The Clippers defeated the Mavericks 12 days ago in Dallas in a game in which Chris Paul separated his shoulder. For the rematch in Los Angeles, I allowed you, the citizens of Clips Nation, to ask questions for the bloggers at Mavs Moneyball to answer. Rebecca Lawson has answered a bunch of them below (with some help from some of her friends).
Be sure to head over to MMB for my answers to their questions as well. (Spoiler alert, I yell at one of the questioners.)
Rebecca: First, I just wanted to say how great everyone's questions were! I wish I could have gotten to all of them, but due to some real life and some getting ready to fly to Los Angeles limitations, I couldn't quite. Here are a few answers that hopefully give you guys some better insight, though.
Citizen Byarin: Have the Mavs made any progress in anointing a sure fire closer? Seems like Dirk is the logical choice. I've watched two entire games this year (@GS, vs LAC) where the Mavs blew 4Q leads because they alternated between Dirk and Monta going 1 on 1 in the final 3 min.
Rebecca: This is a great question that I think we all wish we knew the answer to and about which all of us MMB editors seem to have strong feelings. The fact is, the Mavs have any number of capable shooters who can close the game, and it has frequently been a combination of them all (or whoever has the hot hand) closing. Though, even going back to last season, Carlisle seemed, and sometimes still seems, determined to put the ball at the end of the game in the hands of his guards. So this often means Vince Carter or Monta Ellis take the final shot just as often as Dirk.
The short answer is, it should always be Dirk. But Carlisle has been vocal this season about attempting to monitor Dirk's minutes, and Dirk will frequently rest for a somewhat maddening portion of fourth quarters these days -- which might explain those blown fourth quarter leads a little. So it's probably going to continue to be closer by committee, which will in turn continue to feed the wine shortage in my apartment (or the restrained cursing from press row) as I stress over when Dirk will come back into the game.
Citizen agolden: Does Monta, in fact, have it all?
Rebecca: Yes. In fact, his son has it all, too.
Citizen Byron Piggie: On paper, Vince Carter seems like a decent sixth man. He can get his own shot, create for others, hit threes. And occasionally, his box scores look decent, but as a person who watch the Mavs regularly, how would you assess his contributions? Is he still a legitimate third, fourth option on a decent team or is it time for him to move to 9th/10th man status?
Rebecca: I think somewhere in between, if that makes sense. He still does things very well, but this season he has needed to adjust a little bit. Last season, if the Mavericks had been in the playoffs, I have a hard time seeing how Vince doesn't get very strongly considered for 6MOY. In a season where the Mavs only got half of Dirk and generally awful guard play, Vince was an unexpected breath of fresh air. I expected that to continue this season but it really hasn't -- that is, until Brandan Wright came back from injury. For whatever reason, VC seems to play very well off of Wright, and should benefit even more when Devin Harris returns. In fact, our own Jonathan Tjarks tackled this in a piece earlier this season. Carter is still a very useful role player, and as Jonathan notes, is an important piece for the Mavs' bench (and likely could be for another team), but he has had to adjust somewhat to a slightly different role with some new faces in Dallas this season.
Citizen osamu: Bynum to the Mavs seems to be a thing. So how about that Bynum guy?
Rebecca: No, no and HELL no. (I have strong opinions here, clearly.)
For a slightly more nuanced answer, we actually did something of a very informal Twitter poll on this the other day and "no" was the most popular response. The Mavericks' front office passed on Bynum in the offseason, not even making him an offer after being "in contention." The Mavs had their own run-in two seasons ago with a player who wasn't interested in playing basketball (Lamar Odom), so I very much doubt the front office is eager to repeat that. They have a cohesive locker room and a team in playoff contention, so no need to shake things up with a wild card like that.
Citizen UC.Clipper: Who is the #1 free agent target for the Mavs this coming off season? What are the chances?
