Getting Our Heads Around the Mavs Start
The Dallas Mavericks season is nearly two weeks old and so far the newest collection of Mavs have tallied 4 wins and 3 losses. Of course, wins and losses dictate your fate and a 4-3 pace is certainly not one to be desired. But, all things considered, the Mavericks 2013-2014 season is off to an encouraging start. Nine new faces and only four returning rotation players (Dirk Notwitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, and Jae Crowder) are a threat to overcome the talent the team possesses – chemistry can be your biggest weapon. (See: 2011 NBA Champions)
The preseason proved to be very beneficial for the Dirk – Monta Ellis connection but injuries took away time for the Mavs new point guard repertoire to familiarize with their new teammates. Jose Calderon missed most of the exhibition schedule, Devin Harris and Shane Larkin missed all of it, but Israeli rookie Gal Mekel took advantage to shed off some very evident rust.
The positive spin to injured players missing the preseason is that it allowed the team to see others step up. Mekel has played very well and showed some real nice moves across his first 7 games in the NBA. He is the backup point guard because of these injuries. Preseason play indicated possible trouble at the backup PG spot. However, his play and especially his confidence have soared as he provides stop gap minutes for the Mavs.
Jae Crowder has perhaps taken some extra minutes at the swingman position where Harris would be used. Crowder has improved his three point shot tremendously and I don’t know what it is about braids but they demand hustle from their host! (Kenneth Faried, DeMarre Carroll, pre-traded for Austin Croshere, and Marquis Daniels come to mind…you can even count Louis Amundson’s ponytail if you want and Corey Brewer’s…long…eyes?) The 2nd year, 2nd round pick has broken down the wall of terrible Mavs’ draft picks. He’s averaging 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks in November and his 59.1% shooting from behind the 3-point line(counting a 1-1 in 9 October minutes) is tied for 3rd in the league with Anthony Morrow. A 60.5 total FG% trails only Markieff Morris of Phoenix and John Henson of Milwaukee.
And then there’s DeJuan Blair. Brandan Wright’s untimely shoulder injury put Blair on backup center duty. He’s supplying an average of 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds on both ends of the floor as well as an energy level not seen since Tyson Chandler patrolled the middle (tear). Samuel Dalembert is the starter but Blair has been eating up minutes and when Wright returns it could be “Sammy D” who sees more time on the bench. Jae Crowder and Gal Mekel have both shined in their opportunities; however, every time Blair forces the opposition to cough up a loose ball or out hustles everyone else on the floor to secure Dallas an extra possession, I simply cannot believe the Mavericks got him for $1.4 million on August 7th as their final roster member.
I really can’t believe it. And I love it so, so, so very much.
DeJuan Blair has 26 offensive rebounds so far this year. Kevin Love has 25. Dwight Howard has 24.
His offensive boards are also good for 7th in the league and were achieved at 20 minutes per game. Players 1-6 in the NBA all play 34 minutes or more. That’s absolutely incredible. I haven’t even mentioned three things about Blair that are going to be an awesomely dramatic finish to his part in this piece:
- He’s 6 foot 7 (same as Brooklyn Nets backup point guard Shaun Livingston)
- He has no ACL’s
- Because of this unique medical situation, he fell to the 37th pick in the 2009 draft (Hasheem Thabeet was 2nd and yes this was the (unemployed) Roddy B draft).
As @MavsFanForLife tweeted, Rebound (noun) is defined: ‘A basketball player named DeJuan Blair.’
A 4-3 record isn’t great but it’s good and even though the Mavericks know they need to be better, the chemistry is coming together more and more each game. This is with parts still to be integrated on-the-fly, something very common with the Mavericks in the past couple of seasons. But in the absence of key components, others have stepped up with chips on their shoulders making 4-3 not so bad, all things considered.
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Main Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports