DONUT 1: The Big Lead
The scoreboard result is of the oh-by-the-way variety: Oh yeah. The Dallas Mavericks
defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-98 in Sunday at the AAC. Really, the final score is almost immaterial, but it’s somewhat fitting — and not a coincidence — that Dallas earned its first preseason victory in Dirk Nowitzki’s debut. So will go the season; he may have more help this year, but the victories will still mostly hinge on the man who has accepted and thrived while carrying that burden for well over a decade.
How'd it go, Coach?
“I thought it went very well,'' Rick Carlisle said. "He told (trainer) Casey (Smith) that he felt good out there, so those were good signs. It’s really just the beginning for him in terms of live action as we all know. ... It was going to be just one half tonight (for Dirk). The goal was 18 or 19 minutes. (The stat sheet) said he played 19 … It worked out well and we’ve got to build on it.”
DONUT 2: Dirk's Debut in Detail
In typical Dirk Nowitzki
fashion, the cornerstone of the ’ franchise made his 2014-2015 debut in relative obscurity and without crazy fanfare — just moments after the Dallas Cowboys recorded one of their biggest victories in recent history. In fact, Nowitzki was about to put up a shot in warm-ups when PA announcer Sean Heath informed the arena of the Cowboys’ 27-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Big German paused to applaud his Dallas sporting brothers.
But while most of Dallas-Fort Worth was busy celebrating their football team, Nowitzki went to work reminding everyone in attendance that he’s one of the best shooters in NBA history. Sixteen seconds into the preseason contest against the Indiana Pacers he shook off the rust, tried out of his patented elbow jumper and the ball touched nothing but net.
A few minutes later he checked on his baseline jumper. Nothing but net.
The mid-range, One-Legged Euro Fadeaway was next. The result seemed inevitable. With 5:38 left in the first quarter, Nowitzki was subbed out for a rest. He was 3-of-3 with six points.
But for anyone worried about the possible seriousness of Nowitzki’s prior hip injury that had kept him from participating in Dallas two preseason losses, The Uberman came right back into the game with 2:53 left in the first quarter. After uncharacteristically air-balling a shot, he put Mavs fans at ease by making another mid-range jumper with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
Nowitzki played 9:15 in the first quarter and coach Rick Carlisle left him in for the start of the second. Nowitzki rewarded the decision by hitting a three-pointer 29 seconds into the period.
“Not bad,” Nowitzki said of his fall debut. “You know, I probably could have played last game, but since it’s preseason we took it slow with the hip and I felt fine.”
It was clear from the beginning of the Sunday night’s game that while the Mavericks offense may have a number of playmakers, the gameplan still primarily relies on spacing and movement around Nowitzki. Getting him the ball in position to operate is the key to what promises to be a dynamically crisp offense. By starting the game with Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons and Richard Jefferson (at the 2 in place of the injured Monta Ellis), Dallas forced the Pacers into a poison-picking game. Indy opted against leaving shooters to double-team Nowitzki. The choice reinforced the notion that single coverage on Nowitzki — even in his 17th season — is a quick way to give up two points.
Nowitzki was the model for efficiency in the first half. He played 19:05 of a possible 24 minutes and scored eight points in each quarter. He scored those 16 points off of 7-of-11 shooting including 2-of-3 from behind the arc. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists including a pretty pass in traffic to Brandon Wright, who scored plus the foul.
Nowitzki put up these numbers all while bumping with Luis Scola and frequent and long-time agitator David West.
Carlisle gave his star player the rest of the night off as Wright started the second half in his place. But Dirk had made the most of the time he was on the court. His conditioning looked good, he proved healthy and his shot was as everything we’ve come to expect.
We still haven’t seen Nowitzki, Parsons and Ellis on the floor together, but the pieces we’ve seen from the three of them — as well as the very skilled supporting cast — suggest that the Mavericks’ offense may very well be top-five in the league in terms of efficiency and scoring.
Nowitzki’s health doesn’t do much for the defense, however. That end of the floor will be a work in progress all season. The Mavericks gave up a number of open three-pointers early to the Pacers’ starters. It will likely take a number of adjustments and built roster chemistry over the next few months to get the defense to be in the top 10 (Rick's stated goal), but we found out Sunday night that there’s one thing we won’t have to wait for: Dirk Nowitzki’s jump shot. In fact, that might be the most reliable thing in basketball.
