Dallas Mavericks: Marcus Camby
For this exercise, we'll take a look at five free agents at each position that could be had for no more than $3 million.
Point guard (last year's salary)
John Lucas ($900,000)
Ronnie Price ($1.1 million)
Jannero Pargo ($1.1 million)
Derek Fisher ($3.4 million)
Jamaal Tinsley ($1.2 million)
C.J. Miles ($3.7 million)
Danny Green ($1.2 million)
Keith Bogans ($800,000)
Marquis Daniels ($1.2 million)
Michael Redd ($1.3 million)
Josh Howard ($2.2 million)
Steve Novak ($1.0 million)
Matt Barnes ($1.9 million)
Damien Wilkins ($1.1 million)
Devin Ebanks ($800,000)
Anthony Randolph ($2.9 million)
Anthony Tolliver ($2.1 million)
Chris Johnson ($800,000)
Louis Amundson ($2.4 million)
Ronny Turiaf ($4.4 million)
Marcus Camby ($11.2 million)
Joel Przybilla ($700,000)
Nazr Mohammed ($3.8 million)
Mehmet Okur ($10.9 million)
Aaron Gray ($2.5 million)
Dallas has four free agents still unsigned: Delonte West, Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal and Yi Jianlian.
Teams must have a minimum of 13 players on the 15-man roster, so the Mavs are not done in the free-agent market, and trades also remain in play as the roster overhaul continues.
Kidd's sudden departure leaves a gaping hole at point guard. With Jason Terry headed out, the Mavs have only Vince Carter as a true shooting guard along with combo guards Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and rookie Jared Cunningham. More quality choices exist at shooting guard than at point guard.
The Mavs have to decide how much they're willing to pay and how long they're willing to go as they work to maintain flexibility moving forward after striking out with Deron Williams.
Here's a position-by-position look at a handful of free agents still on the market:
Aaron Brooks (restricted)
Ray Allen (appears bound for Boston or Miami)
The source said Camby is seeking a multiyear deal (two or three years) and prefers to return to the Rockets, the team he was traded to last March. Houston has since traded away Samuel Dalembert and on Sunday reached an agreement on a three-year, $25 million deal with Chicago Bulls restricted free-agent center Omer Asik. The Bulls will have 72 hours to match once the league's moratorium on contracts and trades ends July 11. Camby could return there regardless.
The Mavs are in a holding pattern until Deron Williams makes his decision, expected in the next day or two after representatives from the Mavs and Brooklyn Nets meet with him Monday. If Williams agrees to play for the Mavs, Dallas will have to create cap space by using the amnesty clause either on center Brendan Haywood or small forward Shawn Marion. Haywood seems to be the top candidate.
Acquiring a center then becomes paramount. Camby's asking price, however, could be too high as the Mavs' cap space tightens if he's out to maximize dollars in likely his final contract, or depending how the Mavs want to use their exceptions. And, as the axiom goes, big men get paid, even old ones.
If Williams agrees to re-sign with the Nets, the Mavs might have little choice but to hold onto Haywood, who is under contract for three more seasons and will make $8.3 million in 2012-13. They could still amnesty him, but it would be risky considering free agent Ian Mahinmi could be headed elsewhere and converted power forward Brandan Wright -- and second-round draft pick Bernard James -- is the only other so-called center on the roster (plus, the Mavs might want to pocket the amnesty card for next summer's pursuits).
Camby could still be a fine fit in Dallas with Haywood. It would make for a solid tandem and a potentially interesting battle for the starting spot, a la Tyson Chandler.
The 6-foot-11 Camby, who has averaged nearly 10 boards and more than two blocks a game throughout his career, made in excess of $11 million last season, his 16th in the league. He's made nearly $120 million in his career.
So what will the market bear now? The mini mid-level of $3 million? The full mid-level of $5 million? Some speculate that Camby could still command north of $6 million bucks a season.
Along with the Mavs and Rockets, reports have Camby considering the Knicks, Heat (who, for example, could only pay him the $3 million exception if they don't sign Ray Allen), Spurs and Celtics, all teams with varying dollars to spend.
