Current Tiers of the NBA

26 07 2013

Championship contenders: Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors (Fringe: Knicks, Rockets)

Playoff contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Lakers, Mavericks, Blazers, Timberwolves (Fringe: Celtics, Bobcats, Raptors, Pelicans)

Lottery contenders: Sixers, Magic, Jazz, Suns, Kings

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Beards Be Gone

27 03 2013

Take a good look at the image above. This face will look a little different very soon.

From starting out the first third of the season without their superstar, to having six different starting centers at different points, to losing seven straight overtime games, the 2012-2013 NBA season has not been kind to a Dallas Mavericks franchise that is so used to it being nicer the past 12 playoff-filled seasons.

Nothing has come easy. This isn’t to say that the blame shouldn’t be on their shoulders, especially since they have allowed plenty of games to slip right by them countless times. However, the basketball gods have made it clear they want the Mavs to work for their 13th consecutive playoff appearance.

The Mavericks showed that they are willing to work for that milestone Tuesday night. And they showed it in a big way.

The Dallas Mavericks inched past the Los Angeles Clippers 109-102 in overtime as Dirk Nowitzki not only pushed his way past Patrick Ewing for 17th on the all-time scoring list but also pushed his team one win away from a .500 record and from some clean-shaven faces.

American Airlines Center clearly had a playoff atmosphere right from the opening tipoff. It started with the ceaseless boos for LamLam Odom and ended with the chants of “Air Ball” after Matt Barnes air-balled a wide-open three-pointer with 22 seconds to go in overtime that would have tied the game.

In between these two events was a game filled with plenty of cheering for the home team. The Mavs and Clippers simply put on a fantastic basketball game that remained close throughout. If you haven’t heard at this point, Chris Paul is pretty good at basketball and is statistically one of the best clutch players in the game. The Clippers opponent had a player just as clutch with a completely different array of skills. And much, much more facial hair.

Paul and Dirk played some of their best basketball of the season, each setting season-highs with 33 points. Chris Paul made two different shots that could have been game-winning shots. However, due to O.J. Mayo finally deciding to show up when it matters most and Dirk scoring the Mavs first eight points in overtime, Paul had to settle for two pretty good shots and another loss.

This big-time offense from the Mavs stars was clearly a huge reason they came out on top, but the defense down the stretch was just as important. And it started with Elton Brand and his never-ending motor. Not only did he collect eight points, five rebounds and four blocks in 25 minutes off the bench, but the 13-year veteran shut down All-Star Blake Griffin.

BrandGriffinIn the first five minutes of play while Brand sat on the bench, Griffin went 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 from the free-throw line and had eight quick points. Once Brand entered the game, Griffin had no field goals until late in overtime when the game was already over.

It may be in a completely different way, but Brand has found a way to replicate the type of energy off the bench that Jason Terry brought to the floor and hard-nosed defense Tyson Chandler has made a living off of. When he guards big men on the block, he rarely is sucked into pump fakes and firmly holds his ground. This intelligent defense kept the Mavericks in the game when the offense couldn’t find a rhythm on the other end of the court. No other Dallas big man can do what Brand does night in and night out.

There’s one more old man that has to be mentioned. (That’s not counting Vince Carter, who simply needs to forget about this horrible night filled with a multitude of mistakes.) This is the old man that had one more assist and six fewer turnovers than Chris Paul. That’s right – Mike James.

After making a worst first impression than Manti Te’o did on the NFL, James (10 points, six assists, four rebounds, one turnover) has figured out his role, and the team’s 9-3 record since he became a starter is proof. No longer do people have to wince when James begins to dribble; instead, they can become excited for what he’s going to do with the ball. He is playing smart basketball and creating for his teammates as a starting point guard is supposed to do.

