Earlier this year, ESPN.com unveiled a new conglomeration of team blogs under the umbrella of Henry Abbott’s great True Hoop. The Dallas Mavericks’ affiliate in the True Hoop Network is The Two Man Game, owned and operated by Rob Mahoney. We chatted with Mahoney, a full-time student at the University of Texas at Austin, about the blog, the team, and the Ghost of Avery Johnson. Grab a cup of coffee and hit the click-thru.
3:58 PM me: what’s up sir?
Rob: I was born ready
so how did you get involved with the true hoop network? did henry ask you?
4:00 PM Rob: yeah, in a kinda roundabout way. I’m also writing at Hardwood Paroxysm, another blog in the network, and my co-blogger over there, Matt Moore, threw my name out there as a potential Mavs guy. Henry called me up and it just kinda took off from there
4:01 PM me: how hard is to stay on top of the blog and go to school at the same time?
4:02 PM Rob: It’s tough. It really is. It’s one thing if you’re writing a blog with several writers, but maintaining one by myself and finding the time to get my schoolwork done can be a bit challenging
4:03 PM Then you throw in exercise, and oh, some semblance of a social life
there really aren’t enough hours in the day
4:04 PM me: being close to san antonio are you surrounded by spurs fans?
4:05 PM Rob: There are tons of them here. A lot of Rockets fans, too. The Mavs get their fair share of reppin’ too, but it’s not exactly like we’re in a position to talk smack these days.
4:06 PM me: i have half-season tickets for the mavs and spurs/rockets fans 1) always seem to travel for mavs games and 2) are the most obnoxious
me: favorite all-time maverick? favorite all-time mavs team?
4:08 PM Rob: Marquis Daniels.
I don’t even know what it is about him
4:09 PM me: i loved quis. avery didn’t know how to use him
Rob: maybe just the idea that he might have been the most immensely talented and deeply confounding guy to ever wear a Mavericks uniform
Avery was infuriating in that regard. I can’t tell you how much I was yelling at my TV in the ’06 Finals when ‘Quis couldn’t get off the bench.
4:10 PM me: oh, i know. you’d have thought, once they ran out of ideas, just give him a shot
4:11 PM Rob: f’real
You expect Stackhouse to man up on Wade, and won’t even give ‘Quis a real shot? Come on, Avery.
4:12 PM me: that was the first indication, for me at least, that he was overrated as a coach
and they still have a hole at 2 guard
4:13 PM Rob: it’s been a Maverick tradition since Finley’s decline
Avery’s problem was that he tried to install his own offensive schemes
when he was still riding the coattails of Nellie’s sets, the offense was doing fine
Avery got the team to play legit playoff defense, and the offense was coasting off what they knew could work
4:14 PM me: agreed. on avery’s offense: i never understood the point of having the best shooting big man ever if the goal was to get him not to shoot jumpers
carlisle has certainly brought that back
4:15 PM what do you think of him so far?
Rob: to be honest, I’ve been really impressed
he’s had troubles in certain regards
but what a lot of people don’t understand is just how difficult it is to change coaching styles
4:16 PM if you want to break a player’s tendencies, you put them through the drills, you teach them the skills, and you practice, practice, practice
but if you want to break a coach’s tendencies…well, I’m not even sure how to begin
Carlisle with the Pacers/Pistons and with the Mavs are like two completely different people
Rob: so in my mind, between that and what he’s been able to do in terms of on-the-fly adjustments, he gets some props
4:17 PM I mean, how many times have the Mavs decided to drastically alter their offensive sets and philosophy this season?
4:18 PM it takes a lot of guts for a coach to admit that they were wrong, and to move on and do what’s best for the team
Carlisle’s been great in that area, a certain part of coaching that prior leaders whose names rhyme with Shmavery Ronson were a bit lacking
me: that’s what I like about him. he’s not afraid to take the blame.
4:19 PM me: with avery, it was always the player’s fault.
Rob: well come on, Zac, they just “weren’t tough enough!”
me: heh. avery absolutely kills me on espn/abc.
4:20 PM ok. probably enough avery bashing (for now). do you think the mavs need to make a move at the trade deadline?
and is there anything that makes sense?
4:22 PM Rob: Do they need to make a move? No. I have a hard time believing that there are any trades out there that are going to suddenly throw the Mavs into the West’s elite.
So then the question becomes, what’s the point of doing it now?