How much Camby will make will simply depend on his preference for money and fit at this stage of a so far championship-less career.
Brendan Haywood remains under contract for three more seasons, but if Deron Williams decides he wants to play for the Dallas Mavericks, Haywood is a prime amnesty candidate so the club can create cap space for Williams.
It also appears that Ian Mahinmi will be changing teams in free agency, so Dallas could be looking at a gaping hole in the middle. If Williams does agree to sign, dollars will be tight to plug the hole.
Dallas had interest in Przybilla, 32, last season when he put off retirement and returned to the Portland Trail Blazers at mid-season. The 12-year veteran has battled injuries and averaged 2.0 points and 5.1 rebounds in 27 games last season with the Blazers. The source said Przybilla does plan to play a 13th season.
The 7-foot-3 Thabeet has been a draft bust since the Memphis Grizzles picked the former UConn Huskies center with the second overall pick in 2009. He's played for three teams and in just 135 games in his three seasons in the league -- including a 2010 demotion to the D-League, becoming the highest-drafted player to be sent down.
Thabeet, 25, was traded by the Houston Rockets in March to Portland, a deal that netted Houston center Marcus Camby, who is also an unrestricted free agent. Mavs interest in acquiring the 38-year-old Camby, who averaged 9.0 boards a game last season for Portland and Houston, has not been confirmed.
Others the Mavs could show interest in are New Orleans Hornets center Chris Kaman, an unrestricted free agent, and Indiana Pacers restricted free agent Roy Hibbert. Dallas will likely only be in the market for either if Williams re-signs with the Brooklyn. The Pacers are expected to match any offer made for the 7-2 Hibbert, whose stock rose dramatically with postseason performance and could be offered a max deal.
Brendan Haywood to create cap space as expected, how would the Mavs fill their huge hole in the middle?
They could just re-sign free agent Ian Mahinmi and pair him with Brandan Wright, but it’s hard to see the Mavs emerging as a legitimate contender without more of a presence at center. There are plenty of options in the free agent market.
A look at the most attractive available big men:
Roy Hibbert (restricted): The 7-foot-2, 260-pound Hibbert has great size and good skills. He’s only 25, so there is still room to grow in his game after he averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks this season. He’d be by far the best low-post threat ever to be paired with Dirk Nowitzki. But the Pacers have the right to match any offer he gets, a ton of cap space and executive of the year Larry Bird calling the shots. If the Mavs get Hibbert, it probably means they’ve significantly overpaid another big man.
Kevin Garnett: The 36-year-old KG sure looks like he has a lot left in the tank during these playoffs. His regular-season minutes must be managed, but Garnett is still a major defensive force and good scorer and rebounder. He’ll take a pay cut after making $21 million this season and almost $300 million in his career, but Garnett won’t come cheap. It’s hard to see the Celtics letting him go when they have a chance to contend.
Marcus Camby: He’s 38 years old and doesn’t offer much offensively any more, but Camby could be an affordable stopgap solution. He’s still a defensive presence in the paint, averaging 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game last season. Camby becoming a Maverick would probably mean that neither side was satisfied with what they found in the free agency market.
JaVale McGee (restricted): He tends to be comically boneheaded, but he’s a freakish athlete for a 7-footer and is talented enough to put up a 21-point, 14-rebound performance in a playoff win over the Lakers. He’s one of the league’s best shot blockers and finishers, but his basketball IQ hovers around his jersey number. He’s also only 24 years old, with the potential to be really, really good if a coaching staff can ever get through to him. Then again, he also has the potential to make an owner regret signing his paychecks every couple of weeks for the next four years.
Chris Kaman: Dirk’s German Olympic teammate would be the best offensive center in Mavs history, although his .446 shooting percentage for the Hornets last season isn’t exactly appealing. He’s a good post defender and shot blocker. He’s also injury prone, having missed major chunks of four of the last five seasons. How can the Mavs feel comfortable making a major investment in a 30-year-old with that medical record?
