Mavs Donuts: The Meat and The Grinder
Only four NBA players have scored 27,000 points for a franchise. Two of them were in the gym on Monday in Charlotte.
On a jumper with 6:07 remaining in the third quarter of what would be a 107-80 blowout win over the Hornets at Time Warner Arena, Dallas Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki
scored his 27,000th career point. In doing so, he joined Utah’s Karl Malone, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Chicago’s Michael Jordan -- who is now the owner of the Hornets and was in the arena for the moment -- as the only players to reach that plateau with one franchise.
"It means a lot to me that I was able to do it with one team,'' said Nowitzki, who scored 13 points and for the third straight game was able to sit out the end of a lopsided win. "Hopefully there's more baskets to come."
Nowitzki is in his 17th season with 8-3 Dallas and is still playing at a high level. He entered the week averaging 21 points per game on a career-best 55-percent shooting.
“It’s been a great ride,'' said Nowitzki, who last week moved to No. 9 all-time in NBA scoring and in the coming months will surpass Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone on the all-time list.
The ride takes us to Washington D.C. tonight ...
Coach Rick Carlisle previewed this two-game roadie (the Charlotte game and tonight in D.C., with our FOX Sports Southwest crew bringing you the pregame at 5:30) by saying these games would be vastly different than the recent blowouts at the AAC.
“These two games are different kinds of games than we’ve had in the last couple,” Carlisle had said. “We’re getting into two really physical Eastern Conference teams. ... It’s a meat-grinder game.”
But in the world of "meat-grinder games,'' sometimes you're the meat. And sometimes you're the grinder. There are reasons to suspect, even tonight against a well-rested (they haven't played since Saturday) 7-2 Wiz team, that Dallas can be the latter.
Consider what the Mavs did Monday to an unquestionably brutish Hornets team. Big Al Jefferson was negated. Crazy Lance Stephenson was negated. For the third straight game, the Mavs essentially named their score and named their margin of victory.
As Mike Marshall writes in Mavs All-Access: It was "Murder-mayhem-melodic-music' in Charlotte in a 107-80 deep-water asphyxiation of the Charlotte Horncats.'' That's the flavor. Go get Mavs All-Access.
Part of my fun in participating in the "Mavs Live'' pregame show is trying to gather facts, trends and gameplan concepts that, if they come true once the ball goes up, become keys to a Dallas win. That happened Monday, when we predicted 1) that the Mavs would get 30 assists for the third straight game (they totaled 10 games like that all last year), when we predicted 2) the can't-miss lop threats of TY and B-Wright would be unstoppable (Dallas remains atop the NBA in points in the paint with TY going 7-of-7 in Charlotte) and when we predicted (hopefully) that 3) Charlotte's D would look like the one allowing 107 per in the five games leading up to Monday rather than like the stifling group from a year ago.
That's three hits. Can we do it again tonight?
One of the points we'll discuss tonight: Depth.
It's long been my contention that when the Mavs, in the Cuban Era, boast about their depth -- and led by the owner, they always do boast about that -- it's something that only has an 82-game lifespan. In other words, once we get to the playoffs, "depth'' is rendered pretty meaningless. Stars become healthy, play big minutes, take on big responsibility, and behind them, the rotation is shortened and most of those bench guys become towel-wavers.
In the playoffs, you win with three guys.
But over the course of the 82-game meat grinder? You win with 15. An injury replacement here. A 10-day call-up there. Different guys not only as the sixth man, but also as the ninth man. You experiment. You stretch.
You do what Dallas and Washington have both done in crafting impressive records by getting their second wave to outplay the opponents'.
The Mavericks' bench? It's averaged 50.3 points in the past three contests.
The Wizards' bench? It has outscored the oppositions' benches 172-96 over the last four contests.
And listen to the coaches.
From Carlisle: "We've got to have balance. It all can't come from one guy. We can't put the whole game on Dirk's shoulders or Monta's shoulders or anything like that.''
From Randy Wittman: "When your second unit's giving you 48 (points), you can give guys rest."
That's what the Wiz bench did in Saturday's 98-93 win over Orlando, while hitting 65 percent from the field. And listen to Wittman's point-within-a-point: He gets to stretch the minutes so the only guy on his team topping 30 minutes in the last two games is John Wall.
