Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  December 13, 2006

Odom’s status. The official word has come down and it looks like the Lakers are without Odom for the next four weeks at least. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Saving Kwame. Another great post at Lakernoise by Roland Lazenby, this one about the turnaround in Kwame Brown:

Yes, Kwame Brown is quite a reclamation project.

And he’s not Jackson’s first.

Bulls fans and old NBA hands will recall the raised eyebrows when Jackson’s Chicago team acquired 7-foot-2 Luc Longley from the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 1994. Longley had been considered pretty much a wasted draft pick after the T-Wolves took him with the seventh overall pick in 1991. The first Australian in the NBA, Longley had languished on Minnesota’s bench, watching what little self esteem he had as a player melt away.

Jackson, though, liked Longley’s big body (the better to counter Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal) and his soft touch on a face up jumper.

“There are only so many dinosaurs,” Jackson said privately of the move.

Dinosaurs are those big NBA monsters, those 7-footers who can actually play, who can defend a little and can contribute on offense. Longley never became dominant with the Bulls. That wasn’t the plan. But he used his size well on defense. Shot his face-up jumper that worked well in Chicago’s scheme. And he worked well in the pinch post in the triangle offense.

Second-guessing Phil. I know Phil Jackson doesn’t like to double team on defense if he can help it, particularly in the post. I know that the post double can strain rotations and open up the perimeter, especially against a good passing center like Yao Ming.

But with McGrady out the Rockets had no other good scoring option on the perimeter, so I’m not sure why Phil waited until the second half — and foul trouble on both his bigs — before starting with the quick double on Yao. Once the Lakers did it the Rocket offense fell apart and the Laker jumped out to a big lead. At least until LA quit playing defense in the fourth all together.

The Year Without a Santa Claus. Off topic here but I just need to vent. The claymation Year without a Santa Claus from the 1970s — you know, the one with the Heat Miser and Snow Miser — is a personal holiday favorite. The Cold Miser theme was my answering machine’s outgoing holiday greeting for years. I have the movie on tape. Which is why I want to personally punch the NBC executive that thought that painful live-action remake/adaptation they aired Monday night was a good idea. It had no charm or subtlety, the dialogue was stiff and the added subplots were both predictable and tedious. This was the kind of swill usually seen only on the Lifetime Movie Network. I wanted to like it and could only watch 10 minutes.

Please people, leave the classics alone.

Hitting the glass. It’s pretty safe to say that the biggest concern with Odom out is rebounding. This is one area where the Lakers do have some depth and if guys focus on the task. Look at it this way, Odom was pulling down 9.2 assists per 40 minutes played (or 13.9% of the available rebounds when he was on the floor), but four other Lakers are doing that well or better. Bynum is grabbing 11.8 per 40 (17,8%), Kwame 9.8 (14.8), Brian Cook a surprising 10.1 (15.3%), and Turiaf has identical numbers to Odom.

The difference has been that Odom has played far more minutes and was racking up more per game rebounds. Now with the increased minutes, some focus from these players on the glass can make sure there is no big drop-off.

UPS vs. Dampier. This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the night, two much-maligned centers who are playing better than people think. Dampier seems to have found his comfort zone — he isn’t shooting much but is picking his spots well and his shooting 68.1%, then there is the fact he is pulling down 19.8% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor (tied for fifth highest percentage in the league). That said, the position that Dallas has had the most trouble defending this season is the center (opponent PER of 18.5) so the Lakers may want to try to take advantage inside. If either Kwame or Dampier can control the paint, it will be a big boost for his team.

Who steps up tonight? The smart money may be on Kobe — remember that the Mavs have a hard time slowing him. The most obvious example is the 62 in three quarters last season, but the Mavs have had a hard time slowing him for some time. With Odom out Kobe likely will get some extra attention from defenders, so someone else — or someones — need to step up.

Things to look for. There are a lot of good Mavs. When Jason Terry is on the floor the Mavs are +11.2 per 48 minutes, with Devin Harris it is +13.7. Josh Howard is shooting 51.1% (eFG%). And don’t forget that Jerry Stackhouse guy, although he is questionable for tonight.

The Lakers need to defend out at the arc — Nowitzki, Terry and Howard are all shooting better than 40% from three point range.

Besides center, the other position the Mavs have struggled to defend is the point guard spot (which is a bit of a surprise with Terry starting). Smush and/or Farmar could have a big night.

I’d say David Hasselhoff sucks, but I don’t want to piss of Dirk.