The first Dallas and Cents of 2013, and it comes on what may(hopefully?!) be a low point for the Mavericks this season. A 99-96 overtime loss to the now 8-25 New Orleans Hornets, which included the blowing of a double-digit second half lead, and yet another moment of Dirk-related happiness tainted by defeat. Despite 20 from Nowitzki in his first start, and quality play from a few other recently struggling veterans, like Elton Brand and Vince Carter, Dallas drops to 13-21 on the season, and an especially horrific 0-7 in extra play.
- Ok, ok, so let's start with the good news. Dirk's back! Back in the starting lineup, anyway. He is likely not back up to full speed quite yet, but you can tell he's getting closer with each game. No, really, his point totals from the last five: 5, 8, 11, 19, 20. If that trend continues literally every game until the end of the season, I think Dallas can make the playoffs. And Dirk will challenge Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record.
- Dirk says that the team still misses the crunch time play of former Mav point guard Jason Kidd. We've seen time and time again that Collison and Mayo have struggled to make sound basketball decisions late in games. More examples undid Dallas last night: Collison had a terrible attempt at a pass into the post that was stolen with under two minutes left in regulation. Mayo nearly cost Dallas the game by throwing it back to Dirk with 2 seconds left on the shot clock in Dallas' final possession in regulation, but fortunately Dirk was able to draw the foul. Mayo then missed a go-ahead gimme with under 20 seconds left in O.T, and Darren Collison's foul on Eric Gordon at the other end sealed the game. From a talent standpoint, there's no reason this backcourt can't generally approximate what Kidd and Terry did(at least in their advanced age), but big mistakes at the end have clearly contributed to all the late losses so far this season.
- So, has Dallas hit rock bottom? Well, only time will tell. It becomes increasingly pertinent as time goes on, so be sure to check out the Moneybrawl "tank or not" showdown between Andy and Kirk. I don't think a true tank will happen here as long as Dirk and Cuban are around, but if Dallas has not climbed back to close to .500 by the trade deadline, I wonder if Cuban will change his "we're not hitting the panic button" stance.
- Speaking of Mark Cuban, he recently passed an anniversary, marking 13 years since he purchased the team. Marc Stein, who is usually very locked in on Mavs' dealings, makes some interesting notes on potential Dallas targets, namely Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins. Stein says that Dallas is "one of the teams most eager to do business between now and the February 21st trade deadline." I had thought for a while that a significant trade was needed, if not inevitable, but as the team falls further out of the playoff picture, you wonder if Dallas is going to be a buyer at the deadline, or a seller? With all the expiring deals on the roster, and a lot of minutes going to aging veterans, it makes sense for Dallas to try to acquire as many young assets as possible, if not to build around, to at least give Dallas possible trade ammunition for the offseason.
- In the wake of Cuban complaining about officials, this interesting tidbit popped up: Cuban says he contemplated selling the team back in 2006. Cuban is an emotional guy who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, so it isn't too surprising to see this, just as it isn't surprising to see him say that he intends to own the team forever. For those wondering if Cuban might sell the team after Dirk retires, it doesn't seem that way.
- Over at DB.com, there's an insider article that talks about the way Dirk impacts the game for Dallas, and though I assume most won't want to pay for it I'd like to at least mention it, since it highlights a couple of things I believe we saw last night. One: even though Dirk isn't a terrific rebounder individually, his presence has completely transformed the team on this front. Dallas has actually outrebounded their opponents in three of the last four games, and were only barely outrebounded against Washington. That is an enormous improvement over what we saw previously. Two: Dirk is a not an amazing one on one defender, but he is extremely under-appreciated as a team defender. I think he got a bad rap early in his career and the "soft"(and let's be honest, that really just translates to "white") label hasn't left him. The next time someone tells you Dirk can't play D, you set them straight. His length, smarts, and quick hands have already really improved this team's play, although the dribble penetration being allowed by Collison and Mayo is making his and Elton Brands' jobs that much more difficult.
- David Stern says "there will be NBA teams in Europe in 20 years". Sounds like an organizational nightmare, but something to think about.
- You feel bad for Detroit, but this is kind of hilarious. I'd love it if they take a minor league baseball approach and had absolutely crazy fan promotion stuff all the time to try and boost their (awful) attendance. And hey, if that doesn't work, don't look now, but the Pistons have won four straight and have one of the best frontcourts in the game. On a depressing note, I just realized Detroit has as many wins as Dallas now.