Hallelujah! The Dallas Mavericks finally won a game!
Although it probably wasn’t in the fashion that Mavericks fans would want a win over the 9 and 31 (now 32) Washington Wizards, trust me when I say a ‘W’ in any way was more important. To say the Mavericks have been struggling lately would putting it lightly; they came back from their 9 games in 12 nights stretch with only 2 wins.
It’s clear that this team has a lot of kinks to work out. The good thing is that there’s still a lot of basketball left to play, and therefore there are plenty of chances for the Dallas Mavericks to move up the Western Conference standings before the end of the regular season. That being said, it will in not be easy. Dallas plays against mostly above .500 teams for the next 22 games, including 5 of the 6 teams that are ahead of them in standings in the Western Conference. So, how can the Mavs get back to playing like one of the hottest teams in the NBA?
1. Delonte West –The Dallas Mavericks really need this guy back; he is the best perimeter defender on the team. In Delonte’s absence, Shawn Marion has had to step up and often defend the opposing teams’ point guard. Let’s face it, who else can guard any of the top 10 point guard on the Mavs? Maybe Roddy, but Dallas would first need to see some more consistency out of him before trusting him completely with a difficult defensive assignment. Besides just defense, Delonte West brings a lot to the offensive side of the floor. I’ve always said, Delonte is the perfect mix between JJ Barea and Deshawn Stevenson –the gritty defensive player with clutch shooting ability combined with the skill to finish in the paint: these skills make him absolutely crucial to this Mavericks team. Having Bradon Wright and Brendan Haywood back which helps a lot, but a large part of the slump can be attributed to West’s absence. When he was on the floor, Delonte gave it 110% every single time. It’s hard to be on the floor with him and not do the same, or it would feel like you let him down. The Dallas Mavericks need a player like that, now more than ever.
2. Lamar Odom–What can I say about Lamar that already hasn’t been said? Besides a 3-point play he converted during the Wizards game, he missed every one of his shots. While going 1 for 6 from the field can
happen sometimes, it was his body language that really worried me. It looks like he just doesn’t care. He makes a good play every now and then, but that isn’t enough. Not by the standards he supposedly holds for himself. He has yet to string together strong back-to-back games. It is probably obvious, but the Mavs need consistency out of Lamar if they want a chance to repeat. Plain and simple. What’s the matter Lamar? Are you angry that the Lakers traded you? How about you get back at them by winning a championship with your new team? What better way is there to stick it to the Lakers? No more excuses, you really shouldn’t need any extra motivation anyway.
3. Stopping Centers With Range –Big men with range kill this Mavericks team every time. It seems like there is nothing the Mav’s can do to stop them. Just ask players like Chris Kaman, Brook Lopez, Marcin Gortat, and the Gasol Brothers. All of them had great nights against the Dallas Mavericks in recent games this season, and all of them successfully mixed together post moves with jump shots. Tyson Chandler had no problem with these type of players last year, but Haywood, Mahinmi, and Wright definitely do. The Maverick defenders are giving those type of players space to try to stop them from driving to the hoop, but they are knocking down easy jump shots instead. When Haywood, Mahinmi, and Wright do start to try to prevent the simple jump shots, the big men simply pump fake and drive, or pump fake and pass the ball to a cutter running into the now unguarded paint.
The Dallas Mavericks have no answer for these type of players. Since playing zone defense isn’t possible without Tyson in the line-up, there really is no way to mask this weakness. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle will have to figure out a way to keep these big men with range in check.
Just a few things the Mavs need to look at right now. Like I said, a lot of games left to be played. The one you want to keep your eye out for is the March 29th game in Miami; the Heat beat the Mavs in the season opener at the American Airlines Center. This will be a good game to see how far Dallas has come since that embarrassing lost to the Heat, and hopefully the Mavericks will be at full strength by then. Don’t count them out yet Dallas Mavericks fans; they need our support now more than ever.