The Other Side: Dallas Mavericks
This has been some summer for the Dallas Mavericks. Since the Mavericks were eliminated by the New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the playoffs, Avery Johnson was fired and replaced with Rick Carlisle; Josh Howard sparked controversy and questions about his patriotism; Dirk Nowitzki hinted that he might be done playing hoops in another three years; and John McCain and Sarah Palin decided to hold their nickname for hostage on the campaign trail. Mark Cuban - how could you leave him out? - also dropped a bombshell that five players asked to be traded if Johnson returned as coach.
As the Mavericks get ready to make their preseason debut against the Washington Wizards, here are three things that the Dallas Morning News and the Forth Worth Star Telegram suggest you keep an eye on:
1. Rick Carlisle's New Offense
Carlisle was heavily criticized in Indiana for running a boring, structured offense, but he has promised to run with the Mavericks, who grew tired of Avery Johnson's inability to loosen the reins - even after the Jason Kidd trade. Carlisle seemed like more of the same when he was hired, but he has promised that the Mavericks will run more. From the Morning News:
"This won't be the paint-by-the-numbers offense you have grown accustomed to watching over the last few seasons. It is more Monet than methodical. It relies on creativity over calculation.
Carlisle concedes even he is intrigued to see what form the offense takes beginning tonight.
"Well, we're not running the triangle," Carlisle said. "Maybe I'd call it a rectangle. I don't know what I'd call it. "But we don't have many sets in. We're going to be playing mostly out of movement."
From the Star-Telegram:
Carlisle seems to have found a steadying tone with players who are coming off three seasons of rapid success quickly followed by bitter disappointments under Avery Johnson, a hard-driving coach known as the "Little General" whom Nowitzki recently described as running a "little dictatorship." "I'd say he's [Carlisle] a little more relaxed than the coaches before," Nowitzki said. "Even if there's some mistakes out there, he's trying to talk through it and really trying to teach. There's not really a lot of yelling going on, but we're all getting the point. We're slowly starting to get the offense. I think [Saturday] it looked a lot better than [Friday]." How the offense looks Tuesday is anyone's guess -- probably at times sloppy and at other times exhilarating. Defensively the Mavs won't look much different. Carlisle has maintained much of the foundation set by Johnson with minor tweaks to fit his philosophy. Offensively, however, fans will see an entirely different approach from Johnson's isolation-based offense. Carlisle's scheme puts bodies and the basketball in constant motion. In essence, instead of relying on players such as Nowitzki and Howard to create offense, the idea is for the offense to create shots for players.
2. Josh Howard's Re-debut In Dallas
Howard has upset many fans in Dallas since he called a local radio station to talk about his recreational marijuana use during the offseason - while the Mavericks were facing the Hornets in the first round - and for allegedly throwing a birthday party with his team facing elimination. He topped it off with his infamous rant about the national anthem at Allen Iverson's celebrity flag football game - "The Star-Spangled Banner's going on right now and I don't even celebrate that [expletive]. I'm black."
Howard has since apologized - "I love this country" - and the Morning News spoke to him about playing in front of Mavericks fans for the first time since:
Howard will be in the starting lineup Tuesday night, and he is anticipating some tough commentary from the fans. "Most likely," Howard said Monday. "But I'm just concentrating on the team. I've answered all the questions, and it's up to the fans to deal with now." In other words, Howard has moved on. It may take time for fans to do the same, but he said he hopes they will move on at some point. "How many times did he apologize?" president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. "I certainly hope folks will give him the benefit of the doubt at this point."
3. The Mavericks' Toughness
It has been in question since the Heat and Golden State Warriors punked them in back-to-back playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007. Carlisle has challenged his team to get meaner. From the Star-Telegram:
The Mavs were a good defensive team under Avery Johnson, much more tenacious than the laissez-faire days under Don Nelson. Carlisle wants his team to play with a permanent mean streak. "We had it when we were in Detroit. I know exactly what he's talking about," said swingman Jerry Stackhouse, who played for Carlisle for two seasons with the Detroit Pistons. "We made a conscious effort not to see other teams at shootaround. "Nowadays these great players, LeBron James, other guys, come in hugging you in the morning and ready to kill you at night. We want to get that edge back to where we don't want to be hugging. We just want to come out and be ready to play and play with a toughness that a lot of guys on this team are capable of playing like." Still, instead of being Pistons Bad Boys, the Mavs often are criticized for having no killer instinct.
From the Morning News:
Carlisle has to hope that being a brute can be an acquired skill, because the Mavericks have never been accused of attending the Rick Mahorn school of hard knocks.
"How do you get guys to be nasty? Well, I think hating the opponent is a start," Carlisle said. "You've got to develop that as we go along."
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