5. Coach Carlisle has yet again proven his worth.
No Dirk. No Kaman. No West. Rick Carlisle was forced to showcase a starting lineup that had one player (Shawn Marion) from last year’s starting lineup at the end of the season. If the Mavs had been blown out as badly as last year’s season opener, everyone would have understood. But as he has done countless times throughout his coaching career, Carlisle exploited his players strengths and easily out-coached Mike Brown to grab the victory. Let’s put it this way: Carlisle found a role for Eddy Curry. EDDY CURRY. Enough said.
4. Jae Crowder will have an influence on this team.
Remember when Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels emerged onto the scene as rookies in 2004? This was the last time the Mavs had rookies not only average more than 15 minutes per game in a season but also have a legitimate impact. Yeah, it’s been a while. But now this group has a tough, underrated basketball player in Crowder. Even though his eight points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal stat line from last night is nothing to slobber over, it was the way he went about obtaining these stats. Just as he has done all offseason, this 22-year-old gave one-hundred percent on every single play when he was on the basketball court… that’s something you don’t see every day in the NBA. His best play of the night might have been a personal foul. After Steve Nash lobbed the ball to Dwight Howard for an alley-oop, Crowder came from the weak side to knock Howard to the ground, taking away their potential highlight. Most defenders would have let the dunk go by so then they could play some offense. But Crowder wasn’t intimidated by Superman. Crowder wasn’t willing to give up on the play, and this attitude is invaluable for a winning team.
3. Darren Collison has already changed the pace of this offense.
Remember when Mark Cuban became infuriated because Jason Kidd skipped town on his team? I think Cuban’s doing alright now. Collison imposed his will on the flow of the game and never took his foot off the pedal. Already surpassing Jason Kidd’s season-high in points from last season, Collison led the team in scoring with 17 points, and even though he only dished out four assists, the Mavs could finally be described as “up-tempo” for the first time since the Lakers new point guard was in town. Being up-tempo sometimes causes a team to struggle on the defensive end, but that won’t be the case for Dallas because… (see point No. 2 below)
2. Scrappy will be a commonly used adjective for the Mavs.
Of the 10 guys that suited up to play Tuesday night, nine guys collected either a block or a steal. This is simply indicative of the hard work and hustle Carlisle demands from his players on the defensive side of the court. There were no pointing fingers (as is already the case for the Lakers) – only trust and communication between the teammates. They look as if they actually like to play defense. With Elton Brand grabbing 11 rebounds and Brandan Wright blocking three shots, the Mavs have servicable big men to hold their own until Dirk and Kaman come back. Because of the Mavericks relentless defensive activity, Pau Gasol already has his pouty face back and Dwight Howard has his complaining smirk. That is an accomplishment.
1. This team has players that will step up when their name is called.
Nine Mavericks won’t score at least seven points every game. Six Mavericks won’t score in double figures every game. Once the focal point of this offense comes back and averages around 20 points a night, they won’t need this many guys to carry the scoring load. So why does this matter? After only one game, Carlisle knows he has a team made up of nine guys that can step up if necessary. That’s what winning on the big stage is all about. When the Mavs won their championship, Corey Brewer, Peja Stojakovic and DeShawn Stevenson sporadically stepped up but stepped up in a timely fashion. When the Heat won their championship, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole did the exact same thing. I’m not trying to put this team on a championship level by any means, but I do want to clear up any doubt that they won’t be playing in meaningful games once April arrives. If they have half of the players produce like they did Tuesday night once Dirk comes back, they will become a force in the West.
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