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Whither Bernard James?

Streeter Lecka

Mavericks fan have an interesting position, in that no one can really deny how good a coach Rick Carlisle is, and at the same time, he makes more decisions than leaves fans shaking their heads than most coaches out there. If the alchemy of coaching were easy enough for the rest of us to understand, it'd be a little easier to get a good coach. So we don't doubt. But we are...curious.

And one of the really curious things is that, while Dom Jones keeps getting pt here and there despite his inability to make a layup, while Jae Crowder is still averaging nearly 20 minutes a game, despite shooting 26% in December (not a misprint), Bernard James, before last night's extended run in Miami, could not, and cannot seem to hit the court.

It's not that we know that Bernard James is going to perform well, or even decently. He's looked good in some limited minutes, bad in others. It's not that we doubt that these decisions are being made because of practices, and have reasoning behind them.

It's that the Mavericks have an unbelievably huge, constant problem either rebounding or protecting the rim. And Bernard James is the only player on the team who might be able to help. In fact, in many ways, he might already be the best player on the Mavericks at both those things.

Small-sample size theater. But according to, in 39 possession, Bernard James is allowing .72 points per play on defense, good for 37th in the league. Chris Kaman is allowing .8 in 116 possessions. James is allowing a shooting percentage of 33%, Kaman 39%. In iso situations, James is allowing 33% to Kaman's 53%. While Kaman is allowing the roll man on a pick and roll paly to score 57.1% of the time, James is allowing it 33% of the time. yes, in a super small-sample size (3). But Kaman's horrific pick and roll defense is neither a small sample size, nor surprising to anyone with eyes.

Rebounding? James leads the league in rebounding percentage, grabbing 17.8% of available rebounds.You have to go down to 4th, after Elton Brand (16.4) and Shawn Marion (15) to find Chris Kaman (13.9). Now Kaman, of course, is up against starting centers and James typically isn't, but there's no good reason to think this is an anomaly.

One could argue, in fact, that though the team desperately needs Kaman's offense, both James and, surprisingly, Elton Brand are better choices in terms of providing the Mavericks with what centers need to do. It may be hard to believe, but Brand's defensive presence has actually stellar this season. In three times as many plays as James, he's allowing just .75 points per play, and 36.1% shooting. Tyson Chandler, as a point of reference, is only doing a little better--as well as James--at .72 per play and s allowing a better shooting percentage (38.5%). Maybe, with that defense and rebounding, you wouldn't need Kaman's offense so much.

(Perhaps needless to say, Wright trails the other three centers in both defending and rebounding)

James is, of course, raw. And too many nights, Kaman's shooting is all the Mavericks have. He's operating at a very high, and may it be said un-Kaman-like, offensive efficiency. I'm not suggesting it's a good idea to get rid of one in bring in the other. But Kaman is currently playing less than 26 minutes a game, there is plenty of time for James to get some minutes, and Brand, for that matter, as well.

It seems like a square peg for a square hole situation, especially after last night's 12-9-3 with 1 TO and 1 PF against a team, the Heat, that otherwise had the Mavs' number in every particular. And that number included 5 O-boards.For whatever reason, it hasn't been.

But perhaps last night was the start of something.