Time to Mainstream the Mavericks
Just a couple things before the game preview.
First – the latest edition of the Bloggers Power Rankings is up over at SLC Dunk. I contributed commentary, of course, so go and enjoy when you get a chance.
This last weekend was the deadline for players to be waived so that they can be signed by another team and still be used in the playoffs. There were two useful players in Joe Smith and Drew Gooden who were cut loose, and two pretty crappy ones in Stromile Swift and Luther Head. All were snapped up, with the Hornets reportedly making an offer to Joe Smith that was spurned(unsurprisingly) in favor of the Cavaliers.
Missing out on Joe sucks a bit, but the one that really burns is the signing of Drew Gooden by San Antonio. Gooden is oblivious, making mistakes cheerfully and repeatedly, and you’d think that would be good, but there isn’t a team in the league more able at covering for a player’s mistakes and getting the most out of a flawed player than San Antonio. The Spurs had two weaknesses – small forward and backup big when Kurt Thomas’s old legs can’t carry him through the night. Now they have Gooden, who has always been a good rebounder, and is clearly an upgrade inside.
It’s also a no risk move for the Spurs, since Gooden is signed at the league minimum for the rest of the season. At worst, Popovich can’t get through to him, Gooden never leaves the bench, and the Spurs are still strong. At best, he listens to Popovich, moves his feet on defense, and limits his stupid 20-foot jumpshots, making him dangerous offensively as well.
Or maybe that should be the opposite – since it’s not exactly good for us if he listens to Popovich.
On to the game.
Matchup: Mavericks(37-24) @ Hornets(37-22)
Off Efficiency: Mavericks 106.3(9th), Hornets 106.8(8th)
Def Efficiency: Mavericks 104.1(13th), Hornets 103.5(10th)
Dallas has gone 6-4 over its last ten, with both good and bad losses in the mix. The most important bit to know is that their second best scorer, Jason Terry, only came back three games ago and has just started hitting his stride in the win last night over the Spurs. He’ll be in full flow against the Hornets, and he’ll probably torment them – he usually does.
In an amusing side note, Mark Cuban,the owner of the Mavericks delivered an ultimatum to his team two days ago, saying he’d make “sweeping changes” this summer if they didn’t start playing harder. Cuban, of course, is in denial after being suckered into a classic mistake: After being crushed by Wade and O’Neal in the Finals, he seems to think he needs to splurge on two big stars to win in the NBA, and was willing to sacrifice superior depth to obtain those players. The teams he fielded that were really good had solid starting lineups and would bring skilled scorers like Antawn Jamison, Devin Harris and Keith Van Horn off the bench to score. This current team has two big holes at the center and shooting guard, and only has two guys off the bench who should even play in the NBA.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that he thought Jason Kidd was still capable of being one of those stars. Wups.
The Hornets roll in on a 5-game winning streak, and the Mavericks don’t scare the Hornets. In fact, Chris Paul and David West seem to relish playing them. One thing to watch, however, is Paul’s recent play. His energy has been down the past few games, and I suspect from his sideline stretching that his groin is bothering him. In the past few games his jumpers have been clanging off the front of the rim, and his weakened explosion to the hoop has made his usual money floaters fall short. So if his first few shots clang front rim, we can probably expect he’ll not have his usual Maverick-killing night. If that happens, this game will be tough.
Hornets: Peja Questionable – I’m betting he not play.
PG: Jason Kidd v Chris Paul
Kidd was still considered a good point guard last year. Then he met Paul in the playoffs. I think CP3 broke him.
SG: Antoine Wright v Rasual Butler
Antoine Wright is terrible, and is a borderline rotation player, much less a starting player. He’s a poor shooter, a weak rebounder, and doesn’t draw many fouls. His defense is his calling card, but he’s not even as good at that as Rasual Butler is. Butler will see his usual series of open shots, and will knock them down. I also expect him to get get some beautiful drives because last game between the Hornets and Mavs, the Mavs tried to hide Jason Kidd defensively by having him guard Butler and putting Wright on Paul. Of course, that ended up with both Paul and Butler killing the Mavs. Let’s hope that game plan remains.
SF: Josh Howard v Julian Wright
I don’t think Peja will start tonight, and Byron Scott likes to keep his sixth man in a sixth man role, leaving Posey on the bench to start the game. That means it’s either Morris Peterson, Ryan Bowen or Julian Wright starting at the small forward position. I’m going to bet it’s Julian, since it’s his turn in Byron’s rotation to prove if he can or can’t contribute. Howard is a good player, and he will punish Julian when Julian starts watching the ball too much and forgets to guard him. I doubt Julian plays more than 15 minutes anyways.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki v David West
Dirk over his last five: 26.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 40 minutes, 51% Shooting.
David West over his last five: 28.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 42 minutes, 49% Shooting.
Should be quite a battle.
C: Erick Dampier v Tyson Chandler
Dampier is still a good offensive rebounder because of his bulk. Outside of that he’s severely declined over the past couple years, and he won’t be able to do much to keep Chandler from running all around him. He also makes it a point of fouling Paul hard once every game, not realizing that Paul lives for that crap, and always pops back up with a big smile.
Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jose Juan Barea, and James Singleton are the primary bench players for the Mavericks. Terry alone makes this bench more formidable than the Hornet’s second unit, but adding in Bass is just mean. Barea and Singleton aren’t much, but neither are Antonio Daniels or Hilton Armstrong.
Enjoy the game.