After losing their first three games, the Dallas Mavericks are at 5-5 going into Boston Wednesday (January 11) to play the Celtics. Working under the pressure, as all NBA teams are, to put together a viable offense after having only two weeks to prepare for the season when the lockout ended, the Mavs’ were saddled with the additional dynamic of incorporating several key players who replaced some of last year’s stars in the team’s championship run.
After a dismal showing in San Antonio over the past weekend, the Mavs have won two straight, including a lopsided win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. Detroit has some very good players who are new to the NBA, and their lack of experience is showing early in the season.
Mavs Improving In All Phases
With the 5-5 record, the Mavericks have pulled to .500 for the first time this season. The better news for Dallas fans is that the team is showing some of last year’s talent in passing the ball well and scoring on their jump shots.
On the defensive side, head coach Rick Carlisle has whipped the team into shape. Mavs veteran players like Jason Terry and Shawn Marion are putting themselves into position to steal passes, interrupt easy baskets for the opposition, and generally playing with a sense of urgency.
Mavs big men Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi are working well in the low post position. Haywood’s second chance baskets have provided some confidence for the team, as well as a sigh of relief after losing Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks and free agency.
The New Mavs
New Mavericks, Delonte West, Vince Carter, and Lamar Odom are making excellent contributions, both on offense and defense. Carter, a long-time all star in the NBA, formerly with the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets, has given Dallas their money’s worth on several nights with his excellent shooting and poster-worthy slam dunks that have players and fans alike jumping up from their seats.
West is looking more and more comfortable handling the ball, demonstrating superb passing skills to go along with his jump shot. With point guard Jason Kidd out with a back injury, West and Jason Terry have been filling in and getting more minutes on the court. Some fans in Dallas may have worried that West might have a problem playing with some passion, but if anything, West’s hard-nosed style and considerable skill has quieted any reservations about his attitude. He is a welcome addition to last year’s championship team.
Odom, too, has shown to be a good team player and is seen often supporting the team with big smiles and excellent play on the court. He has that first game with the L.A. Lakers marked on his calendar, when he will return to Los Angeles to prove his value to the team that allowed him to be picked up by the Mavericks just before the season started.
As an observer of team chemistry, it is impossible not to notice the Mavericks are coming together for another run at the championship. Coach Rick Carlisle is to be credited for his “team first” mentality. He has the notches on his belt to show it after successfully guiding the Mavericks to their first ever NBA championship a year ago.
Wednesday night’s game against the Boston Celtics will test the Mavericks greatly. Their chances for victory in Boston will be slim, but fans have to like where the team is headed.