The season starts tonight against the
Bullets Wizards, so I'm a little late (or right on time, in my opinion) in getting this preview in. Phillip's already broken down tonight's game, so you can take a look at that. Consider this the high level view from my couch...
As per Sports Illustrated's preview, I've taken their projected Mavericks starting line-up...
Point Guard - Jason Kidd
I'm not really sure what it says about your team when the entire offseason hinged on re-signing a 36 year old PG with bad knees. I was against the Harris for Kidd move, and I still am. However, I will give you that Jason Kidd does seem re-juvenated in Dallas and he runs the floor better than anyone else. The team loves him and the players demanded that he return. Personally, I'm not high on Kidd, but I also realize that the Mavericks can do (and have done) a whole lot worse. Don't forget, Kidd's a slow, defensive liability..that won't work in a Western conference that's chock full of explosive point guards. Only having a good first step is bunk when you've got to deal with other PG's fifth and sixth steps.
Shooting Guard - Josh Howard (Yes, I'm aware that Ross gets the start tonight because Howard's still recovering from his ankle.)
Isn't Josh Howard the biggest damn enigma on this team? Here's a guy who starts games faster and more productive than anyone in the league short of LeBron, yet he ALWAYS fades or damn near disappears in the second half. When the Mavs drafted Howard, he was supposed to be the tour de force on defense they were missing. He saw his opportunity to become a scorer and hasn't dont jack to improve his defensive skill set. Hopefully, by making Josh the third (damn near fourth) option on this team, he will realize his scoring opportunties are not there and will re-invent himself into a defensive asset. Very honestly, I'd look for Josh Howard to be packaged with the expiring contract of Erick Dampier in a mid-season trade.
Small Forward - Shawn Marion
Ahh yes, the acquisition that made me raise my eyebrows and text Big with my hoping it was 2005. Shawn Marion is a guaranteed double-double guy who is (WAS) such a nasty defender that he got the ultra-cool nickname "the Matrix". Did I also mention that Shawn Marion looks like an extra from the old show "Alien Nation"...remember that show? Anyway, Marion can play either forward position, and even the five in a small ball situation. Marion makes the Mavericks more athletic, and we're all hoping that he finds the magic that he had four years ago in Phoenix when he was frustrating the shnitzel out of Dirk.
Power Forward - Dirk Nowitzki
Babymama scare. Offseason with family and Hoder. Strange fan fiction with Steve Nash. Hair that makes Bobby Carpenter look like Hulk Hogan. It's Dirk, at his worst, he'll be second team All-NBA. Short of Garnett and Duncan, he's the best power forward in the league.
Center - Drew Gooden (I know Dampier gets the start tonight, but, again, this is SI's projected starting lineup for the season)
That's right, the era of "Big Guns" Dampier starting and accumulating 3 fouls in 2 minutes is over. I expect that Gooden will start for this team. He's not a gigantic improvement over Dampier, but he does add an extra punch on offense both in the post and away from the basket. I actually applauded this acquisition because I think Big would be a better five than Damp, and Big's a fat chain smoker who at 6'4" has an amazing box out post game against little 5'10" Indian bloggers.
Key Bench Players
This bench is anchored by the reigning sixth man of the year, Jason Terry. Terry averaged almost 20 ppg coming off the bench and shows no signs of slowing down. JET is the game changer this team relies on, and, unfortunately, he's streaky as streaky gets. With him, you'll have Damp behind Gooden (there's no way Damp doesn't get traded this season. That expiring contract is Theo Ratliffe-esque), Barea behind Kidd, and some random platoon of Tim Thomas, Matt Carroll, James Singleton behind the forwards. Not exactly re-assuring for this team that will need to run...but I could be wrong.
Coach - Rick Carlisle
I like Rick Carlisle. To me, he's a guy who has shown that you can give him any group of guys with some semblence of talent and he will produce a system that works (Indiana, Detroit). I'm assuming given the make-up of this team, he's going to be heavy on running the floor, but you never know. Carlisle is a guy who made me apologize publicly to J.J. Barea by turning him into the Streakin' Puerto Rican.
This team is a combination of old and "needs to run"...and that's a bad combination. The entire core of this team averages to 31/32 years old. Donnie Nelson claims that "for what they want to do, experience is a key factor". I call BS. If any coach can produce a system that works, it's Carlisle. But here's the real kicker, the Mavericks truly are a team that can contend in the West if things go right...at the same time, I can say that they'll end up like Phoenix of last year and be watching the playoffs from home without blinking an eyelash. I can see some big movement happening mid-season. Here's hoping the All-Star break isn't the only high point of local basketball.
-Mavs take the sixth seed in the West.
-Advance to the second around over an inexperienced Portland team
-Lose in the second round to an overpowering Lakers engine