Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Carlisle just wants to win. While this can be said of a number of coaches, it's especially true of Rick and this is part of his success. Even a coach who "just wants to win" could, for example, play some guys before the trade deadline who he might otherwise NOT play to make winning a little bit easier with the addition of some usable talent.
And some coaches who "just want to win" , if down enough in the playoff race that thinking about next year is at least likely the right way to go, might be content to let a couple of 25-year olds (Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois) mess up a few times, in the hopes of a brighter future, rather than a 37-year old (Mike James) who never actually was that good in the first place but brings some kind of ephemeral (and probably actually non-existent) "veteranness".
Obviously, these choices drive Mavs fans cray-cray, not least of which because of James' Mad TVesque performance as a basketball player impersonator. But they're from Rick's soul, they're driven by an honest desire, to win each and every game regardless of anything and everything else. It's almost okay because it comes along with some pretty amazing effects-like the Mavs almost taking one from the mighty Spurs last night.
In fact, one of the reasons the Mavs play crappy teams about as well as they play good teams is precisely because they, like all the good teams, play smart, disciplined, never panic basketball-and they have no real defense against the "no-conscience", chucking offenses of bad teams everywhere.
It's also pretty understandable that when the times are tough, the captain wants to oversee everything himself.
It's just not clear that that is always the right move.
Vince Carter getting the shot last night was not an accident, it was the playcall. It's been the playcall a lot of times. In fact, partly by accident but mostly by design, the numbers that are making their way around, courtesy of the lovely Bryan Gutierrez, Vince has taken 6 shots with the Mavs down 3 or less and 10 seconds to go SINCE Dirk has been back.
And it's because of this quote, provided by the lovely Tim Cato:
"Vince was the one guy we have that can create that separation, so it was either going to be a roll to Wright or he would take that shot himself."-Richard Carlisle.
You got that? Not only was the #1 on that play that particular Vince Carter shot, the #2 was a lob to Brandan Wright. The Mavs, with about 6 seconds left on the clock and a chance to take a dramatic step towards breathing life back in their season, drew up a play in which the second option was to a guy who, before his recent stretch of extended minutes, only cracked double digits in 6 of February's 11 games. And I love Brandan Wright.
This, I think, shines about all the light that needs to be shed on where Carlisle is right now in terms of coaching the Mavericks. To him, the players are chess-pieces and he moves them into position. Vince, he thinks-wrongly, I believe-is the one Maverick who can create his shot from the perimeter (which goes to show he's probably not actually watching Vince's drives, of late?). If there's a lob, he needs his lob guy, Brandan Wright (which goes to show he's never watched how well anyone throws Wright lobs, the basketball equivalent of Tim Tebow?).
Last year, even though things were going poorly, I think Rick had enough trust in Jason Kidd, who thinks like a coach, to let him move the chess pieces on the fly. Before Dirk's injury, we can assume that Dirk had at least some of the same latitude.
But today, it seems, Rick feels that it's a math problem he's trying to solve. Need perimeter creation, insert Vince. Need lob, insert Wright. Need someone to run the offense, Mike James, but need someone to make free throws, Darren Collison. And if you're wondering why Jae Crowder is the only young player ever to crack Rick's rotation so consistently, I would suggest, strongly, that it's because Jae Crowder does what Rick is calling his number to do, even if he does, or at least did, everything else pretty poorly.
And Roddy? It's not about what Roddy wants to do, or can do, it's whether he can be the chesspiece Rick wants, and when it's no, the diminutive Frenchmen will not play.
Earlier this season, every time the game was close at the end, Rick would put out a small lineup which got destroyed so often it seemed like only a person who was only pretending to have actual sight could have kept turning to it. But now I think that the picture of what Rick saw it doing in his head was simply more powerful than what was actually happening.
There are, believe it or not, lots of good things about this. Stuff happens in basketball for all kinds of reasons, a lot of it luck, and overreacting to it is almost always worse than knowing what should happen so well you stay the course. It has been a tremendous steadying influence here, and it's worthy of commendation.
But it has its drawbacks, too. Last night it was not trusting Dirk Nowitzki, one of the greatest to ever play the game, to take a shot or draw a foul because of a clock-related situation. Call it a symptom of a season gone horribly wrong-but even the best coaches have lessons to learn. As we all do, forever and always.