All-Access: Mavs Can't 'Shut It Down'
FOREWARD: For the Dallas Mavericks, it was just a lazy Wednesday night in the AAC. Peja Stojakovic and JJ Barea stopped by to wade through the memories of yesterday once more made fresh, once more resting in beautiful splendor at our feet. The 7-10 Minnesota Timberwolves were in town ... like we said, just a lazy, uneventful Wednesday evening with little going on.
The Mavs started off solid enough but a allowed the Wolves to score the final eight points of the first half and soon let them run away with the game, losing by a final of 105-90 ... ending the streak of 15 straight opponents held under 100 points.
Oh, and the Mavs were handing out their championship rings. So, there was that. One great, raw look from the Mavs staff ...
Below, Kevin Brolan shoots a DB.com's-eye view. ...
We sit here now, writing this, night turning into morning after celebration turned into loss, wondering what the big story of the day really is. ...
MY PRECIOUS: Waving gently in the soft currents from the rafters of the AAC hangs a reminder for us all. The flag planted at the peak of the mountain does not fade, but stands forever to remind us of what was accomplished, of what was earned ... and forever breathes life into the past, feeding its immortality within the NBA halls of record.
The raising of the banner is a moment all Mavs fans are sure to remember ... yet the ring ceremony felt like it held so much more weight ... the championship broken down to an individual level, to a much more intimate level.
The lights dimmed, an emotional montage played on the big screen, and after Mark Cuban gave thanks to many of the staff who work behind the scenes as the AAC camera panned slowly across them, Rick Carlisle was handed the microphone to usher us through the process of the ring presentation.
He began by thanking those not in attendance (Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Corey Brewer and Caron Butler) before arriving at a suit-wearing JJ Barea, to the delight of the crowd. From Peja Stojakovic, also on hand in some spiffy attire, to Brendan Haywood, Carlisle introduced every player as they walked up to receive their rings and hold them up to a crowd who serenaded enthusiastically in return.
The final four remained, and hearts must have swelled within Mavs fans, just as the threat of tears welled on the bottom eyelid of many others.
Next up: "One of truly the most underrated players in NBA history. One of the best all-around players in NBA history ... The Matrix, Shawn Marion," Carlisle said, and the crowd bellowed.
Jason Terrywas next, giving his patented crouching-arms-wide pose -- the Jet! -- after Carlisle labeled him one of the "greatest clutch players in this franchise's history."
If your sport emotions didn't itch at the underside of your skin as "a basketball genius," as Carlisle so succinctly put it, Jason Kidd smiled and finally took hold of the ring that had eluded him for so long ... you may need to verify your fandom.
Leaving only one ... and it took little more than "10-time All Star" for the crowd to explode.
"One day soon he'll have a statue in front of the AAC," Carlisle said, and led Dirk Nowitzki to his precious, the mark of a championship that he can forever hold close, a testament to the memories that will not disappear. With something resembling the love of a father holding his newborn for the first time, Dirk kissed the ring, cradled it before him and then thrust it into the air above his head.
"How's it look?" Dirk asked, showing the ring off on his finger ... again, like a newborn to his closest friends.
It looks great. It's fitting.
Something earned by the players, a gift to all of us ... stashed into the folds of memory, one more cherished moment for fans to hold dear.
FIVE GOOD MINUTES WITH RICK: Carlisle's postgame presser:
PATIENCE WEARING THIN: For what may have been the first time, as Lamar Odom missed his 10th shot in 11 attempts the boos trickled down from the highest reaches of the AAC. The natives have grown restless, their patience having been scraped and worn thin.
For the first half, Odom hit 1-of-11 (9.1 FG%)from the floor while the rest of the Mavs started hot, making 24-of-39 tries (61.5 FG%).
Unfortunately for the Mavs, and Odom, the second half wasn't much better as the entirety of the Mavs lost their shooting touch while the offense withered to a broken, withered shell of what it had been the first two quarters. Dallas hit 31.1 percent of their second-half shots and watched as the younger Timberwolves not only pulled away, but left the Mavs appearing old, disinterested ... or caught daydreaming in the wake of their final championship celebration.
