Saturday Mavs Donuts: Let's 'Judge Slowly'
PRE-DONUT: Things are rarely as bad as they seem Through the long lens of history our perspective on things often changes as subsequent events further the narrative in unexpected ways. What is common wisdom at the time can become a misconception down the road. That friend who doesn't make such a great first impression can later turn out to be a phenomenal person once you get to know him/her.
Or, at least, you tell your friends, "Well, she's a good dancer.''
It's the same with sports. To illustrate: 12 post-deadline reasons why you should Judge Slowly, especially with this team.
DONUT 1: Dirk was once thought to be incapable of winning a championship How soon we forget. Prior to last season, Dirk Nowitzki was viewed by many as a worthy perennial All-Star and likely hall-of-famer but never a champion. He just didn't have the mettle. He would wilt when playoff basketball ratcheted up the pressure, and he could not lead a team to a title, at least not as the primary star on a team.
This was the book on the guy: great regular-season player, the best foreigner ever, unique ... but not legendary. How quickly a few months can completely change one's legacy. Through 21 of the highest-stakes games of his career, Dirk proved over and over just how clutch he can be, how he can dominate games and impose his will on a series and how could make defenders look as foolish as those who doubted him.
Now Dirk is viewed like this:
DONUT 2: We thought the defense would falter this year The Dallas Mavericks defense? I'll admit it: I snickered when Jason Terry told reporters early in the year that this Mavericks team believed its defense was good enough to win games by itself. I wasn't the only one who doubted. Indeed, common wisdom held that after losing two of their top three defenders in Chandler and Stevenson, the Dallas defense was destined for a regression.
Instead, a defense that was slightly above average (at least statistically) became dominant. Looking at simple metrics, last season, Mavericks' opponents averaged 96.0 points per game, lower than the league average of 99.6 points per and shot .450 from the field (league average was .459). This season, going into this week, opponents were scoring 92.3 points per game (average is 95.4) while shooting .425 from the floor (average is .444).
These numbers are a bit skewed by Dallas' recent poor play, but the take home message is the same: Judge Slowly. Allow for the possibility that what some THINK is conventional wisdom could be wrong.
DONUT 3: Are you caught up on your Mavs news? ...
Exclusive Clip-And-Save: The Mavs' 3D Blueprint (Dwight/Deron/Dirk) Cheat Sheet
Mavs Donuts: Mark Cuban Said WHAT to Bill Simmons? We Translate The Podcast
Exclusive: 1-On-1 With Lamar Odom - 'I'm A Loyal Person; I Owe It To The Mavs'
The TRUE Deron Dollars as it relates to the Mavs
DONUT 4: Jason Terry went nuts in the regular season, then went a very different kind of nuts in the playoffs Last year, Jason Terry seemed to unravel as the regular season drew to a close. From fighting with teammates and coaches on the bench to cheap-shot fouls against the Lakers (Matt Barnes anyone?), a player that had struggled in the postseason seemed to be melting down as the playoffs approached. It looked like JET was perfectly situated for another spring swoon.
Instead Terry posted his best postseason since the magical but disappointing run of 2005-06. His 17.5 points on .478 shooting were his highest in five years and second-highest ever. Advanced metrics are even more impressive. He posted a career playoff-high 20.1 PER and a 2.1 OWS (offensive win shares, essentially the estimated number of wins a player added to his team because of his offense).
The cycle repeated itself in the Finals. When Jason Terry publicly doubted whether the best player on the planet, LeBron James, could guard him, it smacked of typical JET bravado, hyperbolic and not grounded in reality. Oh, but how close to reality it was. The JET was right and we were wrong.
This clip says it all:
Now, Jet's still a little angry/goofy, with this "non-vote-of-confidence'' talk and this "29 job interview'' talk. But I'm hoping he funnels his emotions properly. He usually does.
DONUT 5: Welcome to Miami The city, not the team. In five years, the site of the Mavericks' Waterloo became the same location of its coronation. They even stayed in the same hotel that Avery Johnson once moved them out of.
From the self-inflicted implosion of 2006 to the decisive Game 6 victory of 2011 on the Heat's home court several things were learned. One, these weren't the ‘same old Mavericks.' Two, this team could get over past demons. Three, things can always change.
DONUT 6: Let's go meet a new DB.com Mavs partner ...
RED ROCK Bar & Grill is working with us to host another of our famous DB.com Mavs Get-Togethers ... and in the meantime, we're all going to start hanging out there because of that 200-inch screen - the biggest TV in Texas! (And because of the live music!)
Red Rock is at the corner of Frankford & Midway, Just off the Tollway, at 18110 Midway Rd Dallas, TX 75287 .. (972) 733-3683.
Go check 'em out and tell 'em The Fish sent you! ... Oh, and Save the Date: Friday, March 23 ... Mavs at Spurs and we're all going to meet at Red Rock Bar & Grill ... with Random Axis performing after the game! Come sign up here!
