Mavs mailbag: Carlisle the best coach in Metroplex history?

I’ve got a plane to Denver to catch, so let’s skip the small talk and get right to your questions.

Is Rick Carlisle the best pure coach we have ever had in the Metroplex? Obviously Landry and Jimmy are the gold standards, but what Carlisle did in winning the title with that roster and what he has done subsequently is pretty darn amazing. -- Jared (Fort Worth)

All due respect to Carlisle, and that’s a ton, but let’s tap the brakes a bit. Under Tom Landry, the Cowboys had 20 consecutive winning seasons, made five Super Bowls and won two championships. And he essentially served as his own offensive and defensive coordinator, coming up with revolutionary concepts on both sides of the ball.

Landry is one of the great coaches in the history of sports, period. We can’t put Carlisle in that class, at least not yet.

Having said that, I firmly believe that the job done by Carlisle and his staff during the Mavs’ 2011 championship run is the best coaching job in local sports history. It might be the best in NBA history.

It started with Carlisle’s psychological genius after the Mavs’ fourth-quarter collapse in Portland and ended with the Mavs making mush of LeBron James’ brain in the Finals. Oh, and Carlisle swept Phil Jackson into retirement in between, keyed in part by an unconventional Dirk-and-reserves lineup that the Lakers had no answer for.

Carlisle is definitely on the Metroplex coaches Mt. Rushmore (forgive me). But he needs another strong decade or so to be considered at the same level as Landry.

How much involvement does Rick Carlisle have with personnel decisions? It seems a little uncertain as to how the Mavs power structure works between Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Carlisle and who actually puts the team together. -- Jason (Dallas)

Ultimately, Cuban makes the decisions because he signs the checks. It’s his money, and he’s the lead guy when it comes to the Mavs’ cap management. But Cuban trusts his basketball people to guide him, and that includes Carlisle.

Nelson does the heavy lifting when it comes to scouting and researching potential personnel moves, but Carlisle gets to give as much input as he wants. Cuban makes suggestions -- often based on analytics -- for his basketball people to consider. However, Cuban values their knowledge and isn’t so egotistical to think his hoops expertise approaches their level.

People are awfully hard on Samuel Dalembert, but I think he may be the biggest bargain on the team. Is there another starting center in the league that makes under $4 million a year? The Mavericks obviously were able to sign Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis because they aren't paying big bucks for a starting center. Do you think this was a smart move by management? -- Blake (Richardson)

You make a legitimate point. The only starting centers who make less than Dalembert’s $3.7 million are on rookie deals or play for bad teams. Of course, they were able to get Dalembert at that price because of the flaws that have caused him to bounce around the league, but this was solid asset management by the Mavs’ front office. At some point, though, they need to find a long-term solution at center instead of just going year by year.

There's no questioning how awesomely efficient Dirk has been or how fun the Jose-Monta backcourt has been, but I'm getting the vibe that whoever we draw in the first round of the playoffs will have a series feel of Mavs-Thunder in 2012 (close ... but not really at all). Am I wrong? -- Dailey (Southlake)

As I wrote the other day, the Mavs better win the battle for the sixth seed. It’d be an accomplishment to avoid being swept by the Thunder or Spurs, considering those teams’ dominance of Dallas over the last couple of years. I’d give the Mavs a little bit better odds against the Clippers, but not much. I wouldn’t pick them to beat the Rockets or Trail Blazers, but I do think they’d have a decent shot in a series against either of those teams.

Does every small forward having season-high games lately against the Mavs (LeBron James, Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony) how that Shawn Marion's defense is deteriorating or a terrible help defense behind him? -- Duke (Dallas)

It’s certainly not fair to put it all on Marion, just like it wasn’t fair to give him all the credit for containing Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron during the 2011 playoffs. The Mavs have major defensive flaws that begin with pairing two poor defenders in the backcourt. But there’s no question that Marion’s defensive prowess has dropped over the last couple of years. How many 35-year-old defensive stoppers have there been in NBA history? It’s almost unfair to ask Marion to fill that role.

It is worth noting that the 44 that Melo put up on the Mavs wasn’t close to his season high. And LeBron’s 42 doesn’t look so bad after his 61 on the Bobcats last night, right?

Do you think the team will respond to Dirk's playoffs comments? -- @Mr3Elmore on Twitter

I assume you’re referring to this gem from Dirk the other night: "Well, the way our record is against winning teams, I don’t know if we want to see anybody, just to be quite honest with you.” It was a funny, bluntly honest line that won’t have any impact on a veteran locker room. The Mavs understand they’ll be underdogs if they make the playoffs. They also know that they’ve got to finish the regular season relatively strong to get there, and that’s their focus, as it should be.