THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM BEFORE THE OTHER ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM : This "stand-pat'' talk will soon be rendered ridiculous – if Dallas' 2-5 record while Dirk Nowitzki goes clothes-horsing hasn't already made it so.
But an attempt at a trade is the elephant in the room lined up behind the first elephant in the room.
Which is Dirk and his sprained-knee absence.
"Dirk's not here,'' said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle after the game. "So let's not talk about him.''
Here's Rick's press conference, raw stuff, starting with "Dirk's Not Here'' and moving on quickly from there:
That's a manly bylaw and a tried-and-true coach's trick: Out of sight is out of mind … We only discuss the players who played … Don't cry over spilled milch, as they say back in Wurzburg.
But you can only play mind games on yourself for so long … and it's been a long seven games with The UberMan absent, a long 2-5 record with the NBA Most Valuable Player candidate feeling discomfort when he jogs, considering wearing a knee brace when he returns from the Dec. 27 injury, maybe starting to feel the pressure of returning during this week's road trip before the Mavs start spiraling too far south.
And so the players aren't bothering with subjecting themselves to those mind games. DallasBasketball.com talked with a half-dozen of the guys last night, and eventually, the theme was the same.
"We need the Big German back.''
As Tyson Chandler put it: "We've got to get back on a streak and get back into our winning ways. It's been tough, but with all the guys out we've just got to hold down the fort and be positive. Hopefully, we'll be getting the Big Fella back and we've got to get back rolling and get back to doing some damage."
JET'S SAD FACE: "Our problems all year long have been with having a lead and then not being able to sustain it or put a team away,'' said Jason Terry, who pitched in with 16 points. "So if we're going to be the team we say we want to be, regardless of who's in uniform, you're going to have to do something about it. You can't just allow teams to keep coming back on you.
"It's been our problem all year long and until we address it,'' he continued, "we'll be sitting here with a sad face."
Good quote. But maybe oversimplification?
Threevenson sang the same song when he said, "The first half we showed that we can beat them and run and do the things we're supposed to. I just think we get away from the things that we're doing.''
I think it's something else: Orlando's talent is eventually going to solve the problems caused it by Dallas' (non-Dirk, non-Caron) talent.
And THAT should give you Sad Face.
Here's Jet's Sad Face postgame video:
ZEBRAS: This was not a beautifully officiated game.
Now the zebras don't account for being up by 16 one moment and being down by20 the next. That's exactly the swing Dallas subjected itself to – and whistles didn't do it.
But with the baseline official calling an over-and-back on a play 72 feet away from him … and with DeShawn Stevenson getting raked across the face more than once when he dared drive inside … and with Tyson Chandler being moved to draw a T over protesting another non-call … and with Carlisle's wingtips on the floor often before he was finally ejected from the game for protesting a non-call. …
"Obviously,'' is pretty much all Carlisle wanted to say when asked if he was bothered by the officiating.
DEEP THOUGHTS BY JASON TERRY: Here's a quote worthy of dissection, from Jason Terry:
"We never adjusted to what they were doing to us and it cost us . . . I think they ran the same play 20 or 30 times in a row. It's unbelievable."
Hmmm. Get yourself a pickaxe and let's dig between all those lines, shall we? I mean, I don't know what Jet means. But he means to say something, right?
THINGS CHANGE: These two teams played last month. It was Dallas at Orlando. The Mavs believed in themselves … and had the good health, good fortune and good record – having won 17 of 18 – to support that belief.
Meanwhile, at that time, Orlando was mired in self-doubt, so much so that it revamped Dwight Howard's supporting cast with a blockbuster trade while mired in a streak during which the Magic lost eight of nine.
Suddenly, the Magic has matched a franchise-best winning streak of nine. Meanwhile, the Mavs closed out a homestand having dropped five of the last seven.
And remember that Mavs master plan to become more dominant as a home team? With no Dirk and no Caron Butler (and, I prefer to include) no Roddy B … Your Boys in Blue just experienced a fourth defeat in five games at home – about as poor a stretch as the American Airlines Center has ever seen.
