The Dallas Mavericks (2-3) host the New Orleans Hornets (3-2) Monday night, looking to bounce back after a frustrating loss in Atlanta. Whether the team was demoralized after the recent news of Dirk Nowitzki undergoing knee surgery or simply disinterested because it was a preseason game, moving forward Dallas needs to focus on taking care of the ball on offense and protecting the rim defensively.
The Hornets started their off-season by trading centers Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards in exchange for forward Rashard Lewis, who was later bought out. That was followed by the selection of Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the number one over-all pick, Duke guard Austin Rivers with the 10th pick, and Darius Miller (another Kentucky forward) with the 45th pick. Following the draft, the Hornets traded away Gustavo Ayon to the Magic in exchange for forward Ryan Anderson. The Hornets next re-signed guard Eric Gordon, having matched an offer sheet made to Gordon by the Phoenix Suns. Finally, the Hornets were involved in a three team trade with Minnesota and Phoenix, which resulted in center Robin Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick being sent to New Orleans.
What the Hornets have at the moment is not entirely clear. Their roster is young and filled with talented, multi-position players. The addition of the best defensive college player in over a decade in Davis makes New Orleans intriguing at the very least. However, Eric Gordon has been unable to suit up this pre-season, having experienced knee pain in the same knee which caused him to miss all but nine games last season. Similar to Dallas, what the Hornets are capable of is challenging to predict after such a thorough roster makeover.
Monday night Dallas will once again look to get their turnovers under control. Since returning from their European trip, the team is averaging 18.3 turnovers a game. O.J. Mayo has had a particularly hard time with the ball the last two games, averaging 3.5 turnovers despite only being on the floor for 26 minutes each game. Elton Brand will also look to get back on track after a frustrating game in which he shot poorly, got into foul trouble early, and even managed to foul out despite only playing 21 minutes. Shawn Marion hopes to re-establish his efficient play after he was forced to be a focal point in the Dallas offense and committed 5 turnovers in limited action. The Mavericks will also look to regain their team shooting touch, as they've shot 41% from the field in these last two losses.
On the bright side, Dallas will hopefully see continued solid play from rookie Jae Crowder. Crowder has impressed early with his energy and hustle; the last three pre-season games he is averaging 3.66 steals per game. Vince Carter has also been steady. His shot was not falling against the Hawks, yet he managed to get to the free throw line seven times. I'd also like to see what Jared Cunningham can do with a few more minutes a game. He plays very hard, finishes well around the rim, and has good form on his shot. Finally, look for point guard Darren Collison to keep the offense in a rhythm; he's managed to post respectable assist numbers in limited minutes the last two games (5.5 apg) despite the team shooting so poorly.
Things will start to click for the Dallas offense, it might simply take time. Defense is another issue. Its hard to take away anything from a game where there were 64 fouls called between both teams, clearing challenging the Dallas big man rotation. As per the usual, look for emphasis on communication on defense and protecting the paint against a young and athletic New Orleans front court.
*As of this writing, it's unclear whether Chris Kaman will suit up Monday night.