Dallas Mavericks: Rajon Rondo

Mavs Mailbag: Does Monta Ellis have it all?

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
1:27
PM CT
Mail delivery is a little late this week -- blame my self-inflicted technical issues, aka accidentally smashing my laptop -- so let's get right to the questions.

@mrana85 on Twitter: Does Monta Ellis, in fact, have it all?

[+] EnlargeMonta Ellis
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesMonta Ellis may not have it all, but give him credit for being coachable.
“Monta Ellis have it all” was one of the best soundbites of last season, and it’s still not true. But give Ellis credit for being coachable and coach Rick Carlisle credit for putting Ellis in position to play to his strengths.

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?

SportsNation

Who has been the Mavericks' MVP so far this season?

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    62%
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    32%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 9,059)

Dirk Nowitzki’s next deal won’t come close to Kobe Bryant’s two-year, $48.5 million extension in terms of salary.

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.


(UPDATE: Howard has eliminated the Mavs from consideration)

What do the Mavericks do in the likely event that Dwight Howard doesn’t pick Dallas?

They’ll turn over every rock in the trade market trying to find a way to land a franchise-caliber player, but that’s pretty tough to do without attractive assets. That was the indirect message from Boston GM Danny Ainge when the Mavs called to send out a feeler on Rajon Rondo.

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.

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One thing the Mavs won’t do is tank the season and hope for a high lottery ticket in the loaded 2014 draft.

To the contrary, maybe the Mavs can benefit from talking to tanking teams in the trade market. They might be able to pick up a quality piece or two from a team interested in cutting costs.

They’ll try to piece together a roster good enough to get back into the playoffs. Is that possible? Well, they were in the hunt until the final week of last season despite digging a 10-games-under-.500 hole with Dirk Nowitzki recovering from a knee scope.

The Mavs have glaring holes at center, point guard and center. They’d create a hole at small forward if they deal Shawn Marion to create more space under the salary cap.

As far as free agency goes, their priorities would still be signing a center and point guard.

There are two high-quality starting centers other than Howard who are still on the market: Andrew Bynum and Nikola Pekovic. There are major problems with the pursuit of both of them.

Pekovic is a restricted free agent, and all indications are that the Timberwolves intend to keep him. How much would the Mavs have to offer for Minnesota to decline to match? If the Mavs guess wrong and the Timberwolves match after the three-day waiting period, Dallas is pretty much guaranteed to strike out on free-agent centers.

Bynum is the biggest injury risk on the market, missing all of last season with bad knees and big chunks of five of the previous six years. Bynum, a 19-12-2 guy in 2011-12, still won’t come cheap.

It comes down to managing the risk with the language of the contract. If the Mavs have a team out (perhaps based on games played) after the first year, offering Bynum good money makes a lot of sense.

If the Mavs miss out on Howard, how attractive would they be to Jose Calderon? He just turned down an offer from the Sacramento Kings because he didn’t want to rebuild. Then again, Dirk doesn’t play in Sacramento.

The other point guard candidates – Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack, Monta Ellis – would all be in play.

Another possibility: Making a strong push for small forward Andre Iguodala, who could be considered the best non-superstar available in free agency.

There is a lot of competition for Iguodala, including the possibility of him returning to Denver. How much should the Mavs be willing to pay for an excellent defender, passer and open-court player who isn’t much of a threat to score out of halfcourt sets? Sounds like it’ll take at least $48 million over four years. (UPDATE: Iguodala is off the board. Yahoo! Sports reports that he committed to the Warriors for a four-year, $48 million deal.)

There is no perfect Plan B for the Mavs.

There are dozens of different potential scenarios. None of them would wash away the bitter taste of whiffing on a big fish again.

Search for starting PG remains a priority

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
10:52
AM CT
The Mavericks remain in the market for a starting point guard after acquiring 18th overall pick Shane Larkin and agreeing on three-year, minimum-salary deal with Israeli star Gal Mekel.

PODCAST
Former Maverick Jason Terry joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss being traded to Brooklyn, Dirk Nowitzki and having his jersey in the rafters at the American Airlines Center one day.

