Dallas Mavericks: Boston Celtics
Mavs fans don’t want to hear about risk-reward ratio or financial flexibility. Not right now. Probably not ever.
Folks who pay for tickets don’t want to be reminded that, at the time Mark Cuban opted to offer only one-year deals to Tyson Chandler and free-agent other championship pieces, the Mavs had reason to believe that Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would all be on the market last summer and looking to move.
Fans don’t care how much the circumstances changed with Paul getting traded from the franchise formerly known as the Hornets to the Clippers, Howard opting to return to Orlando before forcing his way to L.A. and the Nets making splashy moves to convince Williams how much better life would be in Brooklyn.
The NBA is a bottom-line business. The bottom line is that Cuban’s grand plan, as smart as the risk may have been, can fairly be judged as a failure now that all the big fish are gone.
Not that Cuban, fresh off losing a recruiting battle to the I-45 rival Rockets, is willing to concede that point.
“We haven't played a game yet,” Cuban replied to ESPNDallas.com via email. “Look back at the big deal that won last summer and ask how it’s working for everyone now.”
Yep, that’s an indirect shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the summer of 2012 by pulling off a four-way blockbuster deal that brought Howard to Hollywood to follow in the footsteps of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal.
Never mind winning multiple championships. Howard didn’t even win a single playoff game while wearing purple and gold.
The deal didn’t exactly work out well for the Denver Nuggets or Philadelphia 76ers, either. Andre Iguodala was one-and-done in Denver before going to the Golden State Warriors in free agency. Bynum’s destination is to be determined -- and Dallas is a possibility -- but he definitely isn’t returning to Philly after being a $17 million spectator last season. The Orlando Magic stand as the big winner in that deal -- yet had the NBA’s worst record (20-62).
Oh, and it’s hard to laugh too heartily at the Lakers for their Dwightmare hours after he turned you down to head to Houston.
This is without question the most heartbreaking July day in Dallas basketball history. This is worse than D-Will’s decision, simply because a healthy Howard is on a different tier of superstardom. And it’s a lot worse than The Decision, because the Mavs weren’t even one of the handful of teams to get a sit-down meeting with LeBron James.
Yeah, there was a lot of pre-free agency discussion around these parts about convincing King James to join Dirk and using Erick Dampier’s instantly expiring contract in a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. But that hope never got past the point of pure speculation.
Plus, the Mavs ended up with a pretty darn good consolation prize, although nobody knew at the time that the injury-prone big man who arrived in Dallas as a Charlotte salary dump would be the final piece to a championship puzzle.
It now pains Mavs fans that the big man didn’t stay more than one season, that Chandler never got a chance to defend a championship in Dallas.
We'll spare you the talk about how the new CBA and an aging roster forced Cuban’s hands. You don’t want to hear it.
You don’t want to hear about how hard it was going to be for the Mavs to keep contending with that core. You don’t care that Jason Kidd is now Williams’ head coach in Brooklyn or that Jason Terry was dealt to the Nets as a salary-dump throw-in with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
But Boston pulled that trigger on that blockbuster deal because the Celtics had become what Cuban feared the Mavs would be: an old team with a bloated payroll and no real chance to contend or opportunity to upgrade the roster.
Cuban has vowed to never let the Mavs get stuck in NBA purgatory, a place he calls the “mediocrity treadmill.”
Well, how else to describe the Mavs’ place in the basketball world at the moment? The painful past two years have confirmed that Dirk Nowitzki is no longer capable of being the lone star on a contender. Their last playoff win was Game 6 in Miami more than two years ago. They’re coming off a 41-41 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years.
The Mavs have a lot of money to spend but no great options to give it to. They have a lot of potential trade targets but no great assets to give up.
The Mavs, and Cuban in particular, have a PR mess. The only way to clean it up is with basketball success.
It’s going to take a brilliant plan for that to happen. And a bunch of breaks. Even a great plan isn’t guaranteed to work, as the Mavs know all too well.
The issue: What assets do the Mavs have that would be intriguing to a rebuilding Celtics team?
|Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas. |
If the conversations pick up, can the Mavs make an offer that would be better than what Boston could get elsewhere? Remember, Dallas can’t trade future first-round picks because it owes a protected pick to Oklahoma City (via the Lakers and Rockets, originally from the Lamar Odom trade).
