Dallas Mavericks: Tim Duncan
@mrana85 on Twitter: Does Monta Ellis, in fact, have it all?
Ellis does not have a great 3-point stroke. That’s evident from his 31.9 career percentage from long range. It’s notable that he’s attempting his fewest 3-pointers per game since 2008-09.
Ellis is a phenomenal pick-and-roll initiator, and that’s become the bread and butter of the Mavs’ offense with magnificent results. There are precious few players as dangerous off the dribble, and Ellis has shown that his passing ability has been underrated while he’s played for bad teams over the years. He arrived in Dallas with a reputation as an inefficient gunner, but Ellis has been awesome offensively, averaging a team-high 23.5 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor.
Oh, and Ellis will never have good size for a shooting guard. That often makes life difficult for him as a defender, especially against bigger shooting guards such as Houston’s James Harden or Minnesota’s Kevin Martin.
But Ellis has rare explosiveness and ability to create, and the Mavs are getting the most out of his best attributes.
@Simeon_Benson on Twitter: Is Dirk's inevitable extension going to be more like Kobe's or Duncan's?
My hunch is that it will be in the neighborhood of the team-friendly, three-year, $36 million deals Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett signed a couple of years ago. However, I could see Dirk taking less than that if Mark Cuban can add players worthy of the face of the franchise sacrificing some money to create room under the salary cap.
@KirkSeriousFace on Twitter: Vince Carter's stats (mainly his 3 pt %) have taken a major hit so far. Is he in a slump or was last year an outlier?
Let’s give Carter the benefit of the doubt and call it a slump. He’s a career 37.6 percent shooter from 3-point range who was close to a career at 40.6 percent last season. Carter is only 22-of-65 (33.8 percent) from 3-point range so far this season, but it’s early. He’s one hot streak away from getting back to his norm. I think he’ll be in the high 30s by the end of the season, if for no other reason than I think he’ll consistently get good looks due to the other weapons on this team drawing attention.
@BrockLPrice on Twitter: Do you see the Mavs making the playoffs, and if so, what seed?
I’m more confident that the Mavs will make the playoffs than I was at the beginning of the season, but I still see them fighting with a handful of other teams for one of the West’s final few spots.
I see the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets as locks. The Portland Trail Blazers (13-2) are off to an outstanding start, but I think they’ll be part of a pack with the Mavs, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and maybe the Lakers battling for the last few spots, with the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns playing the role of on-the-rise sleepers.
@pickandpop21 on Twitter: What adjustments should the Mavs take to improve defense? Or will they just have to live by their O & hope that's enough?
There’s a reason that Carlisle harps so much on things like “disposition” and “competitive energy.” The Mavs need great effort and intensity, as well as togetherness, to make up for their personnel flaws on defense. The scheme isn’t the problem. The personnel is, but the Mavs can still be a decent defensive team if they pay great attention to detail and make it a priority.
@Scollier2826 on Twitter: Are the Mavs in talks with Boston about Rajon Rondo?
Their talks this summer consisted of a feeling-out phone call and Celtics GM Danny Ainge asking for Dirk, which was his way of telling the Mavs to take a hike. If the Celtics shop Rondo, I’m sure the Mavs will be interested, but it’s hard to see how they could put together a package attractive enough to get the Celtics to pull the trigger unless Boston’s motivation is to dump as much long-term money as possible.
A big man in his mid-to-late 30s will continue his pursuit towards another NBA championship. And no, it's not Dirk Nowitzki. Tim Duncan is showing that an older big man can still dominate the game as the 37-year-old has averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 34.4 minutes during the Western Conference playoffs. Those numbers are hovering right around Duncan’s season average, which is why he earned first team All-NBA honors.
Both Duncan and Nowitzki are gym rats who have taken care of their bodies through proper nutrition, have slimmed down to sustain the grind of a season and are truly motivated to win. Whether it is Duncan's attack via fundamentals or Nowitzki's jazz-like approach, both have games that get the job done.
