I will just say this about the Blazers: watch out! A team that 2 years ago had a starting lineup that resembled a police lineup has completely overhauled their team with young talent, jettisonned the n'er-do-wells, and are probably 3 years ahead of the curve to becoming a successful team again. It's a combination of good scouting, good coaching, and good chemistry. And they don't even have Greg Oden yet. And you know what the General Manager said they other day? They used the Mavs as their model to build their roster. Eat that, Atlanta Hawks!
1. Josh Howard - Howard's the only Mav that really came to play. He had a game-high 23 points on 8 of 15 shooting, grabbed 14 boards, and added 3 assists and 2 steals.
2. LeMarcus Aldridge - He was outshined in his rookie season by Brandon Roy, and it was expected that he would be outshined again this season by Greg Oden. But nobody has benefited more by Oden's absence than Aldridge. That's not to say that the Blazers don't need Oden, it just means that if Aldridge can use this time to come into his own, they will be that much better as a front court tandem when they do finally pair up. He had 22 points, 12 boards, and an amazing 5 blocked shots.
3. Brandon Bass - There weren't a whole lot of players to cheer in this game for both teams, so I will give some love to the Mavs diamond-in-the-rough this season. He started strong to help the Mavs break out of their shooting woes early. He's not afraid to mix it up down low, and has better hands and a longer range shot than Dampier or Diop. He had 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting, 3 boards and didn't turn the ball over. Good bench production.
- Dirk's Digits: The Mavs couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat in the first quarter, and Dirk was the worst one. He didn't score his first points until 3 minutes left in the first half. He finished with a piss-poor 11 points on 5 of 15 shooting and only 2 rebounds.
- Martell Webster of the Blazers is Jason Terry's cousin. It's bad enough that only 500 players out of everyone in the world get to make the NBA each year. To keep it in the family is just greedy and wrong. Same goes for Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady. See, Chauncey Billups and LenDale White are cousins, but they didn't hog one sport. Billups said he would take the NBA and White said he would take the NFL. That's being respectful.
- The refs are being really tight with the whistles tonight. The two teams only combined for 41 fouls, and the most free throws any player took was 7 by Josh Howard.
- Steve Blake, Portland guard, isn't the greatest, or even the goodest, but he's the right fit for this young Portland team. Again with the good scouting.
- Brandon Roy, Portland guard and defending Rookie of the Year, was held in check tonight by the Mavs and that was the difference in the game. Roy will be something special, but fortunately he wasn't tonight.
- Good old Raef LaFrentz is in the house tonight. The Mavs learned their lesson really quick on this guy. There are very few guys that have managed to make this long of a career simply off of what they did in college and their first 2 years in the league. When he came to Dallas a few years back, I really though he had it, but man, was I wrong.
- Contrast that with Jerry Stackhouse. He came out of college with a lot of fanfare, but got shipped around a lot for not being able to mesh well with other star players. His career could have taken the same path as LaFrentz's, and a lot of people questioned the move that brought him here. But something clicked in Stackhouse. He realized that he could be a team player, a bench player, a contributor and a leader on a championship caliber team. It's almost transformed his career. Sure he's been in a slump, but he hasn't turned into the locker room cancer that everyone thought he would be when he came here.
- With 9:43 left in the 3rd, the Mavs had half of their points in the paint, but were only shooting 40%. That's a bad sign. Even worse, the Mavs were doing their best to piss away a 21 point lead in the 3rd. With only 2:00 left in the game, they were only up 6.
- Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is in the crowd, so it must mean one thing: The Cowboys are doing really well. If you are the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, you only make public appearances in front of large crowds if you are going to get cheers, and you will only get cheers if the Cowboys are poised to make the Super Bowl. Any other circumstance, and you keep your ass at home.
We are through the first month of the season, and the Mavs are still struggling a bit. No doubt they will get this figured out, though. I have faith and hope, which is what you should always feel in the month of December. Faith and hope. Go Mavs!