Boston reportedly likes Dallas first-round pick Shane Larkin, but the former Miami point guard isn’t going to be a centerpiece to a blockbuster deal. If the Celtics decide to go the direction of a total teardown -- and give themselves a good chance to land phenom Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick next summer -- the Mavs might be able to intrigue Boston with an offer that dumps a lot of salary on Dallas.
Some contracts the Celtics probably would want to part with: former Mavs forward Brandon Bass (two years, $13.35 million remaining), shooting guard Courtney Lee (three years, $16.35 million remaining) and soon-to-be-officially-acquired-from-Brooklyn forward Gerald Wallace (three years, $30.32 million remaining).
It would be miraculous for the Mavs to be able to carve out the cap space needed to successfully recruit Dwight Howard and swing a blockbuster deal to get Rondo.
If the Mavs managed both, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson would deserve to share the executive of the year award. Pull off one or the other, and it’d still be a heck of a summer.
Tyson Chandler: This looked like the Chandler who played such a critical role in the Mavs’ title run. This was the Chandler the Knicks envisioned when they signed him to a rich four-year deal.
Chandler came up with nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a handful of clutch plays that didn’t necessarily show up in the box score to help the Knicks close out the Celtics for their first playoff series win since 2000.
“I felt 100 percent tonight,” Chandler told reporters. “It’s absolutely the best I’ve felt the entire playoffs, obviously coming off the neck injury. Tonight was the first time I came in the game feeling 100 percent and being able to go through my regular routine.”
Jason Kidd: Kidd’s scoreless drought reached four consecutive games. He averaged only 1.8 points per game in the series and hasn’t scored since hitting a 3-pointer during the first quarter of Game 2.
At this point, Kidd is the Knicks’ third point guard behind Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks were outscored by nine in Kidd’s 16 Game 6 minutes, with him contributing three rebounds, one steal, one assist and three turnovers.
Jason Terry: JET at least went out with his pride intact.
Terry got off to a slow start in his first playoff series with the Celtics – including a scoreless Game 1 – but he finished strong. He scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes in Game 6. In three elimination games, Terry averaged 16.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting.
However, Terry and the Celtics weren’t able to pull off a historic comeback. Not from an 0-3 series deficit or from a 26-point hole in Game 6, but they gave the Knicks a serious scare in both cases.
“That’s what the definition of a true Celtic is. Never say never, never say die. I’m proud to wear this uniform.”
Caron Butler: Butler scored 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting in the Clippers’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Grizzlies.
Butler had a pretty disappointing series, averaging 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and failing to dish out a single assist in six games.
Ian Mahinmi: Mahinmi had no points on 0-of-3 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks in 10 minutes off the bench as the Pacers closed out the Hawks.
DeShawn Stevenson: He was DNP-CD’d as the Hawks’ season ended. Stevenson played a total of 61 seconds in the final four games of the series.
|ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to touch on the storylines in the NBA playoffs and offer a Mavs perspective. |
Terry followed up his Game 4 overtime heroics with a 17-point, four-rebound, three-assist, no-turnover, multi-wing performance in the Celtics’ win over the Knicks that forced the series back to Boston. Terry’s 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range was critical to the Celtics building a double-digit lead that was too large for the Knicks to overcome.
"I'm a 14-year veteran," Terry said on TNT moments after the win. "If you don't know who I am by now, you will after this series."
That was apparently in response to Knicks sixth man J.R. Smith, who was suspended for Game 4 because of an elbow that connected with Terry’s head and stunk it up in Game 5, claiming that he didn’t know who Terry was.
Of course, JET has always been one of the league’s best at jawing. Case in point: He repeatedly referenced the Red Sox’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series, quoting “the great Kevin Millar” about the pressure shifting with a Game 5 win.
Jason Kidd: Mouthy sixth man Smith’s miserable performance got a lot of attention, but Kidd didn’t exactly bring much off the bench, either.
In fact, this ranked among the worst playoff performances of Kidd’s Hall of Fame career.
The 40-year-old went scoreless in 21 minutes, missing all four shot attempts. His only other stats: two rebounds, one block, one turnover and one foul. No assists. His plus-minus was a team-worst minus-14.
Tyson Chandler: Having chipped off rust and worked his way back into shape after a neck injury caused him to miss 16 of 20 games entering the playoffs, Chandler came up with a typical Chandler outing.
