Let’s Put the Mavericks in Their Place

Published: February 20, 2008

We kick off a Texas Tri-Step today, taking on Dallas before fighting Houston and San Antonio in a back to back pair of games this weekend.  This is the beginning of a long stretch of games against mostly winning opponents that will extend through the end of March.

It's time for the team to be tested.

Tonight's Game Preview:
Mavericks (35-18) @ Hornets (36-15)
Off Efficiency: Mavs 108.4(5th), Hornets 108.0(7th)
Def Efficiency: Mavs 103.3(13th), Hornets 101.5(6th)
Opposing Blogger: Mavs Moneyball

I've once again traded questions with another blogger – this time with Wes over at Mavs Moneyball.  I purposely avoided questions about the on-off-on-off-on Jason Kidd trade, because you'd have to be living under a rock to have not heard about it.  Still, just in case living under a rock is your thing, Jason Kidd and Antoine Wright were traded to the Mavericks for Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, draft picks and spare parts. 

Jason Kidd Happy 

I'm a little worried about it because Kidd is a proven tanker when he's unhappy.  When he was trying to get Byron fired, he had one of the worst half-seasons of his career.  After Byron was gone, he suddenly exploded and led his team to 10 straight wins.  So I have to wonder if he was doing the same thing in Jersey this season, and will suddenly remember how to play hard.  Although I don't think he can defend CP3 any longer – he may make that already potent Mav's offensive attack even more deadly.

While Kidd is expected to play tonight, Howard and Stackhouse have missed the last couple games with minor nagging injuries.  It looks like Howard will play, but Stackhouse is still a game time decision.

For the Hornets, Morris Peterson said his back is feeling great for the first time in a while.  Good. we need you, Mo.

On to the questions:

Hornets247: Jason Terry served as a perfectly acceptable point guard for an excellent Mavericks squad for 3 years.  Suddenly everyone is acting like it's a horrible weakspot for the Mavs.  Did Terry suddenly forget how to dribble and pass to initiate an offense?

Mavs Moneyball: Well, he was always a shoot-first point guard and it seems pretty clear (given recent events) that Avery is looking for something else at that position.  Jason Terry started playing a lot of shooting guard last season and that has only increased this year.

Avery wants Terry to be scorer above everything else.

Hornets247: At one point or another I've heard Josh Howard called a shooter, ace defender, or clever slasher.  At times, I've also heard he needs to improve his shot, his defense, and his ability to create with the ball.  What is he?

Mavs Moneyball: He used to be slasher, but last year his jumpshot really improved and now he almost leans on it too much.  So really he's both, but he hasn't figured out when to do which.

He's not the defensive stopper some make him out to be, but he's far above average and the best on the team.

Basically he is really good at everything without being truly great at anything.

Hornets247: I've always cringed at the Mavs Shooting Guard position. At some point, do you think Cuban will give up on the Hassell's, George's, Eddie Jones' and even Stackhouse's of the world and bring in a complete player?

Mavs Moneyball: Those are Avery players.  He seemed to think that he had to have a veteran gritty defender starting along side Devin Harris.  Hassell was never even given a legitimate chance before getting shipped off to New Jersey.

I think all Mavs fans are frustrated with the options at shooting guard, but all the tradeable assets are gone and the luxury tax is far surpassed for a few more seasons.  I'm not sure I see the SG situation changing anytime soon.
Hornets247: Dallas's defense is 13th in efficiency, which is respectible but not what it was last year.  Anything you can point to as the cause?

Mavs Moneyball: The Mavs have been climbing up the defensive efficiency rankings over the last two months.  They are still trying to recover from the first month of the season where they were atrocious and allowing 100+ very consistently (as opposed to just 5 times in their last 22).

At the start of the season they just looked completely lost, like they had never played together.  Hopefully the recent trade doesn't set them back again.

Hornets247: Lastly – Avery Johnson.  He was hired to bring focus and toughness to this Mavericks team.  Do you think he has been successful? Do you think his style will wear thin?

Mavs Moneyball: He's certainly brought change, and the argument could easily be made he's the most successful coach the Mavs haver ever had.  But the focus hasn't been there this season, perhaps by design, and the toughness (mental and physical) isn't where he wants it to be.

Will his style wear thin?  Not unless they start losing.  He may yell a lot, but I've never heard anyone who has worked with him have anything negative to say.

Thanks again to Wes for the question exchange – be sure to visit his site and see the questions he asked about our beloved Hornets and my awe-inspiring answers.

I'm thinking we may lose this game – a combination of All-Star hangover and Jason Kidd honeymoon.   Therefore, I refuse to predict a final score.  You can though.

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