Mavs Donuts: Come Inside The AAC For Hawks At Dallas

Zack Cunningham and I take you inside Hawks Mavs, a preseason meeting at the AAC featuring Dirk's debuting, the centers shuffling and some Horford flirting.

DONUT 1: Hawks 91, Mavs 84

Dirk Nowitzki made his preseason game debut on Friday, and ... it worked.

Oh, some of the numbers didn’t add up to greatness (in his first stint, starting the game, he notched three fouls in five minutes with no shot attempts). But his first 3-pointer at the 2:59 mark of the first quarter gave the crowd a jolt. He finished the first half with six points and had seven boards while playing 18:47 in the first two quarters and then taking a seat.

When Dirk was on the floor in that first half? It's a competitive game against the 60-win Hawks, as Dallas was plus-15.

When Dirk watched in the first half? Dallas was outscored 23-4.

Said coach Rick Carlisle: "He’s moving well, his activity is good. He looked excited to be back out there. I was very encouraged. It was about what I expected; I expected him to move well and be aggressive – and he was.”

Active. Aggressive. Playful. Dirk.

Said Dirk: "The coaches and staff have been good about bringing me along to be ready for the start of the season. Overall, I felt pretty good.”

DONUT 2: Center shuffle?

Has anyone seen Sam Dalembert?

A combination of Dirk, Salah Mejri and Zaza Pachulia saw minutes at the 5-spot in the first half as Dalembert watched from the bench. While the 7-2 Mejri had his ups and downs, it was interesting to see him get more minutes instead of the big Haitian. ... and it was notable, too, we think, as Dallas tries to figure out not only how it'll rotate centers behind Zaza (the likely starter) but also which centers will make the team.

Sammy did finally get some time in the fourth quarter along with Anderson, Maurice NDour, Brandon Ashley and Jalil Wilson, and he grabbed five boards in nine minutes.

But Dalembert reported to camp out of shape. He's been nagged by a knee injury. Zaza is ahead of him, and Friday's rotation signaled that Mejri might be, too, and at the Friday morning shootaround, Carlisle praised JaVale McGee (leg injury), saying he'll soon be able to participate in live practices ...

And the numbers game seems to be putting a squeeze on Dalembert.

Meanwhile, Meji was ... involved.

Mejri got some time in the second quarter at center and was mostly tasked with guarding Tiago Splitter. He did get dunked on by Al Horford, but made up for it later with an emphatic rejection of Kyle Korver. He got a measure of revenge on Horford with a block at the 6:37 mark of the third quarter by rejecting Big Al on alley-oop opportunity.

Carlisle later made Mejri a postgame talking point.

“He’s actually a pretty good shooter,'' Rick said of the Tunesian big man. "He has a pretty big contusion on the top of his right forearm, so he’s had trouble shooting the ball the past four or five days. His activity is very good; he’s up around the rim, he can run, he can make plays, he’s blocking shots, his anticipation is good. This is an experienced international player. He doesn’t walk out on the floor like a rookie. Really, in fairness, he missed the first 10 days, probably a little more than that of practice because he had a fracture in his tibia that was healing. In a very short period of times, he’s gotten a couple of opportunities and it’s been very positive. I’m encouraged. We’ll keep looking at him.”


DONUT 3: Another squeeze

Jalil Wilson had some solid minutes in the third quarter with a 3-pointer and six points total in the frame. He also had a scary moment as a high-flying dunk attempt turned into about a 9-foot fall with plenty of contact. After a few seconds on the ground, a grimace and a pat on the head from Anderson, he appeared fine.

While there doesn’t appear to be a whole of wiggle room for Wilson on the Mavs’ roster at this point, it was refreshing to see him make the most of the opportunity. ... and he's not alone among guys with guaranteed money who might be lured to stay in DFW as future members of the D-League Texas Legends.

DONUT 4: Hawks Watch

The Mavs remain winless in the preseason at 0-4 and maybe that wouldn't be the case but for Shelvin Mack, who  scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. The game was tied 68-68 before Mack hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter to put Atlanta ahead and on its way to a 4-0 preseason mark.


But there was another Hawk worth watching. Al Horford is in the final year of his deal in Atlanta. He's an 18/8 sort of player, a 6-10, 245 power forward who is 29 and is considered "the right kind of guy'' ... and he attended the University of Florida, as did Mavs Recruiting Chief Chandler Parsons, and well, you know where this is storyline is very possibly going to go next summer, don't you?


The JJB-Dirk connection worked nicely, with Barea recording seven first-half assists.


