At the moment, I'm trying not to have a meltdown. The Marcus Smart decision to return to school hurts Dallas in ways we have yet to imagine. Michael Carter Williams will no longer be available when Dallas drafts, giving the front office another opportunity to draft a shooting guard who isn't very good at basketball or a center who is big.
Instead, let's focus on the last game of the season, against the Hornets of New Orleans. Due to one of those weird, late season scheduling quirks, The Mavericks play the same team they played Sunday night, simply in a different location. This will be their final game as the Hornets; next year they morph into the Pelicans.
So what is there to play for? Well, it's fan appreciation night, so above all else the Dallas Mavericks should be expected to play hard. Dallas area fans are a notoriously fickle lot, but the folks who go to the games, the die hard MFFL, deserve a great show to end a maddening season.
I also expect to see some of our younger players have very good games. O.J. Mayo in particular is in need of a strong finish after a tepid March and April. To say there are questions surrounding Mayo is a mild understatement. Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie summed up the Mayo saga brilliantly yesterday, saying "He's good, not great, and good-but-not-great players can't afford to disappear as often as O.J. does."
Meanwhile, Darren Collison should continue a string of solid games to close out the season. Who knows what will happen with Collison; he's one of the few restricted free agents on the Dallas roster. I've been mostly pleased with his running of the offense but have resigned myself that he will never be very good defensively.
The other under-30 Dallas players, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Anthony Morrow, and Bernard James, should see at least some time on the floor. Wright isonly Dallas free-agent-to-be to make a strong case to be resigned and his exciting style of play is what fans come to see.
There will obviously be a steady does of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter to start the night. The Dallas veterans have played with a steely resolve all season and each would love to finish the season on a strong note.
The Hornets, meanwhile, are not to be underestimated. The hot shooting of Dallas covered up their terrible rebounding effort; the Hornets snagged 20 offensive rebounds. Don't expect another poor shooting night around the rim for New Orleans either. Sunday saw an absurd number of shots go in an out for the Hornets, and the managed to convert only 40% of their attempts at the rim. I could try to attribute this to fierce Dallas defense, but that wouldn't be true.
I fully expect the Hornets to come out firing on all cylinders and the Mavericks should be ready to take a few body blows early. Though I'd love to predict a blow out, the more likely outcome is a grind of a game where Dallas comes out ahead late in the fourth.
See you all later tonight at the game thread!