NBA Saturday: Dallas Mavericks Finally Win
The Dallas Mavericks finally won a game. After opening their season with a three-game losing streak and going winless during the condensed preseason, the Mavericks beat the Toronto Raptors for their first win since last June’s NBA Finals. The last time a defending champion started their season 0-3 was during the 1969-70 season, when the Boston Celtics struggled early because Bill Russell had just retired.
It hasn’t been pretty for the Mavericks, but the slow start was somewhat expected. After losing Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, the team has many new faces. Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Brandon Wright and Sean Williams have all had to learn on the fly after the shortened offseason and preseason.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle believes his team is improving after the ugly start.
“We’re playing better basketball,” Carlisle said. “The first couple of games were horrible… The last couple of games are games we can build on… Games are going to be hard all year. Tonight is probably a template for how we’re going to have to play a lot of nights; 11 guys played when it counted.”
Dallas’ first two losses, against the Miami HEAT and Denver Nuggets, were double-digit embarrassments suffered at home. The two-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday evening was much more tolerable but still disappointing, especially after losing both preseason games to the Thunder.
With that said, few teams had a tougher opening schedule than the Mavericks: Miami, Denver and Oklahoma City are a combined 10-1 this season. Dirk Nowitzki recently said that Dallas looks “old and slow” but they definitely look much better when they’re facing lottery teams.
The Mavericks will have a much easier schedule over the next few weeks and their offseason additions will continue to get acclimated. Dallas’ sports fans are used to panicking in December, but the Mavs still have plenty of time to turn their season around.
Rose vs. Paul: Last night, many people paid to see Brock Lesnar face off against Alistair Overeem during UFC 141, but the best showdown of the evening may have been Derrick Rose versus Chris Paul. In their only match-up of the condensed season, the two elite floor generals had a back-and-forth battle that lived up to the hype.
Both point guards played over forty minutes and put on a show, scoring or assisting nearly every basket when their team needed them most. The Chicago Bulls ultimately beat the Los Angeles Clippers, and Rose got the best of Paul in this potential Finals preview.
Rose finished with 29 points, 16 assists and 8 rebounds versus Paul’s 15 points, 14 assists and 4 steals.
“It was like two heavyweights going at it,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said, “punch after punch.”
It was arguably the best performance of Rose’s career. Last season’s MVP delivered the message that he’s the best point guard in the league and proved that he won’t back down from anyone.
“Derrick probably played the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” Joakim Noah told BullsTV. “He played unbelievably today, just the way he ran the team and the way he scored. The challenge that he took on against Chris Paul was unbelievable. It’s crazy what he did today, he’s playing great basketball.”
Unfortunately, Rose and Paul won’t face off again until next season. Their next battle may be for the MVP award, which could be just as entertaining.
Richardson Providing Leadership: Justin Harper, the Orlando Magic’s second-round pick, has had a lot of new information thrown at him in recent weeks. With no summer league, a rushed training camp and a condensed preseason, it’s a difficult time to be a rookie. Luckily for Harper, he has a veteran giving him advice and making sure he’s learning from his mistakes.
Quentin Richardson has helped Harper as he makes the transition from college to the NBA. Richardson offers tips during practice and teaches from the bench. The 31-year-old has emerged as a leader in Orlando and he has been a positive locker room presence regardless of how many minutes he’s playing each night. He has made an effort to help the team’s younger players anytime they’re in need.
“Being in the league as long as I have, I’ve been through a lot of different situations – from being a rookie to being a veteran, from not playing to playing a lot, from being a sixth man to being a starter and from starting on bad teams to starting on good teams,” Richardson told HOOPSWORLD. “I just try to help the young guys out in any way that I can, whether it’s on the court or off the court. If there’s anything I see them going through, I try to help because I know I needed that when I was coming up. It’s always good to have someone to talk to.”
During Richardson’s first two years in the NBA, he received similar guidance from Sean Rooks and Derek Strong. He was extremely thankful for their patience and help, which is why he tries to be there for Orlando’s young players.
Over the offseason, Richardson was away from his teammates because he underwent back surgery. He spent most of the lockout rehabbing out of state so that he’d be ready for the start of the season.
“I had offseason back surgery so it was difficult not being at the Amway Center and dealing with elite NBA-level trainers to help me with my rehab,” Richardson said. “That was the biggest thing [during the lockout]. I had to go to a physical therapist that I got set up with and I had to keep traveling back and forth. I feel pretty good now though.”
While teams like the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers are receiving a lot of attention entering the season, Richardson believes the Magic are at an advantage since they’re bringing back their core group of players from last season.
“We still have some new pieces with Big Baby and the rookies but, for the most part, the core is intact and most of the guys already know this stuff,” Richardson said. “Hopefully that will help us.”
“We can’t worry about who’s being talked about or things like that,” Richardson added. “At the end of the day, there are games to be played. We have to worry about that and fight for position. As far as who’s being talked about, that has never mattered in the NBA.”
Leadership, however, does matter in the NBA and that’s exactly what Richardson brings to the Magic.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There is only one chat on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because this chat fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.