DONUT 1: Sleepless holiday nights? ...
A win is always a good thing, but Wednesday's Mavs victory over Philadelphia was meaningful for quite a few reasons. The schedule for the Mavs was relatively light to begin the year (translation: crummy opponents). That seemed ideal at the time considering Dirk Nowitzki was aiming to return from knee surgery by Thanksgiving.
A perfect situation would have been for the fresh-faced Mavericks to stay afloat against the easier part of the schedule and have Nowitzki back in time for the first round of heavy lifting in the 2012-13 season.
The good news is that the Mavs did stay afloat, kinda, going 11-10 through their first 21 games.
The bad news is that Nowitzki is still on the shelf, with no set date to returns. We see him sweat at the AAC this week. We still hear buzz about a return before New Year's. But until it happens, it's "bad.''
The worst news ...
DONUT 2: What a schedule ...
Now don't get me wrong; I'm in the cornball-brother holiday spirit, as you can see by my "it's A Wonderful Life'' holiday card I'm sending out. (Yours is in the mail.) But there is a downside to the season. ...The Mavs’ schedule reads like this: vs. Miami, at Memphis, at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, vs. Denver, and vs. San Antonio.
It would be tough to hand-pick a gauntlet much tougher than that.
With no Dirk and relatively little hope being given to the Mavs without him, they will have to play well beyond themselves to remain afloat. Not to be a pessimist -- but rather, to consider what Las Vegas might think -- and with the given schedule, it is more than possible that Dallas could go 0-6 over that stretch.
No, that's not my prediction; that's what causes me to lose some holiday sleep, that's all.
If that scenario presents itself -- lose to Miami, to Memphis, to San Antonio, to Oklahoma City, to Denver and to San Antonio -- and you are sitting at a frightening 12-19 as the calendar flips to 2013.
I'll make Kevin Brolan grab the big calculator here: If that is the case, the Mavs would have to play 29-22 over the rest of the season JUST to get back to .500, a 41-41 record that won’t get you to the playoffs in the Western Conference.
In the most simple of terms, poor performances over the next six games would be basketball-catastrophic for the Mavericks.
DONUT 3: But ... Dirk's back!! ...
Hey, how about an emotional booster shot from Dirk Nowitzki's return to the practice floor?
“Not really,'' he said in a Wednesday afternoon press briefing on the subject of a timetable following his first full-contact practice of the season. "We’ll just see how it goes. This is the first day stopping, pushing off, moving. We’ll see how it reacts. I’m going to do that a couple times, and do some contact for a while.
"Maybe anytime after Christmas, that’ll be fun.''
How intense was the workout? Carlisle downplayed it, claiming, “It wasn’t really a full-, full-, full-contact day, but he’s working hard.
Dirk himself said it was mostly two-on-two work, noting that it involved him and Roddy B vs. Bernard James and Jae Crowder (low-minute guys who could be spared as the team gears up for Thursday's visit from Miami.
"The quality of the games wasn't high, to be honest,'' Dirk said, smiling.
The work going forward will still be as much about trainer Casey Smith and mentor Holger as it will about available teammates to bang on, we would guess.
"Unfortunately, the next couple days, I don’t think there’s a lot of practice time,'' Dirk said. "We got a back-to-back and another game on Sunday, so I’m going to be playing probably some one-on-one, some two-on-two, with the low-minute guys and slowly get better and better.”
Nowitzki is already giving some thought to minutes and roles and fitting back in, saying the club will work to “see what the smartest thing is, maybe come off the bench for the first couple games, play around 20-to-25 minutes,” he said. “That’s something I guess we need to talk about when it gets to that point. I’m not opposed to obviously coming off the bench at the beginning and slowly finding my rhythm, but I think that’s something we need to talk about when it gets closer.
“We haven’t addressed that yet, but it’s obvious I’m not going to play 35 minutes my first game out. That’s something I think we’re going to talk about next week.”
This remains "a process,'' as coaches like to say.
“He’ll be back at some point when he’s ready,'' Carlisle said. "He’s not ready yet, and that’s where we are. I know everybody wants to get the first scoop, when’s Dirk gonna play? We don’t know when he’s gonna play. He’s working hard, he’s making gradual progress, which is how this works when you have a scope. And when it happens it will happen. We hope it’s sooner than later, but we don’t have a time yet.”
But we do have progress -- and a chance for either a merrier Christmas or a happier New Year. ... and maybe even a more immediate booster shot.
DONUT 4: The DB.com Mavs Podcast ...
LeBron James came to Dallas for his big Wednesday night part at Zouk. Oh, and to play basketball, too. All observations on the Mavs are here in audio form ... it's Mike Marshall, Kevin Brolan and Roy White dishing on all things Mavs, including the Miami Heat's visit to town to play Dallas.
