We’re back with another edition of The Good and the Bad, looking back on what stood out from this week in Dallas Mavericks basketball. It might be darkest before the dawn, but this team has been in the dark for a while.
Even Luka Doncic, who has averaged 29 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists during the losing streak, has looked frustrated and even downright sorrowful lately. Here he was in the postgame press conference Saturday night:
We’re not sure who Kelly is or why he thinks he’s in Memphis, but we’re with you Luka — we’re waiting for the tide to come in. In moments during their game against the Phoenix Suns it looked like they were finally connecting some dots, only for those dots to disappear. But even in that loss, a heartbreaking fifth in a row, it felt like progress.
Here’s the good and the bad from this week.
Don’t overreact.— Josuélito (@J_Rich1) January 27, 2021
The evening before his return to the lineup after being held out nine games due to Covid-19, Josh Richardson tweeted “Don’t overreact.”
In the moment it read as assuring and perhaps even confident, but now it feels prophetic. Look, it’s tough to reinsert two starters and a primary rotation player after a lengthy absence. But this isn’t a normal injury, and the process of rehabilitating from it or regaining any sort of conditioning or level of play is unique. It can be difficult for all of us, as I’m sure it’s doubly so for the players, to step outside of this sports moment to remember that.
That isn’t to say the Mavericks haven’t been bad — and worse than just playing poorly, they look like maybe they don’t care. But it’s always healthy to keep a measured perspective. Whether Richardson was speaking to the moment of the team, or was just sharing some general wisdom, it’s nice to breathe in that message.
In the middle of the week the Mavericks were thrown in the middle of Hurricane Jazz, and were thrown around like the Washington Generals for the better part of 96 minutes over two games. This all with the red hot Utah Jazz holding star guard Donovan Mitchell out due to concussion protocol.
It was clear by watching the body language of the Mavericks that they may not have been fully engaged. But you never want to hear your star player throw those words out into the universe as Luka Doncic did after one of the games:
“I would say right not it’s looking like we don’t care, honestly, if we win games or not.”
For moments Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns the Mavericks brought a renewed energy, something Doncic even mentioned postgame, but it’s clear there are some chemistry and passion issues among the team. Hopefully this is more a case of enduring the challenges of a tough schedule and health setback, rather than a deeper locker room issue.
Early in the game Saturday night Tim Hardaway Jr. forced a steal and quickly moved into transition. Presented with a 2-on-1 against the undersized Chris Paul, Hardaway did what any smart NBA player would do: he threw the oop. The only problem is it was to captain of Team Ground Bound Luka.
As a basketball play in a competitive contest where you’re trying to score points and win it’s an awful idea. As a thing to watch and marvel at the thought process and decision making, it’s beautiful. Dear God, let my friends believe in me the way Tim believes in Luka’s vertical.
GOOD: Hustle and vision
For long stretches the last week the Mavericks haven’t shown much effort or pace. They’ve looked slow on rotations or help on defense, and because of that they’re giving up a lot of points. When you aren’t getting stops, you don’t even have the option to push in transition. But there’s no doubt the Mavericks need more of this.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s effort to recover off the screen and break up the lob attempt to DeAndre Ayton gave opportunity for pace. While the Mavericks don’t often play up-tempo, Doncic took advantage and threw a beautiful cross-court chest pass to Hardaway in the corner, and made the Suns pay. Maybe this style of play isn’t a mainstay of Mavericks basketball, but they do need to be opportunistic. That starts with getting stops.