The Dallas Mavericks have had a very up-and-down season thus far, and it seems there may be few issues surrounding team chemistry and communication if Darren Collison's most recent remarks are to be believed.
Collison, the point guard that Dallas traded with Indiana for over the summer, started out the season as the team's starting facilitator. For all intents and purposes, he looked terrific initially.
He led the team to a 4-1 record, averaging right around 16 points and seven assists. However, things took a turn for the worse and the Mavericks started to struggle.
Over the course of the next 11 games, Dallas pulled off a 4-7 record as Collison averaged just 10.6 points and six assists. Over that same period, he more than doubled the number of turnovers he averaged, going from 1.2 in those first five games to 2.9 in the past 11.
For the past two games, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has decided to bring Collison off the bench in favor of Dominique Jones and the recently-acquired Derek Fisher. They lost both games.
As far as the Fisher acquisition, Carlisle said he would be coming in to start so that Collison can learn behind a veteran (hangtime.blogs.nba.com):
One of the reasons we’ve had success here in recent years is we’ve had starting-caliber players playing off the bench. There are areas where Darren’s going to get better. I see him as a guy who is still developing and I can’t imagine a better situation for a point guard than being at practice every day with Derek Fisher.
It's the second time Collison has spent time learning behind a veteran, but it's also the second time he's been benched in his career.
Of course, in that case, Collison was benched in favor of a hotter guard when he was battling a strained groin.
This time he's dealing with a bit of an injury, but he's being benched in favor of a 38-year-old point guard who is little more than an on-court coach.
When asked if Collison thought he had been given a fair shot at the starting point guard spot, he didn't seem convinced:
I don’t think so, and we all know that; my teammates, they feel the same way, everybody feels the same way.
If anything, this shows that there is some formation of discord among the team.
Should the discord be between the team and Carlisle, things will get hairy with Dirk Nowitzki still on the IR. Part of the problem with so much turnover is getting a group of guys to buy into a head coach's system all at once.
If it's between Collison and the rest of the team, it's still a big problem, just a more manageable one.
Dallas, and Carlisle more specifically, needs to realize that they have a young player who thinks he's beyond learning from behind someone else. Instead, he thinks he needs to be on the floor to get the experience necessary to lead the team:
I feel like at this point in my career, if there’s anything I need to learn it’s just go out there on the court and just learn from my mistakes.
A lot of what's going on in Dallas has to do with the fact that they're still without Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who can be a leader on the court as well as in the locker room.
What's going on with Dallas on the court, however, needs to be cleared up between Carlisle and Collison if this team has any hopes to hang in the playoff race.
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