The Mavs have battled back from the 2-7 depths of earlier in the season and sit at a respectable 11-8 going into tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. As Tim MacMahon points out, beating the Spurs would be a good way to legitimatize that relative return to normalcy. Since I haven’t written much about the Mavs thus far, this gives me a chance to make some sports points. My conversation-starting five is after the jump.
1. The team’s new three-guard look (Jet Terry, Jason Kidd, and J.J. Barea) might not fare as well in the playoffs, where teams can more easily gameplan, but it looks like it could easily pay off big-time in the regular-season. Reason it works so well: more shooters on the floor, more passers, Kidd is big enough to handle any shooting guard and most small forwards, and it’s difficult for any team to deal with four guys attacking hard on every possession. (It sputtered at the close of the Lakers game, sure, but not every team has Kobe Bryant.) Perfect example of a good offense is the best defense.
2. Speaking of J.J., the departure of Avery Johnson has helped him more than anyone. He’s the kind of player who is going to make mistakes, because he takes chances. But he needs a bit of a leash to succeed, and that didn’t jibe with the Lil’ General’s M.O. Avery mishandled him so badly that he almost seemed to be openly screwing with his head. (Example: sticking J.J. into a tight playoff game in the spring after playing him so rarely for the last quarter of the season and the first four playoff games, I honestly didn’t realize he was still in uniform.)
3. Dirk’s playing as well, if not better, than he did in his MVP season. Unfortunately, he’ll probably never crack the Top 5 again. But he will keep racking up Western Conference Player of the Week honors. (He already has two this season.)
4. The Mavs’ resurgence has coincided with Josh Howard’s injured ankle. I don’t think it’s completely coincidental. One of the team’s strengths in this 9-1 run has been ball movement. Josh, for whatever reason, is a black hole on offense. He’s a one-on-one player on a passing team. That means he may be superfluous. My idea: dangle him to the Charlotte Bobcats. Why? He’s a Carolina boy, for one, and also: Michael Jordan runs that team. Which means the Mavs could get back Gerald Wallace (who’s a beast on D, and doesn’t need the ball on offense) and maybe even a draft pick. What’s that? Right. You’re welcome.
5. Mark Cuban may be worried about ditching Jerry Stackhouse, since Stack could maybe end up on another contending team and come back to bite the Mavs on the rump. He shouldn’t be. Stack is d-u-n done. Sure, there’s an occasional 17-point game still left in him somewhere. But there’s also this: a guy who can’t accept his better years (or even his average ones) are in the rearview mirror, who still demands the ball, who still doesn’t know a good shot from a bad one, who still takes it as a personal challenge anytime a defender pokes the ball away from him momentarily.
(Seriously, if you went back and looked at every possession a defender accomplished this — and there are TONS — the times Stack shoots after recovering the ball is probably somewhere around 98 percent. And I would bet his shooting percentage in these instances is somewhere around 13.5. I talked to a guy who roomed with him and Rasheed Wallace in college. This goes all the way back to UNC.)
Anyway, cut the cord. Accept any trade. Buy him out. Whatever. He only hurts the team at this point.