All-Access: Mavs Get Revved Up Vs. Hornets
FOREWARD: You won't find this game on display in the basketball Hall of Fame as a glorious display of hardcourt art composed at its finest, but it is a 96-81 victory. And it is the Dallas Mavericks largest margin of victory this season) over a depleted New Orleans team playing without Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Jason Smith and Xavier Henry, to name a few. And, when all the marks that matter are tallied there's no bonus for style points, leaving the Mavs to happily call this a win as Jason Kidd wasn't in attendance due to his lower back injury, which will cause him to miss the next two as well, per Coach Carlisle.
It was often ugly, but that does not preclude moments of beauty to be found. And that's what we do in Your All-Access Pass, right? Dig for beauty. Dig deep. ...
HALF AMAZING: In a season that has slowly chipped away at the preconceptions many in Dallas may have held for Vince Carter upon his arrival, Carter used one shining moment in an attempt to shatter them for the rest … and we're not talking about "The Dunk" … yet.
With eight minutes to play in the third quarter Carter drew a rousing round of applause from the intelligent fans in the AAC on a play that began with his drive and miss. The original attempt astray, Vince stood amongst the trees and fought for a follow-up rebound, tipping the ball a few times before seeing it redirected towards the baseline, where he dove with complete abandon in an attempt to save the possession.
The result may be nothing more than a missed field-goal attempt and a throw-in for the Hornets, but the effort was something the perceptions of few would associate with Carter only weeks ago. This wasn't a man in love with the boxscore and his place in it, but a player giving his all for the betterment of his team.
We knew he could shoot. Knew he could still get to the rim at times. But, did not know we were getting a little Brian "The Custodian'' Cardinal thrown in as well. It's a moment the stats will view as zero-sum play at best (an offensive rebound, two missed shots), but those who witnessed will assign much greater value.
From the instant he arrived Carter has driven the point home that the stats don't matter. He's here to win, to find the nectar the Mavs tasted last year, to be on the squad that earns another championship.
"We're a veteran team and it's something that's going to take time,'' Vince said. "We're a very unselfish team.''
OK … OK … now we'll talk about the dunk.
With just under three minutes to play in the second quarter, Carter reminded us that though he can't do it with the consistency of his youth, he can still plant his sneakers in the wind and ride up to look down upon the heights of mere mortals.
With a quick-sweeping-baseline move to easily get around Marco Belinelli, Carter found what age hasn't completely stolen and ferociously unleashed it on Emeka Okafor. Okafor leapt to protect the rim, to find his legs hadn't the reserve to quite fuel the climb to meet where Carter held the ball high … in a flash, it was done … leaving Vince to rev the engine of his imaginary motorcycle to ride back up the court.
Vince slammed the ball to the delight of the Mavs bench. Delonte West jumped onto the backs of Brendan Haywood and Roddy Beaugois as all three couldn't help but smile. A moment later, there was Lamar Odom and Dirk Nowitzki staring up with identical smiles of admiration as the monstrous dunk was displayed on the big screen.
Don't believe us? Take a look for yourself.
Carter's description of his work: "Just playing within the flow of the offense. Being aggressive and making a couple shots. Trying to get to the basket. Just being aggressive and making plays."
WE'RE NOT WORRIED, BUT DID NOTICE: For the second game in a row Dirk Nowitzki looked like a shadow of the player we know him to be. Whether it's fatigue or rooted elsewhere, we expect it to soon fall to the realm of the inconsequential, of the forgotten.
That said, the rarity of his back-to-back performances intrigued us.
Dirk hit 3-of-11 shots against the Spurs. Good for 27.3 percent. Saturday against the Hornets he converted only 2-of-11 shot attempts, or 18.2 percent. Over the course of his illustrious career Dirk has only hit below 28 percent of his shot attempts in at least two consecutive games nine times, with no streak going longer than three games (twice) and four of the nine instances rooted in 1999. The last occurrence took place in February of 2008.
Also of note, Dirk scored six points against the Spurs and 10 against the Hornets. If you remove the calendar year of 1999 this is only the second time in his career to score ten or less in consecutive games. The other came in 2003 under extenuating circumstances … Dirk played only seven minutes in the first game, left injured, then managed nine points when he returned a couple of weeks later.
Whether we blame this on the compressed scheduled of the lockout, or the happenstance of time, the rarity of it is worth noting.
Let us add one point: of all the things to be worried about with this team, Dirk isn't one of them for us.
Carlisle was asked if he was concerned with Dirk's shooting and echoed our own sentiments with a concise, "No."
And the same line of questioning for The UberMan?
"I've got to keep working,'' said Dirk, whose issues are about conditioning rather than any serious injury (though he did wear a sleeve over his knee). "I'm not there yet. I had shots. I've got to make them."
Dirk averaged 28 points per game against New Orleans last season (his highest scoring average against any team that he played at least three times in 2010-11) and wasn't that good here. But he's still a history-maker; he now needs just 37 more points to become the 23rd player in NBA history with 23,000 career points.