“That’s always been good for us,'' Carlisle said of JJB/Dirk.  "We’ll pair those guys up as often as we can. Right now, with our assorted health issues, we’ve just got to piece this thing through. We’ve got to get as much as we can out of the games. We’ve got to decide which things to put in and which things to scrap based on our new personnel. There are some important decisions that are being made every day and we’ve got to get it right.”

But Barea -- somehow and some way -- seems like a plus in whatever form those decisions take.

Same, by the way, with Devin Harris, who is basically in midseason form right now. He has been solid all preseason directing and leading the Mavs offense for a large share of the preseason minutes and Friday was no exception. He pairs well alongside both Barea and the blossoming John Jenkins, who is essentially the star of this preseason (see more below).

DONUT 6: The Maverick Bar

College football, the NFL and the Cowboys all weekend. Plus live music, 80 beer choices and the best burgers in DFW. Oh, and our love for the Mavs is on display, too, of course! It's The Maverick Bar at 1616 Hebron in Carrollton and we'd love to see you there this weekend!


Join us!

DONUT 7: Trim Deron

A lot has been made about the shape Deron Williams has gotten into since arriving in Dallas. It's been about this calf, about that calf, and even about his shaved head.

While his new bald “do” might be skewing things a bit, we can confirm the trimmer figure as we've observed at shootaround on Friday and then walking directly behind him through the tunnel at the end of halftime. He’s easily 10 pounds lighter than what we saw in Brooklyn and this should all serve as reason for Mavs fans/coaches/teammates to be excited about what a healthy and in-better-shape-than-ever D-Will can do.

A quick check: In 2013, the Nets listed him at 210 pounds. The Mavs list him at 200. Here's hoping this contributes to a positive difference ... along with this calf, that calf, and the lack of hair.

DONUT 8: The Human Phenomenon

 “Everyone across the league, it seems, loves the man.” - Scott Van Pelt, ESPN.

What is happening with the perception of Lamar Odom right now is revisionist stuff, and we all do it for virtually anyone who falls this ill. We see it at eulogies at funerals, where the "dear departed'' is praised almost beyond recognition because ... well, it's the classy thing to do. It's the humane thing to do.

Lamar Odom Mitch Kupchak

It's a phenomenon that accentuates the highs and  camouflages the lows and paints a gorgeous picture of the deceased ... whether he or she was actually gorgeous or not. As ex-Mavs flop Lamar Odom fights for his life, I examine that human phenomenon here.

DONUT 9: Stay in Touch

You can find almost everywhere and be a part of in so many ways. ... 
Follow our gang on Twitter: Zack CunninghamJohnny AupingChuck CoopersteinMatt GalatzanSkin Wade and me at FishSports  .. 
Grab your free membership on Boards here ...  And please consider an investment of just a few bucks a month to Go Mavs and Go Premium!

DONUT 10: Mavsellaneous

Justin Anderson (12 points) seemed much more comfortable with his outside stroke on Friday, particularly in the second quarter. He went 2-for-2 from deep in the period and would’ve had an even more exciting but had his dunk attempt on Mike Muscala not been swatted. In the first preseason game against Denver, he was much more hesitant from behind the line. As the game wore on and he took on the point guard role, he seemed to struggle finishing around the basket ... and made a few "tired judgement decisions" according to Carlisle. Good to see the rookie not only developing confidence, but knocking down shots and looking more and more like a consistent contributor. He also ran point in the third quarter. ... Rebounding has been a concern for the Mavs all throughout the preseason, but they held their own with the Hawks through three quarters on Friday (37 apiece) and finished the game deadlocked at 49. Mejri led everyone with eight boards (four on the offensive side). So there’s that. ... Maurice Ndour  is a high-energy guy and so many teams wanted to lure him from the Knicks. But we're not sure he's truly above D-League level right now ... The Mavs have a midday practice on Saturday ... The Mavericks are at Cleveland for a matchup Monday against the Cavaliers. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. DFW time, and will air locally on TXA 21.

Fan-favorite Wes Matthews? Yes, fan-favorite Wes Matthews.

DONUT 11: The Highlight Reel
Here's the official NBA highlight reel ...
such as it is.
DONUT 12: The Final Word

“I feel really good,'' said John Jenkins, the former Hawk who scored 16 points here in continuing to be among the most prolific preseason scorers in the NBA and an increasingly sure bet to be a rotation player in Dallas. "Coach is just letting me play my game which means everything to me. He is letting me play free out there.”

Jenkins, who was 6-of-9 shooting and also pitched in with four rebounds, was just like the rest of us in receiving a boost from Dirk's participation. 


 “It’s amazing. Even in practice, playing with him and the pick-and-roll game is so much easier coming off, and most guys don’t read Dirk so you get a wide-open shot. I love playing with him so far.”

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