By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"We have a good team; there's no question," assistant coach Del Harris agrees reluctantly. Ever the coach, he'd rather focus more on what needs proper fixing than what is clearly working. "As far as ball handling is concerned, we set the all-time record last year for fewest turnovers, and this year it's lower. We're on pace to break last year's record. We scored 27 points off of Denver's turnovers, and they scored four off ours. Well, when you win by 15, it doesn't take a mathematician or anyone real bright to figure out that taking care of the ball is a factor. Makes up for our rebounding deficiency to a large degree. We'd still like to rebound better. Now our assist-to-turnover ratio isn't just real good--it's terrific--but that's not necessarily because we make the extra pass; it's more because we have so few turnovers."
Harris is right. There are aspects they need to address, interior defense and rebounding topping the list. And that's without going into specifics, as in what to do with LaFrentz, who, when he hasn't been injured, has been woefully unproductive. (Don't even bother bringing up the double-double he had against Denver...it was his first of the year, and the Nuggets are an empty shell anyway.)
But no team is without faults, and the Mavs have fewer than most. Concerning the tenets of the game--securing the ball, hitting free throws and the like--they have proven more adept than their contemporaries. Those are the biggest reasons why they score all those points and in turn win all those games. Those are the biggest reasons why you might be looking at a championship team.
We're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The truth on that score will be unearthed when the weather gets warmer. For now, take comfort in this: Offensive-minded teams, teams that incorporate dazzle into their regular flow, teams such as Portland and the Clippers, have been traditionally sloppy. They tend to fade quickly when and if they make the playoffs. It's the squads that are not only talented but also careful to mind the details that advance. Somehow, the Mavs appear to be that rare combination of entertainment and caution.