The Magic changes? Orlando (25-12) has clicked since the Dec. 18 trade that brought to town Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. Clark (the long defender that Phoenix gave up on) did nothing hear. But those other cats are part of an arsenal of guys who work well on the perimeter, making them nice complimentary pieces to Howard. Arenas comes off the bench and was 5-of-11 for 14. Richardson starts and was 7-of-12 for 20. And Hedo? He got his 13 points and then he did something crazy: He also got his 17 assists.
"Hedo was great tonight passing the ball,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Seventeen assists for anybody is incredible, but a 6-10 forward with 17 assists, that's a phenomenal, phenomenal game. He made a lot of plays for us.''
Hedo spent a lot of time earlier this year in Phoenix looking terribly disinterested. But in that previous Mavs-Magic meeting on Dec. 21, he cranked himself up on defense to do a solid job defending Dirk.
In this one, Hedo didn't always want to tangle with DeShawn Stevenson, who scored a season-high 24 in his attempt to do a Tuff Juice imitation.
But Hedo was freaky in that 17-assist sort of way … and of course, when a team scores 117, somebody is going to rack up some helpers, eh?
A TEMPERATURE OF 105: Back in that Dallas-at-Orlando game, the Mavs dazzled Disney World and handled the locals, 105-99. Now it's the Magic that can seemingly count on scoring 105 in a game. They were in right that range during their first eight games in this winning streak. … but thanks to their output in this ninth straight win, that's up to 107.6 points per game.
And the Mavs?
They are struggling for consistent answers on offense. And it's so weird that even as the Mavericks came into this game shooting 43.3 percent and averaging 89.8 points without Dirk – nearly 10 points less than what they did with him – they found a way to score 107 and to shoot 51.9 percent and still get their asses handed to them.
One of the assistant coaches I spoke to last night admitted that Dallas is at a bit of a loss for answers at this moment (besides Dirk taping an aspirin to it, that is), given that their 51.9-percent shooting was somehow crushed by the fact that they allowed 53.9-percent shooting to the bad guys.
Orlando played eight guys. Notably, all eight players scored nine points or more. Meaning, basically, that Dallas didn't have an answer for anybody.
DIRK-LESS DISARRAY?: Is that what this is?
The Mavs – despite their overall record of 26-9 – are in what I'd prefer to term a "Dirk-less Downer.'' Not a "Dirk-less Disarray. Or a "Dirk-less Disaster.''
That would overstating the situation, because Dallas did enough things to remain competitive here, including earning a 16-point first-half lead, matching a season-high for first-half scoring with 57, and making a heck of a lot of its shots.
But when ESPN writer Tim MacMahon approached me after the game with a crooked grin on his face, I knew what was coming … and I had no argument to volley with.
"I think I was right,'' Timmy Mac said in reference to our recent DB.com Bar-Room Brawl in which I disagreed with him that Dallas is "a bad basketball team'' sans The UberMan.
I could fire back that losses to teams like San Antonio and Orlando don't exactly make you the Pismo Beach Panthers. But like Ball, 2-5 Don't Lie.
So I owe MacMahon a beer. And yes, Rob Mahoney, you can have one on me, too.
THREEVENSON: Bright spot? You bet.
DeShawn Stevenson in particular filled the void (of the out-for-the-season Caron Butler, anyway), by totaling a season-best 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He made 6-of-9 treys while starting at the 3 spot.
I am happy to report that DeShawn seems very serious when he says that his newly-discovered offensive game is meaningless if the team-wide goals go unmet.
Check out the locker-room video in which DeShawn says, "Them things don't matter to me. It's just getting a win and making sure the locker room has a good time."
At this point, is there any debate that Stevenson is the real deal as a weakside outside shooter (his offensive role if everyone is healthy) … and that even as someone who is now putting the ball on the floor and even had a few plays called for him on Saturday, he's a legit two-way player?
One problem, though, as he and I discussed earlier this week: He's now doubling up on what he normally was asked to do. More minutes, fourth-quarter minutes, defensive stopper, even lead the team in scoring (!) … some area is going to eventually suffer.
And I'll note that he really didn't stop Kevin Durant on Thursday and that he – like the rest of the Mavs – really didn't stop any of the Magic on Saturday.
THE JANITOR AND BIG WOOD: Nobody is quite able to fill the void left by Nowitzki on the offensive end … and that doesn't even begin to address the defensive problems here for a Mavs team that permitted Orlando to overcome the early deficit, eventually gain its own 20-point lead and shooting an absurd 53.9 percent for the game.
