The Dallas Mavericks have lost two straight, looking like a hungover bunch at the Heat (understandable given the New Year’s Eve Weekend visit to a quality Miami team) and looking like a club that didn’t realize it’s supposed to be way better than New Orleans (and therefore wasn’t when the Pelicans came to visit).
So what does the organization do?
Option A is “Blow It Up.’’ Give up. Give in. Give away players.
That’s not really a reasonable option inside the AAC at all, of course, for owner Mark Cuban believes in the “organic development’’ of a team and coach Rick Carlisle expresses great faith in this assemblage of players and besides, the trade deadline isn’t until mid-February so there is plenty more time for all of us to panic over a 19-15 team that sits in the No. 5 slot in the West playoff race.
Option B? “Shake It Up.’'
Carlisle is hinting that he’s about to pull that coaching-move rabbit out of his hat.
“There are a lot of different ways we can go with this thing,” Carlisle said as the team prepped for tonight’s 7:30 visit from Rondo and Cousins and the 14-20 Kings. “We have data on which lineups have been most successful, so I really have not decided. I went over a couple different scenarios with the team today that involve different guys coming off the bench that you might not suspect. So we’ll see where we are tomorrow. But anything we do has got to be geared toward the team’s best chances for success.”
That last point is obvious; the rest of the points are products of advanced-stats study. Carlisle’s brilliance as a coach is, in part, his skill gift for bridging the gap between old-school Celtics-Auerbachian style and new-school Mavs-cutting-edge analytics.
Mavs.com has the numbers on some of those combos he’s talking about … but I think this approach -- a result of two losses that Wesley Matthews terms "annoying'' -- is as much about psychology as it is stats.
Carlisle also has a background in psychology (as does his wife) and that’s a major player here.
What did he say about the decision? "I went over a couple different scenarios with the team today’’ … That’s unusual. He ran ideas by the guys? Introduced them to options? With subtlety swung at them the velvet hammer of starting-berth denial, rotation-spot denial, playing-time denial?
This is different that Carlisle’s recent job-security threat; the Mavs aren’t really going to react to a lethargic outing by shipping starters to the Russian Front. But this … this is about bringing the players in on the decision, a meeting of the minds that actually provides them some of the authority to make a different.
To make a difference by not screwing up their own starting berths, their own rotation spots, their own playing time.
Is this about Deron Williams being healthy enough to vault back into the starting lineup, ahead of J.J. Barea, who has been generally terrific in his stead? Is this about more Chandler Parsons or less, for CP is on-record as saying his return to health means his “season starts in January,’’ and well, um, it’s January. Is this about Rick dangling a gold ring towards his bench guys, in search of a repeat of 2014-15’s discovery and development of Al-Farouq Aminu, who went from first-half-season non-factor to pivotal key in Dallas’ run to the playoffs?
Oh, and by being willing to be a Dallas reclamation project, by listening patiently and responding enthusiastically to Carlisle’s direction, what did AFA receive as a gift? Not just more playing time; a life-altering contract in Portland.
John Jenkins, Justin Anderson, Jeremy Evans ... who wants to be "Aminu'ed''?
The Mavs would like the officials to get the whistles right; the NBA has acknowledged a blown call from Saturday’s meeting with the Pels that greatly contributed to Dallas’ loss. The Mavs would like to get a schedule break; maybe Sacto’s win at OKC on Monday (see video above) means the Kings are a little gassed tonight. The Mavs would like to get a fuel injection from the home crowd ... and yeah, you should venomously boo Rajon Rondo tonight for his hemorrhoid-like run through Dallas while also hoping that coach Carlisle's lineup changes ends a little drought during which the home team kinda deserves your scorn, too.