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The Mavs want Larkin and Mekel to compete for backup minutes. They’ll continue to explore all avenues in finding a proven starter at point guard, a problem position last season in Dallas when Darren Collison lost his starting job to a pair of 37-year-olds who were unemployed at the beginning of the season before the Mavs allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Dallas attempting to initiate trade talks with Boston regarding perennial Rajon Rondo created a lot of buzz over the weekend, but it’s an extreme long shot at best that the Mavs and Celtics would make a deal involving the perennial All-Star point guard.

As a source told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, "Danny (Ainge) telling them that they're only interested in Dirk (Nowitzki) is his way of saying: ‘You don't have enough to get in the game.’”

PODCAST
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.

Listen Listen
The only somewhat feasible scenario in which the Mavs have a chance to land Rondo is if the rebuilding Celtics try to dump a lot of salary along with him, with the Mavs using cap space to absorb the contracts if they miss out on Dwight Howard. A source said the Mavs might be willing to take Brandon Bass (two years, $13.35 remaining on contract) and Courtney Lee (three years, $16.35 million), but not Gerald Wallace (three years, $30.32 million).

Getting back to the realm of much more realistic possibilities, the Mavs are intrigued by Jose Calderon’s high basketball IQ and history of being an extremely efficient distributor and shooter. They’ve expressed that interest, but the Detroit Pistons intend to attempt to re-sign Calderon and several other teams have inquired about him.

USA Today reported that the Clippers, who met with O.J. Mayo in the early hours of free agency, could be interested in a Mayo sign-and-trade that would send Chris Paul's ready-to-start backup Eric Bledsoe to Dallas.

The Mavs will at least touch base with most of the veteran point guards in free agency, such as Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack and Monta Ellis. The Mavs could also reach out to restricted free agents Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague and Tyreke Evans, but the likelihood of the Dallas making an offer their teams would decline to match is slim.

A low-cost, stopgap possibility: 36-year-old Chauncey Billups, who credits coach Rick Carlisle for helping his career take off in Detroit and would be a tremendous mentor to the rookies.
As an opportunistic franchise, the Mavericks are of course interested in trying to take advantage of the Celtics’ fire sale by trading for All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.

The issue: What assets do the Mavs have that would be intriguing to a rebuilding Celtics team?

PODCAST
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.

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ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports the Celtics have asked for Dirk Nowitzki. That makes for an awfully brief conversation, especially considering Nowitzki’s no-trade clause.

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.

Mavs' top priority: Upgrade point guard

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
11:59
AM CT
The Mavericks will explore all potential avenues of improving the talent on their roster, but upgrading at point guard is the top priority.

While Darren Collison confidently declared Thursday that he believes he could start for any team in the league, the Dallas decision-makers clearly don’t share that opinion. After all, they opted to start Derek Fisher and Mike James over Collison in a season that president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson described as a “point guard odyssey.”

PODCAST
Donnie Nelson joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' season and the importance of this summer.

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The Mavs might welcome Collison back as a backup, depending on the price. They’ll search this summer for a long-term starting solution at a spot that coach Rick Carlisle calls “the most important position in the league.”

“We’ve been spoiled with Jason Kidd and Stevie Nash before,” Nelson said during a Thursday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Galloway and Company. “I think the quarterback position is just a really, really important one. I’d say that that’s up there.

“That’s no disrespect for anyone. Darren Collison did a terrific job with a tough situation, and we’d certainly be open to the conversation of him coming back, but (upgrading point guard) has got to be in my mind first and foremost.”

The pie-in-the-sky scenario: Sign Chris Paul. Of course, the odds of him ditching a talented, young Clippers team to come to Dallas to play with a mid-30s core are awfully slim. As Mark Cuban recently said, he’ll be rooting for teams with free agents the Mavs might target to lose early in the playoffs. Would Paul consider leaving the Clippers if they flame out in the first round?

PODCAST
Rick Carlisle joins Chuck Cooperstein and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Mavericks' disappointing season and what needs to happen for them to get back to the playoffs.

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Paul will be the perfect fit, but the Mavs must be prepared to find their point guard of the future somewhere else. They might be able to draft next season’s backup with the 13th overall pick, assuming they don’t get amazing lottery luck, but a team determined to drastically improve its basketball IQ isn’t going to hand the reins to a rookie to run the show for 30-plus minutes a night.

It’s time for the Mavs to find a proven veteran point guard to fill Kidd’s shoes.

