The good dudes over at Mavs Moneyball reached out to orchestrate a quick Q&A so that both sites might gain some perspective on tonight's opponent. Here are Kirk Henderson's (@KirkSeriousFace) contributions to the cause.
When Dallas signed him in the off-season after having whiffed on Dwight Howard, I was despondent. As the months dragged on, I began to buy into the narrative that Monta and Dirk Nowitzki could thrive. After a season of watching the talented but passive O.J. Mayo struggle with Dirk, the possibility of a guy with supreme confidence in himself sounded appealing. Mayo would never, ever take it into the lane, and after three games of Monta forcing the issue, I think Dallas could have a fun two man game with he and Dirk again. I'm sure he'll drive me crazy at times, particularly with his affinity for long, contested twos, but he makes things happen and Dallas hasn't had a young (well, under 30) player like this in a long, long time.
2. Like the Lakers, the Mavs struggled last season and then overhauled a significant portion of the roster. What is the best case scenario for the new team?
I think the playoffs is the best case scenario. The Western conference is so good, top to bottom, that it's going to take good luck to be in the race at all by March or so. Considering Dallas finally hit .500 by season's end, but only had Dirk for 50 games, I think they stand a good shot as long as the injury bug doesn't bite them. Right now, two of the top eight rotation players are out with injuries (Devin Harris and Brandan Wright) and we're getting to see how they respond. It's a deep team, suprisingly, but many of the issues from last season remain. The team can't defend and rebounding can become a massive problem depending on the line up. DeJuan Blair, who is 6'7" has spent a fair amount of time at center. That's not a long term answer. So things could get ugly at some point in Dallas.
3. Much has been made of Dallas' decision not to re-up Tyson Chandler after they won the title. A couple years later, what do you think of that whole situation?
This is such a hotly debated topic among Mavs fans. You have three camps: first, people who side with Cuban no matter what he does. Then you have folks who think letting Tyson go was a franchise altering mistake. Lastly there are people who are pissed at Cuban for making the wrong call, but understand that the new CBA changes the way the game is played. Personally, I'm still plenty unhappy. The parade of centers Dirk has played with over the course of his career is embarassing. He's so good that he led a team with Desegana Diop to the finals. That we let a player who clicked with Dirk beautifully walk for nothing (well, Lamar Odom and a future draft pick) burns me. Tyson's continued to play fantastic basketball. It's the second player (Steve Nash being the first) who improved after he was let walk for nothing. It's frustrating. But that's just my thought on it; our MavsMoneyball email chains have become like the Lincoln-Douglas debates over the validity of this move.
4. We all know Mark Cuban wants to sign a marquee free agent. How do you think Dallas has positioned themselves to be successful in free agency in the future?
It's hard to say. On the one hand, Dallas has managed to flip the team culture and reputation of the 90's on it's head. Dallas has a great owner, coach, training staff, and facilities are top notch. It has a winning culture. On the other hand, Cuban has voiced his displeasure with both Deron Williams and Dwight Howard for not signing in Dallas. It's not a good look, even after he insists his comments are not personal. Overall, I think Dallas is trying to do more of what Houston did with mid tier talent acquisition in the hopes of flipping it for a more established talent. Will it work? Heck if I know. I do know, though, that Dallas might be in trouble in a few years if it doesn't get it's drafting act together.
5. How do you feel about Kobe Bryant quite blatantly stealing Dirk's one foot fadeaway? Honored by the tribute or "Get your filthy hands of Dirk's move"?
I love it. In my opinion Dirk is one of the few contemporaries Kobe has a glowing respect for. Mr. Bryant has a tendency of always speaking his mind and everything he's ever said about Dirk leads me to believe he respect Dirk's game. That sort of respect is important to Mavs fans, who to this day, still deal with casual fans thinking Dirk is soft or having a negative opinion of him. Though Dirk's a number of notches below Kobe in terms of great players, he stands out as unique. That Kobe sees value in his distinct shot attempt means Dirk's done something right over the years.
Thanks to Kirk for talking with us, and for having the organizational wherewithal to make this happen. Also, here's our contribution to the back and forth. Feel free to head over there and fraternize with the enemy, but be cool about it.