DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday face old pal Jason Kidd and the New York Knicks for the second time in less than two weeks. In the time between, the drastic decline witnessed at point guard must be unnerving for Dallas.
The promising start Darren Collison rode into the Big Apple on Nov. 9 is swerving amid a mess of poor decision making, poor shooting and perplexing turnovers. After Monday’s 105-101 overtime home loss to the Golden State Warriors in which Collison was terrible offensively (seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, five assists and five turnovers) and torched defensively by Stephen Curry (31 points, nine assists), his quickest move was exiting the locker room before the media was granted entrance for post game interviews.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle addressed his point guard’s spotty play by saying he must help Collison snap out of it.
“Right now, he’s our starting point guard,” Carlisle said. “I know he can play better. I know he’s frustrated with how things are going. Right now, I’ve just got to help him get better. When players struggle, it’s on the coach. I don’t dodge that responsibility.”
Even if Carlisle wanted to make a switch, he has no realistic option. Dallas waived the disgruntled Delonte West before the start of the season. Roddy Beaubois continues to be disappointingly ineffective and third-year guard Dominique Jones, while flashing potential in his recently increased role, is reckless handling the basketball and unreliable shooting it.
This isn’t to suggest the Mavs would be better off with Kidd, who is off to a strong start with the Knicks in his 19th season. Dallas wanted the 39 year old back, but he spurned its offer to join New York, the right move for him and the Mavs, regardless if Collison ultimately becomes Dallas’ long-term (not to mention the short-term) solution or not.
The Mavs were 4-1 when they headed to Madison Square Garden and gamely competed against the then-undefeated Knicks before falling late. The loss started this current 2-5 stretch that has Dallas, still without star Dirk Nowitzki, at .500 (6-6) and backed into a corner with the revenge-minded Los Angeles Lakers following the Knicks into town Saturday night.
It was in L.A. on opening night that the speedy Collison carved up Steve Nash and Dallas’ new cast surprisingly revved up an uncertain offense. In the first five games, Collison averaged 16.2 points on highly efficient shooting at close range, and 7.2 assists, while committing just six total turnovers.
In the last seven games, he’s averaged 11.2 points and 5.9 assists with 21 turnovers. In just the last four games, he’s shooting 30.8 percent while averaging 10.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.3 turnovers.
At the other end, it’s been a scorched trail of point-guard destruction: Kemba Walker, Luke Ridnour, former Pacers teammate George Hill, Kyrie Irving and finally Curry’s explosion for a season high in points and assists. The Mavs have yet to see All-Star point guards the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook.
“Stephen Curry just didn’t outplay one player,” Mavs shooting guard O.J. Mayo said. “He outplayed the Dallas Mavericks.”
Maybe so, but Collison was on the floor for 38 of Curry’s 43 minutes and served as his primary defender. Offensively, Collison was ineffective, at best. He did hit the game-tying jumper with 36 seconds to play to force overtime after Curry’s fourth-quarter blitz, but even that was a broken play in which he failed to get the ball into center Chris Kaman on a mismatch.
If not for Mayo’s late scoring takeover — hero ball, as they like to say nowadays, at its essence — the Mavs might not have even reached overtime. Mayo had 18 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and accounted for all 11 of Dallas’ points in OT on just one assist.
“I had the opportunity to have the ball in my hands,” Mayo said. “I didn’t have to depend on someone creating a shot for me.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for your point guard. And that’s a problem.