Mavs Donuts: 'Concerned About Competing'?

DALLAS - 'I’m concerned about how we’re competing as a team.' It's the worst thing a coach can say about a team. Rick Carlisle says it about his Mavs. And now we have to say it in Donuts.

DONUT 1: The Big Lead

“I’m concerned about how we’re competing as a team.” - Rick Carlisle, following Sunday's 105-96 home loss to Miami.

Remind me again, which team was on the tail end of a back-to-back, which team was starting Norris Cole and Shawne Williams, which team has the league’s best offense, and which team has a bench that could be a starting five for a lot of teams in the East?

There will be other games and there will be other loses. That includes tonight with the Kings rolling in. (That counts as "other game'' but hopefully not "other loss.'') But as it stands now? This Sunday result is easily the most perplexing thing to happen yet in this young Dallas Mavericks season.

DONUT 2: The streak

The Miami Heat have swept the Dallas Mavericks in the regular season the last three years. Six straight wins and prior to the that the Mavericks had won 14 straight against Miami in the regular season. What could have possibly happened in that time frame? (That one kid from Akron.)

The Mavericks' last victory against Miami came in something called the 2011 Finals. You might remember it. The now seven-game win streak that the Heat possess doesn’t sting nearly as much because the Mavericks can always point to the rafters and laugh about Chris Bosh collapsing in tears in a hallway or LeBron James disappearing for large chunks of meaningful Finals games. The 2011 Finals is a part of our DNA and honestly probably a large reason that many of you are even reading this today but it doesn’t matter much in the fall of 2014 when the Mavericks are trying to find their way with an entire new batch of Gremlins on the roster.

This Mavericks roster should be measurably better than what Miami has to offer but that’s the exact reason they play the games. Just like the 2011 Heat should have been a better team than the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

DONUT 3: Head-wrappers

A few things crept into my consciousness when wrapping my head around the 2014 rendition of the Miami Heat and what this matchup might mean:

They largely play without a center/rim protector/post player so all of the Mavericks hybrid ? types (basically their entire bench) would be in play and probably get some quality minutes. The other thing is whether or not this team would be better off with Luol Deng over Chandler Parsons in the immediate future. We’ll get back to that can of worms. Let’s just play a little game of “where would these guys fit in the Mavericks rotation?”

It seems appropriate to start with Mario Chalmers. Could you play him over Devin Harris? I think not. Possibly over Barea but at that point you’re splitting hairs. Where would Udonis Haslem land between Brandan Wright, AF Aminu, Charlie V and Greg Smith? Somewhere closer to the DNP/coach’s decision crowd than not. So, how in the living hell does the Mavericks bench score three points through three quarters? Isn’t this supposed to be the strength of this team? Through the meaningful portions of the game (first three quarters before it got out of hand) the Mavericks bench shot 1-of-13 from the field with six rebounds in 55+ minutes.

That’s ri-damn-diculous.

Much of the bench calamity leads back to the point guard play. The backup point guards went 1-of-12 for four points but as a collective group the point guard position went 5-of-21 for 15 points with nine assists and four turnovers. So, what we thought would be a non-stop buffet of quality point guard minutes seemed to be anything but that. Devin Harris had zero effect on this game and the only contribution J.J. Barea brought to the court was the willingness to take bad shots in possessions that no one else seemed interested in attempting.

They were outplayed by Rio Chalmers. Just focus in on that for a moment.

DONUT 4: Nothing personal, but ...

There’s no way around this, Jameer Nelson has to play better. The earliest that Raymond Felton can be available is a week from now. Yes, we’re already to the point where I’m begging for Felton to soak up some of Jameer Nelson’s minutes.

They can’t use Devin as a Band-aid to fix what Nelson has been lacking and Barea is pretty obviously not worthy of those type of minutes. Jameer just has to be a better player than he’s displayed thus far.

