “I think it all worked out well for him. I mean, what better place than the place that you spent most of your career? Clearly, he was comfortable and he made it work here all that time, so I think this is the best place for him.”

OT: Catching up with '11 champions

February, 24, 2014
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Keeping the powder dry didn’t pan out for the Dallas Mavericks.

Breaking up a championship team wasn't a popular decision by the Dallas front office at the time, to put it politely. And the Mavs brass’ CBA forecast is still easy fodder for critics more than two years later, with Dirk Nowitzki still the lone All-Star on the roster.

But Mark Cuban and Co. were absolutely right about one thing: Keeping that roster intact would have only guaranteed a large luxury-tax bill. All due respect to Tyson Chandler, who the Mavs will see Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but it’s delusional to believe that Dallas was denied a potential dynasty.

Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd and Brian Cardinal have retired. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones can’t get NBA jobs. Brendan Haywood, an amnesty clause casualty in Dallas, is collecting checks in Charlotte while sitting out the season following foot surgery. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion -- who combine to make $32 million this season -- are the only 2011 champions who remain on the Mavs’ roster.

Here’s a look at what’s happened to the rest of the title team:

Tyson Chandler
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $55.4 million deal with the New York Knicks
Chandler was the finishing piece of the Mavs’ championship puzzle, but he’s an outstanding role player, not a star capable of being a centerpiece of a title contender. That’s evident by the fact that the Knicks, who feature a legitimate superstar in Carmelo Anthony, have won only one playoff series since signing Chandler in December 2011 and are a long shot to make the playoffs this season. Injuries have limited Chandler to 32 games this season, and he is averaging 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, numbers that certainly don’t justify a $14 million salary.

The Mavs declined to make Chandler a multiyear offer after the lockout, much less match the Knicks’ deal. That will always leave the Mavs’ front office open to a couple of second-guess hypotheticals: Could the Mavs have done a respectable job defending their title with Chandler anchoring the 2011-12 Dallas defense? By dangling Chandler, could Dallas have pulled off a blockbuster deal to land Dwight Howard instead of helplessly watching the Los Angeles Lakers use Andrew Bynum to get the league’s best big man in the summer of 2012?

Jason Terry
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $15.7 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Jet is a journeyman now, having been traded twice over the last eight months. His brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was an unmitigated failure, as the 36-year-old Terry averaged only 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting before being shipped to the NBA equivalent of Siberia. He’ll sit out the rest of the season instead of reporting to the Sacramento Kings. The hope is that focusing on rehabbing his left knee -- he apparently never fully recovered from summer surgery -- will allow Terry to contribute again next season. However, it’s painfully clear that Jet’s days as an elite bench scorer are over.

J.J. Barea
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $18 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves
Barea is a quality backup point guard, but that’s a steep price to pay for that type of player. Barea’s stats have dipped this season (8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG), but his contract is the primary reason Barea’s name was floated in trade rumors before the deadline.

Caron Butler
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers
This was a crazy contract to give a then-31-year-old who was coming off a serious knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season on New Year’s Eve. Butler is a high-character guy, but he’s a low-efficiency offensive player at this point of his career. The Clippers insisted on including him in the three-team deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns and Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to the Clippers. The Bucks are stuck with an expensive part-time starter who is shooting less than 40 percent from the floor for the NBA’s worst team.

Corey Brewer
Dallas departure: traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a future second-round pick
The Mavs dumping Brewer’s reasonable salary before the 2011-12 season made little sense, considering Dallas needed all the energy and athleticism it could find on the cheap. The Mavs made creating salary-cap space their priority, but they could have easily found takers for Brewer the next summer if need be. However, the Dallas front office didn’t see a role for Brewer after signing Vince Carter. After a couple of quality seasons coming off the Nuggets’ bench, Brewer signed a three-year, $14.1 million deal to become the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting small forward.

Ian Mahinmi
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $16 million deal with Indiana Pacers
If the Pacers were confident in Mahinmi, they wouldn’t have rolled the dice on Bynum. Mahinimi is averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds and making $4 million this season.
DALLAS -- For coach Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat’s annual trip to Dallas is a reminder of a title lost and lessons learned.

The 2011 Mavs, who remain the only team to beat LeBron James’ Heat in a playoff series, might have delayed a Miami dynasty. Or maybe Miami doesn’t win the last two titles unless the Mavs’ upset forced the so-called superteam to address its flaws and improve its game.

