Just in case you missed Part 1, there it is!
Rajon Rondo Being liked, for most people, is like becoming a good ball player. You watch. You try things out. You keep what works. Rondo has never done this. He has invented his own personality on the court and off it. Rondo has become a great ball player in this respect, and exceeded in it, and thus he is truly unique. He has a level of inventiveness that we don’t see often. But his inability, or possibly his refusal, to endear himself to people leaves him with a far more barren cupboard than most players of his ability. This combined with his tendency to succumb to an Iversonian mindset in which things become too small for him. This can happen to athletes with clutch reputations, particularly when they’re motivated by direct challenges, particularly when they experience success very early. Tony Parker had his “umm what’s up with Tony?” moments, too. Bar fights with Chris Brown. Ugly divorce with Eva Longoria. The man lives in San Antonio. No one in San Antonio has ever caused this much turbulence and completely avoided legal trouble. But he’s been playing with the same damn people for 14 years and as far as basketball goes, he’s grounded in the most loving marriage we have ever seen. The Spurs are like the 50-year-old married couple who seem 19 and still in love. Rondo’s NBA inception was more of a baptism by fire, which suits his personality. In his sophomore season, he started and played 30 minutes per night alongside the forgotten face of the modernization of the Big 3. But then the fire dulls and you’re left kind of resenting each other because you’re aging and t
he sex isn’t the same level of play drops. The stakes dropped accordingly; Rondo’s flame went out. It flickered in Dallas. It did. But down 2-0 in Game 3 is not the time to pick up two personals and a tech in a 30 second span. That’s quitting. I won’t badmouth him because I don’t know him and I wasn’t in the locker room. I honestly want Rondo to find that comfort zone because of the player he can be when he’s on. Well wishes notwithstanding, leaving a benevolent coach for a benevolent Kobe seems a fitting punishment for Rondo, though Kobe’s only around one more year. For a moment, think about if Cubes and Donnie (owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson) had waited longer and snagged Goran Dragic. Sure, Dallas wasn’t on his publicized list but how fun would that offense have been to watch? Sometimes in the NBA, you can build an inferior team and fall ass backwards into a player who completes the puzzle. Curse you, Miami Heat.
I continue to applaud them for jumping on the Rondo opportunity; I still think the gamble was worth it. The Mavs lost their identity as a flawless offensive machine but could have formed a new one given time. Like many people, I had faith and believed that a solid Dallas playoff performance and a resurgence of Playoff Rondo would bare fruitful results. Good results could have led to the first Mavs core to stay intact since the 09-10 team became the 10-11 team. (The Caron-Deshawn-Haywood/Howard-Singleton-Ross trade doesn’t count. Josh Howard wasn’t the same guy before he left; Butler got hurt, Stevenson and Haywood were valuable pieces, not core additions.) A training camp would have done wonders for this team’s confidence and chemistry. Imagining the weird Rick-Rondo offensive wrinkles makes me tingle with excitement. Like a little kid the night before Christmas. We’re talking gumdrops and Dirking decoys resulting in backdoor Al-Farouq oops. *Pumps fist at deft transitional imagery
Al-Farouq Aminu Al-Farouq and Jameer Nelson were my favorite two offseason additions. Aminu had a reputation as a talented but spacey player whose ticket out of New Orleans was punched before last season ended. But every old-Dirk team needs a Marion-type of player. Aminu doesn’t have the same physical set of tools, but he fills a similar role. He excels at using his length to disrupt passing lanes and opponents’ dribbling spheres. He is killer rotating off of weakside bigs and swatting contested shots like he does here:
Here’s a video if the GIFs are too grainy for your taste: Al-Farouq blocks Aron Baynes!
Aminu’s surprisingly high rebounding rate has been covered by several media outlets and Mavericks observers can see why. Part of the reason he shines in Carlisle’s zone is his knack for tracking rebounds and grabbing them at their high point. A problem with zones, in general, is that boxing out and rebounding is complicated by the fact that defenders aren’t assigned to offensive players. Defensive rebounds become a less certain proposition. Aminu’s ability to track rebounds and use his long frame to corral them is invaluable. You have to love the way he’s covered bigger players one-on-one like Lamarcus Aldridge or even Dwight Howard. His length is killer and he has the strength to hold his own when he’s got good positioning, which is a quickly improving aspect of his game. His long arms can be a bit damning when he dribbles, but the main problem is his fritziness. Not a word? He’s helter skelter. His offense perked up a lot in Games 4 and 5, and hopefully he can sustain his confidence in a lesser offensive role. The lineups with Parsons, Ty, Aminu, Ellis, and Devin Harris have been killer at times. (Aside: Parsons and Harris have been hurt, which kills one of Carlisle’s primary lineup combos. Barea is a great offensive sparkplug in place of Harris, but his poor jump shooting and lack of size on defense can hurt.) Al-Farouq has shown an ability to hit the corner three, which will keep his defender from clogging the lane when he runs baseline. Aminu should be part of the plan so long as he’s not seeking an enormous payday.
Tyson Chandler Tyson Chandler’s role on the Mavs can be summarized taking his comments about Amare’s comments earlier this year. He could have said, DON’T THROW STONES IN A GLASS HOUSE, AMARE. WHEN DID YOU LAST WIN ANYTHING?? Amare has no rings. Also, they’ve been on the same team since Ty won anything. However, Tyson said that it was OK for Amare to speak out. And it then really wasn’t a big deal. It was perfect. It wasn’t a big deal and Ty made sure of it. It’s also a bit telling that Tyson Chandler spoke out instead of Nowitzki. This is still Dirk’s team, for example, he makes Chandler Parsons treat him to dinner on every road trip because “it’s [his] money anyway.” That comment elicits a giggle and a shrug of agreement. Dirk has sacrificed. But Chandler, Tyson (as opposed to Chandler Parsons) demands accountability from everyone, including Nowitzki, all the time. Much has been made of the Mavs’ re-acquisition of Chandler the Elder and JJ Barea; it has been viewed as a tacit admission of their mistake years earlier. But do not, for one second, think that this was a one-sided mistake. If you think being buried in the depth chart in Minnesota was fun for JJ Barea, you may just be a masochist. He got his payday; gotta respect that. But he didn’t play a lick of meaningful NBA basketball. Chandler made the playoffs twice, but those Knicks teams never had any shot of winning a title. He was charged with supporting the weight of an entire roster of bad defensive players, not just one jump shooting German. That sounds miserable. Hopefully, all of this adds up to Tyson Chandler joining Dirk at the free dinner table next year and taking less money. The question is, now that the offseason has arrived: who’s the next one to foot the bill?