“Had anyone told me after that after Clippers beat down that the Dallas Mavericks (11-10) would be a winning team a week later I would have laughed in a sad, pathetic, mildly crazy way.”
Kirk Henderson, Mavs Moneyball
A lot of Mavs fans may echo that sentiment but after winning three in a row, the Mavericks are starting to show a glimpse of the promise they had during the offseason and again at the beginning of the regular season before going astray.
Granted neither the Suns, Rockets nor Kings are among the league’s elite but considering what teams the Mavericks had been losing to during the first ¼ of the season, the victories are significant, particularly when they happen not only without Dirk Nowitzki but also largely without Shawn Marion.
The Mavericks are playing better overall. O. J. Mayo continues to be an offensive force, scoring 40 to tie a career-high against the Rockets to outduel James Harden and a solid 19 to lead a balanced attack against the Kings. Perhaps even more significantly is what else Mayo is doing. After saying that everyone needs to help rectify the Mavs’ rebounding woes, he himself has averaged almost 7 rebounds and 4 assists during the three-game stretch.
Chris Kaman continues to be a solid presence in the middle and impressively added 20 points to Mayo’s 40 in only half the time vs. Houston, playing on a sprained ankle. Kaman is pretty much a lock for 12-18 points on a given night and he does it efficiently, continuing to shoot over 50%.
Since returning to the lineup and starting, Brandan Wright has been a quiet force inside, is rebounding a bit better and continues to hit a few soft high-arching jumpers.
Jae Crowder, who has been struggling badly, returned to form in the second half against the Kings, scoring 11 points to go with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a couple of steals.
Darren Collison has returned to early season form while coming off the bench. He’s still turning the ball over a bit too much but his scoring and assists are back up and he provides a nice alternative to Derek Fisher.
Speaking of DFish, the numbers are never spectacular but the Mavericks are 4-1 since he joined the team. At time when Jason Kidd is looking mighty influential on a red-hot Knicks team it appears that Fisher has brought what was expected of him to the team so far.
Although he is shooting a bit better, it appears unlikely that Elton Brand is going to put up the kind of numbers he did even in Philadelphia and has evolved into a role player; however at any given time even when he is not scoring he is grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and providing interior defense the Mavs sorely need. He blocked three shots vs. the Kings.
The Mavericks are still losing the battle of the boards and even in a blowout victory over Sacramento when they shot 55% to the Kings 44% they were still outrebounded 43-38.
While Brandan Wright is back in the fold, Bernard James seems to be the forgotten guy and hasn’t put up much at all. It’s unfortunate of course but at least it’s not accompanied by losses.
There isn’t much to fret about in these last three victories. Rock on….
The look of a 1-2 punch with Mayo and Kaman along with capable scoring from Collison, Vince Carter and Wright is starting to look like the promise of the offseason, especially as an accompaniment to Dirk’s return. More encouraging is the extra effort to close the rebounding gap, play defense and reduce turnovers. Those things all play into a better overall game and we’ll have real opportunity to see if the Mavs can maintain the new culture as the schedule gets tougher right away.
One thing I would not have predicted is the impact of losing Jason Kidd. With O. J. Mayo and Vince Carter, I assumed things would be OK without Jason Terry but still a loss. However, I really perceived swapping Jason Kidd for Darren Collison to be a wash. Part of that may have been Kidd’s play last year along with his overall health, part of it may have been expecting Delonte West to return and part may have been the promise of Collison. However, it’s clear from the Mavericks early struggles and the new culture of the Knicks, arguably the hottest team in the league without Amar’e Stoudemire, that Kidd’s intangible value endures despite his diminishing skills. Derek Fisher is no Kidd but he does bring certain similar qualities to the table so it appears being able to sign him was a lucky break.
The Mavs hit Beantown to face Jason Terry and the Celtics on Wednesday night. Preview coming up on The Smoking Cuban.