(What did Cutler really do to his knee? Check the video from DB.com reader, athletic trainer and Twizzler enthusiast Stotts)
Go back eight years. Dirk Nowitzki sits out half (yes, half!) of the 2003 Western Conference Finals. The Dallas Mavericks might have moved on to the NBA Finals had Dirk not suffered a knee injury at the hands of Tonya Harding...er, Manu Ginobili. Dirk was accused of being soft and, well, that he did what Cutler is accused of doing.
Now back to the present. Watching Dirk play on 1.5 knees I'm forced to wonder if the Mavs weren't actually better off in the 2003 playoffs with him out of the lineup. Back then, the Mavs had three other proven scorers in the top 5 or 6 players -- Nash, Finley, and Van Exel -- who could pick up the slack for him.
Do the Mavs have that kind of scoring punch today without Dirk?
DONUT 2: To answer the above question, look at the starting lineup for any of the last several games. Tuesday, against the Los Angeles Clippers, I spent the entire first quarter talking back to the TV. I had only one thing to say: "This team has no shooters...they need shooters!" In a starting lineup of Pavlovic, Chandler, Dirk, Kidd, and Stevenson, they have no shooters. Dirk, you say? No. Dirk with 1.5 knees is apparently .5 of a shooter. The others are opportunistic shooters, not real SHOOTERS. The difference is between hoping the guy makes the shot and expecting he probably will make the shot. The Mavericks have no SHOOTERS in their starting lineup...unless Dirk has two knees.
Fortunately, JJ Barea and Jason Terry were real shooters in that game and made the second half a whole lot more fun.
During Thursday night's pre-game on Fox Sports leading up to the Mavericks-Rockets game, Rick Carlisle at least admitted that the Mavericks have only one shooter in their starting lineup. This game, however, the Mavericks leveraged opportunistic shooters to build a 45-20 lead with seven minutes left in the half before slowly collapsing. That huge lead provided enough cushion for the bench -- and in particular JJ Barea -- to get out and push the team across the finish line before the Rockets caught up.
Slashing through the lane is essential, but good shooting is too often unfairly maligned. Gotta have shooters in your lineup, too. Peja, when are you comin', son?
His summary is, "Derrick Rose is making the Bulls relevant once again." He's scoring 25 points per game. His assists are up 33 percent. He proves it's possible to be the team's leading scorer and a legitimate point guard.
Assuming Roddy Beaubois ever plays professional basketball again (kidding!), should we revisit whether point guard is the position he should play?
After Jason Kidd's days in the starting lineup are over (year 2525), no one including me seems to want JJ Barea as the starting PG for the Mavericks. Barea is still maturing and making the case he can be a better backup point guard than locals believe. But there is no heir apparent to the starting PG position. Qurashi admits: "Derrick Rose may not be a born leader, but he sure has become one." On the surface Beaubois may seem less intense -- less white-hot -- than a Derrick Rose or a Rajon Rondo. Part of it may have to do with language. Seriously. It's one thing for Beaubois to enjoy whole-hearted acceptance as a freakishly-talented small young'un who can barely speak English. To be a leader you must have no fear of being demanding of your teammates and sometimes even offending others with your demands. It's a big leap for Roddy B to take, but he's a good leaper, right?
I'm willing to agree that we haven't really seen Beaubois, yet. We've seen his campaign promises, but we haven't seen Roddy B wear a mantle of responsibility. Therein lies the Roddy Beaubois myth: Who is this guy?
DONUT 4: Also from BleacherReport, Lance Morrison compares Dirk's jump shot to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's sky hook. I've always thought that, but applied it about the One-Legged-Euro-Lean-Back specifically. Morrison claims that "the principal reason Dirk Nowitzki can never be discussed with the greatest power forwards of all time is that he can't guard anyone and that makes him a fatal liability to his team."
Can't. Guard. ANYONE.
Now there's reasoned analysis.
Morrison tries to make his case that Dirk is both too slow and too weak to defend his position. It's not worth trying to play stat war with anyone, but let's hear his other interesting comment:
"The 2010-2011 Mavericks are the best team in the Dirk Nowitzki era." Here's what intrigues me about it:
*The article is from December 31, before the Mavericks' Dirk-less slide was clearly evident.
*Morrison ignores the fact that Dallas' defensive efficiency is DOWN without Dirk in the game.
*The Mavericks have more and more become a defense-oriented team, starting in Avery Johnson's tenure and with, yes, Dirk on the team.
He then invokes the NBA's version of Godwin's Law which holds that "if you mention playoff records, you've automatically ended whatever player discussion you were taking part in." In other words, if you want to show how weak your debating skill is, just say that a team's playoff record proves every contention about a given player.
DONUT 5: You might have heard about the 108-3 victory by the Christian Heritage Crusaders girls high school basketball team on January 18. If you think being beaten by 105 points is humiliating, you're correct. But as comments from the losing squad shows, all is not lost.