LeBron James
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyThe Mavericks held LeBron James to an average of 17.8 points during the six-game 2011 NBA Finals.
Spoelstra firmly believes that the Mavs pushed the Heat to greater heights.

“That was a very humbling experience for all of us,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s Tuesday morning shootaround. “We had to reinvent ourselves. We had to be honest with ourselves that we had to improve, that the game that we were playing was not good enough. That might not have happened if we would have had success that first year, but we came back more committed to doing things differently.”

That started with James, the scapegoat of those finals after the Mavs made him look like a mere mortal, holding him to 17.8 points on 47.8 percent shooting during the six-game series. The Mavs executed a genius defensive game plan, with Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson doing outstanding individual jobs guarding James, who was turned into a passive facilitator for much of those Finals.

No player in NBA history has been as heavily criticized during an offseason, which happened to be extra long due to the lockout. James took advantage of that time to fix a hole in his game the Mavs exploited.

(Read full post)

3 Points: Best teammate Dirk has ever had?

February, 12, 2014
2/12/14
11:00
AM CT
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. Who is the best teammate Dirk Nowitzki has ever had?

[+] EnlargeDallas Mavericks
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonCount Steve Nash and Michael Finley among Dirk's best teammates.
Gutierrez: The hodgepodge of players such as Michael Finley, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Josh Howard, O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler leaves a very mixed bag to select from. It also shines a light on the fact Nowitzki has had to carry the load in Dallas without legitimate, surefire star support. It comes down to Steve Nash, before the point guard hit his MVP stride, and Jason Kidd, returning after he had passed his prime. Nash was the perfect teammate for Nowitzki earlier in his career, and Kidd was just as perfect later in Nowitzki’s career. I’m going to go with Kidd. While Nash could shoot the lights out, Kidd had the better all-around game out of the two point guards. As Nash helped Nowitzki grow as a player, Kidd helped guide him to immortality as a champion.

Taylor: Jason Terry has to be the best teammate Dirk has had because he usually played his best in the biggest games and he had no fear. The two-man game between Jet and Dirk was as nasty as it gets, and their feel for each other was uncanny. The Mavs have one championship, and they wouldn't have it without Jet, which trumps any other argument you might make. Dirk was terrific in the NBA Finals, but Jet put on a show in Game 6 when it was really all on the line and Dirk was struggling.

MacMahon: Finley and Nash are the only players to make multiple All-Star appearances as Nowitzki’s teammates, with two selections apiece. Of course, Nash’s career peaked after returning to Phoenix, winning the MVP the next two seasons. He still had four fantastic seasons when paired with Nowitzki after a slow start. Dirk got his ring, but it’s still hard not to wonder what might have been if Nash never left Dallas.

2. What was the biggest factor during the Mavs' winning streak?

SportsNation

Who is the best teammate Dirk Nowitzki has ever had?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,863)

Gutierrez: The fact that they’re playing inferior competition is a big deal, but there are some positive trends in play, too. Nowitzki is shooting the lights out, everyone is getting accustomed to their roles and they’re avoiding catastrophic turnovers. To me, the biggest thing they’re doing is boxing out and grabbing rebounds. They’re 12-3 when they outrebound their opponent this season. There is a dramatic difference in their play when they’re active and finish off defensive possessions with a rebound. The chance to negate one, two or three-point swings going against them by collecting rebounds and getting out and running in transition is huge. Their team defense is still suspect, so any opportunity to prevent additional possessions by the opponent is huge. It looks like the Mavericks are getting the message that rebounding the ball is key to their success.

Taylor: The Mavericks have been one of the best offensive teams all season. When they've been able to put winning streaks together it's because their defense has been good. The problem, of course, is that with Jose Calderon, Ellis and Nowitzki as core players they can't sustain their defensive intensity. We saw that last night against Charlotte. They can be good for a few games, but asking them to be consistently good on defense is just not going to happen. Charlotte has scored more than 95 points twice in the last 17 games. Both times have come against the Mavs. If Dallas misses the playoffs it’s going to look back at all these losses to bad Eastern Conference teams and know exactly why they're at home.

MacMahon: The Mavs did a lot of things well during the streak, but all they really did was beat a bunch of teams that they should. The Grizzlies were the only foe of the five with a winning record, and they were missing point guard Mike Conley, who was a legitimate All-Star candidate. Other than that, the Mavs beat up on a bunch of bad teams. The other four opponents during the Mavs’ streak have a combined winning percentage of .351. They feasted during a stretch of schedule when they were supposed to get fat.

