Monday night, the Dallas Mavericks pulled out a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in a manner that has been consistent with a number of recent games both won and lost: they built up a substantial blowout level-lead and then still managed to put the game in jeopardy. Of course, that's in addition to simply falling way behind against Portland Trail Blazers and never getting back in the game.
Everyone loves an exciting and competitive game, but after watching recent games against the Clippers, Suns, Trail Blazers and Cavaliers, the new “come from ahead” strategy might be wearing a little thin.
Now the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Suns are good teams but the Cavaliers are not and the only thing they needed other than getting past a very poor shooting first half was for Samuel Dalembert to injure his shoulder, leaving the Mavericks without the only consistently respectable rim protector they have. Still, Dalembert has been around the whole year and while the Mavericks are playing inspired defense a surprising amount of the time, they continue to have long stretches where they appear unable to get stops, with or without Dalembert on the floor.
Last week we looked at ways Dallas might improve its defense short of a trade that isn’t likely to happen and now Rick Carlisle is going to have to prioritize doing just that. With Dalembert getting an MRI tonight and possibly out for at least a couple of games, the problem may have gone from serious to catastrophic.
An interesting possibility has arisen in the new launching pad for future (and some past) Mavericks: Milwaukee. With the team doing so poorly this season, the Bucks are now looking to move Larry Sanders for draft picks. Although he’s been injured for half the season, Sanders is an up-and-coming defensive force who averaged 9.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks (second in the NBA) last year in only 27.3 minutes and tied Andre Iguodala for the most votes of any player who didn’t make the All-Defensive team, including 4 votes for the first team.
Sanders has a rather generous $44 million contract extension kicking in next year but in Dallas, it’s all about financial flexibility, isn’t it?
With a healthy Sanders and Dalembert, the center tandem for the Bucks last year along with guard Monta Ellis, the Mavericks are about as close to having Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood clogging up the lane as they’re likely to have anytime soon – and Sanders is still young and improving—hopefully including his off-the-court behavior.
The move would almost certainly help the Mavs improve from the 7-8th seed playoff team they appear to be most likely headed for now, at least if only draft picks and expendable players are part of the deal rather than the core. Donnie Nelson has already said he doesn't wish to break up. In fact, the tream starts to look quite dangerous, particularly with Devin Harris’ return and Shane Larkin’s improvement.
In the words of Jean-Luc Picard, “make it so.”