The big man had eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, 11 rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes. The Knicks were plus-8 with the 7-footer on the floor.
"I felt great," he said. "This game is probably the best I've felt. I felt lively, my legs felt good."
DeShawn Stevenson: Stevenson played a grand total of 16 seconds in the Hawks’ tie-breaking Game 5 loss to the Pacers. He did manage to get up a shot that he missed.
Ian Mahinmi: Mahinmi played only 9:27 in the Pacers’ win. He probably would have seen more minutes if he didn’t pick up five fouls. He finished with two points, two rebounds and a block.
Jason Terry: We’ll just use an excerpt from ESPNBoston.com colleague Chris Forsberg’s column to sum up the vintage JET performance in his first playoff win since the title-clincher in Miami.
With the Celtics on the brink of being unceremoniously swept from the playoffs, Terry delivered a rarity this season: One of his familiar big-game efforts, scoring nine points in overtime as Boston held off New York 97-90 in Game 4 of the teams' first-round playoff series on Sunday at TD Garden.Tyson Chandler: Chandler scored five points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked one shot in 31 minutes. The Knicks were outscored by six with him on the floor.
The Knicks own a 3-1 series lead as the only things they put away Sunday were their brooms. Game 5 is Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I had every intention of trying to make an impact on the game, some way or another," said the 35-year-old Terry, who scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four assists over 41 minutes. One game after shuffling to a starting role to help with ballhandling, Terry returned to a bench spot and provided a much-needed spark, accounting for all but four points of Boston's reserve production.
"If I wasn't making shots, I wanted to get a steal, get a rebound, any little thing to keep it going," Terry said. "Again, I'm going to coach AAU, but I don't want to do that right now."
The quintessential Terry postseason performance was highlighted by the quintessential Terry shot. Sneaking out in transition in a tied game late in overtime, Terry found space as three Knicks defenders shaded toward Paul Pierce on the opposite wing. Jeff Green fed Terry, who pulled up in transition on the left side and splashed a 3-pointer -- his lone triple of the game -- before Jason Kidd could get out to contest.
The trifecta broke the game's final tie and Terry added a 13-foot fadeaway, two free throws (after craftily drawing a loose-ball foul call boxing out for a defensive rebound) and a layup before the final horn.
Terry's struggles this season have been well-documented. Celtics coach Doc Rivers had made Terry his first phone call when free agency opened in July and there was hope that the former Sixth Man of the Year would provide a long-missing bench spark for Boston, particularly after Ray Allen defected to the rival Heat.
But Terry, playing the first season of a three-year, $15.7 million contract, slumped throughout the regular season and straight into the playoffs. At times his defense eroded to the point that, unable to convert on the offensive end, he was a liability on the floor. He admits his trademark soaring jet celebration has been stuck in the hangar for much of the season.
Despite taxiing for much of the season, Terry picked a heck of a time to get off the tarmac.
"I've just been patient," he said. "As long as there's time on the clock, as long as there is another game, it's an opportunity for me to do something special. That's just the type of player I am. Whether I've made every shot or missed every shot, I have the same focus, the same confidence."
Jason Kidd: Kidd was scoreless in 37 minutes during the Knicks’ overtime loss, going 0-for-3 from the floor. He grabbed nine rebounds, dished out two assists and committed two turnovers.
Corey Brewer: Brewer had 14 points on 3-of-9 shooting with one rebound and one steal in 29 minutes as his Nuggets were pushed to the brink of elimination by the Warriors.
Jason Kidd: This was classic late-career Kidd. He didn’t post a spectacular line (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals in 35 minutes), but he was a significant force during closing time in the Knicks’ win over Boston.
All three of his steals came in the final five minutes. On the first steal, the 40-year-old Kidd deflected a pass and outhustled 26-year-old Jeff Green by diving for a loose ball to spark a fast break. With 2:20 remaining and New York up five, Kidd diagnosed a play that’s a Celtics staple and helped from the weak side to strip Green under the basket. Kidd’s strip of Kevin Garnett on a mismatched post-up in the final minute essentially sealed the win.
“He beats everyone with his brain,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at his postgame press conference. “If you think quicker than a guy can move, you’re still quicker. That’s why he’s there first, because he thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He’s just a valuable player to have on a basketball team.”