“I don’t know exactly what style, but the guy’s going to have to be able to score,” Carlisle said on Galloway and Company. “The guy’s going to have to be able to come off screens and hit shots, because when you’re come off screens from Dirk, you’re going to be open because of the way guys play him.”

A quick look at some of the other potential long-term upgrades available in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs have been involved in trade discussions about Calderon, as recently as midseason, when he got dealt from Toronto to Detroit in the three-way Rudy Gay deal. Calderon, who turns 32 in September, is a pass-first point guard who is a very efficient offensive player. He has career averages of 7.2 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game and is an excellent shooter (.483 FG, .399 3s, .877 FT). His flaws: He doesn’t penetrate well and is a poor defender, especially against speedy point guards.

Monta Ellis: The 27-year-old is not really a point guard. He’s a scorer (career 19.4 ppg) who sometimes plays point guard. He’s dangerous off the dribble and trouble in transition, but Ellis jacks up a lot of long jumpers and doesn’t make very many. He attempted 328 3s this season despite hitting only 28.7 percent, the lowest of any player with at least 200 tries. The idea of Ellis running pick-and-pops with Dirk Nowitzki is intriguing, but can a guard who has never averaged more than six assists per game in a season be counted on to consistently deliver Dirk the ball in prime scoring situations? And Ellis doesn’t exactly have a great defensive rep, either, despite his high steals totals.

Jarrett Jack: Jack, who turns 30 in October, is coming off his best season, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists as the sixth man for a playoff team with Golden State. He’s an excellent midrange shooter and very effective hitting floaters off the dribble. He has a low turnover rate, the kind of strength and toughness Carlisle wants in a point guard and hit a lot of clutch shots for the Warriors this season. But Jack is really a combo guard who has never averaged more than 6.3 assists per season and struggles defensively against quick point guards. Like Kidd, he’s actually better defending shooting guards.

Brandon Jennings: Can the former lottery pick flourish under Carlisle’s coaching? Would it be worth offering enough to the restricted free agent for Milwaukee not to match? The 23-year-old Jennings, who has butted heads with his Bucks coaches, is on the record saying he’d love to play with Dirk and for Cuban and Carlisle in Dallas. His shooting percentage might soar in that situation, but the fact that it’s 39.4 percent for his career is a red flag. So is his slender frame (6-foot-1, 169 pounds). Oh, and so is the fact the Bucks have occasionally benched him during crunch time down the stretch this season. But Jennings (17.5 ppg, 6.5 apg this season) has shown enough flashes of brilliance to at least make him intriguing.

Jeff Teague: He’s a restricted free agent on a playoff team that has a ton of cap space, so the Mavs would have to overpay to get Teague. The four-year veteran is a quality young point guard, averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 assists this season, but it’s difficult to envision the Mavs throwing a ton of money at him.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is best suited as a scoring sixth man, not a starting point guard. He’s a good spot-up 3-point shooter and knocks down a lot of midrange jumpers off pick-and-rolls, but he’s never been more than an average driver or distributor. Plus, Williams has major durability issues, having missed at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons, including 36 with the Jazz last season, when he averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 assists.

There are, of course, other ways for the Mavs to acquire point guards. Hey, maybe Cuban can come up with some kind of multi-team deal that lands Rajon Rondo in Dallas.
BOSTON -- You’d think 28 turnovers would make Rick Carlisle raving mad.

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.
BOSTON – There will probably be some pregame hugs for Jason Terry.

PODCAST
Ben and Skin discuss the joys and torture of watching The Dallas Mavericks. The guys look at oddities in the NBA this season.

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Terry has moved on in Boston, averaging 11.4 points as a Celtics starter, but he’ll always be considered a Maverick by many. And he’ll certainly always be a champion, having played a huge role in the Mavs’ 2011 title run.

“He was special obviously,” said Mark Cuban, who laughed when he recalled refusing to approve a trade that would have sent Terry to Utah for Raul Lopez during his first year in Dallas. “He got off to a rough start, but he just worked all the time and we wouldn’t have had our ring without him. He caught a lot of grief, and he just kept on working harder and harder and harder.

“People blamed him when we didn’t win in the playoffs, but when it came time to shine, he shined. So you can’t say enough great things about Jet.”

