As my Dallas Mavericks Dancer Calendar, a holiday gift, flips to 2011, there are numerous things I would like to see for the Dallas Mavericks. It's crazy to imagine that the season is almost halfway over but we're nearly there. With this time of the year, the games take a stronger importance, the intensity goes up and the trade deadline looms. The latter creates a sense of uncertainty around the league and the balance of power in the league could be shifted in a new direction.
A team with the 24-7 record with plenty of room for growth is a team in a much better situation, they could be 7-24 with plenty of room for growth. There are quite a few things to look for in 2011 to finish out the season and everyone loves a list. Some of these are realistic, some are silly and maybe all of them have a realistic chance of happening. Either way, these are just a few things I am looking out for.
10. JJ Barea Needs to Rediscover his three-point shot.
We all know that Barea is a pest on defense and he can bring value to the Mavericks on offense with his ability to penetrate and get to the rim. Barea is a career 33% shooter from three-point range, he is shooting 14% from beyond the arc this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the lowest percentage from beyond the arc among NBA players with at least 50 3-point attempts. Barea has spent plenty of time after practices working on his mechanics with the three-point shot. Eventually the numbers will balance out, hopefully it's sooner rather than later.
9. DeShawn Stevenson's Participation in the Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend
People knew that Stevenson was known as a tough-minded defender but who honestly believed "Threevenson" would be the second best shooter from three-point range going into this season? At 49.4% from beyond the arc, DeShawn Stevenson is breathing down the neck of San Antonio's Matt Bonner for the title of the league's best sharpshooter from long distance. "The way he's responded has just been phenomenal," said Rick Carlisle. "It's been a very underrated part of our season." Stevenson should be recognized by the league for his results and receive and invitation for the shootout during All-Star Weekend.
8. The Minutes Management Project Needs to Stay on Track
The big issue over the course of the season was making sure Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd were preserved over the grind of the regular season so they could be fresh for the playoffs. Jason Kidd is currently averaging 33 minutes/game, down a full 3 minutes from last season. If those numbers hold, it would mark a new career-low in terms of average minutes played for Kidd. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 35.4 minutes/game, down a full 2 minutes from last season. If Nowitzki's numbers are maintained, the 35.4 minutes/game would be the lowest total for the MVP candidate since his second year in the league (1999-2000, 35.8 minutes/game). Those don't sound like radical changes but when you put them in those historical perspectives, the Mavericks are setting themselves to accomplish their goal. A healthy and fresh Nowitzki and Kidd should do wonders for the Mavericks.
7. Jason Terry's Swagger Needs to Arrive Before the 4th Quarter
No one will forget the 19 point 4th quarter outburst Terry had in Miami against the Heat. With recent similar performances against the Magic and Thunder, the Jet has now been known as "The Closer." Terry is a league leader, along with Dirk Nowitzki, in fourth quarter points. The closing numbers are great but the Mavericks will need Jason Terry to perform just as well in quarters one through three.
6. Dirk Nowitzki's New Catchphrase Needs to Become Epically Huge
Thanks again to dallasmavs2006 for giving us this Dirk Gold while broadcasting during the third quarter of the Toronto Raptors game. It's funny, over the past week I've been thinking about the "Be There" slogan the Mavericks have been promoting this season. It's simple and works, but "Take Dat Wit Chew" is clearly marketing genius plucked out of the heavens. The team has taken on a new identity this year, "swagger" is definitely a major component of this year's Mavericks squad. I have said on multiple occasions that phrase is now the Mavericks Swagger Call-Out, it's even my text-tone now. It even got featured in a quick montage during a timeout in the Spurs game. Dallas Mavericks Marketing Team, the ball is in your court.
5. Caron Butler Needs to Have Plenty of Tough Juice
A back injury derailed Caron Butler during the early part of the season and it appears that Butler is hitting his stride. “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do,” said Butler. “I stayed the course, and I’m getting rewarded.” Butler's reward has been in the form of his shooting numbers improving as each month in the season go by. He also appears to have found his groove in the "flow offense." The Mavericks have been searching for a capable running mate with Nowitzki. If Butler can continue to stay the course, Dallas may have found their man.
4. Great Results for Roddy Beaubois
The return date for much-anticipated debut for the second year guard out of France still remains a mystery, but everyone in the Mavericks universe have high expectations for Beaubois. His role within the team also remains a mystery. Despite the wait and the unknown, the Mavericks still believe he's a piece that will be very valuable to the roster. "He’s a guy that we feel fits in," Carlisle said when describing Beaubois. "We feel that he’s a different kind of weapon." The potential is definitely there with the kid, now we just need to see it.
3. Continued Health and Success for Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler has yet to miss a game this season, further validation that the big man came into the season 100% healthy. In my opinion, Chandler's influence towards the Mavericks' defensive mindset makes him the most important Maverick with Dirk Nowitzki being the most valuable Maverick; Jason Kidd could fall in line as a 1B along Chandler. Nowitzki made the comparison of Chandler's arrival to Kevin Garnett's arrival to Boston, "I don't think Ray [Allen] or Paul Pierce were great defenders before K.G. got there," Nowitzki said. "But, K.G., with his energy, his defense, his mentality and his high-octane self, he kind of changed the whole momentum on the defense. I think that's what Tyson did here." It's hard to dispute Nowitzki's assessment. The sky is the limit for the Mavericks defense, just as long as Chandler remains healthy.
2. Rick Carlisle Deserves Recognition for His Work
The Mavericks possess a stable of quality depth and it's led to an elite win total at this point of the regular season. Rick Carlisle has been the mastermind in more ways than one. "This isn't going to be about role definition. It's going to be about role acceptance," Carlisle said prior to the beginning of the season. The coach has managed his talent-filled roster about as well as one could imagine. He's dealt with issues along the way but they have never escalated to anything above a minor blip on the radar. There has been the speculation of feuding between the coach and Brendan Haywood but both parties appear to be on the same page, even if the minutes aren't to Haywood's liking. To Haywood's credit, he's been a vocal/supportive member of the team from the bench and he's working before and after the game to keep his cardio in form. Based on the results, it's not out of the realm of possibilities that Carlisle could garner Coach of the Year consideration. Carlisle won the award during the 2001-2002 season as he coached the Detroit Pistons to a 50-32 record.
1. The Mavericks Need to Listen to the Coach and their Owner
The common trend you've heard over the season is the emphasis on focusing on themselves rather than their opponent. That mindset allows the Mavericks to focus on progression and improvement and avoid the pitfalls the regular season can present, an issue that has emerged a couple of times over the season. “We can’t be that way,” Mark Cuban said. “We’ve got to learn to compete against ourselves to be the best that we can be. If we do that, then I’m going to be singing our praises every which way." Those words have been preached by Rick Carlisle all season and to this point, Cuban is happy with the coach's results in that regard. So if he's happy with the coach, the issue now falls on the hands of the players themselves. Cuban said, “When we learn that’s what we have to do to win a championship, at least in my opinion, I think we’re going to be unstoppable. But we’re not there yet.”
The Mavericks were impressive in 2010, they're going to need to buy into what the front office is selling in order for 2011 to be a magical year.