I didn’t panic last year when the Mavericks dropped their first four, and that ended up working out pretty well. (During the regular season, at least.) So I’m not panicking now, with the Mavs already losing more games than they did for the better part of last season. But that’s not to say some changes aren’t in order. After the jump, my take on the two main problems I’ve seen from section 319. Warning: hardcore basketball talk ahead.
1) Avery Johnson needs to trust his decision making — and maybe make fewer decisions. The Golden State debacle showed the first real chinks in Avery’s armor. He set the team up for it by micro-managing minutes during the season’s final two weeks, ensuring that no one was really in peak form when the playoffs started. Then, he blinked first in Game 1, starting Devean George at “center,” instead of what had worked all season (the Damp/Diop combo platter). He made a smart move this season, deciding to bring Jet Terry off the bench. But he panicked when Eddie Jones got hurt and reinserted Jet into the starting five. It’s a bad idea, because even Jet admits he was confused last year at times as to whether he should be shooting or setting his teammates up. Potential solution: Move Josh Howard to shooting guard, and start Brandon Bass up front with Dirk. The bench, with Jet, Stackhouse, Damp/Diop, and Devean George, is still strong, and Bass brings added firepower/toughness to the starting lineup.
2) Dirk needs to shoot 20 times a game, at least. Columnists have suggested that Dirk’s lack of aggression this season stems from the fact that his psyche was permanently damaged against Golden State. I don’t think so. I think he’s tried (too hard) to get everyone else involved, and Avery has encouraged this (too much). Avery has helped turn Dirk into more of an all-around player, less a focal point and more like just another cog in the machine. That’s like using a Porsche to carpool. Potential solution: For the offense to succeed, Dirk has to unlearn some of what Avery has drilled into him. Spot up for threes more, instead of always posting up at the same two spots. Take shots earlier in the possession. Stuff that would make Avery crazy. There needs to be some middle ground between crazy Nellieball Dirk and the more restrained make-every-possession-count Dirk. Last night’s game against the Knicks and Thursday’s game against the Nuggets showed that he might be finding that middle ground.
In the end, though, there are 23 teams in the league who would be more than happy to be 14-8 right now. So, as Lloyd Dobler would say: You must chill.