Lamar's wife shed some possible light on his struggles against the Wolves on Twitter with the following: "@KhloeKardashian: Ugh I feel so bad for my baby... His poor ankles :( I can tell he's in pain"
We can add that we often see Odom icing his ankles down in the locker room prior to games. But heck, we see everyone icing down everything before and after games. Pick one ... Brandan Wright ices his knees after every game ... does that make him some sort of especially sympathetic figure?
With LO, it's hard to deny the return on the court has been much less than anticipated, or expected, through 19 games. Considering the talent he houses, we understand the growing frustration from fans ... and the doubt bubbling to the surface on if this marriage, as brief as it may be (we'll skip the obvious joke there), will find it's legs at all.
OK, we'll skip the joke. Rick Carlisle could not. When asked if LO seemed "engaged,'' Rick replied, "I think he's married.''
We aren't laughing, though. We haven't lost all faith, but it's getting harder and harder to justify to the masses ... and to ourselves.
We've said this before and we will repeat it, bolstered by the theory that Odom came to Dallas not fully understanding the 3D Blueprint and now feeling unloved as he's not a long-term part of the Mavs plans: Babysitting this guy is about to be Carlisle's greatest "Coach 'Em Up'' challenge of his four-year Dallas career.
Which leads us to another point. Considering where we see Dirk's situation, should Odom be the next to be granted (urged? Forced?) to step away from the games to endure something akin to a mini-camp to find his conditioning? It certainly couldn't hurt, could it?
"It's kind of like an exclamation for the start of the season for me," Odom said. "I'm just not myself yet."
Well ... by gosh, Odom stands there and works with the media ...
But "not myself''? We disagree. Nineteen games in, and LO is like this every night. Maybe this IS himself.
We'll leave it to Carlisle's concise description of Odom's performance:
THE DIRK STATUE: Rick's comments on Dirk includes some newsiness:
Carlisle introduced Nowitzki by referring to him thusly: "10-time All-Star, 2007 league MVP, 2011 Finals MVP and one day soon we'll have a statue outside the AAC, without question, the greatest player in Mavericks history -- Dirk Nowitzki."
That statue idea, DB.com readers, qualifies as news. May we suggest The One-Legged Euro Lean-Back as the brozed pose?
A COUPLE OF POSITIVES: It wasn't without its blemishes, but Roddy Beaubois had another solid game. In 20 minutes of action, Roddy hit 5-of-11 shots for 11 points, and added three rebounds, five assists (a new season high, only one away from his career mark of six) and three impressive blocks (matching his career high).
What made each of the blocks so impressive wasn't only who they came against, including Kevin Love -- who again dominated the Mavs with 31 points and 10 rebounds, none of the offensive glass -- but that they erased what would have been easy baskets at the rim for Minnesota. Another plus, Roddy committed only one turnover ... an inbounds toss that went in the opposite direction of the man he was throwing to, and led to an easy two points for the Wolves.
Jason Kidd made a small grab to reclaim his gone astray shooting stroke, though the stats may be slightly misleading in this. Kidd went 2-of-6 from the floor and 2-of-5 behind the arc, but two of those attempts came as desperation heaves after poor offensive possessions left him with little choice but to throw up less-than-ideal attempts.
Kidd finished with eight points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a steal. If he can build upon this, it may be a good sign for the Mavs.
Brandan Wright played eight minutes in the first half and did what he's done with almost all of his minutes, left us wanting to see more. In those eight minutes he scored eight points and recorded a pair of blocks. He would not reenter the game until the fourth quarter, picking up just over four more minutes and one more point, a steal and a rebound for totals of nine points, two rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
It's undeniable that he has a lot to learn when it comes to the nuances of the game, of the Mavs system at both ends of the floor, but the displays of athleticism and offensive skill are hard to forget ... from the high-flying finish on an alley-oop Jason Terry scooped from the ground to finishes in traffic, the skill is there. We must wait on the polish.