DONUT 5: Stay informed on your Mavs! ...
You can catch the details on the Dallas Mavericks' week so far here in the DallasBasketball.com Archives and here with fans like you on DB.com Boards!
Most of what you need to know about the only-11-turnovers win over Philly on Tuesday is contained in this Rick quote:
"The total was good. Compared to what's been happening, it's great. Fantastic."
DONUT 6: Thanks, Red Rock! ...
The BIGGEST place to watch sports? Red Rock Bar & Grill, with the 200-inch screen and the life-long Mavs passion and live music on the weekends, too! Thanks for the partnership, Red Rock!
DONUT 7: Passing the time (and the kidney stone) ...
Mark Cuban spend recent hours in the hospital trying to pass a kidney stone. He also tried to pass the painful time by playing around on Twitter.
Kidney stones are no fun.If this one pops out in one piece I'm either going to get it bronzed or sell it on eBay #pukinglikeaftermyfirstbeer
Kidney stones are no joke..its good when im doubled over because that means its moving, right.. #twitterpaindistraction
What should I name the little f*cker ? #nameCubanskidneystone. #moredistractionspleas
I'd gladly trade this kidney stone for an alien probe..
Tell Em I'm doing this stone grandpa style. No really, .... #stuffyouthinktryingtopassakidneystone
I submitted my best CubanKidneyStone name. "Lamar Scrotum.'' I'm waiting for my prize, Cuban.
DONUT 8: Kaman the Kloser ...
"It's the most important time of the game -- it's crunch time,'' Chris Kaman said after the win over Philly. "And I was glad I was out there to finish plays and get a win.''
And we were glad to see it.
Kaman totalled eight of his 20 points during a five-minute span late in the fourth quarter Tuesday that helped key that 107-100 win over the Sixers.
We break down here how under-used Kaman has been.
Rick explains why here: “It’s not like there’s a case against him. It just depends on the nature of the game and the personality of the game. I like the way he played (Tuesday) for sure. He did a good job down the stretch. He made some shots. He was a presence around the boards. And he wants to be in there, too.”
*And Kaman himself would offer some more thoughts except he was conducting a contest on Twitter and fell asleep.
DONUT 9: Who needs tickets? ...
Our guy Ryan at MavCowTickets knows the ins and outs of the Mavs, the Rangers, the Cowboys, the arenas, the opponents ... the works! For the most personal service in the business -- with no stupid add-on costs -- check him out and tell him The Fish sent you!
DONUT 10: Injury issues ...
The Mavs are expecting to be without starting point guard Derek Fisher against the Heat tonight, and might be without bigs Elton Brand and Brandan Wright.
Brand (groin) and Wright (ankle) are game-time decisions. (We'll have updates from shootaround later this morning.) Fisher sustained a strained right patellar tendon injury on Tuesday.
DONUT 11: DC's opening ...
All things considered -- including D-Fish's injury -- if there was ever a time for Darren Collison to step up to another level and support new chief-Mav OJ Mayo, that time would be now.
Collison has been an enigma since Dallas acquired him in the offseason, losing his starting job and finding himself slipping from Rick Carlisle’s favor. It’s likely none of that will affect Collison’s minutes heading into this stretch; If Fisher’s injury is at all serious, Collison will get the majority of the point guard minutes simply because of the numbers game.
Carlisle may not be ecstatic with Collison’s production so far this season, but he’s simply running out of options at point guard.
So ... "Be Ready,'' right?
That PG void may be the theme so far for the Mavs this season. Rick has had so little trust in his guards outside of anyone not named after a condiment that he brought in 38-year-old Fisher to run his offense. Dallas leads the league in different combinations of starting lineups this year for that exact reason. Carlisle can’t find a lineup he likes with Nowitzki out and he won’t sit around to let the same guys lose games for his franchise.
The Mavs may be performing poorly, but Carlisle refuses to let them stand pat.
The irony for Carlisle hits hard during this upcoming, potentially season defining stretch. Over the next 12 days, that same Nowitzki-less roster that simply hasn't earned anybody's trust is the group that must be trusted to hold the season in its often-slippery hands.
Expect some sleepless night for Rick Carlisle during the holidays, even as Dirk progresses. And some sleepless nights for you and me, too.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
“After that gruesome road trip we were able to bounce back here at home and get a good win,” Shawn Marion said of the Philly win, which ended that 0-3 slide. “You know, it’s time for us to gain some momentum here and do what we need to do to start moving in the right direction. ...''
That "direction'' points at the visit from Miami tonight. It's an 8:30 p.m. tip ... and between now and then DB.com will have full coverage