At some point, I was completely on board with the idea of a 66-game regular season for the NBA. An 82-game season seemed to only be important for teams that were fighting it out for an eighth seed to eventually get knocked out in the first round. Dallas, as they’ve done many times in the past, have managed to take my logical opinions and use them as toilet paper.
After getting torched in their first two games and finishing December with a 1-3 record, I was slightly worried that there might not be enough time for the Mavericks to catch back up to the top teams. After the training staff decided that Dirk needed time to rest his knee, I was worried this team might not make the playoffs. While they will be involved in the postseason, their ceiling hovers somewhere between getting smashed by the Heat in the finals, and a second round loss to an underdog.
Player Evaluations Through 20 games
Roddy Beaubois – Wanting Beaubois to play better is a clever disguise for wanting his trade value to go up. He’s only 23, but with the terrifying idea of another injury looming on the horizon, the Mavericks have to convince somebody that he’s a viable option at point guard. Defensively, he’s been a mess with the exceptions of a couple highlight reel steals and blocks. Offensively, he’s actually been pretty efficient, averaging 6 points and 2 rebounds in only 15ish minutes a game. Hopefully his stock will continue to rise. B-
Brian Cardinal – “The Custodian” has been a mess. Brian comes into the game for two things; defensive energy and corner 3′s. The defensive energy hasn’t been that bad, but the guy is shooting 18% from behind the arc. That’s abysmal. He’s 40% in his career and absolutely has to turn it around before he starts losing the 9 minutes he gets per game to one of the younger guys. He’s just been ineffective. D
Vince Carter – Sigh. What’s there to say? He’s Vince Carter. He slams home a couple of highlight dunks, plays terrible defense, and continues to be fat. He was playing decently enough on the offensive end until he injured his foot, but his inability to guard anybody is breathtakingly bad. It’s sort of like watching a horrible player try to guard good players. Wait, that’s exactly what it’s like. C-
Brendan Haywood – Haywood has been extremely solid in his 21 minutes a game. While Tyson Chandler was on this team, Haywood was playing 18 minutes. This season, Haywood’s still just playing 21. That’s a little odd and may work itself out when Haywood gets in slightly better shape. While the free throw shooting is still ridiculously bad, and he’s been taking turn-around jumpers from the elbow (unexplainable), I’m a big fan of the energy he brings on both ends of the court. B+
Yi Jianlian – Who the Hell is Yi Jianlian, you ask? He’s a 7’0″ power forward with a competent jumper who plays mediocre defense assuming he’s even in position. That sounds kind of like Dirk, you say? Exactly. He’s a Chinese Dirk with about half the talent and absolutely no confidence. Assuming he can knock down 15-footers on a consistent level, he’ll be a pretty good bench option for the rest of the season. He’s only played in 5 games. C
Dominique Jones – I guess the kid’s just not that good. I was pretty excited about him after seeing him do some good things last season, but Carlisle’s refusal to give him minutes is a pretty clear indicator that the team just doesn’t care about him. Even with Vince Carter out, the 6’5″ shooting guard has had nothing close to significant minutes. He’ll be packaged in some sort of trade at some point in time. No grade.
Jason Kidd – Let me preface this by saying I’m one of the biggest Jason Kidd fans. That doesn’t excuse the fact that he has been absolutely unwatchable for this team all year. He’s shooting 28% and the offense just looks slow when he’s running the point. He’s been turning the ball over at excruciatingly inconvenient times, and is finally looking every bit of a man on the brink of 40. Hopefully he can turn it around, but it’s the end for Kidd. D-
Ian Mahinmi – The reason Haywood hasn’t been getting huge minutes, besides the fact that he’s not really in shape to play 30 minutes a game, is the offensive improvement of Ian. The big guy’s averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds this year, while showing off a nice little jumper and the ability to finish around the rim. He still gets pushed around from time to time, but his energy makes up for it. The best part? He’s only 25 and he’s only making $900,000. Ian is the McDouble of the basketball world; cheap and will get the job done. B+
Shawn Marion – I’m not sure what this team’s record would be without Marion, but I promise it wouldn’t be above .500. In the last ten games he’s averaging 15 points a contest, and has really taken it upon himself to be a scorer since Dirk went down. He’s the defensive leader of this team and has been playing at very high level. While he’s still making way too much money (8 million), it’s been worth it in 2012. A-
Dirk Nowitzki – He hasn’t been great. It’s pretty simple to see that when you combine a tougher schedule with an old soul like Dirk, you’re going to have some problems. The hiatus he’s on right now to fix his knee problems will, hopefully, but the final step in his resurgence this season. Even if it’s not, he’s got until the playoffs to figure out what’s going on with his stroke. The numbers are slightly terrifying right now, but he should be better rested than some of the other guys in the league dealing with similar problems. C
