All-Access: A Puke-Inducing Mavs Loss
FOREWARD: The banner sits right where we last saw it, swaying gently in the air circulating high in the rafters of the AAC. As s beacon of hope, a bastion of memory an invitation to a better time. Think back, remember the glory it represents and soak in that warmth for a moment.
Feels good, right?
Just thought we'd try to take you to your happy place before getting into the second straight Mavs collapse, as the Nuggets easily dispatched the reigning champions 115-93.
THE BLAME GAME: It is a savvy coaching move, a manly coaching philosophy, one we saw perfected in the mid-80's by Broncos coach Dan Reeves: Take ALL the blame for all that is wrong. Doing so shows chest hair and it builds trust from players who know it isn't so ...
Rick is doing it now. Dirk knows it isn't so.
"I'm the head coach and it's my job to make sure these guys are ready to play and it's clear that they're not," Carlisle said after this pounding at the hands of the Nuggets. "Right now that's not something that's easy for me to say and it's not an easy thing to live with ...''
And it's something that's not true. Two games into the season, the Mavs are making the habit of falling behind by 30, of playing as if they think they can gradually work themselves up to speed, and of looking, as Dirk put it, "old and slow and out of shape."
That's not the coach who looks old and slow and out of shape. That's the players. Including The UberMan himself.
"It's all of us together," Nowitzki said. "Coach always tries to take the blame if some stuff doesn't go right, but we've got a lot of veteran guys and we've just got to keep on working and eventually turn the corner. It might take another week, it might take another two weeks, but we've got to find ways to stay in games and not be down 30 at half."
Here's how that happened:
Not being down 30 is not an especially lofty goal, but it's a start.
DEFENSE IN HIBERNATION: "Normally defense is ahead of offense," Carlisle said prior to Monday night's game. "Our defense is behind where it should be."
As it turns out, this is a vast understatement through two games that have seen Mavs opponents score at least 30 points in five of eight quarters … with two of those quarters coming in garbage time with the outcome long decided. In other words, Dallas has held their opponent under 30 points in exactly one meaningful quarter this season, and gave up 28 in that one.
It's extremely early and this team is clearly still in the process of finding their way, of coming together as a unit and forging an identity. We'll continue to preach that the sky is not falling, has yet to even crack, but we'll do so with the knowledge that the ledge may be creeping slowly from underneath our feet.
We've gone back to the fact that Jason Kidd expressed concern for starting the season too slowly, forcing Dallas to play catch-up for the rest of the year, and we do so again as they may be on the verge of doing just that … and the reason rests squarely in the defense, or lack thereof (as well as averaging 18 turnovers per game).
For all that was taken away when Tyson Chandler signed with the Knicks, the fall feels too steep. While never an elite defensive unit prior to Chandler's arrival, Dallas has yet to reach even those levels of play. Both Miami and Denver got into the paint at will (note Miami outscored Dallas 18-0 in the first quarter Sunday night and Denver outscored Dallas 20-2 in the second quarter Monday night), and the perimeter defenders appeared helpless to put up a fight.
Things will get better, if for no other reason than they have to, but the clock is ticking as the Mavs dance with digging a hole they will be forced to climb out of.
"The biggest thing," Carlisle said, "we've got to rebuild trust defensively. We've lost some. We've lost a lot. I've got to do a better job coaching these guys. Simple as that."
Let's hope that trust comes soon.
THE POSITIVE: Sean Williams. No not Shawne "Ass Is Grass'' Williams. Sean Williams.
Bursting onto the court with a near reckless energy – our should we remove the "near" in honor of his vomiting next to the bench as soon as he exited the game, causing the game to be held up as workers cleaned it up – Williams was a breath of fresh air to a team that's looks a mixture of tired, uncertain, worn down, or dare we say, old.
"He did a terrific job, yes," Carlisle said of Williams. "He brought energy, brought athleticism, made plays. He was playing so hard he threw up. That tells you that he was going at it the way you need to."
Much like Corey Brewer a year ago, Williams pace instantly proved to be a gear higher than the Mavs have put on the court during the infancy of this season. His very first offensive possession saw him leap high to grab an offensive rebound, fight his way back up and draw a foul to earn two free throws, which he then effortlessly drained.
Next, his leaping abilities were on display as he finished a pair of alley-oops to give a listless crowd a brief reason to stand and cheer. For an instant, our minds wandered back to Chandler and the offensive threat his ability to finish at the rim brought, though that's obviously an very long stretch at this point.
Williams finished with 12 points (4-of-4 field goals), three rebounds, one steal and one block in only 11 minutes of action … as well as one bench-scattering metaphor for the Mavs early production.
"(Williams) came in and was everywhere and was very active and we need that from him," Shawn Marion told us. "He was attacking the basket, contesting shots and creating activity in the paint and we need that because we've been struggling."