Now, we can’t forget about the man that goes by the name Dirk. Tuesday night showcased a vintage Dirk that reminded the nation why he is so unguardable. Head coach Vinny Del Negro threw Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and even a smaller Barnes at the bearded power forward in order to find some way of stopping him. Dirk and his one-legged fadeaway jump shot gladly showed all of these players just why he can still play at an elite level. There’s no question.

Nowitzki performed this way during the Mavericks’ biggest regular season win since last year when they took down the San Antonio Spurs in overtime. This one is even bigger due to the fact that the playoffs are less than a month away and because this is the Mavs first win against a top 4 Western Conference opponent (Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Nuggets) in 12 tries this season.

“It’s a good time to be playing your best basketball of the season,” Nowitzki said.

So, even though it’s nice to see this team playing so well and coming into form, why would they want to push for a playoff spot when they will inevitably be bounced in the first round just like last year?

Pride. Pride in the Maverick and what it represents.

At three different points this season, Dallas had a record of 13-23, 20-28, and 25-32. Tanking could have been initiated at any of these points and Mark Cuban could have started watching March Madness to see what lottery-bound player would be coming to his team. This isn’t an outlandish idea as NBA teams will commonly do this once they realize there’s not much more to play for.  But the Mavericks aren’t finished.

“Our work is not done. … The motivation is clear. This has been a winning franchise for a long time,” Rick Carlisle said.

As a Mavericks fan and a sports fan, I find very few things more respectable than the grit and grind this team has shown in order to get to where they are now and where they will end up. There were plenty of excuses they all could have given in order to mark this season as a lost cause. I mean, this was a team that had Eddy Curry start a basketball game…. Eddy Curry. Yeah.

But through it all, they never gave in and never gave up. And this attitude starts right at the helm with their head coach and franchise player. Carlisle and Nowitzki have made it clear to the media with their interviews throughout the season that they believe in their team. They will always believe. Because of this relentless optimism, they find themselves on the doorsteps of basketball in late April…again.

No matter the outcome of this season and possibly postseason, the Dallas Mavericks have given DFW sports fans a reason to not lose all hope in pride for their sports teams. The Cowboys seem to be obsessed with mediocrity and collapsing at the end of the season. The Rangers…let’s not even go there.

The 2011 NBA Champions have shown that they will not give up on their city. They will not give up on their franchise. They will not give up on Dirk.

The Los Angeles Lakers may seem like the logical choice to grab the eighth and final playoff seed with their star-studded roster. The Utah Jazz may also seem like the more probable choice with their strength of schedule and amount of home games they have left to play. But with the Lakers losing their last three games and the Jazz losing nine straight on the road and nine of their last twelve, the surging Mavs can see the playoff-light at the end of the tunnel. The path is filled with difficult playoff teams as opponents, but it’s there.

The Mavericks are clearly a team that will continue to fight for their lives and improve their chemistry until they have no more games to play, but this murky path will still be difficult to follow and conquer; however, with a healthy Dirk leading the way, this team is about to prove their doubters wrong one more time.

Get out those razors, Mavs.

And get ready for the playoffs.

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2013 NBA Season Excitement Preview

31 10 2012

The NBA season is finally upon us. No lockout – just basketball. With a multitude of story lines inundating this league, there are many reasons to be amped about this season. I will give you the main reasons to be excited about watching each team in the NBA.

 

 

Atlanta HawksAl Horford will quickly develop into the focal point of this offense as this franchise moves into the post-Joe Johnson era. At the point guard position, speedy Devin Harris will get the chance to get back to the player – a better player –  he was before Utah. Will a sixth consecutive playoff appearance go along with this? Josh Smith‘s decision to stay or go next summer will be effected based upon the answer to this question.

Boston Celtics – With the acquisitions of Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa along with a healthy Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo might finally have the athletic pieces to allow him to completely take the reins of the offense. Correction: he will take the reins of the offense. Once breakout rookie Avery Bradley comes back in December, this team has a good chance to be the Heat’s best competition in the East as so many have already claimed.

