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What is wrong with 0-2 Dallas? A lot of things.

Dec 27, 2011, 12:45 PM EDT

Dirk Nowitzki AP

The defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks have started out 0-2.

An ugly 0-2. They have been blown out by the Heat and the Nuggets on their home court, losing by a combined 33 points (and it wasn’t really that close, garbage time runs have made it look better than it was).

What in the name of Mark Cuban is going on?

The problem is, it’s not just one thing. Both the offense and the defense have taken steps back so far this season. Big steps. At the heart of the issue is the team chemistry and selfless team play — the great offensive ball movement, the coordinated defense — have disappeared.

Dallas last season won because the whole was greater than the sum of their parts. Their chemistry made up for the lack of athleticism. This year so far they are just parts. Here is what Dirk Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News.

“We look old and slow and out of shape — a bad combination,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 20 points and sat out the entire fourth quarter for a second straight game, yet another indication of how bad things are going. “I still think this team has a lot of potential. But we have to turn the corner.”

That should come with time — Lamar Odom just looks lost right now trying to find his way, but he will find his spots. Eventually. It’s just that in a condensed season the Mavs have less time to make this all happen.

And there are a lot of areas that need work.

Transition defense is at the top of the list. Both Denver and the Heat ran against Mavericks embarrassed the Mavs. To be kind. Both the Heat and Nuggets created mismatches in transition and exploited them mercilessly. Dallas started out focused on it against Denver but those plans wilted as they game wore on.

More than just transition, it was things like baseline drives that Dallas used to shut off (thank you Tyson Chandler) which they are giving up now in bunches.

On offense the Mavs have scored 16 points fewer per 100 possessions compared to last year, and they are playing at a faster pace through two games, exacerbating the problem. They are not getting good looks through ball movement, they are looking more isolated and their shots more contested.

The problem is they are a jump shooting team and those misses are long rebounds and the Heat and Nuggets turned those misses into fast beaks, and we talked about the lack of transition defense.

Coach Rick Carlisle is looking for solutions. He is starting Delonte West over Vince Carter (mostly for the defense). He gave Sean Williams run and he looked good, providing them the athleticism the Mavericks need.

But the real solution is time. The core of the Dallas team that won the title and had been together for years has been broken up in the name of cap space and there is a new learning curve. Eventually Dallas will get back close to what they were. But the bumps in the road are painful.

The real concern is that in this condensed schedule, the hole they are digging at the start of the season is going to hurt them more later.

  1. trbowman - Dec 27, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    WE ARE TWO GAMES INTO THE SEASON. TWO.

    lol.

    Dallas will be fine.

  2. dirtydavis - Dec 27, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Tyson Chandler… That’s why!

  3. ogre2010 - Dec 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Kurt had a ‘woody’ when he wrote this

  4. hammycheeseer - Dec 27, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    “The core of the Dallas team that won the title and had been together for years has been broken up”

    That is either a HUGE lie or the writer has no idea what he is talking about and has no reason to write this piece.

    Tyson Chandler: Was in his FIRST and ONLY year with dallas. He was acquired in a trade as part of Dampier’s expiring contract. So how was he part of the core that was there for years?

    Caron Butler: He was acquired in a mid season trade the year before mavs won the championship. hardly qualifies as “core for years”.
    Deshawn Stevenson: Same as Caron.
    Barea: He was the only guy that was part of dallas for “years”. about 3 or 4 to be exact. Before last season, he was pretty much a non factor and it was Roddy B who was scoring close to 40 points in mavs playoffs… not barea.

    Only Terry and Dirk have been part of the mavs since 2006 run to the finals. So as you can see, mavs have never had a long core of guys like the spurs.

    The reason mavs are struggling so much is because they are fat and out of shape right now. They accomplished their goals so late in their career, that they didnt prepare like younger guys. And they are paying for it right now.

  5. trbowman - Dec 27, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    I proudly own Brendan Haywood’s Wizard jersey

  6. brucewaynewins - Dec 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I personally think alot of this has to do with all the new pieces replacing the old pieces. The team just needs to gel together and some of the new pieces need to figure things out. Once the new pieces are comfortable they will gel with other team members and nobody should have to overcompensate for anyone exhausting themselves.

    It’s only 2 games and even in a shortened season its nothing to worry over. How often did the Lakers and other recent consistent playoff teams start off slow and worry everyone only to turn it around year after year?

    • thatboi901 - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM

      It is one thing to start slow but its complete other thing to be completely manhandled the first 3 games. The heat are good but the nuggets are without three key players completely handed it to Dallas. The problem with Dallas is an old team got older this off season.

  7. klownboy - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Dallas is making my prediction of them winning their division pretty silly, though it’s been only 2 games

    http://theklowntimes.net/2011/12/17/2011-2012-nba-preview/

  8. cowboychris5xchamps - Dec 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Can anyone say championship hangover? Last year the Heat started off pretty badly they still won the East, I’m not calling the Mavs the Heat just saying they need time to get it together with all the new pieces we added. We’re gonna be just fine.

  9. watermelon1 - Dec 27, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    They didn’t re-sign DeShawn Stevenson. That’s a bigger issue than most people want to acknowledge.

    Odom is a great addition, and gives them what Caron Butler would have given them last year(probably gives them even more simply because of his size), but they still need their guards to be able to defend and hit the open 3 pointer.

    I don’t think Tyson Chandler is missed nearly as much as people make it out to sound. He is soft. Sure, Haywood is soft too… but when he’s getting starter minutes his play definitely improves. We’ll most likely see this as long as Dallas doesn’t rush to a knee-jerk reaction and bench him less than 10 games into the season.

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