It will be interesting to see if Williams has earned a few follow up minutes when the Mavs travel to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
It's also interesting to hear from Sean, as you do now in DB.com's One-on-One Non-Puke-Talk Video Visit:
THE ASSIMILATION OF ODOM: Lamar Odom continues to struggle to find his place on this Mavs roster, just as he fights to recapture his shooting stroke. Through two games Odom has hit 2-of-16 shot attempts (1-of-10 against the Nuggets), which puts his shooting percentage for the season at 12.5 percent.
It was understood there would be a period of adjustment, a learning curve that could not be ignored, but few expected the beginning to be this rough.
There have been positives, whether it is spurts of solid defense or the ability to penetrate (even if he's yet to finish), but they've been fewer than most (than we) expected.
We're far from the point of giving up on Odom as a fit, even as a core contributor, but it remains blatantly obvious there is a wealth of work to be done.
And maybe an admission to be made.
"We're just not doing what we're supposed to,'' Odom said. "I'm not going to say it's effort. We play hard. Just because you play hard that don't mean you play right. You can play hard, but still get your ass busted."
Sorry, we're not buying that. For two straight nights now, the other team played harder. That is indisputable.
VINCE TO THE BENCH: In a move that was as likely about the matchup as his performance (see Carlisle's quote below), Vince Carter moved to the bench Monday night. Taking his place in the starting lineup was Delonte West.
"Matchups. Lawson," Carlisle said. "It was pretty obvious to me we had to get a smaller guy in there to guard him."
The logic is clear. Jason Kidd is more suited to guarding shooting guards at this point in his career. Ty Lawson is a smaller, extremely quick point guard. To keep Kidd in the game it makes sense to start someone more apt to be able to stay in front of Lawson.
Herein lies the problem. Other than a small select handful of teams, how will this logic ever not apply? Against what roster does it make sense to start Carter beside Kidd, leaving the Mavs with two guards incapable of matching the opposing point guard's quickness? The pickings are slim.
This is why we have said, and will continue to say, that we can envision circumstances that allow Carter to be a significant contributor to this team … it simply shouldn't come as a starter. As a scorer off the bench, possibly able to shoulder the offense for short stretches he makes sense. Though he hasn't been finishing strong, he has shown an ability to get to the rim, and regardless of the early results we doubt he's lost the ability to shoot.
Carter finished with 11 points, one rebound, three assists, one steal, one block and three turnovers.
ALARMING?: While none of the roster has looked particularly smooth as a unit, is it alarming that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd has fairly strong offensive showings … and the Mavs were still so easily handled?
In only 26 minutes, Dirk put up 20 points (7-of-14 shooting) to go with four rebounds.
In 24 minutes, Kidd had 12 points (4-of-9 field goals, 4-of-8 on 3-pointers), three rebounds and four assists.
In the past, if you got these numbers from this pair in limited minutes you expected to be reading about a Mavs blowout win … not the other way around.
IT WAS BRIEF: It was brief, the 37-19 second quarter that ended with a 22-1 Denver run guaranteed that, but we'd swear we saw some subtle signs of improvement. For a fleeting moment the Mavs played as a unit and seemed to be making progress.
There was synchronized movement on both ends of the floor and that whisper of fingers finding their way forward in the dark … and then it all came crashing down.
We said from the beginning that this was going to be a process, and we'll continue to do so now. There's no reason to believe this team won't begin to find its way and build momentum. Give it a little more time … what else can we do?
MIFFED JET: Jason Terry buried himself in some postgame music, then in an iPad that showed how his Fantasy Football team was doing, then in a hug from staffer Ro Blackman.
We're not going to bother quoting Jet in this space because his quotes were simply efforts to be polite to the media horde. But we were the first in the losing locker room, and we saw Terry in solemn action. Forget his polite words.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH COACH ORTEGEL: A happy Bob Ortegel was looking dapper and was back in the Mavs house. Where he belongs. Coach O will handle Fox Sports Southwest studio analysis for all games home and road. (Fish will be in the studio alongside him for all road games.)
There's chemistry there!
RODDY AND DOJO: Roddy Beaubois got into the game early and looked good … for spurts. He was pulled quickly after two quick fouls and a turnover in the second quarter, but also scored five points without forcing shots.
By the end of the game we saw both the promise and the pain Roddy B offers. He had a pair of careless turnovers and some spotty defense, then showed the ability to be an athletic scorer otherwise absent from this roster.
It's year three, and getting close to the time when the Mavs must find out what they have in Roddy B. Carlisle has proven himself worthy of our trust, and we'll give it here, but we can't help but wonder when he'll get that chance for prolonged stretches without the need of a blowout on the scoreboard.
Roddy B finished with 10 points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals.
Dominique Jones put in his red-shoed pregame work. But he did not see the court until the game had long been decided, playing only the final four minutes. Certainly, there are going to be those who question why the minutes couldn't be found with the score being what it was, but this team needs something more than giving an end-of-the-bench player time (and the same logic, to our chagrin, may be applied to Roddy here).
Odom, Carter, West and others need that time as much as any in this moment. Chemistry does not come from sitting beside someone on the bench. It comes from time on the court. With practice time being a scarce commodity in the abbreviated season, the Mavs must take they minutes where they can.