It appears Nowitzki is willing to follow Duncan's lead when it comes to his bank account. In what could be his final contract, Duncan re-signed with the Spurs in the summer of 2012 for a three-year deal worth $30 million. The final year of his previous contract had him earning $21 million. Expecting to be the second-highest paid player in the league for the 2013-14 season, Nowitzki has already said he’s willing to take a “significant pay cut” next summer.
"At this point of my career, it's all about competing and winning," Nowitzki said in mid May. "It's not about money. Obviously, [Mark] Cuban took care of me for a long, long time. I always tried to pay him back by playing hard and being here for this franchise, so I don't think we're going to fight over money. I want to compete over these last couple of years. That's going to be the goal."
|Hubie Brown joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss every angle of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals and whether he would want Dwight Howard on his team. |
It is a given that Dallas needs to load up this summer and start finding more weapons to play alongside Dirk. While it’s still one year away, Nowitzki is showing that he’ll be proactive. The space will allow Dallas to continue their plan to get the team back to contender status.
At 37, Duncan is looking to get another championship ring. Age is just a number. Like Duncan, Nowitzki can use that to his advantage.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.
Dirk Nowitzki came in at No. 12. The Sports Guy's take on the big German:
One of my favorite NBA lists …Click here to read the entire trade-value trilogy finale on Grantland.
That's the 15-Year Club — the only seven NBA players who spent their entire careers with the same franchise, played at least 15 seasons AND won at least one title. You don't just stumble onto that list — all seven are Hall of Famers, with 21 rings among them. Think about what the list means: excellence, durability, longevity, loyalty, championships … it's your best-case scenario for a basketball career, basically.
And you need a little luck along the way. I don't know how Schayes and Greer played that long with all the bad sneakers, bad food, bad medical care, scary travel, second-hand smoke and everything else that should have stopped them back then. Havlicek had a Secretariat-size heart and superhuman stamina. Duncan nearly signed with Orlando. Kobe's Lakers career nearly fell apart twice. Pierce was nearly traded 935 times. Dirk lucked out with a wealthy owner who always spent enough money to compete (so he never had to pull a KG), as well as one sizable break: During the summer of '04, Dallas was the consensus favorite in the Shaq Sweepstakes when Kobe forced the Lakers to trade Shaq the Lakers decided to trade Shaq, only Mark Cuban (astutely, as it turned out) made Dirk untouchable.
At the time, that decision was a much bigger deal than anyone remembers now. A rejuvenated, pissed-off Shaq guaranteed you one title, maybe even two. We all knew it. (As it turned out, Miami won in 2006, and probably would have won the previous year had Dwyane Wade not gotten injured.) When the Lakers could only get Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant's contract for him, I ended up creating the Vengeance Scale to figure out exactly where Angry Shaq ranked among the most vengeful people ever, ultimately assigning him an 8.7 (just behind Charles Bronson in every Death Wish movie). And yeah, I ridiculed the Mavericks for keeping Dirk over dealing him for Shaq, too, even calling Dirk "the German Bob McAdoo" (not a compliment). I never thought you could build a championship team around Dirk's offense. A lot of people felt that way. Looking back, resisting that enticing Shaq trade was probably Cuban's third-greatest NBA moment, trailing the time he stared down David Stern after Game 5 of the 2006 Finals, and, of course, this picture.
What happens with Dirk going forward? Kobe, Pierce and Dirk have one thing in common: They don't have to chase a title like Karl Malone did. Dirk controls his own destiny; if he wants to retire in Dallas, Cuban would be delighted. Kobe probably controls his own destiny, even if there's increasing buzz (no, really) that the Lakers would amnesty him if it guaranteed them Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Sadly, Paul Pierce doesn't control his destiny — he's probably getting traded this summer by a team that wants to rebuild. That's the difference between being a star and being a superstar. But if you think Dallas isn't going balls-out after CP3 this summer to give their loyal superstar one last run, you're crazy. We might even see Mark Cuban skip a Shark Tank taping this time around! Don't count out Dirk Nowitzki just yet.
|ESPN Insider Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about the Mavericks' big win and if Rick Carlisle should be considered for NBA Coach of the Year. |
“What we’re seeing now with Dirk is what we can expect to see next year and the year after, if he stays healthy,” Mark Cuban said. “And the year after that.”
