Mavs Donuts: Trash To Treasure To Title?

Tuesday Morning Mavs Donuts: From 'Asset Management' in the Dallas front office to 'Strategic X's-and-O's' with Coach Fain to DB.com on TV tonight on FS Southwest to tonight's Game 1 refs, we've got Mavs-at-Miami and the NBA Finals covered like a beach blanket!




DONUT 1: For years, in reference to the way Cuban and Donnie and the Triangle of Trust run this thing, we've called it "Asset Management. The Dallas Mavericks, by virtue of 50-win seasons, were never going to be in the Lotto. So playing trick-'em/dick'em to, say, land Robinson AND Duncan wasn't going to happen. And Jerry West never worked here, so landing superstars in exchange for magic beans, that wasn't happening, either.

For the Mavs to achieve championship contention and then to remain there, the Triangle of Trust would have to practice Asset Management. They would have to throw in "sweeteners'' (that is, Cuban checks for $3 mil). They would have to give up some late first-round picks. They would need to rely on Donnie's connections and Cuban's influence and the locker-room mood long ago established by Dirk Nowitzki.

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"Go get a second championship superstar!'' some yelled ... but that's a challenge, because, for one thing, how many "championship superstars'' are there?


DONUT 2: The Triangle of Trust tries to do it that way. In the past few months alone, they courted LeBron. They made "kitchen sink'' bids on CP3 and 'Melo.

But some guys want to go to LA and some guys want to go to NY and lots of teams want to keep their "championship superstars'' right where they are. So most NBA franchises bob near the top and then sink again, down to the Lotto, and then a few years later they bob near the top again.

Not Dallas.

In addition to 11X50, the Mavs have been in the WCF three times since 2002. They've won two Western Conference titles. (You can find the trophies uncarefully stashed by Dirk in an AAC janitor's closet somewhere.) They will now make their second Finals appearance in six years.

They will do so for many reasons, coach Rick Carlisle's presence in the Triangle of Trust included.

But from a front-office perspective, they will do so thanks to Asset Management.

DONUT 3: A quick how-they-are-build sketch:

*Rather improbably, Dallas acquired four-time All-Star Shawn Marion from a salary-dumping Toronto for Jerry Stackhouse's expiring contract.

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*Completely improbably, Dallas acquired All-NBA Defense center Tyson Chandler for a salary-dumping Charlotte in exchange for The DUST Chip.

*Moving a declining Josh Howard to Washington, Dallas acquired two-time All-Star Caron Butler.

*Dallas got Jason Terry from Atlanta for Antoine Walker. Jet is going to his second NBA Finals. 'Toine is, I believe, auditioning for a role in "Pros Vs. Joes.''

As part of the Butler deal, Dallas also got Brendan Haywood for, essentially, Drew Gooden.

*A stashed Peja came to Dallas for/not-directly-for (wink) Alexis Ajinca.

*DeShawn Stevenson was a throw-in in the Caron/Big Wood deal. Dallas threw Quinton Rossand James Singleton back.

*Dallas gave up nothing to have on its roster JJ Barea, plus old hand Cardinal and young prospects The Ianimal and DoJo.

*Dallas stole Corey Brewer off the buy-out list just after this trade dealine, sacrificing no assets.

*The Mavs believed they needed over-the-top leadership at point guard, so they sacrificed a good young one in Devin for an all-time great one in Kidd.

*Dallas used a late-first-rounder to give BJ Mullen to OKC in exchange for them drafting Roddy B.

*And most famously, Dallas did the same 13 years ago, to start this terrific run, by letting Milwaukee have the late Robert "Tractor'' Traylor so the Mavs could have Dirk.

That's called Asset Management, right there. Thirteen years of mostly "hits.'' Eleven years of contention. Another chance at a championship. Some of it because treasure developed, some of it because treasure was recognized ... but lots of it because the Mavs turned trash into treasure.

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It's easy to "hit'' on guys when you are in the Lotto for three straight years, or when Jerry West makes a trade with himself, or when you tank your way to good fortune.

But to trash-to-treasure your way to another NBA Finals? That's called Asset Management.

DONUT 4: Men want to wear them. Women want to be with the men who wear them. And then wear them themselves.
They are two of the most popular t-shirts at the Mavs Fan Shop at the AAC, but you don't have to go to the game to get your "TAKE THAT WIT CHEW!'' and your "REUNION ROWDIES!'' ... The DB.com originals, produced in conjuction with the Mavs themselves (and the TAKE THAT WIT CHEW thumbs-upped by Dirk himself) are available right here right now!

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DONUT 5: Now our Coach Fain, for some specific breakdowns of what's what for tonight's Game 1, tipoff at 8 p.m. in Miami:

Let's begin with what, from a Dallas perspective, seems like a contrast in styles and philosophies:

The Mavericks, Coach Fain notes, play the quintessential team game. The pass, cut, move, and defend as a synchronistic entity. They have guys who do one or two things particularly well, guys who do a little bit of everything and one guy that can seemingly do anything. They play the game in a pure and simple way, the way that makes basketball the beautiful, artistic, and creative game we all love. They have individual weaknesses that they cover up for each other. Tyson patrols the paint because Dirk isn't suited to. Kidd defends bigger guards because Terry can't. Terry takes on a lot of scoring responsibility because Kidd isn't wired that way.

And Dirk? He does things that no one has ever been able to do. He is, for all intents and purposes, what the Mavericks aspire to be; selfless, dedicated, passionate, hard-working, efficient, driven, and, perhaps most importantly, greater than the sum of his parts.