Brooklyn NetsDeron Williams. Black and White jerseys. Brooklyn. Jay-Z. What is not exciting about the newest team in the NBA? If they continue to win at the same rate as they did in New Jersey, though, they will quickly become old, bland news. Joe Johnson won’t let that happen.

Charlotte Bobcats – After finishing the lockout season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106), there’s only one place this franchise can go: up. As we move into the era of washed up veterans (Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood) and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, they might finally move out of the last spot in the East all thanks to Dwight Howard.

Chicago Bulls – The eventual early return of superstar Derrick Rose will rank as one of the most emotional moments in NBA – if not sports – history. When he comes back, we will see less Nate Robinson, but we will see an inspired team that can compete in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving. This kid is about to elevate himself into the upper echelon of the league and become a superstar for his team. As one of the youngest and potential-filled (Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller) teams in the NBA, the city of Cleveland can finally have hope for their franchise’s future.

Detroit Pistons – If you like tough big man play, this is the team for you. Budding soon-to-be All-Star Greg Monroe along with already impressive rookie Andre Drummond (two men that are both one inch away from being seven-footers) will provide Detroit with a chance to squeeze into the playoffs – if Rodney Stuckey finally takes his point guard game to the next level.

Indiana Pacers – Following the Thunder’s footsteps by making it into the bottom-half of the playoffs two years ago followed by the top-half of the bracket last year, can they continue to follow suit and take the next step into the NBA Finals? With a healthy Danny Granger, always improving Paul George and dominate All-Star seven-footer Roy Hibbert, a generous playoff route could direct them to the promise land. At the very least, Gerald Green will provide casual fans with plenty of jump-off-your-couch-in-excitement slam dunks.

Miami Heat – What is next for LeBron James? What’s next is an unimaginable season. With a relaxed attitude toward the game of basketball, the King (he has a ring…) will collect his fourth MVP award as the Heat will have a commanding season (along with Ray Allen hitting many three-pointers), making it to the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least.

Milwaukee Bucks – Finishing ninth in two straight seasons, this team has been scraping the edge of the playoffs. Monta Ellis getting a full NBA season with the team beside fellow guard Brandon Jennings makes this yet another exciting East backcourt duo. This will be a very scary group that could beat any team on any given night when both of these players are having solid shooting nights.

New York Knicks – Yes, they are the oldest team in NBA history. But they have quality old veterans that still know how to use their intelligence to play the game (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas). Since Amare Stoudemire will be out 6-8 weeks, Knicks fans get to see Carmelo Anthony at the position he plays best (power forward), making this group the best team in New York.

Orlando Magic – They might not win many games this season, but this fan base can finally let out a sigh of relief as their baby center finally got his wish. Keep an eye out for Andre Nicholson, who could become the surprise rookie of the 2012 class.

Philadelphia 76ers – When Andrew Bynum finds a way to get healthy, that’s when the excitement can start. This Sixers season is all about their new pure center. Fitting Bynum into Doug Collins and Jrue Holiday‘s system could lead to a challenge for the much smaller Miami Heat once the playoffs roll around.

Toronto Raptors – Even though it would have been nice to bring Steve Nash back to his hometown, this franchise got a stat-stuffing guard in Kyle Lowry, who will record multiple triple-doubles this year. Rookie center Jonas Valanciunas will find his way onto many SportsCenter Top 10’s throughout this season.

Washington Wizards – Once John Wall recovers from surgery, Bradley Beal will be an exceptional shooting guard to compliment his game and Nenê will continue to be the offensive force he has been since he entered the league. Just like the Pistons, this young team could find themselves in the playoffs if Wall does not continue to plateau as a basketball player.

 

 

 

Dallas Mavericks – For a team that doesn’t have Jason Kidd, Jason Terry or Dirk Nowitzki playing in their season opener, it’s difficult to get a grasp on this team’s identity. If they can establish their identity, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo can wipe away last year’s regressed season and Dirk can play like a healthy and hungry Dirk, they will make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.

