With one pre-season game in the books, another on tap tonight vs. Oklahoma City, and ten days of training camp overall, here are some initial thoughts on what’s going on with the Mavericks:
Chandler Parsons and the Mavericks are going to make some beautiful music together. In 24 minutes vs. Houston, he showed the array of skills that made him so desirable – excellent outside shooting and the ability to get into the lane off the dribble to either get to the rim or draw defenders to him. You know the Mavericks can attack with Monta Ellis. You know they can throw it to Dirk on the block if they want to initiate from there. Parsons provides the dimension from the small forward spot like Vince Carter did last year, except that Parsons, at 6-9 is three inches taller, and is going to be playing about 10-13 minutes more per game than Carter did last year. He clearly has embraced the challenge of taking his game to an even higher level (whether that ultimately results in an All Star game appearance remains to be seen), and since he was one of only four players (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love were the other three) to average 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and shoot 45 percent from the floor, whatever that higher level is will be something that will make the Mavericks a better team.
You can’t help but notice the smiles on veterans like Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, and Richard Jefferson; veteran players who were stuck in really bad rebuilding situations now finding themselves on a team that has designs on a lot more than just being competitive. Or a young guy like Al-Farouq Aminu, likely to be making his first playoff appearance after four years out of the money with the Clippers and Pelicans.
Nelson, perhaps even more than Dwight Howard, was the soul of the Orlando Magic during their extended run of success, and the last two years simply killed him as he was asked to be more of a mentor as the Magic tore it all down. He’s become a more aware player on the floor, and his grit and toughness has immediately won the heart of Rick Carlisle. He’s an excellent three point shooter, who, while not a proficient as Jose Calderon, will benefit from all the open space that Dirk, Ellis and Parsons are going to provide him. Felton, after his nightmare 2013 in New York, probably would be happy to be anywhere but New York. The fact that he’s in Dallas, with a chance to play at his desired fast pace, has him believing that he can play the way he did in New York in 2011 when, prior to be traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade, averaged 17 points and 9 assists. He won’t put up those numbers here because he won’t play that many minutes., but his analytic numbers are going to be interesting to watch moving forward.
What more can be said about Tyson Chandler? We all know what he brought to the Championship team. Rick Carlisle mentioned at media day that he’s never seen anyone become as beloved playing just one year in a town as Tyson Chandler is in Dallas. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love all over again. He held Dwight Howard to 0-5 in the first quarter Tuesday, knocked down the elbow jumper, rolled hard to the rim, flushed home stick backs and made his free throws too.
One storyline to track is who makes the final spot on this roster. The Mavericks have 15 players under contract and a 16th, Eric Gordon, has a partial guarantee. And yet, Charlie Villanueva may force them to make a decision. The ten-year veteran is with the Mavericks on a non-guaranteed deal, and frankly, for the last three years, he’s been in mothballs in Detroit as the Pistons, stuck in the NBA muck, elected to try other people. Yet he has a skill that is really important as it relates to how the Mavericks like to play. He’s 6-11 and can shoot the ball, which really helps spread the floor. And he has a big enough body to play power forward minutes so the Mavericks, if they so choose, don’t need to go small when Dirk has to come out of the game. His 13 points in 14 minutes against the Rockets, including 3-6 from three point range, was a very loud message that he’s more than just a warm camp body.
Still there’s a lot to work on before the opener on October 28 in San Antonio. Yet overall, the Mavericks, ten days into camp, have a pretty good feeling that everything they thought they were getting during the summer shopping spree is exactly what they have. And maybe a little bit more.