DONUT 1: The Positives
The Dallas Mavericks fell 102-91 in their home opener on Tuesday night against Toronto after going cold in the fourth quarter following a promising offensive start to the game. Dallas takes on Charlotte at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the American Airlines Center with a chance to get back on the winning side of .500. While the defeat was a tough one to swallow for the Mavs, there were plenty of positive takeaways.
Our Rapid Fire addressed some of those for the Mavs here reflecting on a game coach Rick Carlisle called "a boxing match.'' We address some more below ... especially as they have to do with tonight's visit from the Hornets ...
DONUT 2: Powell's continued success
Dwight Powell continues to look more and more like a valuable bench contributor for Dallas in relief of Zaza Pachulia. He's getting rebounding numbers for a team that desperately needs that. Also impressive was Powell's mid-range touch as he tossed in a couple of nice jumpers during the first half.
We're concerned about Dwight getting "Peter Principled'' here; you know, asking him to do to much. But as a "throw-in'' to the Rondo trade? If you are a fan of youthful promise, Powell means exciting times for the Mavericks ... and definitely one of the biggest surprises of the young season.
DONUT 3: More Parsons' encouragement
Parsons helped key the Mavericks early on with eight points and a couple of 3s in the Toronto game ... and a serviceable defensive effort on DeMarre Carroll, who finished the first half without much more than a whimper. While he had previously reported a bit of knee discomfort after the Lakers game, Parsons showed no effects of any lingering discomfort.
Really, the biggest pain now might be how difficult it is for him to have to watch his team slip while he sits due to a minutes limitation. Maybe tonight the 14 or so inches up in ways that help contend with the Hornets.
DONUT 4: Offensive balance
A lot of the pundits engaged in various forms of hand-wringing in the offseason in the last few months with concerns that Chandler Parsons or Wes Matthews "aren't players you can count on to carry the burden" or something similar. Look, with the type of offensive balance and unselfishness the Mavs are exhibiting on the offensive side, that's the least of Dallas' worries. There are so many players who can make contributions from basically anywhere, and especially from deep.
Now, eventually, do you need to develop a singular "go-to guy''? We'll address that below ...
DONUT 5: Free-throw woes
Despite being a very talented offensive team with plenty of shooters, Dallas continues to mysteriously struggle from the foul line. At the 5:56 mark of the third quarter in the Toronto game, Dallas was 10-of-16 from the stripe ... and clinging to a two-point advantage. Maybe Holger is needed in the practice facility more often. Or maybe it takes a while for free-throw coach Gary Boren to get through to some of the newcomers. Carlisle himself, going way back, is a very willing one-on-one teacher of subtleties as well.
It's not like Dallas doesn't spend oodles of practice time on free-throwing. That happens daily. There just needs to be a connection between the teaching and the performance.
DONUT 6: Where's Wes?
We can make the case here early on in the season that Iron Man's presence for Dallas has been felt much more on the defensive end (you may have heard about his effect on Kobe Bryant on Sunday) than the offensive end. But Matthews again was quiet for Dallas in the first half against Toronto before getting more involved in the second half.
His time will come (as we think he wishes it to, as he also appeared frustrated at times by the ball not coming his way). ... but in the meantime, Dallas can continue to enjoy its immense defensive improvement at the 2.
DONUT 7: Guarding opposing PGs
If there's one thing people know about the Western Conference, it's that it's stacked with uber-talented point guards. It's safe to say that if Kyle Lowry played in the West, he'd be just as much of an All-Star candidate as he is in the East. He gave the Mavs fits last night from all over the place, including deep. While calling Lowry a litmus test for Dallas' upcoming schedule might not be entirely accurate given his skill set, it's safe to say the Mavs have a bit of work to do guarding talented point guards.
DONUT 7: Bench depth
The Mavericks pride themselves on depth. We might cynically argue that just because they have a lot of guys with comparable talent doesn't mean they have a lot of talent, though somebody like JJB (with his nightly six assists off the bench) can be offered as a counter.