Denver Nuggets – Easily the funnest team in the league (Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried both having styles of play that any fan would enjoy watching), this group of pretty-good-to-great players has the most potential in the league. For this potential to turn into something legitimate, Andre Iguodala must become that go-to guy they have desperately been searching for since Melo left for New York.

Golden State Warriors – For the first time since 1997, the Warriors will have an All-Star in Stephen Curry – if he stays healthy (yes, that is indeed a big “if”). Putting him in a lineup with Klay Thompson, who will drastically improve this year, and Andrew Bogut, who will be a force down low, this new and improved California team will fulfill Mark Jackson’s prediction from last year that his team will make the playoffs.

Houston RocketsJames Harden. We have only known Harden as that sixth man on a team with two bigger and better stars. Now it’s his time. Putting the bearded man next to Jeremy Lin will improve both of their games, and with Omer Asik setting picks for these two guards, they now have a foundation for the future.

LA Clippers – Los Angeles does not know the future of superstar point guard Chris Paul with his contract soon coming to a close. But while they have him, this is still lob city. With one of the deepest benches in the league and Blake Griffin improving his low-post game, Paul can take this team as far as his clutch play desires.

LA Lakers – The two most important positions on the court are point guard and center. The Lakers traded for two of the best at those positions in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They also have that guy named Kobe Bryant. They are officially “Hollywood” with undoubtedly the best starting lineup in the league once they find their chemistry. Since the Thunder also need to gel themselves with Harden gone, the Lakers have a legitimate chance to go all the way yet again.

Memphis Grizzlies – Is it possible to be the dark horse for three consecutive years? The Grizzlies are in the running for this title again. A healthy Zach Randolph takes this team to an extra playoff series – just look at 2011. If they get a better passer in Mike Conley Jr. to lead the exact same core – other than O.J. Mayo – from last year, you can’t forget about this team when making your playoff predictions.

Minnesota Timberwolves – The injury bug just won’t go away in Minnesota. First Ricky Rubio. Then Kevin Love… because of some knuckle push-ups. Even without their best two players, this team still has a lot of depth, and if Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko produce like the players that we used to know, they could still grab that eighth seed.

New Orleans Hornets – Inevitable Rookie of the Year Anthony Davis brings to the court everything you want in a center. Throw in a flashy Austin Rivers along with a healthy Eric Gordon and you have three players that could lead this team for years to come. (And don’t forget about the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year Ryan Anderson spotting up behind the three-point line.) The fans might soon forget about Chris Paul when Davis has his first 20-20 game.

Oklahoma City Thunder – This small-market team gave up a core for the ages in order to avoid the penalties of the new CBA. Durant/Westbrook/Harden could have been a trio for the ages. But now there is a new trio in OKC with a second Kevin in Kevin Martin that will be running off ball screens and drawing fouls. Even if he can’t be a distributor like Harden, he will get his fair share of points. Whether or not they are the favorites to come out of the West does not change the fact that they will be an electrifying ball club with plenty of highlights from Russ and Durantula.

Phoenix Suns – Discovering what the Suns new identity will be is a scary yet exciting thought. They don’t have Steve Nash anymore, but they have a solid frontline in Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat that all have not yet reached their ceiling as NBA players. How can they reach that ceiling? Goran Dragic. If their point guard works with these big men, all four could have respectable seasons.

Portland Trial Blazers – The Greg Oden-Brandon Roy era is officially over. Finally. Even though LaMarcus Aldridge still remains as the cornerstone of this franchise, how quickly Damian Lillard, who could make the Rookie of the Year race closer than people think, develops will determine just how soon this team moves out of the pits of the West. Oh, and Nicolas Batum? Just wait until he breaks out this season.

