Dirk: always the best.
Let's be honest: this is the dead zone for NBA news. The Olympics are taking over and every NBA player/GM is more fixated on Team USA then signing any of the remaining free agents (which, there really aren't much of in terms of quality.)
Also, the Mavericks filled out their roster with Delonte West and Bernard James, two moves that have been seen coming for weeks now. For all intents and purposes, the Mavericks off-season is pretty much over. Nothing to do now but wait for training camp.
After that rousing introduction, here are some links I've found despite the barren news landscape:
- Zach Lowe handicaps the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, listing the Mavericks as a prime contender...for grabbing a sixth seed. Lowe's inclusion of Dallas in a list of "potential playoff contenders" might irk some Dallas die-hards (I admit, I was slightly peeved) but remember: this roster was legitimately headed toward lottery status as little as two weeks ago. It's another year where the Mavericks roster has been upturned and last season, Dallas only made a 7th seed, so it makes sense. But, considering the huge improvements Dallas has made (Chris Kaman + Elton Brand > Brendan Haywood + Ian Mahinmi) and no lockouts deterring the play of Dirk Nowitzki, I can't imagine a playoff spot will be in serious jeopardy for Dallas as we get closer to April, which Lowe dutifully mentions.
- Bill Ingram at Hoopsworld.com talks with Donnie Nelson and discusses much of the same things we've heard over the last two days: No matter what, don't count out the Mavericks intuitive front office. Ingram gets some more quotes about all the newcomers and sheds light on the Mavericks ability to keep a playoff-caliber team while preparing for the future.
- For the first time in a long time, no Mavericks will be playing any international ball this summer. Mark Cuban probably very much approves, says Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com. With no lockout and no summer ball, hopefully that means Dirk regains his uber-efficient numbers that we all know and love....
- ....unless he spends all summer doing wedding things and not practicing basketball.
- Lastly, I leave you with this somewhat older (for Internet time) column from ESPNDallas.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor talking about how the Mavericks off-season has been very flat, uninspiring and leaves the Mavericks as non-contenders. I have no qualms with anyone saying the Mavericks won't be title contenders this season -- heck, the Mavericks 2011 title team carried little-to-no title expectations before that season started. But the way in which Taylor gets to his point, well...leaves a little more to be desired. Judging Elton Brand's season in 2011-2012 by just looking at points and rebounds per game doesn't do Brand's season justice: he played fewer minutes and took fewer shots in an offense that spreads the ball around, while posting a better-than-average PER over 18. And saying that the Mavericks will be "lucky" to avoid the lottery is, well, to be frank, completely insane. Dallas boasted a top-10 defense last year and replaced Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi with a better defender in Brand and a better offensive player in Kaman. Brand and Kaman are light years better than the Haywood + Mahinmi combo Dallas had last year. Darren Collison becomes a better version of J.J. Barea, who should be able to work the pick and roll with Dirk to efficient results. O.J. Mayo is a step down offensively than Jason Terry for sure, but Mayo's improved athleticism and quickness to the position should help make up for what Terry lacked in other areas on the floor. Don't get me wrong, Dallas has a lot to prove before we can declare them capable of being in Oklahoma City's tier, or even Los Angeles or San Antionio's. Things can go wrong. Injuries happen, players don't always mesh the way we think they will (or should.) But saying they'll be lucky, relying on outside forces that are uncontrollable to the Mavericks, to make the playoffs is an insult to the Mavericks front office and their masterful coaching staff -- not to mention Dirk Nowitzki, who's carried much, much more meager supporting casts to the playoffs in years past.