Two months ago, the Mavericks were opening the NBA season with a blowout loss to the Heat. It's been a bit of a roller coaster since then, but somehow here the Mavericks are, sitting at 21-13 record at the All-Star break. Here's part one of what the MMB staff saw in that first half.
1. Biggest surprise of the season?
Andy: I think I won't hear much disagreement when I say that Vince Carter has been the biggest surprise this season. Though he isn't always effective, the extent to which he sometimes is will continue to be surprising to fans who sort of thought, understandably, they were getting a played out star without much left. Given Jet's struggles and Delonte's injury, Vince has been the closest thing to a reliable second scorer the Mavs have. Bless him.
: I am tempted to make Vince Carter's
sudden interest in the sport of basketball the biggest surprise, but I'm going to say Dirk showing up out of shape. Other than the egg he laid in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, this had to be the most befuddling moment in his career. For 12 years, Dirk has been the lone, steady backbeat in a sea of clapping Navin R. Johnsons. That's 12 consecutive years during which Nowitzki built a solid reputation as, if nothing else, a tireless worker who always shows up ready to play. To see him put up rookie year numbers was unnerving and you can count me among the chicken-littles that thought he took a cliff-dive in ability. Fortunately, he seems to have gotten his head and body right.
Tom: The biggest surprise has been Brandan Wright, and his lack of stable playing time. Wright has had sensational slams in many games, high energy, and seems to be a magnet for rebounds. Instead, the proven inefficiency of Lamar Odom and aging veteran Brian Cardinal get time instead of young and capable Wright. Wright has almost no drawbacks that can be seen when he plays, but Rick Carlisle is hesitant to see him play. It will take something of a large proportion to get Wright stable playing time.
Tim: No one doubted that Delonte West was going to bring some toughness and grit to this team, but I didn't realize just how big of a factor he was going to be. His injury really showed his effectiveness, partially because there is little good depth behind him, but also equal parts because he brings a unique brand of guard play that really helps the Mavs offense when they otherwise would be struggling.
2. Biggest disappointment of the season?
Andy: Lamar Odom. It was foolish of all of us, probably, to expect Lamar to make much of a dent on the offensive end. He averages 14.4, over his career, and that surely means as many 8 point games as 18, all things considered. Still, we didn't expect him to look this lost. He's been a good rebounder for the Mavs, but not much else. Is his heart here?
Richard: Can this even be a contest? Our reigning Sixth Man of the Year is playing with the passion of a paperweight with the numbers to go along with it. Odom had a well-publicized, rocky off-season. While that serves as possible explanation for the erratic encore to last year's performance, it does nothing to mitigate the disappointment.
Tom: The biggest disappointment is Jason Terry. Jason looked like the only Maverick who actually touched a basketball during the lockout, let alone practiced. As the season has gone by, Terry has regressed to the point of a taller line up being played in certain situations where Terry would usually slot in. It may be fatigue from the compressed schedule, or it may be a slow loss of athleticism from Terry due to aging. Whatever the case may be, Terry may need rest by taking games off or less minutes to get back into the shape he had the first few games of the start of this season.
Has anyone here seen Super 8? Lamar Odom's season could easily be defined in that trainwreck scene, because it has been atrocious. Expectations were too high coming in to the year, no doubt; Odom posted career numbers in 2010-11 because he was a perfect fit in the Phil Jackson
system. However, Odom is clearly much more talented than a lazy SF who sits around and jacks more threes at a lower percentage than ever in his career. At this point, would any team even be interested if the Mavericks tried to trade him?
3. Best/favorite game so far?
: I guess probably the Mavs' defeat of the Thunder
on January 2nd. It was their second win, and their first against a good team---not just a good team, but so far the best in the West. The Mavs looked so bad out of the gate, and even though they'd almost beaten the Thunder before, it was hard to have much hope for the season. Dirk looked terrible and the team worse. As it happened, it would be many weeks before Dirk looked good consistently and there was certainly a lot of soul-searching to do. But beating an undefeated Thunder team by 13 points was the first sign that things might be okay, some day.
: Favorite game so far has to be January 11th at Boston. A struggling Dirk Nowitzki
seals the game in the fourth quarter with one of the most gutsy plays I've ever seen him make. And after getting hammered in the mug, he sinks the free throw to make it a three-to-tie game.
: My favorite game was LA Clippers
@ Dallas. I saw Butler, a great asset, gain his championship ring. The win also evened the regular season series against them, seeing that the Clippers may end up being a first round opponent. The game also allowed me to put the Clipper bandwagoners in their place, as well as assure those that have followed the Clippers or are fans of Los Angeles teams in general that we are still fighting.
4. One word to describe the first half of the season.
Andy: Surprising. They win when I don't think they will, lose when I don't think they will, and for reasons I don't expect.
Richard: Labored. Maybe I'd apply that word to every season, but the harried pace of this lock-out season, the conditioning shortfalls of Dirk and Lamar, Haywood and Kidd trying to outdo their less-than-compelling stats; all of it feels like a great deal of work. There's a lack of flow, a lack of identity, as if the team really has to strain for every point. Yet all that sums up to its own compelling, salt-of-the-earth narrative. We punted on a repeat in the name of cap room and we're still making it work with real, calloused labor.
Tom: Tense. Many injuries, including some to Dirk and Kidd, wracked the lines of Dallas. However, Dallas is on pace to be number 4 in the playoff seeds, even with most people, including sports analysts, putting the Mavs as down for the count.
Tim: Over. It wasn't always fun or easy, but it's behind the Mavericks now. The key is for the Mavericks to head into the second half like the champs that they are. They've had a half to show off their rings and take it a little easier than usual, but this second half is all about business, because the only thing better than a championship is two.
Look for part two dropping either Tuesday or Wednesday, with the MMB staff speculating what the future of the second half holds.