Sacramento Kings – The last pick of the 2011 draft will soon become the most exciting little man to watch in the entire league. Isaiah Thomas statistically improved in both scoring and assisting in every successive month last season and doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. If DeMarcus Cousins continues to improve his game along with his attitude and Marcus Thornton quietly maintains his average of 18-20 points, they could become the sporadically hot team you never want to face.

San Antonio Spurs – The good news for the skeptics is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker are now all over 30-years-old. The bad news is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker have never let age get in the way of winning. Every single season we are reminded that the Spurs are “one year older” and they continue to make it to the playoffs. Thanks for that, Pop. We should expect nothing less this season.

Utah Jazz – Devin Harris is finally gone. And they still have the best quadruplet of big men in the NBA with Favors/Jefferson/Kanter/Millsap leading the way. Every single one of these players can pound the ball down low and actually be a conventional power forward or center. (Shocking, right?) They made the playoffs last year and can now build on this experience.

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Lamar Exits; Deron Enters?

29 06 2012

Yes, Lamar, you can officially say peace to Dallas. We must all simply forget this ever happened.

After one of the worst NBA seasons a basketball player has ever had expectation-wise, a former – much, much former – Sixth Man of the Year won’t have to travel out of his precious city of Los Angeles.

Since Los Angeles Clippers guard Mo Williams agreed to invoke his $8.5 million option for next season, Lamar Odom will go to the Clippers and Williams will go to the Utah Jazz while the Dallas Mavericks receive a trade exception, cash and an additional $2.4 million from Odom’s buyout that goes toward the salary cap.

In insignificant land, the Houston Rockets also became a fourth part to this deal. They will get cash considerations and second-round pick Furkan Aldemir from the Clippers. Dallas will take on the draft rights to forward Tadija Dragicevic from Utah while they will send the draft rights to Shan Foster to the Jazz.

If Dallas had not been able to find a suitor for Odom by the end of Friday, they would have been forced to pay the $2.4 million in order to get him out of town. (They could have also decided to keep him on the te – okay, I’ll just stop right there.) However, this wasn’t as down to the wire as it looks because sources say the two parties agreed to extend the deadline to Saturday.

Coincidentally, these two veterans will travel back to where each of their respective NBA careers began. Odom was drafted 4th overall by the Clippers in 1999 and Williams was drafted 47th overall by the Jazz in 2003. That might be just what these two men need to spark the latter part of their playing days.

There’s no reason to waste anymore space on the fiasco that took place regarding Mr. Odom and the Mavericks. The Mavs can look toward Sunday, Odom can look toward actually playing basketball and Mavs’ fans can look toward not seeing him in a blue-and-white uniform.

It’s all finally over.

Luckily, his one-year stint with the organization did not impede on Cuban’s gamble to put all his eggs in one basket – convincing the ever-so-coveted Deron Williams to come home. His salary is gone, and the bank is open for a specific All-Star point guard to make an investment.

Will he stay with the Nets or go to the Mavericks?

This is it, Mavs nation; the time has finally come. There have been countless hours of speculation about the man with the killer crossover along with an abundance of articles written by journalists claiming they know exactly what Williams is thinking and exactly where he will be playing when the 2012-2013 season begins. But only Deron Williams knows (or will soon know) where Deron Williams will be playing next year.

The Nets had their chance to celebrate his 28th birthday with him this week since he was still under contract, but once 12:01 ET on Sunday, June 1 arrives, it’s Mark Cuban’s turn. It’s time for one of the most outspoken, yet wise owners that knows the sport of basketball like he knows business to make his mark. It’s time for him to make his mark on this franchise with an abundance of cap space he has never possessed before by convincing the ex-Colony athlete to sign with his team.

But what kind of mark will that be? Will he be remembered for blowing up a championship squad only to look foolish with his fantasies or will he be praised for his risk-taking and bold methods of management? Will he save this franchise from experiencing many arduous years once Dirk Nowitzki decides to call it quits?

