DONUT 1: Before I talk about last night's thrilling Mavericks win over the Celtics, and before we get to tonight's DB.com Get-Together at ThreeSheets in Dallas that you ARE attending, right? … let me just offer you Kelly Dwyer's inspired view of an inspired performance by LeBron James.
James is a bundle of contradictions. Emotionally he seems not to have advanced beyond 18 years old. Physically he's an astonishing specimen. Mentally he is often strangely distracted and detached from his surroundings. Occasionally the three play off each other to show us an astounding basketball player. James is already remarkable, but he's still climbing that mountain where his heart, mind, and body will (we hope) take the summit as one. Then...watch out.
It also seems LeBron James will forever be stalked by "The Decision," that bizarre display of self-aggrandizement as he announced...as he told us...um...well whatever it was it wasn't terribly important. But the city of Cleveland hated him for it. For a while I thought it was a huge mistake on his part and he was too myopic to foresee these unfortunate side-effects.
Maybe I had it all wrong. A game like Thursday night had to have been driven partly by the spoofing of his persona in Orlando. I'm guessing James took it personally enough to show them they couldn't do it and not pay for it. Orlando paid. Dearly.
Does James, at this point in his life, need a public affront to help him focus? Does he need to be offended to keep him from mentally wandering off? Perhaps close to his 51-point monster performance against the Magic was his 38-point performance against his former team last December 2. Not because of his stat line but because it suggests a need for a devil's advocate, an antagonist, a public enemy. More importantly, it shows he not only doesn't cower to it, he embraces it.
DONUT 2: One other thing: You want to know if the Los Angeles Lakers are REALLY in trouble? Ron Artest wants to be traded. (Or he doesn't. Depends which day.) I don't know what he was really like last year or the year before, but if he's publicly asking to be traded this year, the Lakers have a starting player who is no longer engaged in the campaign for a title. Not good. If Phil and Kobe can somehow keep Artest from capsizing, look for one of those examples of winning chemistry that has nothing to do with brotherly love in the locker room.
DONUT 3: You can't say Dirk Nowitzki never gets an offensive rebound. He got one last night. Only one, but it counted for two points. Nowitzki scored another 27 points to go with it, including 10-of-10 at the charity stripe (some in a desperately clutch situation) and the Mavs won 101-97.
Don't you just love to see Dirk at the free-throw line with just seconds remaining? I know I do.
DONUT 4: I love to watch games with my Beloved Bride. She brings an emotional outlook that is a contrast to my more studious, analytical approach. Yin to my yang.
There's 2:43 left in the game. The Celtics have a 97-91 lead. Nowitzki converts a 3-point play to cut the lead to 3.
There's 56.6 seconds left in the game. During the previous nearly two minutes Mavericks throw up two airballs from the 3-point arc. The Beloved Bride is disgusted: "I don't think I can watch any more of this!" Wait a second, I insist. It's still 97-94. The Mavs have kept the Celtics from scoring. They're in this thing.
Then Jason Terry once again proves that, yes, he IS clutch from the free-throw line. He cuts the deficit to a single point.
There's 15.3 seconds left in the game. During the previous 41 seconds, both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have missed their bread-and-butter shots, rushed in their delivery by a frantic, scrambling Mavs defense. Mavs have the ball. Everyone from here to Saturn knows Dirk will be taking the last shot. Everyone, that is, except Dirk's hands. He fumbles the ball but manages to rescue it and bail out to Jason Kidd, who calmly drains the 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining, and the Mavericks win the game.
At the end, the Celtics are still where they were 2 minutes and 43 seconds earlier. 97 points.
Mavericks defense in the Boston Garden. What a night. The Bride was duly impressed.
DONUT 5: An interesting poll on the DB.com Boards discusses Jason Kidd's inevitable induction into the NBA Hall of Fame. Will it be as a New Jersey Net or as a Dallas Maverick? I want to say as a Maverick. Kidd played as many and perhaps more years as a Maverick. He began his career in Dallas and almost certainly will end it there.
On the other hand, it helps to take a more objective view. So I grouped his statistical achievements by city and asked, "What did he accomplish in New Jersey that warrants him entering the HOF as a Net?" If you look at basic stats, you see that he did the following things in New Jersey:
- 80 percent of his total points scored
- 83 percent of his total rebounds
- 82 percent of his total made free throws
- 79 percent of his made field goals
- 88 percent of his made 3-point shots
Yet Jason Kidd played only 69 percent of his minutes in New Jersey, and got only 69 percent of his assists there. It's clear that Jason Kidd carried the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals twice, in his role as a scorer. Is there a good argument to induct Kidd as a Net instead of as a Maverick? Yeah, a huge one. But I don't have to like it.
DONUT 6: Ray Allen has averaged a steady 17-ish points per game as a Boston Celtic. But his first year was an inconsistent one. So much so that I named him "Mr. Intermittent." When he was good he was very, very good, and when he was bad he was...well, a downright embarrassment to the pretty-boy pure-shooter hype showered on him. Yet, somehow, Allen managed 40 percent from the arc, and 90 percent from the free throw line in the 2007-2008 season.
This year Ray Allen is tearing it up, shooting 50.8 and looking more like Dirk Nowitzki...in other words a genuinely consistent offensive producer. I've also heard it said that Ray Allen doesn't play defense. Not true. Allen is long and has great lateral quickness. He can and does hustle for loose balls and is, if not the most physical of players, a respectable defensive presence. As such, I was not surprised to see him impressively block a Tyson Chandler dunk attempt last night. He may not be the volume scorer he was in Seattle, but Ray Allen is having a terrific year.
