All-Access Pass To Mavs Preseason Loss To OKC
FOREWARD At times it wasn't pretty. At times it was just plain ugly. But, it was basketball. In the end, we got what we should have expected given the complete circumstances as the Thunder easily put away the Mavs 106-92.
Part of those circumstances: the Oklahoma City Thunder remains almost identical to the team the Mavs faced in the Western Conference Finals, which makes them a team building upon a relatively complete and formulated model.
On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks are forced to begin the process anew. This isn't the same roster that won the Finals. Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic are gone. In their place are Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West and Brandan Wright, as well as hopeful Mavs Jerome Randle and Drew Neitzel … throw on top of that the fact that Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki were rested and did not play, and you have the makings of a blowout.
Where the Thunder finds known roles, known tendencies and a familiar structure; Dallas finds the need for time to grow such things. This isn't a death sentence on the season. It is simply point one … now, time to move on to point two … to three … and so on.
Ignoring the outcome for a moment, let's follow Rick's lead and turn our attention to how some players performed individually.
LAMAR ODOM There are a pair of kids who deserve acclaim because of the unknown. They will get theirs in a moment. But perhaps the most positive facet of Sunday night's loss to the Thunder was the play of Odom. On clear display was the wealth of talents and versatility he brings to the table. His numbers were nice, though not overwhelming (14 points, 7 rebounds), but it was more the "how" than the finish.
Odom drew a charge, defended multiple positions, brought the ball up a few times, initiated plays, created for others and proved what we already knew: he's capable of finishing inside or draining shots behind the arc (2-of-3 on this night).
"Lamar Odom is going to be a fan favorite here," Carlisle said, "just because of the kind of player he is."
Since Dirk and Kidd didn't join him on the court we're left with our imaginations to piece together what tomorrow may bring. (Example: Dirk and Odom together on the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop; how to defend that?). But we've been given enough to add to the lore of what that may be, what may come. On this front, there's plenty to dream over.
VINCE CARTER There were moments, such as a powerful tomahawk dunk, but that's all there were. Would it be greedy of us to have hoped for more … then call us greedy.
There's no denying the necessity of time, and the injustice of prematurely forming a conclusion. What we saw in the first preseason game after a severely shortened training from a player and a group that have now played exactly one game of any kind as a unit does not define a season.
That said, what we saw wasn't great. Perhaps we were swayed by reputation, but Carter seems more than willing to take poor shots and appears somewhat robbed of the quickness he once possessed. That's not to say he can't be an impactful player, or that he is incapable of softening the burden of the scoring load that would have fallen squarely on The UberMan's shoulders, only stating a couple of fairly obvious observations.
We'll reserve judgment, or the forming of a more concrete opinion, until we have a larger sample size to peruse, but this wasn't the greatest of first impressions.
Carter finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, missed both shots taken behind the 3-point line, grabbed no rebounds, but did add two steals and a block.
There are still "wow'' moments and maybe the promise of more. VC started at the 2 and if he's able to do that long-term, it thickens the Mavs' depth. Maybe some conditioning work will help make that happen as Vince doesn't look as slender in a Dallas uni as we remember him in other garb.
DELONTE WEST West was plagued by foul trouble all night, which clearly limited him early. (Carlisle allowed him to keep plowing through the problems.) But this wasn't an entirely poor showing. There were certainly some negatives, from occasional instances of poor decision-making that helped lead to three turnovers in just over 23 minutes to hitting only 1-of-7 shots from the floor. But he also displayed some strong defensive abilities (ignoring the five fouls) and the capacity to create on offense.
As the roster currently stands, West is set up to be a prime contributor. Jason Kidd will need to find his rest within a hectic schedule, and West stands as the only other PG on the roster, though Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones may shave a few minutes as well.
All things considered, our opinion falls somewhere on the positive side here. There's certainly room, and need, for improvement, but there was enough on display to remain optimistic. And remember, West's job is to replace JJB as the backup point. Not necessarily the JJB from late in the NBA Finals, but the JJB who had some ups and downs during last year's long regular season.
Delonte West can be at least as good as that.
"The main thing is to get (the new guys) comfortable," Jason Terry said, "get them in a rhythm and get them implemented into our system on both ends of the floor."