Will he sign Deron Williams?

We will all know soon enough.

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Fight to the Finish

24 04 2012

These two teams may not be serious contenders for the 2012 NBA Championship, but a playoff bid could make the difference for each team’s future.

The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz will face off Tuesday at 9:30 on TNT. This matchup has huge implications on the line for the final playoff spot in the West.

If the Jazz (34-30) beat the Suns (33-31), they are in. It’s that simple.

If the Suns beat the Jazz, they will need to also beat the West-leading San Antonio Spurs or need the Jazz to lose to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Why does this eighth seed matter when they’ll inevitably lose to the Spurs in the first round?

Both of these teams need the playoffs this year. Falling just short could send each team into a big hole.

The Jazz came out of the gate with a quick 9-4 start as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap dominated the paint against all their opponents. Analysts started to jump on this team’s bandwagon after they beat the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in consecutive games.

Even though Jefferson and Millsap continued to play great big-man basketball, their record slumped all the way to 17-19. Devin Harris stood out as one of the main problems, having one of his most inefficient seasons as the starting point guard.

Most people decided to scratch this team off up to this point, seeing them as a young squad like the Blazers that couldn’t remain successful for an entire season.

However, with a late season surge including their current three-game winning streak, these Jazz have jumped right back into playoff race.

This team has a budding coach in Tyrone Corbin and a young squad that has an overabundance of youth and potential. Moving forward, they could grow into a team that competes in the Western Conference playoffs.

If they want that to happen in the future, though, it starts right here and right now.

Take the Oklahoma City Thunder, for example. Two seasons ago, they squeezed into the playoffs as the eighth seed and got taken down by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. Even though they didn’t expect to defeat the reigning champs, this gave them the invaluable experience they needed against a top-tier opponent that helped them make the Western Conference Finals the next year.

A playoff spot for the Jazz could be an important step in the right direction for this growing group.

 

For the majority of this season, the Suns never seemed to be in serious contention to make the playoffs this year. In fact, they went the first four months of the season without making it above .500.

However, with a win against the Sacramento Kings on April 3, they held a record of 27-26 and became a topic of discussion once again.

Marcin Gortat has emerged as a dominant center, averaging 15.7 points and 10 rebounds on the season. Even though Nash increases the points statistics of every player that wears the same jersey, Gortat has shown potential to be a staple center in a league with a dearth of true big men.

The Suns need this even more than the Jazz. Of the seven Suns players that will be testing the free agent market this summer, only one matters.

Steve Nash.

The two-time MVP has become the face of this franchise and has remained committed to the town up to this point. Nash has the Suns management in his lap and has even been given the opportunity to be traded if he so desired. However, Nash plays his role as a basketball player and nothing else. (Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony don’t understand what I’m talking about.)

Without the playoffs this year, that gives Nash one more reason to go elsewhere in an attempt to obtain that ring he has never gotten. That gives Nash one more reason to go to South Beach and finally give the Big Three the point guard that could make that team unstoppable. With the playoffs, Nash might find enough loyalty inside to push through with the city that has fallen in love with him.

The mini-playoff match starts soon. These two teams will give every ounce of effort in their body into this match and leave it all on the line on that hardwood court.

Get ready.

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Carlisle Sits Marion as the Mavs Lose in Extra Time… Again

17 04 2012


On a night in which Devin Harris unexpectedly figured out how to shoot, Delonte West gave Gordon Hayward a “Wet Willie” and Al Jefferson looked more like Karl (or Moses) Malone (28 points and 26 rebounds), the oddest thing to take place during the Dallas Mavericks’ 123-121 triple-overtime loss to the Utah Jazz was a benching.

These two teams striving to make the playoffs provided viewers with an entertaining basketball game, no matter where fans’ loyalties lied. Who wouldn’t want 15 extra minutes of quality basketball? Each team had players making countless clutch shots, and in the Jazz’s case, a clutch tip-in was bigger than any of the jumpers.

