The Dallas Mavericks on Saturday at the AAC found themselves blown out by the Atlanta Hawks, 97-82, found themselves managing just a 1-2 record on this homestand, and found themselves with a 7-11 record at home and an 11-26 record overall.
What a time to find some whimsy!
"I'm pretty whimsical with lineups," coach Rick Carlisle said after the defeat. "You never know with me what's going to happen next. ... We've got different ways to go."
In one sense, there is only one direction for failing program to go - and that's up.
Until, that is, Dirk Nowitzki and his bosses concede to the benefits of going down via Organic Tanking.
But until then? The "whimsy" Rick is talking about regards lineup changes.
Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes (Dallas' top scorer with 21), Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams - the quintet envisioned as the starters beginning at training camp -- took the floor together against the Hawks.
But that group could not match the Hawks' group featuring Dwight Howard (last summer a big free agent that Dallas did not want, who survived Dallas' attempts to Hack-a-Howard to the free-throw line) and Paul Millsap (right now a trade-block name that Dallas cannot get). Howard was good for 20 rebounds and 15 points. Millsap added 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists. And even with Kyle Korver having been shipped in trade to Cleveland, 21-16 Atlanta got sharp-shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dennis Schroder, who combined for 42 points and 8-for-13 on 3-point shooting.
Meanwhile, that Dallas starting lineup features two guys -- Bogut and D-Will -- who make great sense as seller trade bait. (No, Matthews is not in that same category, Mavs owner Mark Cuban tells DallasBasketball.com in this exclusive story.)
"That lineup is probably not going to play a whole lot together," Nowitzki said. "But when we start the game, we don't want to go down eight or 10 points ..."
But Dallas does get down by eight to 10 points. A lot. All the more reason that lineup might not be destined to play together for very much longer.
JJ Barea returned from that calf injury, scoring seven points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out seven assists in 17 minutes to lead a late Dallas surge.
As Rick suggests lineup tinkering, that's a name (along with the planned returnee Pierre Jackson and his possible inclusion on some nights in the rotation) are among the folks to watch be shuffled about.
"I told the guys that one thing we're going to have to be is flexible with lineups and rotations, particularly with all our guys back now," Carlisle said, now prepping for a Monday trip to Minnesota. We've got different ways to go."
Up. Or down.
But either way, let's do it with whimsy!