Dallas Mavericks: Moses Malone
The list of teams that can match the Lakers’ tradition is awfully short.
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Of course, all-time great big men are a big part of the Lakers’ championship tradition. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal set a sky-high standard for centers who wear purple and gold. That might not necessarily help the Lakers’ cause in trying to keep Howard.
There’s a ton of pressure that comes along with following that line of legends in the nation’s second largest media market. Shaq’s disdain for Dwight, which manifests itself in many nationally televised verbal jabs, doesn’t help matters. There’s a theory that Howard would prefer to create a different path instead of simply following Shaq’s Orlando-to-Los Angeles footsteps.
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How heavily will that weigh on the mind of a man who has made it clear he’s searching for happiness this summer?
If Howard goes to Houston, he’ll be constantly compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, a Hall of Famer and two-time Finals MVP.
To a lesser degree, there will also be comparisons to Moses Malone and Yao Ming. However, as dominant as Malone was during his Houston days, he never won a ring with the Rockets and isn’t a Houston legend. Ming only got out of the first round once during his injury-abbreviated career.
The Rockets have tradition, but it’s been years since Houston has been considered a legitimate contender. Over the last decade and a half, the Rockets have been a distant third among NBA franchises in this state. The scrutiny wouldn’t be anywhere close to as suffocating as it is in L.A.
All due respect to James Donaldson and Tyson Chandler, but Howard would be the best big man in Mavs history as soon as he tied his shoes. There could still be some unflattering comparisons for Howard when it comes to Chandler’s excellent intangibles, but there’s no question that Howard is the superior center.
While only one championship banner hangs on the Mavs’ side of the American Airlines Center, this franchise has established an impressive winning tradition during Mark Cuban’s ownership tenure. (Or during Dirk Nowitzki’s career, if you want to assign credit to the man who did more heavy lifting.)
The Mavs and Rockets can’t stack up to the Lakers’ tremendous tradition, but that might be a good thing in the Dwight sweepstakes this summer.
EDGE: That all depends on Dwight’s mindset … which infamously can change with the wind.
Love can sit atop a list of all-time greats with his 52nd straight double-double Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. If he were to notch a double-double in each of Minnesota's remaining 17 games, he would notch 77 for the season and 68 straight. How far can he go?
"It’s a joke that he’s doing it so easily," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Unless he gets hurt, I don’t see anybody stopping it any time soon."
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Love accumulated 65 double-doubles in his first two seasons, but he was limited to 25.3 and 28.6 minutes a game, respectively, in those seasons. This year, coach Kurt Rambis has granted Love 36.6 minutes a game and he's averaging 20.9 points and 15.8 rebounds. He has 60 double-doubles in 65 games.
But just how impressive is 51 consecutive double-doubles? The fact that only Malone has done it should make it fairly obvious. Dirk Nowitzki, for example, who has averaged 8.4 rebounds a game in his career, has nine double-doubles this season and once has strung at least two back-to-back. Mavs center Tyson Chandler, who did not play in Monday's game because of a sprained ankle, has 16 double-doubles and has twice strung together three in a row.
That's not to compare players. Chandler has fewer opportunities to score than Love and Nowitzki's rebounding totals have dropped this season with the addition of Chandler. But it does reveal the difficulty in notching double-digit points and rebounds virtually every night during the grind of an NBA season.
Entering Wednesday's game, Love has 142 career double-doubles. If his streak continues through the end of the season, he'll enter year No. 4 with 169.
Of the top 12 all-time double-double leaders (points-rebounds), according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilt Chamberlain stands alone at 966. Malone is next at 894 and Elvin Hayes had 890. The only active players on the list are Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal at 727 and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan with 704, who is one behind Charles Barkley.
Those numbers demonstrate remarkable consistency over a career. Consider for Love to reach 700, he would need to average in the neighborhood of 60 double-doubles over the next 10 years.
"The way he’s going, he goes and gets the ball," Carlisle said. "And a lot of his scoring is pure effort of going and getting the ball. And so, it’s not as simple as taking away certain actions in their offense, stuff like that. A lot of it is just grit and a real sense for where the ball is going and then the tenacity to go get it and then make a play with it."
If no team halts Love's streak by March 24, the Mavs will have one more crack at the American Airlines Center.
Jason Terry, despite a cold shooting game (3-of-11), padded his NBA Sixth Man of the Year résumé with another fourth-quarter dagger. His 3-pointer with 1:37 to play extended the Dallas lead to 101-97, a cushion the Mavs were finally able to hold after multiple Minnesota runs for their 46th victory of the season.
Give benchwarmer Brian Cardinal, a former member of the Timberwolves, ample credit for this win, as well. With Nowitzki sitting, Cardinal answered the bell and drained 4 of 8 from 3-point range for a season-high 12 points in 17 minutes. He also collected a charge and was around numerous loose balls.
"Without Cardinal," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "I don't think we would have won the game."
The Mavs rallied from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter to trail just 50-48 at the half. Then, just as they seemed to be taking control in the third quarter, the Wolves reeled off a 15-0 run to go up by 10. Nowitzki buried a 3 just after Carlisle called a timeout and reluctantly put Nowitzki back in the game with four fouls.
His 3 cut the deficit to 80-73 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Mavs carried that momentum into the decisive frame. It took just 2:53 for the Mavs to reclaim the lead, 85-82, on a J.J. Barea 3-pointer. Barea nailed another big 3-pointer to put the Mavs up 92-87 with 6:17 left to go. He scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter.