Tyson Chandler: The fiery big man was a nonfactor in Game 1 against the Celtics after missing 16 of the Knicks’ final 20 regular-season games due to a neck injury. He had five rebounds and one steal in 20 scoreless minutes, and the Knicks opted to play Kenyon Martin at center instead of Chandler in crunch time.
"I knew I would be rusty. I knew I would be a little winded. I knew at some point my legs would get the best of me," Chandler said, according to ESPNNewYork.com. "I just wanted to be out there with my team."
Chandler said his neck didn’t bother him. He acknowledged that conditioning was a factor.
“I should obviously be much better in Game 2,” he said.
Jason Terry: For the first time in his career, Terry failed to score a point in a playoff game.
JET was 0-of-5 from the floor in 20 minutes. His only contributions to the Celtics were three rebounds and one steal. Meanwhile, Boston’s bench was outscored by a 33-4 margin.
"You don't get too high or down too low," Terry said, according to ESPNBoston.com. "It's a long series. If I bet on myself, I know how this is going to end up. I'm going to keep grinding, do the things necessary to win."
Corey Brewer: Brewer scored 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes during Denver’s Game 1 win over the Warriors. He didn’t have any rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.
Caron Butler: Butler, who was sidelined by a serious knee injury during the Mavs’ title run, had a terrific Game 1 to help the Clippers blow out the Grizzlies. Butler scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and had a block and a steal in 24 minutes.
Of course, that subject has been in the spotlight a lot recently, with Jet's declaration that he's not impressed by the Heat's historic win streak and his co-starring role on LeBron James' new poster.
"[It's] not even LeBron personally. It's just the Miami Heat. Is it the red and black? Maybe. I hate that color," Terry told Boston radio station WEEI on Friday. "I just don't like them. Let me tell you like this: It goes back to [the 2006 Finals]. And it doesn't matter who's in those Miami Heat uniforms. Let's just be real: You're up 2-0 and they come back and win four straight games and you lose the NBA Finals. So LeBron inherited something bigger than the matchup of he and I. It's about the Miami Heat and that organization."
Terry readily admitted a personal rivalry with James has blossomed, though.
"Hey, he picked his poison. They put him on me to shut me down in the NBA Finals in 2011 and he couldn't get the job done," Terry said. "Hopefully, he'll have another chance this year in the Eastern Conference finals -- or wherever we match up -- but I'm telling you right now, I love us. I love the way we're built. We miss [Rajon] Rondo, we miss [Jared] Sullinger, but with this team we have, we have a chance."
I wouldn't bet on Boston, but Terry has a history of backing up bold talk against King James.
Jason Terry, the man coach Rick Carlisle refers to as Mavericks royalty, received a standing ovation when he checked into the game but never made much of an impact for the Boston Celtics. Playing in Dallas for the first time since essentially being forced to leave in free agency, Terry was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and had as many turnovers as field goals.
“It was a good feeling, but I was solely locked in on the game,” Terry said of the warm welcome from Mavs fans. “It was good to see everyone, but I’m a Celtic now.”
It’s been a tough week for Terry. People are still buzzing about LeBron James’ and-1 dunk over him Monday. He went scoreless in Wednesday’s loss to the New Orleans Hornets. And he was a nonfactor against his former team, when he had about 100 friends and family members in the stands.
“We have great respect for Jet and what he can do in a game,” Carlisle said. “I think our guys just gave him the respect he deserves and really played him hard. They just tried to make it tough. He got some shots. I’m not going to say we shut him down or anything like that, but guys battled him all night and that’s what we needed to do.”
Terry exchanged postgame hugs with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Carlisle and a few former teammates, but he wasn’t in a good mood after the Celtics’ third straight loss.
“All I was worried about was getting a win,” Terry said. “We have to end this road trip on a good note. Right now we’re just not getting it done.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ bounce-back game:
1. Dirk’s workload: Rick Carlisle considers Dirk Nowitzki’s recent low shot totals “an overblown conversation” – and Dirk concurs -- but the coach posed one question when asked about the subject.
“Did he have more shots than Mike James?” Carlisle said.
