Rick Carlisle enters his season sixth season as the Dallas Mavericks head coach, and you could argue that this will be one of the most challenging seasons he has ever faced. With a roster filled with nine new members for the second straight year, an aging super star in Dirk Nowitzki, and one of the league’s worse defensive, Carlisle has his work cut out for him.
Creating winning team chemistry is a challenge for every team at the beginning of the year, but most teams have a core unit that has a few years of experience playing together on their side. Dallas has nine new players that were added to the roster this season, including six players acquired through free agency and three rookies. When I spoke with 15-year veteran Vince Carter regarding this matter, he simply said, “I actually think having veteran guys with experience may help create team chemistry, because they have played in different systems and know how to pick up a new system quickly.” That may be true, but the faster this new group can learn each other’s tendencies and buy into Carlisle’s schemes, the faster wins will start accumulating.
Carlisle must quickly find out which lineups work best. Last year, Carlisle used the line up of Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo for 101 minutes in 21 games (more than any other lineup). That lineup, in my opinion, was the best mix of athleticism and basketball skill that the Mavericks had. I’m sure Maverick fans are surprised to find that their franchise player, Nowitzki, wasn’t a part of that lineup, but remember, last season Nowitzki only played in 53 games for the Mavericks, as he was sidelined for most of the season after arthroscopic knee surgery.
This season, Carlisle will have to closely manage minutes for his veterans. Carlisle said, “We have younger guys that need to step it up and establish themselves more, going into their second year.” Carlisle added that it’s going to come down to defense.
I couldn’t agree with you more coach! Defense is the main obstacle the Mavericks will face this season. Last year, the Mavericks finished with a 500 record (41-41); opponents in every defensive statistical category bested them. Dallas was ranked 27th in team defense last season, and with the addition of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon in the back court, Dallas did not sure up any defensive holes. Ellis and Calderon are not lock down defenders; both are known mostly for their offensive attributes and lack of defensive presence across the league. This doesn’t boast well for the Mavericks in the Western Conference, where almost every night they face an All-Star point guard.
Carlisle will have to put his faith in a “collective team effort” type of defense, anchored by Center Samuel Dalembert. At 6-foot-11, the 11-year veteran averaged 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, and will do his best to recreate the presence of Center Tyson Chandler during the 2010 season.
Success by the Mavericks this season boils down to the coaching performance Carlisle can pull off. He will need all 11 years of his coaching experience to steer this Maverick ship back to the playoffs. The first preseason action for the Mavericks begins on Oct. 7 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ready, set, coach!