1)Dirk Nowitzki's shooting
"Dirk's back," said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. "He is all the way back." Rick, you ain't lyin'. Dirk torched the nets this week, shooting a fantastic percentage in possibly his most efficient two-game stretch since his knee injury in January. Against the Kings, Dirk shot 6-of-10 (60%) from the field and nailed his only three-point attempt. The next night in Phoenix, Dirk had a vintage performance, dropping 13-of-18 (72%) from the field and 3-of-3 from deep for 35 points. His knee looked great, his wrist looked great, and the Suns paid the price. Dirk's hot shooting didn't quite carry over into the All-Star Game (3-of-8 for 6 points), but he did drop a few ultra-smooth jumpers, including a pretty fadeaway from the baseline. Nothing new.
2) Brendan Haywood
Bet you didn't think Big Wood would be showing up on a Hot list anytime soon, but we have to give credit where it's due. In moderate minutes this week, Haywood produced more than he has for most of the season. Against Sacramento, Wood was 5-of-8 (63%) for 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also keyed a second-quarter Mavs push and sported a salty +/- of +21. Against Phoenix, Haywood was productive in just 10 minutes, notching 7 points on 3-of-4 (75%) shooting and 5 rebounds. Some Mavs fans may have even wondered why Wood didn't get more burn against the Suns. His free-throw shooting continues to be a glaring issue (3-of-9 this week), but at this point, it's nice to see him contributing.
3) Rodrigue Beaubois hype
The young Mavs phenom made his much-anticipated season debut this week, and the results were fairly promising. Against Sacramento, Beaubois entered the game about two minutes into the first quarter, receiving a rousing ovation from the American Airlines Center crowd. He quickly showed why, dazzling with a couple nifty drives to the hoop. Beaubois finished the game with 13 points on 6-of-13 (46%) shooting, 6 assists, and 3 steals. In Phoenix, Beaubois was plugged into the starting lineup. He notched 9 points on 4-of-10 shooting, 2 assists, and 1 steal. And he again showed a penchant for getting into the paint, a dimension the Mavs have lacked for some time.
For all the early-season hype about the Mavs' improved defense, the last several weeks have been disappointing. A concerning downward trend continued this week, as the Mavs gave up 100 points on 49% shooting to Sacramento and 106 points on 51% shooting to Phoenix. The Mavs are now a middling 12th in the league in defensive efficiency, considerably behind every other contending team (the Los Angeles Lakers are the next-lowest at 8th). Truth is, despite all the talk of Tyson Chandler and an invigorated defensive mentality, this season is looking a lot like last season in terms of defensive slippage after the new year. Hopefully that changes before April.
2) Rodrigue Beaubois's conditioning
Understandably, Beaubois didn't step on the court this week in prime game shape, having not played competitive basketball since August. He looked gassed early and often, typically spending ball-stoppages with his hands on his hips and gasping for breath. His game rust showed in his defensive play, too, as he committed nine personal fouls in just two games and had trouble staying in front of his man, especially during the second halves. Beaubois spent the All-Star weekend working on his conditioning, and we'll likely see substantial improvement in the next week or two. Those first couple weeks of returning to game action are always the most difficult, and surely Roddy has the athletic talent (not to mention youthful exuberance) to regain peak conditioning form in no time.
We'll abstain from a third Cold item because the Mavs were undefeated (2-0!) this week. See you next Monday.