Postgame Dallas Mavericks press conferences these days are awkward affairs. For the second straight season, Dallas is 2-13 after 15 games, a far cry from the normal bar of success that has been set around here for the past two decades.
After Tuesday’s 97-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, a game in which the Mavericks barely cracked 40% shooting from the field, Dallas’ public relations director Sarah Melton had to prod those gathered to break the ice with an icy Rick Carlisle at the podium.
“Go ahead with questions, guys,” she said not once, but twice.
Questions ranging in topic from Dwight Powell’s DNP-CD (which might cool the Nerlens Noel vendetta theories for a day) to “is Dennis dribbling too much?” to others asking if sweeping changes were coming via trades were all meet with cool responses from Carlisle.
“It would be foolhardy for me to say anything about changing the lineups,” Carlisle responded to one inquiry. “I don’t want to go there.”
The fact that Carlisle is being asked about potential trades as a solution 15 games into the season is indicative of where Dallas is as a franchise. Presumably, the underlying question of the question concerns the fate of Noel, the Mavericks’ “Tyson Chandler starter kit” experiment gone wrong.
Noel played five minutes on Tuesday, all of them in the first quarter, and contributed zero points. Carlisle implored the assembled media to “have lunch with Jeff Withey” to get a feel for the attitude amongst Dallas’ big men concerning the lack of minutes to go around.
The one who has been receiving most of those minutes, Salah Mejri, was frank in his assessment of Dallas’ season after his 3 point, 3 rebound performance in 14 minutes.
“We need to make sacrifices,” he said. When asked as to what that might entail, Mejri smiled and shrugged before saying, “Right now, we’re sacrificing wins.”
It’s an interesting conundrum Dallas’ finds itself in. Yes, the Mavericks were without the services of Devin Harris, Seth Curry and Dorian Finney-Smith on Tuesday night. The final score wasn’t as close as the game would indicate, but Dallas didn’t play horribly in defeat. Dennis Smith Jr. set a new career high in points (27) even if seven of those came in garbage time down the stretch to bring the final score to a more respectable margin.
Suffice it to say the Mavericks have needs everywhere and I mean everywhere. They’re routinely drubbed on the boards (they were outgained again on Tuesday, 47-40) and are struggling shooting from all over the field this year. They need an influx of talent in just about every possible way.
It’s alarming that the absence of Curry is so clearly visible for a team such as Dallas which entered the 2017-18 season highly optimistic about how it planned to surround Smith with NBA-level shooters all over the floor. Is missing just one of those shooters really all it takes to crater this season?
Harrison Barnes had 16 points on 16 shots last night and while he has been playing better as of late (he’s shooting 50% from the field in Dallas’ last 10 games), it hasn’t been enough. Dirk has struggled. Wesley Matthews has cooled off after a solid start and his frustration is visible despite continuing to spout encouraging and positive outlooks on the Mavericks’ 2017-18 prospects.
So what’s the solution? It doesn’t appear there is one, at least not one that can be obtained via a trade. Carlisle deferred to general manager Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban when asked about any possible moves Dallas could make to jump-start a season on life support.
If the Mavericks are thinking about giving up on the Noel experiment, they can’t officially trade him until December 15. The question is what they could get in return.
The Lakers are a possible option given their public desire to move on from Julius Randle and there’s the LeBron/Rich Paul factor to consider after Noel hired Paul as his agent last summer before signing the Mavericks’ 1-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer.
At this point, it’s not so much a question of who Dallas could trade in its search for talent, it’s a question of who they could get in return. Noel’s veto power and loss of Bird Rights to any team that might decide to trade for him play into the return Dallas would get. Curry’s injury (and no timetable to return) along with the Mavericks’ long-term prospects for him cloud his situation as well.
At this point, it seems Dallas is going to be best-suited to follow the advice Nowitzki starkly gave after the team’s latest defeat.
“We’ve just got to keep playing and keep fighting,” he said.
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