I'd decided to retire my distaste with Big Wood's late-last-season "I just work here'' declaration for a few reasons. Hey, maybe it's been taken a bit out of context. Or, hey, maybe he had a right to subtly express his playing-time unhappiness. And heck, it's a new season worthy of a fresh start.
Most of all: The Mavs had enough faith in him to keep him while promising him this year's starting center job … to acquire "Starter 1A'' Tyson Chandler without expressed concerns about Haywood's fragile psyche … and to broadcast for all to hear how "elite'' deep Dallas now is at the center position.
But my "I just work here'' cynicism is mushrooming back. Its fertilizer is the substandard performance of Haywood through two weeks of the NBA season.
Fact: Dallas has played five games. In four of those games, Haywood has scored two points or fewer.
You won't find Mavs staffers saying much about this on the record. Big Wood needs to be handled properly. The investment in him is sizeable (a guaranteed five years and $41.745 million, and a possible sixth year at $10.5 million more). The plan is for him to be here long-term, to fulfill the words we all uttered about him last spring:
"The Best Center The Mavs Have Ever Had.''
Let me get to the money first. And then we'll get to the damning stats.
Haywood's deal over six years averages $8.3 mil per season (including that insta-expiring sixth year that benefits the Mavs). This season, he'll
made $6.9 mil. (Here is the detailed breakdown, as first reported by DallasBasketball.com's David Lord:
2010-11 $6,900,000; 2011-12 $7,624,500; 2012-13 $8,349,000; 2013-14 $9,073,500; 2014-15 $9,798,000; 2015-16 unguaranteed and a trade chip of
Is that too much for a top-10 center? Nope.
Is that a contract that invites buyer's remorse if Big Wood is going to score two points a game in four out of every five outings? Damn straight.
Haywood arrived in Dallas last February as if he was ecstatic to have escaped Washington. His half-season in Dallas -- a PER of 16.1, a 56.4 shooting percentage, 10.1 rebounds/36, a team-best 2.8 blocks/36, a lack of sloppiness with 1.6 turnovers/36 – merited the positive talk and the attractive contract.
But let me dig up what I wrote about Brendan in training camp:
Why do some of those numbers feel fluky?
Is it because Haywood is sort of an odd bird … what an old-time coach might critically call a "Good-Time Charlie''? Is it because he seems kind of sensitive, in need of a bone thrown, in need of a hug?
Right now, though, it's not about what the Mavs need to give Haywood; it's a Kennedyesque "what Haywood can do for the Mavs.''
Take away the effort against the Clippers (six rebounds, 10 points and three blocks) and here's what you're getting out of Big Wood:
Against Charlotte: three rebounds and two points
Against Memphis, four rebounds and zero points
Against Denver, four rebounds and two points
Against Denver again, seven rebounds and zero points
Listen, I can appreciate and even champion a center who "does the little things''; DallasBasketball.com did it for a half-decade of Erick Dampier screen-setting. But for Haywood, that's four games … games against teams missing big men like Zach Randolph, Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin and Nene … games in which fate and fortune invited Big Wood to thrive …
And he barely even showed up.
Like I say, the Mavericks right now have so many problems that you could throw a dart – drunk and blind-folded – and pinpoint one worthy of dissection. Part of Brendan's ineffectiveness can certainly be tied to the adjustment he's making while being outplayed by Chandler, who has stolen his starting job. (Worth noting: The two of them seem to be competitive in practice but very friendly with each other as well.) I hasten to point out that after Dallas' win at the Clippers, I went on the FS Southwest postgame show and praised Haywood for hustling through the game, once by flopping to the floor for a loose ball.
That's the kind of "flop'' Dallas needs out of Brendan Haywood, the one-game good flop … not the four-game bad one.