Donuts: Around The NBA, Around The Mavs
DONUT 1: Ghosts of Linsanity ...
Last night, Jeremy Lin returned to the arena in which he went from an un-drafted unknown (at least on the national stage) to the biggest basketball star on the planet in the span of 48 magical days. Without Carmelo Anthony, who was no fan of the Linsanity era and the D'Antoni-ball style that fostered it, the Knicks nonetheless sought to embarrass Lin and prove to the world that he was a fluke they didn't bother to resign after telling him to go out and get an offer.
The result was a 109-96 Rockets victory, the first home loss for the self-styled "Championship-Contender" Knicks. Lin's fingerprints were all over the victory for Houston, as he and James Harden proved simply too much for the short-handed Knicks.
DONUT 2: Mavs' Memories ...
Last season, I went on the road with the Mavs to Philadelphia and New York at the height of Linsanity and sat on press row and watched as a Melo-less Knicks squad was too much for the defending-champion, Plan-Powder Dallas Mavericks.
I remember the noise of the crowd resonating through that storied arena, which the other guys on press row told me they hadn't heard in years. I remember the headache, from too many cocktails the night before with some other members of the Mavs media crew. I remember Lin being the best player on the court on a day when Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points, including 4-of-5 from the arc.
But most of all I remember the humble kid I met in the hallway, deep in the bowels of Madison Square Garden.
"Hey Jeremy," I said as I shook his hand. "You're the biggest star on the planet right now."
Bemused, he shrugged and downplayed the enormity of the moment, saying he was just grateful for the opportunity.
DONUT 3: More Sobering Matters ...
After climbing above .500, Dallas has dropped three straight games and sits at 11-13 heading into tonight's tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers. With upcoming games against the defending-champion Heat and surging Memphis Grizzlies later in the week, this looks to be Dallas' best shot at breaking their current three-game losing streak.
DONUT 4: Dirk's work ...
I haven't seen this noted anywhere except Fish's Monday Mavs Practice Report, so I think it's worth re-mentioning: Dirk Nowitzki was at Mavs practice yesterday, working up a sweat in some capacity.
DB.com continues to report that Dirk's target is realistically somewhere between Christmas and New Year's. Dirk's all about perspiration; we're all about anticipation.
DONUT 5: Sixers Quick Scouting Report ...
Dallas' opponent tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers, come in with a record of 12-12, currently sitting 4th in the Atlantic Division. They average a paltry 92.5 points per game (26th in the NBA), but are buoyed by a strong defense that limits opponents to only 95.3 points per game (9th in the league).
Like Dallas, they have yet to enjoy a game with their best player, Andrew Bynum, on the court this season. Further, top-scorer Jrue Holiday is doubtful for tonight's game with a sprained left foot.
Overall, the 76ers are in the middle-third of the league in most statistical categories that matter. However, they play at one of the slowest paces in the league, averaging 90.3 possessions per game (the 5th slowest in the NBA). They also protect the ball better than most, with only 298 turnovers, the 3rd-fewest in the NBA. Further, they are the 5th-most larcenous squad in the league, having already nabbed 162 steals on the young season.
Ball security, already an issue for Dallas, will once again be a key factor in tonight's matchup. DB.com will have the game covered with The 75-Member Staff in the building, all night and all day!
DONUT 6: Passing fancies ...
This will come as no surprise to many of you, but the Mavericks are not a very precise passing team. That's not to say they aren't a good passing team. Indeed, they rank 11th in the league in total assists. However, they are still bottom-third in turnovers, coughing it up 14.6% of the time on offense.
Some of this is to be expected while playing at the 2nd-fastest pace in the league and working in one young PG, Collison, and one old one who has only been with the team for eight games, Derek Fisher. Still, Dallas must eliminate the "unforced" turnovers that have plagued the team recently if they are to take the next step.
DONUT 7: Liquidating Assets ...
A note on "liquidating assets" We dismissed in yesterday's Donuts the notion, coming this early, that Dallas will be forced to "liquidate" its assets this season. Though Dallas is having an uncharacteristically poor season record-wise, it's still far too early for silly proclamations.
However, if we are to classify Dallas' assets, they are already pretty "liquid." Last season, Dallas was stocked with veteran players on short deals, and this year, Dallas is arguably is even more loaded with attractive (read: trade-able) assets. Unlike last season, however, Dallas' assets are far younger. Outside of Nowitzki, and the relatively-unattractive contract of Marion, who's on the books for one more season at $9.3 million, Dallas has virtually no long-term salary obligations.
Contracts like Mayo's ($4 million), Collison ($2.3 million), Dahntay Jones' ($2.9 million) would be attractive to many teams. That's not to say the Mavericks will be selling, but for the right deal (read: star), Dallas' trade arsenal is loaded enough.
DONUT 8: A disgruntled Deron ...
Deron Williams takes a dig at Avery's system and the Nets.
I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Never saw this coming.
DONUT 9: Mavs Rebounding Update ...
We have long-lamented Dallas' inability to snag rebounds this season, and indeed they are getting out-rebounded by their opponents by about four boards a game.
In Dallas three-game losing streak, their rebound differential was +8, -9, and -7 in each game. Guess which game they were closest in? That's right, in the double-overtime loss to the Celtics, part of the reason they were still in the game up to the very end was their ability to secure missed shots. In the blowout loss to Toronto, they were -9 in rebound differential.
Basketball is a complex game that fuels advanced metrics, but often it comes down to the simple fundamental.
DONUT 10: Kobe Stunted Bynum's Growth? ...
That's the word coming from the Philadelphia big man.
"I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it's hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously," Bynum said of having teamed with Kobe in LA.
"Later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth," Bynum continued.
Oh, you mean it's hard to grow as a player when you don't have the ball in your hands?
Let's see how Dwight Howard is doing with that. This season, Howard is averaging his lowest usage rate since 2006-07. Not surprisingly, he is averaging the fewest points of his career since that season but is also averaging his fewest rebounds since his rookie season and is averaging the most fouls of his career.
DONUT 11: Mayo's minutes ...
This season, O.J. Mayo has played 857 minutes, the most on the team and 140 more minutes than the next-closest player (Darren Collison has played 717).
Put another way, Mayo has played almost three more games than any other Maverick.
Part of this is to be expected: he's clearly the team's best player and has been among the healthiest.
Now it's probably too early in the season to worry about the minutes logged on a 25 year-old star's legs, but something interesting seems to happen when Mayo logs significant time on the court.
To wit: Dallas is 2-4 in games in which Mayo plays more than 40 minutes. Now it's likely the case that Dallas was behind in most of those games and needed its best player to play more minutes, and correlation does not imply causation, but still, it's something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
"You can't throw a ball through the nose of a defender and have it come out of his (rear) to a teammate.'' - Rick Carlisle, in DB.com's Monday Practice Report.