NBA@2: NBA Champs Down For the Count
When the Dallas Mavericks opted not to extend head coach Rick Carlisle following his championship run with the team last season, it was often said that Carlisle went “unrewarded” with a contract extension.
Perhaps it was a reward, after all.
Carlisle did his best job of falling on the sword after his team was blown out of their own arena last night to fall behind the Oklahoma City Thunder 0-3 in their first round playoff series.
“We got down and got a little frantic to try and make things happen,” said Carlisle after last night’s loss. “That led to some mistakes. I’ve got to do a better job at helping those guys. That’s something that I really take responsibility for. And we haven’t had a good shooting game yet in this series—the kind that we’re capable of. That’s frustrating, but we’re going to go back and look at the film. We’re going to look at the things we’ve got to do better, and we’re going to be back out there Saturday night battling.”
History is, of course, against the Mavs. There have been 99 NBA playoff series have seen one team go up 3-0 and in all 99 situations the team that as behind lost the series. There is a great deal of heart and drive in the Mavericks’ locker room, but after last night’s loss you could tell by the faces and eyes of the players that this team is all but done. At least this group of players, who have as much collective experience and any legends team, understands the gravity of the situation.
“Win the next game. Plain and simple,” said Vince Carter. “There is no rhythm or reason; we just have to win the next game or it’s over. There is no sense in trying to dress it up, make it any more difficult than what it really is. Win the next game or it’s over.”
“We’ve got to win a game,” agreed Dirk Nowitzki. “If you’re down 0-3 you’ve got to focus on winning four straight and you’ve got to show some pride. We’ve got to play a better game – move the ball, make some shots. We had some open looks, but when you shoot 34% on your home floor it’s going to be tough to win. Hopefully, on Saturday we’re going to put some fight out there and make some plays and go from there. You’ve got to win a game, just one game, and go from there.”
The danger for Dallas, if they are to have any hope of becoming the first team in history to come back from an 0-3 hole, is in allowing themselves to think about the big picture.
“If you think about the 0-3 and the hole, you’re just going to get more frustrated and that creates bad energy that can send you in a wrong direction,” said Nowitzki. “We have to focus on Saturday, playing better on both ends of the floor, playing hard and keep competing and get it going offensively. We’ve got to feel good about ourselves and get the crowd going a little bit.”
To their credit, the Mavericks were in the first two games of this series right down to the end, losing both games on late-game heroics from Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant. It’s small comfort in the current situation, but in desperate moments you cling to even the faintest glimmers of hope. Rick Carlisle might also point to the NHL, where three teams have come back from 0-3 to win series, with the last one being in 2010, when Philly came back to beat Boston.
Then again, the Boston Bruins didn’t have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, arguably the best duo in the NBA.
The picture is clear for Dallas. They lost in the first round after their first appearance in the NBA Finals, then to the Golden State Warriors. That was as the top seed, which made it even more disappointing. This season the team is missing several key components from their championship team of a season ago and they were just the seventh seed coming into postseason play. They were expected to lose this series.
That won’t ease the sting, however, if the Mavericks are cleaning out their lockers on Sunday morning. The short-term future of this team is very much in question, and without some significant moves this summer it could be a very, very long time before the Mavs are considered to be contenders again.
Prepare For the Mike Woodson Scapegoat Treatment
You already know how this is going to play out, right? You can recite the script like the preview of the next tiresome action movie to come out of Hollywood. The special effects, the sexy girl, the action hero and so much CG that you almost don’t notice the lack of a decent plot.
Now coming to a theater near you . . .the head coach of the New York Knicks gets fired.
That’s what happens when a team that was believed to be a deep playoff team gets unceremoniously dismissed in the first round, and make no mistake – the Knicks have exactly one more playoff game to go and it won’t be pretty. The Miami HEAT are simply too much for the Knicks to handle, and that’s with or without Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. In fact, based on the one game Lin played against Miami this season, the Knicks might have a better showing without him. Not that they have a prayer either way.
