Dallas Mavericks: Tim Thomas
The Mavs swung and missed on a couple of free agents. Udonis Haslem took less money to stay in Miami as part of the SuperFriends’ supporting cast. Al Harrington opted to go for Denver for the same money and a bigger role. It appeared that the Mavs plugged the hole by re-signing Tim Thomas, but that didn’t work out due to his wife’s illness.
Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak, a couple of power forwards with NBA experience, are fighting for a roster spot. There’s talk of 7-footer Tyson Chandler seeing some spot duty at power forward against big teams.
But the reality of the situation is that the Mavs need Shawn Marion to get significant playing time at power forward. And that’s fine by the 6-foot-7 Marion, who had some of his best years as a power forward for the run-and-gun Suns.
“It’s cool actually,” Marion said. “Honestly, the 4 gets all the baskets and gets all the shots. So I’ll get in there real quick. Give me some shots, baby! Why not? I’ll take it.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said he loves the idea of using the 32-year-old Marion, who might be losing his starting job at small forward, as a power forward.
“He’s going to have a quickness advantage almost all of the time,” Carlisle said. “He’s a movement maker. He just makes things happen on the court. For years, people have been trying to label him as some particular type of player. He’s just a basketball player. It’s very difficult to say he’s this position or that position. His position is on the court.”
But Marion didn’t play much power forward in his first season with the Mavs. According to 82games.com, Marion played only 16 percent of available minutes at power forward, which is a little less than eight minutes per game. A lot of those minutes came in smallball lineups with Nowitzki at center.
The goal is to cut Nowitzki’s minutes to the 35-36 range each game. Marion believes he’s more than capable of providing a dozen quality minutes per night as a power forward.
It's a good bet that the Mavs will keep the flexibility and leave those spots open. The reality is the 6-foot-10 Thomas was a nice insurance policy, maybe a spot player here and there that could drain a 3-pointer, but he was never going to crack the top nine currently on the roster.
It is true that with no Thomas, the Mavs are down to one true power forward in Dirk Nowitzki. They'll rely on 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler and 6-foot-7 small forward Shawn Marion to man the 4 when Dirk's out.
Marion played some 4 last season when the Mavs rolled with a small lineup and the Mavs feel Chandler is versatile enough to get the job done.
The Mavs tried to bolster the power-forward position in free agency, but Udonis Haslem chose to take less money to stay with the Miami Heat (and why not?) and Al Harrington took more years and more playing time with the Denver Nuggets.
Thomas and the Mavs agreed to a deal last week that will pay him the veteran minimum of $1.35 million for the 2010-11 season.
The 6-foot-10 forward played 18 games for the Mavs last season before leaving to care for his ailing wife. Entering his 14th NBA season, Thomas has career averages of 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. He will provide the Mavs depth behind Dirk Nowitzki.
While it was expected Thomas would sign the contract for the veteran's minimum of $1.35 million this week, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Friday not to read anything into the delay. "Normal stuff. Tests coming back/weekend," Nelson wrote in a text message.
The 6-foot-10 Thomas played just 18 games for the Mavs last season before leaving the team to care for his ailing wife. While he has not disclosed her illness, Thomas is ready to return to the league. He will provide depth at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki.
Thomas, 33, played just 18 games with the Mavs last season before leaving the team to be with his ailing wife. He never disclosed his wife's illness, but she is apparently doing well enough for Thomas to return to the league. Both sides handled last season's situation in good faith and want to continue the relationship. ESPN.com's Marc Stein first reported in late July that Thomas and the Mavs were working on a deal.
"If all goes well, we'll reach an agreement," Myers said Monday.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Thomas provides an immediate need for Dallas, which has no true power forward on the roster behind Dirk Nowitzki.
Thomas has career averages of 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13 NBA seasons. He is a career 36.9-percent shooter from 3-point range. Myers said Thomas is not talking with any other teams.
If the Mavs and Thomas reach a deal, Dallas' roster will hit 14, leaving one spot available.
A knee injury and a family illness kept Thomas from making much of an impact last season, his first in Dallas. The veteran played only 18 games before leaving the team to care for his family during his wife's illness.
The Mavs have a couple of open roster spots and lack depth at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki, so the 33-year-old Thomas could be a good fit.
You can read Stein's story here.
Once again, owner Mark Cuban opened his wallet in making moves that he believed would help the franchise get back into the thick of Western Conference contention. Dallas finally traded Josh Howard to Washington and in return received scorer Caron Butler, an agile big man with good hands in Brendan Haywood and an extra defender in DeShawn Stevenson. With the addition of Shawn Marion in the offseason, even the pundits couldn't help but notice the size, strength and toughness of this revameped roster.