James – 2-7 FG, seven points, six assists
Dirk – 8-15 FG, 22 points
“That’s good. That’s good,” Carlisle said. “It’s an awareness that we have to have. You guys can all see what happens. When we slow down and start calling plays, teams lock into us. It’s a harder game for us to play because of how we’re set up. We have to have an awareness. We have to involve Dirk in as many things as we possibly can without having to call plays.
“A lot of attention is on the point guards for that, but really it’s a responsibility for everybody on that.”
A big part of it is on Nowitzki, especially when the Mavs succeed at pushing the pace.
“I ran to the box a little more early in transition,” he said. “That’s what I’ve got to do if things are not going well. When our flow is going well and we’re scoring, then I’m fine. We can swing it and pick and roll it. But if I feel like it’s getting into a hole a little bit, then maybe I just have to run to the box and demand the ball a little bit more.”
2. OJ vs. KG?: It’s nothing new for Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett, the league’s premier jaw-jacker, to exchange a little trash talk.
But O.J. Mayo got involved this time, stepping between the two (along with a ref) and telling Garnett, “Back off my man!” Not that Nowitzki noticed.
“He said he had my back,” Dirk said, “but I’ve got to look at the film to make sure he was actually there.”
As far as the KG-Dirk trash talk, Nowitzki called it “nothing” to some of the on-court conversations over the years between the two legends, power forwards who will get to the Hall of Fame with completely different games.
“He’s the man. He’s just a fierce competitor,” Nowitzki said. “We had a few words there, but actually if you go way back, we got into it more than it was today. That was the soft version.”
Nowitzki could have reminded Garnett of their lone playoff meeting, when the Mavs swept the T-Wolves in three games with 23-year-old Dirk putting up 30-15, 31-15 and 39-17, but it didn’t come up in the heat of Friday’s moment.
Mayo (10 points, nine assists) also managed to get the last word on Garnett. After hitting a dagger 3, a mismatched Mayo stole a pass intended for a posted-up Garnett with a little more than a minute remaining, then made sure KG knew about it.
3. Matrix reloaded: Welcome back, Shawn Marion.
After eight games out due to a strained calf, Marion was up to his old tricks, putting up 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. He also was the key to keeping Paul Pierce (16 ponts) in check and guarded St. Patrick’s Day star Jeff Green (10 points) in spots.
“I was able to do a lot of things I normally do,” Marion said.
That’s good news to the Mavs, whose recent rebounding struggles turned around, beating the Celtics by double digits on the glass.
“We missed his abilities as a basketball player,” Carlisle said. “He’s one of our best athletes. His activity is something you can’t duplicate with any other normal player. He’s just a very unique guy.”
Oh, and Dirk Nowitzki got a lot more looks, too.
With all due respect to Dirk -– and apologies to Jason Terry, whose American Airlines Center return was ruined -– this was Brandan Wright’s night.
Wright got a spot start Friday night and responded by making a major impact in the Mavs’ 104-94 win over the Boston Celtics, leading all scorers with a season-high 23 points and grabbing a season-high-matching eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki got his most shots in a week, scoring 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
It’s a mutually beneficial frontcourt pairing on the offensive end. There’s no question that Wright, who attempted a career-high 16 shots from the floor and made all but two of his 10 buckets from within five feet of the hoop, gets great looks because of the attention defenses must pay Nowitzki on the perimeter. And Wright’s success around and above the rim creates more space for Dirk to work in the midrange.
“We play well off each other,” Nowitzki said. “We complement each other pretty well.”
Added Wright, whose 62.2 field goal percentage would rank third in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify: “[Our games] fit perfect together. He’s working the 15-20-foot range and I can work inside of that. When his man is hugging up on him and they’re cheating over with my guy, I can get around the rim and make plays.”
It’s a combination that has had tremendous success in a small sample size this season. The Nowitzki-Wright duo is tied for the second-best plus-minus (plus-87) among Dallas duos, behind only Nowitzki and Vince Carter.
However, coach Rick Carlisle has played Wright with Nowitzki for only 213 minutes this season, according to the NBA’s stats. By comparison, Nowitzki has been paired with Elton Brand for 508 minutes (minus-3), Chris Kaman for 347 minutes (minus-63) and even rookie Bernard James for 128 minutes (minus-7).
This was only the second time this season Wright and Nowitzki started together. The other occurrence was a win over the Houston Rockets earlier this month.