Same with Carlisle and his managing of Dirk, who has been astoundingly productive while averaging a miniscule 27 minutes per game.
So that's central to the game tonight, I think: Second-wave scoring. It was important last year, too, when Dallas won both games -- extending the series streak to eight -- while in the two games seeing its bench outscore the Wiz bench 66-35.
My sense is tonight the advantage -- the bench advantage that is so critical to surviving the 82-game meat grinder -- won't be so lopsided.
When it comes to Dirk Nowitzki as the No. 9 all-time scorer in NBA history, we’re getting it all wrong.
Every time he passes another legend, the newspapers and the talk shows and the national media play the same game:
"Dirk vs. Garnett - who’s better?''
"Dirk vs. Oscar Robertson - who’s better?''
"Dirk vs The Dream - who’s better?''
It’s a time-filling game, and like most time-filling games, it’s a dopey one.
This isn’t "Dirk Versus'' those guys. And when, in the coming months, when Nowitzki, a 12-time All-Star who is averaging 21 points this season with a career-best 55-percent shooting percentage, becomes the seventh-leading scorer in NBA history, this won’t be about Dirk vs. Elvin Hayes or Dirk vs. Moses Malone, either.
It’s about Dirk AND. Not VERSUS. AND.
He’s in the same sentence, in the same breath, with Garnett, Reggie Miller, the Big O, Hakeem, Elvin and Moses. Why can’t that be enough — especially because Dirk himself, at age 19, never dreamed such a preposterous notion?
If you are an NBA fan, silly parlor games aside (and by the way, I realize they go way back, and are part of the fiber of the game … Russ vs. Wilt, Magic vs. Bird, Jordan vs the field) … but if you are an NBA fan, picking one over the other should be like a parent picking one of his children over the other. He doesn't pick. Because he doesn't have to.
“Dirk AND the legends'' is enough.
Now, he’s OUR favorite son. So WE can pick him. We can argue for Dirk over Garnett and Dirk over The Dream an Dirk over Elvin Hayes. But it’s an argument we don’t need to win. Dirk’s level of winning — WITH all those stars, not against them — is enough for me.
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A fascinating result can be produced when you combine "making a bunch of shots'' with "focusing on defensive pressure.''
That fascinating result in Charlotte on Monday: For the first time in three years, the Mavs did not allow any fast-break points in a game.
DB.com reported on Tuesday that Bernard "Sarge'' James is, according to sources, leaving the Texas Legends with a buyout to instead take a lucrative offer in China. I was told Sarge had a $1.3 million standing offer there, so away he goes -- even as he was off to a great start for the 2-0 Legends and, NBA people tell me, would've been a very likely big-league call-up in the next month or so.
Good luck to the ex-Mavs center, a great story because of his Air Force background and a quality guy as well.
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You blink your eyes and these Mavs run by you.
You blink your eyes and these Mavs jump over you.
We blinked our eyes for what seemed like just a moment and ... Whoa! When did Dallas suddenly become a wildly athletic team?
Traditionally, an "athletic'' NBA team is largely measured by the presence of that 6-6 2-guard, the Jordanesque swingman, one of the army of those generational "Baby Jordans'' that aren't called that anymore because it was always so unfair to ask them to be that.
So the Mavs don't have that facet of athleticism. But speed? Devin and Monta might be the two fastest players in Mavs history. Above-the-rim guys? B-Wright and TY qualify in unusual ways. Bounce on the wing and inside? Aminu is that. Long-framed creator? Parsons is special there.
Mark Cuban likes to laugh about the days of "Big White Stiffs'' and Nick Van Exel used to poke about "Soft White Boyz'' and Dirk is ridiculously self-effacing about his supposed shortcomings, but ... The Mavs aren't just bonding, aren't just high-scoring, aren't just 8-3 ... They are, for the first time in forever ... athletic!
That, as much as anything, is what's in play right now that makes these Mavs not your daddy's Mavs.
"Stats are for people like yourselves to ponder.' - Carlisle, fake-dismissively, to the Mavs media justifiably fawning all over Dallas' stat sheets.
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