Monday, November 22, 2010

Recurring Nightmare

Tossing and turning, you awake with a cold sweat. Sometimes with a scream or yelp. It happened again - another nightmare. You keep seeing the same visions: Smaller front-court players grabbing long offensive rebounds. Double teams on Dirk as other shooters fail to convert open looks. A stagnant half-court offense. A lack of production from the starting small forward and back-up point guard. A center paid very handsomely failing to live up to the pricey contract. Second half leads evaporating over the course of a few minutes.

Wait, you don't have those nightmares? Oh. Well, I do. Especially after the Mavericks last three games against the Hornets, Bulls and Hawks. In each of those three games, ghosts of Maverick teams past came creeping up and either delivering a heartbreaking loss or making fans sweat out what was supposed to be an easy-breathing fourth quarter.

Each instance of ineptitude over the last three games (Dirk's supporting cast no-show in New Orleans, terrible rebounding against the Bulls and an 18-point lead whittled away in Atlanta) have cost the Mavericks of regular season and postseason victories over the last decade. The playoffs last year exposed the Mavericks with having a roster of one All-NBA talent (Dirk) with a bunch of third, fourth options at best. I can't count on my fingers and toes the number of losses Dallas has endured thanks to terrible rebounding - you could just paint a broad stroke with the Nellie years. And who could forget Steve Kerr help erase a 13-point fourth quarter deficit for the Spurs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals (I won't. I was there. And I cried. A lot.)

The Mavericks are a good team. But like good teams (as opposed to great teams) they have their fair share of problems. Caron Butler's line against Atlanta on Saturday still hasn't cast away the doubt that I brought up a week ago. J.J. Barea is 7 for his last 35 shot attempts, which is to say in NBA technical terms, is shitty. Brandon Haywood only grabbed two defensive rebounds against the Bulls on Friday, while Taj Gibson racked up eight rebounds...offensively. Haywood, as you know, is the Mavericks $55 million backup center. Sound familiar? While Haywood has shown signs of living up the contract, it's hard to justify it over the first 12 games of the season. But aye, there's the rub: 12 games is a lousy sample size, so people should probably wait till January to give more hateful judgments.

The saviors for the previously mentioned woes aren't riding in on a sterling white steed anytime soon. Roddy Beaubois is still at least another week or two before he returns to practice. Rick Carlisle has shown no indications of putting rookie Dominique Jones into any meaningful situations. Jones and Beaubois represent the most unknowns of this years team, but to a lesser extent Roddy. I can't help but wonder if Jones' out-of-sorts preseason performance made Carlisle reconsider his minute distributions. Because before the season started, Carlisle offered some unique praise, saying he could be the teams best on-ball defender and is ready to contribute. At least Beaubois last year found some time in spot starts that gave us the glimpse of his future brilliance. Even as Barea continues to rack up awful numbers, Jones waits patiently, watching the Mavs rely on a zone far more often than any elite NBA defense should. And while there is cause for Jones to perhaps see some burn, Barea is the back up PG. No matter how bad he may play, (and no matter how much playmaking skills Jones has displayed) there is no way Carlisle will hand the reigns over to a rookie, much less one playing somewhat out of position.

As for Butler, his expiring contract is indeed flippable, but it's similar to the same contract Peja Stojakovic has, and he was just exchanged for Jarrett Jack to back up Chris Paul. So there might not be a game-changing answer there.

Like I said before, Dallas is a good team. But the nightmares of past Maverick teams will most likely continue to crop up from time to time, until one of the young guns eradicates those memories.


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1 comment:

  1. I couldn't stand to watch the rest of the Bulls game the other night. When the lead started to dwindle and Barea kept shooting the freaking ball I figured turn it off before you regress to getting way to emotional about a regular season game.

    But yes, I can't remember the last time I've seen an NBA (or even college team for that matter) give up so many offensive boards off of FREE THROWS!