He can’t dribble himself into bad shots or not make the simple pass to Dirk Nowitzki on the pick-and-pop or be a disaster on the defensive end thus requiring everybody else to scramble for his recovery. He has to play up to the standard of a Western Conference starting point guard at least until Felton returns. There’s no other way to go about it. He has to bring something tangible that isn’t just decent three-point shooting in limited chances. It feels like everyone else is operating at a different RPM than Jameer and he’s the primary ball-handler so who knows the extent of the damage his wasted dribbles are causing. By the way, congratulations on shooting your first free throws of the season on Sunday despite the fact that you split them.

DONUT 5: Dear Parsons

When your point guards play as poorly as the Mavericks did it’s going to be extremely difficult to win. When your third banana gives you absolutely nothing, it’s damn near impossible to win a game.

Banana/pig whatever you know who I’m referring to, Chandler (absent middle name) Parsons (seriously, I can’t find his middle name). We’re now 7-of-33 in field-goal attempts and 0 for his last 11 on threes for the 45 Million Dollar Man in his last three games. If he’s sick enough to watch Josh McRoberts blow by him in route to an easy layup then he’s sick enough to not play.

The second quarter was very telling for Parsons as he had two three-point attempts glance the bottom of the rim as they fell short and two bunny layups rattle out. When he’s right, the shot might not always be on point consistently but the finishing at the rim is always present because he’s so strong with the ball. Let’s take a break from trying to be the "face of the franchise'' after Dirk retires and trying to live up to that contract and just do the things you do well.

You’ve played about as poorly as anybody could have expected in three of the seven games thus far and nobody has turned on you. Luol Deng made me question the entire premise of offering you a max contract but I came to my senses and realized we’re better off. Just realize that you weren’t benched and then thrown back in the second half out of spite. Rick genuinely assumed there would be some open shots out there in the fourth quarter for you to knock down and get a rhythm. Problem is, Jae Crowder took them all.


Let’s get it right. There’s a mountain of more games and one thousand more shots we’re going to need you to be confident in taking.

DONUT 6: Insanity

The Heat’s offense is insane. I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a team live that has less regard for the shot clock. Their theorem for getting good shots is solid ball movement making the other team defend for 24 seconds straight and the patience to know a decent look can be created off the dribble if an escape plan is required. There’s a stat that pertains to what percentage of your shots that are taken 16+ seconds into the shot clock and it’s called crunch%. Here are the crunch% numbers for their top 6 minutes guys

Cole- 51%, 5ppg
Wade- 43%, 7.5ppg
Deng- 35%, 3ppg
Williams- 38%, 3.5ppg
Bosh- 42%, 6.2ppg
Chalmers- 34%, 1.5ppg

So, roughly 26.6 points per game are being scored in crunch time for them. The Mavericks average 20.7 crunch time points out of their top six.

DONUT 7: Hook up with!

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DONUT 8: Monta Have It All

You can probably guess what Mavs player leads the team in crunch-time percentage and points per game. He has it all.

Monta came out in the third quarter and played like he was determined to not have to answer any questions about third-quarter collapses in the post-game. He knocked down the first four Mavericks attempts and sparked a 13-8 run pulling the Mavericks within 4. Then when it felt like the Mavericks were poised to a make a run with Chris Bosh heading to the bench, the refs took 5+ minutes to review a double technical on Tyson Chandler and Mario Chalmers allowing Bosh to fill out his time sheet and run to the break room before re-entering the game.

Monta finished the frame with 14 points but committed his fourth foul with under 30 seconds left causing him to sit the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.

There were a couple of guys that joined Monta on the bench to start the fourth that weren’t in foul trouble, Parsons and Jameer. I assume they were sitting because they played awful basketball in the basketball game. The real question was, would Parsons get back in the game? He did with seven minutes left and the Mavericks staring at a 22-point deficit. At first I assumed it was some form of punishment but in a ‘have-fun-with-this-mess’ kind of way but after talking with Mark Followill about it we reached a different hypothesis.


Rick sent Parsons back out there with the hopes that he could get his shot going and build some confidence against a defense that probably wouldn’t bother to exert too much effort in limiting open looks.


