Bumps in the road, they're expected, folks.
The Mavericks lost their first game of the preseason Tuesday in Spain, losing to the talented and experienced FC Barcelona 99-85. There were spurts of good things from the new Mavericks, but the offense was mostly dreadful and the defense just a few steps behind.
The first half was competitive. Dallas trailed 42-40 at halftime and the game was back and forth through the first two quarters. The Mavericks fed the ball to Chris Kaman and Elton Brand in the first half, with great results. Kaman looked very sharp and displayed a variety of post moves: he scored facing up, with a little jump hook and both popped and rolled pick and roll plays effectively. There have been lots of inconsistent play in these first two preseason games, but Kaman appears the most ready to roll when the season starts.
Brand also joined the act, starting in place of Dirk Nowitzki, who had some slight swelling in his knee. I found it interesting that Rick Carlisle went with Brand instead of starting Vince Carter and moving Shawn Marion to the four. Instead it was Brand and he had a nice six-point first quarter. His pick and pop game fits right into the Mavericks offense and he showed some nice isolation and post up skills in the first half as well.
The second half wasn't as smooth. It was downright ugly. The Mavericks failed to continue any positive momentum from the first half and looked a little slow on defense, as Barcelona always seemed one dribble or one pass ahead of the Mavericks defense. The offense dried up, the outside shooting was bad and the turnovers crept up again. It wasn't a surprise to see Barcelona with an 18-point lead at one point -- they were thoroughly dominating the glass in all phases of the game.
Carlisle went to some reserves, like rookie Jared Cunningham, and the Mavericks trimmed the lead to six at one point in the fourth. Carlisle then went back to some regulars (Brand, Mayo, Carter) but Dallas wasn't able to get over the hump as Barcelona sprung off a kick run backed by some three-point shooting to push the lead back to double digits.
No panic necessary. The Mavericks lost to a very talented and experienced Barcelona team on the road that has dominated the Spanish and Euro leagues for some time now. They've also had two previous wins against NBA squads in preseason action before, so it's not too surprising.
The main part is the process and seeing how players are settling in and interacting on the court. There were enough signs to show Dallas will be a formidable team once the regular season is ready, but clearly, there is work to be done. Let's break down the players:
Chris Kaman: Kaman was the brightest spot for the Mavericks, going 5 of 10 to score 15 points. He went 5 of 8 from the free throw line and found himself in plenty of scoring positions. The Mavericks made an effort to get the ball inside without Dirk Nowitzki and Kaman performed well. He knocked down some short jumpers, had some nice post moves and finished well on pick and roll plays. His defense still leaves a lot to be desired and he just wasn't mobile enough to stay with Barcelona's active bigs. Luckily, Kaman at least knows how to clog the lane and adjust shots well in the paint, but the pick and roll defense won't be fantastic with Kaman.
Elton Brand: A herky-jerky game from Brand. He started off making his first three shots -- a pick and pop jumper, a turnaround jumper in the post and a nice dunk after facing up and driving by his defender. From there, Brand missed a lot of good looks and finished 5 of 12 from the field. Nothing too much to worry about, I'm sure Brand will knock down those shots in the future as long as he keeps getting good looks. He was very assertive on offense, which was pleasant, but his rebounding once again was no where to be seen. Only three boards in 32 minutes after no rebounds against Alba Berlin. Brand isn't an elite rebounder, but he isn't a horrible one. Hopefully this sways back to the norm, but without Jason Kidd grabbing his four-six rebounds a game, the big men on Dallas really need to step up. If Brand continues to put up poor rebounding numbers, Dallas will consistently find itself being dominated on the glass, like today (52-40).
Darren Collison: Collison has a much better feel for the game than I previously thought, despite his 4 to 3 assists to turnovers against Barcelona. He seems to know when to drive, when to kick it out and when to bring the ball back out and reset the play very well. He's also so devilish in transition. Anytime Collison received an outlet pass, it was off to the races and he had some nice plays on the break, a far cry from Jason Kidd. His jumper has always looked this good, so him knocking down some mid-range jumpers wasn't surprising. The most alarming part of Collison's game seems to be his post entry pass. He threw away the ball at least two times by my count trying to deliver a pass to a posting up big and at least had another knocked away but grabbed by a Maverick teammates. I'm not sure if this has been a knock on Collison for a while, but it drastically needs to improve with a Dirk-led offense. Collison finished with 14 points on 10 shots.
O.J. Mayo: A complete disaster. Luckily, this is preseason, so Mayo's performance doesn't have to come under fire, but it was simply a horrible display. In two preseason games so far, Mayo doesn't seem to have a clue on what type of player should he be -- he constantly switched from supplementary playmaker, spot-up specialist and isolation hero throughout the game and none of the roles worked. Mayo started out with a nice assist in the pick and roll to Brand for a score but after that, it was nothing. He was 0 for 7 from the field with a majority of his shots coming after a hesitation or wasting a dribble. Mayo needs to be more assertive in his shot-taking and either take the shot when he's open immediately or pass and set up another play. Instead Mayo held onto the ball for a pump fake or two before launching an ill-advised shot. He was really Caron Butler-esque, in that regard.
Shawn Marion: Another typical Matrix game: 10 points, six rebounds, a few awkwardly missed shots and some great defense. Marion looks to be in regular season form.
Vince Carter: Carter's hilarious old-man-drives will never get old. Other than that, he had five points and didn't really do too much on offense, apart from some drives to the basket. One important note, however, was Carter grabbing five rebounds. As mentioned with Brand, the Mavericks are going to desperately need some rebounding if the bigs aren't getting it done and Carter did a good job fighting for some lose balls and hustling for some rebounds.
Delonte West: West had six points on 3 of 4 shooting, but the offense got noticeably sloppier when he checked in for Collison in the first quarter. The Mavericks looked like they were playing without a point guard, just running and chucking when West came into the game. This is where West needs to improve as the initiator of the offense and settle everyone down to get some better looks in the half court. He also had three turnovers and one assist.
Brandan Wright: Not Wright's best night as he finished with four points on 1 of 7 shooting. It was nice to see him back on the court but he wasn't up to his standards today. He missed a bunch of looks around the rim but did grab six rebounds.
Dominique Jones: I feel we could copy paste the same review for every Jones summer league and preseason game, so I'll start the template here: "Looked good running the point, had some nice finds in the half court. Couldn't finish at the rim and his jumper still looks like flaming dog turd."
Jared Cunningham: Cunningham made his Mavericks debut and showed some nice energy and some great athleticism. He scored seven quick points, made a three and had a nice two-handed dunk in transition. Cunningham's jumper looks so much more fluid than Jones but Cunningham spent most of his time off the ball, working in tandem with Jones. I still see him as a puzzling fit on a roster filled with combo guards, but he looked good today.
Dahntay Jones: Jones was called for a technical, and scored four points in six minutes and ran the floor well. Yep, sounds like Dahntay Jones.
Jae Crowder: Crowder only got five minutes of playing time and didn't really do much of anything with the limited minutes except show off his BOUNDLESS ENERGY.
Josh Aragorn...er...Akognon: He played five minutes...felt more like one. He did immediately rip off a three-pointer when he checked in.