Reeling Mavs scrambling with Memphis, other contenders looming
The Dallas Mavericks are in a tailspin.
The plane may or may not be on fire, the left wing may or may not be hanging by a thread and, although the oxygen masks haven’t yet dropped from the overhead compartments, Rick Carlisle is announcing over the loudspeakers that the turbulence is temporary. Keep your seat belts on.
Dallas has the league’s worst record at 0-4 after home losses to the Hawks, Kings, and Warriors combined with a road loss to the Chris Paul-less Houston Rockets. Two of those games were penciled-in as winnable games for the Mavericks even without the services of Seth Curry, whose impact is being felt in a bigger way than anyone really thought it would be.
If you’ve looked at Dallas’ upcoming November schedule, it’s not pretty.
The Mavericks start things off with a rare back-to-back, home-and-home battle against Memphis who hasn’t lost yet. Dallas also plays San Antonio, Minnesota and Oklahoma City all twice next month and faces Boston, Cleveland, Milwaukee and the Clippers.
Nevermind that Dallas is suddenly embroiled in a center controversy with Nerlens Noel’s minutes bizarrely shrinking, the Mavericks cannot rebound to save their lives. This is a problem that has been persistent since the 2011 championship team broke up and it doesn’t bode well against any of the upcoming squads, particularly the Grizzlies. Memphis is a team that has routinely dominated the glass against Dallas, and the same can be said for the Thunder and the freakishly long Bucks.
Dennis Smith Jr. has played pretty well in his first four games (Monday’s clash with the defending champs notwithstanding) but he’s mentioned the physical grind of an NBA season is something he’ll have to get used to. Buckle up, rook. It’s about to get real.
Back to the center controversy. Dallas needs to get their story straight here and decide if they truly want to make Nerlens Noel a centerpiece (pardon the pun) down low like they said they did last season. You can’t play the guy you called a “Tyson Chandler starter-kit” foundational piece for 12 minutes when he’s putting up the best PER numbers (averaging 17 points and 14 boards per 36 minutes) for the entire team. Why, exactly, did Dallas offer Noel a 4-year, $70 million deal if the intent was to bring him off the bench?
This may all be water under the bridge in a few weeks if Carlisle is trying to hammer home a work ethic point (Dwight Powell is a relentless energy presence and has gotten more minutes than Noel) but Dallas is playing a dangerous game here. There is a very real chance Noel leaves next summer and it stands to reason that Dallas’ actions are only hurting what is left of their relationship after a tumultuous summer of contract negotiations.
What kind of impression is this having on Smith, who calls Noel “his favorite roll guy?” Dallas needs to be mindful of what kind of messages they’re sending.
The Mavericks don’t have long to get the plane stabilized. A crash landing would be bad for everyone involved.