“Old, Slow and Out of Shape” Leads to Losses

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, December 30th, 2011


“We look old and slow and out of shape,’’ Dirk Nowitzki says. “A bad combination.’’

Consider that sentence to be Nowitzki’s State of The Dallas Mavericks Address as the defending champions got off to an 0-2 start that featured back-to-back losses at home in which opponents led by 30-plus points in both. Truth is, there is virtually no limit to the list of blame-worthy issues and blame-worthy people. So while coach Rick Carlisle is doing the savvy and manly thing by taking it on his shoulders – “I’m the head coach and it’s on me’’ – Dirk knows better.

It’s all of us together,” Nowitzki says. “Coach always tries to take the blame if some stuff doesn’t go right, but we’ve got a lot of veteran guys and we’ve just got to keep on working and eventually turn the corner. It might take another week, it might take another two weeks, but we’ve got to find ways to stay in games and not be down 30 at half.”
But in this lockout-shortened 66-game season, the more time Dallas takes to work itself into shape, the less likely it is to work itself into contention.
Let’s pinpoint three specific culprits:

1 The Mavs really are old – Dirk is 33. Marion is 33. Jet is 34. Haywood is 32. Odom is 32. Vince is 34. Kidd is 38.

That’s not just “looking old.’’ In NBA years, that IS old. That’s seven of Dallas’ heavy lifters and that group’s average age is 34. Once this team gets to the tournament (as team members say privately about this team’s true goal) “all that age’’ will transform into “all that experience.’’

But for now … Dirk’s assessment is indisputable.

2 There is an assimilation problem — Let’s focus on Odom, who possesses a certain sort of “veteran cool’’ that in this 0-2 start might be interpreted as “excessive nonchalance.’’

Through two games, Odom hit just 2-of-16 shot attempts to put his shooting percentage for the season at 12.5 percent. It is understood there is a period of adjustment for the Mavs’ trade steal from the Lakers, part of that the emotion that comes with the change and part of it a learning curve to a new system.

But there should not be this many periods of lethargy.
“We’re just not doing what we’re supposed to,” Odom says. “I’m not going to say it’s effort. We play hard. Just because you play hard that don’t mean you play right. You can play hard, but still get your ass busted.’’

It is very difficult to agree that the Mavs have played with maximum effort through two games. Indeed, that’s why the energetic work of third-string center Sean Williams in the loss to the Nuggets is by far the No. 2 highlight of this young season (with only the Christmas Day raising of the championship banner ranking above it). Williams, a 2007 first-round pick of the Nets who signed with Dallas a week ago after stints in the D-League and in Israel, offered all the electricity he had in his ….. and when it was over, retreated to the bench and vomited.

“He brought energy, brought athleticism, made plays,” Carlisle says. “He was playing so hard, he threw up. That tells you that he was going at it the way you need to.”

The coach didn’t say that about a dozen other guys, you will notice.

3 The Double-Hangover from the championship and then the lockout – This is the factor that Mavs fans simply have to live with for the moment … and, in a positive way, live with forever.

Dirk admits he didn’t “touch a basketball for two months’’ before arriving to Dallas for the abbreviated training camp. Jason Kidd played a lot of golf from his new home in the Hamptons. Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea led a platoon of championship-team members who marched out of town, the result of Dallas’ decision to let them go via free agency while “keeping the powder dry’’ for future major roster moves.

Big win. Big partying. Lockout extended. Old stars leave. Plans change. Short camp. New guys arrive. And let’s say it again: A big win, the first of its kind in the history of the franchise.

This team scaled an unscale-able mountain, dumped into the effort its heart and soul and mind …

And now they’re supposed to do the undoable all over again?

All of it amounts to a double-hangover … or worse. Maybe a quadruple-hangover.

And one that doesn’t subside just two games into the season.

“We’ve lost a lot,’’ said Carlisle before shouldering more blame. “I’ve got to do a better job coaching these guys, simple as that. I’m the head coach and it’s my job to make sure these guys are ready to play, and it’s clear that they’re not. Right now, that’s not something that’s easy for me to say, and it’s not an easy thing to live with. I’ve got a lot of work to do.’’



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