When the Dallas Mavericks decided not to offer Tyson Chandler a multiyear contract to the center so instrumental in last season’s championship, the Mavs’ defense figured to suffer most and it did. Tyson wasn’t the only player the Mavs let walk out the door but it was felt that his absence would be the most crucial to their hopes of defending their title. The Mavs started 0-3, allowing an average of 108 points and opponents to shoot better than 50 percent, it certainly seemed as though critics were right. However, there has been a change in the winds since those awful and dysfunctional outings. “The first two games were poor to say the least. After that, we were all embarrassed. We had to bounce back and kind of snap out of it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were in a two-game whatever you call it, hangover, Christmas funk. Reality hit us really quickly. …It helped us get our mindset in the right direction. We came out fighting after that.”
The Mavs are starting to get in a groove finally going past the .500 mark in the win column with a thrilling victory over the Celtics. The teammates are still feeling each other out and trying to define their roles but it’s definitely headed in the right direction. Dirk shook off one of his worst shooting slumps of his career and Delonte West and Vince Carter both have made significant contributions in their time on the court. Delonte has been crucial in keeping the good momentum when Jason Kidd was out of the lineup with a bad back. In fact, the new guys who historically have hesitated to pass the ball are slinging around the rock quicker than the ’11 title squad. The ball movement has been fantastic and it seems like the Mavs are getting open shots a majority of possessions. The Mavericks are spreading the ball around so much sometimes they even overpass. Seeing such pure team passing in today’s NBA is something that is becoming relatively rare to see, enjoy it Mavs fans.
Which brings me to my next point; the defense on this team has suddenly got the potential to be somewhere near very good to great. They don’t have the attitude and toughness of last year’s championship squad but they have got length and every member of the team (sans Odom) appears to be buying into Rick Carlisle’s defensive philosophy. If the Mavericks can get Odom on the same page they have as good a chance as any team in the Western Conference at an extended playoff run. Coming to that realization is significant, especially when you look at how many pieces the Mavericks lost this off-season.
A New Vince?
I was completely against the Vince Carter signing but he’s starting to win me over. Vince appears to actually care about playing defense and sacrificing to help the team win. It was never about talent with Vince, it was about desire. I think that’s a testament to the coaching staff and the professional atmosphere surrounding the franchise but also to Vince as a person. Vince understood that he wasn’t brought here to win games; he was brought to win titles. I can tell you with certainty that that kind of thought process permeates around the locker room now.
We have to give a shout out to Dirk Nowitzki for passing the 23,000 point mark last Friday. He’s the best to ever lace them up for the Mavericks and his response when asked about the monumental achievement speaks to what a rare breed of superstar he truly is. “Milestones are going to be great when I look back on my career in 10 or 15 years,” Nowtitzki said. “But as of right now, I’m trying to help this team, and franchise, win as many games as I can. We’ve been playing better. That’s all I’m worried about right now.” That ladies and gentlemen is why the Mavericks are perennial contenders. The hunger for victory and the never-ending support of his teammates are starting to define his legacy as a player.