But here comes Charlotte with a bench that posted 71 points in a 130-105 win over Chicago. Thunder-ex Jeremy Lamb hit nine of 10 shots for 20 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Hawes. Kaminsky. Hansbrough. And Jeremy Lin, who was oh-so-close to being Dallas' starting point guard this year. Names on an intriguing Charlotte bench.
DONUT 8: Scouting the Hornets
The Hornets are 1-3 but they got there in a weird way: Before the win over the Bulls, they were coming off back-to-back losses to the Atlanta Hawks, games in which Kemba Walker got to be the "go-to'' guy but twice missed the shot at the end of regulation.
Walker leads Charlotte with 15.5 points per game. Our old Texas Legends pal P.J. Hairston is a starter, along with Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Nic Batum and Walker. ... who figures to be shadowed by Wes Matthews tonight in the most key of the matchups.
But one number jumps out above all others: The Mavs have won 14 straight home games against the Charlotte franchise. It's astounding ... and it would be nice to achieve an even more astounding 15.
DONUT 9: Rebounding
As we've said all during this early season, Dallas needs to prove its rebounding chops after a sub-par year last year (and that was with the likes of Tyson Chandler around). Well, they Mavs are doing just that. Toronto is a very good rebounding team and the Mavericks more than held their own against them with Powell and Pachulia doing very efficient work on the glass. The Mavericks are also improving on the offensive glass, a good sign as the Western gauntlet approaches.
In total, with 49 rebounds, per, Dallas is a surprising fifth in the NBA.
Charlotte is seventh at 48.5. Batum, Williams and Jefferson all grab more than seven per. And the two 7-footers off the bench, while not yet posting big rebound numbers because they (Kaminsky and Hawes) are too busy taking and making 3's, mean more matchup issues that end up trickling inside to the glass.
Huge challenge in this department tonight.
DONUT 10: Fish Twitter Takeover?
You can find me, Zack Cunningham, on Twitter here. Our man Mike Fisher is at FishSports ... and there is some buzz about the possibility of Fish taking over the Dallas Mavericks official Twitter account tonight here.
DONUT 11: The Grantland Generation
From our Jonny Auping:
Grantland launched the summer before my senior year of college. In short time, what they were trying to become—what they eventually became—was clear. They were good, thoughtful writing, focused on developing specific voices into diverse content. It would be romanticizing Grantland to say that providing those things filled a gaping hole in the market. Great, nuanced writing, about both sports and pop culture, existed before and after them at publications with similar goals.
What Grantland did was make that work appear mainstream, cool, sharable, and discussion worthy to not just the pretentious or unrealistically informed. Mickey Mouse was putting his backing behind Grantland, and a conglomerate of that size has an ability to legitimize a venture as industry simply by association. Writing—writing about things most young people already love—represented a sect of ESPN, that we chose to believe was equal to any other sect of ESPN, because why would we stop to think otherwise? To a tremendous amount of young writers, Grantland was massively influential in their decisions to call writing a career. That may seem silly to older generations of writers and readers because four years is barely even recent history, but to those of us in our twenties it’s the most informing and impressionable period of time imaginable.
Jonny's fine piece on "The Grantland Generations and the Lies We Chose To Believe'' is here.
DONUT 12: Closer role?
Who is going to be Dallas' closer this year?
Last year, as we all know, it was Monta Ellis who demonstrated some serious late-game clutch heroics time and time again. We've pondered Matthews with his lethal outside stroke, Parsons and maybe Dirk (who had a crucial 3-pointer down the stretch). Could it be Deron Williams? He showed some moxie in crunch time in the fourth quarter on Tuesday with a couple of big shots.
Suffice it to say that Dallas will have plenty of encouraging choices down the line on the offensive end if it needs a bucket. You could do plenty worse than the aforementioned names. But ... do you need ONE? A designated guy? A clear-cut totem pole?
We think Parsons wishes to be that guy. And maybe it'd be best if he was. Yet we remember when Filthy, Dirty and Nasty played together, and how "Deferential Dirk'' was almost too unselfish ... but in total, it worked.
Something to watch for going forward as Rick keeps saying balance will be Dallas' "calling card.'' Can you have "balance'' on the final shot? Or do you need "The Man'' on the final shot?