Was Letting Chandler Walk The Right Move?

Tyson Chandler will be named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this afternoon. Remember him? You may have a faint recollection of the man who became the defensive anchor for the Dallas Mavericks last season as they won their first ever championship.

Much has happened in Mavs Land since that title was on and alas, Tyson Chandler eventually went on to free agency and fell to the New York Knicks. The Knicks are the team for which Chandler is winning the award for today, not the Mavericks. That’s an obvious fact, but also a painful reality for many who wanted Chandler to be a Maverick for life.

Chandler receiving the award today has thrown gasoline on the fiery debate of whether or not the Mavs should have brought the center back with a ‘do what it takes’ attitude, but it’s important to understand the reasoning and line of thinking the Mavericks used when making that decision.

With the Mavericks down 0-2 right now in the First Round of the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, panic clouds over the future of the franchise are settling over Dallas. Hindsight cries about how the Mavs should have re-signed the center are a half-panic, half-uninformed opinion. Taking the broad approach of looking beyond the current playoffs situation, the Mavericks made the decision to let Tyson Chandler walk away for reasons beyond today, tomorrow, and even a few years down the road.

If the Mavericks had signed Chandler to the four-year and $58 million contract that the Knicks offered him, the future of the franchise would have been locked-in without any room to maneuver, while also placing the Mavs into deep luxury tax territory. The new agreed upon CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) places a much harsher penalty on teams who pay luxury tax, so the Mavericks would have been committed to an aging, offensively limited player who handcuffed moves in the future and they would have been paying ungodly amounts of money in order to do it.

The Mavericks know what Tyson Chandler is capable of as a player and they never for a minute believed he wasn’t capable of winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, but they simply didn’t believe an investment of around $14 million a year for an older, injury-prone center was worth it.

Sure, Chandler could eventually prove that the Mavericks made the wrong decision, but that can only be done over time. What Chandler did this year or any awards he receives today are irrelevant as the Mavs’ front office always believed he was capable of this, just not long term. Before rushing to a judgment that is formed in an instant, monitor the next few years and watch what the Mavericks do with their additional financial flexibility, the kind of success they have, how productive Tyson Chandler is as he ages into his current contract, and how the Knicks fare with his albatross of a contract.

Only then can the decision of the Mavericks be fairly ruled upon.

Mavericks Secure A Spot In The Playoffs

It wasn’t easy, but it’s official.

The Dallas Mavericks clinched a playoff spot for the 12th consecutive year on Thursday night by virtue of the Houston Rocket’s loss in New Orleans to the lowly Hornets. While seeding hasn’t yet been decided, qualifying for the playoffs this season has been nothing short of a chore for the Mavs. That may be acceptable for most teams in the league, but it’s not exactly how the world champions planned on defending their title.

Granted, the departure of center Tyson Chandler and guard JJ Barea among other key pieces made it virtually impossible to compete at the same level as last year, but one of the things a team looks forward to so much following a championship is a ‘defend-your-crown’ type of feeling all year. That feeling never quite came to fruition during the regular season. The good news for the Mavericks is they’ll get another chance to find it once the playoffs begin.

Much has come to light in the postseason picture over the last few days based on results for other potential playoff participants. The Mavericks clinching obviously guarantees Dallas at least the 8th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs and no better than the 6th seed due to the Memphis Grizzlies’ 85-80 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.  The unlikely scenario of facing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round was significantly dashed on Thursday as they lost to the Phoenix Suns to inch closer to the 4th seed.

Overall, the most likely opponent for the Mavs when the playoffs begin is the Los Angeles Lakers, with minor possibilities of the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. Much discussion over which of those teams will provide the most favorable matchup for the Mavericks will take place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the next few days, but the fact is that those three teams are top seeds in the Western conference for a reason: They’re extremely good.  Each will provide their own unique challenges for the Mavs, so the best thing to do for the rest of the season is to ignore the matchup talk.

The Mavericks’ time will be most effectively spent finding some offensive efficiency and staying healthy during the last few days of the regular season. It may even be worth Rick Carlisle’s time to rest Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki for at least one of the final games. One only needs to look back a year to see how having rested stars can pay off in the postseason.

Only so much can be said about matchups, seedings, and home court advantage before the talk all starts to run together. The 2010 Mavericks were a number two seed with as promising a path through the playoffs as the franchise ever had before stumbling in the First Round. The 2011 Mavericks were picked by many to lose in the First Round to the Portland Trailblazers before going on to win the NBA Championship with arguably one of the most difficult paths in history.

