DONUT 1: ‘AN OPPORTUNITY TO LAND A BIG FISH’ That’s GM Donnie Nelson’s view of the Dallas Mavericks’ set-up for the summer, the result of both the club’s retention of financial flexibility (the team’s explanation for why it didn’t make a Thursday deadline deal) and of Deron Williams not moving out of New Jersey.
of ‘landing didn't make any moves prior to Thursday's trade deadline because he says the club is in good shape to make a postseason run and positioned well to be a serious player in free agency this summer.
“It’s a position we haven’t been in recently,” Donnie said. “This gives us an opportunity to see if we can’t get out there and land a big fish.”
Nelson can’t name the name. But we can. The big fish is Deron, the perennial All-Star point guard Deron Williams from The Colony, who can be a free agent and leave the Nets this summer.
Donnie always says things like, “We Love Our Boys In Blue,’’ his way of endorsing his existing team. (With 11 straight playoff seasons, his adoration is understandable.) He said it again Thursday.
"We like our team," Nelson said. "We like the flexibility we have this summer. We need to get some healthy bodies back and some rested troops, and then we'll make another run for it like we did last year. I didn't feel a sense of pressure going into the trade deadline."
It’s an enviable situation … if he’s right.
"We feel like we're in a little bit of a ‘have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too’ (situation) in that we … can contend this year and then come summertime we can be active out in the market."
For a second straight game – against an admittedly lousy team – the defending champs did look like a team just maybe putting things together.
DONUT 2: CHARLOTTE'S WEB With nary a whisper in Dallas, the trade deadline arrived and fell silently away. While many fought to contain internal fits of joy, their dreams daring to wander to the sight of Deron Williams in a Mavs jersey while fighting the reality that a lot of time and obstacles sit between now and that possibility; the team with the league's worst record, a team that has never defeated the Dallas Mavericks, the Charlotte Bobcats, were on hand in AAC.
Things weren't pretty in the first half, but the Mavs used the third and much of the fourth quarter to build a lead that would prove to be insurmountable ... barely ... as Dallas pulled out the much-needed 101-96 win.
Shawn Marion did a solid job evaluating the day:
DONUT 3: THE SHOWMAN Rick Carlisle recently told GAC that the Mavs needed Roddy Beaubois to be less of an "entertainer" and more of a "competitor." Prior to the Charlotte game Thursday night, Carlisle praised the aggression Roddy has shown by attacking the paint in the near past.
During the game, Beaubois gave us a little from "Column A" (the competitor) and a little from "Column B" (the entertainer).
There were the multiple floaters well within the painted area, dunks and lay-ins, a pair of steals and a few passes constructed beautifully off of his penetration ... just as there was the around-the-back swirl on the way to a breakaway dunk and a nifty between-his-legs pass to an open Vince Carter at the 3-point line. Though certainly entertaining, we're forced to wonder what Carlisle's reaction would have been had either of those plays resulted in a turnover. They didn't, and we enjoyed the show, but we must still wonder.
Until later, when Rick said he didn't mind because at least the showmanship demonstrated that Roddy B was into the game.
He was out there (in the first half), but he wasn't a factor,'' Carlisle said. But in the second? "He was playing with great intensity at both ends. It's one of the habits that he's got to continue to develop, keeping the motor going. It doesn't come naturally to some guys.''
Regardless of the method of his delivery, Roddy B played a primary role as the Mavs pushed their lead to as much as 17 in the fourth, scoring a team-high eight points (4-of-4 FGs) in the quarter, and presented the Mavs with another gift by allowing Jason Kidd to rest for the entire fourth for the second game in a row.
Roddy B's final numbers: 14 points, 7-of-9 field goals, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 25 minutes.
And, if not for a few failed conversions on wide-open looks, those three assists could have easily been doubled.
DONUT 4: UN-LUCK OF THE DRAW Brendan Haywood was having a strong game. He played with energy at both ends of the court and was a presence in the middle. In his first 15 minutes of action he scored six points, eight rebounds (four on the offensive end) and had a pair of blocks.
Unfortunately, he would play no more after leaving the court with a sprained right knee. The injury has been labeled as "mild," but the timing may prove severe with the next 12 games all coming against teams with records currently over .500, beginning with the Spurs on Saturday.
DONUT 5: 3rd QUARTER TRIO NO. 1 Dallas trailed by six points at the half, a deficit that could have been much larger if not for a quick 7-0 run in the final 1:24, and had stretched to as much as 14 in the second quarter.
When the Mavs returned to the court, they finally appeared ready to address the opponent.
Dirk Nowitzkiled the way with nine of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter. As is often the case, the team struggles seemed to slide away when the ball found its way consistently into the hands of its best player.
DONUT 6: 3rd QUARTER TRIO NO. 2 Vince Carter went scoreless in the first half, missing all five of the shots he attempted. Stepping up alongside Dirk to open the third, Carter scored eight of his 11 points, using a full battery of attacks.
He earned three trips to the free-throw line, making each, backed his defended into the paint for an easy turnaround and drained a 3-point try.
