NBA AM: Dirk Says Dallas Looks Old And Slow
The defending champion Dallas Mavericks have a legitimate shot at once again hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of this season, but after their first two games one thing is abundantly clear – the Mavs will have to grind long and hard to make their repeat dreams a reality.
The Mavericks have lost to the Miami HEAT and Denver Nuggets to start the season and in both contests found themselves facing large deficits at halftime (21 and 27 points respectively).
After suffering two blowout losses to begin the 2012 campaign, it didn’t take All-Star forward and 2011 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki long to diagnose the ailing Mavericks.
“We obviously look old and slow and out of shape,” Nowitzki said after Monday’s loss to Denver. “It’s a bad combination. I still think this team has a lot of potential, we just need to work. We’re an older team and we probably needed an extra two weeks of training camp but we don’t have it so all of the younger teams, the athletic teams look better right now than we do.“
The lack of a full training camp, due to the prolonged lockout, is going to negatively impact some teams harder than others but Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is taking the full blame for Dallas’ forgettable start to the season.
“I’m the head coach and it’s my job to make sure these guys are ready to play,” Carlisle said. “And it’s clear that they’re not. Right now, that’s not something that’s easy for me to say, and it’s not an easy thing to live with. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Nowitzki, while understanding the message Carlisle was trying to convey also placed the team’s lackluster start on the players as well.
“It’s all of us together,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously it was a weird situation with the short camp but we got to deal with it. Coach always tries to take the blame if some stuff doesn’t go right, but we have a lot of veteran guys and we just got to keep on working.”
One area both guys fully agree needs immediate improvement is on the defensive side of the floor.
The Mavericks have not been able to generate enough defensive stops which would allow them to push the tempo offensively at their desired tempo. The squad also has trust issues to overcome defensively after losing center Tyson Chandler to free agency.
“The biggest thing, we’ve got to rebuild trust defensively,” Carlisle said. “We’ve lost some. We’ve lost a lot. I’ve got to do a better job coaching these guys – simple as that. “It’s work. Look, these are good teams we’re playing. Every team we’re playing is going to be a good team. In some way, in some part, it’s just because defending champions. You see this time and time again. The basketball gods, they tip in the way of the teams that come in these situations; bank threes, guys that don’t normally hit are hitting shots. That’s the kind of magical thing that happens when teams have the opportunity to play a championship team. We’ve got to understand that this effort is going to come at us every night from everybody. They’re going to be lined up. That’s just how it goes.”
“It all really starts defensively,” Nowitzki agreed. “We’re having problems just getting stops and then our offense looks bad too because we can’t play off of flow, we have to play a slowdown game. We weren’t good at that even last year. We were at our best when we got stops and pushed the ball. And that’s hard to do if you have to take the ball out every time. We got to trust each other. We have a lot of work to do.”
Things may have gotten off to a rocky start for the defending champions, but nobody in Dallas is ready to hit the panic button and bailout just yet.
“Eventually hopefully we’ll turn the corner,” Nowitzki said. “I still have faith in this team.”
Courtney Lee Not surprised Dwight Howard Unhappy: Current Houston Rocket guard Courtney Lee was a member of the Orlando Magic team which made it to the NBA Finals in 2009.
More importantly he also became a close friend of All-Star center Dwight Howard.
So when news started to break surrounding Howard’s request for a trade and his unhappiness with Orlando’s front office it came as no surprise to Lee who knew it would come to this point eventually.
“I’m not surprised,” Lee told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. ”When they broke up the team in 2009, you could just see the frustration in Dwight’s face. We talked about it a couple of times and you could tell he was upset about it.”
As a rookie, Lee emerged as a starter on the 2009 Magic team but was dealt to the New Jersey Nets following the finals loss in a deal which landed Orlando shooting guard Vince Carter.
Ultimately, Lee felt that Magic roster should’ve been given another chance to make a finals run.
“It’s not like we got slaughtered in the Finals,” Lee continued. “You’d have thought a team that went to the Finals would have stayed together. We got that far in 2009 and the next season we would have had another year’s worth of experience and playing together.”
Whether the Magic would’ve made another finals run is up for debate. Orlando beat a banged up Boston Celtics squad playing without an injured Kevin Garnett to reach the finals in 2009. The Celtics came back strong in 2010 with Garnett and pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the finals before losing the championship series.
It is important to note Boston defeated the new look Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.
The Magic took a risk by acquiring more talent at the sacrifice of team chemistry. It may be a risk that ultimately ends in the loss of Howard.
Orlando Magic On The Rebound: After hovering around the league’s elite the past few seasons, the Orlando Magic entered the 2012 campaign absent from the preseason ‘title contender’ lists compiled by most experts.
However, veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson believes as long as the Magic can successfully get All-Star center Dwight Howard involved he’ll be the catalyst for the team’s future fortunes.
“It starts with Dwight,” Richardson said. “Once we get him going and they have to double down on him it opens [the floor] up for everyone else. Guys start hitting shots from the outside.”
With the league’s condensed regular season schedule and the abundance of back-to-back games on the docket, the ability of veterans to remain healthy will play a pivotal role down the stretch.
For now Richardson, in his eleventh season, says his body is holding up well to the early rigors of the season.
“Physically I’m fine,” Richardson said. “I think everybody is fine, I think it’s just getting your timing back. That’s with everybody. You’re not used to playing five-on-five or shooting the ball with someone in your face. I think guys on this team did a great job of staying in shape. It’s just [about] getting our rhythm back.”
Richardson also stressed the importance of having a short memory throughout the shortened season. In the Magic’s first game of the year the team struggled mightily hitting their shots, but in the club’s contest.
“That’s just the NBA,” Richardson said. “You have to forget about the day before and focus on the day ahead, especially the way the season is we have to learn how to win on back-to-back nights.”
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