Nuggets at Mavericks preview: Nowitzki is back with struggling Dallas squad

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For today's preview I was joined by Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball for a question and answer interview on the match-up between the Nuggets and Mavericks. Be sure to check out their site to read Kirk's questions and my answers for the game.

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2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 31
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vs
Dallas Mavericks (1981 - 2001)
16-14 (7-13 on the road)

12-17 (8-4 at home)
December 26, 2012 - 6:30 PM (MT)
American Airlines Arena- Dallas, Texas
TV Altitude or NBA TV / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Dominique Jones
Andre Iguodala SG O.J. Mayo
Danilo Gallinari SF Dahntay Jones
Kenneth Faried PF Dirk Nowitzki
Kosta Koufos C Chris Kaman
Notes
Denver Stiffs Blogs Mavs Moneyball
Chandler and Stone (out) Injuries None
The Nuggets are 25-48 all time in Dallas Stat The Mavs lead the series 78-70 all time vs. the Nuggets

The Mavericks have come a long way since their 28 wins or less seasons of the 1990s; they had eight seasons from 1990-99 of 28 wins or less. Excluding last year's lockout shortened season (when Dallas was 36-30) the Mavs have had 11 straight 50+ win seasons, including seven seasons of 55+ wins, and three 60+ wins seasons.

Consider that the Nuggets have never won more than 54 games (1987-88 and 2008-09) and have only won 50+ games for four seasons in a row (from 2007-2011) - going for a fifth this year if you exclude the lockout shortened season.

The Mavericks have been a very successful franchise in their 33 year existence - going to four Western Conference Finals and advancing to two NBA finals where they are 1-1. We are still waiting for a lone Finals appearance as Nuggets fans.

But things seem to be on a bit of a down-swing for the Mavs at the moment. With Nowitzki back in the mix they should make another playoff push, but who knows if they'll be in the post-season with all the roster adjustments they have made. Let's see what is up with the Mavs with the help of Kirk Henderson.

1.) What is going on with the roster there? Eddy Curry looked good in one game and then was cut to make room for Troy Murphy. Murphy, who has been washed up for a couple seasons, was released to make room for Derek Fisher. And Fish was released at his request recently too. What is going on with that roster in Dallas?

Kirk Henderson: Well after Deron Williams rejoined the Nets, there was a mild freak-out among the Mavericks faithful. The front office reacted with a number of short term signings intended to give the team flexibility this coming summer while giving some guys like O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison extended tryouts.

Then Dirk needed knee surgery and the remaining preseason games indicated that Dallas might get killed on the glass this year. Then Chris Kaman started the year hurt so Dallas simply needed big bodies, so Eddy Curry made some sense. It became clear in a hurry he was a space eater but couldn't rebound. So he had to be let go for Troy Murphy, who was supposed to bring the element of a stretch big to Dallas. But, since the NBA is a silly place, Murphy quickly became known as a shooter who couldn't shoot. Or rebound.

Then Darren Collison fell off a cliff in terms of ball control, so Murphy was let go for Derek Fisher. After a few games he asked to be let go (dealing with an injury himself). Simply put the team is bad. Not horribly bad, but on the wrong end of mediocre. They can't rebound well and have some ludicrous issues with ball control at times. It has been a long fall since the championship.

2.) From what I saw of Darren Collison early in the season, I loved the trade Dallas made with the Pacers to acquire him. How are you feeling about him now? Should he be the starter again?

KH: Ugh. I had such high hopes for Collison. He's fast. He's smart. He loves to run. But he is also completely unable to run an offense. Aaron McGuire from Gothic Ginobili summed him up really well: click here. He's fine in spurts, but he goes through long stretches where he makes unbelievably bad decisions.

A lead guard in the offense that Rick Carlisle runs has to be able to control the ball and make the right play, and Collison has been given enough time and reps and has proven he's unable to do so.

Should he start? Yes. But mainly because the other guard options in Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones are much worse options.

3.) Big Dirk is back! How did he look in his first game back against the Spurs?

KH: I'm assuming you saw the final score (Dallas lost by 38). He was moving around fine, it's not like he was known for his speed. He'll be worked into the rotation slowly as he gets his timing back and gets to know his new teammates. We're all excited to have him back though, it's been a long 27 games without him.

4.) Another move I liked from the Mavs was the pick up of Orange Juice Mayonnaise aka O.J. Mayo. How has he improved from his Grizzlies days? Has he improved? Do you want to see him there long-term?

KH: He's been pretty incredible. He came to Dallas on the recommendation of Chauncy Billups, who credits Rick Carlisle with getting his career back on track. Though its only been a third of the season and he has had a few rough outings, the overall growth has been incredible.

He came to Dallas thinking the main thing he had going for him was his shot, and Carlisle changed that immediately and it's paying off as he's shooting 47% from the field and 49% from beyond the arc. He's also improved by leaps and bounds using screens, attacking off the dribble, and making the right pass. Defensively he has a lot of work to do, but I think we are all really excited that Dirk will be playing with such a strong offensive presence this season.

It is also clear he either wasn't or didn't want to be coached. Now that he's decided to learn, it's really hard to establish a ceiling for him.

5.) This is such an odd roster - veterans and some young blood too. What is the plan in Dallas moving forward? What would you like to be seen done there?

KH: The plan, I think, was to tread water. If you'll recall Dallas has let every piece of the 2011 championship roster walk, outside of Dirk and Shawn Marion. The hope was that a big name free agent would make it to market and choose Dallas. Deron Williams showed the potential folly of the plan by being unable to turn down the $20+ million more from the Nets. I expect Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to come to similar conclusions this off-season.

I really don't know what Dallas does moving forward. They've had bad drafts, excluding this most recent one, or traded the picks nearly every year since 2003. Yes, Dallas will have cap room this summer, but who will they use it on? It's not the $20 million dollar guys who kill a team's cap, it's the $10 million guys who can't perform enough to justify that kind of cap space. I fear Dallas will hop on that mediocrity treadmill Cuban mentioned back at the Sloan Conference in 2011.

It's not that I'm mad, heck, I got to see 12 years of playoffs, two finals appearances, and one championship. It's just disappointing. Dirk's most talented teammates have been Tyson Chandler, Steve Nash, Jason Terry, and a past his prime Jason Kidd. And he's probably going to ride off into the sunset being asked to be another first option on a perennial 7-8 seed when he'd be better suited as a second option to a strong play maker.

[Update] Dirk played just over 26 minutes against the Thunder Thursday night (Dec. 27th) and was just 3-11 from the floor for 9 points and again came off the bench. The Mavericks lost a heart-breaker to the Thunder as they held a nice lead for most of the second half, pushed things to overtime on a miracle shot by Darren Collison (who led the team with 32 points), held a 104-101 lead in OT, and ultimately lost 111-105.

***

Denver Nuggets Tickets

Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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