Integrating players acquired at the trade deadline really does come with its own unique set of challenges, and the Dallas Mavericks are finding ways to cope despite fighting through some pretty unfortunate scheduling last week. The Mavs went 3-1 in playing four games in five nights, and showed steady improvements in each of their contests.
Against the Thunder, the Mavs were simply out-worked and beaten by OKC’s unique combination of energy and athleticism. Against the Suns, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler eased further into a comfort zone as they took advantage of a porous Phoenix defense. Against the Magic, the Mavs as a collective put together an impressive comeback victory, and impressed with their defense just as frequently as with their offense. And finally in Miami, the Mavs overcame a disappointing first half to overtake the lead in the second, relying heavily on the collaborative efforts of Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, and Caron Butler while again turning to their defense for big stop after big stop.
Oh, and according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, they did it all without the benefit of a single, full practice. The schedule just didn’t allow for it, and yet the Mavs tackled the challenge head-on and came out victorious. Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood have already been impressive during their short time with Dallas, and they’re set to only get better; right now each is relying heavily on skill and basketball instinct to get by, rather than familiarity with teammates or a system. Once the latter two come into play (through more on-court time together and most importantly, more practice), it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Mavs make a run at the #2 seed.