1. Tyson Chandler is really, really important to what Dallas wants to do this season
You're probably thinking "duh," but it's important to understand that his impact goes well beyond what the box score reflects. His eight points and ten rebounds were important, but he didn't get statistical credit for all of his back taps generating extra possessions*, his screens (and subsequent rolls to the hoop), and his general activity on defense. 2011 seems like such a long time ago but it took half a quarter to remember why we were all floored that Mark Cuban let Chandler go. Additionally, he brings the ability to communicate with everyone defensively. The other Mavericks were simply more active and quicker on rotations with Tyson on the floor.
*Chandler was credited with three offensive rebounds. Official NBA scorers will award him with the rebound off of a tip "if he makes a clean, direct tap-out to a teammate," according to this New York Times article. If a teammate corrals the rebound but has to chase after it, he is credited.
2. The Spurs are still really, really good
Despite missing three rotation players the Spurs hummed along like it was nothing, connecting on 14 open and contested three pointers in 28 attempts. Their ball movement was masterful and despite the improved defense from Dallas, it's going to take a lot of work to figure out how to stop it. Interestingly, the game plan for the Tuesday night loss was quite different from the playoff series. Back in April, the Mavericks switched everything in an attempt to shut down the open lanes that resulted from multiple San Antonio pick and rolls. On Tuesday the Mavs tried to fight over every screen and it left the San Antonio playmakers with plenty of options once the Dallas interior broke down. Additionally, I hate how good Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan still are.
3. The rotation may take a long time to sort itself out
With seven players seeing time off the bench against the Spurs, it's clear coach Rick Carlisle has a project on his hands in terms of sizing up the bench. When Greg Smith was the first man off the bench on Tuesday the general social media reaction was, "wait, what?" It's important to remember that Dallas has options this year and Smith was a better bet to defend against the Hall of Fame mix of strength, size, and skill that Tim Duncan has. San Antonio is not a good team to try interesting lineup combinations on because they exploit weaknesses with ease. There wasn't enough from last night's rotations to glean anything interesting about what happens for back up small forward and power forward positions as the Mavericks move ahead with the season.
4. Three guard line ups are a lot of fun
I don't have any statistical data to back this up (yet), but the three guard line up featuring Monta Ellis, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris is really enjoyable to watch on offense. Having three guys who can get to the cup and make plays forces the defense to gamble. Defensively, the line up was mixed at best (one assumption from the play-by-play announcer was that Carlisle countered with this to help keep up with the speed of the San Antonio ball movement). Personally, I think it's terrible on defense because neither Monta, Jameer or even Devin has good enough footwork to bother the better guards in the league. It's something Carlisle should use in spurts, but I hope it doesn't become a regular feature.
5. Chandler Parsons needs time.
I was furious with Chandler "Stand There" Parsons on Tuesday, because after an opening period dunk and some decent off-ball defensive plays, the shiny off-season acquisition for the Mavericks looked atrocious. He didn't get a few drives at the rim to fall and became a passive spectator, falling back to his Houston habit of standing on the three point line, hoping for a kick out. When he was directly involved in screen-roll situations, he always flared away after screening, never challenging the defense. Simply put, he's too good to be that ineffectual (5 points, 4 rebounds, 2-of-10 shooting).
The skill was there, as evidenced by the first quarter dunk after a screen and roll with Tyson Chandler. Heck, his three point shots all nearly fell (three of four went in and out). He'll get better. My overreaction wasn't entirely warranted (but let's be honest that his play was frustrating as hell). He really has no where to go but up after a lackluster performance.
Basketball is back everyone. Thank goodness.