"A lot of things went wrong. The first three quarters were very difficult. We're playing a great team that is playing extremely well, and we just got outplayed. There's not much more to say than that." -Coach Rick Carlisle
"I think if you lose two star players off any team, they're going to go through the stretch we're going through. This isn't anything anybody else in the league wouldn't go through." -Tyson Chandler
"We're all professionals. We're a veteran ballclub. There's no one panicking." -Jason Kidd
DONUT 6: This brings up an interesting question: When is running up the score a bad thing? In the NBA...never. NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!
Why? Because leads don't last. Any NBA team is both talented enough and incompetent enough to gain and lose a huge lead. If you're leading by 20 after one quarter, run it up to 30, then to 40, then to 50. If you're ahead by 30 entering the final quarter, make sure it's 40 by the half-way mark, then take your foot off the gas. All easier said than done, I suppose. But to let a 25-point lead be frittered to a one-point lead?
"NBA etiquette? I don't need no stinkin' NBA etiquette!"
DONUT 7: I always wince at any comment that mocks a person for his or her physical attributes. The public abuse of JJ Barea is an example of this. But after Barea's outstanding performance Tuesday night against the Clippers, one of our 75-Member Staff commented that he "loves to see Mighty Mouse in action."
I'm going to assume you understand when I say how different it is to praise someone whose performance elevates them in spite of their size, rather than to diminish them because of it. What we need now is someone (a short someone) to wear a padded muscle shirt with number 11 and a red cape. And mouse ears.
Please don't tell me this has already been done. I need my illusions on this.
DONUT 8: Fanboyism, Bandwagonism and Koolaid-Thirst.
In the Mavericks universe, Fanboyism is otherwise known as the worship of OTD...the One True Dirk. So long as shrines and scrap books are not a doctrinal requirement, I'll be Dirk's fanboy.
Bandwagonism: "If you can't be 'em, join 'em...unless they suck." A few people publicize something. More and more people join in (jump on the bandwagon). The main objection is that people jump back off. Personally, I have no problem with Bandwagonism. It's all part of enjoying the moment. Just think of it as "sports tourism" and it makes perfect sense.
Koolaid-Thirst: Over the last few years, somehow the football world starting serving little plastic cups filled with "Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl Contenders." I am a life-long Cowboys fan but even I didn't stand in line for that stuff. Not that the Boys can't get to the Super Bowl next year if everyone's healthy...but this stuff tastes horrible. Blech.
On the other hand, see that Koolaid stand over there? It's the one with the sign that reads, "Dallas Mavericks, NBA Title Contenders." If you're thirsty and need something to drink, go there. There's no one in line. I hear it's not bad stuff.
DONUT 9: "Sports tourism" (see Bandwagonism above) is especially appreciated at the DB.com Store. Feel free to jump on the bandwagons that celebrate Roddy B, Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki and the Reunion Rowdies, as embodied by Ro Blackman himself. What we're proud of:
Roddy B owns a couple of FREE RODDY B shirts.
Tyson Chandler loves his "Heart-and-Soul Food'' shirt.
Dirk is diggin' the soon-to-be-released "Take That Wit Chew'' shirt.
And what says "Reunion Rowdies'' more than Ro wearing it?
DONUT 10: It's sometimes difficult to find new information for the heads-up guys and gals on the DB.com Boards who are out there finding so many interesting tid-bits.
The shoes advertise the Celtics ample lead (152-120) in games won in history between the two teams. You mean to tell me these two teams have played each other only 272 times in their entire history? Seems closer to a million. As taunts go, it's pretty good. Garnett can be lousy, the Lakers can route on Sunday, and the shoes will still be playoff-worthy.
DONUT 11: Dwyane Wade wanted to wear tinted goggles to protect his eyes while on the basketball court. Allegedly the bright lights bring on or exacerbate his migraine headaches. The picture shows him wearing the compromise orange goggles. Erik Spoelstra divulged that the league claimed the original goggles were tinted so dark (like car windshields) that it gave Wade an unfair advantage when no one could see his eyes. The orange goggles darken the whites of Wade's eyes, making them harder to see, so one can only imagine what the other ones must do to a defender.
I'm sure this never occurred to Wade.
(If you're wondering, no, I am incapable of saying that last line with a straight face.)
DONUT 12: Some people don't seem to understand that being an athlete, being a fit athlete at playing weight, and being an athlete in game condition are all different things. If Mavericks management says Peja Stojakovic is not ready to play, I'll bet they know what they're talking about.
See you in a bit right here at DallasBasketball.com for 24-hour coverage of Hawks at Mavs tonight at the AAC ... and we'll see you next Saturday, too … in this space and at the Saturday, Feb. 5 DB.com Mavs Get-Together at ThreeSheets!