All it takes is a spark and some momentum, which can appear at any time. These aren’t last year’s Dallas Mavericks, but the benefit of the doubt remains on their side.

Until it doesn’t, of course.

Plenty Of Uncertainty In Mavs Locker Room

There isn’t much time for the Dallas Mavericks to get on track this regular season. The goal is obviously to find some momentum and consistency before the playoffs hit, but this season is different in Dallas as the postseason isn’t yet assured with just a few games remaining.

After last night’s meeting with Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets, the regular season game count fell to three. Losing recent winnable against the Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Utah Jazz haven’t made things any easier, but that’s the reality Dallas faces in a season that has provided so much uncertainty.

Uncertainty hasn’t just been a recurring theme throughout the NBA, but it’s specifically been one in the Mavericks’ locker room. A lot still needs to be decided with the regular season so close to being over and that includes the Dallas player rotation.

“I don’t have a definite rotation laid out,” Mavs’ Coach Rick Carlisle said when pressed about the subject before the game against Houston. “It’s an ongoing evaluation, really. We don’t have a 100% answer. The guys have done a good job of being ready.”

Most of the Mavericks may have ‘been ready’ this year, but the last two games of their recent road trip didn’t produce the result they wanted. Despite going to four total overtimes against a good team (The Lakers) and a desperate team (The Jazz), the Mavericks just couldn’t overcome some of the late-game mistakes they have begun to make during close games.

Just losing those two games wasn’t the only negative impact for the Mavs. As one of the older teams in the league, having to put so much effort into a game without getting the win is a double whammy. Specifically, despite being limited to mostly 30 minutes or less for most of each game this season, Mavs point guard Jason Kidd felt the brunt of those overtime games by playing 42 minutes per game over the stretch. Obviously the Mavs would like the keep the minutes limited for Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Terry in order to save their energy for the playoffs, but that’s simply not a luxury they have with the playoffs not assured.

In a fight of their own for the playoffs, the Rockets came to town tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and a game and a half behind the Mavericks for the seventh seed. Also looking to avoid the season series sweep from the Mavericks, the Rockets needed a win Wednesday night even more than their North Texas counterpart.

Nowitzki, Terry, and Vince Carter simply wouldn’t let it happen. With Nowitzki and Terry providing their usual torture to the Rockets with 35 and 19 points respectively, it was Carter who provided the extra lift with a season-high 23 points. With the 117-110 win, the Mavs moved into a virtual tie with the Denver Nuggets for the seventh seed and the Rockets moved closer toward vacation than they did the postseason with their fifth consecutive loss.

The playoffs essentially started weeks ago for the Mavericks who have had to fight for their spot in the top eight of the Western Conference. With a couple more performances like tonight, they will continue their playoffs for at least one series.

Role Players Step Up For Dallas

It’s been a tumultuous past few days for the usually calm, collected Dallas Mavericks franchise due to the announcement that Lamar Odom would be inactive for the rest of the season. The experiment with the power forward failed and Dallas will move on without him, while he gets some much needed time to focus on his personal issues that plagued the worst season of his career.

The theme before the game revolved around moving on from Odom, who represented that worst part of a so far bleak season in Dallas. Amongst reports of Odom being consistently late to games and getting into recent confrontations with members of the organization, Mavs owner Mark Cuban was extremely open and honest regarding the situation.

“You can’t put the mistakes we’ve made on Lamar,” Cuban said. “We made mistakes, not him. If I’m going to be the guy who smiles with my hand on the trophy, I’ve got to be the guy to take the responsibility.”

“It’s my team, my responsibility,” he continued.

Tuesday night marked the first day of P.O. (Post Odom) in Dallas and the beginning of a kind of blank slate for the Mavs. Well, as much of a blank slate that a team in the thick of a playoff race with only a few games remaining can have. The cliché of ‘addition by subtraction’ certainly has the chance to apply to this situation, as the removal of the dark cloud that was Odom’s passive attitude potentially (and hopefully) can prove to be a spark for the meddling Mavericks.

Coming out on Tuesday with a positive performance and displaying the energy that has been lacking from so many efforts recently would almost certainly pumps some belief back into Mavs fans and perhaps even build some legitimate momentum as Dallas fights for its playoff life.

Combine that with hosting the 19-38 Sacramento Kings and the Mavs took advantage a real shot toward getting back on the right track. And just in time.

