DONUT 1: The Turnaround
The Dallas Mavericks have, in a lot of ways, turned the thing around. What was a disastrous first two-and-a-half months of the season is now well behind them. They entered this week having won 11 of their last 16, including wins over Utah, San Antonio, Cleveland, a hot Philadelphia team. ... and on Saturday, a blowout win over visiting Orlando ... which, well, has not turned the thing around.
“We got dealt a messed-up hand to start the season,” said Dallas inspirational boss Wes Matthews. “What it says about us is we're tough and we're not going to go anywhere."
DONUT 2: But Still 'Underrated S---'?
Then comes Monday. And then comes Boston, which had won nine of its last 10 games coming into the AAC matchup. The Celtics held off a Mavs second-half comeback bid to win 111-98 at the American Airlines Center (game story here) ... and maybe this is the outcome that propels Mark Cuban and Co. to dismount the "back-and-forth'' fence as the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches.
Now, obviously, "Underrated S---t Team'' was meant to be self-effacing. In the wake of having beaten the Cavs a few games ago, coach Rick Carlisle almost certainly used the phrase in front of his team ... and everybody gets to have a hearty laugh.
But even as Derek Harper himself dismisses the tag ...
Our TV buddy still utters it. Twice. In a matter of seconds.
DONUT 3: Atop The Fence of 'Opportunism'
Cuban, who will oversee trade-evaluation options (along with lieutenants Donnie Nelson, Carlisle, Michael Finley, Keith Grant and staff) as the Feb. 23 deadline approaches, is clearly having a difficult time turning his back on "his guys.'' They are "fighters,'' and keyed by Dirk Nowitzki -- they believe that The Tournament is The Thing.
Cuban's early-Monday-morning answer to my question about deadline plans was delivered in one word:
DONUT 4: What's The Code?
On the surface, this reply seems pat and mundane.
But it's more than that ... if you know my question, which was phrased exactly this way:
"Are you slightly more inclined to be a 'buyer' now because of how the Mavs have developed in recent weeks? Or are you still 'back-and-forth'''?
It is to THAT specific question that Cuban replied, "Opportunistic.''
It's a word he's uses often before, but almost without fail, he's used it to portray an approach to adding talent. This time, my interpretation, because of my specific question, is of a more open-ended answer.
"Opportunity'' can come via being a "buyer,'' yes. There is possibly a trade to be made in the next 10 days that increases the 2016-17 Mavs chances of winning games and making the playoffs.
DONUT 4: Where Are All The Celebrities At?
In the middle of all of this "tantalizing'' Mavs basketball (which continues tonight at Detroit with the last game before the All-Star Break, and you can click here for the Mavs-Pistons GameThread), Here's the roster for Friday's Celebrity All-Star Game (6 p.m. on ESPN):
- Miles Brown (actor)
- Tom Cavanagh (actor)
- Mark Cuban
- Baron Davis (NBA legend)
- Andy Grammer (recording artist)
- Jiang Jinfu (actor, model)
- Anthony Mackie (actor)
- Romeo Miller (actor, recording artist)
- Hasan Minhaj (actor, comedian)
- Master P (actor, recording artist)
- Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
- Aarón Sánchez (celebrity chef)
Coaches: Michael Smith (ESPN host)
- Brandon Armstrong (former NBA D-League player and social media star)
- Win Butler (musician)
- Nick Cannon (actor, recording artist)
- Rachel DeMita (NBA2K TV personality)
- Ansel Elgort (actor, recording artist)
- Marc Lasry (Bucks owner)
- Caleb McLaughlin (actor)
- Peter Rosenberg (media personality)
- Oscar Schmidt (Basketball legend)
- Lindsay Whalen (WNBA player)
- Jason Williams (NBA legend)
- Kris Wu (recording artist)
Coaches: Jemele Hill (ESPN host)
See anything missing? Like, you know ... celebrities?
I know I'm probably not the target-demo-whatchamacallit ... but outside of Mark Cuban and Nick Cannon, are there really "celebrities'' in there? The NBA, it seems to me, could draw greater interest and stage a greater game by luring NFL stars into participation. It also seems to me that there must be hoop-lovin' Hollywood residents who would outside "social-media stars'' and "NBA2K recording artists.''
Heck, there's a former President of the United States who is a baller. Did anyone ask him if he's busy on Friday?
DONUT 5: Quotable
"So, Coach ...''
As my man Shan Shariff gets "Carlisled'' on Tuesday morning radio on 105.3 The Fan. (And no, it doesn't even matter what the question was.)
DONUT 6: Tonight at Detroit
It’s Mavs at Detroit in a 6:30 p.m. tip tonight, and the Pistons, despite being just 26-30, are in eighth place in the East, a game out of seventh. Detroit has won five of its past eight games and is 16-11 at home.
