The preseason is winding down for the Dallas Mavericks. Rejoice, all. The season opener will be here before you know it.
More on that next week, though. As for this week's roundtable, there have been a few headlines regarding the Mavs, and it called for some discussion.
The only thing we didn't talk about was Chandler Parsons being fat, even though that's probably the most
useless news-worthy thing going in Mavs camp right now.
For this week's roundtable, I'm joined with Kirk Henderson and Kate Crawford to talk all things in the news. Thanks to them for participating. Let's get started.
1. One of the Mavs' many surprises during the summer league, Yuki Togashi, was signed by Dallas earlier this week and will get a shot with the Texas Legends this year. From what you've heard or seen, what do you like about Togashi's game, and does the 5-foot-7 Japan native have a shot of staying with the organization for awhile?
Kirk: The Yuki signing is yet another in a long line of signings that show the Mavericks have no interest in using it to develop any more than 1-2 guys a season. If the Legends bring back Paul Sturgess (he's 7'8" and terrible at basketball), then the Legends will have two dudes who might sell tickets, but should never see the floor. That aside, Togashi isn't a bad basketball player. He has a good handle, takes big shots, and seems to understand that he's at an extreme disadvantage defensively when he's on the floor. I don't really see any long term value in having him anywhere, unfortunately.
Kate: Maybe he has a shot of staying in the D-League for a few seasons, but I think he has no shot at playing in the NBA, so I’m not sure why he’d want to stick around. I’m not an expert in international basketball, but the average player salaries in Japanese professional leagues are higher than they are in the D-League. The average player in the league Togashi used to play in makes $40,000 or $50,000 a year, twice the maximum D-League salary, and stars can make more. I totally get the appeal of the NBA, and it sounds like the Japanese leagues have their problems, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to Japan.
Danny: Togashi was a pleasant surprise. For whatever it's worth, I thought he performed much better than Gal Mekel in Las Vegas. That doesn't necessarily translate to a roster spot as the new fourth point guard for the Mavs, He has crafty ball-handling skills for a guy his size, while also having the ability to make some tough shots. He'll be like Ricky Ledo: a project that will take more than a couple of years to develop. But everyone likes a good story, especially with a short NBA player, and just like with Nate Robinson, people will find a way to gravitate towards Togashi.
2. Dirk was in the news this week, and it wasn't because Rick Carlisle called him fat. Dirk says that he would favor a shorter season, rather than the 82 games. Should the NBA reduce its season? Or is this Dirk just wanting fewer games so that he may be around for a longer time, because we never want him to retire ever?
Kate: I think that’s exactly what Dirk wants, and I don’t blame him at all. I like the idea of fewer minutes each season (either cutting minutes from 82 games or reducing the number of games played) because I’d be happy to see good players able to stick around for more seasons. Earlier this week, Erik Spoelstra also suggested eliminating back-to-backs since those can be so tough on players, which I think makes sense. I think even the most dedicated fans tend to get a little worn down close to the end of the season, so restructuring the season in a way that creates fewer but higher stakes games that put less stress on the players each year sounds like a win for both fans and athletes.
Danny: I agree it doesn't need to take 82 games to determine who the top-8 teams in the NBA are, like Dirk suggested. However, it's not like the NBA has been working with 82-game schedules since 2002 or something like that. This has been going on since the days of Bill Russell. Michael Jordan dominated the league for years without needing a shorter schedule. And the Chicago Bulls even made history with an 82-game season. I do like Spoelstra's idea of eliminating back-to-backs. But the San Antonio Spurs have found ways to win championships with an 82-game schedule. There's history involved with 82 games. There should be no reason to change it.
Kirk: The NBA should consider reducing the volume of games, but only just so. Three games a week over the same time period would mean 72 games a season and I think that's enough. Getting rid of back to backs would be huge for quality of play in the NBA as well. Dirk's just been around long enough to acknowledge that the volume of play hurts the quality of play.
3. Speaking of Dirk, we got a glimpse of his quicker shot release earlier this week. He looks to be in midseason form already. A two-part question: How much should we care that Dirk has a quicker release to his jumper, and if it is such a big deal, how realistic is it that he can have as great an offensive year as last year?
Danny: It's a big risk to make a change to your game that has been so dominant for 16 years. Dirk is trying new things, and after the Indiana game last week, that new release looks even more deadly. Then he struggled against Cleveland on Friday night. At first, I didn't think it'd be so noticeable, but this is going to take some time. Dirk has played in only two preseason games, so hopefully fans don't expect so much, so quick.
Kirk: My initial reaction was "So?", but then I got a taste during the game against Cleveland. I think it's pretty important and we should care a good amount, mainly because Dirk's been pretty honest about the fact that he can't put the ball on the floor like he used to. He said on a Bill Simmons podcast last year that his legs have weakened just enough as he's aged that he can drive to the hoop (and be effective) like he did even 3 years ago. So getting his shot up faster, when he has these hard close outs, is pretty important. As to his year statistically, I suspect it will be about the same. Dirk's per game numbers are remarkably similar throughout his career and since the team is primed to be an offensive juggernaut, he's going to get plenty of chances.
Kate: It’s always awesome to see how the great older players will do whatever it takes to stay at the top of their game, from the fundamental (Tim Duncan is working on his jump shot) to the kind of out there (whatever it is Kobe’s doing over the offseason). And I do think it’s reasonable to be optimistic about his offense this year. Kirk Goldsberry had an amazing breakdown of Dirk’s 2013-14 shooting showing just how amazing he was last year, but at 36, he’s wise to be looking for any advantage he can get.
4. The Mavs played the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, and saw a familiar face in Shawn Marion. Rick Carlisle called him one of the best Mavs ever. When you think of the Matrix, what comes to mind?
Kirk: Grit. The dude was a warrior for 5 years in Dallas and a key reason that Dallas won 2011 AND didn't fall apart in years that followed. His career is just so interesting and how he changed his game as he aged is really impressive. He was a superstar in Phoenix and adapted to become the blue collar player for the Mavericks. He did everything. We're going to miss him this year and I really hope he gets honored in some way by the Mavericks down the road.
Kate: Defense! Guys who are so versatile on that end of the floor are always a lot of fun to watch. Also, this Jonathan Tjarks piece was obviously about Steve Nash, but I loved the section reminding us what an amazing player Marion’s been on both ends of the court.
Danny: The fact that, even as he got older, he always competed on every play. He never took a play off. 'Trix was the kind of the guy that always made defense a No. 1 priority. He'll go down as the starting small forward on a championship team that, if not for him, Dallas may not have a championship banner. It's tough to say if he'll go down as one of the greatest Mavericks of all time, but he will, and should be, honored in the right way.