DONUT 3: In the lab
Preseason is in part one big chemistry experiment. The Charlie Villanueva Science Project continues to earn all A's.
The Mavs rallied to tie at 74-all to open the fourth when Carlisle rolled out a lineup that included Gal Mekel, Greg Smith, Rick Ledo and, most notably, non-guaranteed vet Charlie V, who hit back-to-back-to-back 3's to put the Mavs up 95-84 midway through the final period.
Charlie V only played in the fourth quarter, yet scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 4-of-6 from three-point range in just over 11 minutes.
“It is unbelievable,'' said Villanueva of his opportunity -- and the way he is grabbing it. "It is very humbling and at the same time I am excited. Getting to be in a situation like this on a team that has a winning tradition makes me glad to be a part of it.”
Said Rick: “A lot of guys played well, especially that group in the fourth. Mekel (11 points) has gotten so much better in the last year and he’s worked so hard at it. It’s great to see him have a night like tonight, where he really took control of the game. He made plays, he scored, he found people, he made free throws and he was terrific on defense. He’s an NBA player and he plays extremely well. Charlie was terrific, but we have other guys who did a lot of things, too. I thought Aminu was a factor on the boards, Smith played solid and Ledo (10 points) is learning.”
DONUT 4: Injury update
Richard Jefferson started in place of the injured Monta Ellis and finished with 13 points. Monta's knee isn't serious; indeed, he was fully active Monday at Mavs practice. We're also pursuing info on the ankle of Raymond Felton, billed as an injury that will sideline him "for at least 10 days,'' but that seems quite optimistic for what is likely a high ankle sprain.
DONUT 5: Here comes Yuki!
Point guard Yuki Togashi is slated to join the D-League's Texas Legends following his arrival in DFW this week, according to sources with the Dallas Mavericks
, with whom the 5-6 point guard spent Summer League in Las Vegas this offseason.
The off-season player limit is 20, and the Mavs entered this weekend with 19. The 15-man limit begins at the start of the regular season, so it's possible Yuki will participate briefly with the Mavs in preseason. (Dallas hasn't announced that he's signed an NBA "training-camp contract'' with the Mavs, but we are told the contract was filed with the league a week ago. Whether he participates in camp and plays in the preseason or not, it's likely he's formally a Mav before he becomes a Legend. That's relevant contractually, as it provides the Legends with a priority claim on him for the D-League, as he can be signed without being drafted, if he's signed before the draft occurs after being waived by the Mavs.)
Yuki, 21, played high school basketball in Maryland (at Montrose Christian School, the nationally-ranked program that once featured Kevin Durant) before returning to his native Japan, where he's been an All-Star and MVP in the 'bj League.' In July, he appeared in four games, averaging four points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
“He’s a celebrity in Japan,” Stu Vetter, Togashi's high school coach, told a Maryland paper. “He was considered one of the best young players to ever come out of Japan.”
Yuta Tabuse is the only Japanese native who has played in the NBA in 2004; he appeared as a guard in four games with the Suns.
DONUT 6: Down goes KD
Oklahoma City announced Sunday that Kevin Durant has suffered what is called a "Jones fracture'' in his right foot. This injury usually requires surgery and the reigning MVP could be looking at two months of missed time.
“After practice yesterday, Kevin made us aware of discomfort in his right foot," GM Sam Presti said in a statement. "We proceeded to perform the necessary imagining studies to determine the cause of his discomfort. At this stage, Kevin has been diagnosed with a Jones fracture. Traditional treatment of this injury requires a surgical procedure and recent NBA cases have resulted in a return to play in 6-8 weeks.''
Durant averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists last season in winning MVP for the Thunder. A greater load now falls on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook, and as our Mike Marshall jokes, Westy is probably celebrating this with a special trip to the ladies department at Nordstrom Rack.
Dallas doesn't play OKC until Dec. 28, so there is not (yet) a direct impact in that regard. But OKC would like to (and is capable of) capturing the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. Dallas harbors a private goal of being top-four.