What Rick wanted Parsons to do was basically what Jae Crowder did: play like you don’t give damn about anything including the score. Crowder shot 5-of-6 and 2-of-3 on triples in the fourth quarter on his way 15 points in the frame. I know we like to pick on Jae Crowder for his various shortcomings but when the dude plays well and probably deserves more minutes considering the trash basketball that the majority of the team was displaying, we should give him his proper due. It feels like a lot of Mavs perimeter guys are trying to do the same things (dribble the life out of the ball until they get a momentary good look) but Crowder isn’t one of those guys. He’s one of their better defenders and doesn’t need the ball in his hand to generate offense.

I’m in favor of giving Crowder some more minutes seeing how poorly they’ve defended wings and not having yet another player obsessed with possessing the ball along the perimeter. I think he’ll get a chance against Rudy Gay and the Kings, a 7:30 tip tonight at the AAC. (Fish will be down there on the floor in a suit before the game, looking important. Wave at him.)

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DONUT 11: Magic elixirs?

The defense has been really bad. I’m not a scout so I don’t know what’s causing all the scrambling that leads to open looks with a simple swing pass but there have been a ton. I’m assuming there’s no magic elixir to pour on the court that makes the Mavericks lack of perimeter defenders not an issue. It’s very similar to the Jameer situation, they just have to play better.

They're burning SO much energy recovering from multiple man-on-man defensive breakdowns within possessions. Miami did a good job luring Tyson out of the paint as he was forced to chase Bosh to the three-point line in a lot of situations. When Parsons’ rebounding activity is low and Chandler can’t get back to the paint because he’s closing out, it’s going to be hard to secure the defensive rebound (Tyson still finished with a season-high in rebounds with 15). That leaves Dirk to bang inside and clean up the glass and that hasn’t been a strength of his for many moons.

The other thing that I noticed when Bosh was in the game and Tyson was checking him was the non-stop stream of cutters off the wings getting uncontested layups. That’s the most I’ve seen this year. When Tyson isn’t the anchor/goalie then everything else goes to hell. Rick will have an adjustment whether it’s zone or letting Dirk check the mid-range shooting big until AF Aminu checks in but Miami played a card that the Mavs obviously weren’t ready to counter.

DONUT 12: Ideas and stories

So, I’ll leave you with an idea and then a story. Follow me here. The only thing Jameer Nelson is doing well is spot-up shooting, correct? And the thing that’s been plaguing Chandler Parsons’ offensive game is inconsistency on the jumper, right? I think we’ll all agree that Monta can do nearly whatever guard task that you ask of him.

Why not let Monta and Parsons be the primary half-court ball handlers and have Jameer merely spot-up ala how they used Calderon for stretches last season?

Parsons is second only to Monta in the starting lineup in terms of his dribble-attack ability. Why don’t they use it more often to get him going? He’s a superb finisher and is constantly putting defenders out of position because they respect his three-pointer (don’t let them know he’s not shooting so well). There wouldn’t be the pick-and-roll bog-downs that we witness when Jameer uses a screen and then gets immediately trapped. I think Parsons can be much more than just a hands-up-perimeter-jump-shooter and I haven’t seen it much in the half-court as of yet.

Just a thought.

DONUT 13: The Final Word

Now for story time. In the summer of 2011 a friend of mine invited me to an Arcade Fire concert at Gexa (or whatever they call that disaster of a venue out by Fair Park). Being a fan of their music (this was soon after The Suburbs had came out) I was more than happy to tag along despite my distaste for the venue. It was a spectacular show with a stage full of random percussion instruments manned by people that appeared to have just survived some kind of futuristic dust bowl and enough lights and vignettes to make the mayor of Las Vegas horny.

Roughly three quarters of the way through the production the lead singer of Arcade Fire (Win Butler) stopped down to tell a story. He chattered for a few minutes about eating at a local french restaurant with his wife (who is in the band) and bumping into Tyson Chandler there. He went on to praise Tyson for being such a sweet guy and a genuine convergence of the two labyrinths in my mind was happening right before my eyes. When the story started to wind down, Win asked the crowd “So, who do y’all play next?” and they responded appropriately with “The Lakers.” He laughed briefly and then said “Yeah, well good luck with that.”

Love You Just The Same from Mike Marshall on Vimeo.

Luck had nothing to do with it.

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