Three more years of All-Star caliber play from a power forward who turns 35 this summer?
"At least," Cuban said.
“I’m not sure about all that,” Nowitzki said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully I can finish this season strong and have a good summer like I basically did last year with a lot of lifting and running and hopefully not have a setback with a surgery. We’ll see how consistent I can be again next season.”
It’s only been a couple of months since Nowitzki was wondering whether he wanted to keep playing after his contract expires next summer. He recently declared that he’d stick around through at least the 2015-16 season, but Nowitzki openly discussed making a transition from go-to guy to a role player in the years to come.
But Cuban can’t see Nowitzki as a role player, not even if the Mavs succeed in their year-old mission to acquire a legitimate star to pair with him, if not remove the burden of the franchise from the future Hall of Famer’s shoulders. Not for the next few years, at least.
“Is Kevin Garnett a role player? Is Tim Duncan a role player?” Cuban asked rhetorically. “Do you think Tim Duncan is going to be a role player next year? You think Kevin Garnett is going to be a role player next year? And those guys are based more on athleticism than Dirk is, you know?”
Cuban’s point: If Dirk’s peers as legendary power forwards of this generation can be All-Stars at 36, as Duncan and Garnett were this season, why can’t Nowitzki?
Duncan and Garnett both returned to the All-Star Game this season, a year after their decade-plus-long streaks of appearances were snapped at least in part due to knee problems that tend to pop up a decade and a half into a heavy-minute NBA career.
Garnett’s production has dipped in recent years, but he’s still a force for a perennial playoff team. Duncan’s numbers are down, too, but that’s primarily because his playing time has decreased. On a per-minute basis, there’s not much difference between Duncan’s production now and in his prime, and his Spurs are still contenders.
The talent and work ethic of players such as Duncan, Garnett, Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Steve Nash gives them a chance to keep playing at a high level deep into their thirties. Advances in fields such as sports medicine, nutrition and strength and conditioning increase their odds to enjoy success as NBA old-timers.
“Just because of the technology, guys can stay healthy longer,” Cuban said. “The science of dieting and health is just completely different than when we let Nash walk nine years ago. I think it’s just a different animal.”
That’s why Cuban is counting on at least a few more years of the same, ol’ Dirk.
|Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the impact Kobe Bryant's injury has on the Mavericks' playoff hopes, how long he expects Bryant to be out and the remainder of the NBA regular season. |
Yes, Nowitzki welcomes the opportunity to hit a game-winning jumper, but he has the utmost confidence in Carter to hit clutch shots.
“Vince has been great, so I can’t even complain about that one,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 92-91 loss to the Spurs. “I didn’t necessarily like the play call with me standing right there in his way, but he’s been clutch ever since he got to us. Made some big shots last year for us and all season this year, he’s probably been our most clutch player. We’ll live with that shot, but like I said, I don’t think he had enough options.”
Coach Rick Carlisle, who didn’t have a timeout to mull over his options after the Spurs took their foul to give with 5.6 seconds remaining, called for Carter to run a pick-and-roll with Brandan Wright at the top of the 3-point arc.
After the Spurs switched, putting power forward Tiago Splitter on Carter, the Mavs’ sixth man created some space and launched a 26-footer that hit the front rim and fell to the floor.
“We were trying to get a clean, open shot or the cleanest shot that we could get,” Carlisle said. “Vince is the one guy we have that can create the best separation. It was either going to be a roll to Wright or Vince taking the shot himself.
“It’s just very difficult in that situation with five seconds to get the ball to Dirk and get him in a position where he can really do something with it. They’re going to be laying all over him. Vince created a good shot. It just didn’t go down.”