DONUT 7: Few players can make a championship impact early in their NBA careers. There not be but a few guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, players who still in their twenties led their team to an NBA Title. These are players who came out of college with the basketball IQ, physical talent, and emotional maturity that were in such harmony as to allow them to ascend quickly to the pinnacle of achievement in their sport.
Other players -- most other players -- may be talented but are more fun to watch when they get to about 30 years old. Don't knock it. Professional sports is that "life lessons" sort of thing that should remind us all that we are always learning, always growing. Watching players from last night -- Nowitzki, Garnett, Pierce, Allen -- is a big enjoyment to me. These are men who always had good statistical achievements but more gradually grew into leadership roles. The notion that they are "too old" is laughable to me because it is at this point they are the most accomplished players they will ever be. This is when we should want to watch them most.
I omit Jason Kidd from either list because he has no titles and he was always a brilliant player. His problem was having to carry guys like Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter into battle against the Lakers and Spurs who were at or near the peak of their dynasty years. Yuck. Now he has Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, and it's time for guys like Jason Terry and Shawn Marion not to let these three guys down.
DONUT 8: You know what's so interesting about the free-throw line? It's where it is. Near the middle of the half-court floor. It's where so many loose balls end up. Jason Kidd seems to know this. Watch him, and you'll see he gravitates to that spot often, where loose balls and tipped rebounds go to die. He intercepts them there and runs off with them. Being in the right place at the right time is a wonderful thing.
It's like the repairman who goes to a customer's house. Customer says he has a squeaky floor. Repairman gets his hammer, goes down into the basement, spends 15 minutes looking around, then lifts his hammer and WHAM! one time against a joist. Problem solved. Repairman goes back up and presents his bill for 150 dollars.
"It costs me 150 dollars for you to swing your hammer one time?!" the customer says.
"No," says the repairman, "it costs you 150 dollars for me to know where to swing it."
Jason Kidd knows where to be and what to do. That's part of the reason he's still going strong at age 38. He knows where to swing it.
DONUT 9: Last night's game was very much a playoff atmosphere. Rick Carlisle stuck with a seven-man rotation, and Jason Kidd played 37 minutes. The good folks on DallasBasketball.com don't like this. They want him to play only 30 minutes a game. So I wonder if the Mavericks victory over the Celtics was so impressive, so playoff-ish as a defensive exhibition, that maybe Carlisle will rest Kidd tonight against Charlotte, even to the extent of not asking him to do too much even if the Mavs risk losing the game.
Look for 29 minutes or less from Kidd, tonight.
DONUT 10: I think there is a shakeup coming in the Mavericks. Not in the form of a trade. (This isn't Fish's sources talking, just my guessing talking.) If the shakeup occurs as I think it will, it will be like a trade because the Mavericks will have three prominent names in the box score for the final 25 games that weren't there before.
One of them is Ian Mahinmi. We've seen some of him but not enough. I can only shake my head in confusion at Brendan Haywood. This is a guy who didn't have his head in the game last night. Haywood has his moments of lucidity and aggression. But Ian Mahinmi is ALWAYS young and hungry and long and aggressive and, frankly, I wonder if he might get more minutes after the All-Star break.
Another is Peja. If his knee is healthy enough, I'm hoping he will be the Mavericks' sorta answer to the Celtics' Ray Allen on offense. Quick release and almost unlimited range. He'll have to be consistent, but he could be wowing Mavericks fans in March and April. He could steal enough minutes from Marion, Cardinal, and even Stevenson that he could average 12-15 minutes.
The other is the proverbial Roddy Beaubois. Some people aren't sure he really exists. Let me assure you he does. I don't think I'm overstating it to say that to Mavericks fans, the return of Roddy B to the lineup is like the return of Tiger Woods to the golf world. Who knows what the hell will happen but that's the kind of hype we're talking about, here.
DONUT 11: Back on January 8, I predicted Roddy B would make his season debut tonight in Charlotte. I was wrong. My prediction was based on Roddy B coming back before the All-Star break, and I'm still sticking with that part. We may have to wait until the Mavericks host the Sacramento Kings on February 16.
I don't envy Rick Carlisle that moment. Right now the Mavericks have an effective combo in Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, who platoon in for the last few minutes of the first quarter, usually in place of Stevenson and Dirk. If Roddy B is not prepared to play point guard, he will have to squeeze in somewhere and play spot minutes where he can find them.
But I'll tell you this right now. If Roddy B wants to get steady minutes and lots of them, he'll have to prove to Rick Carlisle that he knows where to be and what to do when he gets there. I'm all for Roddy B being a disruptive influence in the right way, but he'll have to demonstrate an ability to understand and execute an assignment as it's given to him. It's not that Roddy can't do it. It's that he'll have to prove it early and often in order to be playing a minimum of 20 minutes per game come playoff time.
DONUT 12: As a DallasBasketball.com administrator, I get to see the steady flow of new posters in our discussion forums. Participation in the DB.com Mavs Premium Forum is growing. Mike Fisher is delivering some boffo premium content you don't want to miss, so save those dimes and spend one a day with us to see the whole site, not just part of it. See you tonight at the Mavs Get-Together at ThreeSheets!