Added coach Rick Carlisle: “Jet was an all-time great Mav. I have no doubt his number will be in the rafters at some point. Eight years with one franchise, a championship, the sacrifice he showed being willing to be a sixth man, basically a starter coming off the bench and giving the team that unusual, unique kind of punch just makes him a special kind of person and special kind of player.”

But this isn’t about warm, fuzzy feelings. This is a business trip for the Mavs, who are trying to win four consecutive games for the first time this season.

Records: Mavs (11-10); Celtics (11-9)

When: 7:00 p.m.

Where: TD Garden

TV: ESPN/FSSW

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Can the Mavs sustain their success in this building? They’ve won their last three games at the TD Garden. Of course, Dirk Nowitzki had a lot to do with that, averaging 27.3 points in those games. The Mavs haven’t had much success against quality teams this season, with a 1-7 record vs. foes with a record of .500 or better.

Key matchup: Derek Fisher/Darren Collison vs. Rajon Rondo – If Rondo isn’t the best point guard in the NBA, it doesn’t take long to get to his name on the roll call. He’s easily leading the league in assists with 12.8 per game and also averages 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals. Rondo actually struggled against Collison last season, scoring only 17 points on 36.4 shooting in 93 minutes when they were both on the floor, with the Pacers outscoring the Celtics by 11 in that time. On the other hand, Rondo torched Fisher for 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting in 49 minutes (plus-13 for Celtics).

Injuries: Mavs – PF Dirk Nowitzki (knee) is out. F Jae Crowder (illness) is questionable. F Shawn Marion (groin) is playing. Celtics – G Avery Bradley (shoulder) is out.

Up next: at Toronto Raptors, 6 p.m. Friday


The Mavericks’ draft picks from the last decade played a total of a dozen minutes during Dallas’ brief postseason run this spring.

Rodrigue Beaubois, the 25th overall pick in 2009, played those 12 minutes. Dominique Jones, the 25th overall pick in 2010, was inactive in the series against the Thunder.

And those are the only two Dallas draft picks from the last decade on the Mavs’ roster.

The Dallas front office has often used first-round picks as sweeteners in trade packages to build Dirk Nowitzki’s supporting cast. The Mavs’ first-rounders during the Dirk era have typically been in the 20s, although talent can be found in that range, such as Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, to offer a couple of examples that could be featured in the upcoming Finals.

For the Mavs to build and sustain a contender under the new collective bargaining agreement, they need to use the draft for more than facilitating deals. They have to draft and develop some homegrown rotation pieces, starting with the 17th overall pick next month.

That’s been a pretty good spot in recent history. Philadelphia’s Jrue Holliday, Indiana’s Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger and Atlanta’s Josh Smith are playoff starters who were No. 17 picks over the last eight years.

Defensive task taking toll on Shawn Marion

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
1:23
AM CT
DALLAS -- If anyone needs the All-Star break, it's Shawn Marion. Badly. The man is exhausted.

After successfully chasing Kobe Bryant for 37 minutes Wednesday night, the latest in a mammoth, eight-game defensive grinder, Marion, the lone Dallas Maverick to play in all 34 games prior to the All-Star break and the indisputable first-half MVP, is deserving of and desperately in need of a recharge.

"Honestly, It’s been really, really, really bad for me," Marion said after the Lakers' 96-91 win in which Marion pressured Bryant into more turnovers (seven) than he made baskets (four). "It hit me in Philly (last Friday); I was tired, I was beat up. It’s not easy trying to fight off and contain these little fast guys and guys who get all these shots up, and I ain’t 27 no more, 25 years old no more. I’m going to do what I can to sustain it and make sure I put ourselves in a position to guard them better."

Since Jason Kidd's return to the lineup at Minnesota on Feb. 10, and because coach Rick Carlisle chose to continue to start Vince Carter at shooting guard instead of re-inserting feisty defender Delonte West, Marion has been charged with not only defending the league's top wing players, but manning up on quicker point guards that Kidd and Carter simply can't keep up with.

West fractured his finger on Feb. 15 and Roddy Beaubois has been away from the team for a week, losses that have exacerbated the backcourt mismatches. The 6-foot-7 Marion is easily the only small forward in the league that can claim a two-week stretch defending Ricky Rubio, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, Jeremy Lin, Paul Pierce (in lieu of suspended Rajon Rondo) and then finally Kobe.

