By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"Then the game will be more low-scoring, and in low-scoring games Shawn Bradley will be more valuable because he can change outcomes defensively."
The new rules may also help disguise the Mavericks' glaring weakness on the backboards. The Mavericks can trap more outside and still cheat back inside.
Don Nelson says he doubts any of the good teams will abandon man-to-man defense in favor of zones. But the Mavericks cannot play the Western Conference's two most talented teams, the Lakers and Spurs, straight up. They've tried. It's left to Nelson and Assistant Coach Del Harris to devise game plans that will help offset the tremendous advantage powerful Shaquille O'Neal gives the Lakers and San Antonio's 7-foot Twin Towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, give the Spurs.
"The new rules should add to the strategy of the game," Harris says. "Statistically, there's nothing that shows that zone teams rebound better than man-to-man teams. But in certain situations, teams will emphasize man-to-man defenses with some zoning principles. In the long run, my feeling is it will actually inhibit scoring, not increase scoring."
So despite its potential to physically become the NBA's version of the 98-pound weakling, could this be Dallas' best team ever? That's not likely. Motta says the league is too diluted to compare teams. "When I first came into the NBA in the late 1960s," he says, "there were five great centers, five great point guards and 14 teams. Today, there are still five great centers and five great point guards, but 29 teams."
Things do have a way of changing, often drastically and for the worse. Look how far Dallas fell from Motta's team. Roy Tarpley elevated his romance with nose candy. The moody Aguirre was sent packing to Detroit. Almost overnight, losing became a very nasty habit. Ownership, front office personnel, coaching staffs, players, the home arena--everything's different now. Then again, now the team is on the rise; it has good young talent but still probably can't get past the Lakers.
Oh, wait. Everything's the same again.