Why not play Wright and Nowitzki together more often? Carlisle is concerned about the slight, 6-foot-10, 210-pound Wright, whose rebounding problems made him a fringe rotation player for much of the season, being overpowered by traditional centers while playing next to Nowitzki.
That wasn’t a concern against the Celtics, who start Kevin Garnett at center and play a lot of smallball.
“It’s his kind of game because there was a lot of small guys out there,” Carlisle said of Wright, who is averaging 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game in March. “That was the reason we started him. He navigates well in an athletic game without a lot of bruisers in it. He played huge for us.”
Added Nowitzki: “When he uses his athleticism, he’s a force for us. This was a game that was right up his alley.”
Those aren’t exactly votes of confidence that Wright can have similar success Sunday against the Utah Jazz’s four-man big rotation, headlined by 6-foot-10, 265-pound Al Jefferson. It’s extremely unlikely that Brand, the Mavs’ best banger, will get a DNP-CD for the second straight game and second time this season.
Wright, however, makes a case that he can be effective against the bruising bigs.
“We’ve got to run,” Wright said. “That’s what we’ve got to do. We don’t want to slow it down with those guys and get into a half-court type of game.
“We can expose those guys. We feel like we can attack them. When we get in those type of grinding games, that’s just not our strength as a team, period. If we can get up and down, we’ll be in good shape.”
With the way Wright’s been rolling, maybe he ought to get a chance to prove himself right.
How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks played drastically better defense than in their previous two games and got the ball in the hands of their hot frontcourt duo.
After allowing 113 points in each of the past two games, the Mavs held the Celtics to 41.6 percent shooting. With the way that Dirk Nowitzki and Brandan Wright were working on the offensive end, the Mavs managed to beat a playoff-caliber Boston team.
Nowitzki, whose low shot totals in recent games had been an alarming trend, scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Wright, a surprise starter at center, scored a season-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting.
The different styles of Nowitzki and Wright complemented each other well. Nowitzki, as has been the case for years, did most of his damage with midrange jumpers. The majority of Wright’s buckets came around -– and over -– the rim.
Shawn Marion made his presence felt in his return after missing eight games due to a strained left calf. He posted a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
O.J. Mayo added 10 points and nine assists, hitting a dagger 3 with 1:21 remaining.
Jason Terry, Nowitzki’s scoring sidekick for eight seasons before signing with the Celtics last summer, was a nonfactor in his return to the American Airlines Center. Terry, who received a standing ovation when he checked into the game in the first quarter, scored only eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
What it means: The Mavs avoided losing consecutive games for the first time this month. Dallas (33-36) is 8-4 in March, keeping its slim playoff hopes alive. The Mavs are 2½ games out of eighth place in the West standings after the Los Angeles Lakers’ late loss to the Washington Wizards. The Celtics (36-32) fell to seventh in the East, a half-game behind the Chicago Bulls.
Play of the game: Vince Carter threw down an electrifying tomahawk dunk off a backdoor cut in the third quarter. After Carter cut and caught a bounce pass from Chris Kaman, he vaulted off two feet, cocked the ball back and threw it down to give the Mavs a 10-point lead.
Stat of the night: The Mavs never trailed in a game for just the second time this season. The other was a Jan. 14 home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mark Cuban believes the same thing could happen for O.J. Mayo.
“At 25, he’s going to get better,” Cuban said of Mayo. “Much, much better.”
If you just look at the numbers, Mayo’s production this season (16.7 PPG, 4.4 APG) stacks up well to what Terry did throughout his eight-year tenure with the Mavs. The most glaring difference, however, was that Terry developed into a dominant clutch player after an inconsistent first season in Dallas, arriving as a 27-year-old in a trade from Atlanta.
“You just can’t replace his kind of experience,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Terry, who returns to the American Airlines Center tonight with the Celtics.
Mayo has shown he can be a clutch scorer, averaging 27.3 points per 48 minutes this season in clutch situations (last five minutes, score within five points). However, he’s committed way too many turnovers, averaging 3.5 per 48 clutch minutes, a rate that gets alarmingly higher the later close games get.
That’s part of the learning process. And Cuban believes Terry’s development in Dallas should be an example for Mayo.
