All-Access Pass To Mavs 98, Suns 89
FOREWARD: Mavs hero Michael Finley was there. Cowboys assistant Rob Ryan was there. Hollywood babes Kim and Khloe Kardashian were there. All were in the AAC to watch the Dallas Mavericks claim their first winning streak of the young season by dispatching the Phoenix Suns, and Dirk's old buddy Steve Nash, 98-89.
There was also a fellow by the name of Marcin Gortat, who once upon a time was believed to be the Mavs center of the future … only this time, there was no regret, no pain in seeing him in another uniform, even as he scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds ... for Dallas has a banner still swaying gently in the rafters.
The bruise from getting Kicked in the Gortats has healed. The "what if" surrounding his presence is now merely a parlor game of whether or not the Mavs would still have won a title.
Old wounds -- and we haven't even mentioned Steve Nash's departure -- are somehow medicated, and perhaps even healed, by the soothing touch of a championship.
DIRK HISTORY: Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki played in his 1,000th career regular-season game, becoming the 98th player in NBA history to accomplish the feat.
The UberMan ranks 11th among active players in regular-season games played. With the win, Dallas improved to 661-339 (.661) all-time in the regular season with Nowitzki in the lineup.
And something else, from The 75-Member Staff Research Team: By the numbers, Dirk is the greatest all-around shooter in the history of the planet.
He's one of just two guys, joining Reggie Miller, to have score 20,000 points while also shooting at least 47 percent from the floor, 38 percent from the arc and 87 percent from the line.
In the rarest of company, with the rarest of accomplishments. The best ever.
Of course, Dirk prefers to talk "team'' over "individual.''
"We said at the beginning, we're going to be a piece of work and everybody is going to come along and I think this team is more set up to peak down the stretch and not now," said Nowitzki. "Everybody's got to work themselves back into shape, get the legs strong and play with each other more and I think we're going to be a good team down the stretch."
L-O: The road has been rougher than we imagined, and the faint ghosts of doubt may have crept into the haunts left vacant by vanquished MavsVirus spores, but Lamar Odom first gave us a pulse against Oklahoma City … and now leapt from the table to announce, "I'm alive" with a triumphant shout against the Suns.
He finished with 15 points (6-of-12 shooting), five rebounds and two steals. While this remains a mere glimpse of what may be, one thing became clear: when Odom performs anywhere near the level he's capable of, these Mavs can be a dangerous team.
Once again we saw him playing point-forward and displaying the array of talents that make him both versatile and special, including the ability to guard every position for moments, from switching onto Gortat to rotating out to take an easy look away from Nash. This will not be the definitive game, or the peak of his impact, but it was an even clearer example of just what he can bring.
By the half, Odom already had a season-high in scoring (9 points). He allows the Mavs to employ a variety of lineups without reliance of a true point guard being on the court, presenting the challenge of a near impossible to matchup with size. At some points we again saw Jason Terry, Vince Carter, Odom, Dirk Nowitzki and Mahinmi/Haywood on the court.
It's a lineup that includes four players capable of stretching the defense to the three-point line, five that can get into the paint. The antithesis of the three point-guard lineup, yet it offers an equally challenging group to defend, and perhaps one with a much greater difficulty to attack.
We're not ready to label this team as effective as that of a year ago, but the options seem almost limitless. For certain national writers to have declared them dead after two games seems laughable in it's shortsightedness. We may be 50 games in and not truly know what this roster is capable of.
It remains to be seen how far they can go, but there's little doubt they should have our interest.
"This is still ugly for me,'' said Odom, self-evaluating. "I'm used to playing at a high level. I could really help this team."
Good, good. Keep the bar high. But Odom on Wednesday provided a glimpse of how good Dallas can be if Odom is good, too.
FINE, WE TAKE IT ALL BACK: We apologize for ever doubting Vince Carter, for carrying the opinions formed over that past few seasons forward with a player who now seems ready to commit to whatever is asked of him. There continue to be the occasional instances of poor shot selection, but this is buried by his willingness to hustle, create for teammates and attack the rim.
