When the Dallas Mavericks acquired Rodrigue Beaubois in a draft day deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, they had high hopes that the 25th pick out of France could team up with Dirk Nowitzki to form a dynamic duo. Things didn't work out with Beaubois, but has Monta Ellis filled that void? Well, we have Rebecca Lawson from Mavs Moneyball to answer the Ellis question and some other pressing Mavs inquiries.
I mean, when you can bring in the writer who once compared Mavs players to Taylor Swift songs, you gotta do it. I had the chance to meet Lawson (not Ty) in New Orleans over All Star Weekend. She definitely bleeds Mavs blue - as could be noted before the game when she was locked on Dirk, while he was running through his pregame shooting drills. Enjoy the insight and feel free to leave any questions you may have for her in the comment section.
1.) The Mavericks currently sit in eight place in the West. Do you see the team hanging on to that last playoff spot? What has been going well for the Mavs recently (they are 4-3 since the All Star break)?
Rebecca Lawson: I do see them hanging on to that last spot -- hell, they could even be 6th or 7th -- but it's going to be very tough. The Mavericks since the All-Star break have been the beneficiaries of a relatively easy schedule, beating the Sixers, Knicks, Pistons and Pelicans. The losses were to the Heat, Bulls and Spurs. (That should answer your second question.) Essentially, they're beating the teams they should beat and losing to the teams that they should lose to. (Bulls were maybe a push.) The one thing the Mavericks DO have working for them in the home stretch is they have close to, if not the fewest back-to-backs of any team in the NBA left. But that said, a large portion of their remaining schedule is against Western Conference powerhouses.
Honestly, a lot will depend on the other teams in the West. As of the moment I'm typing this, there are only one and a half games separating no. 6 from no. 9 in the West. ONE AND A HALF GAMES! I haven't looked closely at the Golden State, Phoenix and Memphis remaining schedules, but the Mavs' is tough. I think they pull it out, but I think it's going to be one of those things that puts me dramatically over my wine budget due to stress before the regular season is out.
2.) Rumors had the Nuggets flirting with signing Monta Ellis this past summer, I was completely against this. He's averaging 19 points this season and his shooting is up, slightly, from last season in Milwaukee. Did you like the Ellis signing when it happened? How do you feel about him now? And what do you like and dislike about his game?
RL: The collective groan of Mavs' Twitter when the Ellis signing was announced ... well, it was something. Then when he announced he was going to play something called "Monta Basketball," we all just threw up our hands. I don't think anyone was crazy optimistic about it when it happened. But then some rumblings started to surface (after the Dwightmare ended) that Dirk had actually asked the front office to look at signing Monta. And we've seen why.
I really like Monta. As does the fanbase. He is in a system under Rick Carlisle that allows him to thrive. Unlike last season, in Dallas he's not asked to be the number one scoring option. He plays unselfishly, and if he's having an off-night shooting, he will rack up assists. He runs the pick and roll/pick and pop with Dirk beautifully. Carlisle has even praised his help defense in recent games. Also, his son is adorable. There's nothing about his game I don't like on this team. He's not really a star to build around when/after Dirk retires -- I think his stint in Milwaukee showed that -- but he's the right complement to Dirk for the last few years of his career.
So. Team Have It All. I'm in.
3.) Dirk only played 53 games last season and he's already at 59 this season. Have the Mavs been better this season or was Nowitzki's injury what killed the team last year?
Okay, but seriously. Yes. To both. The Mavs have been better this season, no question. A large part of that is, once Dwight Howard wasn't an option, Cuban and Donnie Nelson went to work on addressing the biggest areas of need. Darren Collison didn't work out for the Mavs, so they (over?)spent on one of the best shooters and ball handlers in the league in Jose Calderon. O.J. Mayo was a disaster, but Monta has been great. Wayne Ellington has, of late, been very solid in increased playing time. The team has been mostly healthy and played together all season and that has helped, chemistry-wise.
But Dirk. Dirk is the glue that holds everything together. God help me when he retires, because I'm going to cry for days. The Mavericks only missed the playoffs by a couple of games last season, and I think with a full season of Dirk they would have been in easily. This is the first season since the championship that he's been at full strength, and, well, understatement of the year: it's obviously been helpful.
Quite simply, the Mavericks need Dirk to get anywhere this season. Please never leave us, Dirk.
4.) It seems that Vince Carter has re-invented himself a bit as a bench asset the past couple seasons in Dallas. How important has he been to the team?
RL: I don't know if I would say he's been critical, but he has definitely been important. Last season, if the Mavericks had made the playoffs, I have a hard time seeing how Vince doesn't win Sixth Man of the Year. And as a result, I think most of us were pretty excited to see what he could do this season. Which, up until just before the All-Star break was ... well, not much. Brandan Wright's return from injury seemed to help a lot -- they have some crazy on-court chemistry -- and in the past few games, he's been on fire, setting a season high in points (23) against the Knicks and scoring well into the double digits in six of his last seven games. It has been nice to have his offense back to take the pressure off Dirk and Monta.
A few Mavs writers have started talking about 6MOY again as a result of this most recent stretch. I'm not so sure I'd go that far, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
5.) What's something we in Nuggets Nation should know about the Mavericks?
RL: Collectively, they have a lot of heart, which makes them more dangerous than you might think. (I am more optimistic than most Mavs bloggers in that respect, for what it's worth.) I know that sounds cliche, and maybe I've been in too many Carlisle press conferences this season. But for the first time since the championship season, this group feels like they are playing for something more. It's a very hard locker room when they lose, and it's a very happy one when they win. On nights when he could easily, Carlisle will not throw a player under the bus, and he is just as frustrated when the team loses, if not more. Even as recently as right before the All-Star break, he talked about the team collectively lifting up Sam Dalembert from pretty rough stretch, which seems to have paid dividends in some games here and there. They support each other, and it is noticed.
A big thanks to Rebecca for joining us, you can follow her on Twitter at @beccaaftersix.