As much as we may want to see Roddy and Jones on the court, we can understand the reasoning in saying those minutes are better used elsewhere.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH 'TRIX: That finger is swollen and it is nasty. Maybe that pinky is what made Sean throw up.
"Yeah, it's hurting but I'll fight through it the best way I can," Marion told DB.com, just part of our One-on-One Video Visit:
Yes, it impacts his ballhandling, his passing, his hands.
"It's going to take a little bit so I'm got to find a way to get comfortable with it and makes some adjustments," Trix told DB.com.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Big calculator ...
*The Mavs knew Ty Lawson would create problems, thus the insertion of the quicker-than-Vince guard Delonte West into the starting lineup. But both Ty Lawson and Andre Miller (who isn't that quick) had their way with Dallas. Lawson hit eight of his first nine shots and finished with 27 points, four assists and four rebounds. Even more troubling: Miller's 18 points, five rebounds and five assists.
*Al Harrington, once a summer-of-2010 Mavs' FA target, scored eight points in the final four minutes of the first half and finished with 18 points. It is fair to say he was superior in this game to Odom ... but pretty much every Nugget was superior to every Mav in this game.
*Emptiest number of the night: Nowitzki (20), Kidd (12), Sean Williams (12), Vince Carter (11) and Rodrigue Beaubois (10) all scored in double figures for Dallas.
*Denver to scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter and Dallas was down by 33 late in the third quarter.
*Dallas' vaunted bench was outscored by the Nuggets' 53-50.
FROM THE NUGGETS ROOM: Ty Lawson's assessment of the Mavs:
"They lost two of their key players, JJ and Tyson. They did a lot of this team and they are still trying to learn how to gel with their new players. They will definitely be a good team down the stretch."
MAVSELLANEOUS: Yes, it's true: Dirk looks lethargic. You know, like somebody who didn't touch a basketball for two months. Nowitzki led Dallas with 20 points but he didn't play in the fourth, just as was the case Sunday. That's how double-blown out Dallas has been. ... For what little it's worth right now, Kidd's stroke is going good. Jason went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and finished with 12 points, three rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes. ... Kenyon Martin was in the building, the Dallas native sitting by his old Nuggets team and presumably planning to return there once his China contract runs out later this year ... Monday brought the return of Rudy Fernandez to the Mavs after his long -- err, eventful -- stay with the Mavs. He finished with eight points on 2-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-7 behind the arc. And, he played from the bench, a notion that he seemed to bristle with in Dallas … Brendan Haywood looked a little better, putting up seven points and grabbing five rebounds. It's not as much as the Mavs need, but it was an improvement … Ian Mahinmi played just under five minutes. Sean Williams played 11. Is this a fluke brought on by the score, or the first tip of a trend? ... How different was the atmosphere at the AAC on Monday from about 30 hours previous on Banner-Raising Day? We walked into the gym and almost thought we'd showed up on the wrong day. ... The Mavs are not practicing today. Yeah, they need the work. But yeah, they also need the rest.
QUOTABLE: We're glad somebody is happy ...
"It's way too early to get crazy, but it felt good." - Nuggets head coach George Karl
TALKING TO THE MIRROR: We'll say it again, even if we're talking to the mirror as much as anyone: the sky has not begun to crack. We do not lie wounded beneath crumbling masses of blue. There is no reason for panic … not yet.
This was essentially the fourth "preseason game'' being played, in a sense, without anything close to a full training camp of practices. Trust must be earned, and the only way to do so is by accumulating minutes on the court. Unfortunately for us, this has led to two very one-sided contests that saw the Mavs vastly outmatched.
While this logic may have been easy to hear when Miami was doing the stomping, it applies no less in the second game of the season … even to an opponent the Mavs should come to view as inferior.
You can say this team has looked slow, out of synch, or rusty. You can say they've looked old. None of this is untrue; how can it be when Dirk himself said it? But it's unfair to condemn them completely based on the miniscule sample size we've been handed.
And then there is this: Dallas is 0-2 for the first time since 2006-07. Yes, that team was coming off a Finals appearance, too. And yes, that team ended up winning 67 games.
Reason enough to not fully panic. Not FULLY.
So, look up to the banner, hold tight the memories of a season ago, and give this group 10-15 games to pull it together. If improvement hasn't become evident by that time, we'll hit the panic button with you and run screaming through the streets.
Until then, try not to look at out-of-town boxscores including Chandler or JJ Barea. There's no need to kick yourself in the nuts.
THE FINAL WORD: Boos and laughs. Appropriate and inappropriate.
When Sean Williams ended his energetic 11-minute run, he trotted to the bench and threw up. Oh, everyone laughed. But from team owner Mark Cuban especially, it looked fake, like whistling-past-the-graveyard laughter, like canned laughter, stage laughter.
There is really nothing especially funny about any of this, and for the rarest of times, we understood the boos of the crowd better than we did any other reaction to the effort of an 0-2 team that has fully earned that record.
"No one said it was going to be easy,'' Marion told DB.com, and that's true.
But no one said it was going to be so hard that it would make us lose our lunches, either.