For an example of his hustle, note his tenacity in chasing down an offensive rebound (only a little over a minute after drawing a charge), following an Ian Mahinmi offensive board, as the third quarter drew to a close. Carter finally corralled the ball, lifted to take a last-second shot to find a defender in his face and quickly kicked a pass out to a wide-open Jason Terry … who calmly drilled the 3-pointer to put the Mavs up 11 heading into the fourth.
And you should've seen Carlisle leap off the bench to greet his conquering hero out on the floor. No, not Jet. The guy who kept the possession alive with grit, Vince.
Moving on, the fact that he can still bully his way into the paint should be a significant plus for the Mavs, particularly with the array of shooters often surrounding him on the court. Defenses are forced to collapse, often lulled into the foolishness that is leaving Dirk or Terry or Kidd or Odom open.
It's not often a guy can shoot 3-of-10, as Carter did, and still leave the feeling of a game well played, of a solid positive impact. He finished with seven points, six rebounds and five assists … and the feeling that the stats may sell him a bit short.
FRIENDLY SKIES: Jason Terry saved his best for the fourth quarter after closing out the third with a three. For the final frame he scored nine points and made all three of this 3-pointer attempts.
Terry finished with 18 points (including making 5-of-8 behind the arc), five assists, and three rebounds.
This is far from unfamiliar ground for Terry, but it almost feels as if there's been a shift in the air. A new air of confidence floats around his every release, whether it's a lingering symptom of a championship won, or a trick in our minds … we'd swear it's swimming out there around each shot attempt: a peaceful calm that expects to hear the sound of the net ripping.
Imagined or not, we enjoy the feeling.
THE CENTERS: In what many find as one of the most surprising revelations of this young season, the Mavs again got very solid play from the center position.
Brendan Haywood continued to work inside, grabbing a season high 11 rebounds by hafltime, while Ian Mahinmi sustained his capable backup play.
Haywood finished with five points, and did allow minor frustration to build by being a little too willing to put the ball on the floor prior to making an offensive move (by our unofficial calculations, the chance for success goes down 75 percent with every dribble), but more than made up for it with his work on the glass: 12 rebounds in only 23 minutes to go with a steal and a block.
Mahinmi was quieter statistically (four points, five rebounds, one assist and a block), yet was once again a nice change of pace to Haywood, showing us his nimble athleticism and body control around the rim. Once he learns to lessen his fouls (four in 24 minutes here), thus allowing himself to stay on the court for more minutes, he's poised to take another step forward.
The season is extremely young, but this duo has given us much hope for the position moving forward. Don't look now -- and we'll address this in Thursday Morning Mavs Donuts -- but by the numbers, Big Wood/The Ianimal is comparable to what Big Wood/You-Know-Who was ...
THE NEWEST SHOOTING GUARD?: Very quietly, even though he's the only true point guard on the roster, Jason Kidd has begun to gather minutes as a shooting guard, not simply a point guard defending the opposing shooting guard, but a full-fledged shooting guard.
In a strange way, it almost feels like he's slipping into a role vaguely resembling what Bruce Bowen gave the Spurs. His defense, as long as he's not asked to stay in front of a smaller, much quicker point guard, remains outstanding. He can hit spot up 3-pointers with fair consistency. However, unlike Bowen, he is also more than capable of running the offense and being a leader on the court. Perhaps it's only a phase, or perhaps we're seeing the next step in the evolution of Kidd the player.
We know, we know. The Bowen comparison is sickening in its way. We'll work on a better one.
PACKED HOUSE: That was a full postgame locker room, folks. Why? Well, the "Khloe & Lamar'' TV crew numbered five. (Nice folks. More to come on them.) And then there were some ladies in there, with credentials, who seemed like maybe they were Kardashian Khroniclers. And then, we suppose, there is the Dallas Cowboys media, lost and searching for something to do.
Maybe they went and found Rob Ryan and his wife, who, it turns out, are friends with Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle.
Or maybe they chased down Kim and Khloe, as we did, finding them hiding out in the high security of Cuban's bunker under the seats.
QUOTABLE: "It's coming,'' Kidd told DB.com while applying his deodorant -- and then forgetting if he'd already applied it one time before. "See? I'm old. Forgetful. Really, we're old, but Dirk keeps us going. He's the youngest old guy around.''
