Monday, March 7, 2011

Sins of our Father

When the Mavericks were embarrassingly dropped by the Spurs last April, Rick Carlisle was burned and burned hard. Public outcries for his firing where backed up by rumors from beat reporters that Mark Cuban wasn't happy. Of course, a coaching change after a first-round exit in the NBA is always the reactionary feeling. Fans are mad. Ticket-buyers, the customers, don't want to support a flopping product. Rational minds eventually won out but there's no doubt that Carlisle lost some faith from the fan base after that series against the Spurs for the lack of playing time of Rodrigue Beaubois.

Before this season started, we were promised change. In fact, the original plan was to start Beaubois at the two and bring the much-maligned Shawn Marion off the bench . Of course, when Beaubois broke his foot in August the plan changed a bit, but there were still promises that Beaubois would be a big part of this Mavs season. He had to be, especially when he was deemed practically "untouchable" by both Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson.

His return in the middle of February delivered, showing off the blazing speed and athleticism that hasn't been seen in a Maverick uniform for years. He started off fairly strong, posting three games off the bat with 20 minutes, 19 minutes and 22 minutes respectfully. The ability to lead fast breaks from rebound to layup was there, that breathtaking speed that kicked the Mavericks fast break into another gear. Beaubois' three-point shot wasn't back from rehab but still, averaging 10.7 points and 51 percent shooting in your first three games back from an injury that caused you not to play basketball for six months was fairly impressive.

That isn't to say Beaubois was perfect in those three games. Along with the flashes of brilliance were the head-scratching turnovers and the inability to stay within the context of Dallas' defensive schemes. Too many times Beaubois is obliterated in the pick and roll plays, being engulfed in the pick itself or not being able to communicate when and where to switch properly. And he's the guard equivalent of Tyson Chandler when it comes to fouling. But still, it was a fairly rosy start, all things considered.

The ensuing three game stretch of rough games wasn't too much of a surpirse either. After all, any NBA player, no matter what age or talent level, has to get back into reasonable game shape or conditioning. Beaubois' legs wasn't with him against Washington, Toronto or Philadelphia, missing badly on three-pointers and being over matched defensively with teams that, while not the greatest, featured some athletic back courts and swingmen. Nothing to worry about. No need to hit the red button.

But what happened last night was peculiar. Beaubois appeared to bust out, scoring 13 points in about 12 minutes of action, igniting fast breaks and finally knocking down some threes. The Mavericks roared to a 15-point halftime lead in what seemed to be a fairly impressive win against a playoff team in Memphis.

Now, the failure of the Mavericks blowing that lead and letting the Grizzles steal a win in Dallas is no where near the fault of Beaubois seeing less than four minutes of action in the second half. Beaubois wasn't going to stop Zach Randolph from shooting 10-for-13 or keep Marc Gasol off the offensive glass. Beaubois wasn't going to be responsible for Shane Battier's offensive put-back in the closing seconds. Considering the play of everyone else, it is likely that the game still would have turned out the same.

But. There's always a but.

I can't seem to grasp how a player that has such an impact of a teams' first half (as Beaubois was Sunday night) can be completely lost and buried on the bench in the second. To be fair, Memphis was already on the train, heading to comeback town when Beaubois checked out early in the third (a 17-point lead had been trimmed to nine). But how could Beaubois not see a couple of minutes at the end of the quarter? Or perhaps some in the fourth? Mind you, I'm not arguing that Jason Terry shouldn't have seen the floor, since he was incapable of missing throughout the fourth quarter (even if the person he was guarding seemed incapable of missing as well). Again, I'm not arguing for why Roddy should have closed the game. I'm arguing why he was deemed inadequate in providing a spark that Mavericks desperately needed in the last five minutes of the third quarter.

Carlisle after the game was very vague and unclear with his answer, saying the Mavericks were going with players who at the time were going to help them win the game. I guess scoring 15 points in 14 minutes doesn't help. Especially when you consider that Jason Kidd was largely ineffective with both controlling the offense and supplying his own. I understand the importance Kidd can have on a game without scoring, but last night wasn't one of those games (six assists and four turnovers). I would have liked to see, if only for a  few minutes, both J.J. Barea (who was very effective offensively and well, poopy to say the least defensively) and Beaubois in the back court, to see if some energy could have been instilled into the lineup.

I hope I worded this wisely enough to not sound like I'm overreacting to one game of 82, especially one that was won on a ridiculously high-arched Zach Randolph jumper. And I am not stating Beaubois should have played all 24 minutes of the second half or the last five minutes of the game. This is just a slight worry or fear I have that perhaps past mistakes have not yet been atoned for. I pray that I am very naive in this thinking.

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