Monday, November 10, 2008

Maddening Mavericks

With the Dallas Mavericks in town Sunday to play the Clippers, I thought it would be fun to see a Mavs game - and most likely a Mavs win - for the first time this 2008-09 season. Despite Josh Howard not playing due to a wrist injury, the Mavericks roster is talented enough to nab a win from the lowly, winless Clippers.

Um, no?

The Mavericks ole defense and shaky shooting once again put this team in a deep hole. Despite their best efforts to come back (the Mavs tied the game, 79-79 in the fourth quarter), the Clippers reeled off 13 points and sealed the 103-92 win.

Cue Charles Barkley.

"It was turrible."

Oh, wait, nevermind, because Barkley and the TNT guys only carry the good games. This afternoon affair was anything but. After the loss, Dirk Nowitzki questioned his team's effort, something Mavs fans haven't really heard before from the Big German.

Perhaps the Mavericks must accept the fact that Baron Davis will always hold a mental edge over this team after leading the Warriors past Dallas in the '07 playoffs. But his 22 points, 10 assist effort wasn't the only reason for the Mavs loss at Staples Center. No. How about giving up 10 points to Chris Kaman, or allowing Paul Davis to score 10, or Eric Gordon 11? Six Clippers finished in double-figures.

A few other thoughts from an afternoon watching the Mavs get clipped to fall to 2-4:

Why can't this team shoot a 3-pointer anymore? Did the Mavericks used to be a team that could really make you pay from beyond the arc? Now this team strikes a dagger only in their own hearts when they jack up misguided long-balls. Not only did Dallas go 3-18 on 3-pointers on Sunday (including 1-of-7 by Dirk), but they couldn't defend the 3 either. The Clippers - I repeat, Clippers - went 9-of-20 for 45.0% from 3-point land. If Dallas is going to legitimately contend in the West - something which is still very much in doubt at this point of the season - perimeter defense will have to at least be moderate to good. Hell, I woulda taken average yesterday. The Mavs didn't have it.

When Jerry Stackhouse got into the game, he looked old and worn down. While Stack finished with 10 points on a 5-of-9 night, it's very clear just how old this team's core is when watching these guys out there. Stackhouse played 24 minutes, a number that would not nearly be as high if Josh Howard had been active. He's really helped out this team since his arrival a few years ago, and he was absolutely an important cog when this team went to the 2006 Finals, but he so far past his prime, he might not remember it.

It's not all bad news though. The Mavericks appear to have made another "Brandon Bass 2007-08" discovery in Gerald Green. Remember a few years back when the Mavs had a great influx of youth with Howard, Marquise Daniels and Devin Harris? Gerald Green could well be the face of the next Mavs youth movement. After a strong 4th quarter performance against Denver, Green started Sunday in place of Howard, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

One other, slightly sobering note as I saw my first Mavericks game of the season in person. While watching the game, I saw one Mavericks player get up from the bench, take off his warm ups, and go to the scorers table to get ready to go in. The number on the back of his jersey was a big, bold "4" but seeing the last name "Williams" looked disgustingly out of place. Nothing against Shawne Williams, but it still seems too soon to have Michael Finley's #4 on someone else's back. I don't know if Finley will have his name in the rafters of the AAC some day - sadly, probably not. While he wasn't on the team that went to the finals in 2006, he was absolutely one of the guys that got Dallas that far, helping to build this team from the ashes into a power house.


Life behind the bench

I'd say I've been to more Dallas Mavericks games than any other pro sports team in my life (yes, including the Cowboys), but yesterday was the first time I've ever sat behind the bench. Like two rows behind the bench. Listening in on the huddle behind the bench. It was unreal. (mad props to Lisa for the ticket hook up)

Sitting right in front of me was Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He is one of the greatest owner in sports. I still can't decide if he passes Jerry Jones on my list but it's a power struggle between those two (sorry, Tom Hicks, you've got some work to do). Jerry does have 3 championships. But yesterday I witnessed a very gracious Mark Cuban taking pictures with fans and signing autographs (on my hat) before the game. He didn't really have a ticket for a specific seat, so he just continued to sit in an open seat in the first row, talking to his neighbors and politely moving when the ticket-holder showed up. Once the game started though, he was good ol' Mark Cuban. It might be more fun watching Mark Cuban watch the game than watching the game itself. I wonder if he thinks he's coaching the team? Probably, but it's greatness to watch.

When Jason Kidd drew a flagrant foul late in the game, Cuban was up on his feet launch an oral assault on the referee, saying he would be embarrassed by the video of that call. During a timeout, he caught the attention of Mavs assistant Popeye Jones to pass along the message of "catch and shoot" to one of the players. Some might see it as meddling or overbearing, having an owner sitting right by the bench. I see it as passionate. And as a fan, that's all we want from the owner is the same passion with which we root for the team.

Oh, and here's some Clipper hotties.

He's big. He's German. And he's got sniper's aim.

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