Brook Lopez (restricted): He’s a skilled, high-scoring young 7-footer who wouldn’t be a good fit with Dirk. The Mavs can’t afford to have a slow, subpar-rebounding, poor-defending big man on the floor with Dirk, especially if that center is expensive. Lopez missed all but five games last season, but he managed to score 38 points in a win over the Mavs.
Spencer Hawes: He’s a 24-year-old former lottery pick who has had some bright moments as the Sixers’ starting center the last two seasons, although he was injured for much of this year. But his game isn’t a good fit with Dirk’s. He’s a finesse big man who lives on long jumpers and too often doesn’t carry his weight defensively.
Robin Lopez (restricted): He’s 24 years old, stands 7 feet tall and has some experience. He’s a pretty good shot blocker and pick-and-roll finisher, but he’s slow-footed, an amazingly awful passer and a poor rebounder. He’s not a starting-caliber center.
Greg Oden: Oden might not play at all next season. Heck, he might never play again after knee injuries made the big man picked before Kevin Durant a bust in Portland. But the Mavs’ medical staff, which helped everyone forget about Tyson’s Chandler’s injury history, could give Oden his best chance at having a respectable NBA career. It’s worth a minimum-salary flyer to find out if Oden can get and stay healthy enough to become the dominant defensive presence he was expected to be.
Erick Dampier: Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention.
DALLAS – When the Mavs opted not to offer Tyson Chandler and Co. long-term deals, this summer’s free-agency crop was expected to be headlined by a few superstars.
Chris Paul exercised his player option for next season after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It changed for the worse again when Dwight Howard surprisingly committed not to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Orlando Magic just before the trade deadline.
That leaves Deron Williams as the lone big fish. What happens if the Mavs don’t convince The Colony native to come home?
“You’ve got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want.”
The Mavs want a player who can create offense on his own, a necessity to take pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki.
|Mavs GM Donnie Nelson gives us an inside look at the team's summer plans as the franchise has financial flexibility for the first time in over a decade. |
Everyone knows the chemistry with old pal Nowitzki would click. However, the Mavs would probably take a major step back defensively by adding a 38-year-old point guard who has always been considered a liability on that end of the floor.
Houston’s Goran Dragic, who made himself a ton of money as the fill-in starter for Kyle Lowry in the second half of the season, is a much younger option. Dragic, 26, Nash’s former backup, averaged 18.0 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 49.0 percent from the floor in 28 games as a starter this season.
Some other proven shot creators in the market: New Orleans’ Eric Gordon (restricted), Memphis’ O.J. Mayo (restricted), Minnesota’s Michael Beasley (restricted and off-court issues) and Boston’s Ray Allen (turns 37 in July).
The market for big men, which will be a big need if the Mavs use the amnesty clause on Brendan Haywood, is headlined by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (restricted), Denver’s JaVale McGee (restricted), Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez (restricted), New Orleans’ Chris Kaman, Houston’s Marcus Camby, Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes and Chicago’s Omer Asik. The Mavs might also explore taking a minimum-salary flyer on Greg Oden in hopes of resuscitating the former No. 1 overall pick’s career after it has been derailed by knee injuries.
“There’s a lot of good players out there,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s A, B, C, D, E, F, or keep the powder dry, which is always an option. Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”
Is putting a subpar supporting cast around Nowitzki for another year of the twilight of his prime really an option? Isn’t there a sense of urgency to maximize the chances of winning another championship while the best player in franchise history is still a superstar?
“Listen, how many years have we made it in the playoffs in a row?” Nelson said. “We don’t plan on putting out anything less than a championship-caliber team. That’s me and Mark’s history and that’s our commitment to our fans and this city.”
They’ve got their work cut out for them this summer, especially if they swing and miss on Williams.
“Just four stitches,” Nowitzki said after getting postgame medical treatment. “I’ll be all right.”
Nowitzki was bleeding profusely after the cut was opened up with 47.9 seconds remaining in overtime. He thought he got hit with an elbow by Houston point guard Goran Dragic, who was called for an offensive foul. However, it appeared that it was actually teammate Brandan Wright’s elbow that did the damage during a scramble for a loose ball.
