Thursday, December 9, 2010

If Not Then, When?

When Tyson Chandler was deemed unavailable for Tuesday night's game against the Golden State Warriors, it was a given that Brendan Haywood would be the starter. His second stint in Dallas has brought its fair share of hate ranging from apathetic to Erick Dampier-like. The rational observer (me) kept thinking that we should wait before we declared shenanigans.

Well, it might be time to go get your brooms.

As you might of known from watching the game, Haywood started but did not finish. In fact, he did not play the entire fourth quarter of Dallas' 105-100 win over Golden State. Ian Mahinmi finished the game, and in the process got his first double-double in his three year NBA career. Watching the game, I didn't think there was any other alternative. Mahinmi was active, energetic and looked like, you know, he was having fun playing a game he loves for money.

Signing Brendan Haywood to a six-year, 55-million dollar deal wasn't outlandish at all over the Summer. The Mavericks didn't make it a secret that Erick Dampier was on the move and the team needed to retain Haywood after his productive second half in 2009-2010 that showed flashes of greatness wrapped around some slight mediocrity. With how rare a traditional center is in this league, it seemed as if Dallas didn't sign Haywood to that deal, any other number of teams would. (Interestingly enough, Miami was the other team in hot pursuit. I wonder how the this past summer would of gone down if Haywood was inked to a similar deal by the Heat. Would Miami try to trade him for scraps? Just sign LeBron and Wade? Very curious "what-if?")

But at the very least, Haywood had the opportunity to prove to Dallas that he can still compete. He can still give Tyson Chandler a run for his money. But I think after being outperformed in training camp, the preseason and now obviously in the regular season, it's safe to say that Haywood is in no way going to live up to the money he's been given...this year. The Maverick coaching staff has been watching these two since October. They knew that Chandler was going to give this team something special and he's paying off in more ways that we could of imagine.

Haywood meanwhile is stuck on the bench, barely registering 20 minutes a game as every Maverick fan panics as Chandler rests on the bench, wondering how soon he can come back in whenever he takes a seat during a game. The numbers aren't pretty either: 4.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and a staggeringly, absolutely, no-good, terrible 25 percent free throw percentage. He's also turning it over at a career high rate and averaging his lowest total rebounding percentage in a full season since 2007-2008. Just for fun, let's go ahead and throw in career-lows in offensive rating (99) and win share (an appalling 0.8).

Tyson Chandler hasn't played a completely healthy season in over two years. While his latest sit-out was due to an uncontrollable stomach virus, it's highly likely that Chandler is a spill on the floor away from missing up to a week. Haywood was supposed to make us feel warm and fuzzy, but now it's cold and dilapidated. Don't get me wrong, Mahinmi's contributions on Tuesday were almost Tyson Chandler-light. But if Mahinmi ever passes Haywood on the depth chart with a healthy Chandler, the Mavericks are going to be faced with numerous questions once the off-season rolls around (For example, how much do you resign Chandler when you've just been burned twice by giving centers large deals?)

Haywood had an opportunity on Tuesday to silence the doubters. What's sad is, he didn't even have to do much. He just had to improve Dallas' chances of winning while on the floor and show some life. His numbers (4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) seemed hollow. They seemed Erick Dampier like.

And hey, at least Dampier could set one helluva screen.


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