Turmoil In Big D?
TURMOIL IN BIG D?
The Dallas Mavs may have a problem.
Although summer league has gone quite well, as rookie guard Marcus Ager showed potential and third-string center DJ Mbenga showed an increased arsenal of post moves that included a baby-hook, it is the off-court decisions made during the Mavs off-season that has fans most concerned. Asides from the recent contract renegotiation spout between owner Mark Cuban and head coach Avery Johnson, (more on that next time)I question the motives behind the moves the team has made during the past few weeks. This raises a question: ďCan the Mavs still maintain their team identity and championship-level of play while losing two of its key pieces? The trading of locker-room favorite and wily veteran Darrell Armstrong, along with forwards Josh Powell and Rawle Marshall for Indian Pacers guard Anthony Johnson makes no sense from a personnel standpoint. Darrell Armstrong held the position of Locke room leader, team motivator, and even served as Avery Johnsonís second voice. He reiterated points of emphasis made by Mavs coaching staff during timeouts, and exuded his trademark veteran savvy on the floor when called upon for defensive purposes. Even Avery himself said ďin order to win a championship, every team needs a Darrell Armstrong.Ē In exchange they get Anthony Johnson, who even though is six years younger and two inches taller than Armstrong, isnít nearly the defender or leader Armstrong is. I understand the need to get younger in the backcourt, but if the Mavs were serious enough, they would have pursued guard Mike James more aggressively. James already possesses championship experience and defensive intensity, which perfectly fits the mold of an Avery Johnson-type player. This is such a key issue because with Adrian Griffin gone and Jerry Stackhouse more-than-likely coming off the bench, and newly-acquired Greg Buckner unlikely to start, the Mavs may have to use starting lineup that was so successful during their title run. This lineup puts Jason Terry at the off-guard, while Devin Harris is running the point. If this is the case, then where would the instant energy off the bench provided by Armstrong come from? Certainly not in the form of Anthony Johnson.
Another key piece gone from last seasonís title run is guard Adrian Griffin. Griffin, who was signed mid-season, was widely regarded as the teamís x-factor. The Mavs will sorely miss his seemingly relentless hustle and mid-range abilities. Griffin finished 11th in rebounding among shooting guards with 4.4 per contest, and tied for fifth in offensive boards among two-guards. His 1.9 offensive caroms led to countless second-chance points and he could hit the occasional open jumper when Dirk or Terry got double-teamed. In an effort to suppress the absence of Griffin, the Mavs signed veteran Greg Buckner. Maybe a sufficient off-guard, Buckner isnít nearly as serviceable as Griffin. He shot the ball almost 5 percent worse, averaged two fewer rebounds, and lacks the intense hustle that Griffin posses.
Another key issue yet to be addressed is a backup power forward. Last year saw Dirk Nowitzki play 38 minutes per game. And with Keith Van Horn and his enormous contract thrown out the window (about the only smart move Dallas made this off-season)
Who will back up the Big German to rest him for his trademark fourth-quarter takeovers? Certainly not Austin Croshere, a stand-still shooter with no athleticism. And now with the departure of Marshall and Powell the Mavs have absolutely NO true backup to Dirk. While they got rid of fan-favorite Marquis Daniels in exchange for Croshere, who will be their backup small forward? The Mavs had the chance to sign rookie free-agent Kevin Pittsnogle, who played for Dallas in the summer league, but are now looking at the prospect of signing another one-dimensional player: Deavin George. Although he can light it up from deep, he lacks the defensive prowess and athleticism that makes up this teamsí identity. So with all that said, MY BURING QUESTION FOR YOU GUYS IS CAN THE MAVS MAINTAIN THEIR IDENTITY, REPEAT AS WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPS, AND DO THEY HAVE AN EVEN BETTER SHOT AT WINNING THE TITLE? OR DID THEY JUST TAKE A STEP BACKWARDS?