3. Has Samuel Dalembert earned trust with his recent performances?

[+] EnlargeSamuel Dalembert, Alexis Ajinca
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertSamuel Dalembert has played well of late, but can the Mavs count on him night in and night out?
Gutierrez: No. A run of consistency is great, but that doesn’t allow anyone to ignore the wave of inconsistency he showed over the first half of the season. His activity level is up by leaps and bounds as of late, but this has been his M.O. over the course of his career. Dalembert shows enough to tease a team or a GM and then quickly disappears. A couple of weeks of solid basketball by him doesn’t turn me into a quick believer. If anything, he’s shown me he can do it, so I need to see more of it before I catch Dalembert fever.

Taylor: Call me when Dalembert has played well for a month or his alarm clock works for 30 straight days. We know Dalembert is one of the keys to the Mavs, which is scary because he's as inconsistent as a player can be. I have zero faith he can play consistently well. The Mavs simply need to take advantage of it on the nights he does play well. Every starter in the NBA is capable of having stretches of quality play. Consistency is what separates the average from good and good from great.

MacMahon: Well, he sure flunked the Al Jefferson test. Dalembert was a nonfactor while the Bobcats big man dominated the Mavs, putting up 30 points on 14-of-23 shooting. If the Mavs are being honest, they’d admit that their hope for Dalembert is that he shows up most of the time. It’s almost miraculous that he strung together four straight good performances.
The most popular mailbag question by far continues to be: Will the Dallas Mavericks make a significant deal before the trade deadline?

The answer continues to be: Don’t get your hopes up. I just don’t think the Mavs have the assets to pull off a blockbuster, barring a potential trade partner who just gets desperate to dump salary.

On to some other questions, some of which are on the trade subject. …

What do you think of the Mavs making a run at a trade for Larry Sanders? I know the off-court issues, but his interior defense could be just what the Mavs are missing. The veteran leadership the Mavs have in place would seem to suit the young center well. -- Parker (Dallas)

Now that’s an interesting name because he's a talented guy whom the Milwaukee Bucks could be motivated to unload in a salary-dump deal. Sanders is a freakishly athletic big man with defensive player of the year potential, but this season has been an absolute disaster for him on and off the court, and his four-year, $44 million extension kicks in this summer.

Larry Sanders
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesLarry Sanders has some red flags but could be the most talented player within the Mavs' reach before the trade deadline.
Here's a purely speculative three-way deal that would make sense for all parties involved: The Mavs give up the expiring contracts of Shawn Marion (to Houston) and DeJuan Blair (to Milwaukee), the Bucks send Sanders and Ekpe Udoh to Dallas, and Milwaukee also gets Omer Asik.

Sanders, whose baggage includes needing thumb surgery after getting in a barroom brawl earlier this season, comes with one huge question: Does his potential justify the risk?

If the Mavs can get Sanders' head screwed on straight, he's a 6-foot-11, 235-pound 25-year-old who has proven he can be an elite shot-blocker. Physically, he'd be an outstanding fit next to Dirk Nowitzki.

But that's a huge contract for a head case. The due diligence on Sanders for the Dallas front office would surely include discussions with ex-Buck Monta Ellis, who reportedly had issues with Sanders last season.

Sanders certainly has some red flags, but it's not ridiculous to think he could be the most talented player within the Mavs' reach before the trade deadline.

(Read full post)

Cuban: Great relationship with Kidd

January, 24, 2014
1/24/14
6:28
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BROOKLYN -- Back in November, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban softened his stance and relinquished the suggested grudge he had against Jason Kidd. He even went as far as to say that he hoped the former Maverick would have success as the Brooklyn Nets’ head coach.

There was an obvious falling out from when Kidd had verbally committed to re-sign with Dallas, agreeing to a three-year, $9 million deal, only to change his mind and accept the same offer from the New York Knicks during the summer of 2012.

It certainly sounds like the two are continuing to play nice and that the hatchet has indeed been buried.

“We email back and forth,” Cuban said. “When they were struggling, I sent him some words of encouragement and gave him some insights on how to deal with the media. We’ve got a great relationship.”

Kidd has stated that the relationship between himself and Cuban is ‘good’ and that they have communicated via e-mail multiple times over the course of the season.