In the previous meeting back on Dec. 14 in Dallas, the Pistons were powered by Reggie Jackson's 20 points and Andre Drummond's 16 boards as the Pistons won, 95-85. Detroit out-rebounded the Mavericks 50-30 in that game ... and Detroit is presentely tied for seventh in the NBA in rebounding with 44.3 rebounds per game -- the Pistons' strength against an area of Dallas struggle.
In addition to Jackson (15 points per), Detroit is led by Tobias Harris' 16.3 points per.
Dallas will feature something Old and something New. Rookie Yogi Ferrell has been a Dallas spark plug with averages of 15.2 points and 4.9 assists in 34.4 minutes over nine games. And Dirk Nowitzki continues his march toward another milestone: He's 117 points away from becoming the sixth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points.
And when this game is over? You won't see your Boys In Blue until Feb. 24 in Minnesota.
DONUT 7: Yogi Greatness
The five greatest people named “Yogi’’
5) Maharishi Mahesh
4) Yogi Ferrell
3) Bikram Choudhury
2) Yogi Bear
1) Yogi Berra
I love how Carlisle is both tamping down expectations for Yogi (hey, he's an undrafted rookie free agent from the D-League who, if you read DallasBasketball.com, you know doesn't truly have a guaranteed deal for next year) AND raising the bar of what Yogi must be (refusing to constantly express prideful surprise over his fine play).
To the former point, here's Rick on what Yogi is, in the big picture:
“D-Will is a better player. Let’s not forget how well he was playing before the injury. He was playing at a close to All-Star caliber. He was scoring it, passing it, defending.”
To the latter point, here's Rick reflecting on Yogi's 20-point night against the Celtics in relief of D-Will:
“He’s a professional basketball player. He’s supposed to play hard and play well. I don’t think building this guy up…he’s doing his job. His job is to play hard, make open shots, make simple plays, and guard the best little guy on nights like this. He did some very good things, and his job is to continue to do that.”
DONUT 8: Yogi Mythology
In the classic movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,’’ newcomer/pacifist Jimmy Stewart is credited with saving the Old West town because he kills the bad guy, “Liberty Valance.’’ But in the gunfight, tenderfoot thwart doesn’t actually do the deed; John Wayne is the true hero. The media, though, enjoys the Stewart angle so much that it goes with it. Stewart’s character ends up being a powerful politician, and in his old age, tries to set the record straight with a reporter, who finally shrugs and replies:
"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
That’s kind of what we’re all doing with Yogi now.
DONUT 9: Dirk Forever
Dirk Nowitzki over the weekend re-stated his desire to play with Dallas beyond this season for a nice, round 20 ... and maybe a "plus'' beyond that. Here's the story, and the thankful discussion ... and one more thing:
I want Dirk. Back and forever. Especially at his REAL price tag, the one that DB.com has reported all along is so unlikely to be $25 million for a season (keep scoffing, but keep watching) ... But I don't want Dirk back as the assistant GM.
His voice as part of the decision-making process needs to be a smaller one. ... with the coaching staff and the scouting department owning louder ones, a process that I think is developing as you read this.
DONUT 10: Flipping And Flopping
Is it acceptable to enjoy Dallas wins even as you, at some point, harbored the idea that losing might be more lotto-desirable? Is it OK to change your mind, or be of two minds? Here's our David Lord on DB.com Boards smartly expressing these ideas inside a Dirk-loving prism:
"I can't speak for anyone else, but I was on Team Tank when the Mavs were playing really horrendous basketball, and I didn't see them as having any REAL chance at the playoffs. But I enjoy seeing them play well, and they definitely have been playing good basketball for the last month or so.
"And to be honest, I love the idea of Dirk playing longer, assuming he's still able to be "Dirk" and not some shell of a player. Wanting the Mavs to take the opportunity presented by the horrendous start THIS SEASON to max out the pick was not some sort of anti-Dirk thinking. For me, it was the OPPOSITE - a chance to get Dirk the help he needs to make his upcoming year or years have even more potential. The Mavs badly need an infusion of talent with high-end upside, not just role player potential, and they need it quickly because the clock is ticking on both Dirk's career and Barnes' short contract. To me, given the window presented by the awful start, an elite draft pick offered one of those players and was worth chasing.
"Now, with the playoffs a REAL possibility, not worth the investment so much.''
More on this issue, and all Mavs issues, available when you click into Mavs DB.com Boards here!
DONUT 11: Trade Winds
We've got a collection of Mavs-related trade stuff here ... the how's and the why's and (mostly, so far, the why-not's) ... Click in to dig around ... and we've also got an Ibaka trade already and a Noel trade maybe.
Where was Dallas on Ibaka? Where is Dallas on Noel? Are there a couple of trade-deadline policies crystalizing inside of Mavs HQ?
There are. Stay tuned. Mavs Premium info coming later today.
DONUT 12: The Final Word
“It’s huge to have Deron back. He did a terrific job with the pace. With Yogi coming off the bench with that bounce and that energy that’s tough for teams to handle. I’m just glad that we’re starting to figure it out and there’s no better time to do it.'' - Justin Anderson.