DETROIT – Anyone wanting to know in detail how the Dallas Mavericks were able to put everything together and win the 2011 NBA title when the majority of the national media didn’t think they could, just ask Dwane Casey.
At the time, Casey was the Mavs’ defensive coordinator. He was in the middle of everything when it came to the defensive side of the basketball equation.
And Casey credits Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki for being at the front line of putting the Mavs in the record books. Kidd was the point guard and Nowitzki was the power forward who emerged as the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 Finals.
“The guy call Nowitzki, he was pretty good,” Casey said before Thursday’s game between the Mavs and Detroit Pistons. “History is going to be good to him, but Jason was the head of the snake.
“He’s smart, he was competitive, and he was really a small forward even though he was a point guard. He was a small forward at that athletic stage of his life. But we put him at the bottom of the zone and he commanded the bottom of the zone. He boxed out.”
And now that’s all Kidd did.
“He did something too — and you can ask him about it — he put all the chalk on the sidelines, and he put his hands on it if he was mad at a referee,” Casey said. “And he would hit (the referee) on his butt with his hands because he had chalk on it.
“That’s the first time I had seen that. That was his trick that he would use to get back at the officials if he was mad at them.”
Asked about that story, Kidd, with a sheepish grin, said he “kind of” remembers that.
In the meantime, Casey said the 2011 unit was so versatile and so tied together that he wasn’t surprised the Mavs rallied from a 2-1 deficit and upset LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat in six games. And Casey’s defensive schemes turned James, Wade and Bosh into mere mortals.
“It was an excellent group of veteran players who knew where they were in their career,” Casey said of the Mavs. “They’ve made all their money, they knew their status, they weren’t trying to climb over anybody or establish themselves.
“They knew who they were, so they played their role, so that made that coaching job a lot easier to coach and be a part of.”
Along the way to the ’11 Finals, the Mavs swept Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in four games in the Western Conference semifinals. Casey said the Mavs used a strategy against Bryant that could often come into play today whenever teams have to deal with Luka Doncic, and that is to try and wear him down.
“We beat Kobe that way, so that is a philosophy and strategy you can use to wear him down and tire him out,” Casey said. “We had Shawn Marion picking (Bryant) up, we had different people picking him up going full court. Jason was picking him up full court.
“I thought Jason lost his mind because he was in the latter stages (of his career) at that time and he was still picking Kobe up, and by the fourth quarter (Bryant) couldn’t get a shot off. He couldn’t get a good look at the basket, because his legs were worn out. So it was like a boxing match.”
It was a “boxing match” that also tested the resilience of Kidd, who was 38 years old when the Mavs won the NBA title.
“I was old,” Kidd said. “I think sometimes you try to do things. Physicality is a part of the game. You can irritate somebody by being physical.
“You’re going to try everything to try to slow down one of the greatest players to play the game. You can’t stop him, because you can try to slow him down or hope that they miss at the right time. Then you can go and go get some chalk and try to make a cloud somewhere so you can distract him and express how you feel.”
Kidd even had to laugh at his own comment. Then he got serious and said: “Casey was great. He was a big part of our success there. He knows how to coach. He’s one of the best coaches in this league.”
Hardy was born and raised in Detroit before he and his family moved to Nevada after his eighth grade season. For Hardy, being back in the Motor City brought back fond memories.
“I grew up coming to Pistons’ games, so for me to finally be here as a player now it’s surreal,” Hardy told Mavs. com. “I was a middle school everything here.
“It was a great moment growing up here.”
Drafted on the second round this past summer, Hardy has mostly played for the Mavs’ G League team – the Texas Legends – this season. And he’s been dominating down there, capped by a 41-point performance this past weekend against the Rio Grande Vipers when he was 13-of-24 from the field.
“Hardy is playing truly well in the G League,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We hope on this road trip we can find some time for him to get on the floor. Hopefully that’s sooner than later.
“We’ll see how the schedule plays. Next week is tough, too, with the back-to backs. So hopefully he’s with us the next two weeks so we can get him the floor to get him some minutes next to the NBA guys.”
After playing the New York Knicks on the road Saturday, the Mavs will host Phoenix on Monday, play at Denver on Tuesday, host Milwaukee on Friday and play at Chicago on Saturday.
Hardy, meanwhile, is just delighted he’s been able to get some playing time with the Legends since minutes have been scarce for him thus far with the Mavs.
“It was a good experience just going down there and getting reps and working on my game and really getting better so that when my name is called (with the Mavs) I’ll be ready for my opportunity,” Hardy said. “It was a good experience going down there and playing with the Legends.”
Asked if he has any 41-point triple-doubles in his repertoire, Hardy said: “For sure. For sure.”
HARDAWAY’S DAD IN ATTENDANCE: Tim Hardaway Sr. – the father of Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr. – attended Thursday’s game. It was the first Mavs’ game Hardaway Sr. has attended this season.
Meanwhile, Hardaway Jr., who played his college basketball at Michigan, was happy to have so many family members and friends at Thursday’s game.
“Detroit is Detroit,” Hardaway Jr. said. “I’m playing in front of the fans that cheered me on (while playing for Michigan) from 2010-’13. Also, fans that booed me – coming from East Lansing (and Michigan State).
“But at the day it’s all love. I’m just happy to go out there and perform in this building and in this city. It brings a lot of joy and a lot of love for sure.”
BRIEFLY: Pistons coach Dwane Casey said his team has to “keep our fingers crossed and our toes crossed” when facing Luka Doncic. “He’s one of the top offensive players in our league today and one of the best ever,” Casey said. “You’ve got to be creative. One man singularly can’t guard him, and he’s such a great passer he makes you pay when you over-help. He will pick you apart, and he’s a willing passer.” When asked if Doncic is the front-runner to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award and would he get his vote if he had to vote today, Casey said: “It’s some great players in the league and he’s right there in probably the top three (MVP) names right now. It’s hard to say he’s not. I think you have to look at (Jayson) Tatum in Boston. Luka’s in that group.”. . . On the Mavs converting just 14-of-29 free throws Thursday, center Christian Wood said: “That’s inexcusable. We talked about it at halftime. We just have to pick it up, especially on the road. It’s going to be more physical on the road. Guys are going to try to be more physical with us as a team and we just have to hit back.”