Good news for the Mavs: Rodrigue Beaubois' broken foot is getting better all the time

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rodrigue_beaubois_dallas_mavericks.jpgOver the summer, the Dallas Mavericks shot for LeBron James, but fell short. They tried for Dwyane Wade, but no dice. Then came Joe Johnson, but he wasn’t interested. They altered their plan of attack and were linked to Andre Iguodala and Al Jefferson in trade discussions, but the Mavs couldn’t get a deal done.

Erick Dampier’s “instantly expiring” contract was the currency through which the Mavs hoped to accomplish all of this, but it couldn’t fetch any of those talents. Instead, Dallas traded Dampier — along with Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera — to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler. Tyson. Chandler. He’s a serviceable center in his own right, but considering just how highly the Mavs had valued Dampier’s cap-clearing deal, he wasn’t quite the bounty they were looking for.

As such, Dallas will have to improve from within if they’re to go deep into the playoffs this season. Some of that improvement will likely stem from Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood’s familiarity with Rick Carlisle’s system; both players were acquired at last season’s trade deadline, and while they played reasonably well for Dallas through the end of the ’09-’10 season, neither was a fully integrated part of the Maverick game plan. Butler and Haywood are now a bit more comfortable, and Coach Carlisle a bit more in tune with each player’s strengths. That’s not quite the same as acquiring an additional star, but it should give Dallas a boost.

Still, even when taking Butler and Haywood’s improvement within the system and Chandler’s addition into account, the Mavs don’t look to be all that much better than they were last season. To make matters worse, most of Dallas’ other regular contributors are more likely to see slight drops in their production rather than increases, as age begins to catch up to this cast of vets.

No one in the Mavericks’ rotation is going to see their performance take a nose dive on Father Time’s account. Not yet, anyway. The Mavs aren’t getting any younger though, and they’re not going to make any significant jumps from the wrong side of 30.

There are two notable exceptions to the Mavs’ veteran rule. The first is Dominique Jones, Vegas Summer League standout and the No. 25 pick in this summer’s draft. Jones is relentless in his drives to the basket, and that skill alone could score him some playing time despite the Mavs’ depth on the wings. The other exception is Rodrigue Beaubois, the now second-year guard who changed games for the Mavs last season with his speed and shooting ability.

Beaubois is incredibly talented, and many consider him the key to the Mavs’ season. If Beaubois can tap into his abilities and take a step toward basketball self-actualization, Dallas’ inability to acquire another star during the offseason could be a moot point. Beaubois has the potential to be that good.

Of course, with so much hinging on Beaubois’ development, it’s only fitting that his progress would be stalled by injury. A broken bone in Beaubois’ left foot has sidelined him since early August, and the status of the Mavs’ great hope for the season opener is unknown. His foot is getting better and better though, as Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas reported from training camp:  

…the young Dallas Mavericks guard is showing daily signs of improvement in his recovery from left foot surgery, coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday.

“He’s not doing anything on the court yet except some spot shooting and then the [stationary] bike in practice,” Carlisle said. “Then we bring him back [to the American Airlines Center] and he walks and runs in the underwater treadmill. But, he’s getting a little better every day and at the right time he’ll be back into it.”

Beaubois is out of his protective boot, and committed to working hard through camp in spite of the limitations of his injury. He’ll bike, lift, and watch film to prepare for the coming year, in the hope that whenever he’s finally cleared by the team doctors, he’ll be physically and mentally ready to compete. Luckily, Dallas has the depth to buy Beaubois all the time that he needs, and the Mavs will no doubt be cautious in calling for Rodrigue’s return to the court. There’s simply too much at stake for the Mavs to rush this.

Joe Johnson dominates late, Jazz beat Clippers 105-98 to even series 2-2

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Rudy Gobert was back at center, giving the Jazz an emotional boost and someone who can match up with DeAndre Jordan (although Gobert wasn’t moving like his normal self).

Gordon Hayward had to leave the game with food poisoning.

It didn’t matter, the Jazz had Joe Johnson. The veteran forward who knows how to get buckets scored or assisted on 20 straight points for Utah in the fourth, sparking a run that got the Jazz a 105-98 come-from-behind win.

The series is now tied 2-2, heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Tuesday.

When people talk about Johnson, the first thing that seems to come up is the oversized contract Atlanta gave him, but they forget this is a seven-time All-Star. He was nicknamed “iso-joe” because of how Mike Woodson’s offense used him heavily in isolation for the Hawks, but that was playing to the strength of his skill set. He can get buckets. Just ask the Clippers, as Johnson finished with 28.

The return of Gobert, a quietly strong game from Derrick Favors, plus maybe something else (like the heavy load last game) seemed to wear on DeAndre Jordan, who was not as sharp as normal in this one. The Clippers again leaned on Chris Paul — 27 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds — and Jamal Crawford who had 25 points off the bench. However, take those two out of the equation and the rest of the Clippers shot just 34.2 percent against that elite Jazz defense. In the fourth quarter, the entire Clippers’ team shot 31.4 percent total.

Utah got good performances from their role players, who stepped up with Hayward out. Rodney Hood had 18 points and some key buckets in the fourth. Then there was Joe Ingles, who defended CP3 for stretches, was a force getting where he wanted on the pick-and-roll leading to 11 assists, plus he had two key threes down the stretch.

The Clippers clearly missed Blake Griffin in some of these matchups, but Los Angeles is going to have to adjust to that in this series because he’s not returning.

This series is even and feels like it may well go seven. The Clippers have two out of the remaining three at home, and they have the best player in the series in Chris Paul. All that may not be enough if the Jazz role players keep stepping up.

Watch Paul George lose JR Smith, put Cavaliers guard on skates with crossover

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Game 4 between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was hotly-contested in the first half. The Cavaliers led, 58-52, after two quarters.

But one special play came when Indiana’s Paul George put JR Smith on his heels, with the Cavaliers guard reeling back some 10 feet after a pull-back crossover left George alone at the 3-point line.

Via Twitter:

You might say George pushed off with his left hand, but you could also point out that Smith then turned a flop-like head kick into an actual blown defensive assignment.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Kobe Bryant’s new Canvas video is brought to you by the letter O (for Obsession)

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Kobe Bryant’s Canvas series returned to our television screen on Saturday. The Sesame Street-like videos center around finding a place to draw motivation from in order to, as the most recent video says, dominate the will of your opponent.

They’re … weird.

They are also extremely Kobe-ish in that they stay true to the former Los Angeles Lakers great’s internal vision of how to play basketball.

The last one we saw was all about finding a musecage, and using your dark thoughts to propel you to win. This one is all about obsession, and how that emotion separates those who like to win from true competitors.

I’m personally all for these videos. They are maybe a little cheesy, or single-minded, but that’s sort of the point. It accurately reflects Kobe, which is something you don’t often see from retired players trying to transition their brand from player to former player.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.