Those assignments have boosted his minutes and put a strain on his offense. He's logged between 36 and 38 hard, two-way minutes in three of the last four games, and has averaged 33.5 minutes over his last eight. Marion, 33, caught two breaks with blowouts over two depleted teams, Denver and Boston. Those are the only two games in the last eight in which he's played fewer than 30 minutes.

His offensive game paid the price Wednesday when the Mavs could have used more. He missed 10-of-13 shots and had eight points, yet still corralled eight boards, six offensive. It was the third time he scored in single figures during the eight-game stretch. By the time Marion finished fighting through muscled-up Lakers screens, the last thing he wanted to focus on was the nine games in 12 nights Dallas will play starting Tuesday.

"It’s tough, it’s very tough," Carlisle said, who reflected back on his playing days with the Celtics. "This was always one of the things Kevin McHale always used to joke about and complain about is that [Larry] Bird would be on one end hitting shots on a guy and talking trash to him and then McHale would have to guard that guy on the other end. And when you shoulder the kind of defensive responsibilities that we’re asking Shawn to shoulder, it’s going to take a toll on your offense and every night somebody’s got one of those perimeter players, it doesn't matter who it is."

Marion played "really exceptional" defense, as Carlisle described it, on Bryant, who has scored 29 total points in two games against Marion and the Mavs, equaling his league-leading season average. Marion stripped him in a late-shot clock situation in the third quarter that led to a Dirk Nowitzki 3-pointer. He forced a travel in the fourth by suffocating Byrant along the sideline and then he forced a bad pass.

Bryant finished the game 4-of-15 from the field with 15 points and is 11-of-37 in the two meetings. Yet, the Mavs haven't managed enough offense to win either.

Carlisle has tough decisions to make before the Mavs return to practice on Monday. West's injury complicates things and might hamstring Carlisle from making changes, but the coach has to wonder how much more he can ask of Marion defensively on a nightly basis. When West returns, Carlisle might have no choice but start West and bring Carter off the bench so that West can start games against most opposing point guards.

"The way it’s been going, he’s going to be on that guy," Carlisle said of Marion. "I’d like to give him a break sometimes, but on a night like tonight when we’re down and we’ve got no [Lamar] Odom, we’ve got no Beaubois, we’ve got no West...getting ourselves whole is a lot of what this is going to be about."

Except West won't be ready when the Mavs begin another monster stretch on Tuesday. And Marion, for better or worse, will assume the brunt of it.

Rapid Reaction: Mavs 89, Celtics 73

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
9:32
PM CT

How it happened: The Dallas defense bounced back from a rare poor performance by shutting down a Boston team that is bad offensively even with Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.

With Rondo and Garnett unavailable, this was an easy win for the Mavericks over the Celtics, who have lost six of their last seven games.

The Mavs got another dominant performance from Dirk Nowitzki (26 points, 16 rebounds) and a nice night from Jason Terry (16 points, 6-11 FG) and didn’t need much else from an offensive standpoint.

The Mavs, whose 10-game streak of holding opponents to less than 100 points was snapped in Sunday’s loss to the New York Knicks, smothered the Celtics defensively for the first three quarters. Boston had 53 points and 14 turnovers entering the fourth quarter, which was essentially all garbage time.

What it means: The Mavs beat up Boston’s B team. It’s Dallas’ seventh win in eight games, but it’s difficult to give a win over the Celtics any grand meaning when Garnett and Rondo aren’t even in the building.

Play of the game: If there’s such a thing as a dagger early in the third quarter, Dirk’s uncontested 3-pointer from the right wing qualifies. Jason Kidd fired a cross-court out-of-bounds pass to Nowitzki, whom the Celtics somehow neglected to cover. Nowitzki took a dribble, measured the shot and knocked it down to give the Mavs an 18-point lead with a few minutes into the second half.

Stat of the night: Nowitzki and Paul Pierce, the man picked immediately after Dirk in the 1998 draft, were polar opposites in the plus-minus category. Nowitzki was plus-27, Pierce minus-27.

At the half: Mavs 44, Celtics 34

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
8:17
PM CT
DALLAS -- Jason Kidd stole Ray Allen's pass into the paint midway through the quarter to give Kidd his 2,515th career steal, pushing him past Michael Jordan to become No. 2 on the NBA's all-time steals list.

