How are unsuccessful teams in recent NBA history described? Often, and with accuracy, the word used is “dysfunctional.” The Kings have been dysfunctional for a decade. Brooklyn has never housed an NBA team that wasn’t dysfunctional. The Lakers of the 2015-16 might have added the adverb “toxically” in front of “dysfunctional” for Kobe’s beautiful chuckfest of a farewell season. The Mavs have been bad, really bad, losing at an alarming rate, like never since the 90’s, but they are quite in fact not a dysfunctional unit.
I’ve had plenty of friends snidely remark, “Great year to be a season ticket holder.” Those famously fickle (and transient) DFW sports fans who’ve shifted to solely focusing on the Cowboys are missing out on quality basketball. Injuries have ravaged a team that was built to be very dependent on veteran talent, but when that talent is out on the floor, doing its thing, we are treated to some aesthetically pleasing basketball. Andrew Bogut’s high post passing has been just as smooth as advertised. He has thread bounce passes with such regularity that you would think he’s been playing in Carlisle’s system for a half-decade. Wes Matthews has kept us in games that we have no business competing in with high volume outside shooting. Harrison Barnes, who everyone made fun of the Mavs for paying top dollar for, has not been the wilting wallflower his detractors claimed he was. He’s been a rhythm scorer who has embraced a larger workload with roughly the same rates of effectiveness from his time with the Warriors.
On the younger side of the roster this season, I’ve learned who Dorian Finney-Smith is and Rick Carlisle has once again found a way to maximize contributions from a player who was not on many people’s radar. He shoots when he’s open, makes cuts and uses his lengths on D. You know, what you basically didn’t see out of the Pacers starting unit Friday night.
The Pacers weren’t necessarily over isolating on offense or anything, but it was a disjointed brand of basketball that fell apart when their star wasn’t in the game. Our star has been out most of the season and everybody seems willing to step up in communal effort to burden the load. Dwight Powell was getting manhandled by Al Jefferson when he filled in for Mejri in Bogut’s absence, but he did enough of what he does well to make the Pacers only want to keep Jefferson in there for 16 minutes. The Mavs will have that issue of weighing what someone brings to the table vs. what they take from the table all season long, whether it’s Curry’s D, Bogut’s free throw shooting, Dirk’s rebounding or Devin’s perimeter shooting. The Pacers will probably win more games this year, but I’ll see more games with the Mavs where the players on the floor are playing as one and maximizing each other’s talents. While I won’t be witnessing elite talent for the most part, neither will I witness a dysfunctional team.