So let’s review:
The Mavericks gave up 127 or more points in four of the last seven games. They gave up 112 in another.
In the other two, they gave up 95 and 90.
Guess which two they won?
In this year’s NBA, there is no way a team is going to be the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons of the late ‘80s. That’s just not the way the game is played these days.
But speaking relatively, the Mavericks and any other team with hopes of making noise come playoff time have to be better than average defensively.
And in nearly 40 years covering NBA games, it’s become clear that if you want to get better defensively, there are really only two ways to do it.
One, hire better defensive players. That’s hard to do, particularly midseason.
Two, commit to the sweat equity that is required defensively, even if it means sacrificing some on the offensive end. This is the route most teams have to take, the Mavericks included.
Yes, they should get a little better defensively when they get Maxi Kleber back. They ought to take a step forward now that Josh Green is getting more playing time.
But it’s going to come down to their attitude.
If they don’t develop a nastier streak more consistently, they are doomed to falling short this season. They can’t do it two of every seven games. The Mavericks can win a shootout every now and then, but it’s a lot easier on the offense if they don’t have the pressure of piling up 130 points to give themselves a fighting chance.
OK, now that I’m off that soapbox, here’s this week’s mailbag:
QUESTION: Any update on C-Wood’s injury and when he might be back? Joseph S.
BIG ED: First off, let’s discount the growing talk that Christian Wood has played his last game as a Maverick. The trade deadline is Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., Dallas time. That’s going to be hanging over everything the Mavericks do until it passes. But if Wood is out that long, then any trade talk is going to be difficult for the Mavericks to listen to. The competition will be trying to buy low if Wood is coming back from injury. So let’s assume that Wood is going to be with the Mavericks beyond Feb. 9. Coach Jason Kidd said Thursday that Wood is “week to week” and that another update will come next week. The Mavericks leave next Friday (Feb. 3) for a 10-day, five-game road trip. My guess is that Wood will play at some point on that trip. There is a day off between every game on that journey, except the final two games which both are against the Kings in Sacramento. Wood is dealing with a fractured bone in his left thumb. That it’s on his off hand helps. But it’s still a painful injury. One hack (and, yes, NBA players have been known to hack on the hands, particularly if they know somebody’s nursing an injury) and Wood could be looking at a longer stint on the sideline. The good news is that the Mavericks’ medical crew is top shelf and they will make sure that Wood is ready when he does return.
QUESTION: Why is Cam Reddish not a Maverick yet? L.P.
BIG ED: I confess I’m not sure where this is coming from, but my recommendation would be to tap the brakes. Cam Reddish, for those who forgot, was the 10th overall draft pick in 2019, which originally was the Mavericks’ choice but was traded to Atlanta with Trae Young to complete the Luka Dončić deal. The Hawks traded Reddish to New York for Kevin Knox and other considerations. So what has 6-8 Reddish become? He’s averaged 8.4 points this season in 20 games and shot just 30.4 percent from three-point range. Reddish is a capable player, but would he be a significant upgrade over what the Mavericks now have?
QUESTION: What do you think the Mavs are planning on doing? Waiting until after the draft when they have all their picks or are they trying to pull off something now? Mason.
BIG ED: No question that the Mavericks are out beating the bushes. But the sense I’m getting is that there are a lot more hopeful buyers than there are willing sellers as we had toward the trade deadline. Blame parity. In the Western Conference, 13 teams feel like they have a legitimate shot at making at least the play-in tournament, which may not sound like a huge achievement, but for a lot of franchises whose fans are desperate for any shred of success, getting past Game 82 and still getting to cheer your team is important. So they are hoping to improve their rosters. But not a lot of teams are eager to pounce on a deal that requires giving up assets. I don’t see any major deals involving the Mavericks, even if they have done big trades in recent years at the deadline (Kristaps Porzingis, Spencer Dinwiddie). A calculated move to get help on the wing or a third ballhandler would be a nice upgrade. But splashy moves? I just don’t see them happening.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: To all the people on here hating on the Mavs, I hope you bring the same positive energy when they turn this thing around and get rolling. It happened last year. B.R.
BIG ED: OK, so there’s no question in there. But B.R. clearly is a glass-half-full kind of person so let’s give some applause. They are keeping their eye on the ball and know this season is only just beginning right now. There’s nothing the Mavericks can do about those bad losses in November and December. But look around. Everybody has bad losses this year. That’s why .500 puts you in the top six right now, which is where the 26-24 Mavericks are. There are several spots in the schedule over the next six weeks when the opportunity will be there to rattle off winning streaks. And one hot run can put you in position for a home-court berth in the playoffs. Just stay the course.
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