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April 6, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan
  (3:00 PM)

OK everybody, welcome back to the Mavericks chat. Each week seems to be something new for this team. Now we're looking at a club far removed from Western Conference finals talk and just wondering if they can get past the first round. What a strange progression, but let's get to your questions...

Matt (Alvarado)

Please talk off me the ledge with this team. This team seem to play with no sense of urgency. If this team loses in the first round, does Cuban blow this team up in the offseason?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:02 PM)

I wish I could walk you off the ledge, but I think there is plenty to be concerned about. Your take on no sense of urgency is completely baffling. They have stunk at home this season because it seems the interest level in playing isn't all that high, which is rather remarkable. They didn't show up against Orlando or Oklahoma City recently. If they don't come out juiced up to play Memphis on Wednesday, then there are some really deep issues going on. As far as blowing the team up, you're going to see some movement. Erick Dampier's attractive contract can be packaged with, say, a Caron Butler in a sign-and-trade for a bigger name player. Brendan Haywood will be a free agent. Otherwise, you are likely to still see Kidd, Dirk, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry.

Bnicks (Arlington)

Does Dallas have the pieces to win a championship?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:05 PM)

It wouldn't appear that way at the moment. But, just a couple of weeks ago as they rattled off 13 Ws in a row, we were singing a different tune. The West, for all the parity of the top eight teams -- and yes, throw in the Lakers, too, they've struggled and Andrew Bynum's health is a question mark -- is wide open. Anybody can beat anybody, but you have to be playing well, in sync and you have to be able to defend. Right now the Mavs aren't doing any of those things. They've had 18 turnovers twice in the last three games -- totally uncharacteristic. They're giving up 104.6 points a game over the stretch in which they've gone 5-6. Caron Butler has to wake up and, very important, Shawn Marion must be healthy.

ROBERT (FORT WORTH)

Why doesn't Carlisle call some plays going to the rim when the Mav's shots aren't falling? I'm not a coach and I can see that's when they start getting behind in games. When your shots aren't falling and the other guys shots are, that leads to huge momentum swings in games. Can someone please point this out to Carlisle?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:07 PM)

Well, people tried to point that out to Avery Johnson, too. At some point it's on the players to be aggressive and take it to the rack. Caron Butler tried to do that against OKC the other night, but he's missed quite a few shots at the rim. The knock on this team for years is it fall back on jumpers. Clearly, Carlisle can't snap them out of it. The Mavs are the best free throw shooting team in the league, but they rank near the bottom in free throws attempted. You would think a good strategy would be to get to the line. How do you get there? By being aggressive and going to the rack. I think Dwyane Wade once made that abundantly clear to the Mavs.

nathan (dallas)

if you were the mavs coach, what would be your playoff rotation?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:10 PM)

Well, I am a believer in having a firm rotation, especially heading into the playoffs. I think if players know their roles night in and night out then that gives them a chance to accept that role and succeed. Carlisle has liked to keep his reserves on edge, sometimes scatter-shooting their minutes. He's done it with J.J. and Roddy and now Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood are getting a taste of it. With a healthy team, and that would have Shawn Marion starting at small forward, I think right now J.J. is your most reliable bet at backup point guard. I know the fans love Roddy and he is a very exciting player, but he is way too mistake-prone to trust him in the playoffs. J.J. is in his fourth year and his turnovers are relatively low. Obviously Jet Terry is your sixth man and Roddy becomes something of an X-factor that Carlisle has to figure out how to use in bursts to provide energy, something this team seems to need quite a bit.

Jeremy (Fort Worth)

Why do you think the Mavericks have struggled so much at home this year? I can't recall another year in their 10 year run where they have looked worse at home than they do this year.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:14 PM)

Jeremy, this is a great question that I don't know if it has an answer. If it does Rick Carlisle doesn't have it. The Mavs have typically been a very good home team. But, this season, they seem to be almost disinterested in competing. I believe they have the most home losses of any West playoff team. They should have been taking advantage of this three-game homestand, but instead have started 0-2. I can't explain the passionless play at home. The fans were booing Saturday night until the Mavs finally exerted effort and nearly pulled off another comeback. That's been the MO of this team all year, fall behind and then start playing when their backs are totally up against it. I don't know if having a really good road record as they do makes up for the poor home record in terms of winning playoff games on the road or not. I tend to think not because teams are very good at defending their home turf, especially potential playoff foes like Utah and Denver.

Patrick (Bloomington, Indiana)

Why has the cohesion of the team play deteriorated so drastically since the 13 game win streak? The team went from gelling perfectly right off the bat after the trade, and then seems to have lost the synchronization that was so ever-present before.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:17 PM)

Patrick, I'm not sure we can really say the team was gelling perfectly right off the bat even though the 13-game win streak would suggest otherwise. Remember, during that streak, Butler missed some games and so did Haywood. Dampier was also out for most of it. The team played well, no doubt, but my explanation is a jolt of adrenaline from the new guys from Washington and the guys already here. The new guys obviously were thrilled to get out of Washington and the guys here were thrilled to have Josh Howard off the team. I think the team rode that momentum and just played with tons of energy and outworked the opposition. Remember, the team never even had a chance to really practice but once or twice during the win streak so they were playing on pure instinct, hustle and adrenaline, in my opinion. Once New York came to Dallas and shellacked the Mavs, reality set in and its been hard-sledding ever since. If they can get back to have some sort of defensive presence and take care of the ball, they can get back to winning and possibly contending.