Nowitzki’s problem with the play was the poor spacing. He felt like his presence to Carter’s left added clutter, forcing Carter to settle for a long jumper instead of attacking off the dribble.
“Like I said, give the ball to Vince, it’s great,” Nowitzki said. “But there was really no room for him to go. I was standing right there on his left. I probably should have cut out or done something to give him more room to drive. This way, he only had the 3.”
But the only problem Carter had with the play was that his shot didn’t go down.
“It’s five seconds, so it’s tough,” said Carter, whose hot streak was halted with a 10-point, 4-of-12 shooting night. “We didn’t have a timeout, so you just have to make a decision and go on the fly. It was a good look. I didn’t feel like I forced a shot or anything. I just needed that thing to go in.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ fourth loss of the season to the Spurs:
1. Wretched rebounding: The Spurs’ 49-35 rebounding edge was the stat that popped out of the box score to Carlisle. It was especially bad in the first half, when San Antonio outrebounded the Mavs by a 31-14 margin.
“That was the difference in the game,” Carlisle said of the Spurs’ dominance on the glass.
It’s a problem that has plagued the Mavs all season. They rank 28th in the NBA in rebounding differential.
“Honestly, we’re not a great rebounding team,” said Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 11 rebounds. “That’s pretty obvious. We usually have to fight really hard and have five guys in there battling. We’re not the most physical. We’ve got to fight.”
2. Duncan’s dominance: Wasn’t Tim Duncan supposed to be on the decline? The 36-year-old Duncan has disproved that theory all season and was especially dominant Thursday night against the Mavs.
Duncan led the Spurs with 28 points and 19 rebounds, making 12-of-20 shots from the floor. The Mavs had the misfortune of facing Duncan, who didn’t travel with the Spurs for Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota, when he had a few days of rest.
“That’s a Hall of Famer with some rest,” said Elton Brand, who picked up five fouls in 22 minutes trying to defend Duncan. “He got it going. It just wasn’t the block. He ran the floor, faced up, off the dribble. He really hurt us tonight.”
3. Terrific trip: The Mavs didn’t end it the way they wanted, but this could be considered their best road trip of the season.
The Mavs went 3-1 on the trip, beating Detroit, Minnesota and Milwaukee to string together three straight road wins for the first time all season. The Mavs play eight of their next nine games at home and will probably have to keep winning at that clip to have any realistic hope of making the playoffs.
“We had some great wins, great team efforts with everybody contributing,” Nowitzki said. “That’s the only way we’re going to make a run here in the last 18 games or whatever we’ve got left. … We’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders.”
The reality, however, is that Dallas’ 12-year postseason streak is on its deathbed.
Really, there shouldn’t be any shame to that. It was a remarkable run that featured 11 50-win seasons, two Finals appearances and one title. All great things must come to an end.
Granted, the San Antonio Spurs might be an exception to that. They’re about to win 50 games for the 14th consecutive season. The last time the Spurs failed to win at least 50, they celebrated the first of their four NBA titles, parading down the RiverWalk after Tim Duncan’s lockout-shortened sophomore season.
It’s been a hard fall for the Mavs over the past 21 months. They’ve gone from the NBA penthouse, popping a $90,000 champagne bottle in a Miami Beach club while celebrating the franchise’s first title, to the Lone Star State cellar.
And the Mavs have their work cut out for them if they’re going to catch the Rockets, much less the Spurs, anytime soon.
The Spurs' ability to sustain excellence is unparalleled in today’s NBA. That will be tested when Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili call it a career, but it’d be foolish to doubt a franchise with the league’s best coach (Gregg Popovich) working with a brilliant front office.
The Rockets, who have won only one playoff series since two-time champion Hakeem Olajuwon left town, appear poised to soar again soon.