“They’re completely different players, but I think O.J. can learn a lot from Jet,” Cuban said. “Jet really got better when he became catch and shoot or one dribble and shoot. I think that’s something that O.J. needs to add to his game, and I’ve told that to him.”
Mayo’s work ethic is one thing that can’t be questioned. That’s the primary reason Cuban believes that Mayo, who is extremely likel to exercise his right to be a free agent again this summer, can improve drastically.
“What I love about O.J. is nobody works harder to get better,” Cuban said. “Not just on shooting, which everybody works on, but his knowledge of the game, his dedication to the game. It’s really, really surprised me how committed he is.”
|Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to discuss Jason Terry's return to Dallas, why Dirk Nowitzki isn't getting the ball enough at the end of games and much more. |
“I hope they give him a standing ovation,” said owner Mark Cuban, who made a difficult business decision not to match the three-year, $15.7 million deal the Celtics gave Terry, a longtime Dallas fan favorite and friend of Cuban’s. “He deserves it. He’ll be a Maverick for life. He’s part of the family.”
Life will be interrupted for the next three years. Maybe longer, if the 35-year-old Terry accomplishes his goal of playing until he’s 40.
“Basketball is a short part of your life, and then there’s the rest of your life," Cuban said. "Hopefully, we’ll be part of JET’s after he retires."
It wasn’t a popular decision to let Steve Nash leave and trade for Terry to replace him, but Terry established himself as a local legend due to his personality and performance during his eight-year tenure with the Mavs.
Terry joined Dirk Nowitzki as the only players on the rosters of both Mavs teams that made Finals trips and played a huge role in knocking out the Miami Heat in 2011. Terry came up huge in the clutch in Games 4 and 5 after publicly doubting whether LeBron James could shut him down the whole series and scored 27 points in the Game 6 clincher. Nowitzki has called his former scoring sidekick, who might as well have been the championship parade marshal with the victory cigar dangling from his mouth, one of the best clutch shooters in the game on countless occasions.
JET was also an unofficial mascot/cheerleader. A generation of Mavs fans grew up imitating the wings he made with his arms after hitting big shots, or really whenever the feeling hit him. Terry cared deeply about connecting with the fans, waving his arms to hype up the crowd and making hundreds of appearances in the community.
“He’s one of the most beloved players, I think, in the history of this franchise because of his personality, his relationship with the fans and the community, and he was a great player,” Carlisle said. “He was a prime-time great player in the clutch. Guys like that always distinguish themselves. It’ll be emotional, I’m sure, for him and the fans and some of us that got to know him well. But we know how good he is, and we’re game-planning for him too.”
Added Nowitzki: “He meant so much to our franchise. Not only on the court, where, to me, he’s one of the best clutch shooters I ever played with, but also off the court. He was a great community man. Every other day, he was doing something, appearances left and right. He’s just a guy with a huge heart. I wish him all the best this season, and hopefully he gets the ovation that he deserves.”
In fact, it appears he was speaking “The Truth,” aka Paul Pierce.
|Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to discuss who he wants to keep for next season, O.J. Mayo's impressive night and much more. |
“It was crazy,” Cuban said the day after the deadline on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “We thought we had a bunch of things done, literally a bunch of things done. We had teams get cold feet at the last minute. … Things that would have used cap room next year, would have had money next year, that were high-dollar guys, difference-maker guys.”
Yahoo! reported that the Mavs would have sent a package of fringe rotation players (Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and since-traded Dahntay Jones) to Atlanta, plus swapping positions with the playoff-bound Hawks in the upcoming draft. The deal reportedly didn’t happen because Boston refused to send its first-round pick to the Hawks.
It would have been fascinating to see Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki play together a decade and a half after the debate about whether the Mavs made a mistake by not selecting Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft. The pair of surefire Hall of Famers ended up being far and away the two best players in that draft, with all due respect to Mavs sixth man Vince Carter.
The 35-year-old Pierce, whose $15.3 million salary next season is only partially guaranteed, still has plenty left in the tank. He is averaging 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season.
Theoretically, Pierce would have started at small forward for the Mavs with Shawn Marion making room for him by moving to the bench to back up both forward positions. The addition of Pierce, a proven closer, could have done wonders for fixing the Mavs’ crunch-time misery this season.
Would the addition of Pierce have made the Mavs a championship-caliber team? Probably not, but it certainly would have increased their chances of making the playoffs and doing some damage in late April and early May.