Last year’s championship team thrived on teamwork, ball movement, and an ‘us-against-the-world’ attitude more than any group in recent memory. Ultimately, those factors were what made the Mavericks greater than the sum of their parts as they won the Finals. Obviously, this incarnation of the Mavericks have much deeper issues than the negative aura of Lamar Odom, but if they believe they can find an edge with his departure and fallback on some of that fluid ball-movement offense, then this is still a defending champion to be reckoned with.

Behind Roddy Beaubois (15 points), Shawn Marion (10 points, 14 rebounds) and some timely shooting by the nearly forgotten Yi Jianlian (8 points), the Mavs got their expected, but still much-needed win.

After tonight’s 110-100 win and with eight games remaining in the craziness that has been this lockout-shortened regular season, the Mavericks sit in seventh place and need every win they can get their hands on.

For now, it’s a new day in Dallas. Whether the champs can capitalize on that opportunity or not will be proven shortly as a five-game road trip to the west coast starts on Thursday.

Lamar Odom’s Done In Dallas

Lamar Odom’s reign (of disinterest?) in Dallas came to a screeching halt today as it was announced this morning that the forward came to an agreement with the Dallas Mavericks to step away from the team for the rest of the season.

“The Mavericks and I have mutually agreed that it’s in the best interest of both parties for me to step away from the team,” Odom said in a statement first reported by ESPN’s Mark Stein. “I’m sorry that things didn’t work out better for both of us, but I wish the Mavs’ organization, my teammates and Dallas fans nothing but continued success in the defense of their championship.”

Odom wasn’t granted his outright release due to contractual issues that would take up some of the Mavericks’ impending salary cap space if they were to simply cut the player. By agreeing for Odom to “step away from the team” and be labeled as inactive for the rest of the season, the Mavs keep the option of potentially trading Odom down the line in order to save that cap room.

Though his status will officially be ‘inactive’ for the rest of the season, most would argue he has been just that all year long.

Lamar Odom’s struggles since his trade to Dallas in December are well documented. Not only was the forward averaging career lows per game in points (6.6), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.2) field goal percentage (35.2%), steals (0.4), blocks (0.4), and minutes (20.5), but his general indifference on the court and bench for the Mavericks was one of the most grating experiences Mavs fans have ever been put through.

Coming off a season where he won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, Dallas traded for him for nearly nothing. With his unique blend of skill, Odom was supposed to pair with Jason Terry to create one of the more vaunted benches in NBA history while easing the heavy scoring and minutes load for Dirk Nowitzki.

Odom did none of that.

The Mavericks waited for Odom to come around, but they were perhaps too patient. Even though his lack of effort on the court, and general apathetic attitude toward everything while in Dallas, was an instant annoyance to fans and media, Odom was never going to be considered a ‘problem’ for the Mavericks until franchise leaders Nowitzki or Jason Kidd had some kind of negative opinion on the matter. That happened this weekend. Saturday night, Nowitzki showed some frustration regarding a line of questioning about Odom. Monday morning, Odom was gone.

Odom made the cardinal sin of rocking the boat and that won’t fly on the USS Mark Cuban.

Moving forward, the hope has to be that Lamar Odom’s absence will be the ultimate case of addition by subtraction. The Mavericks obviously have deeper issues than the ones Odom presented, but the removal of his negative vibe will be like getting overdue work done on a car. It may break down eventually anyway, but a tune up certainly can’t hurt.

Examining the Mavericks’ roster of players who still want to play basketball, it seems that Shawn Marion and Brian Cardinal will combine to take up the extra minutes at power forward behind Nowitzki. Perhaps the mobility of Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright will make them an option, as well.

No matter which direction the Mavericks choose to take, almost any option will be better than Odom considering his puny production.

From the start, it was clear that Lamar Odom wasn’t happy about being in Dallas. He failed to even attempt to hide his disdain for the Lakers not wanting him. The Mavs jumped at the opportunity to bring in a player with his long history of quality play at such an efficient price. They did everything they could to meet Odom in the middle, but like any relationship, it will never work if both sides don’t put forth the effort.

Without being an insider in the Mavs’ front office or on the roster, it’s difficult to know what specifically did or didn’t work with him, but Odom was simply a failed experiment in Dallas.

Lamar Odom couldn’t thrive outside of Hollywood, but more importantly, just wasn’t made for Texas.