It's a process, but it has begun.
THE MATRIX SPEAKS
BIG WOOD AS AN INCUMBENT The Mavs' starters were West and Carter in the backcourt, with Odom joining incumbent Mavs Marion and Brendan Haywood upfront. That's a page out of Carlisle's "Be Ready'' bag of tricks that we might see again. Certainly we're going to see a lot out of Haywood, who will need to continue to be active without stumbling into foul trouble. With that group, and with most any group Dallas puts on the floor, Big Wood doesn't have to be about points scored. Mostly just "availability.''
BRANDAN WRIGHT, JEROME RANDLE, AND DREW NEITZEL Brandan Wright is the easiest evaluation to make: incomplete. Wright did not play due to illness. We have some serious concerns about his ability to help at the 5. Maybe Tuesday in OKC our concerns will be relieved or justified and we have our bets on the latter.
Jerome Randle is fighting for a roster spot, and comparisons to Barea are sure to come quick and often … due to their similarly diminutive statures (and possibly the propensity to over-dribble at times) … but it remains an uphill battle for him. He showed great quickness, a willingness to attack and a decent shooting stroke.
If there is space for a young, unproven guard on this roster that spot likely comes down to Randle or Neitzel, and Randle is clearly winning that battle … and even got a mention by Coach Carlisle in the post-game press conference.
DB.com has been told that the Texas Legends have their eyes on both players, though the D-League roster is already clogged with 6-1, 175 types.
THE OLDER YOUNGSTERS Late in the game this became "The Dominique Jones and Roddy Beaubois Show.''
As the Mavs mixed and matched their lineups, the Thunder were up by as much as 23 points, and led by 20 as the fourth quarter began. In the blink of an eye, the Mavs threw down a 14-0 run to close the gap to six points … and any OKC fan still watching suddenly had to fight off a tear as memories of the Western Conference Finals came involuntarily flooding in.
Roddy B led the way with nine points in the fourth quarter, but was joined by Randle (5 in the fourth), Jones and Mahinmi (both 4 in the quarter). Considering that the Thunder still had Harden and pieces of their primary rotation on the court for the early run, this is something to take positives from.
DoJo looks like he has clearly progressed. He still had trouble finishing some his crashes into the paint, but reminded us that he can get there with ease … and, unlike last year, he did get a few whistles (8-of-9 from the free-throw line on the night). We've heard whispers of his improvement from those around the Mavs going all the way back to the late playoff practices when Jones was not active for games, but was fully healthy and participating.
That improvement is real. Now, we'll have to see how it progresses.
Roddy B also reminded much more of his rookie flashes than his confused, confidence-bruised showing late last season. His quickness is as impressive as ever, and seeing him break into the open court is a joy to watch. When he has the space to kick it into that final gear … let's just say it's exciting to see.
"We've all seen the flashes of brilliance,'' Carlisle earlier in the weekend. "But we're looking for consistency. We're looking for consistency in terms of concentration and in terms of (Beaubois) utilizing his abilities. And I believe he's getting better.''
Roddy B finished with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-6 behind the arc, three rebounds and a steal. He also showed a bit of restraint previously foreign to him by pulling out of drives when the defense cut off his lanes. If he can take the next step in his evolution, it could be huge for this team … not only as an on-court asset, but as one off of it as well (should the need arise, if you know what we mean).
DoJo ended the night with 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting, seven assists and three steals … and was named Player of the Game in the arena. Let's hope this is only a sign of things to come. If these two are ready to contribute, the guard rotation just got a lot more interesting, as well as a lot more dangerous.
"Roddy and Dominique did a good job of penetrating and making things happen," Carlisle said. "Randle is a kid that brings energy to the game, too. That group was a positive."
So, we're not the only ones taking positivity from their performance. It's interesting that Rick would bunch Randle in with the other two. But it's the other two who, if they can make the leap, can set themselves apart on the Dallas roster.
THE REALLY, REAL WORLD For a few members of the Dallas sports media there came the introduction to the "real" world of reality television, as "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" had them sign consent forms to be shown. This falls about 50 miles beyond the reach of our attention spans … but still sort of cool in its own way.
