I’d presume every man who grew up with a father figure in his life had a significant chunk of his sports experiences shaped by that father figure. I played football because my Dad played, I wanted to wear #22 because he wore it, and today I still always root for Black coaches and Black quarterbacks thanks to my Dad’s influence.
Another thing I picked up from my Dad: The need for constant variety in sports. Pops hates it when the same teams contend for championships every year. “Mix it up” is one of his favorite phrases, so he likes it when Cincinnati and TCU threaten to crash the BCS bowl party, or the Orlando Magic upset the norm to make the NBA Finals over the boring old Celtics.
I’m kind of the same way, which could be why I’m prone to declare teams like the Hawks and Mavericks championship contenders (probably) too early into the season; if it’s November/December and we’ve accepted that only 3-4 teams will realistically vie for a ‘chip, it makes the regular season less interesting to me.
The Mavs especially looked like a premature prediction after Sunday’s debacle, where they got smoked by 30-plus against the Lakers. On a night where Ron Artest didn’t play, Pau Gasol left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and Kobe had a modest 15 points, the Lakers still dominated. Dallas’ defense made Jordan Farmar looked like Deron Williams and Lamar Odom look like Young Kevin Garnett, while DJ Mbenga traded his Shawn Bradley mask for a Dikembe Mutombo one.
Meanwhile, the Mavs couldn’t hit a shot, going 5-for-21 beyond the arc. And that’s where L.A. exposed what may be Dallas’ biggest weakness: They are a team full of jump shooters, like an Orlando Lite but without Dwight Howard in the middle or Vince Carter on the wing.
So it was written in Basketball 101: When thine jumper is not falling, get thee to the rim and dropeth easy buckets or draweth fouls.
When the Mavs get in trouble and their jumpers aren’t cooperating, who’s going to do that? Dirk Nowitzki is a shooter; Jason Terry is a shooter; Josh Howard is becoming more of a shooter as his ankles turn to construction paper; and Jason Kidd is a shooter who can’t shoot consistently. Shawn Marion lives on a diverse mix of offensive boards, quirky runners and alley-oops with some jumpers thrown in, but he’s never been a guy to create his own shot. J.J. Barea has the handle and quickness to get to the rim, but he’s 5-foot-4.
It’s a bit hasty to say a team that’s 23-11 and on top of its division needs to make any major trade deadline moves, but if the goal is to get past “50-something wins + second-round exit” — pretty much this franchise’s M.O. in the last decade — the Mavs should at least explore the possibility to getting a guy who can create his own shot and carry the offense through those times when Dirk’s jumper is off and the rest of the crew can’t hit.
(This wouldn’t be an issue had the Mavs taken the money they spent on Tim Thomas in free agency and used it on Flip Murray, but what’s done is done.)
One problem with trading, however, is Dallas doesn’t have a lot of trade bait they can afford to part with. Their only real expiring contracts are Drew Gooden (too important as Erick Dampier‘s backup), Shawne Williams (I can’t imagine too many teams want him) and Thomas (he only makes $1.3M in the first place). Some teams might be interested in an expendable piece like Barea, Kris Humphries or Matt Carroll, but if the Mavs really want to catch a big fish, they should get a gauge on Josh Howard’s value.
Howard (13.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) is working his way back into regular form while coming off some injuries, but with Marion in the picture, Howard is playing out of position at two-guard. And honestly, Howard doesn’t seem as crucial to Rick Carlisle‘s system as he was during Avery Johnson‘s tenure, so if you can flip him for a player like, say, Corey Maggette who can drive and draw fouls (and make the free throws), it’s something to consider.
Do you think the Mavs should roll with what they have, or look to make a move?