After three frustrating years of being better than .500 but not good enough to make the playoffs, Houston general manager Daryl Morey made a breakthrough move just before this season started. He acquired the bearded face of the franchise, James Harden, in a blockbuster deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 23-year-old Harden, who is averaging 26.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, has proved to be a legitimate superstar after getting out of the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He’s surrounded by a good, young supporting cast that is locked into reasonable contracts (26-year-old center Omer Asik and 24-year-old point guard Jeremy Lin) or rookie deals (small forward Chandler Parsons, power forward Donatas Motiejunas, power forward Thomas Robinson, etc.).
And the Rockets will have the cap space to be major players in free agency again this summer, when they can potentially acquire a co-star for Harden.
Of course, there are no guarantees for Houston, which will have to fight to stay in the playoff picture with the Los Angeles Lakers making a charge. There have been many young teams that looked great on paper that fizzled out, but Houston has an excellent plan and has already executed several steps.
The Mavs, on the other hand, have a plan that has been publicly questioned by its superstar, the lone player on the roster who is a sure bet to still be a Dallas resident in two years. As Dirk Nowitzki has said several times, this is a big summer for the Mavs.
Much work must be done for the Mavs to approach the high standard they established over the past dozen years.
This isn’t a franchise that will be satisfied to fight for eighth place in the West or settle for third place in the state of Texas.
It’s Jordan’s short list of current stars who could be nearly as successful in his era: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan … and Dirk Nowitzki.
Not that any more evidence was necessary to consider Dirk one of the legends in NBA history, but that’s one heck of a reference.
Remember when Dirk was considered soft? It was a silly stereotype for a long time, and that was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt when he put the Mavs on his shoulders for a championship run.
The soft label seems especially ridiculous after reading such respect for Dirk coming from the most ruthless competitor in NBA history.
“I don’t have any doubt,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “There’s no doubt in my mind at all.”
Nowitzki’s streak of 11 consecutive All-Star bids was snapped when the reserve selections were announced this week. That came as no surprise, considering Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He continues to try to work his way back into franchise-player form.
There is evidence from this season’s All-Star rosters that supports Cuban’s firm belief that the 34-year-old Nowitzki can return to that level. Two of Nowitzki’s peers, among the best power forwards in NBA history, are All-Stars again after a one-year absence: Boston’s Kevin Garnett, who returns after his 14-year streak was snapped last season, and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, whose 13-year streak ended last season.
The biggest difference between Nowitzki and those fellow future Hall of Famers is that they’ve made the transition to center and continue to be dominant defenders. Defense, of course, has never been Nowitzki’s strength.
For Nowitzki to be an All-Star again, he’ll need to get back to being one of the league’s most lethal offensive weapons. While Cuban is confident that will happen, Nowitzki just wants to focus on putting in the work to make it a possibility.
“I don’t expect anything,” Nowitzki said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m going to keep on working. I know I felt a lot better out there [Saturday] and especially in the first half than I have probably all month I’ve been back.
“I have no idea. I’m going to keep on working. Get some rest over the All-Star break, mix in some work and hopefully finish this season strong.”
By all indications, that series might be just as brief as last season’s sweep at the hands of the Mavs’ other Interstate 35 neighbors, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Don’t be fooled by Friday night’s final score. This loss was a lot more lopsided than 113-107 indicates.
In fact, it looked a lot like the previous two Dallas-San Antonio meetings this season, except Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich didn’t contribute to the Spurs’ dominance this time.
The Spurs’ lead swelled to as large as 26 points during the third quarter, and it remained in double digits until the Mavs’ 11-0 garbage-time run. So this game fit right in with the pair of punkings the Mavs got from the Spurs in December, when San Antonio led by as many as 46 and 25 points in routs.
“It’s frustrating,” said Mavs forward Shawn Marion, who had a rough night Friday with only two points and four rebounds. “They have our number. It is what it is.”
Added Dirk Nowitzki, who had 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting in 34 minutes: “They beat us three times, pretty handily all three. It’s not like one of them was close. I guess you can say that if you want.”
