Tagged: dallas mavericks

Mark Cuban takes plantation owner approach with Lamar Odom

I usually try refraining from making analogies between slavery and professional sports, but there are moments like this one where the connection is to obvious to ignore.  Speaking on his fallout with Lamar Odom Mark Cuban recently declared:

“Did I get my money’s worth? No,” Cuban said. “I don’t know that the word’s ‘cheated.’ But did I get my money’s worth? No.”

I blame both Cuban and ESPNMavericks mouthpiece Tim McMahon who is clearly on Cuban’s side and apparently has his own disdain for Odom, for these comments.  Cuban is ultimately responsible for making them and not being sensible enough to realize that his employees are not interchangeable widgets.  McMahon is also to blame because fails to display a hint of reflection, which might have enabled him to realize that Cuban’s comments are insensitive if not downright crass.

NBA’s Glass Wall: The Case of Nancy Lieberman

(This is part three in a special 5-part series by sports analyst David J. Leonard on the NBA’s abysmal performance when it comes to gender equity.)

Following the announcement that Nancy Lieberman was going to become the first female head coach in the NBA system in 2009, the sports media gathered around in celebration.  Chris Tomasson asked “Could Nancy Lieberman Become the NBA’s First Female Head Coach?” while Scott Schroeder celebrated Lieberman as  “Still a Pioneer.”  Although clearly a break through movement for the league, the media focused on celebrating the individual achievement rather than the dismantling of the NBA’s boys-only coaching carousel.  For example, Tomasson rhetorically asked: “The D-League today. The NBA tomorrow.”  Depicting her as a pioneer, as a trailblazer, and as someone who will open up opportunities for other women in the NBA, he concluded:  “If there ever will be a female NBA head coach in my lifetime, I’m thinking Nancy Lieberman has got a shot. Lieberman took the first step toward that Thursday when she was named head coach of the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League team in Frisco, Texas.“

Similarly an Associated Press story, quoting Lieberman as a transformational figure, as someone who has the potential to usher in sea change within the NBA, continued the celebratory tone.  It describes her struggle “to break another gender barrier, one she hopes “could be the last barrier.”  The efforts to imagine her as a transformational figure, as someone who could lead the NBA into a post-gender reality is evident in comments from Lieberman herself:  “I kind of look at President Obama,” she noted. “Everybody knows it’s historical because he’s a man of color. But at the end of the day, regardless of his race, creed, color or gender, he has to be president. Everybody knows I’m a woman, but at the end of the day, regardless of my race, creed, color or gender, I have to win basketball games.

Noting the importance of her success, the overall narrative focused on Lieberman as an ideal pioneer, given her ample successes, including her playing against men.  Yet, the media tended to focus on the burden and responsibility she faced.  Her success and failure would invariably impact whether or not other women would have the chance to become coaches. She noted, “If I am successful, I’m sure that I will be looked at (by the NBA).”  Unfortunately, after a 24-26 record in her only season on the bench, Lieberman moved into the front office.  The fanfare and celebratory tone has vanished, as has the commitment to breaking down the gender barriers for female coaches.  The culture of masculinity and the persistence of the old-boys club, all while the narrative focuses on the ways in which it is the league’s players are reluctant to accept a female coach, illustrate that hegemony of the NBA’s gender problem.

A single person, even the great Nancy Lieberman, a lone hire, never had the power to undermine the belief that leaders are male.  The fact that there is little conversation about the lack of female coaches is a testament to the ways in which male coaches have been normalized within the NBA.  It is no wonder that Mark Cuban thinks the NBA will have an openly gay player before it has a female head coach.  It no wonder that Pat Summit, collegiate basketball winningest coach, described the chance of a women coaching in the NBA a “longshot.” Because of patriarchy and sexism, evidenced by the entrenched NBA culture, and given the persistence of Glass Walls within the NBA, I guess the hope of Lieberman is not hope we can believe in.