The one Mav I want to see moved is Stack, and that can happen either now or in the early off-season
me: he’s d-u-n done
4:23 PM only he doesn’t know it
Rob: definitely. But his contract still gives him some value, and the Mavs need to capitalize
Stack’s always been a fighter, can’t expect him to stop now
one of the classic ball player blunders: too hard to turn the ego off
you just know that somewhere in his head he thinks he’s capable of being a 20 ppg scorer
4:25 PM me: absolutely. that’s been his career. him and his ego. what kills me: he has the ball on the wing,. the defender taps it away and now stack is in trouble. he should pass but i guarantee you he shoots it every time.
and his shooting percentage in those situations is about 7 to 8 percent
Rob: I’m pretty sure Josh Howard picked that up from Stack, too
4:26 PM if the defender even swipes at the ball, they both shift in “revenge offense” mode
me: always. josh has also learned too much from old mike finley tapes too.
nothing like a 20 foot fallaway with a hand in your face early in the shot clock
4:27 PM Rob: oh yeah, the parallels aren’t flattering
and then the gradual defensive fall-off
he’s learned from the veterans around him, maybe that’s what we should’ve been afraid of
me: can he get back to his fill-in all-star level? I thought kidd would help but it seems to be the opposite
4:29 PM Rob: I think he can. I’m not sure that he will, but Josh’s biggest hurdles are mental ones. The key is getting him the ball in his comfort zones early, which not only keeps him involved offensively but gets him involved defensively as well
don’t love the fadeaways at all, but as long as he’s staying active on both ends I’ll live.
4:32 PM me: ok, we should probably wrap this up. and I’ll do it with a pair of questions that require long answers: how do you see this season shaking out? and how long will it be before they’re back in the west elite?
4:35 PM Rob: I see the Mavs making the playoffs, and losing a slightly competitive first round series. I think they’re good enough to take the Spurs, the Nuggers, and possibly even the Lakers to at least 6 games. We’ll get our punches in, but come up just short of the second round.
4:36 PM But even with Terry our, there’s no doubt in my mind that they at least make the playoffs, which is a step above what a lot of the media types are willing to grant them
me: i think he got injured at the right time, for sure
4:37 PM Rob: if we had to have an injury to one of our top guys, this was the perfect time
4:38 PM the team is still playing well, he’ll have the all-star break to recuperate, and still has plenty of time to get into a rhythm before the playoffs
As for “elite” status, it could be awhile.
4:39 PM It really depends on what the Mavs are able to accomplish in the next two offseasons. If they can shake things up and make a big deal this summer, or clear the space to sign an impact player in 2010, things could turn around quick
it doesn’t even have to be LeBron, Wade, or Bosh
if the Mavs could keep together what they have and add, say, Joe Johnson
I think that would definitely warrant the “elite” tag
4:40 PM me: that would work for me.
Rob: but the keys are finding a real shooting guard, and talented young players at point guard and center
that kind of depth and a player of even Johnson’s caliber would certainly put the Mavs in a good place
4:42 PM me: what’s weird to me is that in 2006 two of their biggest strengths were depth and athleticism. and that is maybe their two biggest problems now.
4:43 PM Rob: well, when you look at the bench from that run: Devin Harris, ‘Quis, Stackhouse, Keith Van Horn, ‘Gana Diop, Darrell Armstrong
the Mavs moved the young, productive players, and the rest of the core aged
4:44 PM me: I love kidd, but where are the mavs now if they don’t make that trade but do fire avery?
better, worse, no change?
4:45 PM Rob: slightly better, I think
would they be elite? Hard to say.
4:46 PM me: they still wouldn’t have a shooting guard or a solid backup center
Rob: but they would be a lot better at defending the point, slightly worse at defending the 2, and also have that dynamic talent at the 1
the Kidd trade is as big of a scapegoat as I’ve ever seen with this franchise
and I still feel like a broken record saying that Devin Harris wouldn’t be the player we’re seeing now on the Mavs
4:47 PM the Dallas offense just wouldn’t work for him in the same way
4:48 PM me: very much agree. i think the bigger problems are the other moves: spending the full mid-level on diop, trading quis for nothing essentially, not cutting bait on stack sooner, continuing to resign devean george, whiffing on the draft for the past four years or so
4:49 PM Rob: You nailed it. There’s a certain hubris that’s gone along with the Mavs’ peripheral moves, and it’s certainly worrisome. A team with Dirk is always going to threaten for a playoff spot no matter who you surround him with, but the question is: is that enough?
4:50 PM me: preaching to the choir.