Through some wild swings throughout the 82-game regular season, it was the Mavs who outlasted Utah, Denver and Phoenix for the No. 2 seed, and after a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers during a 13-game win streak following the blockbuster trade, the Mavs themselves were buying into the hype -- and the growing expectations.
Nowitzki, who had another outstanding regular season, avergaging 25.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, said this team had more talent than any he played on in his dozen seasons in Dallas. Jason Kidd, who had played in two NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets, said this was one of the best teams he's played on.
Yet, somehow, it all came crashing down in a familiar postseason letdown.
The Spurs, led by the Big Three plus the emergence of George Hill and revolving role players, made big shot after big shot and defensively suffocated Kidd, who struggled to get the Mavs on the run. With a stagnant halfcourt offense, Dallas failed to score more than 90 points in four of the six games, leaving more questions than answers about the club moving forward.
No one, not in this season, expected the Mavs to be licking their wounds again before the calendar turned to May.
Coach: Rick Carlisle
Record: 55-27 (1st in Southwest)
Playoffs: Lost to San Antonio (4-2)
Team payroll: $88.9 million*
Highest-paid player: Dirk Nowitzki ($19.8 million)*
Offseason transactions: Traded 21st overall draft pick C B.J. Mullens to Oklahoma City for 24th draft pick G Rodrigue Beaubois and a future second-round pick; in four team deal, traded F/G Devean George and G Antoine Wright to Toronto, and G/F Jerry Stackhouse plus a future second-round pick to Memphis for F Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries and Nathan Jawai (from Toronto), plus Greg Buckner (from Memphis, later released); signed G Quinton Ross (free agent); signed F Drew Gooden (free agent); signed F Tim Thomas (free agent); signed F Kris Humphries (free agent);
In-season transaction: Jan. 11, 2010: Traded Kris Humprhies and Shawne Williams to New Jersey for Eduardo Najera; Feb. 13, 2010: Traded Josh Howard, Quinton Ross, James Singleton and Drew Gooden to Washington for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.
The low: San Antonio 4, Dallas 2. Sure, the Spurs were not your typical No. 7 seed, but so what? The Mavs lost the home-court advantage by losing in Game 2 and then dropped two in a row at San Antonio to go down 3-1. The Mavs melted down in the third quarter of Game 4 and then in the do-or-die Game 6 they opened the first quarter with eight points. Despite taking the lead briefly in the third quarter, Dallas suffered its third first-round defeat of the last four seasons. This one particularly stung because of the big trade that had Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd calling this club one of the best either had ever played on.
F Dirk Nowitzki (25.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 48.1% FG)
G Jason Terry (16.6 ppg, 43.8% FG)
G/F Caron Butler (15.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 44.0% FG in 27 games)
G/F Josh Howard (12.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg in 31 games)
F Shawn Marion (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 50.8% FG)
G Jason Kidd (10.3 ppg, 9.1 apg, 5.6 rpg)
F Drew Gooden (8.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg in 46 games)
C Brendan Haywood (8.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg in 28 games)
G J.J. Barea (7.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 19.8 mpg)
F Tim Thomas (7.5 ppg in 18 games)
G Rodrigue Beaubois (7.1 ppg, 51.8% FG in 56 games)
C Erick Dampier (6.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
F Kris Humprhies (5.2 ppg in 25 games)
F Eduardo Najera (3.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 33 games)
F James Singleton (2.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg in 25 games)
G Quinton Ross (2.0 ppg in 27 games)
G DeShawn Stevenson (2.0 ppg in 24 games)
G Matt Carroll (1.8 ppg in 25 games)
As usual, coach Rick Carlisle kept coy with his plans for Dampier's replacement in the starting lineup. Eduardo Najera started last week against Golden State when the Mavs went with a smallball lineup. Najera had no points and one rebound in 13 minutes that night, but he did provide energy and drew three charges.
With Tim Thomas out indefinitely due to a serious family matter, Carlisle's other realistic option is to start Bay Area native Drew Gooden. The problem with that is that the Dallas second unit desperately needs Gooden's scoring punch.
UPDATE: Najera is indeed getting the starting nod again.
The left knee effusion continues to bother Dampier, who sat out Sunday's rout of the Knicks and limped through 35 minutes during Tuesday's win over the Bucks.
