A couple of bearded interlopers showed up on the Dallas Mavericks’ bench Tuesday night in Detroit, which was surprising mostly because someone was able to differentiate them from the strangers usually there already.
Sean Williams? Yi Jianlian? Delonte West? When you think about some of those guys who are or have been on Dallas’ bench in place of players no longer around – Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson – is it really such a stretch that Paying Customer and Drinking Customer – as one giant sports network dubbed them – might show up wedged between West and Vince Carter.
Just seemed to us at the HTB hideout like a couple more guys who wouldn’t be welcomed at the White House.
The Mavericks climbed finally to .500 Tuesday with their 100-86 victory over the Pistons, getting 9-of-10 shooting from Dirk Nowitzki and, with Jason Kidd out again (strained back), 10 assists, five steals and six points from West. Carter dished five assists too, as Dallas got Detroit down (23-9 lead) and kept Detroit down (16 straight points in the third quarter). At 5-5, the Mavs reached even for the first time since they got their rings.
Just winning away from home, after an 0-3 road start, was promising, given last season’s success (28-13) and the Mavs’ game at Boston Wednesday. “Momentum has been elusive for us,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “so we respect how tough it is competitively in this league right now, but our goal is to build on this.”
Carter, West, Brandan Wright and fresh-from-the-NBA-D-League Yi (Williams was farmed out) aren’t exactly guys wearing funny nose-and-glasses. But they do embody the fact that the Mavericks might be the most altered defending champions, in personnel terms, since Michael Jordan-Phil Jackson gang in Chicago broke up in 1998-99. Curiously, that one came in the wake of a lengthy lockout too.
That one was more intentional, with former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause aching to rebuild and avoid the dreaded “old Celtics” fate. The Mavs’ plight, if it can be called that, is the product of free agency and careful budget decisions for future opportunities in a new CBA world.
The encouraging news for Dallas is that Carlisle isn’t Tim Floyd – in general terms and in keeping his team focused on the here-and-now – and that much of last season’s core is back. By late April, they might be able to properly incorporate and regularly win with Lamar Odom and the other new faces, maybe even up to the standards of last postseason.
Just so they keep those two grungy guys on the inactive list.