The Mavs would rather not say it –- and Darren Collison bristled a bit about the subject -– but they haven’t been able to do much about it.
After four days of rest, the Mavs got off to a miserable offensive start, shooting only 36.7 percent in the first half. That, however, was far from their biggest problem.
The Spurs scored with ease, even with Duncan (knee) staying in San Antonio and his All-Star pal Tony Parker missing a chunk of the first half after catching an elbow that opened a cut above his left eye and required three stitches to close.
Parker ended up doing plenty of damage, scoring 23 points and dishing out 10 assists while consistently punishing the Mavs off pick-and-rolls. He took over the third quarter, when he had seven points and six assists while the Spurs lit it up for 35 points.
And Parker had plenty of company. Seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by reserve forward/center DeJuan Blair’s 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 19 minutes. Starting center Tiago Splitter scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
“It’s hard to overcome layup after layup,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “That’s what happened. We weren’t good enough.”
That’s been the case every time the Mavs have seen the Spurs this season.
Tony Parker and San Antonio’s role players took care of business in Dallas while the Spurs’ star big man (knee) and coach (sick) rested.
Parker had 23 points and 10 assists despite missing most of the first quarter after requiring three stitches to close several cuts above his left eye. He was especially dominant during the third quarter, scoring seven points and dishing out six assists while the Spurs’ lead swelled to as large as 26 points.
Reserve forward/center DeJuan Blair scored a season-high 22 points in 19 minutes to lead seven Spurs in double figures. Center Tiago Splitter added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Mavs, sparked by Rodrigue Beaubois’ season-high 19 points, managed to trim San Antonio’s lead to 10 midway through the fourth quarter. The home team didn't get closer until the final minute, when the Mavs went on an 11-0 run to make this game look much more competitive than it really was.
What it means: Four days of rest obviously didn’t do the Mavs much good. Their run of five wins in six games seems like a long time ago after this rout. With the Rockets beating the Hornets, the 18-25 Mavs fell four games back in the battle for the West’s eighth seed. Dallas is 5-17 against opponents who are .500 or better.
Play of the game: After a botched Mavs fast break, the Spurs had a more successful transition possession. Kawhi Leonard hit trailer Boris Diaw, who took a couple of dribbles into the lane, got Dirk Nowitzki to commit to him and delivered a beautiful, behind-the-back feed to Splitter for a reverse layup. The bucket extended the Spurs’ lead to 25 with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Stat of the night: Beaubois had more points in this game than he did during the entire month of December (15).
|Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to talk about the Mavericks' four-day break and Delonte West signing with the Texas Legends. |
The Spurs announced that power forward Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich did not make the trip to Dallas and won't participate in Friday night's game at the American Airlines Center.
The Spurs' release stated that Duncan, an all-time great who is averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season, is dealing with a sore left knee. Popovich is sick.
Nowitzki knows he isn’t putting up anything close to All-Star-caliber numbers, averaging 13.7 points and 5.2 rebounds after missing the first 27 games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. After 11 consecutive All-Star appearances, he fully expects to spend that extended weekend at home.
Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett (13 each) are the only active players who have been invited to more All-Star games.
“It’s obviously a disappointing streak to end, but it is what it is,” Nowitzki said. “I had fun representing the Mavs all these years, but it was a tough year for me with injuries. I guess those four days I’m going to enjoy and get a good amount of work in as well and get recharged for the second half of the season.
Nowitzki’s streak could have ended last season, when he got off to a slow start and admitted that other power forwards in the West were more deserving, but the coaches voted in him in large part due to their immense respect for his career accomplishments. He ended the season averaging 21.6 points per game, so that All-Star appearance doesn’t look inappropriate.
Nowitzki, a 15-year veteran, has actually participated in every All-Star weekend since he arrived in the league. The NBA didn’t have an All-Star weekend in his lockout-shortened rookie season, and he took part in the 3-point shootouts the next two years before his All-Star streak started.
Of course, there’s always a chance Nowitzki could head to Houston for the 3-point shootout next month. Right, Dirk?