Not that it mattered much after the Mavs pulled out the 101-99 win.
“It was an offensive foul,” Nowitzki said, “and we moved on from there.”
Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith made like a cut man in a boxer’s corner during the timeout after Dragic got whistled for the foul. He managed to stop the bleeding, allowing Nowitzki to get back on the court for the next possession, when Jason Terry hit a pull-up jumper off a pick-and-roll with Nowitzki to give the Mavs the lead for good.
“Hats off to the training staff for getting the blood stopped,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “[Nowitzki] being able to go back into the game created that scoring opportunity for Jet, because [Marcus] Camby was hugging Dirk so closely that it created a double screen and Jet got a really good look to put us in strong position.”
LOS ANGELES -- On a floor full of superstars and All-Stars, J.J. Barea stole the show in the fourth quarter and sealed the Mavericks' Game 2 victory with an array of drives and stellar finishes.
He outscored Kobe Bryant, 8-5, in the final quarter and out-assisted Jason Kidd. He took more free throws than Dirk Nowitzki and even added a rebound. For the game he had 12 points to lead the Mavs' bench and four assists.
|Mavericks G J.J. Barea talks about taking a 2-0 series lead against the Lakers, Ron Artest's ejection and more. |
Barea, listed at 6-foot, but honestly a couple 0f inches shorter, shredded Lakers guards Steve Blake and Shannon Brown.
With the Mavs starting the fourth quarter leading 68-62, Barea blasted through the lane, missed the layup, but his penetration left Brendan Haywood clear for the tip in, 70-62. Barea busted through the paint again and kicked out to a wide-open Jason Terry, who buried a 3-pointer, 73-64. And then Barea did it again and drew the foul. He knocked down both free throws and it was 75-65 with 9:46 to play.
Still in the game nearing the midway point of the quarter, Barea drove, the defense collapsed and he hit a wide-open Haywood on the baseline for a rare tomahawk jam from the big fellow, 79-69.
"The smallest man on the court probably has the biggest heart on the court," Haywood said. "He's not afraid to take it into the giants."
On yet another drive, Barea again found Haywood, who dropped it back to Jason Kidd, who buried the 3, 82-69.
And then came the dagger. Barea whirred past Brown and found himself virtually alone in the paint and he finished it off with a finger roll, 84-69 with 4:39 to go.
"That's how I play. I love to attack the paint," Barea said. "I got all the shooters out there and I've got two big guys setting great screens for me."
Barea's razzle-dazzle finally popped the Lakers' top in the final 30 seconds when Lamar Odom and Ron Artest were all over him in the backcourt. Odom fouled Barea and then Artest stuck out his arm and clotheslined Barea across the face, drawing a technical foul -- his second of the game -- and a possible suspension for Game 3.
Barea didn't have a good first-round series driving into Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge. He averaged 5.2 points and shot 32.4 percent. In two games against the Lakers he's averaging 10.o points and dropping shots at 46.7 percent. It helps when most are coming from 3-feet and in.
"I came out with a lot energy. I knew we needed it," Barea said. "We did a great job defensively all game, so I think a little spark by me helped us get the win."
He'll need to be a superstar offensively, but half his energy will be used on the defensive end. That wasn't the case in the first round when Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge could be shuffled off to centers Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Nowitzki, meanwhile, had the less hectic task of defending light-scoring Blazers center Marcus Camby.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nowitzki will butt heads with fellow 7-foot Euro power forward Pau Gasol, a crafty scorer from multiple areas on the floor.
"I always try to work and help out on the defensive end, but obviously if there is only one great scorer, we’d love to have Tyson or Wood on him," Nowitzki said. "But, they’re loaded up front and that means I have to play both ends of the floor and rebound the ball against that big lineup with Bynum in there and Gasol."
It doesn't stop there. Sixth Man of the Year, 6-foot-10 forward Lamar Odom, brings the position an entirely new dynamic off the bench. Gasol has averaged 20.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting against the Mavs in three games this season. But, he shot just 41.8 percent in the first round against the New Orleans, who tend be more of physical defensive team.
