30 Teams in 30 Days: Dallas Mavericks
2007-2008 In Review
Western Conference Seed: 7
Playoff Results: Lost to New Orleans in Western Conference Quarterfinals (4-1)
Summer Of 2008
Key Additions: Rick Carlisle (via coaching change), DeSagana Diop (via free agency), Gerald Green (via free agency), James Singleton (via free agency).
Key Losses: Avery Johnson (via coaching change), Tyronn Lue (via free agency), Malik Allen (via free agency), Juwan Howard (via free agency).
The “Little General” era has come to a close, as Avery Johnson was fired at season’s end and subsequently replaced by well-respected head coach Rick Carlisle.
Johnson certainly proved his worth in the league, as his 264-194 (.700) coaching record and Finals appearance (2006) certainly delivers a more impressive resume than a handful or two of current NBA head coaches. However, back-to-back first round exits—including one of the most heartbreaking upsets of NBA playoff history in 2007—does not cut it.
Carlisle possesses six years of NBA head coaching experience, in which he holds an accumulative career record of 281-211 (.571), and has been as far as the Conference Finals on two occasions. However, a Rick Carlisle-coached club has not won a playoff series since 2005, so redemption is sought after by both he and the Maverick players in 2009. Hell, that task may even be easier than we think, as the players are now being instructed by a clinically-sane individual.
As for the roster itself, standout post-defender DeSagana Diop was brought back to Dallas on what could be argued as an oversized contract, worth $31 million over a five-year period. The seven-foot specialist appeared in 214 games for Dallas from 2005-2008, in which he held per-game figures of 2.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Regardless of his price tag, he gives the Mavs a much-needed interior defensive presence off the bench, which proved to be incredibly valuable within Dallas’ 2006 NBA Finals run.
Outside of the reinsertion of Diop, the roster appears roughly the same as that of last season’s. Eddie Jones exercised his player option, keeping him in Dallas for one final season on a $2 million salary, while fellow wings Devean George and Antoine Wright were each retained on two-year deals. Guard J.J. Barea was brought back with a three-year deal worth approximately $5 million, to solidify depth behind Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.
The only other roster additions were that of aggressive-minded forward James Singleton, veteran point guard Keith McLeod, and the likely forever-untapped potential of high-flying swingman Gerald Green. Whether any of these three are asked to make significant contributions this season remains to be seen, but insurance never hurts.
Now that all of the additions and subtractions have been noted and/or discussed, let’s move on to the Maverick that received the most attention this past summer. You all know who I’m talking about—the one and only Josh Howard, who thankfully informed us all that he does not have to acknowledge the national anthem on account of his skin color. In addition to that, the public relations expert in Howard announced his pleasure of marijuana use on ESPN Radio.
Combine those two shenanigans with his putrid end-of-season showing and suspect overall attitude, and you’ve got a talented young player failing to get full use of his talent, and losing respect from the team’s fans.
But hey, who am I to judge? It’s not like he’s calling unavailable timeouts in the waning moments of an important postseason game or anything, right?
C: Erick Dampier / DeSagana Diop
PF: Dirk Nowitzki / Brandon Bass / James Singleton
SF: Josh Howard / Devean George / Antoine Wright
SG: Jason Terry / Jerry Stackhouse / Eddie Jones / Gerald Green
PG: Jason Kidd / J.J. Barea / Keith McLeod
Biggest Strength: Talent
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse—this team is stacked on paper. It even contains standout role players, such as DeSagana Diop and Brandon Bass, who may have been the most unrecognized and underappreciated breakout players of the 2007-2008 NBA season. Heck, Jim Carrey—I mean Rick Carlisle—is a well-respected head coach, as well.
Just by taking a glance at this roster, without knowing anything in regards to how well they play as a cohesive unit on the floor, you draw the conclusion that the Mavericks have a chance to win each and every night with a loaded group like this.
Biggest Weakness: Toughness
The difference between the Mavericks and the elite class of the NBA is toughness. When Dallas gets the first punch thrown at them, very seldom do they swing back. It all starts with their best player and supposed leader, Dirk Nowitzki. Heck, when he gets slapped in the face repeatedly, he doesn’t even back away, let alone retaliate.
That mental weakness (which often sparks physical passivity) inevitably runs through the entire team, just as the enthusiasm of a Kevin Garnett energizes his respective club. Jason Kidd provides a certain level of leadership, but a declining 35-year-old point guard can only do so much. Without that extra splash of “oomph,” it’s difficult to place Dallas in the upper echelon category of the league.
X-Factor: Josh Howard
To begin the 2007-08 season, Josh Howard was his normal self. Before the 2008 All-Star festivities, the former Demon Deacon standout held averages of 20.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on efficient shooting clips of 35.6 percent from beyond the arc and 47.2 percent overall.
However, for whatever reason, his production floundered from there. Post All-Star weekend, Howard’s production dropped in nearly every category. His scoring dropped to 19.2 PPG, his rebounding average fell to 6.3 per game, his field goal percentage took a 4.6-percent hit, and his long-ball fell to an ugly 25.3-percent clip on nearly the same amount of attempts.
Come playoff time, Howard had hit rock bottom, as he put together the least efficient string of games of his five-year career. Just how bad was it? Something along the lines of 12.7 PPG, seven RPG, a 10-percent three-point mark, and a 29-percent shooting effort overall. In addition to that, his combined series assists and steal totals matched his turnover count (nine).
It wasn’t as if he just had one or two rough outings, either. The best shooting display he put together throughout the entire five-game series came in the final game of Dallas’ season, where he shot 6-14 from the field. Everything before that was Antoine Walker-esque (remember that, Dallas fans?).
Howard has a lot of making up to do, both mentally and on the court. It’s time for the 28-year-old forward to take a step forward, from a maturity standpoint, and begin showing both the organization and the fans that he was worth every penny of that $40 million extension signed in October of 2006.
We all know that he has it in him. He’s undoubtedly one of the premier do-it-all wing players in the game, as shown in his tremendous 2006-2007 campaign in which he was reeled in his initial All-Star appearance.
But now, it’s time to grow up and develop some form of consistency. If he can do that, and potentially become more willing to use his slashing ability to his advantage on a more frequent basis, Dallas will be much better off in 2009. If not, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel.
What to Expect In 2008-2009
The overall passive-aggressive aura surrounding this team is, has been, and will be its downfall. They should qualify for postseason play, although a few teams could have the Mavs on their heels if they get off to a rocky start, but don’t expect Dallas to make any noise in 2009.
The Mavericks simply do not have the “it factor,” despite their mightily intriguing on-paper impression. The fact that they hail from the league’s strongest division doesn’t bode well for their chances, either.
Fourth in Southwest Division
Seventh in Western Conference
Tomorrow: Denver Nuggets
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