The Mavericks are in Chicago, so I weaved my way down to the United Center this morning for the Dallas shootaround. Shootarounds aren’t a great time to get guys to talk because, well, they are shooting. The teams walk through their sets and work on ironing out schematic issues, then the players shoot. That’s why they call it a shootaround. These gameday sessions may be headed towards extinction, as NBA teams experiment with the tradeoff between getting players up and around in the morning–not easy considering the vampire-like hours most of these guys keep–and having players rested.
The Mavs went for about an hour and 15 minutes this morning, then gathered in a huddle at midcourt, where they sang “Happy Birthday” to rookie guard Dominique Jones. Today is Jones’ 22nd birthday. He’s the guy I’m going to be watching tonight as he matches up with Chicago’s Derrick Rose. I watched some video of the Bulls’ visit to Dallas last week and it really seemed to me that Jones came as close to keeping up with Rose off the dribble as anyone I’ve seen. But those were limited glimpses, so we’ll see if I get the same impression tonight. Plus I’ll be sitting courtside, which will give me a much better vantage point to make this kind of judgement.
Coincidentally, as I sat down to type up these notes, I saw that the excellent Rob Mahoney has a post up about Jones, so I urge you to check that out. I’ll be writing something on Jones and the Mavs in the next few days, in addition to another installment of “Five Thoughts” on tonight’s game. The angle I’m looking at is this, and I posed this exact question to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle a few minutes ago: As the Mavericks try to get over that championship hump, what is different about this year’s team? One of those differences is Jones. The other is Tyson Chandler. Really, though, how is this Dallas team different from the very good, but not great, teams of the past few years? That’s what I’ll be aiming to find out.
Caught up with Chandler, but only briefly as he was walking out to the team bus. (That’s the pitfall of the shootaround access. You can get the coach, but the players go from the court to the bus.) He thinks Derrick Rose is good. He has good memories of Chicago. There you go. That’s all I got.
I asked Carlisle who he was planning to hold out of tonight’s game against the Bulls, knowing full well he wouldn’t tell me.
“Stay tuned,” Carlisle said.
Then, on my way out, an exuberant Dirk Nowitzi ran up to me and with a fairly demonic look on his face yelled, “Nice hat!”
He’s referring to this. It’s a cheap-ass hat I picked up in Matzatlan for 200 pesos, which amounts to about 16 bucks. And, believe me, I got hoodwinked on that deal, but I really needed something to keep the sun off my head. Because I’m attracted to the cheap and tawdry, I end up wearing it a lot even now because it’s shabby and at games it helps coaches and players remember who I am. They may not remember my name, but they remember the hat.
As for Dirk, I could only offer up a “thanks man” but of course I’m not sure how sarcastic he was being. So I maybe should have said, “Shut up Nowitzki.” Maybe I’ll wear the hat again tonight, or just bring it along and offer it up as gift. I’ll put it in a cake box or something. It’ll be like in “Vacation” when Cousin Eddie gave Clark that pair of white loafers.