‘A BAD TEAM': Once upon a time, it was argued that "this is a bad team without Dirk.''
So now what do we argue? That "this is a bad team WITH Dirk''?
That "this is a bad team without Dirk for a half''?
That "this is a bad team without Tyson''?
DIRK'S RE-DEBUT: DallasBasketball.com is told that Dirk Nowitzki's return to the floor after a nine-game absence due to a sprained knee was (and will continue to be) worthy of "minute-limit'' consideration. That is, the coaching staff plans to monitor the demands on The UberMan as he works his way back into form while his knee is less than the designed "100 percent.''
But in Saturday's 89-70 loss at Memphis – Dallas' fifth consecutive failure – Dirk found a way to install a self-imposed minutes limit by allowing his temper to get as sore as his knee.
"I guess I didn't think it was a foul," Nowitzki said dryly in the postgame locker room when addressing his spat with referee Eric Dalen. "So we
talked about it and he tossed me."
They didn't actually "talk.'' Our lip-reading of Germanglish leaves us believing that Dirk, part of a Mavs unit that was struggling with 8:07 left in the third but was still down just 53-41, was not enjoying his wrestling match with Zach Randolph. Dirk responded to Z-Bo's bump with a bump of his own. Dalen caught the second nudge, Dirk objected … and continued to do so.
"F--- you! F--- you! F--- you!'' is how it came across to us, and when ….. appeared to be cautioning Dirk against any more Bavarian bullcrap, Nowitzki said something like, "Go ahead!''
So the ref went ahead. And tossed Nowitzki from a game in which he was just 2-of-7 shooting for seven points with five rebounds … all in just 15 minutes.
And there you have your "minute limit.''
Happily, Dirk said afterward that he wasn't winded and that his knee was "alright.''
"It's alright,'' said Dirk. "It's not great. I don't think I can really move that much. I've never missed three weeks in my career. Lung-wise,
air-wise, I was fine. I was running, I just couldn't really move much, but I think my lungs were decent, I wasn't too gassed. I just need to get the
knee closer to 100 percent and then we'll be OK."
Not 100 percent? That's not a red flag, we don't guess. But because Mavs management once said they wouldn't let Nowitzki come back until his recovery hit that century mark, maybe it does speak to the trouble the team is presently in.
Dallas seemed to ease Dirk into the gameplan. Early on, he was often positioned weakside at the arc – a classic decoy and not the stuff of "changed geometry'' we've come to know around here. Overall, he looked like a player worthy of some double-teams, capable of giving you 20, but still shaking off the rust of a nine-game absence.
It would appear he is Uber but is also, after all, just a Man.
And, as always, a stand-up man in meeting the media.
"We've pretty much hit rock-bottom," a very solemn Dirk muttered after the game. "We can't get any lower. We have to scratch our way out of it."
CHANDLER IN SICK BAY: Before the tip came in Memphis on Saturday night, word arrived that Dirk would return to the starting lineup … paired with the news that Tyson Chandler would be unable to go due to illness.
In a way, it was like getting engaged and calling your parents to share the news only to have them tell you they had decided to get divorced.
Chandler deserves credit for what he did on Friday in San Antonio, being too ill to practice but showing guts by playing. That he couldn't come back and do it again 24 hours later tells you how sick he is.
We tossed out the theory on the FS Southwest Mavs postgame show that maybe Carlisle needs to crack a whip on the Mavs and force them out of their Sunday offday to instead engage in a practice in Detroit.
But upon further review … this team doesn't need to get yelled at. Chandler needs a nap. Dirk needs a light shootaround. Jet and Kidd need their day off.
Monday's road game at Detroit is a 3:30 start. It's impractical to torture anybody now.
Besides, they are most certainly tortured enough by this skid to 26-13.
FISH AND RO ON FS SOUTHWEST POSTGAME: Ro Blackman says "Let's let the engines cool and then rev 'em up for Monday. Have a look!
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "Hang in there, Mavs fans,'' tweeted Mavs owner Mark Cuban. "We WILL get it back on track. A lot of time to go.''
MAVSELLANEOUS: Dallas would score 70 points, a new season-low, and would do so by shooting a season-low 32.4 percent. Little wonder the club once again tried DoJo (this time playing ahead of DeShawn as the game went on) in a desperate stab at getting some offense. … We don't especially want Zach Randolph (23 points and 20 rebounds) on our team. But if we're Dallas, we don't especially want him on the other team, either. … Dallas held Memphis to 4-of-20 (20 percent) in the second quarter, and could only erase two points from the deficit. … The Mavs' bench outscored the starters 44-26. … For the first time since November 2008, Dallas has lost five straight games. As The 75-Member Staff noted Friday after a failure at San Antonio, Dallas hasn't lost six straight since February 1999, Dirk's rookie year. … Dirk passed Gary Payton on the all-time scoring list to move into sole possession of spot No. 24. Next up, only 377 points away is Clyde Drexler. … We continue to object to the green light given every Mav when positioned at the 3-point line. It's simply not a reliable weapon for the likes of Marion, Barea and Ajinca. We're not looking for "entertainment'' here – and it certainly is a queer form of entertainment when Shawn and ‘Lex launch ‘em – we're looking for made baskets. … With the return of Nowitzki, we assumed there would be a readily apparent emotional lift, a shift in disposition from the Mavs. Their best player had returned and the scars of a four-game losing streak, of going 2-7 over the breadth of his absence, would quickly begin to fade. From the start, this was not the case. Rather than a revived bravado, we again found a team in search of itself -- and finding nothing to grasp onto -- other than a deepening level of frustration, and a fifth consecutive loss.