It will largely be up to Nowitzki, certainly not known as a physically imposing defender, to not allow Gasol to heat up.
"Gasol, obviously, is long. He can work on his mid-range shot, he can go over both hands and he’s a great scorer on the block," Nowitzki said. "And then when Odom comes in at the 4, he can bring the ball up. He really shot the ball well last time we played them there, made two 3s right away at the beginning of the fourth that really put the game out of reach. So yeah, I’ve got to play both ends of the floor this series and I’ve got to be ready."
The same could be said for Gasol, who hasn't exactly received nominations for Defensive Player of the Year -- although his average of 1.6 blocks a game during the regular season and 2.33 in the first round dwarfs any of the Mavs' three front-line 7-footers.
Nowitzki, who will also see Odom and even Ron Artest on him at times, has averaged 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds against the Lakers this season.
Both 7-foot forwards will be difficult to contain, but whichever one makes the other consistently work harder for their points will give their team a distinct advantage as the series progresses.
Game 2 is his latest chance to prove it after Blazers coach Nate McMillan unexpectedly played Roy for the entire fourth quarter in Game 1 … only for Portland’s former go-to guy to finish with a whopping two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Or is it? It remains to be seen how McMillan doles out crunch-time minutes for the rest of the series, after Roy was admittedly indecisive with his shooting and decision-making in the Mavs’ 89-81 triumph.
“I’m frustrated,” Roy admitted after the loss. “But I’m looking at the playoffs as a new season. Coming back to a team that has an identity now and trying to fit me back into it has been a little difficult. But I’ve got to keep trying to get my confidence back and take my shots when they come.”
McMillan benched center Marcus Camby in that fateful fourth quarter, preferring a smaller lineup that reunited Roy with new Blazers go-to guy LaMarcus Aldridge. But Camby wasn’t the only prominent absentee for the Blazers down the stretch; Roy’s presence on the floor also meant highly rated second-year guard Wes Matthews was also a spectator.
It seems safe to suggest that McMillan preferred Roy because of the damage he did in the teams’ last two regular-season meetings. Roy scored 21 points in 28 minutes in Portland’s home win over the Mavs on March 15 and was at the heart of another home win over Dallas on April 3, when Portland racked up 38 points in the second quarter while running its offense through the three-time former All-Star in the post.
Roy, though, hasn’t scored more than 11 points in any of his 15 games since the 21-point eruption in March and doesn’t dispute suggestions that he’s thinking too much when he has the ball instead of just playing.
The Blazers have nonetheless clung to the hope that Roy – with no back-to-backs in the playoffs – could still be a postseason X-factor.
“Something I’ve got to keep reminding myself is don’t get too down on yourself,” Roy said, insisting that his hesitation stems from the fact that he’s yet to find his niche as a role player as opposed to pain in his battered knees.
“As long as [the issue is] between the ears, I think I’ll be OK.”
And Roy, for the record, thinks that the crunch-time tightness was a team-wide issue in Game 1, not just something that affected his game.
“We almost played like we were the favorite and we had so much to lose instead of going out there and playing a little loose,” Roy said.
The slighted Mavs, of course, would undoubtedly counter by pointing out that the Blazers did start the series as the favorite-elect given how folks have picked sixth-seeded Portland to upset No. 3 Dallas.
P.S. – For more on Roy, you are advised to read this killer column on the matter from the Oregonian’s excellent John Canzano.
Camby wasn't in foul trouble. He had grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked two shots. He made two of three shots he took and made two beautiful alley-oop passes to teammate LaMarcus Aldridge. He had logged 29 minutes, right at his season average. Before he sat down, Nowitzki, who shot 13 free throws in the fourth quarter, hadn't stepped foot on the free throw line. Terry had made one trip for two shots. The Mavs, who finished with 29 free throw attempts, had taken just 10.
Thirty-six seconds after Aldridge subbed in for Camby, Nowitzki went to the line for the first time in the game. Eleven of Nowitzki's 13 attempts -- his most since Nov. 24 -- in the final 10:08 came with the score fluctuating between Dallas being down five and up two.
