Tonight the Dallas Mavericks return to the hardwood, looking to snap their current four game losing streak. Following practice, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has announced that Tyson Chandler will be back in action. This is welcome news considering rookie sensation Blake Griffin is coming to town. The Mavs will need all the help in the middle that they can muster to contain the Rookie of the Year candidate.
Carlisle has mentioned in the past few days that his number one concern is getting this team playoff ready. While emphatically stating that the team wants to win the remaining four games, it was quite clear that Carlisle feels that getting his regulars some much needed rest is key to a successful playoff run. So don’t expect lots of minutes from the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, or Shawn Marion.
My guess is that Carlisle would like to see them get enough action to get the offense back on track. I would also add that Carlisle would like to keep them sharp but this team hasn’t been sharp shooting the basketball in quite some time. This should give guys like Roddy Beaubois, J.J. Barea, and Corey Brewer a chance to show the old coach that they deserve quality playoff minutes and would give the Mavs a better chance at winning a ring.
But playing time and injuries were not the only news concerning the Mavericks. Following their big win in Big D, Nuggets coach George Karl, when asked about who he would rather face in the first round of the playoffs, answered the Dallas Mavericks. While I don’t think Karl meant any disrespect to the Mavs, this move may end up back-firing on Denver.
The Mavs have been struggling. They have been lethargic and sloppy. They have been looking for some sort of motivation, something to energize and galvanize this suddenly slumping, but close-knit bunch. Surely they had to take notice of the desire of an opponent to face them when the games mean even more. Surely such a slap on the face was not, and cannot, be ignored! George Karl is not some rookie mouthing off. He is an NBA veteran and a future Hall of Fame coach. He has taken a team to the NBA Finals. He has had success wherever he has gone.
And now, knowing that he could face the Mavericks in the first round, openly voiced his desire to do so. Granted, I wouldn’t want to face the talented Oklahoma City Thunder either. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the best young superstars in the league today. I would agree with George Karl. But I would not verbalize it.
This shows how little Karl fears playing Dallas. And the Mavs have got to know that. This slight, perceived or actual, has got to help this team shake off its lethargy and stoke their competitive fires once again. The Clippers, a team that the Mavs have beaten three times this season, may have to serve as the sacrificial lamb for Karl’s indiscretion. Tonight I would love nothing better than to see a motivated and angry Maverick team storm the court and take no prisoners. Nothing would make me happier than to see the Mavs come out firing, knocking down shot after shot, and putting this game out of reach before the half.
But will the Mavs respond with such a fierce intensity or has their swagger and pride taken such a beatdown that they no longer care? We will have that question answered on the court tonight.