For the quarter, Dirk and Carter combined to score 17 points, compared to only 14 from the entire Charlotte team. Leading us to ...
DONUT 7: 3rd QUARTER TRIO NO. 3 They weren't necessarily all easy shots, but the Bobcats glided to 54 points in the first half, while hitting 51.2 of their field-goal attempts. This, from the team who came into the night as the league's lowest scoring squad at 86.8 points per game, and the least efficient offense in the NBA, shooting 41.4 percent.
Dallas had sleepwalked through the first two quarters, but found themselves down on six.
In the third period, both the Dallas defense and the Charlotte offense came back to earth ... or normalized. The Bobcats hit 5-of-21 shots, a paltry 23.8 percent, for only 14 points ... and what had been a six-point deficit flipped into a six-point lead.
DONUT 8: THE ECHO Do we continue to mention this, singling it out as an abnormality, or simply accept it as the norm? Lamar Odom, welcomed with more than a smattering of boos when he first took the court, was an echo of his former ... or, at least his recent former.
Odom's numbers: 2 points, 1-of-4 field goals (25 FG%), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 2 turnovers.
Odom's averages for the last four games: 3 points, 21.7 FG%, 12.5 3PT%, 4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.5 TOs.
As disturbing as the raw numbers, was watching a player with significant offensive abilities appear in fear of shooting, resorting to exaggerated deference, passing up open looks, even layups, looking to pass. Some of the passes were impressive, but this teams needs Odom to be a threat ... at the very least ... on offense.
If this team is to cling to contender hopes, they may rest in Odom's ability to find the player that still lives somewhere inside and pull him out. Time hasn't run out, but it's certainly been etched away.
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DONUT 10: THE LETDOWN Dallas had put the game away. Their lead ballooned to 17 and their foot lifted off of the gas pedal. In moments, a game that, by all rights, should have been over, should have been nothing more than the formality of running out the clock.
Carlisle inserted Brian Cardinal and Dominique Jones and the win was at hand ... only someone neglected to let the Bobcats know they weren't supposed to keep trying. What was 17, became 14, became 12, became 9 ... and so on. (Carlisle termed his insertion of DoJo "a mistake.'' Not good.)
With 19.1 seconds left, Dirk stepped to the line with the Mavs up three .... yes, three ... a single possession. From an easy win, a blowout, to the absolute need for Dirk to hit both free throws in the final seconds.
He did, and at this point a win is a win, but ... must it be this hard?
DONUT 11: MORE PLEASE Jason Terry followed up his 24-point performance against the Wizards with 18 against the Bobcats. With the level of competition about to elevate tremendously, Dallas needs Jet to continue to find his wings.
His contract status, the hurt that this may likely be his final season as a Mav, must not bleed onto the court. A tomorrow that may see Terry in a new uniform has yet to arrive, forced to wait for what must be viewed as more one chance, one final opportunity to take this team as far as it can go. He see's his jersey hung high, wafting softly through mingling currents in the rafters of the AAC ... the right may already be earned, but there remains time to cement that legacy.
Terry will always be remembered for what he did on the championship run. That doesn't preclude him from adding another page to that history, from carving out a deeper hollow in the hearts of all Mavs' fans.
When he buries that three, spreads his arms wide and floats back up the court, the AAC continues to erupt. When he throws his arms in the air, begging the crowd to come to life, they still rise to their feet in response. What may one day be gone, isn't yet.
Right now isn't an audition for tomorrow, it's the gift of today ... the chance to continue what has already begun. Dallas needs Terry, and though the memories are set, they are not exclusive ... there's time and room for more.
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DONUT 13: MAVSELLANEOUS Dallas outscored Charlotte 42-20 in the paint ... After trailing by 14, the Mavs went on a 54-26 run from the 4:13 mark in the second quarter until 7:27 remained in the fourth ... Dallas has never lost to the Bobcats, currently sitting at 15-0 ... Brandan Wright played 12:43, scoring four points, almost finishing a highlight alley-oop from Jason Terry before gather his miss and dunking it home, and blocked a sure dunk. Happy to see him back ... Ian Mahinmi played 20 minutes, scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds, and will likely be thrust once more into the starting lineup due to Haywood's knee injury against his former employer on Saturday. ... Given the Mavs' injury ups and downs at center, it's a good thing Sean Williams has a tolltag.
DONUT 14: THE FINAL WORD Considering the circumstances, and the dire need for this win, we'll not style point a victory. Dallas came out flat in the first half, but made up for it in the second, even if they did allow a blowout to become a mere 5-point win ... but, a win is a win.
The scheduled tested the Mavs endurance by throwing nine games their way in 12 nights, now it will test their skill (and health) by upping the quality of competition.
“It’s two wins and we’re doing good things, but if you look at our schedule, it gets significantly more difficult,” Carlisle said.
So comes the true prelude to the playoffs. How Dallas responds here will not only provide a more accurate assessment of their team than the 9-in-12, but will likely decide their fate. Should they falter as severely as they did out of the All-Star break, playoffs may become something for next year's squad to worry about.