The Dallas Mavericks hosted the Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night, and on a night that began with a “hello” to some new faces, it ended with a farewell to a familiar one.
BARNES TRADED TO KINGS
I know I’ve been critical of Harrison Barnes at times, but I admit it was sad to see Barnes on the bench to end the game, as word leaked that the Mavs had traded him to Sacramento in what is essentially a pure salary dump. Dallas will reportedly take back Justin Jackson, a former mid-first round pick, and the expiring contract of Zach Randolph. Barnes arrived in Dallas at one of the franchise’s lowest points, and on a bad team devoid of talent was burdened with the responsibility of taking over the mantle of lead scorer from the greatest player in team history. It was not an easy position to be in, and Barnes carried himself with class and grace at all times. I did not always enjoy watching his particularly style of basketball, but as a human being he seemed first rate, and hopefully now he will get a chance to be a part of a real playoff chase in Sacramento(yes, I just typed that sentence).
LUKA NOTCHES HIS THIRD TRIPLE-DOUBLE
The shots weren’t falling for Luka tonight, as the Slovenian Sensation went 5-20 from the field and 2-10 from deep, but a big part of Luka’s appeal is that even without making it rain he can affect the outcome of a game. Luka finishes with his third triple-double(he was already the first teenager ever with two), with 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He was +9 on the night. The 10th assist came after banging knees with Cody Zeller, causing Luka to limp noticeably yet still pull of a spin move and drop off pass to Dwight Powell in traffic for an easy finish.
DALLAS’ NEW FACES MAKE THEIR DEBUT
We didn’t get to see everyone tonight - Kristaps Porzingis is still rehabbing and Courtney Lee was curiously a DNP - but Dallas fans did get a first look at a couple of new faces, including Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. Hardaway had 12 points on 16 shots, but demonstrated some serious ups, with a pair of alley oop slams. Not something we were accustomed to seeing Wes Matthews do. With Barnes gone, Hardaway may be elevated to the starting lineup. Burke, meanwhile, went scoreless in 4 minutes, with one board and one assist. A college teammate of Hardaway, Burke has a lot of experience running pick and roll, so he figures to be a solid fit in the Dallas offense.
MAVS’ UNDRAFTED PAIR CONTINUE TO SHINE
With Kristaps Porzingis set to become a restricted free agent, undoubtedly most of the attention will be focused there, but perhaps almost as important will be the Mavs’ decision on two other soon to be RFA’s: Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith. The two have climbed from the ranks of the undrafted to become serious contributors for Dallas, and I would argue near-essential pieces to help bolster team depth going forward. DFS was a monster attacking the rim tonight, finishing with 15-10(including five offensive rebounds). Kleber started at center and provided an efficient, no-frills game, continually demonstrating how useful he is switching onto smaller players and keeping them out of the lane. He may be the favorite to replace Barnes as the defacto power forward next season, as his skillset could be a really nice fit in between stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Dallas will get Thursday off before taking on the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night. The Bucks, by the way, just had a 50 point quarter and were at 140 points midway through the 4th quarter before easing off the gas and ‘only’ finishing with 148 against Washington. So, that’ll be fun!