But the Wolves weren't done. Dirk finally ended an 8-0 Wolves run that had them up 95-94. It went back and forth until Terry's bomb, his lone make on six attempts, allowed the Mavs to pull away against a team that just has no clue how to close out a game.
Nowitzki led Dallas with 25 points in 27 minutes. He was 10-of-10 from the free throw line with eight coming in the fourth quarter. Jason Kidd was the only other starter in double figures with 13 points. Roddy Beaubois had nine in 17 minutes. He was 4-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-4 from the 3-point line. Peja Stojakovic continued to struggle. He finished with nine points and was 1-of-4 from downtown, but he did hit the 3 and another jumper in the fourth quarter.
Carlisle turned to Shawn Marion to start the third quarter in place of Stojakovic in an up-and-down tempo more suited for the Matrix, who had nine points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. Recently acquired small forward Corey Brewer played just six minutes with a dunk in his return to Minnesota.
After a last-second loss at home Sunday to Memphis -- which beat Oklahoma City on Monday night -- the Mavs will take a difficult and mostly ugly win on the road and move on.
What it means: The Mavs have won 19 of 21 and start a new streak after their eight-game streak was busted up Sunday by Memphis. The Mavs now play three games in five nights: at New Orleans (Wednesday), then back home for the new-look New York Knicks (Thursday) and the Los Angeles Lakers (Saturday). The win kept the Mavs two games ahead of L.A. in the loss column.
Play of the game: With 6:57 to go in the third quarter, Love spotted up at the 3-point line and drained the shot to give him 10 points in the game. Combined with his 11 rebounds at the time, Love recorded his 51st consecutive double-double of the season, passing Moses Malone for the longest single-season streak since 1976-77 and tying Malone for the longest overall streak since the ABA-NBA merger in 1978-79. Love will look to pass Malone's overall streak Wednesday at home against Indiana. The first-time All-Star finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds.
Stat of the night: The Mavs shot 34.3 percent from the 3-point arc, but that's not the eye-popping stat. They hit 12 from 3-point range, including four big ones in the fourth quarter, but that's not the eye-popping stat. The eye-popping stat is the 35 long balls the Mavs hoisted. Three players -- Cardinal, Kidd and Terry -- all shot at least six and combined for 20 of the attempts.
Perhaps the most intriguing position is forward for the Western Conference. Carmelo Anthony, assuming he isn't traded to an Eastern Conference team beforehand, and Kevin Durant, are leading the fans' vote to start the Feb. 20 All-Star Game held at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Then the coaches must choose, maybe as many as four reserves from the following pool of worthy candidates: Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.
While some -- OK, one -- has made the suggestion that the coaches should bypass Nowitzki this year, that just isn't going to happen despite a knee injury that sidelined him for nine games and has taken a toll on his shooting percentage. Before his injury on Dec. 27, Nowitzki was averaging 24.1 points on a blistering 54.5-percent shooting.
"During that period of time, he was the MVP [of the league] in my opinion," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "His value to us -- he’s priceless to us."
No MVP candidate will be left off the All-Star team. The coaches could catch a slight break if NBA commissioner David Stern selects Tim Duncan to replace the injured Yao Ming, the fans' nonsensical vote to start at center. Duncan is technically a power forward, but he's as close as it gets to a pure center and the most sensible candidate to replace Yao.
What if Stern doesn't select Duncan? Do you really think the coaches leave him off the team? Duncan has made every All-Star Game since he entered the league and according to Carlisle's standards for voting, he would seem a shoe-in even though his statistics, for various reasons, are not at his career levels.
"The thing that I’ll tell you and I’ll be very frank is that the coaches' vote is always tipped heavily toward winning," Carlisle said. 'I’m no different than the rest of the voters. I think that’s a major factor in who gets the votes. Those guys are 37-4 [38-7] or something. You got to take a strong look at that, that Duncan’s on a team that’s winning every game. That’s a big deal and it should be. As we get closer to it and I look at it, it’s going to be some difficult votes for sure."
The game is in Los Angeles, so how can coaches leave Gasol (18.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg) off the team? And what about the Clips' rookie sensation and dunkmeister Griffin (22.9 ppg, 12.9 rpg), who has made the other L.A. team relevant in all of half a season?
But, if winning is such a significant factor, would the Clippers' 17-27 record hold Griffin back? If it does, what chance does rebounding machine Kevin Love, playing for the 10-34 Timberwolves, have of making his first All-Star squad? Love, a UCLA product, is averaging 21.4 points and 15.6 rebounds and became the first player to record a 30-30 game (30 points, 31 rebounds) since Moses Malone did it in 1982.
"There’s a few games until [selections are due] and you look at all that stuff," Carlisle said. "Kevin Love is having a great year, having a breakout year. And so he’s a guy that will get consideration for sure."
The scene moves to the United Center tonight where the Mavs, 88-83 losers in the first meeting, might be getting the Bulls at just the right time. Bulls center Joakim Noah is sidelined after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. Noah had 17 boards in the first game to go with 10 points and five assists. Carlos Boozer will likely miss his third consecutive game with a sprained ankle. He also missed the first meeting in Dallas.
Between Boozer and Noah, that's 21.8 front-line rebounds sitting on the bench.
However, Taj Gibson will be in the lineup. The 6-foot-9 forward is good rebounder, not tremendous, averaging 5.7 in 23.3 minutes a game. But, he played as though he was Moses Malone in the last game. He pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and bounced all over the floor to nab eight of the Bulls' 20 offensive boards as Chicago benefitted from a 25-8 edge in second-chance points.
"They kicked our tails on the boards," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "so that will be an emphasis."
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