Mavs Donuts: 'MontaBall' Meets 'DirkBall'
DONUT 1: Shoulder-to-shoulder ...
The Dallas Mavericks believe they are creating a unique offensive partnership with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. They will share the load. Batman and Robin, yes, but some nights, maybe the other way around. Side-by-side. Shoulder-to-shoulder.
But when Dirk's shoulder meets Monta's shoulder, he will encounter another presence: As Ellis demonstrated at Monday's Media Day, he arrives in Dallas accompanied by a massive chip.
"I'm going to get criticized for what I do," said Ellis, fielding questions about his reputation as a "volume shooter'' and an "inefficient scorer.'' "The only thing I can do is laugh it off. There are a lot of guys that take a lot of bad shots in this league. But nobody wants to talk about that. Everybody wants to talk about the shots Monta takes. All I'm going to do is take the punches and prove everybody wrong.
"What I'm saying is I'm going to play ‘Monta Basketball' and if y'all want to criticize, criticize."
DONUT 2: No criticism yet ...
The criticism of other bad-shot takers isn't the concern of the Mavs, of course. Coach Rick Carlisle and staff want to maximize the lightning-quick 2-guard's skills in a way that supplements the all-world gifts of Nowitzki, who at 35 has been working overtime to put himself in peak condition.
Dirk on Dirk, absent for 29 games due to knee surgery in last season's rare Mavs non-playoff campaign: "I feel good now. Going into camp, I did a lot of work. I started working out in May, probably the earliest for a long, long time. Hopefully I'll feel good going into the season and I can stay injury-free. ... I feel now better than I have at any point last year, so I think that's very encouraging. It's very important also from a mental standpoint and hopefully I can show it."
DONUT 3: And Dirk on Monta ...
"It's amazing what he does at his size, getting in the paint at will and finish with the big boys,'' Nowitzki said of Ellis. "He's a special, explosive player and I really think we can play well together. His strength is putting it on the floor and my strength is stretching the floor, so we should play well together."
DONUT 4: Follow the Mavs on Twitter ...
DB.com will be at Mavs training camp today and every day ... Stay in touch and follow the Mavs on Twitter: Mike Fisher, Chuck Perry , David Lord and Michael Dugat keep you up-to-the-minute informed on all things Mavs!
DONUT 5: What's not to like? ...
At his best, Ellis' shooting percentage skyrockets because he not only scores from the perimeter but also finishes at the rim. Last year in Milwaukee, he was at just 41.6 percent – far off the 45.6-percent shooting that makes him a perennial 20-points-per-game scorer.
Nowitzki has never quite had a partner capable of what Ellis can do.
Ellis has usually been his team's clear-cut No. 1 scorer, so in that and more senses, he's never had a partner quite like Nowitzki.
Little wonder Carlisle said, ""I like this team offensively.''
But, there's a "but.''
DONUT 6: The 'but' is defense ...
"This is going to come down to defense,'' Carlisle said. "I've got to fit these guys in a defensive system that helps us do better than last year. ... We have to do it collectively. We have to establish covenants to make it important.''
How to design a way for Nowitzki along with Ellis and fellow backcourt newcomer Jose Calderon to survive on defense is a challenge for another day.
Seriously, this issue bears a great deal of watching. Once upon a time, we were willing to part with Shawn Marion. Once upon a time, we scoffed at valuing Sam Dalembert. Once upon a time, we weren't sure exactly who the heck Wayne Ellington was.
No scoffing anymore. Not if the Mavs ever hope to stop anybody from scoring. And Rick pledges his "emphasis is going to be the defensive end.''
DONUT 7: Thanks, Studio Movie Grill! ...
A great partner with us in charitable work and a great place to get a movie and a meal ... thanks for the DB.com relationship, Studio Movie Grill!
DONUT 8: Media-Day mentions ...
Defense was mentioned at Monday's Media Day. A lot. "The 10 Best Quotes" are collected here, starring Dirk's boobs. So I don't mean to downplay its importance.
Also discussed in various corners of the AAC: Playoffs.
And I don't mean to downplay that as a realistic goal, either.
DONUT 9: The stated mission ...
A keen-eared Mavs fan will note that in recent years, Rick Carlisle has talked of the mission being "championships.''
Does this count as a subtle slide-back from that?
"Our mission this year is to get back to winning in the playoffs,'' Rick said. "The goal is always going to be win a championship, but getting to the playoffs and winning puts you in the top eight. And then anything can happen there, so that's what our mission is.''
I'm not bothered that it's a slide-back; I get the logic and I even approve of it. Before a championship comes the playoffs, so why not organize the goals in an orderly fashion. No problem there.
But then the man "Carlislized'' the mission statement.
"We know that there aren't a lot of people that think we're capable of doing that,'' he said. "so our self-belief has got to be there.''
DONUT 10: Yes to all of it ...
So "yes'' to defense. And to missions. And to self-belief. Hurrah for Devin getting the boot off his surgically repaired toe on Thursday and congrats to Shane Larkin for planning his readiness for the start of the season. Looking forward to a one-on-one visit today with new GM Gersson Rosas and I'm all in on that as a storyline.
But Dallas is coming off a 41-41 season in which it didn't do anything well enough. And no amount of "self-belief'' is going to change that. Rick Carlisle -- an elite coach and elite thinker -- knows every player needs at least one true skill to play in the NBA. And he knows every team needs at least one go-to facet it can depend on.
DONUT 11: Dallas is halfway there ...
This is Dirk's team. Dirk's franchise. Dirk's city. He can turn it on its ear not only with a dramatic shot but even with an off-the-cuff boobaliscious quip.
(By the way: want to watch the entirety of Dirk's Media Day presser, uncut and unfiltered? Mavs Premium Fans, dig in!
A quip for Dirk, a chip for Monta:
Bold talk. Monta hasn't done it here yet. So we want to believe. Dirk has done it here. So we do believe.
And so, in an effort to have something special to hang their hats on, the Mavs are halfway there.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Maybe this team really is a solid playoff contender. Maybe it plays defense just well enough in part thanks to the aforementioned under-appreciated guys, or maybe because Coach pumps up everybody's self-worth by balancing chips atop 15 guys' shoulders.
For now, there is a potential strength that must be played to if Dallas is to "prove a lot of people wrong,'' as Ellis pledged. "We're going to get the Mavericks back to making some noise in the playoffs.''
Part of how that happens is effectiveness in the Dirk/Monta teaming. Side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with a chip in between.
"Monta Basketball,'' sure. But "Dirk/Monta Basketball'' even more.
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