NBA: Big trade wasn’t a magic remedy for Mavericks
By Tim Cowlishaw
The Dallas Morning News
OKLAHOMA CITY — Upon further review, the Mavericks still stink.
Owner Mark Cuban used a different word, saying, “We suck right now” as the Mavs skidded into the All-Star break with a 2-5 record. Trying to slam on the brakes, Cuban pulled off a seven-player trade with Washington that has been described as a Mavericks victory from coast to coast.
The hope was — and the hope remains — that the arrival of Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood will spark a Dallas team that needs a boost just to stay in the top four in the Western Conference.
That boost came early but didn’t last long enough Tuesday night. Butler, Haywood and the Mavericks had a good first quarter. After that it was mostly disaster for everyone on board as Oklahoma City, the West’s hottest team, pulled away to defeat Dallas, 99-86.
It would be crazy to make any emphatic pronouncements about a major trade after one game. Had Butler been perfect from the field, it would be just as foolish to say the Mavericks are Finals-bound as it is to assume his 4-for-16 night is a sign of horrible things to come.
The Mavericks were truly awful on offense after halftime Tuesday, and it was a team effort — or lack thereof. Dallas scored a season-low 11 points in the third quarter, just 32 in the last 24 minutes. And the Mavericks were just as bad at the defensive end in the second quarter, allowing the Thunder to score a season-high 40 points in that period.
“I think they scored on 15 of their last 18 possessions of the quarter,” coach Rick Carlisle said of the second period. “In the third quarter, we had looks, but we couldn’t hit a bull ... with a bass fiddle.
“Guys that have been there, they need to hit shots, too. As far as the new guys, we’ll get with them again tomorrow. You know, it’s work.”
The problem with the Mavericks’ trade that sent Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross and James Singleton to Washington isn’t that it was made. It had to be done, given Howard’s 40 percent shooting and his unreliable status.
The problem is the lack of time for Carlisle and the Mavericks to do much with it.
All that Butler, Haywood (seven points, six rebounds in 15 minutes) and DeShawn Stevenson had in order to ready for this game was one shootaround. The Mavericks host Phoenix on Wednesday, go to Orlando on Friday, and then have the Miami Heat back in Dallas on Saturday.
@Tab0: Tuesday night was the start of 30eally know what’s going to happen until you start
working with players,” Carlisle said before Tuesday’s game. “But it’s exciting. We just want them to play their game.”
That won’t be nearly enough if the rest of the Mavericks continue to play the game that had this team free-falling before the All-Star break.
It’s not like the rest of the group was shooting lights out while Butler struggled. Jason Terry’s 4-for-15 and Shawn Marion’s 3-for-11 would have spelled doom even if the former Wizards weren’t on the floor.
While Carlisle tries to fit the new pieces with the old, the rest of the West is giving serious chase. Trying to cling to the No. 4 spot that represents home-court advantage for the first round, Dallas is one half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and Phoenix, one game up on San Antonio and 1 › ahead of Portland.
For these final two months, the Mavericks are better off with Butler than with Howard. And they may need Haywood more than anticipated if Erick Dampier’s broken finger suffered in the fourth quarter limits his time.
In the meantime, teams like the Thunder and Suns and Spurs aren’t waiting around for Dallas to get its act together. Every spot except the one owned by the Lakers is up for grabs.
Winning trade reviews are nice. Winning streaks, harder to come by, are even better.