'This is Day 4 of 181 days,' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said following Friday's 'Mavstoberfest'…
Dirk's Gotta Cook: Breaking Good Mavs Donuts
DONUT 1: Breaking Mav
Now that "Breaking Bad'' has been placed in an iconic television coffin and lowered into the ground, the urge to mourn the passing of this emotional rollercoaster is as heavy as it will ever be. In the wake of that reality, I began to realize that although the show has ended, it actually is alive and well in a parallel universe that's right around the corner.
The Dallas Mavericks open their season at the end of the month, and thus begins their own version of "Breaking Bad.'' Just like the show, (check out Fish's three reviews of the series here)the Mavs ultimate success will depend heavily on how our shaved-headed Heisenberg, coach Rick Carlisle, is able to blend the new "elements" he's been given this offseason into a playoff caliber team that resembles "the blue stuff."
Mavericks basketball is our drug of choice, and MFFL's will be playing the role of Badger and Skinny Pete as they consume this season's product. Loaded with ill-fitting parts and one-year deals, last season's batch resembled one of Todd's underwhelming cooks. Not only was it lacking chemistry, but a key ingredient was missing: Dirk.
DONUT 2: Dirk's gotta cook
Nowitzki missed 29 games, and never seemed to fully find the level of consistency we've grown so accustomed to over the years.
Asked about Dirk's health going into this season, Carlisle eagerly said, "He's had a phenomenally conscientious summer with his workouts and it's kind of a continued rehab from last year's knee situation. He's been doing great really all summer." While a healthy Dirk is reason to be high-fiving any and every person you come in contact with throughout the day, your true optimism should be riding on the ability of Carlisle to get the most out of this group of guys.
Carlisle is our Heisenberg, and in recent days he's pulled back the curtain and given us a little insight into the "empire" he's trying to build.
Rick's so-far preseason thoughts, worth filing away and re-checking:
DONUT 3: On expectations
"Well our mission this year is winning in the playoffs. The goal is always going to be winning championships. Getting to the playoffs and winning puts you in the top eight remaining in the (conference) and anything can happen. That's what our mission is.''
DONUT 4: On Monta Ellis being an efficient scorer
"Well, we've got to put him in the right situations and positions. One of the things that really works on paper is the fact that he and Calderon offensively should be very good together. Monta is a terrific playmaker. Dirk is one of the best spacers in the history of the game. People hug him all over the court. That's going to give Monta opportunities to find space and when you get him moving toward the rim with space, he's a great finisher. He gets to the free-throw line and he's an underrated assist guy. So, I think all that works."
DONUT 5: Success hinges on ...
"This is going to come down to defense. It's going to come down to our ability to stop, rebound and to keep people off the free throw line. I think we were second to last in the league last year in allowing made free throws. Teams got to the line enough to put us second to the bottom. That stat was the most pronounced and disappointing stat we had."
DONUT 6: On managing minutes
"Yeah we've got to keep Dirk at a reasonable level. I don't want throw a number out there, but it's in the low 30's per game. We want to keep Vince in the mid 20's. Shawn has been really durable for us, but I don't want to overplay him either.
"We've got younger guys who need to step it up and establish themselves going into their second year. Guys like Crowder. I think Sarge has got to be more ready to play this year. He did a good job for us last year. Brandan Wright, we're excited about him. There's a lot of guys that are going to be really important to us. I don't want to run Calderon way up. He just spent another summer playing with Spain, so we'll keep an eye on him.
"But the fresher we can keep our team, the more guys we can develop. I mean that strengthens the organization going forward."
DONUT 7: On how important Sam Dalembert will be
"Sam's going to be important as a communicator, and as a rim protector. This doesn't fall on one guy's shoulders. This has got to be a collective thing, and I'm going to keep talking about it. On paper we don't have a group of guys who look like individual defensive stoppers. ...''
DONUT 8: But ...
"Shawn Marion is still one of the best guys in the game, and Vince has got good analytic numbers on defense. Dirk's better than you think he is on defense, but we don't have any first- or second-team All-Defensive guys on our team. So, we have to do it collectively. We have to establish a covenant and that's going to be important. I've got to have the stomach to make sure the guys are doing the things to sacrifice and to be in a position to be a lot better than we were last year. That's got to be a big part of what we're doing."
DONUT 9: On if Dirk seems any different as a father
"If you're asking me if he's settling into fatherhood and he's not as into basketball, I'll tell you categorically the answer is (expletive) no. I mean, this is serious business. It's been a tough couple years for him. The 2012 season was dicey with the knee thing. Coming into last year it seemed like it was OK, and then all the sudden in Barcelona the thing puffed up and so we held him out of the game. That was the last time he played until late December(2012).
"He takes it extremely seriously. He has such love and respect for the game and such pride in his own performing and taking responsibility in winning and losing for this franchise. He knows how important his health is to his game and our game, and to all of our fans. This is serious business to him and his effort has completely matched up with the level of importance."
DONUT 10: On concerns of his top players being older
"With respect to those guys I've got to manage their minutes the right way. I think you've got to put Ellis as one of those guys in the top three or four and he's 27. He can take on some of that load. We're going to need to adjust our rotation to ensure nobody is getting too much of an undue load dumped on them. That goes for any of those 4 guys. In the process, we're going to have to have a couple guys step up and play a little better than you guys in the room (media) expect.
DONUT 11: On that pesky defense
"What's going to definitely have to be better … is our defense. Our defense and our rebounding is going to be very important to us. The other thing I haven't mentioned that I think we'll improve on is our ball security. Last year we had too many catastrophic turnovers that led to unguardable dunks and layups. Those are the things that really kill your defense and kill your defensive ranking. Efficiency on offense goes a long way towards helping put you in a strong position defensively."
DONUT 12: The Final Word
The Mavs have a second preseason game tonight in Memphis after falling to New Orleans on Monday. (Get all those details, from Dalembert's conditioning to Mekel's turnovers to Monta's positive work here).
"We know that there aren't a lot of people that think we're capable of (playoff-level competition), and our self-belief has got to be there. It's going to come down to how we defend and how we perform in close games." - Rick Carlisle.