Monday means “The Come Up” – our weekly look at the week ahead on the Mavs schedule. Lots of travel for Turkey week. Hopefully Shawn Marion can get back in the mix sometime during this swing. It go a ‘lil summin’ like this…
Tuesday - Warriors, Come Out To Play
Wow, talk about low-hanging fruit. The mood emanating from The Bay Dubs feels downright Post-Apocalyptic. From the outside, it appears that nobody wants to be there. Those on the inside are probably wishing they were afforded the luxury of being a speculating outsider. I imagine the vibe on the bench during a timeout feels something like this.
The Warriors traded Stephen Jackson, their best and most disgruntled player, for Raja Bell – who immediately opted for surgery. He was going to have the surgery anyway, but I’m saying... They’ve been decimated by unhappiness and injuries. Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf have both been on the shelf and Kelenna Azubuike, one of their few great values on a roster loaded with over-priced dudes who all do the same stuff, is likely out for the season.
So far this year has been an unmitigated disaster for The Warriors; which leads me to wonder if anyone uses “unmitigated” without following it with “disaster”. By my calculations Golden State has exactly one quality win – last Friday night’s home victory over Portland. In that game Monta Ellis, the current most vocal malcontent on the roster, played all 48 and dropped 34 to go with eight assists and six steals. He’s fun to watch no matter how unfun his current situation is. I stand by “unfun” as a real word. However, I wouldn’t stand by this team unless you were hoping to get struck by lightning.
Wednesday – Is NASA open on Thanksgiving?
When the Mavericks last played the Rockets two weeks ago they were lifeless for the first 18 minutes and looked like they were going to get run in their own gym by a high energy team playing with no fear. Thirty game minutes later the Mavericks had annihilated the Rockets to the tune of 121-103 in one of the few games this season that they actually got their shots to drop (55%).
If The Mavericks don’t get the blood flowing from the jump on the second night of a back-to-back the day before a holiday they will get drilled. Houston is above .500 because of energy, effort and heart – not high-profile scorers. They spread the floor and go for broke. Trevor Ariza is going for 18 a night, but he’s shooting a poor percentage at a shade under 39%. If rookie Roddy Beaubois is still in the starting line-up Wednesday night, he’ll no doubt draw the assignment of trying to keep lightning-quick Aaron Brooks out of the paint. Have fun with that, rook.
Friday - First one to 100 wins
The Pacers have one of the League’s truly great players in Danny Granger – unfortunately for him nobody is paying attention and he doesn’t have much support. Mikey Dunleavy has yet to play this year and Troy Murphy is just working his way back. So that means the Pacers’ second leading scorer is defensive-minded free-agent signee Dahntay Jones who at 17 a night is 12 over last year’s average of 5 - also his career scoring average.
The Pacers shoot around the same as their opponents from the field and from the line, have the exact same number of turnovers per game at 16 and average the exact same total of points per game as who they’re playing at 99.8. They are the epitome of middle of the road, playing ordinary basketball with mostly innocuous dudes (for NBA standards at least). I do like Roy Hibbert’s future and I’m also wowed by rookie Psycho Hansbrough’s massive social network of people who couldn't possibly allow a pet dog to go missing.
Uptown Saturday Night: LeBron-style
Great early season test on the road as both teams will be playing the second night of a back-to-back (The Cavs play at Charlotte the night before). Put me in the seemingly dwindling camp of people who thinks this is the best team in the east. I don’t get the “Cleveland will suffer because Shaq bogs down the offense” argument since his half-a-game minutes per night replaces one-man offensive clinic Ben Wallace’s half-a-game minutes per night. They were able to score with Ben on the floor and when it’s all said and done they’ll be able to score with the far superior offensive player on the floor as well.
Cleveland did lack movement in the first few games of the season when they looked out of sorts, but second-year rip-the-rim-off jumping jack J.J. Hickson was inserted into the starting lineup and his ability to finish at the rim has made it more difficult for opposing bigs to lose sight of their man on their way to mugging LeBron. On draft night in 2008 I declared that 19th pick Hickson was going to be the perfect fit for The Cavs and that he’d be the steal of the draft. I also said Russell Westbrook was a reach at No. 4, since he was the second best point on his college team, but let’s not worry about that so much right now.
This Cleveland team will be dominant because they got deeper and bigger and they have the best player in the world not named Kobe. This game is the crown jewel of the week ahead and hopefully Dallas has worked back toward health and regained that elusive shooting touch by the time Saturday rolls around.