NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 36:
Dallas Mavericks (13-21) @ Utah Jazz (17-18)
Save a Cowboy, beat a Maverick . . . yes, these are getting worse . . .
Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace) from Mavs Moneyball got at me to do a Jam session and I think it went pretty well. Check out their site for my answers (link here), and here are his answers to my questions! Woo!
Amar: The Mavs have played a LOT of overtime periods over the last few weeks (December 12th in Boston, all the way to two nights against hosting the Hornets). This can be a good thing or a bad thing, as I know myself as the Jazz played the most Overtime periods last season. Right now though the record shows Dallas with zero OT wins this season. Is this something worth worrying about? Or is this just something that happens early on in a season when your best closer, one of the best closers of all time, is out?
Kirk: A little of column A, a little of column B. Dallas has actually lost 10 straight overtime games and from what I've come to understand, this is statistically VERY hard to do. But, where there's a will, there's a way (I may not be using that expression right).
Determining lineups is a big part of it. With Dirk back, Dallas is basically starting over because he's the focal point so all previously acquired data on what works and what doesn't is out the window. These last two losses have been annoying because, to the fans, it's pretty clear that Dirk and Chris Kaman can't play together (Dirk concurs). A line up of Darren Collison, Mayo, Vince Carter, Dirk, and Elton Brand has been effective at both ends. Yet for some reason, in each of the last two overtimes, Carlisle has opted to go super small with Shawn Marion at the center position. Dallas will figure it out, but it will probably be too late to matter.
Amar: The Jazz started the season off with a horrible schedule (12 of the first 18 on the road, against a lot of playoff teams) -- looking at what you've had to face in December, it looks like you were similarly put through a gauntlet. The worst is over right? Dirk is back, and the schedule is turning in your favor. What's the upper level, most homeristic, seed you guys are targeting? (As a Jazz fan I can honestly say the 8th seed is our ceiling this year, I used to think it was the #7 seed).
Kirk: Oh yes, that stretch was brutal. It was one of these things where I (and a few others) were saying "We could lose 7 of 8 here" which is exactly what happened, except its now 8 of 9 factoring in the New Orleans loss. The worst might be over, but Dallas is now 8 games under .500. Getting to 45 games, which is the minimum for making the playoffs in the west, is going to be a tall, tall order.
I honestly think this team is out of the playoffs now. I made a long, reasonable argument about why Dallas should stop trying now. But that only made the locals mad at me because everyone in Dallas is so used to winning at this point. Maybe, MAYBE Dallas can sneak in to the 8 seed, but I don't see how.
Amar: Shawn Marion is having an under-the-radar type of season I feel. He's not killing it, but in many ways, it is a bounce back from last season. He's shooting 92 ft%, leading the team in rebounds per game, and the last time he was dishing the ball this well he was back in Phoenix and and All-Star. Am I crazy for pointing this out, or is something else happening?
Kirk: Not crazy at all. Marion is often the guy people include in any possible trade, but I don't understand why. He does ALL the little things and is never recognized. I remember when he signed this contract, I thought it was crazy to hope he'd be anything resembling useful. But look at his stats and you see that other than Dirk, he's the guy Dallas can't do without.
He's really been great every season, even if the numbers don't reflect what he brings. I'm grateful Dallas has him because if they were to part ways with him somehow this season, the team becomes horrible defensively in a hurry.
Amar: The Dirk Nowitzki / Chris Kaman / Elton Brand lineup is made for the playoffs where quality trumps quantity. I'm convinced that they are going to be like the smart, refined version of what we see in Memphis by the time teams start jockeying for playoff position. Individually none of them are having a great season so far, but I do believe that with these three players Dallas has a group of bigs who are greater than the sum of their parts. Add in Jae Crowder and Troy Murphy and you have some great situational matchups. It's been the OJ and Darren show early on, but I think as the season goes on it's going to be Bigs all the way in Dallas. You see this too, right?
Kirk: I don't blame you for not knowing Troy isn't on the team anymore. He was cut to make room for Fisher, who was cut to make room for Chris Douglas Roberts, who was just cut to make room for Mike Freaking James. UGH.
I like Brand, he's finally hitting shots at a decent clip after shooting in the 30% range for the first part of the year. Dirk is Dirk, which is to say, he's great at what he does. Kaman is where things get dicey. He's having a hard time putting together a complete game. He either adds to the offense but is a sieve defensively or he's an excellent help defender but gives Dallas nothing on offense. He's somehow only had two double doubles this season, which is pathetic given how much this team needs rebounding.
The rest of the bigs (Brandan Wright, Bernard James, even Jae Crowder) aren't really trust worthy. Of course, going back to your first question, Dallas really needs to figure out what line ups work together. I think Kaman can still be an asset but determining who can be of use with him is the problem. Marion's actually been playing a lot of power forward, so that's helped.
There are just so many unanswered questions right now, and there's not enough time to really find the right fit. That you think Dallas has a shot is a testament to how respected the organization is, but I think we're looking at being the odd man out, maybe 9th or 10th in the West when it's all said and done.
Thanks again Kirk! You are the best! And Go Jazz Go! And I'm sorry for not keeping up with Troy Murphy 's contract situation better! And everyone play nicely with the good people over at Mavs Moneyball.