Lamar Odom – Our first and only failing grade! While I probably gave Kidd the D- out of love and kindness, Odom has been even worse than Kidd. How do you play worse than a guy shooting 28%? You walk around the court like you genuinely don’t give a crap. It’s tough to watch. Odom is an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. His confidence right now is somewhere between 0 and -7. He’s still a good player and he can still be a valuable part of this team. He just has to accept the fact that he’s playing for Dallas. Godspeed Lamar. F
Jason Terry - Jet has been very jet-like. He hasn’t been as good as he’s capable of, but he’s in a distinct regular season form that’s been serviceable for the team. If Dirk continues to miss more games than expected, Terry’s going to need to crank up the offense. He’s actually averaging less attempts this season from the field than he did last year. That needs to change, at least until Dirk gets back on track. B
Delonte West – If you had told me three months ago that Delonte West would be playing some of the best basketball out of anyone on the Mavericks, and the team would have a winning record, I would have jumped off a balcony to try to wake myself up. West has been smooth, confident, and efficient. The only reason Kidd’s play hasn’t completely dismantled this team is because West has been that good. It’s puzzling why he’s only getting 22 minutes a game. B+
Brandan Wright – Speaking of guys that need more minutes, Wright has had a Renaissance in Dallas. He’s only 24 and can jump out of the building. He’s averaging 6 points and 2 rebounds in 9 minutes per game. In other words, good things happen when he’s on the court. The former first round draft pick is a human highlight reel, and is another guy that Dallas is paying chump change. Hopefully he’ll work his way past Yi for more minutes. B+
The Wildcats lost for the second time in three games on Friday, falling to the Elks 49-44. That leaves Canadian with a 4-2 record with just 4 games left in the regular season.
The Lady Cats extended their winning streak to 4 games after taking out the Lady Elks 45-30. Both teams have huge matchups against Gruver on Tuesday. The Hounds are tied with the Cats at 4-2 in district play, while the Lady Hounds and Lady Cats square off in a rematch of the Lady Cats’ only loss in district.
Be sure to check out all the details of the games at Stratford on Thursday in The Canadian Record.
Despite my prayers and desperate shouting, the Giants are going to the Superbowl. This ruins my life for two reasons; 1) They could win the Superbowl and 2) I have to watch Eli Manning’s stupid face in two weeks. Objectively, I think he has the dumbest looking face in the history of televised sports.
Fortunately, like a knight riding in on a white horse, Tom Brady will be in Indianapolis to show Eli Manning what a real quarterback looks like. It’s easy to be confident in Brady. All you have to do is completely ignore how he played on Sunday, disregard how ridiculously good the Giants’ pass rush will be in that dome, and forget that Gronkowski could be limping around like a wounded deer.
There are three fantastic reasons to root for New England in this game.
1. Wes Welker has been growing out a spectacularly perfect mustache specifically for this game. You should follow him on Twitter – @WesWelker. When he’s not beating double coverage, he spends 99% of his time retweeting people who send him pictures of their mustaches. He gave tickets away to the AFC Championship based on who sent him the best mustache picture. I think maybe it’s just my age group’s demographic, but I find mustaches hilarious.
2. If New York wins, Eli Manning will have two rings. There is nothing right about this. Peyton Manning, who has had a far superior career up to this point, has one ring. Are we going to sit around and actually debate which Manning brother is better? One of them carried two average teams to Superbowls, winning one of them, and finished the 2004 season with a 121.1 passer rating (the highest ever). The other one lucked out on two crazy hot defenses, and then closed his eyes and chunked the ball as far as he could in the fourth quarter for that Tyree catch. It’s gross.
3. Every time Sportscenter starts they play that highlight reel of every championship team from the previous year. I can’t take 365 days of watching New York hoist up the Lombardi Trophy. Remember watching Mack Brown after Vince Young single-handedly won the Rose Bowl despite everyone around him? That was a beating. I’m guessing they still play that game on the Longhorn Network. Congratulations to the seven people that paid to watch game reruns and UT volleyball analysis!
On a side note, how many times do you think NBC is going to play the highlight of the Tyree catch from 2008? I’m guessing somewhere between 39 and 1,000. That’s a pretty conservative estimate.
The fact that the Patriots are even in the Superbowl is probably divine intervention. Lee Evans dropped a touchdown catch that would have won the game for Baltimore, and Billy Cundiff absolutely shanked a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. There are bad kicks, and then there’s what Cundiff did yesterday. I laughed for a solid fifteen minutes. If you’ve ever seen any kids do Punt Pass and Kick at an elementary school, it was like watching the runner-up in the girls under 7 category. Somewhere in there should be a joke about how Billy used to be a Cowboy, but I’m just going to leave it alone.
The Giants are in the Superbowl because evidently the hardest job in football is catching a punt. Who’s Kyle Williams? Here’s a good rule for NFL teams; if the guy you put back there to return punts has 21 catches in his career, you might want to keep him on a short leash. Williams got a second chance after fumbling a punt. This was all because Ted Ginn is hurt. Life’s weird.
I think the Patriots will win because I’d rather just root for them than look at stupid things like facts and momentum. Go Pats.
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