"I wasn’t out there. I thought I could have erased a lot of mistakes out there," the 6-11 Camby said prior to the Blazers' practice Monday afternoon. "I think our defense was great. We just got back-doored a little bit and once we got into the penalty situation it was real tough to contain those guys because they’re so good with the basketball."
Nowitzki's final two free throws with 11 seconds left put the finishing touches on an 89-81 victory, one that saw Dallas make just four field goals in the fourth quarter, yet win the game by going 18-of-19 at the free throw line.
Camby, 37, said he would have liked to have been on the floor to put an end to the Dallas Mavericks' parade of free throws. Coach Nate McMillan rode a smaller lineup with the 6-foot-11 Aldridge surrounded by Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, Gerald Wallace and a combination of Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller.
So, is Camby campaigning to be on the floor in the fourth quarter of Game 2?
"No, no," Camby said. "Like Tyson Chandler controls the paint, I can control it also. "
He actually called it a below average alley-oop outing.
"We throw it a lot," Aldridge said. "We led the league in that that pass this year. We throw it a lot, so they did a good job of not giving it to me too much."
Aldridge said he doesn't expect the play to be readily available as the series progresses.
"We definitely didn't feel like we could exploit that," he said. "Teams have scouted that long and hard. It was just good reads in the game, just good flow during the game. We definitely don't think we can get that. I could hear the whole [Mavs] bench saying, 'No spin lob, no spin lob,' so they're definitely on it. I think those were just good moments where we just had good reads."
Maybe if Aldridge had received the lobs from one player it could be considered just good reads. But, from three? Center Marcus Camby hooked Aldridge up twice, as did point guard Andrew Miller and forward Nicolas Batum did the honors once. Rudy Fernandez hit Gerald Wallace for one.
Aldridge slammed in 10 of his 27 points off the alley-oop and Portland had 12 points off the play, which amounted to two-thirds of Dallas' total points in the paint (18).
"If we limit a lot of those lobs and easy buckets we'll be OK," Mavs center Tyson Chandler said. "I actually thought we did a good job on the post. He [Aldridge] made a couple good moves on us, but I felt like for the most part myself and Brendan Haywood did a good job of challenging him. We've just got to limit those 12 to 14 points they got off lobs."
But, how do you do that?
"They definitely made it part of their offense, but there's definitely ways -- communication, being a little bit more aware," Chandler said. "One they caught me sleeping on a spin-lob. You just can't give him any room."
Carlisle has to get him out of the game to keep make sure Chandler is on the floor at crunch time. But Brendan Haywood, who will be counted on to guard Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge as well as box out rebounding machine Marcus Camby, is a liability on the offensive end because he simply can't be counted on to make a free throw. Twice during the regular season, an opposing coach turned to the Hack-a-Haywood tactic.
The big man is shooting an abysmal 36.2 percent from the free-throw line. He's been skimming the bottom of the barrel all season. And, if you're looking for some late-season free throw momentum, stop. Haywood is 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) over the last 11 games and 6-of-21 (28.6) in the last five games.
Haywood said if he's put on the line, he'll step up with confidence.
"I put a lot of work in the gym trying to get better at that. It’s been a struggle for me this season," Haywood said. "I got to go in there and be confident at the line and knock them in."
For the playoff edition of the Inside Skinny, we figured we’d give you our scouting report on the Portland Blazers and how they do what they do. First off, here are a few nuggets about their team identity as a whole.
While they’re last in the league in PACE (average possessions per game), they’re 10th when it comes to offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Then factor in that they’re third in the league in Offensive Rebound Rate -- percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed -- as well as a low turnover team.
And, finally, you take note that they’re fifth in Defensive Plays Rate (steals, blocks and charges per 100 possessions) and you can see how Portland is able to force opponents into playing the type of game they want -- a tough, grind-it-out-and-don’t-make-mistakes affair.
Aiight, I’m done nerding out. Here’s the eyeball stuff.