Rebecca: For the answer to this question, I actually tagged my fellow editor, Kirk Henderson. Here is Kirk's answer:
Kirk: The biggest needs this off season are probably center and small forward, so I assume they'll try to pursue Luol Deng first, because he's the best guy not named Lebron/Chris Bosh in the entire free agency class. I hate this idea, because he's going to command a ridiculous $13 million a year for at least three years from what I've been led to understand. I also suspect they'll pursue folks like Anderson Varejao or Amir Johnson and hope they can get one for a reasonable price to shore up the merry-go-round starting center spot.
Personally, I'd love to see Dallas go all out for Lance Stephenson. He's a true unrestricted free agent at age 23 and he's been insane this year. But I don't see Dallas going that route because they're too busy trying to fight the slow decline and signing a third guard to a big contract doesn't make much cap sense (though it alleviates a ton of the back court defensive problems which hang over this team like an executioner's axe). This is a fairly stupid year to have cap space because there aren't a lot of players worth the money they're going to make. The market at work!
Citizen FlyByKnight: Brandan Wright is one of the most efficient big men in the NBA and has been for a couple years. Why doesn't he play more? Every time I watch him play, I come away liking him. I liked him when he came out of North Carolina so perhaps I'm biased there.
Rebecca: I don't think you're biased. Brandan Wright has very quickly become a fan favorite in Dallas, and we were all thrilled when he waited to re-sign with the team this off-season, and frustrated when he started the season injured. (In fact, since his return, "Brandan Wright #NBABallot" is now something of a Mavs Twitter inside joke.)
I think the reason he doesn't play more is that Carlisle has a pretty set idea of what he wants his center rotation to look like. He likes Sam Dalembert, DeJuan Blair and Wright for different match-ups, and has said so more than once in response to postgame presser questions. But I think (despite a couple recent off-games) Wright has more than earned a little increase in minutes, and in fact, he has been playing a few more than average the past two or so games. That could easily be because of Shawn Marion's injury and having to play a little more backup four behind Dirk, however, so I'll be interested to see if that trend continues.
Citizen mikelipert: What has your experience been watching Dirk come into the league to his MVP and NBA championship? Any advice for us here at Clips Nation watching Blake grow and transform his game?
Rebecca: This was a delightful question, and I'm again turning to Kirk, since I've only been following the Mavs for a couple years so I haven't seen Dirk as much as he has. Kirk's answer:
Kirk: What a great question. Dirk had a much slower path to stardom than Blake; after his year recovering from his knee problems Blake was so good so fast our expectations outgrew reality in a hurry. That Blake has taken 4 years to round into a consistent force shouldn't be surprising...big men just take longer to develop. Above all else, I recommend two things: patience and appreciation.
Patience in his development is straightforward. He's a few months short of 25 and is just about to enter what is traditionally thought of as the "prime" of his career. There will be pitfalls and set backs as he learns and adjusts to whatever new and creative strategies the coaching minds of the NBA come up with to stop him. Remember Dirk getting shut down in 2007 by the Warriors and Matt Barnes? Looking back, that was just a bump in the road and he was 29 then.
Secondly, I recommend trying to appreciate Blake as much as you can. Dirk's exceptionally rare in that his game ages well because it's based on his size and shooting ability, which aren't decreasing with age. Blake's athleticism will depart him one day, and it's bound to do so in a hurry. So be glad you have him, even when you are frustrated. He's a generational talent and a basketball wonder. This whole fandom thing is supposed to be fun, so relish your time with him, as it will be over before you know it.
Thanks to Rebecca (and Kirk) for providing such thoughtful answers. Kirk's reference to Matt Barnes defending Dirk in 2007 reminds me of when the Clippers used to defend him with the likes of Cat Mobley and Quinton Ross -- quite effectively. What an amazing job of developing his game and improving upon his weaknesses well into his career Dirk has done.
It should be a great game tonight, and I am going to get to meet Rebecca face-to-face and sit next to her high in the rafters of STAPLES Center. Maybe we'll even have a twitter war, who knows?