The struggles the new Nets coach was having earlier in the season appear to be long gone as the Nets have the league’s best record during the calendar year at 8-1.

“He’s doing a lot of things right,” Cuban continued. “I haven’t had a chance to watch the Nets a lot, but the record speaks for itself.”

Back when there were some sour grapes about Kidd leaving the Mavericks to join the Knicks, Cuban said he no longer had plans to retire Kidd’s jersey in the rafters of the American Airlines Center. Since then, there have been discussions of a potential Ring of Honor like the one the Dallas Cowboys have to honor members of the 2011 championship roster or other valuable components to the franchise. As time passed on, Cuban said it’s possible that Kidd could be honored that way. Prior to the game against the Nets, Cuban left the door slightly ajar to the idea of retiring Kidd’s jersey.

“There are no plans,” Cuban replied. “But that’s not out of the question.”

Kidd had two stints in Dallas, playing for the Mavs for six full seasons and parts of two others. Though he spent time in Phoenix, most of Kidd’s resume has been established between the time he was with the Mavericks and the Nets. It’s obvious that Kidd is going to be a Hall of Famer. The question then becomes, will he go in as a Maverick or a Net?

“Whatever makes him happy,” Cuban said. “It would be great if he went in as a Mav. That’s always a great thing, but I’m sure he’ll make a decision that he’s most comfortable with.

“Actually, I would tell him is if he’s the coach of the Nets, go in as a Net because he’ll probably get a raise and he’ll probably have it as leverage to get a big raise. That’d be my advice to him, otherwise I’d be happy for him to go in as a Mav.”

The old adage is that time heals all wounds. It’s taken some time, but it certainly appears that the relationship between Cuban and Kidd has made it through the rough patch and is back to being solid again. What comes of Kidd's name or jersey remains to be seen, but things are looking a lot better than they did a couple of years ago.

Mavs face Kidd for first time as coach

January, 24, 2014
1/24/14
12:53
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When the Dallas Mavericks visit the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night, it will mark the first time that Nets head coach Jason Kidd will face the team he led as its point guard to an NBA championship in 2011.

Kidd's departure from the Mavericks in the summer of 2012 wasn’t on the best of terms. Kidd had verbally committed to re-sign with Dallas, agreeing to a three-year, $9 million deal, only to change his mind and accept the same offer from the New York Knicks. After one season with the Knicks, Kidd retired as a player, then went to Brooklyn to be the head coach.

Jason Kidd
AP Photo/Kathy WillensDirk Nowitzki joked that it's weird seeing former teammate Jason Kidd in a suit as coach of the Nets.
There was a mixed response from the remaining members of the 2011 championship squad about to the level of awkwardness that may come from seeing their former point guard in a new look.

“Definitely,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said in response to whether it would be weird to see Kidd as a coach. “It’s been weird seeing him in a suit.”

Once he was done deadpanning, Nowitzki went on to give praise to his former teammate.

“I’ve played 16 years with a lot of guys. If there’s one guy that could (coach), it is J-Kidd. He was the coach on the floor.”

Shawn Marion had two different stints with Kidd as a player, once from 1999 through 2001 as members of the Phoenix Suns and from 2009 through 2012 as members of the Mavericks. He knew that Kidd was made to be a head coach.

“He’s a floor general,” Marion said. “He’s a true point guard. He knew when to slow it down and run a play. He had a sense of the game. He recognizes everything on the floor. That’s what he was supposed to do as a point guard.

“I’m very happy to see him (coach). He’s going to do well with it.”

It didn’t start out well for Kidd, who started his coaching run with the Nets with a 3-8 record. With the league’s highest payroll, pressure was starting to mount and questions were popping up in about whether Kidd was ready to handle the spotlight and responsibilities that come along with coaching a team like the Nets.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn’t shocked by the turnaround the Nets have had and isn’t shocked by the fact that Kidd made the jump into coaching so quickly.

“I’m never surprised by anything in this league,” Carlisle said. “A lot of things about it made perfect sense. At this point, it’s pretty clear they did the right thing hiring them. He’s doing a fantastic job. Early, they just had a lot of health problems. That’s just hard.”

Health and cohesion have done a lot to turn things around as the Nets have the league’s best record since Jan. 1 at 8-1. Based on that, Dallas has its hands full with the Nets and their coach.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.3 4.2 1.9 33.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.4
AssistsR. Rondo 6.4
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksT. Chandler 1.3