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2011 NBA Season: Where Injuries Happen

After two days of the NBA season, it is clear that the shortened (ostensibly non-existent) training camp is having a significant impact on a myriad of teams.  The issue of injuries remains a real one, a fact that cannot be understood outside of the context of the players’ inability to prepare themselves for the season in a desired way.  For example, the Los Angeles Lakers, the only team to open the season with 3 straight games (against 3 teams who will be playing their opening game), are already battling injuries.  Kobe Bryant continues to struggle with a torn ligament in his wrist, with Pau Gasol suffering a shoulder injury and Josh McRoberts dealing with a sprained big toe.  The injuries have left three of the Lakers starters (McRoberts starting because of Andrew Bynum’s 4-game suspension) playing through injuries after two games, and a fourth, fifteen year veteran Derek Fisher, still not in regular season shape (he sat out initial preseason game because he wasn’t physically ready), it is no wonder the Lakers are off to an 0-2 start.

Like the Lakers, the Mavs are off to an 0-2 start, losing their initial two games by sizable margins. Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion broke his finger in their opening night defeat to the Miami Heat, and  following last night’s loss, Dirk Nowitzki acknowledged the impact of the lockout on their difficult start: “We look old, slow and out of shape,” he acknowledged.  “I still think this team has a lot of potential. We just need to work. … We probably needed extra weeks of training camp. But we don’t have it so the young teams, the athletic teams, look better right now than we do.” You don’t have to simply take the word of Notwitzki, as the impact of the lockout was clearly evident as Sean Williams vomited on the Mavs bench after leaving the game.  While media reports dismissed this as an afterthought in an early season blowout, it demonstrates the physical toll of the game and the overall lack of preparation afforded to NBA players.  After all, when was the last time you saw an NBA player vomit from exhaustion?  This may be a regular occurrence during pre-season workouts, but not part of the “showtime” experience David Stern and NBA officials pride themselves on exporting.   Williams’ exhaustion speaks to the poor work conditions experienced by today’s NBA player.

Other playoff contenders  are facing similar issues; whether it is the Knicks’  Baron Davis (herniated disc), Jared Jeffries (calf) and Iman Shumpert (knee injury); Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers (torn meniscus), or the Celtics’ Paul Pierce (toe), some of the NBA”s marquee teams scrambling to survive with make shift line-ups. Whereas the NBA has in the past marketed itself as the league where “amazing happens,” the 2011-2012 Season looks to be a year where “injuries happens.”

While the debate about the impact of the lockout (remembers players didn’t have access to treatment and team facilities throughout the summer and fall) and a shortened preseason on injuries will continue, what is indisputable is the impact of the schedule on injuries.  Beyond the demands of playing multiple nights, the compressed game and travel schedules cannot help in the recovery process.

Worse yet, the overall lack of public concern over the mental and physical strain of playing 6 games in 8 nights is revealing.  It demonstrates an overall lack of thought about NBA players as workers whose work conditions matter.   It demonstrates that the profits took precedent over the people of the NBA.  It illustrates that notwithstanding the hype over the NBA being back, mounting physical limitations confronting the greatest athletes in the world is turning the NBA into a league where “injuries happen.”

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5 Teams That Stand to Gain From NBA Lockout

Quiet as kept, there are some NBA teams that will  likely  benefit from the current lockout.  As I suggest below, a delayed start to the regular season may be just what the doctor ordered for teams such as the Lakers and Mavericks.  On the other end of the spectrum, troubled franchises such as the Nets and Kings would gladly write off the 2011 season.  And then there are the Clippers, Sterling always makes money, so an opportunity to possibly not pay players this year is surely music to his ears.

1) Los Angeles Lakers

Sure father time is catching up to them a bit, but it’s not as if the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma Thunder or Memphis Grizzlies in this year’s playoffs.  They lost to a Dallas Mavericks team that actually has an older rotation than the Lakers.  What hurt this team most was the fatigue born out of making deep playoff runs three years in a row.  There’s a reason why only a few teams have completed three-peats.  The amount of focus needed to win three straight titles is almost inhuman.  With players getting mired in all kinds of side-projects, the Lakers looked like another Hollywood sequel: the core idea was sound, but the supporting cast had become too big for their roles.  A long offseason will give injured Laker star Kobe Bryant time to heal and come back so he take reign his supporting cast.  It will also give the other players time to get their Hollywood on and come back into the fold before their careers run afoul.