It’s also proof that Cuban’s competitive fire burns as strongly as ever, as well as evidence that the Mavs are reasonably not very optimistic about their odds of winning the Dwight Howard summer sweepstakes.
The deal didn’t go down, but it’s serves as an example of the possibilities for a creative front office that has financial flexibility in today’s NBA. And that, as much as free agency, will make for a fascinating summer in Dallas.
"As the great K.C. Jones would say, does a bear [poop] in the woods?" Carlisle cracked before Wednesday night's game at the TD Garden.
There's comfort in having a closer like Terry on your roster. Terry had an off night in his first meeting with the Mavs while wearing that green No. 4, but there weren't many better clutch players than "Jet" during his time in Dallas.
Maybe O.J. Mayo can develop into that kind of cold-blooded crunch-time scorer.
If that's the case, perhaps Mayo will look back on the Mavs' 117-115 double-overtime loss to Terry's Celtics as a valuable bump in the road of his learning process as a closer.
Mayo finished with a team-high 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but his nine turnovers were the number he focused on after the Mavs' three-game winning streak got snapped. And Mayo's mind was on the big shots he missed, not the buckets he got to fall.
To read more about Mayo's educational evening, click here.
But the Mavs’ coach took a different approach after Dallas’ double-overtime loss to the Celtics.
“What I am is encouraged because to have 28 turnovers and to give up 34 points off of turnovers and be in the game against this team is an encouraging sign,” Carlisle said. “It means we have a lot of positive upside to us and we’ve got to find it. We’ve got to find it with efficiency.”
The Mavs have had trouble with turnovers this season. That’s one reason they recruited savvy old point guard Derek Fisher, who coughed it up three times against the Celtics.
But the turnover bug hadn’t bitten the Mavs this badly all season.
The Mavs tied their previous season high with 22 turnovers in regulation. They had three more in each of the overtime periods.
“I take the most fault for it. I had nine,” O.J. Mayo said. “I want the ball in my hands. When it’s in my hands, I’ve got to (take care of it).”
Darren Collison (seven turnovers) and Elton Brand (four) were the next biggest offenders.
Credit the Celtics’ trapping defense for creating some of the takeaways. The Mavs just weren’t on the same page on others, which is the price you pay for putting together a team with so many newcomers. And then there was just some plain, ol’ sloppy play.
“I believe in these guys,” Carlisle said. “I really do. We showed a lot of guts hanging in this thing. We’ve got to be able to make simple plays.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ streak-snapping loss:
1. Trix’s tough return: Shawn Marion didn’t exactly get to ease his way back into the mix after missing the previous two games with a strained groin. He played 45 minutes against the Celtics.
“That’s how many minutes I played? Oh my god!” Marion said. “It felt like it, too.”
They weren’t easy minutes, either. The 6-foot-7 Marion spent most of the second half and overtime periods playing center, where he was matched up with 7-footer Kevin Garnett. Marion (16 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks) was simply too productive to take off the floor.
“He showed a lot of guts,” Carlisle said. “I asked him a couple of times in overtime if he was all right. Probably should have pulled him out, but he wanted to stay in, so I left him in. The guy gave us everything he had. Can’t ask for more.”
2. Dahntay does it again: Dahntay Jones started at small forward for the fourth consecutive game and put up a season-high point total for the third consecutive night.
Jones had eight points in Saturday’s win over the Rockets, 11 in Monday’s win over the Kings and 12 against the Celtics, when he was 5-of-10 from the floor in 32 minutes. Jones, who is better known for his defensive prowess, did an excellent job forcing Paul Pierce to take a tough shot that missed at the end of the first overtime.
“He’s giving us toughness,” Carlisle said. “He’s giving us spurts of offense, which have been meaningful to us. Coming into this game, we were an improved team over a five-game stretch. Fisher and him were two main reasons.”
3. Flop alert: Can you call it a flop if the player doesn’t hit the floor? Rajon Rondo actually flailed, but it still appeared to violate the spirit of the NBA’s anti-flopping rule.
It made a major impact in the game, drawing Fisher’s sixth foul with 1:07 remaining in the first overtime. Rondo fooled the referee into thinking that Fisher pushed him in the back while they were going up for a rebound. Replays showed there was minimal, if any, contact.
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