Eric Shaun (Dallas)

In your opinion, what is the main reason for Caron Butlers struggles?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:20 PM)

Well, Eric, both Caron and Rick Carlisle have suggested that the move from small forward to shooting guard has been a little rough on him in terms of finding his spacing and a comfort zone to operate. Other than that, his shot just hasn't fallen. He's missed wide open jumpers, I remember one late in the OKC game the other night, a mid-range baseline jumper that clanked off the side rim, just a flat shot that fell short. He's also missed a number of attempts at the rim, which I just can't explain. No doubt Caron is capable of putting up 20 on any given night, but I think on a team where Dirk is the first option, Jason Kidd has become a pretty decent second option, then you had Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, I think Caron's just having a hard time fitting in, which is a bad, bad problem to have right now. They need him at the top of his game and he's not even close.

ARA (FL)

Is there a rift between Rick Carlisle and J Terry. Having known JET as very affable so far, it is shocking to see him comment like that.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:23 PM)

It was shocking, Ara. Jet has been, I think, Carlisle's biggest cheerleader and Jet has helped out Carlisle by agreeing to do basically whatever is asked of him, whether it be to come off the bench or be a starter or go back to the bench when Caron came aboord. I think Jet's comments the other night were out of frustration. Remember, Carlisle benched Terry for J.J. Barea for nearly the entire fourth quarter. Terry was 2-of-10 from the field when Carlisle took him out. Jet is a guy who prides himself on making big shots in crunch time and I think it was hard for him to watch and not play. So, I don't think you'll hear more of that kind of stuff from Jet. Although if he continues to struggle and Carlisle has to make tough calls on who to have on the floor, who knows. But, if that happens, this whole team and franchise will have bigger problems because they'll likely have flopped out of the first round.

Duncan (Denton)

In your opinion, will Roddy B start next year and will he be a better player than JET as early as next year?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:25 PM)

Duncan, good question. I think the Mavs have a decision to make. Caron Butler will be in the final year of his contract, which makes him very attractive to a trade partner. If the Mavs feel like Roddy has grown enough in terms of playing defense, maturity, etc., to handle it then they might go in that direction. We all know the Mavs could use an infusion of youth and athleticism. There's no doubt the kid adds a spark when he's on the floor, but as we've seen lately, he's still a rookie and will make mistakes. But, yes, Roddy is an option to be your starting 2-guard next season. He's played real well with Kidd at times this season.

Felicia (Fort Worth, TX)

When do you think Shawn Marion will return and how do they make up for his defense?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:28 PM)

Felicia, you are the first one to even mention Shawn Marion, which I find fascinating because without Shawn I think the Mavs have a very hard time getting out of the first round. Marion is easily the team's most reliable defender and I think the Mavs are big trouble if he's out an extended period of time. They will miss his length guarding the perimeter and it will put more responsibility on Caron Butler to focus on defense when his offense is already struggling. We know Shawn will be out at least for Wednesday's game and it could be longer. Oblique strains are difficult injuries to make a quick recovery.

AC (Los Angeles)

Dear John Hollinger, You were right, Mavs fans were wrong. With respect,AC

Jeff Caplan
  (3:28 PM)

Giving in already? It is interesting, though, if you look at the NBA standings at espn.com and check out the point differential. The Mas are low. It must mean something.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:28 PM)

Giving in already? It is interesting, though, if you look at the NBA standings at espn.com and check out the point differential. The Mas are low. It must mean something.

josh (plano)

ever since rick installed the new offense mavs have been 6-6...mavs went on a 13 game streak after the trade when it was all improvised offense. do you think the playbook is hurting the team?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:31 PM)

What playbook? That's sort of the deal here is that this team wants to be a "flow" team as Rick calls it, that means few called plays and allowing Jason Kidd to steer things. Turnovers are obviously a killer, but when defense is faulty it's going to kill the offense. It's hard to be a "flow" team when you're taking the ball out of your basket all the time (Avery used to say that a lot). Play better defense, rebound, reduce the turnovers and the Mavs should find themselves looking at easier baskets.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:31 PM)

Wow, this half hour always blows by...let's go to one more question before parting ways for another week. Next week we'll be just one game away from ending the regular season, but we still might not know who's seeded where...ok, more more...

Joshua (Work -NRH)

Seeing that Portland has had the Mavs number this season and if everything holds in place, wouldn't the #2 seed be the WORST playoff position for Dallas?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:34 PM)

You might say that. I still contend that even though Portland has had the Mavs' number that Dallas could beat them in a 7 game series. Now, Andre Miller seems to love playing against the Mavs, LaMarcus Aldridge has huge numbers against the Mavs and picking up Marcus Camby was a great, great move by Portland. Of course, Brandon Roy can take over a game (another reason the Mavs need Marion back)...Hmm, maybe this isn't a good matchup. Really, any matchup is going to be tough. The Spurs are playing great, although now they've lost George Hill for a bit. Oklahoma City showed you what they can do, but the youth of that team might make it a good first round opponent. Back to Portland though, if I'm the Mavs I'm not high on the matchup, the trip is very long out there and the Rose Garden is a tough, tough place to play.

Taylor (Dallas)

Do the Mavericks need to add athleticism to the team?

Jeff Caplan
  (3:35 PM)

OK, so I added one more because the answer is so easy: Yes.

Jeff Caplan
  (3:35 PM)

Take care everyone and stay tuned to espndallas.com for constant blog updates and post-game columns.As always thanks for visiting espndallas.com and tell your friends we're here!