Dampier's availability is kind of an all-or-nothing deal. When he suits up, coach Rick Carlisle doesn't want Dampier on the bench for extended stretches.
"Part of the issue is if you pull him out and sit him for a long time, then it stiffens up," Carlisle said.
It might be in the best interests of the Mavs and the big man if Dampier takes Thursday night off.
Dampier doesn't match up well with the Suns, especially when he's hobbled. Asking him to defend Amare Stoudemire doesn't seem fair. Putting him on perimeter-shooting center Channing Frye takes Dampier out of his defensive comfort zone.
Drew Gooden is much better suited to match up with the Suns than Dampier. Tim Thomas is more than capable of serving as a reserve center. Let Dampier rest his sore left knee for another night.
"It's only Monday," Carlisle said. "We don't take anything for granted with health, but he did practice today and did well. We'll see what's what tomorrow and then on Wednesday."
The Mavs are coming off the 131-96 beat down at L.A. eight days ago and are 2-2 since that game. Improving Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant are in town Friday before the Mavs take off on a five-game Eastern Conference road trip.
The Mavs will get hard-working forward Drew Gooden back to go against the Lakers' big front court, which could include Pau Gasol returning to the lineup. Gooden took a beating Friday night in San Antonio, first dislocating his right ring finger and then he required stitches after splitting open his chin. He missed the Utah loss, but on Monday said he's fine and will play against L.A.
"It's incredible," he said after Monday's practice, showing off his stitches and a nearly straight ring finger.
However, forward Tim Thomas could now be a question mark. He said he stepped on Gooden's foot during Monday's practice. He was relegated to a trainer's table with his right foot elevated and his foot and ankle wrapped in ice. Thomas said he thinks he tweaked his Achilles, causing pain to shoot up his calf. He'll be re-evaluated and at least has another day to recover before the Lakers game.
"Hopefully, he'll be OK," Carlisle said.
And finally, Eduardo Najera is officially a Maverick again (on the condition he passes a physical. He is expected in Dallas later today. Najera, known as a scrappy hustler throughout his career and a fan favorite during his days in Dallas, has been dinged this season and has played in just 13 games. The Mavs traded forward Kris Humphries and exiled forward Shawne Williams to New Jersey for Najera in what was primarily a money move.
"We obviously think he can help our team," Carlisle said. "His health situation is he's had some injury things go on this year. But, my understanding is that he's been doing better, so we'll see. He's going to be who he is. I've never coached him, but my perception is he plays one way and that's full-speed ahead. Guys like that, you always want to have as many as you can on your team."
The telling quote that’s been making the rounds the last few days is Dirk’s Portland post-game questioning of what seems to be going wrong with a team that is 20-9.
"It just feels like, at home, I've got to make every shot down the stretch to win," he said.
Trying to find the reason behind that seemingly accurate assertion is the equivalent to the proverbial “needle-in-a-haystack.”
There have been numerous games this season where it was Dirk or nada down the stretch, the best example being his 29-point fourth quarter to salvage a home disaster against the Jazz. But how does that explain the way the Mavericks performed against Cleveland without Dirk versus what they rolled out against the overly depleted Trail Blazers in the next game with him?
The Mavericks had big offensive troubles last season due to a lack of scorers. As Josh Howard stayed hurt for most of the season, the Mavericks fortunes were for the most part tied to the offensive brilliance of Dirk and Jason Terry.
This season was to be different. They’ve added new components who can stick the ball in the basket in Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas. They’re also way more active defensively which leads to easier offensive opportunities and puts less stress on your half-court offense.
But all of that only comes into play when you get Dirk and JET doing what they do offensively. The early season ups-and-downs could be tied to injuries. Their recent issues probably have more to do with Terry’s inexplicable shooting woes.
Since the Mavs rolled the Nets on December 2, JET has been mired in a horrific slump. In the last ten games, Terry has only hit over 50 percent of his shots in one game and, ironically, it was the Cleveland game that Dirk missed. During this stretch JET has hit one out of every three shots he’s thrown up. Thrown up, indeed.
This isn’t to suggest that the recent problems are JET’s fault. Not even close. This is to suggest that JET is most likely the solution to their problems. The defense is there. The depth is there. The record is there. Once Terry's magic touch returns, the Mavs will have a solid defensive team with two clutch threats who open it up for everybody else.
At the moment it’s a one-trick pony. And until that changes, that’s where it’s at.
How unexpected was it statistically speaking?