2) Dallas Mavericks

Most championship teams need more than the three months allotted in the offseason to get over the euphoria from winning a title.  The longer the lockout wears on, the more time that Mavericks players will have to appear in random parades and tv appearances.  By the time the season finally rolls around the Mavericks will greatly appreciate having a reason to say no to celebrity drop in events.  They will likely have grown so tired of kissing babies, and talking about game 6 that they’d even consider playing for free.  Well maybe I wouldn’t go that far…

3) New Jersey Nets

If you saw the Nets play last year you knew that they were the most listless team in the NBA.  During the first half of the season half the roster seemed to be living out of their lockers because they were sure they’d be traded for Carmelo Anthony.  When the Anthony deal fell through and Deron Williams arrived, they looked like in-laws at a shotgun marriage.  Sure, everyone is playing along and saying this was meant to be, but behind those clenched teeth were prayers begging for this to be over.  A lockout not saves the Nets from having to play at the Continental Airlines Arena, but it also gives the front office more time to try fooling Brooklynites that Deron Williams is a marquis player, and that this team he’s heading up is actually an NBA franchise.

4) Los Angeles Clippers

Sure Donald Sterling isn’t making as much money as if there were a season, but he’s still making money.  On the basketball end, barring either Eric Gordon or Blake Griffin deciding to do their best Shawn Kemp impersonation during this lockout, is there a more stacked young and talented team in the league?  Remember, Griffin missed his rookie campaign and Gordon was injured for most of last year.  If they’re both healthy when play resumes and DeAundre Jordan continues to develop, the Clippers could be scary good.

5) Sacramento Kings

Basketball in Sacramento is still very much on life support.  While the Kings could have used the boost provided by having the league’s most marketable rookie on board, the Maloofs will gladly take any opportunity to not have to make payroll this upcoming year.  A missed season coupled with revenue from renting out Arco Arena might almost be good enough to bring the Maloof brothers in the black.

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Does George Karl think the Mavericks Lack Talent?

I was struck by George Karl’s recent comments where he attributes the Miami Heat’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals as a triumph of team over talent.  It’s one thing for sportswriters and uninformed observers to take shots at Miami or to make asinine comments, but it’s unconscionable for an NBA coach to perpetuate such a dumb idea.  Were the Mavericks the better team?  Of course they were, they won the series.  Did they have less talent than Miami as Karl’s comments suggests?  Hell No!

Just take a look at the players used in this year’s finals:

Miami Heat: Mike Bibby; Dwyane Wade; LeBron James; Chris Bosh; Joel Anthony; Udonis Haslem; Mario Chalmers; Eddie House; Mike Miller

Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki; Tyson Chandler; Shawn Marion; Brian Cardinal; Peja Stojakovic; Ian Mahimini; Brendan Haywood; DeShawn Stevenson

Miami may have had three of the five best players in this series, but once you start doing down the list, Dallas depth begins to shine.  Miami’s problem is not that their 4-12 players suck, but moreso that they were needlessly redundant.  Why does a team need both Eddie House and Mike Bibby?  Or what was the point of signing Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier and Jamal Magloire?  Wouldn’t Miami have been better off scooping up Corey Brewer instead of Bibby?  Or making a run at Tracy McGrady when he proved that he was healthy?

Contrast that with Dallas, which when Stojakovic wasn’t giving them anything was able to replace him with a nag like Cardinal.  Or when Haywood went down and Dallas had an athletic wild card like Mahimini it could bring off the bench.  As Kwame pointed out in his column on Wednesday, Dallas’ core strength was its flexibility.  And why was Rick Carlisle able to do more with his roster?  Well because he had more talent.

The other problem that I see with this notion that Dallas represents some kind of chaste brand of team-first basketball is that when Dallas was struggling in this series the narrative was that Dirk didn’t have enough help.  People were writing off Terry, Kidd and Marion, and  had Dallas lost everyone would’ve been critiquing Cuban’s overpriced past their prime players.  There’d be no homilies about Dallas team-centric brand of basketball.  Instead we would be eulogizing the careers of Kidd, Stojakovic, Terry and Marion.

Karl and his ilk can rewrite whatever story they want about what took place in this year’s finals, but at the end of the day, the team with the better players and the better coach won.

