The Dallas Mavericks are slowly turning the corner on their poor performances in the first three games of the season. They have now won two of their last three games and stand at an early season record of 2-4.
Vince Carter and Lamar Odom
Last year’s NBA champions, the Mavericks shuffled a lot of people from their lineup, and are busy trying to incorporate veterans Vince Carter and Lamar Odom into it. Carter has been especially important in the two victories, while Lamar Odom still seems to be stuck on I-10 somewhere between Van Horn and Pecos, Texas, on his way from Los Angeles where he enjoyed success as a Laker.
In last night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Odom had his best game yet as a Maverick, playing more minutes and scoring more points than he had scored to date. He is not yet locked in to his game, but his presence is felt, and his teammates are finding ways to spotlight his talents.
Coach Rick Carlisle of the Mavs appears to be running plays for the specific purposes of incorporating the talents of Carter and Odom, and it is helping fans to see how much the two of them bring to the table, as they have been grieving the losses of J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, and Caron Butler.
The brightest spot among the new players for the Mavs is Delonte West. Working his way into becoming a fan favorite in Dallas, West is showing all the characteristics he was touted to have: toughness, great ball-handling skills, and a decent penetration guy and playmaker on the offense. As West gives Jason Kidd a little more time to rest on the bench, both players will become more effective. West is already ahead of schedule, so Mavs fans are putting J.J. Barea behind them more and more with every outing.
Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood
The great surprises of the Mavs, however, have been the play of some of last year’s bench players, especially Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood. Haywood, while not filling the shoes of Tyson Chandler completely, yet, is more aggressive than last year, and he is yanking down some offensive rebounds in key moments during the game. It has done wonders for his attitude on the court, and fans are very pleased.
Mahinmi is the new wonder boy for the Mavs. Given only limited minutes last year, the Mavs did not really showcase his talents. He has been a pleasant surprise, not only in his scoring, but in his rebounding and his play in the paint. He has incredible foot work for a big guy, playing much smaller than his seven foot size when it is needed.
A 10-10 Start Still Looks Good
My early prediction of a slightly less than 10-10 start, is still a comfortable one, I believe. However, when the bench play of Odom, Carter, Jason Terry, and Mahinmi get more court time together, the Mavs will be very strong throughout four quarters of a ball game.
With the increased talents of Western Conference foes, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma Thunder, particularly, the Mavs will have to be better than last year’s team if they want to repeat a run to the NBA Finals, and much better if they intend to be the champs. They are on the right path, but then, several other good teams are on it with them.