DONUT 7: Tyson Chandler The merits of the decision not to retain Tyson Chandler are perhaps still up for debate, as is the entire strategy of clearing space for this summer; such is the case with a multi-year plan and a swing for the fences. However, that only reinforces the need to judge slowly. Yes, Chandler was ‘the missing piece' to last season's championship run, and he was ‘the perfect center for Dirk,' and yes he seemed like the perfect fit. I wrote a column outlining how much Dallas needed to retain him. Chandler even admits that he believed he'd be a Maverick until the end of his career. However, there were bigger plans in place, plans that could establish the Mavericks as a superpower in the twilight of Dirk's career. Deron? Maybe. It hasn't yet come to fruition, and may not happen the way we all think it will.
Nonetheless, judge it slowly.
DONUT 8: Dallas went through rough stretches last year As I write this, Fish and Ben Rogers are playing footsie on Twitter, wondering whether Dallas looks like a team ready for the playoffs. Certainly they do not, but are they any worse off than last year? At one point, the Mavericks endured stretches of losing seven of eight, losing four of six and had another four-game losing streak. In the moment, these never look like the marks of championship teams.
On March 31 last season, the Mavericks lost to the Lakers 110-82 in Dallas in a game that was supposed to determine who would earn the number two seed in the West and home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs. Dallas got absolutely drubbed and looked like a team coming apart at the seams.
Dallas did not look ready for the playoffs then, and were a favorite upset pick by many of the national-level experts. In every round of the playoffs, they were somebody's underdog.
DONUT 9: The Jason Kidd Trade This might be the ultimate evidence against judging things too quickly. Initially, Dallas looked desperate in giving up what was thought to be a future perennial All-Star and two first-round picks for an over-the-hill point guard who still couldn't shoot.
Ah, how foolish those of us look.
What originally looked like a huge ‘loss' for Dallas now looks like a resounding success. Though Devin Harris did indeed make one All-Star game, that looks increasingly like an aberration. He is now on his second post-Maverick team and it seems his best years may be behind him.
Then again, they may not be.
In Kidd, Dallas got a much-needed infusion of BBIQ, a trait sorely lacking in the team at the time. They also got something not seen since Nash left: a point guard to get Dirk easy touches in his preferred spots, a lockdown defender, and a reborn weak side three-point threat. Oh, and a Larry O'Brien. Not bad for Devin Harris, the ghost of Keith Van Horn and some first round picks.
DONUT 10: If you like insight into the World Champion Dallas Mavericks ... Try our Premium Mavs coverage! This is what we do, every day, with 28 years of experience on the beat! It's pennies a day to get All-Access to what the Mavs are doing upstairs, down in the basement, in the locker room and on the court – and it's free to come inside for a 7-day tryout. Now more than ever, there's no reason not to give it a go! Thanks for your support of the site at less than a dime-a-day! Go Mavs and Go Premium! ... We'll take you to the playoffs and into the Summer of 2012 as well!
DONUT 11: In general the regular season isn't the best predictor of playoff success The NBA catches a bit of a bad rap for its players perhaps not giving a maximum effort each night. In a regular season there are 82 games (or 66) and a great portion of which are nowhere near ‘must-win' status. Thus, there are multiple temptations to take a night off. Bill Russell once gave an interview stating the most impressive thing about Michael Jordan was that he was "committed to being Michael Jordan every night," and never just threw his uniform out there. Last season, the No. 1 seeds in the NBA were the Bulls and the Spurs. Neither made the playoffs.
Don't tell this to Trollinger, but not always does the best by-the-numbers team come out on top.
This is especially true around these parts.
Perhaps best illustrated by the 2006-07 season, regular-season dominance does always equate to post-season achievement. Its inverse is also usually true: periods of regular season mediocrity do not preclude the potential for playoff excellence. We saw as much as recently as last season. In 2010, Dallas was a 2 seed and was bounced in the first round. In 2009, Dallas was a 6 seed and advanced to the conference semifinals. Owner Mark Cuban recently cited the 1999 New York Knicks, an 8 seed that made the Finals, with an implied connection to this year's Mavericks squad as a team that can seem very different when the playoffs roll around.
With the playoffs this season, there will be longer breaks between games, more time for the Dallas coaching staff to prepare and scheme, crucial to last season's championship run. Another benefit of more time between games: more rest for veteran legs. We saw what a week off at the end of the regular season (and another after the sweep of the Lakers) did for Jason Kidd last year. The benefit will be compounded this year after such a compressed regular season. The basketball on the court will look very different if Dallas can just make the playoffs.
Dirk with days' rest. Delonte returning, which is happening soon. Big Wood healing, which isn't happening soon, as he's about to miss five games or so starting tonight with the Spurs in town.
But good health and rest and time ... might help.
DONUT 12: Implications for this season Yes, prospects have looked bleak this month, and I'm not here to pump sunshine.
What I am saying is wait before altering expectations of this squad. Take a moment before hurling yourself off the nearest sports cliff.
Judge slowly. The story could change before you know it. Besides, as champions, haven't they earned their full day -- that is, season -- in court?
DONUT 12: Fish co-hosts 'The Rodney Anderson Radio Show' every Saturday morning ...
Listen Live here to 105.3 The Fan from 8 to 9 a.m. and to 1080 KRLD from 9 to 10am for Rodney Anderson, the Credit, Mortgage and Money expert ... with our own Mike Fisher alongside!