The theft led to a Dirk Nowitzki jumper that was part of 10 consecutive points scored by the big German. He finished the half with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Sounds like all fun and games, but as poorly as the massively undermanned Celtics are playing, Dallas might think it should be leading by more than 10. Boston, playing without starters Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, plus reserve forward Brandon Bass, are shooting 40.5 percent. The Mavs aren't doing much better at 40.9 percent, which means no one besides Dirk is doing much on the offensive end.

OK, Jason Terry is 3-of-4 with two 3s for eight points.

But, to the point, Dirk is 8-of-18 from the floor and the rest of the team is 10-of-26 for 23 points.

Paul Pierce leads Boston with 11 points. Allen and Texas-ex Avery Bradley have eight points each.

After 1: Mavs 20, Celtics 15

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
7:45
PM CT
DALLAS -- The severely undermanned Boston Celtics managed to stay in it early by doing what they do best -- not allowing many points. They don't score many either and with playmaker extraordinaire Rajon Rondo suspended, don't expect a lot of points.

Dirk Nowitzki has seven points and that vaulted him to No. 20 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He also recorded his 1,000th career block.

The Celtics went 6-of-20 from the field, just better than Dallas' 9-of-24.

Brendan Haywood and Dominique Jones each have four points. Paul Pierce and Texas-ex Avery Bradley both have six points.


The Mavericks had their six-game winning streak snapped in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden. The Boston Celtics arrived in Dallas with much bigger problems.

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Chuck Cooperstein recaps the Mavericks' weekend, including their trip to NY against Jeremy Lin.

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The Celtics have been contenders ever since they pulled off deals to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but Boston looks more like a lottery team right now.

Actually, the lack of depth in the Eastern Conference essentially assures the .500 Celtics a playoff berth, but it’ll be a brief postseason in Boston unless things get much better. The Celtics have lost five of their last six games, including two double-digit losses to the 11-22 Detroit Pistons and one to the 9-23 Toronto Raptors.

The Mavs, the NBA’s oldest team, are a surprising 7-3 in the butt end of back-to-back games this season. That record should improve Monday night, despite the familiar, respected name of the foe.

Records: Mavs (20-12); Celtics (15-15)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: TNT

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Will the Dallas defense bounce back after one of its worst performances of the season? Boston, even with Rajon Rondo and three 20,000-plus-point career scorers, have been a poor offensive team this season. They rank 26th in the NBA in scoring at 89.5 points per game. The Celtics are 2-13 in games in which they fail to score at least 90 points. Rondo could present problems for Shawn Marion and the Mavs, whose remarkable run of defending quality point guards came to a halt with Jeremy Lin’s 28-point, 14-assist performance Sunday in Madison Square Garden. However, there’s a chance that the NBA office could lock down Rondo, who might face a suspension after being ejected for tossing a ball at a referee during the Celtics’ Sunday loss to the Pistons.

Key matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Boston power forwards: Nowitzki has traditionally torched the Celtics no matter who Boston uses to defend him. He has a career average of 27.0 points per game against the Celtics, his highest against any team. Boston might have to start third-stringer Chris Wilcox, as Kevin Garnett is dealing with personal issues that caused him to miss Sunday’s loss in Detroit and Brandon Bass has a sore left knee. Nowitzki, who blew by Garnett for a game-winning and-1 layup in the Mavs’ victory in Boston earlier this season, enters the game in a pretty good groove even by his Hall of Fame standards. He has 58 points on 19-of-31 shooting in the last six quarters.

Injuries: Mavs – G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) is out; G Rodrigue Beaubois (personal reasons) is out. Celtics – PF Brandon Bass (knee) is questionable; PF Kevin Garnett (personal reasons) is questionable.

Up next: Los Angeles Lakers at Mavs, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday

Week ahead: Two big ones before the break

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
11:00
AM CT
Standing in the quiet Dallas Mavericks locker room Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Shawn Marion, tugging on his designer jeans after a long day chasing Jeremy Lin, was reminded that in about 24 hours he'd be at the American Airlines Center warming up for tonight's game against the Boston Celtics.

"Whew," was about all Marion could muster with a shake of the head and a quick rise of the eyebrows.