Another way of looking at it: Lamar Odom couldn't stay in LA. So, he brought a little of LA to Dallas with him. Hey, we're all for it if it helps him to feel at home … on the court, and across the street at the W Hotel, where, as DB.com has reported, he and his entourage are considering setting up housekeeping.
CHIP! CHIP! WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' CHIP … but yeah, we still have one.
Last year, we were quick to marvel at the number of accomplished veteran players the Mavs roster included, all of whom were in search of their first ring. Despite an overwhelming wealth of personal achievements, from MVP trophies to first-ballot Hall of Fame players, the credentials lacked one common goal, one final validation, one final handful of immortality, one undeniable form of respect: a championship.
With that goal vanquished, some wondered if the hunger would be satiated, if only to a degree. If Shawn Marion is any indication, we don't need to worry. He may have his ring (even if only metaphorically for a few more weeks), but there's no sign of contentment, no sign of resting after the feast of yesterday.
"We earned it. We took it. They can't say s---," Marion said in reference to the Mavs' perceived lack of national respect, whether it in predictions for the coming season's outcome, or in the misrepresentation that the Heat "lost" the series rather than the Mavs winning it. TAKING IT.
Whether this is manufactured motivation, or a justifiable response to an NBA community that continues to overlook just how much this Dallas team, particularly last season's version of it, has accomplished … doesn't matter.
We loved seeing the emotion, a hint that the chip that helped drive them may have not eroded under the championship rain. We've seen what can happen a champion is underestimated … and if the outside world wants to take that approach once more … so be it.
"We earned it. We took it. They can't say s---."
MAVSELLANEOUS The Mavs have five players on their current roster that have a triple-double in their career: Jason Kidd (107), Lamar Odom (12), Vince Carter (5), Dirk Nowitzki (2) and Jason Terry (1). ... Notice the absence of a name you'd expect to find there? We did. That's right, Shawn Marion has not posted a triple-double in his career. We had to double-check just to verify that. ... The fivesome of Randle, Roddy, DoJo, Neitzel and Mahinmi that worked together late? That's when you knew it was preseason ... Brian Cardinal hasn't lost a thing. His defensive intensity was especially noticeable in a game that was so often low-lighted by confusion by some. ... The Mavs scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter and got to within five on a dunk with five minutes left from The Ianimal. ... DoJo is pleased with having added some muscle in his chest and shoulders while still working himself down 10 pounds to his playing weight of 210. ... Get used to each other, fellas. This game marks the first of four meetings between the two teams in a span of 16 days (two preseason meetings and two regular-season games). ... Vince's jumpers seemed to come up short. Delonte's, too.
JET HOLDS COURT
A WORD ABOUT OKC Same bunch from last year. Good bunch.
This was just an exhibition game, but it was largely controlled by Kevin Durant and the Thunder. They opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run and led 90-70 after three quarters, in part the result of the Thunder rolling out the same group that opposed Dallas in last year's WCF. Durant was the leader – and he led while making just four field goals, his damage done at the free-throw line, where he was 13-of-14.
There was no stopping defending-scoring-champ KD, and his work getting to the line ... well, it's something for the Mavs to worry about on another day.
QUOTABLE From the young backcourt combo of combo guards:
Said Roddy B of DoJo: "He's very aggressive, so he can create open shots for me. It was great."
Said DoJo of his place on the Mavs: "I'm just excited about everything that's going on right now. I love being on this team.''
MOSTLY IT WAS JUST GOOD TO BE BACK IN THE GYM
THE FINAL WORD While our bellies are full and our memories are fresh, this is not the team that grabbed a championship last season. They are extremely talented and deep, but they are a new collection of players. There's nothing to say the outcome can't be repeated, but the process has begun anew.
No, they haven't gone all the way back to step one, as they return a solid core, but as a group, they must now fight to regain everything last year's squad took all season to construct.
It's going to be a process, and there will be a learning curve, let's just hope they are able to overcome early and not fall behind in the standings early.
"I like playing Dallas without Dirk and Kidd," OKC Coach Scott Brooks said after the game.
We have no doubt, he's far from alone in this opinion. And we like it the other way around. If KIDDIRK doesn't happen on Tuesday in the rematch and final preseason game for the Mavs, it'll happen soon enough.