Quo Vadimus (Where Are We Going?)
by Andrew Lynch
The Dallas Mavericks hope to head toward the same end point they reached last year, but theyâ€™re about to Robert Frost that journey. The lasting image of the 2011 NBA Finals, for many, is Tyson Chandler sliding side-to-side along the perimeter, step for step with LeBron James, sealing off any angle of penetration into the lane and frustrating the Heat into submission. With Chandler in the Big Apple, Dallas takes the road less traveled, hoping that the addition of the versatile Lamar Odom will keep this team a top ten offense and that Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi can fill some of the void on the defensive end. J.J. Barea is gone, but Rodrigue Beaubois is healthy and, the Mavericks hope, poised to take his place in the rotation.
Despite the change and question marks, the Jason Kidd/Dirk Nowitzki/Shawn Marion core is still in place, and mad scientist Rick Carlisle is still at the helm. That combination all but assures Dallas of a top-4 seed in the West, barring major injury. As the team showed last year, getting into the postseason is all it takes; surprising things can happen once a team is there. Unfortunately, the drastic drop-off in defense up the middle is likely to doom Dallasâ€™ championship dreams, at least this season. Mark Cuban and the rest of the front office made a choice – to maintain cap flexibility after this season at the cost of losing their focal point on defense.
As a result, the Mavericks will be good enough to win plenty of games this year. They might even reach the Western Conference Finals, but odds are theyâ€™ll go no further. Itâ€™s the same situation as last season; the path to that point, however, is a mystery.
LET’S START A CULT ABOUT: JEROME RANDLE
by James Herbert
July 11, 2010. Iâ€™m pretty much the happiest man on Earth. Iâ€™m at Summer League in Vegas, a week into a massive road trip with my best friend.Â I can see Jimmy Goldstein, thereâ€™s aÂ guy in an Adam Morrison jerseyÂ doing play by play from his seat, and Iâ€™m about to watch John Wall play his first game since going #1 overall.
Iâ€™m telling my friend â€” not a basketball fan â€” about Wall. About how I watched more college basketball in the previous season than I had in the few before, all because of him and his teammates. About how heâ€™s easily going to be the best and most exciting player we see here. â€œSee thatÂ alien-ish guy? Itâ€™s so cool that heâ€™s coaching this team! He used to be really good and he played John Wallâ€™s position.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s that little guy?â€
â€œThatâ€™s Jerome Randle..â€
Yes, yes he was. Maybe not statistically (6 points on 3-7 shooting that day), but, man, thatÂ style.Â That handle. That utterly absurd handle. Randle was somehow more interesting to watch than Wall, in the eyes of a basketball newbie and in the eyes of a Wall fanatic. Every possession was more fun with this 5â€™9 guy zipping around. Heâ€™d effortlessly put defenders on their heels. He had the smoothest-looking jumper of anyone on the court. He threw the flashiest passes and had the best court vision. I hadnâ€™t seen that much of him at Cal, but thought to myself, â€œThis is an NBA player.â€ A month later, I named my pet rat after him.
Actual expertsÂ liked him that day, too, but his play at Summer League didnâ€™t land him an NBA roster spot in 2010. He went to Turkey, where he dealt with the lack of foul calls and had the opportunity to play against Allen Iverson.
â€œGrowing up, I thought I was him,â€ Randle said. â€œDressed like him, talked like him, tried to play and shoot like him. Not making the NBA right away was disappointing, but playing against him was like the best consolation prize ever.â€
If you grew up on Iverson like I did, this will make you want to start a cult about Jerome Randle if you didnâ€™t already. If youâ€™re in The Cult of Jerome Randle, youâ€™d name your pets after him. You believe that he deserves to beÂ treated like this wherever he goes. While he might not have an NBA MVP award in his future, you know itâ€™s just a matter of time before he makes the league. After scoring agorillionÂ points for the MavsÂ in the preseason, he signed with their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Now we wait for his call-up.
I Will Remember You. Will You Remember Me?
by Connor Huchton
The 2011-2012 Mavericks will serve as a tale of veteran adjustment. Less than a year removed from winning a long-sought championship, the nature of the team has drastically changed. Tyson Chandler, defensive anchor, is gone. J.J. Barea, backup point guard and key role player, is gone. DeShawn Stevenson, key playoff contributor, is gone. Caron Butler, short-lived but important part of the early 2010-2011 Mavericks, is gone.
But the Mavericks are a smart organization. A plan is always in place, both for the future and present. The miraculous deal made for Lamar Odom coupled with short, affordable deals for competent role players Delonte West and Vince Carter keep the Mavericks in firm contention for another Finals berth. The teamâ€™s reluctance to give long-term, cap-using deals to players like Tyson Chandler indicate an equal mind for the future and 2012 free agency (Deron Williams and Dwight Howard are very much in sight).
This unwillingness to commit fully to a similar squad for another year will lead us to partly remember 2011-2012 as a year young talent was needed to push the Mavericks through the season and resulting playoffs. If players like Roddy Beaubois, Dominique Jones, and Ian Mahinmi canâ€™t alleviate weaknesses (to some extent) left by the loss of important players from last yearâ€™s team, the Mavericks will fail to make significant strides in this yearâ€™s playoffs. Mahinmi, namely, seems set to serve as the backup center behind competent starter Brendan Haywood, a player frequently in foul trouble. As Rob Mahoney mentioned in his excellent Mavericks preview, how well Mahinmi is able to rebound will play a key part in his overall usefulness.
In the case of Beaubois, the time has come for him to either ascend to a key role or fade out of the rotation. Beaubois possesses an immense talent to score, a talent that will become especially necessary if Vince Carter proves unable to fill his role capably. Though Beaubois isnâ€™t an impressive distributor, a return to his healthy 2009-2010 form will allow the Mavericks to run effective Kidd-Beaubois backcourt sets as they once did with Kidd and Barea. If Beaubois provides performances similar to his somewhat disappointing 2010-2011 campaign, Jones may assume this role.
Despite a myriad of changes, the Mavericks arenâ€™t set to become a fading team. Other than the clear favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the West is entirely ready for discourse and close battles. The Mavericks, however old, possess talent comparable or better than any other team in the West. A Kidd-Carter-Marion-Dirk-Haywood-Terry-Odom-West-Beaubois-Mahinmi rotation is certainly nothing to bet against. Itâ€™s a different team, a team that may face turmoil and questions as it struggles to find identity and chemistry during the regular season, but itâ€™s a team that holds a tremendous basketball IQ and sufficient potential.
What weâ€™ll remember about this Mavericks team is the questions they answered. Can a champion change the makeup of its team, re-stock with different talent while retaining its core, and still prevail? Or will the change be too much for an aging team to handle, the beginning of a long-predicted down turn? This is a year of change in the West, as the Lakers shift and the Clippers rise. Either the Mavericks coalesce impressively one final time behind the brilliant coaching of Rick Carlisle, or they fail and hope for the best in 2012 free agency. This is the year the Mavericks changed with abandon, and it may just work. If it doesnâ€™t, the Mavericks are ready to embrace change once again in 2012-2013.