Dirk Nowitzki did all he could before the third overtime, putting up 40 points, which included a calm three-pointer with the game clock right on his back. Although, he is used to that type of pressure at this point in his career. Even though the Mavs came up short in an overtime game for the second night in a row, Dirk exhibited (once again) his knack for draining shots when his team needs him to score. It is easy to look at the box score and see how Dirk impacted the game, yet it’s not enough to have a full understanding. What he does for this organization can’t be explained on a statistics sheet. Once he retires and his jersey goes up into the rafters of the American Airlines Center, a gaping hole will be left at the power forward position that will be difficult to overcome.

However, this night is about another forward from the Big D… the absence of this forward.

Second-guessing Rick Carlisle has rarely worked since he came to Dallas. He has made the right decision countless times and effectively put the right players in the right situation. How else can you explain Corey Brewer and Peja Stojakovic actually playing significant roles in specific games during their championship run last year?

Monday night couldn’t help but bring about some questions about the head coach’s decision to bench Shawn Marion – the team’s best defender – for all three overtimes. Even though he was having an ineffective night on the offensive end of the floor, the versatile 33-year-old always deserves minutes since he has that unique mindset where he is dedicated to giving it his all defensively every time his opponent has the ball and actually closes out on shooters unlike the two Jasons.

Was Terry fouled on this second-to-last three-point attempt to tie the game?

During the first overtime, both team’s were shooting lights out. Each team put up 16 points in only five minutes of play. Devin Harris strung together five straight points midway through this first overtime. Repeat, Devin Harris was prolific in a basketball game. If Marion had been in the game during this offensive onslaught, Harris’s five points would not have been so easy for the seven-year point guard, and the Jazz might have been slowed down.

Vince Carter played in Marion’s usual spot during these extra minutes in order to provide the team with a deep threat. This makes sense since he hit back-to-back three-pointers at the end of regulation. However, Vinsanity ended up providing the Mavericks with no three-pointers and no points in the extra time. Even if he had made some shots, the question still would remain why Marion was not in for one minute of this crucial time. Even though a team must put the basketball through the hoop in order to win a close game, stopping the other team from doing so is just as important. (Crazy idea, right?)

When he is on the court, Marion gives his team a better chance at preventing the other team from scoring – no question. When he sits on the bench, he can only do as much as Lamar Odom. Even with the flow of the game, finding a way to sub Marion in for some defensive situations might have been enough for a few more stops against this hungry Jazz starting lineup.

The Mavs now hold the No. 7 seed and would face the No. 2 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round if the playoffs started today. However, don’t take this scenario to the bank. Other than the Memphis Grizzlies pretty much locking up the No. 5 seed, every other slot could change by the end of the season.

During these tough two overtime losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Jazz, the Mavs seemed tired during certain plays late in the game. If the Mavs had taken care of the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors before they played these legitimate Western Conference opponents, they might have had fresher legs down the stretch. Dirk went 0-3 in the third overtime Monday and looked spent as he finished up his 95:50 minutes of play over two consecutive nights.

Playing the “what-if” game gets nothing accomplished for the Mavs at this point. Ignoring bad calls from the referees during the past two nights and certain benchings, whether it was a Jason Terry botched lay-up or a failed box-out of Paul Millsap, this team had the opportunities to win the past two games and they passed up those chances.

Going forward into the playoffs, hopefully West won’t have to give any “Wet Willies” to get into the opponent’s ear head.

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Predicament Arises in Mavs Win

20 01 2012

As this picture shows, Shawn Marion led this Mavs defense throughout the night as everybody else played his part.

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz, 94-91, in their third straight nationally televised game.

Dirk Nowitzki had yet another off night, shooting 5-12 from the field for only 12 points. His technical foul for pounding the ball probably had more to do with his own struggles than Jason Terry leaving Raja Bell open for a three-pointer. However, four of Dirk’s teammates – including Marion who had a team high 22 points – scored in double figures to help out with the scoring.