Mike Woodson will almost certainly be the first lamb thrown to the ravenous wolves that pass for media in The Big Apple. It will somehow be his fault that Carmelo Anthony still isn’t the kind of franchise player who wins playoff series. It will be Woodson’s fault that the fire extinguisher in Miami ticked off Stoudemire to the point that he felt the need to assault it. It will be Woodson’s fault that Tyson Chandler got the flu and that traffic around Madison Square Garden is so dreadfully bad.
Yep . . .we’ve seen this movie before.
Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Ensign Woodson beam down to a hostile planet . . .we all know who dies before the first commercial break. In this movie Carmelo Anthony will play Kirk, Stoudemire will be Spock and, well, you know the rest.
You can’t kill off Amar’e because his onerous contract and his ailing back make him all but unmovable. Carmelo’s contract would also be tough to move, especially since his stock drops with each passing year. The only thing the Knicks can really do is hire a big-name coach and hope to god he can make something out of the the duo upon which the Knicks have staked their immediate future.
Who might that be? Phil Jackson is unlikely because he physically can’t handle the job any more. Jerry Sloan would fit the bill, but is Carmelo Anthony really the right fit for his no-nonsense approach and insistence on strong defense? Is Nate McMillan a big enough name? Stan Van Gundy will no doubt be available . . .is he a big enough name? Perhaps Rick Carlisle, who has a championship as a player and now as a coach?
One thing’s for sure – if the Knicks hire Jerry Sloan he won’t be the first one killed off if the team falters. Bigger heads will certainly roll.
Mike Woodson won’t be unemployed for long if the Knicks do, indeed embrace predictability. Teams around the NBA saw how he quickly turned the Knicks around, just as he did in Atlanta as the head coach of the Hawks. So next we’ll all take odds on which happens first – the Knicks live up to the hype or Woodson turns his next team around in record time.
The Fifth Pick In the 2012 NBA Draft . . .
If the NBA Draft Lottery goes as the odds say they should (which it rarely does), the Sacramento Kings should have the fifth overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Assuming they actually do land the fifth pick, which player best fits their needs?
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis, in his latest Mock Draft, says the best pick for the Kings is University of North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, so let’s take a look at his game and see if it would, indeed, be a good fit in Sacramento.
It seems that this summer will see the Kings part company with Tyreke Evans in favor of a true small forward, and if Barnes is on the board when the Kings get their crack at the lottery pool he will likely be the new starting small forward for Sacramento next season. Barnes is not a player who will take over his team and become the next Kevin Durant or LeBron James, but then again the Kings don’t need that. They have their franchise player in DeMarcus Cousins and they just need someone to complement him and keep the defense honest. Barnes is more than capable of filling that kind of role in the NBA.
On the offensive end, Barnes ranked in the 73rd percentile in transition, 65th in post-ups, 64th in isolation, 64th as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and 60th when coming off screens. He’s not much of a spot-up shooter and doesn’t cut to the basket for easy scores, but otherwise he does a lot of things well. The Kings, for their part, were miserably bad in the half court this season, ranking 28th in the league. Barnes’ ability to create offense in the half court set would be a great benefit to Sacramento, particularly his mid-range game and ability to hit the three. He hasn’t shown much ability to create shots for his teammates and his ballhandling is a bit suspect, but those are things that can and will be taught at the next level. Barnes is also excellent in transition, so he would fit right in with the Kings, who fourth in the NBA in transition offense this season.
Barnes isn’t much of a defender, ranking in the 77th percentile when defending a pick-and-roll ball handler 64th in defending a spot-up shooter. Otherwise his rankings are pretty low, 42nd percentile and below across the board. That’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible either, as the Kings have plenty of size in the paint to help clean up penetrating perimeter players.
The Kings could use an upgrade at power forward, but they are set at every other position except the three. Again, Barnes is not an All-Star waiting to happen, but he brings more than enough to the table to complement the rest of the starting lineup in Sacramento. If they can use Evans as a trade piece in an effort to land a better option at the four, the Kings could be several significant steps closer to a postseason return.
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