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The More Stars, The Better

Yesterday Marc Berman of the New York Post warned the New York Knicks to learn from the Miami Heat’s loss in the finals and not pursue Chris Paul. Berman’s take (with support from ousted President/ General Manager Donnie Walsh) is that the “3 star blueprint” does not work and the Knicks money would be better spent on acquiring role players.

First, let all of us – fans, media and everyone in between, gain a little perspective. The Miami Heat were two wins from winning an NBA title despite being out coached, losing Dwayne Wade for a significant portion of game four and uncharacteristically missing free throws at an alarming rate in game six. The average margin of victory during the finals was 5 points. To say that Dallas “overwhelmed” Miami, as Berman states, is just false. Take nothing away from the Mavericks, they played excellent and earned the title. But this idea that the Miami big three are “failures” is absurd.

As for how the Knicks should approach building their team into a true title contender, my belief is, more talent is always better than less talent. Take it from a Knicks fan of 25 years. It would have been great if the Knicks had another star or two when losing to Bulls all those years. More stars players would have helped the Knicks in the 1993/94 NBA Finals against Houston. And I’m sure that Jared Jeffries to Bill Walker exchange at the end of game 2 in the series against Boston this year was a great example for why a team shouldn’t have more talent.

Role players didn’t cut it when the Knicks lost to the Spurs in the 1998/99 Finals. I’m not discounting the importance of supporting players. “Fill in the blanks” guys as Donnie Walsh calls them, have value. All teams need role players, and from Anthony Mason, to David Lee, the Knicks have never had a problem finding them. (In related news, the Knicks haven’t won a title in over 30 years.)

So if the Knicks can some how get Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Paul, I say do it. Because I’ve seen them try to win championships the other way, and it doesn’t work.

Mavericks NBA Champs

The Dallas Mavericks: Your Transition-Year NBA Champions

I almost missed this piece in GQ by FreeDarko’s Bethlehem Shoal’s.  Shoals does a great job of summarizing the significance of Dallas’ win and putting it in historical context.

No one’s expecting the Mavericks to repeat. Still, this title—in addition to being a freakin’ NBA title—gives bragging rights to a franchise that was a joke for so many years. It’s not the beginning of Dirk’s Hall of Fame career, as it was for Alcindor or would have been for Walton, but a nice coda, and the ultimate way to clear the air.

via The Dallas Mavericks: Your Transition-Year NBA Champions (Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That): The Q: GQ.

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Three things the 2011 NBA Finals Taught Us

If you’re focusing solely on LeBron then this year’s finals could best be summed up like this: last year was “The Decision,” this year was “The Demise.”  But not only was this series was more than just a referendum on LeBron, he wasn’t the only culprit in Miami’s downfall.  Moreover, Dallas (you know the team who won) did a number of things right in order to win the game.  And in the end, here’s what I think are at least three takeaways from this year’s NBA Finals

Three things the 2011 NBA Finals taught us:

 

  1. Coaching matters. There are two types of coaching: get-in-your –face –and-challenge-your-manhood coaching, and actual tactical coaching.   The 2011 NBA Finals showed that strategy matters.  While Erik Spolestra could be heard saying things like “push harder and give all you have” during timeouts, Rick Carlisle was making actual adjustments.  From changing how Dallas ran pick and roll to the keeping Miami off balance with its zone defense.  Meanwhile Spolestra left some bullets in his clip.  He never put Wade on Barea, or LeBron on Dirk.  James was put in the low post sporadically and the Heat never played full court man to man defense to speed up the game. As the series wore on it was clear that the Mavericks were always a step ahead of the Heat strategically.
  2. No threes no rings. Decades ago, Pat Riley coined the phrase, “no rebounds, no rings”.  Controlling the boards is still important, but knocking down three pointers at a high percentage is paramount to winning in the current NBA. Once Jason Terry, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and to a lesser extent Jason Kidd began to hit shots from behind the arc consistently, Miami’s defense looked average at best.
  3. Rosters must be flexible. One reason why Carlisle’s basketball brilliance was able to shine was the flexibility of his roster.  The Mavericks had three players (Kidd, Berrea, and Terry) capable of running their offense, three players that they could rotate on Wade and James (Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd) and multiple players that could stretch the defense with perimeter shooting.  Miami had no such flexibility and as the series went on the Mavericks exposed this weakness, daring players like Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem to beat them.
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Mavericks Depth Shines in Playoffs

Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin gives some serious props to Mark Cuban and offers to down  a nice plate of crow:

Time for some crow. I prefer mine braised with a nice port wine reduction, but nonetheless it is time to eat some.

