First Impressions: Nets 'Distract' Mavs
The New Jersey Nets have excuses for being distracted and for being crummy. The Dallas Mavericks? Well, we're not much dazzled by any excuse-making here.
With Guard Delonte West (hand) still out for a couple more weeks, the Mavericks are otherwise healthy despite one notable omission. Forward Lamar Odom will remain absent for at least one more game after tonight due to personal reasons believed to be him tending to his ailing father. While the situation remains a bit hazy, rumors of Odom wishing for a buyout from the Mavericks even arose. Mark Cuban even commented on his missing power forward before tip-off.
"That's the assumption," Cuban said when asked about Odom remaining with the Mavericks for the rest of the season. "Every player goes through ups and downs."
Cuban went on to express how he expects Odom back, but there just isn't a timetable for his return. The Mavs have basically left the door open for Odom to return whenever he is ready, continuing with the theme of the Mavericks providing the constant coddling and hand-holding that Odom requires.
But Mavs management says its got this. So no jutifiable distraction there, right?
How about D-Steve and another ring ceremony? Does that suck away Dallas' attention? How? Why?
Meanwhile, another fire of a story burns bright as the league trade deadline nears. New Jersey point guard Deron Williams, who has long flirted with comments of how he wouldn't mind playing back in his hometown of Dallas, is a free agent this summer. As has been thoroughly covered by most forms of local and national media, the Dallas Mavericks haven't exactly been secretive of their plans to chase Williams, and Dwight Howard for that matter, this summer.
Nets coach Avery Johnson made a few waves this week after mentioning how Dallas would probably be aggressive in pursuing Williams this offseason, but backed off those remarks before Tuesday's game.
"I believe (Williams) has every intention of re-signing with (New Jersey)," Johnson firmly stated Tuesday before the game, in his mind clarifying some of the comments he made yesterday that he believes were misconstrued by the media.
Still, that didn't do much to keep most of North Texas dreaming and the rest of the nation wondering what a Dirk/Deron/Dwight would look like. Local media like DallasBasketball.com all the way up to Sports Illustrated scramble for blueprints on potential possibilities for formation of what would be the latest "SuperTeam."
As enticing as it is for Dallas to have such dreams, the Mavs have a few tasks at hand as they start a stretch of nine games in 12 nights. Fans and media may be focusing on the future, but the players had to handle the Nets before heading out on the road to Memphis and New Orleans. That didn't look like it was going to be the case late in the fourth quarter with the Mavs down eight, before a furious comeback by the Mavericks even gave them the lead after a three-pointer by Jason Kidd with less than a minute remaining.
The "Veteran Machine," as Johnson called the Mavs before the game, has made a habit and formed an identity from these late game comebacks over the last few years. That was no different tonight, but the final push fell short as New Jersey held on for a massive road win 93-92 on the strength of a career-high 38 points and clutch play from center Brook Lopez, who just so happens to be the primary piece in a potential New Jersey-Orlando swap that could land Dwight Howard in Brooklyn.
On a night that the Mavericks wanted to use to get an easy win and play their starters light minutes before their nightmare schedule really begins (the Mavs are in Memphis on Wednesday), Dallas instead dug themselves into a hole before their tough run even started. Dirk scored 24 but got swallowed up late. Kidd made the one basket but tossed up a pair of ugly late shots. Dallas' spacing didn't seem at all right on the final few possessions ... And the problems crop up all while failing to guard Lopez and therefore raising the value of the Nets' main trade piece that could end the potential of the Mavs' 3D Blueprint offseason.
As is his praise-worthy habit, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle shouldered the blame for whatever ailed his team, especially the late problems.
"The last two plays of the game, those are on me,'' he said. "I take full responsibility for those. ... I'm the coach. And if I'm going to get on their ass about not being in the game early then I've got to be willing to take the heat when the two plays at the end of the game don't work out. It's accountability. That's how it works.''
Sideshow distractions to start. Emotional accountability to close. All things considered, the Mavs have had better nights.