After weeks of playing four, five and six games a week, to say the Mavs are looking forward to the All-Star break come Thursday is a vast understatement. Only Dirk Nowitzki will be headed to All-Star Weekend in Orlando as a participant, a reserve for the 11th consecutive time for the West squad. Jason Terry will be there doing work with Reebok.

Otherwise, this squad, the oldest in the league, will take a break on Thursday and won't return until Monday. They won't play again until Tuesday when a point guard named Deron Williams comes to town with Avery Johnson and the woebegone New Jersey Nets.

But, first there's a little business to take care of against the Celtics tonight and Kobe Bryant and those Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

"That's how we like it, we like it tough," Terry said. "These are the type of games you love -- New York, Boston, L.A. What more can you ask for?"

Tonight: vs. Boston Celtics (15-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Celtics enter this one in desperation mode as losers of three in a row. They fell to .500 Sunday and 4-7 on the road with a 96-81 wipeout at the hands of the suddenly hot Detroit Pistons. The Celtics could be rather shorthanded as well with former Mavs forward Brandon Bass nursing a sore left knee, Kevin Garnett's status uncertain due to personal reasons and point guard Rajon Rondo awaiting word from the league on a possible suspension after being ejected against the Pistons. The Mavs will be looking to close out their nine-game run with bounce-back game after falling to the Knicks Sunday afternoon. They beat the Celtics in Boston, 90-85.

Wednesday: vs. Los Angeles Lakers (18-13), 8:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Lakers don't win much on the road, just five times in 16 games, including a 102-90 spanking at Phoenix on Sunday. L.A. will play Portland on Monday before traveling east for a back-to-back at Dallas and Oklahoma City. Last month, Dallas lost a tough, ugly one in L.A. on a Derek Fisher 3-pointer in the final seconds for a 73-70 win. Maybe Dallas can take advantage of a fatigued team. Where the Mavs have concentrated on keeping their stars' minutes, down, Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum rank near the top of the league in minutes played. Kobe is averaging more than 38 minutes and Gasol is at 37. A victory over the Lakers would send the Mavs into the All-Star break having to feel pretty good about the first half of the season and looking forward to a second half that becomes road-heavy entering March.

W2W4: Intriguing point-guard battle

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
1:00
PM CT
While the Dallas Mavericks are on their second night of a back-to-back, the Boston Celtics will be the most rested team Dallas will face this season. Boston hasn't played since they lost at home to Indiana on Friday night. It’s the second-longest stretch of consecutive days without a game on Boston’s schedule this season. Only it's five-day All-Star break will be longer.

Jason Terry said it doesn't matter. Games against the Celtics are always special.

"These games are tough. These are the ones you put on your schedule," Terry said. "It’s like Miami, it’s like the Lakers, these are big games. This is what you like as a professional."

For the Mavs, this is the second game of four in five nights. They look to move to 3-2 on the second night of back-to-backs before heading into another set at home against Milwaukee (Friday) and Sacramento (Saturday).

Records: Mavs (5-5); Celtics (4-4)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: TD Garden

TV: ESPN, FSSW

Radio: 103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: As noted, Boston hasn't played in four nights and will be itching to get back on the floor after a first home loss on Friday and take advantage of a team that played the night before. The Mavs' key players, however, didn't have to log heavy minutes thanks to a strong start and a blowout third quarter. Can Dallas stick close early and then settle into a defensive stance and an offensive flow that could allow them to steal a victory in Beantown in consecutive seasons? Defense will likely be the determining factor in this one. The Mavs have held their last seven opponents to fewer than 100 points and five in the 80s, while allowing 42.5 percent shooting. The Celtics have won four of their last five games while allowing 84.0 points per game.

Key matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Delonte West
This should be an exciting matchup between former teammates. Rondo is off to another mesmerizing start averaging a double-double with a career-best 14.8 points and a league-best 10.5 assists. West has been called the team's most consistent defender in the early going by coach Rick Carlisle and he will be juiced to face his former team. The feisty West had five steals Tuesday night at Detroit to give him 18 in 10 games to rank fifth in the league.

Injuries: Mavs - G Jason Kidd (lower back) is out. Celtics - None.

Up next: Milwaukee Bucks at Mavs, 7:30 p.m., Friday

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Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Marc Stein

ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2