While I understand Helin’s point, I also think he’s being a bit generous.  Dallas has always had a deep roster, so Cuban’s pre-season comments were no revelation, and Helin had every right to be skeptical.  What makes this team different those of year’s past is that these pieces actually fit.  It wasn’t too long ago where Dallas’ roster was overrun by tweener forwards, all of whom needed the ball in their hands to be effective (e.g. Antoine Walker).

Now Dallas is run by a solid veteran core, each of whom has learned to play within their respective limits, which has given them some exceptional team chemistry.  I’m surprised that fewer people aren’t comparing this Mavericks team to the 2007 Spurs team that defeated LeBron’s Cavaliers.  Donnie Nelson & Mark Cuban have borrowed from R.C. Buford’s playbook and surrounded Dirk Nowitzki with a group of veterans that do one, maybe two things really well and has put them in a position where they won’t be called into doing more than that.

Shawn Marion is asked to defend and sneak out on the break for baskets.  He doesn’t have to play center or power forward or grab a dozen rebounds for Dallas to win.  Similarly, Tyson Chandler is only being asked to block shots and rebound.  Unlike earlier in his career there’s no expectation that he will morph into Tim Duncan and dominate on the offensive end as well.

Their chemistry also factors into this team’s resiliency.  When players know their roles and don’t feel as if they’re being misled or undermined by the coaches and front office, they can go ahead and do their jobs.

After a decade of being the mad scientist owner, it looks like Cuban has finally gotten the right mixture, and as Helin suggests, he is also deserving of some credit.

Mark Cuban was right, depth mattered plenty | ProBasketballTalk.

Kobe Bryant

Is Kobe Bryant a Quitter?

Quitter may be not be the right word, but few players of Kobe Bryant’s caliber have routinely suffered such humiliating playoff defeats and not been held accountable.  Consider for example how every aspect of Lebron’s game and body language was dissected to the minute detail after each season ending defeat in Cleveland.  Sure the NBA pundit choir eventually came around to the conclusion that Lebron needed more help in Cleveland if the Cavs were ever going to win a championship, but that was only after saying he was too passive, too playful or just not as interested in winning.  Time and again we were told that Lebron doesn’t have a killer instinct like Jordan, or, Bryant.

Yet, whenever Bryant’s teams suffer embarrassing losses it’s always someone else’s fault.

When the Lakers were wiped out by the Pistons in 2004 the blame landed on the shoulders of Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton because they were too slow to keep up with Bryant.  No one bothered to give these three players credit for the team afloat while Bryant jetted back and forth to his court trial in Colorado.

Once Shaq, Malone and Payton were gone the narrative was that Kobe didn’t have enough help.

Now after making the finals three years in a row with Pau Gasol as his sidekick, LA fans are blaming Gasol for the team’s demise.

Yet no one seems to be taking Bryant to task for not being able to get his team to regroup and keeping them from falling apart.

NBA analysts seem to have decided to interpret Bryant’s petulance as intensity and use it as the barometer for which to measure the dedication of other young players to their craft.  When in fact, what has really happened is that Bryant is still a spoiled brat, the only difference over the last decade is that we’ve gone from the Laker’s front office deferring to him, to the entire NBA establishment.

So instead of saying that Kobe quit, people blame Gasol, or my personal favorite, some have said one of the reasons that the Lakers lost to the Mavericks was because the Lakers are old and slow.  Last I checked, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler are either as old and definitely as slow as anyone on the Lakers.

Dallas didn’t sweep LA because the Lakers were too slow.  No, they beat LA because they have chemistry.  For whatever reason the Lakers were not able to establish that same level of chemistry this season.  The coach deserves some of the blame for not accomplishing this, but the team’s professed leader, its star player should by no means be held unaccountable for his team’s inability to execute simple defensive rotations.

Watching the Dallas series you got the sense that many of the Lakers were ready to go home.  Ready for this season to end.  Ready for someone else to be the champs.

Well they got their wish, even if they didn’t really want it to come true.