Dallas' gameplan was Howard-centric in the sense that the Mavs ancitipated his interior dominance (9-of-16 for … points, with 13 rebounds). But Howard's presence also allows the Magic to spread the floor with shooters … and the Mavs never quite chased all of them down.
So if you can't chase ‘em down, you knock ‘em down.
Enter The Janitor and Big Wood.
Brendan Haywood spoke to the media after the game -- yay! -- and was quite insightful in detailing the differences between the two clubs since they last met. Jump into the fray with Big Wood and the media in Sunday Morning Mavs Donuts, coming up in a bit, OK?
(By the way, Don't forget to get a load of Mavs Quoteboard right here!)
This Brendan Haywood was the guy Dallas bargained for when they re-upped him last summer. A caddie to Tyson Chandler, and a good one, with five points and seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes. He can tug on Superman's cape and perform with enough physicality (and a coupla purdy jump hooks) to keep ‘Lex and Ian on the bench until mop-up time in the final 2:52.
And The Janitor? Brian Cardinal was 3-of-4 from the arc, recorded two steals, and in a Miracle of Modern Officiating, somehow only got caught fouling once. (I counted him fouling 736 times. But maybe I had a better view than the refs.)
It is an encouraging aspect of things around here, I think. The Janitor is going to knock you on your butt. And Big Wood is starting to get up off of his.
FRENCH FUN: There weren't many laughs to be had in the postgame Mavs room, but Roddy B and Alexis Ajinca engaged in a mock argument over somebody stealing somebody else's socks.
No, it was not high comedy. But the French love Jerry Lewis, so what're you gonna do.
Oh, and I think DB.com has videographic footage of the Sock Scandal. I know you anxiously await that!
CARLISLE'S UNDOING, SPONSORED BY …: Well, I don't really have a sponsor for "Carlisle's Undoing.'' Yet. But it's such a regular feature that I probably need to get Misty Mav and the DB.com Sales Staff on it …
"I really thought our undoing was not having a stronger first half,'' Rick said. "That would've put us in a stronger position heading into the second half.''
What he means, of course, is Dallas letting the 16-point lead be whittled down right before intermission.
That's Carlisle's Undoing!
MAVSELLANEOUS: Nowitzki is planning to return to action next week as the Mavs hit the road – though I can already sense that some thing maybe Indiana is a get-able win with Dirk resting just a bit more … "I think the trades have made us better, there's no doubt in my mind," Orlando's Van Gundy said. "I thought that we've come together offensively quicker than I thought we would have, but we still need to work on our defense." I suppose; the 107 points allowed is not classic title-level stuff. But Orlando, Miami and Boston, that's the cream of the East – with Chicago planning on having something to say about that. … Props to Orlando, which was coming off a road win at Houston on Friday, a nice little b2b sweep … The 117 points the Mavs allowed? Ugly in multiple ways, including in the sense that it ends a streak of 11 straight games of holding foes below 100 … Orlando is now 9-15 at Dallas and has won the past three at American Airlines Center. … I'm stunned that Dwight Howard picked up his third foul with 3:04 to go in the first half and it didn't make a darn bit of difference. … Dallas at 53.9 percent on FGs is the higher percentage in a loss since Jan 2008 when the Mavs lost to Sacto while shooting 57.1 percent. I don't remember that game off the top of my head and I am glad I don't.. … Haywood does spent a lot of time at practice and before games working on receiving entry passes and then polishing up the jump hook. Nice to see the work pay off. … No practice scheduled for the Mavs on Sunday. But don't you worry – DallasBasketball.com will still be hard at work! … Rick had nothing but praise for ex-Maverick Brandon Bass – The Animal! -- who started for Orlando and scored 11. "He's a guy that's always ready -- we knew that when he was here,'' Carlisle said. "He's an extremely hard worker and he loves to play. So it's no surprise that he's playing well now that he's gotten the opportunity.'' … JJB is growing a full beard. He's starting to look like The Most Interesting Man in the World's younger self. Stay Thirsty, JJB. … Jason Terry's inability to pass while on the move is off-putting.
DWIGHT HOWARD'S BODY: In terms of standing next to an NBA player and being impressed with his physique, to me it's
1) Ben Wallace
2) Dwight Howard.