THE PLAY MINUS KIDD: With Jason Kidd sidelined here and at least two more games, we got our first glimpse of those that will play in his stead. Delonte West got the start at point guard with Carter starting beside him at shooting guard, and the early returns were very strong.
West scored six points in the first quarter and would finish with 12 as he continually attacked the defense to earn eight trips to the free-throw line, where he would sink all attempts. Throw in four assists, two rebounds, two steals and only one turnover in 22 minutes and you have the makings of a solid stand in.
Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois and Lamar Odom would all get their chance to contribute to the point guard duties. (LO as a "point forward,'' of course.) Terry was what we've come to expect of him, including the deceptive ability to create for others with a passing touch that wasn't present before the arrival of Jason Kidd … so, even as Kidd could not be on the court, his influence may have found a way to contribute.
Roddy B had moments of brilliance before becoming a little too enamored with his own shooting and forcing some questionable looks.
It's nothing earth shattering, but Roddy B is quietly showing signs of progress … perhaps encapsulated in a small moment that saw him forgo an easy dunk of his own on a 2-on-0 fastbreak to give the dunk, and the points, to the trailer, a struggling-with-his-shot Marion.
Roddy B finished with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, hitting 3-of-5 behind the arc, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and two turnovers in 16 minutes.
Carlisle ... wants more.
"He made some shots, but the rest of his game needs work," Carlisle said of Roddy B. "He's playing point now and Jason's not out there with them, so this is a different kind of challenge for him. His decision-making is going to get better, his recognition is going to get better , but he understands the challenges and it can't be me having to scream at him to get in a stance every time on defense. He's got to do it for us."
Dirk also offered an evaluation of the kid he calls "Lil' Frenchie'':
"I like his defense ... He's got to work on his decision-making,'' Dirk said. "I think we all know that, coming off pick-and-rolls, making the right plays, seeing the floor, that's sometimes a problem for him. But, I like it when he plays hard, he makes stuff happen, and I like when he's aggressive. Sometimes he has to find a better mix of driving and shooting and finding the open guy, but, you know, we need him."
WHAT'S UP, 'TRIX?: He speaks, DB.com listens:
BRANDAN WRIGHT: In what feels like the first time this season, Brandan Wright drew meaningful minutes … and produced nicely. He would play only seven minutes, but made a nice impression, particularly as he finished an alley-oop from Marion late in the second quarter despite a defender crowding in and fouling him. Wright would complete the And1 try and finish with five points and a rebound.
"Brandan Wright came in the game and made an impact,'' said Rick.
THE CENTER PLAY: In what is quietly becoming a pivotal subplot to this young season, the Mavs centers once again played fairly well.
Brendan Haywood started and played respectfully (though we continue to be frustrated by his bringing the ball down low in a crowd, a flaw in fundamentals that often results in needless loose balls or turnovers). He gathered six rebounds (two offensive) in only 17 minutes and had some pep in his step.
But it was Ian Mahinmi once again stealing the spotlight.
In 24 minutes, The Ianimal scored 13 points, tying Vince Carter for the team lead, and could have added a few more if not for his struggles at the free-throw line, where he was 3-of-8. ("Know he is about to jump off a cliff,'' Carlisle said of Ian, "because his free-throw shooting. But he is a good free-throw shooter and they are going to go in.") To go with Ian's cliff-jumping and his points were seven rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist.
Said Rick: "Ian is a great example of what is important this year. He is energetic and involved in every play. He is extremely valuable for us. ... He is involved in plays and we have other players that draw attention and then he is the recipient. You don't get those unless you are a good screener and a very decisive roller to the basket….his minutes have been important to us all year long.''
Joining the hustle play of Carter and the nice, quick fit of West, Mahinmi is grabbing his share of the early season spotlight.
As a pair, Mahinmi and Haywood scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. That's reminiscent of what Chandler/Haywood used to do. We'll take that.
Big Wood takes it to his Big Chair:
THE ODOM WATCH: Odom was hounded by foul trouble, finishing with five in 20 minutes, and seemed to coast at times, but avoided the poor shooting that plagued his first games. He finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal … not to mention drawing a nice charge against Carl Landry in the first quarter, helping key a 14-6 run the Mavs used to close the period.
It was a rather nondescript game … as well as one without the need for more from him.
QUOTABLE: "The defining characteristic of the season is that depth is huge, depth is king. Energy triumphs everything. We have to find it, we have to keep it on the floor and when it is not there we have to shuffle the deck. That is the way that it has to be.'' - Carlisle.
RICK, DELONTE AND THE WHITE HOUSE: Carlisle begins his presser with praise for Delonte ...
But shortly thereafter, Delonte himself spoke -- with a seeming focus on the Monday trip to the White House that he will not make.
