Going back to Media Day, players and coaches in the organization have had strong opinions about their team. The bar has been raised to an extremely high level. While the team still feels there is a long way to go, they're earning rave reviews from their previous two opponents.
The Mavericks defeated the New Jersey Nets to get their 11th straight win. The victory was at the expense of their former coach, Avery Johnson. "They are tough," said Johnson. "Just when you think you got them, you know Dirk (Nowitzk) will hit a big shot. We got it to about seven, eight or nine there and then Dirk pops a 3 on us. Just a veteran team. They know what to do. They mix in their man (defense), they go to a zone a little bit and throw that curve ball on you. They do a nice job and they got a lot of big guys inside now."
Their 12th consecutive victory was against the Utah Jazz. It was their second victory over the Jazz in an span of 8 days. All-Star guard, Deron Williams had 34 points in the defeat but only had 3 points in the final quarter. "This is the best Mavs team I've ever seen since I've been in the NBA," he said. "Across the board, they have so much talent and depth. But they're just playing a lot better defensively. This is by far the best defensive team we've seen from them."
The Mavericks are making noise, let's take a look back and see if they have backed up their strong words.
On Media Day, Coach Rick Carlisle said there were three keys in terms of making this team different from last year:
-Focus on better consistency on the defensive end
-Protect the home-court advantage
-Maximize their depth
Clearly, the Mavericks have bought in on playing team and individual defense. They're in the top tier on most of the major defensive statistics and they have incredibly versatility. They can easily float in and out of their zone and man defense and it throws teams off of their game.
The Mavericks had a 13-game winning streak last year but that's a totally different situation in the eyes of Mavericks Owner, Mark Cuban. "Last year, we were just outscoring teams" said Cuban prior to Saturday's game. "This year, we're shutting teams down and we're going into 4th quarters shooting 40% and winning games, that's the big difference."
The Mavericks started the season 4-3 at home, but they have rattled off 7 consecutive home wins. The team looks primed to finish in the top 4 in the Western Conference which means they would be hosting a first-round series. They are halfway through their longest home-stand of the season, six games, and they are 3-for-3. If they were able to sweep through the stretch, that would certainly have to build the team's confidence and feel the home-court is truly and advantage.
Despite not having Roddy Beaubois, the Mavericks are still 9 players deep in terms of depth. If you add spot appearances by Ian Mahinmi and Brian Cardinal, the number goes up even more. "Depth has to be one of the things that really defines us," said Carlisle during Media Day. It definitely appears that is the case for the Mavericks. The team can attack the opposition in waves and from all different angles and that makes things difficult when you're trying to stop them. The belief is the depth can help keep things going even when a couple of players are having slumps.
"I don't care if guys are happy or unhappy about their minutes...It's not going to be about role definition, it's going to be about role acceptance."
There were major concerns on whether players would buy into the role acceptance, it appears everyone is on board. Numerous players have mentioned that it's about the chase for the trophy and sacrifices need to be made and they're all winning to do it. So who ultimately gets the credit, Carlisle for the mantra of the players for buying in? "It all goes hand-in-hand," said Cuban. "You want to have your best pieces compliment each other and the whole being greater than the sum of the parts." The team is winning and winning helps massage a bruised ego. The process is in full-swing and at this point, it's hard to imagine feathers can be dramatically ruffled.
'The fact that he's physical on both ends of the court will definitely keep him in the running to compete for minutes."
Prior to the season, you would think those comments were made to describe Tyson Chandler or DeShawn Stevenson who were pegged to be bench players, they eventually emerged as starters. Those comments were made about Dominique Jones, the rookie guard out of South Florida. While Jones' physicality and aggression is a huge asset, the depth has made him an odd man out. He was sent to the D-League affiliate in Frisco to continue working and gaining playing time in the process. It's hard to imagine that Jones will be able to crack the rotation for significant stretches this year.
"(Chandler) is a longer version of Eddie (Najera). He can really run the floor. If he can get us 2-3 layups or dunks in transition I think that already makes the game easier for us."
- Dirk Nowitzki
Chandler has to be the biggest surprise of the season. He is fully healthy and ready to let the league known he can be a premiere center in the league. Tyson has been more than capable in the ability to get 2-3 layups or dunks in transition. The lob-pass to Chandler has been implemented into the offense and it doesn't only come from Jason Kidd.
"We know we have a good team here, what we want to be is a special team
- Rick Carlisle
The Mavericks are in the midst of a 12-game winning streak and it's not even a blip on their radar. "I don’t think the team really cares about the win streak," said Carlisle after Saturday's win against Utah. "Our core guys that have been here a long time, they’ve been on streaks a lot longer than this. These guys won 17 in a row one year. That part of it isn’t a novelty to our team. We’re a veteran team and we’re trying to become a great team."
The team is only focused on daily progression and improvements, they're also focused on worrying about their game and not the opponents. The purpose of that mindset is to deter from playing up and down based off of the competition, staying on an even keel for as long as possible.
Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban are on the same page in terms of where the team is thriving and where it needs improvement. "Sometimes we say, this is what it takes to win this game," Cuban said. "And that’s my biggest concern with this team. We try to win games instead of focusing on executing 48 minutes so that we’re championship caliber. But that’s been my concern with every team."
With the way the team is looking and their winning ways, don't look for the Mavericks to make a deal unless they're swept off their feet with an offer. The team is winning and doing so in a new way, but the team not getting respect for their results. Dallas' results over previous seasons leave many in the national media very skeptical to jump on the team's bandwagon. When asked if those "experts" would believe in the team if they could extend their streak to 20 or more games, Cuban gave a witty response, "I'd like to find out," he said.
The Mavericks came out talking the talk and they are currently walking the walk. They might not have the national media's attention...they do have the league's attention though .