I mean, dude is stacked. He's so well-built that Donald T. Sterling can't take his eyes off of him.
SUPERMAN: So he had himself a bodyguard … and he had himself a rather typical Howard-vs-Dallas game. In the previous four meetings, Orlando's center had averaged 26.8 points, 17.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
I'm only kidding when I say that since he had "only'' 23 points, "only'' 13 rebounds and "only'' two blocks, Dallas must've done something right against him.
I was a little disappointed that, given the quartet of centers at Dallas' disposal, the Mavs opted not to play Hack-a-Howard. But Dwight was 5-of-7 when he did go to the line, so maybe even that strategy was destined to flop.
KIDD'S DROUGHT: For six games, KIDDIRK without DIRK meant Jason was making just 19 of his 70 shots. That's 27.1 percent, and the reasons are obvious. They include Kidd having to now be a creative shot-taker, someone who fires mid-range shots and shoots off the drive.
But as this one wore on, we spotted a trend. An eight-quarter trend.
Kidd scored zero points in the first half of this game. And we know he scored zero on Thursday against OKC. And before that? He didn't score in the second half of the Portland game. … but he scored at thr 4:28 mark of the second quarter there back on Tuesday.
So … that's eight quarters-plus … a total of 100 minutes and 28 seconds without scoring.
But then… first possession of the second half … End of Drought! … and then on the next possession, a 3! And the End of Drought was almost a flood!
Kidd couldn't keep it up. Six points on 2-of-8 shooting isn't enough.
Carlisle has said that focusing too much on Kidd's shooting woes might be a misread of the circumstances.
"You look at someone's stat line and if you don't know everything that's attributed to it I think you can be living in a fantasy world or a world of non-reality,'' Rick said.
But this is reality:
One hundred minutes and 28 seconds.
THE MATRIX, RELOADED: He did it again.
Shawn Marion was good for 25 points on Thursday against OKC. And here he comes this night, scoring 18 more. He's 19-of-28 in the last two games. I don't think the Mavs can really go to him more – though I have a feeling ‘Trix disagrees.
I will settle for acceptance of the belief that Marion is a more-than-adequate replacement for Caron. Now, that doesn't solve the question of who replaces Marion on the totem pole …. DoJo, who got nine minutes and made a couple of buckets? DeShawn as what Marion was? That trade everyone wants, again, not for a player necessary better than Caron was but rather for a player who is as good at being a seventh man as Marion was?
Said Rick Carlisle: "We have to adjust to our available personnel, that's a constant in this league. We're always in the process of doing that. You want to make adjustments without overreacting to mistakes that you're making that you just need to do better. There's always a fine line. I like the guys we have and we certainly have a group that's capable of winning games. But our process is something we have to follow very closely because our margin for error is thin.''
The margin for error against Orlando was 10 points. Too many.
HI, CARON: Caron Butler announced via Twitter that he took a stroll and hung out with the fellas. And he even got a home visit from at least one teammate, Tyson Chandler.
T.Y. is, in fact, kind of in the middle of everything right now for the Mavs. He's having to operate in a leadership role, even more with Dirk not on the floor. He's certainly part of the spirit of the locker room and a spokesman in there. You just know he's given himself the assignment of helping to keep Butler's spirits up. Oh, and there is the fact that Carlisle terms him "our heart-and-soul guy.''
And he's having fun being a Mav, too … which includes celebrating the fact that fans are celebrating his presence with stuff like our new DB.com Store t-shirt – essentially co-crafted by Tyson himself.
"Yeah, I think it's funny,'' said Chandler, who got himself a "Chandler's Heart-and-Soul Food'' t-shirt from the DB.com Store. "I'll be wearing it around.
You can do the same. Check it out at the DB.com Store!
Here's Chandler's Heart-and-Soul Food holding court after the game, featuring this gem: "Playing against somebody like (Dwight Howard) as physical as he is and as much as he gets away with, it's impossible." ...
THE FINAL WORD: We'll arrange to give you some locker-room video from Shawn Marion in Sunday Morning Mavs Donuts. But for now, let's let him have The Final Word.
"It's a long season,'' said Marion. "It's still early. We are still one of the top teams in the league, right? We lost two of our main guys and one of them will be coming back soon. At the same time, we are a very talented team. We just have to stay with it and stay positive."