If It Doesn't, These Mavericks Better Start Working on Their Golf Games.
As the NBA All-Star Game approaches, the narratives across the NBA have become redundant and stale for the teams that still haven't found a way to win consistently.
And, yes, the Mavericks are one of these teams.
After going 1-3 during their most recent road trip, any case that Dallas may have had for making the playoffs should be summarily dashed. Is it a mathematical impossibility at this point? No, of course not. But the reality of the situation is this: Your Dallas Mavericks are more than likely going to be enjoying an extended vacation this summer.
As I've already stated countless times in this column space, Dallas is just a frustratingly inconsistent team — this despite the fact that there are indeed players on this team with some game.
It's OK if you've been surprised by this team's lack of solid play this year. Most people are. Who could've guessed that this team would find every possible way to squander opportunities and forget the basic tenets of good basketball at the drop of a hat? Not me, not at the start of the season, at least.
Nonetheless, the team's recent blowout loss on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder — a team leagues better than the Mavs — is an amalgam of Dallas' propensity toward blundering their way through this season. Turnovers, this Mavs team's old friend, are apparently still alive and well. Dallas gifted possession to Oklahoma City 14 times on Monday night. The Mavericks also shot just 41.4 percent from the field — and only 18.8 percent from downtown.
Shooting numbers like this will rarely allow a team to chalk up a W.
And once again, Dallas' shooting woes during this game stemmed from poor shot selection. They managed to connect on just 12 shots outside of the key, despite taking 39 shots from mid-range or from behind the three-point arc. The Thunder, on the other hand, took high-percentage, highly efficient shots concentrated in the restricted area.
The Mavericks have had issues with their shot selection all season long, as the players on this roster are mostly jump shooters afraid of in-the-paint contact. Granted, this has been a problem with this team for the better part of a decade now, but, in previous seasons, Dallas was able to mask this issue with sound ball movement.
Unfortunately, the Phantom took off his mask this season.
Still, credit has to be given to the Thunder: OKC played so well on Monday night that a casual observer of the game could've easily walked away from it assuming that Hasheem Thabeet is some sort of elite defensive presence. (Spoiler: He isn't.)
For the Mavericks to have any chance of creeping up the standings at this point, they must have a have a successful home stand. Lucky for them, their next five games are all in Dallas at the American Airlines Center.
Wins against Portland, Sacramento and Orlando are all necessary. The Trail Blazers, despite being five games ahead of the Mavericks in the standings, aren't a very good team. Neither are the Kings or the Magic. But Dallas will also face the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks during this stretch.
Despite being blown out by the Rockets on Tuesday night, Golden State is still one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They've bested Dallas in their two previous meetings, even if the Mavericks did somehow manage to keep those games close.
It wouldn't be surprising if the Mavericks stole a win against the Hawks, though. Atlanta has a record of just 7-11 since the calendar changed to 2013.
Of course, wins for the Mavs are predicated on the team actually, y'know, playing well. For the Mavs to do that, they need Vince Carter to bounce back from his recent illness, first and foremost. Despite his proclivity to take long two-point attempts, he remains one of the few players on this team who can attack the basket and draw fouls. His passing is also crucial for the Mavericks: Since the team — or, rather, Rick Carlisle — has not settled in on a suitable backup for Darren Collison (it certainly isn't Mike James), Carter's ball-handling in the half-court is all the more important.
Chris Kaman also needs to return to action after suffering a concussion in practice last Monday. He's sat out since then, undergoing a myriad of tests that the NBA requires if a player suffers a head injury. These tests are not “stupid”, no, but it is understandable that Kaman would want to return to action as soon as possible.
When he does, he shouldn't be reinserted in the starting lineup, though. Just before Kaman's injury, Carlisle, always the tinkerer, inserted rookie Bernard James into the starting rotation. James might not have the scoring acumen that Kaman possesses, but his post play and defense have given the Mavericks a center that can complement Dirk Nowitzki quite well. As Jonathan Tjarks points out, Kaman actually spaces the floor poorly when he is in the game with Nowitzki and takes similar shots. (Speaking of Tjarks: it would behoove you to read his piece about Nowitzki over on The Classical.)
The next five games will not make or break the remainder of the Mavericks' season, no. Eight overtime losses and a multitude of close games lost have already decided Dallas' fate.
But, at this point, the Mavs need all the help they can get, even if it comes from unlikely sources.
That said, there is a certain rapper who has expressed his interest in joining the team.
And don't forget: The Bank of Cuban is open.
I mean, why the hell not try something like this, right? It's not like team owner Mark Cuban hasn't tried anything gimmicky like this before. Never forget: He did sign Dennis Rodman that one time.
Cover photo via the NBA's official Mavericks page.