Time to Step it Up

Anyone remember that time when the Dallas Mavericks were one of the more feared teams in the league and had a chance at challenging the Spurs for the top spot? Because that just seems like a distant memory to me right now. You can use as many excuses as you want, but right now it just looks like the Mavs are not getting it done, primarily, in pressure situations. The last two Maverick games I was able to attend was their last match up at the American Airlines Center against the Lakers, and just recently against the Suns. The game against the Lakers was huge for the Mavs in proving that they were indeed for real and a force to be reckoned with in the West. And, in my opinion, they played hard and in the end just couldn't do enough to get the victory. The Mavericks were bullied around on the low-block by Bynum and Odom all night and that proved to be one of the reasons that they couldn't pull out a victory. The Mavericks' D even managed to keep Kobe Bryant in check for the most part, but that's not what is bothering me here. The role players failed to step up against the Lakers, and that was the main reason why the Mavs didn't win. When in need of a big three-pointer Terry would clank one off of the back iron. Peja was non-existent throughout the whole game, Barea wasn't able to accomplish much, and Roddy B had one of the worst offensive performances I think I had ever seen from him. The Mavs cannot win if Dirk is the only contributor of offense. It is just not going to happen. Oh sure, he'll get his normal offensive numbers, but those alone aren't enough to lead the team. What did the role players do against Phoenix? They all played great and shot the ball wonderfully. Terry had one of his best shooting performances of his career as he eclipsed 1,000 three-pointers made as a Dallas Maverick. Peja was able to rattle home a few outside shots; J.J. Barea played well and ended the game in double figures. The thing is though, there was no pressure involved in that game. The Phoenix Suns looked like a team who really didn't want to be there, but rather get on to the off-season and forget about this season seeing as they are already eliminated from playoff contention.
I will give some people credit where credit is due though, Shawn Marion has stepped up and played a vital role the past couple weeks and has been playing with a style that compliments Nowitzki very well. Marion is aware of his game and rarely ever takes a jump-shot, a shot that most teams would welcome Marion to shoot. He is able to drive to the basket, and finally give the Mavericks a 3 who can score on the offensive end, while also being one of the best, if not the best, defender on the team. What the Mavericks lack is consistency, and Marion is showing that he can help take a little bit of the load off Dirk in that category. Of course, consistency is something you would expect a jump shooting team to lack. If the ball isn't going in the net that night, the Mavericks don't have a good chance in winning. The best penetrator the Mavericks right now is a 5'7" Puerto Rican player. I have nothing against J.J., I love what he does for the team, but the fact that he is the number one player to get into the lane is a troublesome fact to me. One thing you do have to take notice of though is that the addition of Corey Brewer has really helped the Mavericks by adding athleticism and a player that can drive to the basket. Brewer might very well be the definition of an X-factor. If he goes out and plays well it is a boost to the entire team. Jason Terry doesn't drive to the hoop anymore, he settles for jump-shots, which, I guess is OK...if he were able to hit those jump-shots. Ever since his little dispute with Barea though, Terry seems to have gotten back on track and found his shooting stroke for the time being. Once again it brings up the question of will this good and consistent play of terry keep up as the Mavericks attempt to make a run in the playoffs? That's the question everyone is wondering.
Brendan Haywood, bro, make a free-throw. That is really all I have to say about Haywood. He's a great rebounder, and does provide a solid interior presence on the defensive end as long as he is not intimidated like he was against Bynum, Gasol, and Odom. He can rack up rebounds, yes, but teams might start going to the hack-a-Haywood if he continues his horrendous streak at the charity stripe. I know most basketball players hate this quote, but they are called FREE-throws for a reason. As for Tyson Chandler, he just needs to keep healthy. He is the energizer of this team and he needs to be able to energize the team in his jersey on the court, not in a suit behind the bench.
Anyone remember the FREE RODDY B! Campaign? That seems to have died down tremendously since Beaubois' numbers just haven't been at all what was expected of him. I don't what it is with Beaubois, but I think he might just be putting too much pressure on himself. After Carlisle sat him most of the year last year, this starting role seems to be almost too much pressure for the young French guard. Either that or he still doesn't trust his body still after his injury. Either way, this is not the same Rodrigue Beaubois that I witnessed last year. Above all other things, he just needs to let the game come to him instead of trying to create, because I don't think Roddy is a creator. If he is, maybe I just haven't seen it yet, but as of now he seems more like a player who has explosive bursts every now and then.
George Karl says he prefers to play the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. Now it seems like most teams if not all the teams in the Western Conference want the Mavericks in the playoffs. Quite frankly, I can't blame them, because with the playoffs getting closer and closer every day it seems like the Mavericks aren't playing consistent basketball. On top of that, it just doesn't seem like the Mavs rise to the occasion when playing tougher competition. The effort may be there, but the shot making just isn't. Nowitzki and Marion show up, but its guys like Beaubois, Terry, Barea, Peja, and Brewer that need to step up so that the Mavericks have a chance. Dirk Nowitzki is a one of a kind talent, no doubt, but he cannot carry a team. He just can't. He needs a Robin to his batman, and at first it appeared that Robin was finally found when the Mavericks landed Caron Butler from the Washington Wizards. That trade worked out great and it seemed as if the Mavericks had finally found their solution for someone to compliment Dirk in so many ways, but with Butler's injury the Mavericks had to scramble to find someone else to step up into that role. It is only until recently has Marion stepped up and made the role his. On a side note about Butler, the guy is working relentlessly in rehab. Most players would have just called it in and started thinking about next year. Butler on the other hand wants to be on the court, and is rehabbing as hard as one can to get back in time for the playoffs. Is it possible Butler will return in time for possibly a second round match up? The chances are slim, but I wouldn't count him out. Perhaps the rest of the Mavericks should take a hint from Butler. He wants to be in the big time games in the clutch situations where everything is on the line. He wants there to be pressure on the game, and he isn't afraid to back away from it. The same can't be said about some of the Mavericks playing now. They need to step up in big games and leave their mark on it. Only when everyone can step up in big games and in clutch situations will they become a team that is respected/feared in the West. Until then though, they're just a team that will use excuses to describe their season, and a team that will think of what could have been instead of what should it should have been.

-Colby

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