To understand the Mavericks is to have solved the riddles of the universe. After losing their first three summer league contests in near embarrassing fashion, the 22-seed Mavs have now won two straight and have looked good doing it. This time, the victims were the D-League Select squad, who had no answer for a balanced attack from Dallas. The Mavericks won 104-88.
But we learned some things in the process. Join me, one last time, before I leave Vegas and miss tomorrow's game entirely:
1.) Justin Anderson's nickname is Simba!
When I put out a call for nicknames for the new rookie, I got a host of folks letting me know he already had a good one:
It's something from the Lion King, I really like the Lion King. Simba is just so relentless and he's just all about his family, and he's just really tough. Those are qualities I really liked and admired about him, and so I guess it stuck.
I must confess my first impression of the nickname was stupid and yet, as you read Anderson's explanation and consider how he plays, it really fits.
Oh, he also played some basketball tonight and still seems pretty darn good.
I was siting right behind Holly as she captured this dunk. Anderson is athletic and powerful. If Wes Mattews heals, the Mavs could have one of the better two-guard rotations in the entire league. His three point shot looks so pure. I can't imagine how well he's going to shoot when it's just a simple "catch-and-release" jump shot.
What's more, everyone here in Vegas has been really complimentary. That doesn't mean much, but there's a collective wisdom aspect when a number of experts all think positively about a player.
2.) Jeremy Tyler is intent on making me eat crow.
Three straight games where the journeyman player has turned up and out for the Mavericks. Grabbing a double-double is impressive considering the limited amount of time Tyler plays each game. As mentioned yesterday, I'd be willing to guess that Tyler has earned himself a camp invite from the Mavericks. But at this point I think he's earned interest from teams beyond Dallas. He's young (24 years old), big (seems to be about 6'11") and skilled. The problem is that Tyler has been this kind of enticing before. He's still such a gamble, even if it's at a low cost. The Mavericks may have some interesting decisions ahead.
3.) Things started turning around for Dallas when they played Bobby Ray Parks, Jr.
This may be over stating things, but Parks played a combined 13 minutes in the first three Dallas losses. In the past two victories, he's played 15 and 21 minutes. There has to be something to this as the Mavericks have moved away from Jordan Crawford and towards a line up of Kevin Pangos, Parks, and Anderson. 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals is pretty good for a guy who wasn't sniffing anything other than garbage time six days ago. He doesn't have one major skill for the next level, but right now his motor and willingness to do what's asked of him is really important for the Mavericks.
4.) The Mavericks may have been playing possum in the first three games.
Dallas is defending better as a team and running offensive sets with more wrinkles. Perhaps Caleb Canales was keeping certain offensive aspects of his offense hidden for a "playoff run". They look like a very different team than the one from earlier in the week which couldn't execute plays at all. I know it's more likely that Canales has hit upon some rotations that work.
It also helps that everyone on the team is just playing really good. They seem to be having fun too, with players celebrating each others successes and little things like pre-game handshake rituals. It's all a lot of fun and more than a bit bizarre.
The victory today puts the Mavericks into the tournament semi-fiinals. They have a day off before playing the San Antonio Spurs at a time to be decided.