Brendan Haywood was once again the player we're coming to expect him to be. Solid to very strong on defense, and becoming an able finisher in the paint ... assuming he isn't asked to take a dribble, or attack the rim from more than two steps away. He finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
One final positive: this is the final championship ceremony of the season. We mean, unless Cuban is planning a party for, say, DeShawn when he comes here with the Nets. Please, God, no. Meet DeShawn out in the hallway after the game. Hand him a ring and a roadmap and send him on his way, OK?
Said Kidd: "I think we're all happy that we don't have any more ceremonies for our championship."
TWO TAKES ON TWO 4'S: When we go back and review tape, here are two things we're going to see from Dallas' PF's:
1. When Dallas used Yi, it used him like a go-to guy. Yi in the high post was a starting point, and then he pops to the perimeter for a jumper. Note: Two weeks ago, he only knew two Dallas plays. Him in the high post was one of them. We're sure he's learned a lot since then, but ... as a go-to guy?
2. We're going to go back and watch Odom when he sets screens. What we think we'll see? Pure laziness. Lamar isn't setting hard screens, he's not rolling to the hole, he's not popping to designated spots ... He's not doing anything but lollygagging through the offense. Can his ankles really be hurting that badly?
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EVERYONE'S ALLOWED ONE: For what feels like the first time this season, Delonte West fell into the group of those who appeared a step slow for much of the night.
Did he have a ring hangover, too?
He did display a flash of defensive intensity in the fourth quarter when the Mavs seemed poised to make a final push, but drifted away from impact the rest of the night.
Considering the circumstances of this season ... maybe everyone is allowed at least one.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Minnesota took 13 FTs before Odom took the first two for the Mavs as a team ... Dallas led by 14 points before halftime but Minny finished the first half with eight consecutive points in the final minute, then had a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the third quarter. "We lost some concentration,'' said Carlisle. "Look, we didn't deserve to win, and frankly, after that period at the end of the second quarter, we really didn't compete at any kind of level at all." ... Vince Carter missed his fifth consecutive game with that sprained left foot. ... We grant you Love. And Rubio, now. But Wayne Ellington (16 points) and Nikola Pekovic (13 points) were also better than what the Mavs were throwing on the floor. ... Jet wore his golden shoes ... "We're trying to take our baby steps to get to where we want to be,'' said a miffed Marion. "Tonight we just took a hop back.'' ... The defending champs keep "turning a corner'' only to find themselves faced with another corner. Ended Wednesday is the team's seven-game home winning streak. ... Dirk's address to the crowd included the acknowledgement for Cuban: "He's the best owner in sports.'' ... Why weren't the three Kardashian girls on camera constantly? They cooled their high heels in Cuban's suite ... Dallas was 10-0 when leading at halftime, another string broken.
THE NUMBERS GAME: The Big Calculator ...
*Minnesota offense: Minnesota is a team that plays fast but doesn't shoot well. They are 10th in the league in pace 92.8 possessions per game, but are 22nd in the league in shooting at 42.9% per game. Tonight they shot 44% from the field and 43% from downtown. ... They are also 28th in points in transition at 15.3 points per 100 possessions. Tonight they registered only 7 points on the break. ... They are 25th in Turnovers at 16.4 per and tonight registered 15 turnovers.
*Minnesota Defense: The Timberwolves are worst in the league at transition points allowed and tonight they surrendered 13 points on the break to Dallas. ... Minny is 10th in points in the paint surrendered and tonight the Mavs registered 40 points in that area. ... They are 28th in blocks per game at 3.9 per, but tonight they had 12, with Darko accounting for most of that with seven by himself. ... Rubio is 4th in the league in steals at 2.47 per, and he bested that mark tonight with four. ... The Mavs shot 50% in 1st half but finished shooting 41%.
