After the 98-91 loss on Thursday night to the Chicago Bulls, the Mavericks have lost six of their first eight games on the young season.
For you math majors out there, that translates to a .250 winning percentage.
The Mavs return home tonight to take on Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
Normally the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center would be a great place for the Mavs to scurry to in desperate times, but that has not been the case so far this season.
The Mavs are 0-3 to start the season at home for the first time since the '93-94 season.
At this point, the Mavs will take any win they can get—but in order to do so, they must play with more consistency.
There have been times when the offense has shown what it is capable of. But when the game slows down, that potential fades to a mere mirage.
As far as the defense is concerned? To put it lightly, everything has gone wrong.
The only effort the Mavs have shown defensively thus far was down the stretch in the loss to the Lakers. Even then, though, the offense failed to show up and close the game out when given the opportunity.
But that is only scratching the surface.
Too many jump shots, not enough free-throw attempts, and poor bench play have all been areas of concern as well. And even then, there is more.
Dirk Nowitzki has yet to play at a high level throughout an entire game.
Josh Howard has not been the slasher that made him an All-Star a few years ago.
A different Jason Terry shows up each night. Jerry Stackhouse has been pedestrian at best, and Brandon Bass has yet to capitalize on the brilliant season he had last year.
So is it time for the Mavs and their fans to panic?
Is this team done before the calendar turns to December?
If you find yourself scratching your head upon reading these burning questions, let me refer to the old cliché, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
It would be easy to look at the 2-6 start and begin to stick a fork in this team, but there is much more than meets the eye here.
This team has the talent to be a threat in the brutal Western Conference, but the guy at the top must begin to really tap into that talent. That guy would be Rick Carlisle.
Thus far, the new motion offense Carlisle implemented in the offseason has yet to produce any results. Not only that, but Carlisle’s trademark defense has been as porous as a block of Swiss cheese.
Despite his level-headed temperament, Carlisle must light a fire under this team. He may have to watch and study film on former Mavs coach Avery Johnson. Well, maybe he doesn’t have to run a “little dictatorship,” as Nowitzki called it, but he has to take a page out of Avery’s book and be a master motivator.
The player that has to be the most motivated is Dirk Nowitzki. As he goes, so goes this Mavericks team. He must take the challenge of getting his teammates fired up and ready to play each night
After consecutive first-round exits and an MVP award that many experts have questioned, Dirk certainly has reason to be motivated. The only problem is that the motivation has yet to show up in his play this season.
Dirk has already called out his teammates, and said he must do a better job of preparing them, but the best way for him to do so is through his play.
He must be more aggressive in driving to the basket, attacking the paint, and getting to the line. If the team notices their leader doing these things, perhaps the aggression will spread like a wildfire.
An aggressive Howard has been known to cut strong to the basket.
An aggressive Stackhouse and Terry usually drive to the hoop and get to the line.
If it starts at the top, then it will work its way down to the end of the bench as well.
And while we are on the topic of aggressiveness, Gerald Green’s name must be brought up. Green, perhaps the lone bright spot thus far, is the only guy who has played with a consistent effort on a nightly basis. It could very well be his play that ignites the spark for this team.
But call it what you will. Aggression, motivation, determination, heart, will; just take your pick because the Mavericks have lacked it all thus far. Championship teams have all of these attributes, and the Mavs have been anything but a championship team in the early going.
It isn’t too late to turn the season around, but someone on this team must start exhibiting the attributes of a champ.
Cue Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Nowitzki.