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Tonight we get our first look at the new-look Dallas Mavericks who struck out on the big boys in free agency and instead used more minor trades, free agent signings and draft choices to address the holes in the roster.
Following Jim's lead, I decided to spare you my inane ramblings on a team I know little about and instead went to someone much more knowledgeable than myself: Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball. He and I exchanged questions about both the current state of the team and the plan moving forward. Jim asked some obvious brilliant questions, so I decided to steal them for myself and I also included a few of my own.
Check 'em out, and thanks to Kirk for taking the time. Also, if you're interested in what I had to say about the Suns head over to Mavs Moneyball.
What were the major moves for Dallas this off season?
Once the Deron domino fell, things happened at a rather brisk pace in Dallas and there was definitely a roller coaster of emotion for fans. Kidd backing out on a handshake deal to sign in NY and management not making an offer to Terry left fans feeling confused since option 1, 2, and 3 had always involved D-Will. Donnie Nelson countered quickly on July 11th, with a sign and trade of talented and hilarious center Ian Mahinmi for Dahtay Jones and more importantly, Darren Collison. On July 12th they signed Chris Kaman to a one year deal. On July 13th Dallas claimed Elton Brand off waivers and on July 19th signed OJ Mayo to a two year deal. The team also drafted Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, Marquette's Jae Crowder, and FSU's Bernard James.
How many of the rookies do you see making the rotation, an what do you expect to get out of them?
I suspect the first round selection of Jared Cunningham will be spending most of his time this season in the D-league. This has nothing to do with a lingering injury he had from the summer (hamstring) but rather because of the Dallas guard depth. Right now, I don't see where he gets minutes behind Collison, Mayo, Roddy B., Dominique Jones, Carter, or West. As to the other rookies, I expect second round selection Bernard James to get spot minutes at either center or power forward. If you'll recall he's the 28 year old military vet who has played the last few seasons at FSU. Lastly, we have my personal favorite, Jae Crowder. In the 4th Q against Houston Monday, he scored 18 of his team high 20 points. In an offense based around Dirk, a player like Crowder has a chance to be very effective without the ball just because of his energy. I suspect he'll play a role similar to that of Josh Howard when he was a first and second year man.
How are the early returns after the first preseason games?
Dallas is currently 2-1, having won against Berlin, lost to FC Barcelona, and won Monday night in convincing fashion against Houston. Over all, its hard to say how the team is shaping up. First, Dirk has been dealing with some lingering knee issues which may or may not be a huge deal. It's really hard to say. Second, fourth year guard Roddy Beaubois has only played 11 minutes as he hurt his ankle in the opening game against Berlin. When your teams superstar and a vital cog are out, its really hard to assess. That said, Darren Collison is looking solid early and may lead the team in minutes this year. O.J. Mayo is still finding his role but has a real chance to be a solid second option in the offense. Kaman and Brand both look like good pick ups. Jae Crowder stands a good chance at being a fan favorite this year with the energy and athleticism he brings to the court.
What are you looking for from the team and players during the preseason?
More than anything that they grow a little each game, whether it be establishing better communication on defense or working on ball movement on offense. Its really easy as a casual fan to discount what training camp and preseason games mean to a team. With so many new pieces, as well as the specter of a Dirk injury hanging over things, its very important to build rapport early. As brutal as last years 66 game sprint was for teams, an 82 game grind is challenging in different ways. Personally, I hope to see Darren Collison gain back some of the confidence he had in New Orleans. I also look forward to seeing how Brand adjusts to a non-starting role or limited minutes compared to years past.
What is going on with Dirks knee?
My colleague Andy Tobo with more on that here. In short, we are hoping and wishing it all gets well, but to some degree a lot of the fan base wishes he would just get some form of exploratory surgery done so we can know where the team stands.
What are the goals for this years team? Are they a playoff team?
Goal one is to make the playoffs for the 13th straight year. The team has lots of short term contracts though, so I believe the front office is looking to attempt to make a larger move next summer. I think the front office would like to see what kind of players Darren Collison and OJ Mayo really are and if they are worthy of a longer term contract. I'm not sure if its a playoff team. Dirk's health contributes to that a great deal, but the West is so strong this year. My heart says yes, but my head says no.
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