Thursday Mavs Donuts: The Competitive C's
DONUT 1: In the Dallas Mavericks locker room after their win over the Thunder on Monday, an interesting difference in opinion took place.
DB.com huddled with Brendan Haywood and asked about the current center situation for the Mavs. When asked by us about how the centers on the team push each other, Haywood had an answer you may not expect.
"Um, I don't know if we look at it like that, man." Haywood said. "We all just want to come in and have a presence, you know. That's the biggest thing, whether it's blocking shots, scoring points, rebounding, you want to be able to look down and point to what you did that night. You might not score the ball because the centers don't get it like that in the offense, but you might be able to say ‘hey, I have nine rebounds [or] 10 rebounds in 15, 20 minutes.'"
DONUT 2: It is just odd that a player didn't seem to acknowledge that agreeing to the idea of competition at a position is what observers may want to hear. Big Wood's clock ticks a little differently than some, maybe.
But on Wednesday, there he was again, back at it against the visiting Suns. His 12 points and five points helped Dallas win a second straight games and a third in four outings as the Mavs won 98-89.
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DONUT 3: Back to Monday: Credit Haywood for not just giving a stock answer when asked what could've been a simple question, but for truly thinking about it and giving us what he was honestly feeling on the subject.
Equally compelling: When DB.com walked across the locker room to speak to Ian Mahinmi, he didn't seem to share quite the same opinion.
"I mean, me and Brendan and Sean want to be really focusing on playing hard, setting screens, and doing the little things that, you know, the team needs to be successful," Mahinmi told us. "So, you know, he plays well I play well, obviously we have been with what we're doing and we're going to keep pushing."
By hearing Ian's tone and way he answered the question, the idea of a competition at the center position seemed like much more of a legitimate idea to him than it did to Haywood ... and we're sure he would've answered that way even more strongly had we not tipped him off about his teammate ultimately disagreeing with the notion of a competition at the spot.
(And maybe even more strongly still had Haywood not been making fun of "The Ianimal'' and his fine leather jacket straight from Paris.)
DONUT 4: Anyway, another game comes and goes -- they do so quickly this year, eh? -- and "The Ianimal'' does it again, teamming with Haywood to give Dallas respectability at center.
Mahinmi had five rebounds and four points while playing about the same 24 minutes Haywood played. Brendan had his 12 rebounds and five points.
For the year, the pair is at 10.9 rebounds and and 12.6 points.
And the Tyson-less Mavs are suddenly 3-4, with a chance to mulligan the whole bad-start thing tonight in San Antonio where Manu's not playing due to a broken hand.
DONUT 5: From the Mavs fan's perspective, you have to hope that a healthy competition is exactly what is going on with the centers. Someone who is comfortable in their position can potentially level off in their job performance and that's the last thing the Mavericks need from Big Wood right now. Carlisle often talks about a "healthy uncomfortability'' (we're paraphrasing, but that's the message) and Brendan seems just the right test case for the approach.
Ah, and if a competition is the reason of the recent surge in production and activity from Dallas centers, then it wouldn't be the first time that a challenge to the position has provided motivation.
DONUT 6: For at least one more time, think back to last year. Think back to when the Mavericks center tandem still included a guy named Chandler in addition to Haywood.
When Tyson Chandler was with this team, he was all about issuing challenges. There were challenges defensively, challenges of toughness, and challenges presented basically everywhere to everyone while the current Knicks big man was in town.
Chandler's now gone, and out of mind if you ask Jason Terry (who is touting this year's group as being able to soon "make us forget Chandler'') but one of TY's challenges issued to himself and Brendan Haywood last year still seems applicable with today's Mavs.
DONUT 7: Upon his arrival, Chandler recognized the need for production from the center position in Dallas while the rest of the pieces were already in place up and down the roster.
Even while playing for other teams around the league before arriving in Dallas, he realized the most glaring area for improvement for the Mavs was at the 5 spot.
The self-imposed goal of averaging 20 points and 20 rebounds between him and Haywood was a lofty target (maybe even a silly one) that Chandler viewed necessary to achieve in order to reach the team goals the Mavs had set before them.
As the season unfolded, Chandler and Haywood fell short of that combined goal while averaging 14.5 points and 14.6 rebounds per game, despite the newfound intensity surrounding the middle in Dallas.
Still, Chandler's challenge wasn't a failure because they missed their numeric goal; rather, it was an overwhelming success simply because expectations were finally placed upon the center position that had been a statistical wasteland in Dallas for the longest time. He refused to allow his job to be an afterthought and put it on himself to make that a reality. Having the discipline to be so self-motivated every day is what raised the bar of the Mavs' center position, and ultimately the rest of the team, to heights it had never seen before in Dallas.
For this reason alone, Brendan Haywood walked into almost-no-win circumstances when he was handed the starting job after Chandler's departure.
DONUT 8: Well, actually there was a way to turn this into a winning situation: Big Wood, despite what he says to DB.com in that rather contrarian visit, can by action take initiative and control of the situation by challenging himself and Mahinmi to a similar statistical goal.
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DONUT 10: Obviously to have 20/20 in the crosshairs of a Haywood-Mahinmi combo would be a tad ambitious, but is it completely out of the question for a 13-point and 13-rebound stat line to be in play from these centers every night? A 13/13 that would actually be just a tick off of matching the statistical greatness of a year ago?
Maybe before the season those kinds of numbers would seem unreasonable, but why not now with the way Mahinmi has come out of the gates?
DONUT 11: Going into the Suns game, the duo was averaging 13.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. That includes the first three games of the year where activity surrounding and plays designed for the centers was much less than the most recent three games.
And then against the Suns, the combo goes for nine points and 17 rebounds.
Grand totals after seven games: The combo is at 10.9 rebounds and 12.7 points. A tick off.
Wanna toss in Sean Williams' contributions of two rebounds and 4.7 points per? Now the guys playing center are at 12.9 rebounds and 17.4 points. And you have truly matched the TY-era centers.
DONUT 12: Just a bit more involved ...
Ever since The Finals last year when Jason Terry realized he can consistently find a passing seam to the center after the pick and roll, Jet's been looking to involve whoever is in there at the time.
Despite his well-documented struggles so far this year, Lamar Odom has shown off some pretty crafty interior passing to get Haywood and Mahinmi some easy baskets down low once defense rolls to him in the paint.
Ian is an offensive threat from mid-range and in and is shooting 70 percent. Haywood is a powerful offensive rebounder and as we saw in last year's playoffs, an effective man-on defender of bigs. Add it all up, and maybe the opportunities will be there for the new two-headed team at center to become a positive force not statistically shy of what Dallas offered last year.
DONUT 13: One Mavs center can talk about not being in competition with his brother. Another Mavs center can be so openly competitive that he wants to defend the honor of his French-made jacket.
But when the ball goes up, the seed that TY planted here remains in the ground. Just because Tyson Chandler's name is no longer found on the Mavs roster doesn't mean the Mavericks have to let his competiveness and ability to self-motivate fade away with him.
Or, to let centers contributing something around 13/13 or 14/14 fade away, either.
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