Dirk's uniqueness drives Dallas' remarkably efficient offense, and his length combines well with Kidd, Marion, D-Steve, Chandler, and Haywood to create a formidable defense. Most of all, these Mavs feed off of trust. Everyone trusts each other to do what they're supposed to and be where they're supposed to, from Carlisle, to Kidd and Dirk, all the way down to DeShawn Stevenson (this is the biggest reason Roddy Beaubois hasn't been, and won't be, a factor in these playoffs).

Offensively Dallas relies heavily on the unique challenges Dirk presents to opposing defenses to create favorable situations within the "flow" of play. They do this through nearly constant ball and player movement. This movement allows the Mavs to generate mismatches and free space for Dirk and Terry to operate and sufficient defensive uncertainty to take advantage of the resulting late or missed assignments or rotations.

Miami, on the other hand, is everything our fathers hate about the modern NBA. Too much dribbling, too many isolations, not enough passing, cutting, and screening, and worst of all the idea that one (or in this case either one of two) players should be capable and should attempt to abandon the team concept in favor of "taking over" a game. The Heat do not rely on ball or player movement, they do not attempt to cover up for each other's weaknesses, and they do not, in any sense of the term, play together.

They are almost singularly reliant on the transcendence of their two great players, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. These two players are called upon to create nearly every scoring opportunity through dribble penetration, screen-roll (with each other, or Chris Bosh), or by getting out in transition.

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We know that D-Wade trusts D-Wade, and "King" James trusts in "King" James, but do these guys really trust each other?

DONUT 6: Now to what is apparently the mainstream media's top choice of storylines:

Who Guards Dirk?

Of course, no one really guards Dirk anymore. They check him, bump him, and otherwise try to make him uncomfortable in the hopes that he will either pass the ball to someone else or, in the most unlikely of circumstances, miss a shot. We expect Bosh and Haslem to log the majority of the minutes on Dirk, with a smattering of Joel Anthony mixed in.

We, unlike most of the national prognosticators, don't foresee lots of LeBron on Dirk for the following reason: As Coach Fain notes, we don't expect Miami to play James a lot at the 4 and it is a rare thing to cross-match a perimeter player with an interior one.

If Miami does intend to cross-match who does Bosh or Haslem guard? Marion? Kidd? In either case that opens up the floor for Jason Terry in a way Miami will be comfortable with.

Why doesn't Coach Fain see a lot of James at the four? For starters we saw Oklahoma City try something similar and get killed on the offensive glass, and also because Miami's most potent lineup includes both Haslem and Bosh (along with Miller, Wade, and James).

DONUT 7: What does Dallas do against Miami's "Best 5?"

It's actually helpful to the Mavs this sense: The combo of James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem, and Miller doesn't present Dallas' optimal lineup (Kidd, Terry, Marion, Dirk, and Chandler) with too many more-than-normal matchup problems.

In fact, it really simplifies how the Mavs defend Miami.

There is the usual issue with Jet's zine. You might be thinking Terry on Miller (who is a solid 6-8, 215) is quite a mismatch. But Miller is not healthy and because of his place on Miami's totem pole is not a threat to post up.

To the simplification thing: Their Best 5 allows Kidd and Marion to aggressively switch screens in order to deny Wade and James, and it allows Dirk and Chandler to easily switch between Bosh and Haslem, depending on who is closer to the basket at the time.

Obviously Kidd, Stevenson, and Marion will draw most of the action on Wade and James.

We're not saying defending this group is "easy.'' Far from it. But it's "traditional.'' And that's helpful.

DONUT 8: Here's a smarter theme: An Unstoppable Force meets an Immovable Object -- Dallas' offense vs. Miami's defense.

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Dallas is the playoffs' top team in terms of offensive efficiency and Miami is tops in terms of defensive efficiency (both cases referring to points scored/allowed per 100 possessions).

But ...

The problem with those numbers is that Miami really has played three offensively challenged (or crippled in the Celtics' case) squads while Dallas has picked apart three middling defensive teams (don't be fooled by Portland's points per game allowed, that is a factor of an extremely slow pace, not good defense).

The hope is that Dallas offensive prowess is more likely to continue than Miami's smothering defense.

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DONUT 9: Can Dallas limit Wade, James, and Bosh throughout the series?

Marion, Kidd, and Stevenson are more than capable of making James and Wade take difficult shots, but James and Wade are more than more than capable of making difficult shots. The key here is to force both players right (oddly, they both prefer to drive left) and to give considerable ground once the catch is made in the hopes that they will be coaxed into shooting jumpers.

Another key to slowing these two dominant players is keeping them off the foul line. If the Dallas defenders are allowed to be physical before the catch (like Miami will be with Dirk) then you might like the Mavs' chances.

But what about the moderately resurgent Bosh? Perhaps in the face of conventional wisdom, we might let Dirk defend him for the majority of the game.

This would allow Chandler and Haywood to avoid foul trouble while simultaneously not being drawn away from the basket to defend Bosh's mid-range jumpers. It might also coax Miami into feeding Bosh, into forcing the action through Bosh in the mid-post instead of the through the more dynamic and potent James-Wade duo.

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DONUT 11: Tonight, after the network handles its thang ... c'mon over to the HOME team! FS Southwest has the postgame tonight: Fish and Followill and Renner and Dana and Earl and Emily and Ro Blackman ... like a blanket, I tell ya.

We promise to possible say nice things about tonight's zebras: Steve Javie, Mike Callahan and Bill Kennedy (alternate Bill Spooner).

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DONUT 12: Dirk continues to get quizzed about his "legacy.'' He's got his answer down pat.

"That's all media talk to me," The UberMan says. "That's all something we can talk about in 10, 15 years, when my career is over. Right now, I'm chasing my dream. We came so close five years ago. It took a long time to get back to this stage. We obviously want to win. We'll see what happens in these next two weeks, I guess."

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