We won’t see fans of the Dallas Mavericks wearing paper bags over their heads any time soon, especially with the team’s first NBA championship banner hanging from the rafters. But in their 2011-2012 season home opener against the vaunted Miami Heat, and in their second game against the Denver Nuggets, the Mavs have lost by a total of 33 points. However, it has really been much worse than that.
After raising the championship banner on Christmas Day, the Miami Heat burned the Mavs badly. It was not pretty. Dallas could not do anything to stop the powerful offense of the Heat. The Heat’s LeBron James looked like he was playing against a junior high team, and not even a good one, scoring just under 1,000 points, it seemed.
After a cool afternoon against the Heat, the Mavs turned to the revived Denver Nuggets on Monday night. Dallas led early, though briefly, before Denver discovered the Mavericks were playing with fool’s gold in their shoes. The Nuggets simply outran the Mavericks up and down the court, showing up the home team badly.
Last year’s NBA Finals MVP, the Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki, said it best, “We are playing like we’re old and slow.” Yes, and there’s a reason for that: the Mavs are getting old, and they’re slow, especially when they get into the third and fourth quarters of ball games.
Realistically, the Mavs simply are not the same team they were last year. Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, and Caron Butler have all moved on, due to free agency. The Mavs have brought in some good players in Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, Delonte West, and Sean Williams. While all of them have the ability to contribute to another successful season in Dallas, there are few indications yet that the team has adapted to the changes they bring to it.
It is early, just as it is for all NBA teams. I expected nothing better than a 10-10 start for the Mavericks, given all the new frontline players. What I did not expect, however, is for there not to be some sort of offensive game being played.
The Mavericks have looked like five stand-alone players with no offensive coordination going on at all. Worse than this, there is no semblance of defense being played. The zone defense which helped the Mavs defeat the strong offensive talents of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in last year’s NBA Finals against the Heat, is not present anywhere.
There is a lot of coaching to do, as head coach Rick Carlisle puts together what little time he has to get the team on the right track. A two-day respite before facing the strong Oklahoma Thunder in Oklahoma City on Thursday night will give the Mavericks some much-needed gym time.
My prediction is a 0-3 start with the Mavericks losing to the Thunder on Thursday night. However, at some point, an offense will arise, and a defense will slow down the opposition. It could happen after the embarrassing losses incurred in the first two games. Oklahoma is a strong team, and it won’t happen Thursday night. A six point loss by the Mavs would be a successful step forward.