The Mavericks, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, hadn’t won a game against a team 10 games over .500 without Nowitzki since April 2002. They lost five such games in the interim before stunning the Cavs, 102-95, with what was easily Dallas’ most focused and impressive performance at home all season.
So what happens next?
Dirk being Dirk, I’d fully expect him to try to play Tuesday night against Portland. But the smarter option might be resting Nowitzki for one more game, which does two things:
1. It’ll allow Nowitzki to have a full week off before making his comeback in Saturday’s matinee against Memphis on the day after Christmas. He’ll hate sitting out that long, but it’s probably the best thing for an elbow that is still way too sore to allow him to shoot the ball properly or absorb any sort of significant contact.
2. It’ll give Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and Sunday hero Tim Thomas one more game to inherit all of Dirk’s shots and touches and build on what they did to the Cavs. Thomas got most of the attention with 22 points and seven boards starting in Nowitzki’s place, but Gooden’s 10-point first half and 12 points, eight boards and two blocks overall will be recorded as his first double-figure scoring game all month after five double-doubles in November.
Tim Thomas hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds to go in regulation.
It's a tough one to lose for the Mavs after such a strong comeback, but with Dirk Nowitzki out for nearly all of the final three quarters and overtime with a laceration on his right elbow that required three stitches, the Mavs didn't get the buckets in OT.
Nowitzki's status for Sunday's home game against Cleveland is uncertain. Results from X-rays are also not known.
The Mavs lost for the fourth time on their home floor. This one had just about everything, including multiple technical fouls -- two on Erick Dampier with the second getting him automatically ejected with 1:01 left in OT -- and an altercation between Jason Kidd and Rockets forward David Anderson in the fourth quarter that got players from both teams in each other's grills.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle picked up his second technical with 27.7 seconds left in OT, sending him to the showers.
J.J. Barea led the Mavs with 23 points, but he had 21 near the mid-point of the third quarter and didn't get much playing time down the stretch in the fourth quarter and no time in overtime. Shawn Marion and Josh Howard each scored 17 points. Jason Terry had an awful start and finished with 14 points. Thomas had 10 points.
Kyle Lowry led the Rockets with a career-high 26 points and Brooks had 25 with nine of the Rockets' 16 points in overtime.
I thought Rick Carlisle had an interesting take in the postgame presser with the assessment that this team is surviving. Perhaps that’s exactly what they are – survivors.
Let’s face it – a lot of these wins have by no means been pretty, but they are wins. For all the complaining and hand wringing over not putting opponents away early and snuffing the fight out of 'em, the Mavs are still sitting at a pretty salty 13-5 mark.
That record will play.
Fans, players, especially coaches – nobody likes excuses. But the Mavericks find themselves in the odd position of defending their wins. If you lose a game and talk about the injuries you’re enduring, you get beat up for dropping a lame excuse. But are injuries a good excuse for not winning in a convincing fashion?
Case in point – the Mavericks went into the fourth quarter against the 76ers up 78-72 but were already at an 11-board deficit with 12 minutes to go. So what does Carlisle decide to do for the majority of the fourth quarter? Roll with a three-guard lineup and fall back into a 2-3 zone against a big Philly lineup that amplified the mauling of the Mavs on the glass to the tune of 18-6 in the final frame.
Is that the ideal scenario the Mavericks front office and coaching staff envisioned heading into the season? Of course not.
But that dream scenario wasn’t available with Josh Howard and Quinton Ross in street clothes, Shawn Marion hobbled with a bum ankle that stiffens up on him, Tim Thomas several hours removed from a trip to the chiropractor and Erick Dampier available for limited minutes on his first night back after missing the past two weeks.
So the Mavs went small – very small - and survived. Carlisle wanted the play-making ability that Barea provides, and JJ rewarded him eight eight points, two assists and a little vintage old-school styled moxie in the fourth. And it got the job done.
Was it pretty? No.
Did they survive? Yes.
So we wait to see the eventual identity of a team that, once healthy, will be versatile, long, athletic, deep, seasoned and aggressive. For now, we’ll have to settle for a band of survivors grinding their way to 13-5 and first place in their division.
But Tim Thomas certainly finished strong. Literally.
Thomas threw down a nasty putback slam in Rockets stopper Shane Battier’s face on the Mavs’ final possession of the quarter. That extended the Dallas lead to 91-77.
The refs gave Thomas a weak technical foul for a stare-down after the slam, but Houston missed the freebie, so no harm.
Thomas and Jason Terry have 17 points apiece off the pine. It’d take an epic collapse by the Mavs – kinda like the one last night against the Warriors – to blow this game.
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.