Maybe 40 or 50 or 60 percent of the Dallas Mavericks will dislike the reference, but 100 percent of us understand exactly what coach Rick Carlisle is saying when he rips his team for a poor first half that led to Wednesday's 106-91 preseason loss to the visiting Rockets.
"The first half was abominable," Carlisle said. "It was like a Donald Trump debate performance out there."
Mavs owner Mark Cuban wears his political affiliation on his sleeve, and I know that many MFFLs think he's overstepping his bounds by doing so. Carlisle's political beliefs may be more subtle, but his disgruntlement with veterans who are laboring to find a preseason rhythm is as obvious as the American flags pinned to the Presidential candidates' lapels.
"Lack of continuity'' only goes so far as an excuse for why starters Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams and Wes Matthews together managed just two points through the first seven minutes of this game.
So it was a lack of offense, keyed by Barnes' continued abysmal shooting, right? Because he was just 1-of-9, a fairly typical night for him in this, his first preseason as the Mavs' $94-million offseason signee. He totaled three rebounds and eight points in 27 laborious minutes, failing to score a basket until midway through the fourth period.
No, argued Matthews.
"We didn't get the stops we needed," Matthews said. "We have to come out with a defensive mindset and it's a lot easier to get offense when you're not constantly taking the ball out of the net."
Offense. Defense. All of it. Abominable. Deplorable.
Not being able to contain James Harden is understandable; the NBA's preseason scoring leader totaled 23 points in 29 minutes. And Matthews and Dirk eventually found themselves just enough to score 15 and 12 points, respectively. Oh, and you can pretend that the awful start was erased by a 28-13 second-quarter sprint that cut Houston's lead to 31-30, and that there is solace in the Mavs having closed to 72-67 going into the fourth quarter.
But the overall lethargy of that first group -- which played together for most of that second quarter, with help from Seth Curry, and wasn't relieved of duties until deep into the third -- is undeniable.
Dallas can get some added pep when J.J. Barea (elbow) is right, and can get some added muscle when Quincy Acy (foot sprain) returns. But for the 2-4 Mavs, there is only one more preseason chance to win their own preseason "debate,'' Friday at Denver.
And they can have some fun with this, as Carlisle attempted to do by saying of Barnes, “He’s on a streak – he’s just hit 1-for-1. Keep track of it from that shot going forward. Let’s quit asking question about Harrison Barnes’ shooting. ...''
Or they can take this very seriously, as Carlisle did when finishing his comment on Barnes by turning his attention back to the entire squad:
"Playing without any conviction and without any force as a team,'' he said, "is a much bigger problem.”