This could mean a slip for OKC ... and a chance to vault for the Mavs.
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DONUT 8: Abpocalypse Avoided
Following the Dallas Mavericks
' Friday preseason lose to OKC, coach Rick Carlisle took to the podium and addressed Chandler Parsons
' added bulk.
"An increase of 18 to 20 pounds is just too much," Carlisle said. "We talked about it today. We talk about it a lot. He'll get there. ... I don't mean to call him out in public or ridicule him, but it's just a fact. He's an important guy for us. We just need him to get to his right conditioning and weight level so he can play his best, because we're going to need him to play a lot of minutes over the course of 82 games."
The Mavericks signed Parsons to his three-year, $46-mil deal with the hopes of him combining with Ellis and Nowitzki to form a great offensive trio. Parsons, however, also joined the Mavericks with the hopes of being somewhere he can blossom into the All-Star caliber player he believes he can be. With Ellis and Nowitzki sitting out of Friday’s game, Parsons got the opportunity to lead the Mavericks against Durant, Westbrook and company.
Parsons didn’t get regular-season-level minutes, but he showcased the versatility that he is capable of. In 20 minutes of play Parsons recorded nine points, six rebounds and six assists. His scoring would have been higher had he hit a few three pointers that he is capable of making, but it’s a promising sign that he did not try to dominate the game offensively in his teammates’ absences. Parsons understands the balance of his game and how it can help the team. He is more than capable of hitting open shots and keeping the ball movement going, but his ability as a driver allows him to be a great playmaker and finisher. In other words, he brings a lot to the table.
“I hope to do a little bit of everything,'' Parsons said. "Defend, rebound and make the game a little easier for everybody else. Shooting will come. Training camp was tough and I don’t have a lot of legs right now, but that’s what I plan on doing.”
Here's Parsons, in his own words, about the "legs'' ... and about Rick's remarks:
While Carlisle said the Mavs want him to get down from 230 to 225, Parsons believes the added weight will help him as an interior defender.
"His opinion is different than mine,'' Chandler said. "We go after it every day ...''
Um ... oh.
Was this the start of a long-running problem between coach and budding star? We thought not all along; They often speak admiringly of the other, and Carlisle runs this show, not the players. And this dialogue is nothing new. Carlisle made note of this issue at the start of camp, as the 6-foot-9 Parsons -- who previously played at between 215 and 220 pounds -- showed up nearer 235. At that time, the coach noted that "one man's 'bulking up' is another man's 'not-quite-in-shape-yet.'''
But we also thought this particular Battle of the Bulge is one Parsons was not going to win, especially when he noted Friday, "At the end of the day, I respect (Carlisle's) opinion. After training camp, my weight fluctuates. I'll get it down."
But then on Saturday afternoon he posted the above photo on Instagram. ... complete with a little cartoon emoji of a pig ... and it's rather clear that Chandler Parsons is anything but "overweight.''
On Sunday, as the Mavs prepped for their third preseason game, a 6:30 tip at the AAC against the Pacers, Carlisle issued his apology. And why? Because Parsons makes so much money? Because Parsons is more important or more sensitive than previous Mavs who've received Carlisle's scorn?
Chandler Parsons got a full public apology from Rick Carlisle
because Parsons was right and because Carlisle was wrong.
DONUT 9: Quoteboard
"I tried to make light of it and I thought it was pretty funny. He even texted me like, 'The picture's hilarious. ... He came to me as a man, and we have a great relationship. It's in the past, and we're going to move forward." - Parsons on Carlisle and the Abpocalypse.
We've got the exclusive on Nick Van Exel joining Legends coaching staff
as he tells us, very frankly, how some of the mistakes he made serve as teaching tools now as he preps to assist Eddie Najera in Frisco.
“I’ve learned that you can’t always do that, though,’’ says Van Exel, revealing to DallasBasketball.com that he’s in the process of accepting the top assistant job with the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. “And now that I’m a coach, I’m going to teach younger guys that you can’t always do that.’’
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DONUT 12: The Final Word
"They were saying I've got fresh legs,'' Nowitzki said, joking about his Sunday night success. "(But) at 36, I don't think there's such a thing as 'fresh legs.'"