If the dreaded 12-point third quarter is separated from this game, Dallas played solid with a balance of flowing offense and lockdown defense. The Mavericks shot 52.1 percent from the field and held the Jazz to just 38.8 percent shooting. Paul Millsap (eight offensive rebounds) and the rest of the Jazz constantly pounded the boards which allowed them to stay in this game.

As recently pointed out, the Jazz’s early success won’t last because of point guard Devin Harris’s weak play. This was made clear after tonight’s game. The ex-Maverick shot 0-7 from the field, 0-3 from behind the line (including an air ball in crunch time), collected only two assists, and had a grand total of one point. I don’t have anything against Harris and would love to see him succeed, but if the Jazz want to win in a tough Western conference, I don’t think Harris can fill the point guard role effectively.

The Big D have their own point guard questions after tonight. Rodrigue Beaubois reminded the entire nation why “Free Roddy-B” was at one time trending throughout the DFW Metroplex. The flashy guard that put up 40 points on the Golden State Warriors just a few years ago stepped up tonight, scoring 17 points in 18 minutes along with a couple big blocks. He had this chance to finally get some consistent playing time since Jason Kidd had a hot-and-cold game of 11 assists and 6 turnovers. Getting the ball in his teammates’ hands where they want it hasn’t been a good skill of Roddy’s, but he finally looked capable of handling the standard point guard position.

For the first time in a while, Kidd played as if he should be described as “old” instead of “wise.” When J-Kidd replaced either Delonte West or Beaubois on the court, the energy level dropped – it could easily be noticed. Even though the veteran does so much more than what shows up on the stat sheet and still makes wonderful passes right where his teammates want the ball, he is struggling to get his game back. After fifteen games last year, Kidd had double-digit assists in seven games and double-digit points in six of those. What about this year? Only one time for each. Players are in fact still working out the kinks toward getting back into NBA shape, but how long can that excuse be used for a championship defending and striving squad?

Should Rodrigue Beaubois start getting more minutes?

J-Kidd has always been one to rack up a lot of minutes, and the past four years have been no exception. Jason has averaged 35 minutes during his most recent time in Dallas, which is a number that must be reduced this year in order to get everything out of him when he’s on the court. Anywhere in the 25-28 minute range would be much more suitable for the 38-year-old point guard.

The solution has to be to give Rodrigue more playing time. Roddy-B has been on and off this year, to no one’s surprise, as he hasn’t been able to get into any type of rhythm with his sporadic playing time. In the Mavericks last seven games, here are his minutes played: 18, 9, 24, 16, 0, 7, and 18. In the 24 and most recent 18 minute games, he has averaged 16 points and four rebounds.

This has to be the season Carlisle takes off the chains and just lets Roddy play. As many fans don’t want to accept, Mark Cuban will most likely use almost all players not named Dirk Nowitzki this next offseason by including them in a trade or releasing them to free up cap space in order to bring Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams to Dallas. If Beaubois ends up being a bust and continues to have performances like tonight only on rare occasions, then he can simply be sent on his way without much of a financial obligation. If the Frenchman finally lives up to all the hype and all the potential, then Cuban has himself a very valuable trading chip or a player to keep for the future if no big names end up coming to his organization.

Transitioning of minutes from Kidd to Beaubois at this point in the season would result in some growing pains. Due to injury and immature play, Roddy-B has never received 20+ minutes during his time in Dallas. This might be a problem early on and would frustrate the Dallas fans and media, but the long-term benefits would greatly outweigh any early struggles. Furthermore, after Beaubois showcased a game where he had reliable shooting from long range, deadly penetration (something the Mavericks desperately need), and acceptable defense, why should he be held back from building off of that? For the well-being of the Mavericks present and future, the fervor has to come back to “Free Roddy-B.” And soon.

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