JET'S CONTINUING WOES : Behind the arc, the Mavs hit only six of their 31 attempts, a paltry 19.4 percent.
The man leading Dallas into that basement? Jason Terry, who continued a season that is amounting to his worst as a Maverick from an efficiency standpoint.
After making just three shots in San Antonio on Friday – almost acceptable because of his three-year-long problems with the Spurs – he was expected to break out against a Grizzlies team that has let him be a 21-point guy in the last five meetings.
Jet ended up hitting 4-of-14 shots, including 0-of-5 from the arc.
Including the Memphis game, Terry has a field-goal percentage of 43.2, and a 3-point percentage of 32.5. Both mark his lowest conversion rates since coming to Dallas.
Perhaps a little more worrisome, this continues a downward trend that began after the 2006-07 season … a trend that has seen his field-goal and 3-point percentages slip (by very small margins at times) in each consecutive year.
All of this is why we spent the summer calling for the Mavs to make an adjustment in the rotation that would allow them to be less reliant on Terry, who is undeniably a foundation piece of this decade of success but might just be aging fast.
Hard to push him down the totem pole, though, when this team is playing without the likes of Dirk and Caron and Roddy B and now Tyson Chandler.
MISSING CARON?: There's no doubt this team misses what Caron Butler brought to the court. What's lacking stands beyond his stats.
His toughness is missed. His fight is missed. His presence is missed. We don't want to turn him into something he wasn't – as we said the other day, in some quarters Butler is being treated like that old girlfriend you remember for being pretty … while forgetting that there must've been a reason you broke up with her.
But Tuff Juice was tough and he was cool and the Mavs now lack both.
By the way – and really, this is headline-worthy stuff that we'll jam into this report and examine at greater depth later: The organization really does value Caron. They really do want him around. They really have faith in him rehabbing following knee surgery and coming back … next year.
They also know that this notion that Caron shouldn't be traded because he's "part of the fiber of the team'' is ridiculous.
In fact …
CHEMISTRY VIBE UPDATE: Right now, where is that vaunted "chemistry'' that is supposed to carry a team through tough times?
We think is DOES exist. We think it IS carrying the club through tough times.
But we KNOW it isn't carrying it far enough to start thinking that it needs $10.8-million towel-wavers to get it to win some playoff series.
SASHA'S BEARD: It's gone.
Will he soon be, too?
Pavlovic, working on that 10-day contract, played 14 minutes and missed both of his shots. DB.com is being told that Dallas "is trying to stay fluid there,'' meaning Sasha hasn't come close to locking up a second 10-day deal.
HOW LOW CAN IT GO?: No lower. Please.
Against Indiana, Dallas shot 41.3 percent.
Against San Antonio, Dallas shot 43.4 percent.
Against Memphis, Dallas shot 32.4 percent.
No lower. Please.
DIRK'S EJECTION: To be very clear here: That cannot happen.
The Mavericks players have been awaiting the return of their leader for three weeks. It was supposed to be glorious, but even after it fell short of that, it could've still been victorious.
When he went to the showers, "glorious'' and "victorious'' were no longer options.
Dirk is a better leader than this, has a better BBIQ than this, is more in control of his scene than this.
Can't happen. You can't have swagger in the shower.
THE GASOL BOYS: We got to see Marc here. Pau comes to town on Wednesday.
Hey, that Mrs. Gasol was one Handsome-Baby-Making Factory, was she not?
How's that working for you?
Oh, about as well as the other five lineups Rick's tried in the last 10 games – or worst, as the Dallas' starting five managed to score just 26 points.
OH YEAH, THE OTHER TEAM: Memphis has now won 10 of 12 at home to climb to 19-21. Dallas entered 50-11 all-time against the franchise but in the last nine meetings is 4-5.
THE BLUE-WHITE SCRIMMAGE: Thumbs-up on the play of Ian Mahinmi, who brought a much needed burst of energy on his way to a career-high 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting in addition to six rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
But let's not tout this "discovery'' just yet. If Ian was truly an answer, the Mavs wouldn't have played Alexis Ajinca as the emergency starting 4 in the previous two games.
Same goes for DoJo, who had some neat moments – in the first half doing enough to nudge ahead of DeShawn, and late in the game getting some run at PG. However, taken on a whole, this move did not pay direct dividends. DoJo went 0-of-5 in the third before giving way to JJ Barea and finished with four points on 0-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Dominique Jones was lively. Ian Mahinmi was lively and actually good, too.
Yet it's pretty obvious now: Ian, ‘Lex, Cardinal, Sasha … DoJo, DeShawn, JJB …
This is not a plan.
It's a grab-bag. And in the end, it has the look of a Blue-White Scrimmage.
CUBAN'S COUCH: Late into the night, a tweeter pretending to be NFL boss Rex Ryan messaged Cuban saying, "You should hire me as couch.''
Responded Tony Cubes: "I already have all the couchs I need. If we redecorate, I will let you know.''
THE FINAL WORD: "This begins the process,'' said Carlisle before the game, referring mostly to the return of Dirk.
It's time for the "process'' to make "progress.''