Let's do the fun stuff before we get all Donut'y: The DB.com the Dallas Mavericks FISH Facebook Page grew so quickly (500 friends in a matter of days) that a big PR firm guy asked me what our "trick'' is.
No trick, of course. Our PR firm is YOU. And in conjunction with the jump to a Fast 500, we're giving away a pair of Mavs tickets and a Dirk autographed trading card to a couple of our Facebook friends. Here goes!
Congrats to Trey Fleck (you get the Dirk card) and Staci Lauren Swinney (you get the Mavs tickets)! Come like us up at the DB.com the Dallas Mavericks FISH Facebook Page ... and yes, more swag is in store!
DONUT 1: Let's not get too bogged down here in the pre-deadline names like Capt. Jack and Devin Harris and Tayshaun Prince. DallasBasketball.com studied, detailed and reported in great depth what happened with various trade discussions and why none came to fruition for the Dallas Mavericks.
We can also say with some certainty that Dallas wanted to make the right deal and didn't enter the final stretch with an unbendable desire to "stand pat.''
DONUT 2: We think it is fair to present another issue that may have influenced why Dallas chose to stand pat … and even with Sunday's 101-73 win over GS and the Mavs' fine 49-21 record, we think it's fair because we're still reeling from Dallas getting down by 18 points in consecutive games last week to Golden State and to the Spurs.
Hey, Dallas is …. Evaluations that swerve into second-guessing questions are appropriate when your team has lost six straight games to Western playoff-seeded foes.
So what other factors beyond the pieces involved or availability of specific players may have been stirred to muddy the thinking on any possible deals?
DONUT 3: One possible factor: timing.
The Mavericks faced one of the toughest schedules in the league through January before things let up considerably for the 28 days of February. A decreased level of difficulty carried an expected rise in success, delivering an 11-1 record for the month, including 9-1 prior to the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
This success in itself may have been a factor, though again, the Mavs stated publically that the team's record at the time, amidst a light month, would not affect their decision-making. (And it was said privately to us as well.)
Fair enough. But, within those wins was a higher level of play from one new contributor at a position most considered the biggest area of need: small forward.
DONUT 4: At the time, there were only two true small forwards on the roster, Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic, with Peja being acquired to help fill the void left by Caron Butler's injury. In what may have been a bad break of happenstance, once viewed as serendipitous, Peja took the court as a Mav for the first time on Feb. 7, and gradually improved until the moment the deadline came and went.
From his debut until the deadline, Peja averaged 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, hit 47 percent of his field-goal attempts and 39 percent behind the arc. Perhaps more notably, in the four games leading up to Feb. 24, he had his most effective stretch and appeared to be the embodiment of the grandest of hopes Dallas supporters placed in him.
For those four games immediately before the deadline, Peja averaged 15.5 points and 3 rebounds while hitting 59 percent of his field goals, including 54.4 percent behind the arc.
In that moment, concerns over the small forward position were temporarily dulled, dispelling any hint of desperation in favor of quiet confidence. Honestly, why give up any significant assets for a small forward if Peja was going to play so well?
Unfortunately, once the deadline passed, so did the contributions from Stojakovic. (Until last night, that is. Let's go to the highlights.)
DONUT 5: Since the deadline, going into last night, he has averaged 4.8 points and 3.7 rebounds while hitting only 30 percent of his total shot attempts and 16 percent of those coming from three-point land … not to mention the fact that he had missed the past six games with neck and back problems.
If he's going to play like he did last night, though? Peja was good for 17 points as his 5-of-8 from the arc included scoring nine straight Mavs points. If he can offer anything resembling his pre-deadline production, or anything like this, the current fears may erode. If you are a Mavs Premium subscriber, you know about our "Coach ‘Em Up'' X-and-O's video piece on "The Peja Presence.'' (It's about a dime-a-day, guys, and we even offer a FREE 7-Day Trial!) Our thoughts are reinforced by the brilliant Del Harris, who shared his views on Peja's ability to spread the floor (heard here on our recent DB.com Mavs Podcast.
If not, the timing of his peak production can be defined as something far from ideal, and could even end up serving as a detrimental influence on the progression of this season.
DONUT 6: From Peja to the next bit of what may have been fortuitously bad timing, to a lesser degree, JJ Barea's hot streak.
For the first 24 days of February, ending with the deadline, Barea averaged 14.3 points (more than doubling his career scoring average of seven), 4.8 assists and hit 55 percent of his shot attempts, including 54.5 percent behind the arc.
Barea has continued to play relatively well, and isn't nearly the post-deadline disappointment that Peja has been. But JJB hasn't been able to sustain those extremely efficient numbers.
DONUT 7: From the deadline through the Spurs game March 18, Barea has averaged 8.7 points and 3.3 assists while seeing his shooting percentages have slipped slightly to a still strong 47 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three.
Again, these numbers are far from bad. Coming into the season, few would have expressed even remote disappointment in this production from Barea. However, after the binge he unleashed prior to the trade deadline, they represent a slight dip. Part of this is due to his reduction of minutes, from 24 to 18, but the conversion percentages have still slipped, as have his per-minute production.
DONUT 8: And then there is The Eye Test: We're having a tough time erasing from our gray matter the scene in Portland last week, where JJB couldn't pass over, dribble around or see beyond Rudy Fernandez. Rudy locked the kid in a phone booth.
We're not blaming Barea for the team's recent struggles, only noting that the timing of his surge may have indirectly influenced the mindset of those watching and evaluating the team at an inopportune time.
Currently sitting at 8-5 since the deadline, it's hard not to look back to that moment and wonder if something should've been done.
Which JJB was The Real JJB? The guy who started the season as the lowest plus/minus guy in the game? The guy who spent the winter as one of the hottest 3-point shooters in the NBA and a 14-point guy in February? Or the guy who has slipped from there, and has us concerned that the roller coaster might go downhill at just the wrong moment.
Hindsight is never bound to the uncertainties of lowlight, while the present always is.
DONUT 9: So important to note: We're not erecting Peja and Barea as the spring-time whipping posts around here. The "Chemistry Vibe'' that was celebrated by coach Rick Carlisle early in the season remains. At different moments this season, we believe our occasional wrath has cut a wide swath. We bet that out of every 70 issues/decisions/results that have come before the DB.com Jury, the Mavs have been judged favorably about 49 times and unfavorably about 21 times. (Get our drift?)
So basically, this morning, it's just Peja and Barea's turn.
DONUT 10: There's nothing here to say the hopes conceived in this team's success are lost. We should all still be having fun on DB.com Boards and on the Dallas Mavericks FISH Facebook Page and we still need to get tickets to the game and eat out at ThreeSheets and Esparza's and go to the best dentist in the world and yeah, treat yourself to a TAKE THAT WIT CHEW t-shirt.
You know, Live Your Best Mavs Life!
DONUT 11: But right now, there are decisions worthy of being second-guessed. Luckily, just as timing can work against decisions, if that is to be a factor, it can grant the space to right a course.
We have reasons to be concerned, and time will soon enough justify or dispel these worries. Should they become reality, will we look back to a small stretch of strong play for Peja or an "up'' in Barea's marathon hike as turning points?
DONUT 12: Of course, if you can "turning point'' one direction, you can "turning point'' another. JJB's ups can go up. Peja's neck and back (or "knee,'' as he mentioned last night) can heal and his simple presence in that corner can be a weapon.
That would take more timing.
And in the end, timing is everything.