“Uhhhh,” he said with a grin, “no.”
After a 111-86 loss to the Spurs -- the Mavericks’ sixth consecutive loss -- Carlisle said he was prepared to use drastic measures to force improvement on what he feels like is an underachieving team.
“The last week, I’ve had to literally scream in the face of two guys in practices and shootarounds to get the point across and I will do that,” Carlisle said. “And I will continue to do that. If I have to start suspending guys for not doing things they’re supposed to be doing on the court, I’ll do it. And Mark [Cuban] and I will get into it about that. But somehow, things have got to change and it can’t just be about that it’s a tough schedule. It just can’t.”
For Carlisle, the Mavericks are a perplexing team. Even though they have nine new players on the roster, Carlisle said their talent is good enough to compete with the better teams in the league.
“I’ve said it repeatedly that I like the roster,” said Carlisle, who rejected all excuses. “We’re over 30 games into the season. We’re not that new. We got to fix it.”
The maddening part of the Mavericks' performance for Carlisle -- and probably for fans, too -- is that the Mavericks have their moments. During a 15-minute period that started midway through the first quarter, the Mavericks outscored the Spurs 35-24.
The problem was that stretch began with the Mavericks trailing 20-6.
“It’s a 48-minute game, so we’ve got to be better early, we’ve got to be better late,” Carlisle said. “I don’t want to get into a dialogue on the parts of the game that were OK. It’s not what this organization has been about since Mark bought the team. This is a stretch that is unprecedented, really. It’s bad. We’ve got to fix it and it starts with me. I’m taking the blame for it.”
Carlisle’s level of irritation was a surprise to Dirk Nowitzki, who played his fourth game since returning from knee surgery.
“That’s a little aggressive,” Nowitzki said. “I never heard anything like that.
“But it starts with the players. We need to compete at all times and I said it numerous times, we’re not as talented as the top teams are. That’s pretty obvious. So we really have to make up for it by playing harder, by scrambling on defense, rebounding and five guys being in there scrambling, boxing out, getting the ball. If we take the ball out of the net every time down we’re going to have trouble.
“I’m not sure if that helps if you’re start suspending people left and right.”
Although Nowitzki was only 3-of-9 from the field with eight points and five rebounds, he said he was making progress physically.
“I felt 10 times better even though I had nothing to show for it,” he said, “but just the way I was moving. Today I had a lot more pep in my step. I was really moving even though my shot wasn’t really going, but I felt I had more spring in my lift. So that’s a good thing.”
The Spurs scored the first two points of the game and never trailed. Even when the Mavericks made runs, the Spurs never flinched. They moved the ball crisply and had numerous open shots -- and they hit most of them. They shot 50.6 percent from the field for the night.
They were led by their big three. Tony Parker had 21 points, Manu Ginobili had 20 and Tim Duncan had 18 and added 10 rebounds.
Darren Collison had 18 points to lead Dallas while Elton Brand chipped in 14.
Again, the Mavericks had good moments. But a good play here and there was not enough for Carlisle, who undoubtedly is not pleased with the Mavericks’ 5-10 month of December. That is the worst month in the Cuban era -- the worst since they were 4-10 in December 1999.
“Right now, you’d have to question everything,” Carlisle said. “I’ll just leave it at that. And again, I’m still going to stay on record saying I believe in the group. But we’ve all got to do better. And it starts with me.”
How it happened: The Mavericks were certainly far more competitive than they were Dec. 23 in San Antonio, where they trailed by as many as 46 before losing by 38. At times, their offense was crisp. They battled the Spurs evenly on the boards. They answered Spurs runs with bursts of their own. They managed to stay in the game much of the time in the first three quarters.
But ultimately, the Spurs have simply played together for too long and have too many good players who are experienced at playing with each other and they coasted to a 111-86 victory.