More from J-Kidd, some DB.com Video Visit and then the mob arriving ...
THE NUMBERS GAME: Calculate ...
*Terry and Odom led Dallas to a 51-21 advantage in bench scoring. "That's where the separation came, with the second units," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's where the lead came and it was hard for us to overcome."
*By the half, Haywood had a season high in rebounds and Odom had a season high in points. Nice.
*The Mavs put together a 7-0 run in only 23 seconds in the third quarter after Dirk hit a cutting Roddy for a layin and Dallas then had back-to-back steals. Seven points in less than one full shot clock.
*Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of Mark Cuban buying the team.
THE RODDY-OOP!: Roddy Beaubois continues to find the bulk of his minutes coming as a backup point guard, and against the Suns we saw a solid, in-control player who showed strong abilities at both ends of the court ... and the Roddy-Oop!
MAVSELLANEOUS: It's amazing the change in pitch from the crowd when one of the Kardashians is shown on the big screen. Let's just say it's about 11 octaves higher than normal ... The Suns shot 30.4 percent from the floor in the second quarter … At the half, there were only three fast-break points in a game featuring the Suns and the Mavs. How times have changed. ... Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom all joined Nowitzki on the NBA All-Star ballot released earlier in the day, and all of them contributed to a team that touts depth as among its greatest strengths. Terry scored 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. Marion played despite an illness and scored 13. Kidd orchestrated the second straight win for Dallas (and played in his appeared in his 1,274th regular-season game) and ex-Laker Odom – playing in front of his wife Khloe Kardashian and her sister Kim – had his second straight solid game.
OLDIES BUT ... The Mavs' primary rotation makes them the oldest team in the NBA.
You got a problem with that?
When the lockout robbed the league of its normal training camp pace, it robbed Dallas of its chance to rely on its usual synchronization. Additionally, the Mavs' roster turned over as a result of free agency. Therefore, cohension – and conditioning and confidence – has come slowly. But while the Mavs began the season 0-3, they have won three of the last four, including back-to-back victories over the Thunder and now the Suns.
MAVS AT SPURS AND FISH ON TV: On Thursday the Mavs are in San Antonio. We'll have the telecast on FSSW and Fish will join Bob Ortegel and Dana Larson in studio for the pre- and postgame shows, MAVS LIVE, all starting at 7 p.m. And if the Mavs get a win in the Alamo City? It's a .500 record, a mulligan, a chance to make some hay in a Southwest Division in which the Spurs will be without Manu and the Grizz will be without Randolph, each star maybe prepping to miss two months or so.
What to expect from the Spurs?
"Their best shot, as always,'' Dirk said. "We've got to be ready for a fight."
Added Kidd, referring to Manu's absence: "Every time we play them without someone, we get cooked. We've got to bring our A-game."
A LITTLE RUN: A 16-5 run by the Suns to close out the game leaves the final score as deceptively close. Dallas led by as much as 21 and never trailed by more than five. This may have not been a complete blowout, but it was a game that was never in doubt in the final quarter. The Suns may not be the high-flying, elite offensive unit they once were (they are now 2-4 for the season), but they are still a team you must take seriously as long as Steve Nash is on the court.
Just as we refuse to overreact to a single loss, we mustn't get swept away by a single, or a pair of wins. However, we can take note of the clear strides being made by a team that took the court for their first game far from ready to compete at the level accustomed to and required. Only seven games into a 66-game season, progress is evident. We preached patience as the season began, and we'll continue to do so as this team learns the tendencies of those around them, but there stands some pleasure in finding that the learning curve is being climbed, that things are getting better.
While far too early to know what we have with this team, there's little doubt the journey of watching them grow should be a fun one to behold.
THE FINAL WORD: "I'm still working to get back to where I was," said Nowitzki. "It's definitely good to get to 1,000 games. That's a lot of games … It's great and now we're looking for another 1,000.''
He added another joke, too, on how tired he feels after this quick-moving season and all these years.
"It felt like it was my 2,000th game,'' he said.