*JKidd: Coming in to this one, was shooting 5-of-39 from deep since New Year's Day, however, encouragingly, he was 2-of-5 from downtown here.
*The third quarter: the story of the game ... No Mav made more than one field goal as Dallas shot only 32%, was outscored 26-18, was outrebounded 16-13 and had 5 TO's for 6 T-Wolves points. ... They Mavs led by two coming into the quarter and left down by six. They wouldn't lead again.
DISTRACTED?: We still can't figure out how Dallas approaches these things -- or reacts to this things -- as if they are "distractions.'' We would strongly suggest they should've won because of the ring ceremony and the motivation that figured to come with it -- not despite it.
It's a long and demanding season. A team needs an edge, a nudge, to get up and working.How is being handed a $40,000 ring, hearing the delighted cheers of 20,000 adoring fans, and knowing that your spot in history is secure, not an edge to these guys?
Unfortunately for Dallas, the positive vibes didn't carry over to the actual game, mirroring what happened in the season-opener when the Mavs lost to Miami after raising the championship banner.
"This has been a wonderful trilogy of experiences - the banner, (visiting) the White House, and then the ring ceremony …'' Carlisle said before the game.
But the trilogy comes with blemishes, notable blemishes on the Mavs' 11-8 record. Another is that 105-94 opening-day drubbing at the hands of the Heat. The loss to Miami, though, came with numerous justifications. No training camp, a vengeful Hear, a new Dallas roster, blahblah.
This celebration-night loss – albeit without sidelined Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter – isn't as easy to explain away.
THE RING ITSELF: The 2011 Dallas Mavericks Championship Rings, designed by Jostens with input from players Kidd, Nowitzki and Terry, are as large and as gaudy as they come. Each ring (reportedly worth $40,000 each) features 14 K white gold, 250 total diamonds and weighs 91.7 grams. The Mavs logo is on top and set against a custom blue stone encircled by 31 princess-cut diamonds, one for each year of the organization. The words "World Champions" are flanked by 10 round-cut diamonds, and each ring also features the player's name, diamonds that replicate the banner and the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and the team motto, "The Time is Now.''
THE FINAL WORD: The ring ceremony is something Mavs fans, players, and all involved will keep eternally caged in their memories. It was touching, heart felt and perfectly executed ... and we're glad it's done, hoping the letdown after these celebrations slips with them into the past.
Minnesota is a better team than they're given credit for behind a young core of Ricky Rubio (17 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and four steals) and Kevin Love (who signed his new four-year extention worth $62 mil on Wednesday afternoon in Dallas). They also present matchup nightmares for the Mavs, particularly in the case of Love. However, this is still a game Dallas "should have" won.
"This is a game we should have come out and won regardless of the ceremony tonight,'' Marion said. "We can make all the excuses we want ... We should have won this game."
Yet when you shoot 31 percent and have 10 turnovers in the second half, "should have" quickly slips away.
"This is an embarrassing loss right now," Marion said. "We've all got to sit and look at ourselves. We should be pissed off. We shouldn't have lost this game.''
But "should have" became "shouldn't have."
While the calls may have felt securely one sided for much of the night (Minnesota took 33 free throws to only 10 for the Mavs, and that gap was 27-6 in favor of the Wolves well into the final quarter), it is impossible to deny that it felt like the Wolves were the more aggressive team. We will point out that Dallas outscored Minnesota 40-to-38 in the paint, and took eight more attempts there. Minny will counter with its ridiculous 11 blocked shots, and they win the argument.
With the Utah Jazz coming to town on Friday, the Mavs have to push this aside and embrace the opportunity before them by getting back on the left side of the ledger with a win.
It'll take more than words to do it, though we're sure you were entertained by Dirk's color analyst work on FSSW. Last year he sold DB.com a bunch of t-shirts with his "Take That Wit Chew!'' This time, he grabbed ears when he responded to a B-Wright dunk by yelling, "Shut it down! Let's go home!"
On Wednesday, the audience listened. His teammates did not.