"I'm banned from going to the White House, so I'm not going to make it,'' West said via the Star-Telegram. "But I'm going home to D.C., I'm just not allowed to go to the White House. ... That's what happens when you make bad decisions in your life. You can't go to the White House.''
West, a native of the D.C. area, was arrested in 2009 while riding a three-wheel motorcycle. Strapped to the motorcycle was a guitar case loaded with three guns. Because of his guilt in that case, he's apparently not welcome at the President's home.
"I've been there 100 times,'' West is quoted as saying, downplaying the fact he apparently won't be involved in the tradition of the defending champ meeting the President.
But ... Here's Delonte's Twitter rant and discussion about it at DB.com Boards. He's accusing the Star-Telegram reporter of misquoting him, attacking a Cavs-turned-Heat reporter for alleged misdeeds, explaining that he lives in his car and finally, deep into the a.m., saying that the meds are kicking in.
Hmm. Back to the floor ... After Vince's dunk, by the way, he appeared to make a hand signal that looked like the revving of the engine on a motorcycle. Completely unrelated, we assume.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Calculate ...
*The 15-point win is Dallas' largest of the season.
*All 11 Mavericks that saw the floor in the first half scored for Dallas, and eight had at least five points apiece at intermission.
*Dallas led by double-digits the entire second half. Dallas improved to 4-0 when leading at the half.
*Beginning at the 7:08 mark of the first quarter, Dallas used a 14-6 run to take the lead and never trailed again in the game.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Dallas is just 4-5. Crap. But they own the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Um, yay? Ah, and they are but three games out of first place in the West. Super yay! ... Vince on the Mavs' bodies: "We know the importance of taking care of our bodies. It makes for a long season. You have to be smart and take care of yourself and eat right." ... For the first time this season, six players scored in double figures for Dallas. Vince Carter (13), Ian Mahinmi (13), Delonte West (12), Jason Terry (12), Rodrigue Beaubois (11) and Dirk Nowitzki (10) all scored 10-plus points for the Mavericks in the win. ... A team that had to be dispatched – the Hornets have dropped six in a row and are 2-6 – was dispatched. ... This time is was somebody named "Rob Kardashian'' who attended the game and you realize this is never going to stop, don't you? ... Kevin Brolan and Chuck Perry of the 75-Member Staff also contributed to this All-Access Pass ...
MAVS AT PISTONS AND CELTICS AND FISH ON TV: We'll have Fish and Bob Ortegel as the studio analysts for the pre- and postgame MAVS LIVE shows on Fox Sports Southwest on both Tuesday (at Detroit) and Wednesday (at Boston). A half-hour before tipoff ... join us!
ADJUSTING BUGS: Remember when the Hornets were going to be the next big thing? And Dallas was a 50-win team that couldn't keep doing it?
New Orleans was lead by Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a double-double with a game-high 15 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans had four players in double figures. Jarrett Jack scored 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists while Carl Landry scored 12 points. Chris Kaman also scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.
But New Orleans is still adjusting to life without Chris Paul, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers prior to this season. The Hornets are also assimilating new starters Kaman and Aminu, and were without Eric Gordon and a large chunk of the roster due to injury and personal reasons.
The Hornets outrebounded Dallas 39 to 35, maybe their only real advantage. They clearly miss Paul's playmaking ability as they registered 17 assists to 21 turnovers. Some of those, of course, were due to an active Mavericks defense that played the passing lanes and accounting for 12 steals. Carter, Delonte and Haywood were among the Mavs with some defensive bounce.
From a pure talent standpoint, the deep Mavericks seem infinitely nearer to an identity than do the Hornets. And we're optimistic enough to believe that same comparison is true with nearly everyone in this league. However, Dallas – as it works in so many new faces -- struggles against teams with more cohesion and discipline.
And maybe more raw athleticism, too.
We have to out-smart some teams,'' Carter said. "There's going to be some younger teams that are maybe more athletic, faster than us. But we have to pride ourselves on execution and being smarter than everybody. And I think us moving the ball and finally getting stops makes us a successful team."
THE FINAL WORD: It's hard to take too much from a game with so many players absent, but we'll not discount the fact that it amounts to a win on the schedule, which is all we can ask for at this point. And, isn't this some version of a bonus considering Dirk went 2-of-11 from the floor and the Mavs still easily won?
Worth reiterating on The Uberman, have no fear. Regardless of the reasons behind it, or the possibly excuses you may or may not be able to find, this mini-slump is nothing to be concerned with. The oddities of this lockout-shortened schedule will manifest themselves in many ways. This is likely one of them, but even should there be further instances, Dirk is the least of our worries. By now, he's earned the key to our trust.
Listen in. Let him earn it:
Now, with this behind, with the Mavs once again one win away from reaching the .500 mark, eyes will shift to the impending visit to the White House on Monday … a trip earned by your reigning champion Mavericks (if not by home-body Delonte.)