In his fourth game back after missing the first 27 games, Dirk Nowitzki had eight points while shooting 3-of-9 from the field. He as made 11-of-34 shots (32 percent) since his return, while averaging 7.5 points a game.
Realistically, however, Nowitzki is still in training camp mode and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle warned before the game that judging Nowitzki on a daily basis is a futile exercise. Nowitzki needs at least two more weeks and probably even more than that before he can be close to what he’s been during his career.
The Spurs were led by the big three. Tony Parker had 21 points, Manu Ginobili had 20 and Tim Duncan had 18. Dallas was led by Darren Collison, who was 9-of-13 from the field with 18 points.
What it means: The Mavericks have lost six consecutive games for only the third time in the Mark Cuban era. They leave Monday afternoon for a two-game road trip to Washington and Miami.
Play of the game: The Mavericks trailed 20-6 less than six minutes into the game, but with Elton Brand scoring 10 points and leading the offense, the Mavericks steadily came back. With a little more than three minutes left in the first half, they were within three points, but the Spurs responded with a 13-4 run to close out the half. The final two of those points came on a Ginobili 19-foot jumper with .9 seconds left and punctured any momentum the Mavericks might have had starting the second half.
Stat of the night: Brand had 14 points while making 7-of-11 shots from the field. It was the sixth time in the last nine games Brand had made 50 percent or more of his shots from the field. In his first 15 games, he accomplished that only three times.
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
Perhaps no team was lavished upon more last season than the Spurs for their ability to retool on the fly, adjust their on-court philosophy and still manage to remain a top contender. For the second consecutive season, the Spurs owned the West's best regular-season record and extended their string of 50-win seasons to 13 in a row despite the 66-game schedule. They swept the Jazz and Clippers and had a 2-0 lead in the West finals, appearing to be on their way for a shot at a fifth title in the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich era. But then the Oklahoma City Thunder rose up to win four in a row. Back to a normal 82-game season, Popovich will no doubt pace his team as he has as the Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili get older. The Spurs should again hit the 50-win mark, but last season's dominance seems unrealistic. Still, each new season seems to be the last of this group's window of opportunity, only until it's not. Here we go again.
@Spurs 93, Mavs 71
@Mavs 101, Spurs 100 (OT)
@Mavs 106, Spurs 99
@Spurs 104, Mavs 87
This season's games
Dec. 23: @ Spurs
Dec. 30: vs. Spurs
Jan. 25: vs. Spurs
March 14: @ Spurs
Much more with the Mavs than the Spurs, who bring back the Big Three for an 11th consecutive season after Tim Duncan re-upped for three more years. The supporting cast remains the same after the midseason maneuverings that brought back former Spur Stephen Jackson and added Parker's French buddy Boris Diaw. Another Frenchman, 25-year-old Nando Colo, a 6-foot-5 guard who played on the French Olympic team in London, joins the Spurs this season. He's another one of those late international picks San Antonio specializes in, taken 53rd overall in 2009. With the Big Three another year older, including Ginobili having turned 35 in July, the Spurs will rely on the continued improvement of guards Gary Neal and Danny Green and forwards Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, last season's rookie sensation in South Texas.
How the Mavs match up
The first thing that comes to mind is that Duncan will have to expend energy on defense like never before against the Mavs. San Antonio typically has gotten away with Duncan defending the Mavs' center, who, from Erick Dampier to DeSagana Diop to Brendan Haywood to Tyson Chandler and back to Haywood, has not been an offensive threat. So someone other than Duncan has mostly had the privilege of guarding Dirk Nowitzki. This season if, say, Diaw, draws Dirk, Duncan won't have the luxury of only casually defending the Mavs' center. He will now face Chris Kaman, a legitimate back-to-the-basket threat and the most offensively skilled of the Mavs' long list of 7-foot centers. From a Mavs defensive standpoint, new point guard Darren Collison brings needed speed to combat Parker's penetrations and shooting guard O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones will be better equipped to help defend Ginobili than the options -- mainly Shawn Marion -- the Mavs had last season.
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
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.