Mr. LaMarcus Aldridge -- you grows up, you grows up and you grows up. The skinny kid from Seagoville did damage this year, and he has absolutely had his way with the Mavs in all four meetings. He came to Dallas and dropped 35 in a loss on Dec. 15. It was the real jump-off point for a huge season in which he’s posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists.
But the most memorable Aldridge moment for me was in the final contest vs. the Mavs when he backed down Brendan Haywood on the right block, treating Haywood like he was Shawn Bradley. He leaned back towards the middle of the lane before drop-stepping baseline side and flipping a feathery shot over his left shoulder. It was monstrous. The ease with which he moved the bigger Haywood and the skill to finish the move was at a level that only a handful of posts in the league are able to sniff. That boy is good.
When I saw Portland’s Defensive Play Rate, I couldn’t help but think of their three long defensive specialists in Nic Batum, old-man Marcus Camby and February trade acquisition Gerald Wallace (aka, “I was burnt out in Charlotte”). The first time that Portland played Dallas with Wallace in the lineup, I thought he looked like the same “floater” I’d see in Charlotte who didn’t involve himself in games with the intensity that a player of his immense talents should. When we saw him again on April 3, I thought he was fantastic. He used his length and athleticism to cause havoc and create opps for the Blazers. Camby is a savvy defensive player and rebounder, and Batum helps spread the floor with his range and can be a really sticky on-the-ball hawk.
What a coup Wesley Matthews ended up being. Some ripped Portland for giving Matthews their full mid-level exception. I’d say he saved their season filling in for Roy at the two and emerging as their second-leading scorer, best 3-point shooter and a rugged defender bothering opposing team’s shooting guards. One of the real value players in the league without question.
The sad story of Roy’s struggles with knee pain has been well-chronicled. He’s often used in a backup distributor role now, but can still take over a game when his body cooperates as his 21-point performance against the Mavs back in March will support. He’s a guy who can hit some big-time shots. Rudy Fernandez also is a guy capable of hitting some ridiculously tough shots. Though it wouldn’t shock me if he tried to bounce a ball in the basket off his head. He gives off a wacky juggler vibe. I think he’d be an awesome Globetrotter.
Andre Miller has played his entire career feeling underappreciated and disrespected. Remember when he hung half a C-note on Dallas last year? Yes, he does too.
This has the makings of a fantastic series. I'll be curious to see if the ridiculously underrated Nate McMillan is tempted to roll out the smaller Aldridge at center and Batum and Wallace at the 3 and 4 slots. McMillan used that lineup at times down the stretch, including vs. the Mavs on March 15. It forces Dirk to cover a much quicker player; then again, the Blazers have to cover Dirk, too. I’d think Portland’s size advantage in the backcourt -- which was used to great effect in that final route in Portland -- will be negated this time around with DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer more in the mix.
Lots of delicious matchup potential. I can’t wait to see it unfold starting Saturday night in the Dub -- Uptown Saturday Night style.
* The defeat ends a Dallas run of six successive home victories over San Antonio in the regular season and postseason.
* Tim Duncan’s 17 rebounds are tied with Portland’s Marcus Camby and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace for the single-game league high so far in the 2010 playoffs.
*With 25 points to go with those 17 boards, Duncan recorded his 29th career 25-point, 15-board game in the playoffs, which is No. 2 among active players behind Cleveland’s Shaquille O’Neal.
*In Game 1, San Antonio racked up 17 turnovers and was called for 28 fouls. In Game 2? Nine and 15, respectively.
* With 24 more assists this postseason, Mavericks guard Jason Kidd (1,039) will pass Scottie Pippen (1,048) and Larry Bird (1,062) to move into third all-time for most career assists in the playoffs. Magic Johnson is No. 1 with 2,346 assists in 190 career playoff games, followed by John Stockton’s 1,839 assists in 182 playoff games.
* In Game 1, Dirk Nowitzki shot 10-for-12 from the field on shots from 6 feet out or longer. In Game 2, Nowitzki was 5-for-17 from that range.
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.