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On the NBA Beat Ep. 25a: Tim Cato: Mavericks “Just Can’t Tank With Dirk”

After dropping seven of their last 10 games, the Dallas Mavericks are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Tim Cato of SB Nation and Mavs Moneyball joins us to dissect the team’s recent struggles, the impact of Chandler Parsons’ injury and legend Dirk Nowitzki’s future. He also examines head coach Rick Carlisle’s unorthodox coaching strategies, finds hope in Wesley Matthews’ long road to recovery and explains why the team did not opt to rebuild after whiffing on DeAndre Jordan and other prized free agents in the offseason. Juicy excerpts below:

2:19-3:28 On the team-wide effect of Chandler Parsons’ knee injury:
“It’s definitely a concern. The Mavericks rely on his shot-making and his playmaking. The past month or two, he’s really gotten into a good groove, where he’s been making plays and finding his rhythm in the offense. (He is) definitely worthy of being a max player coming up… As the Mavericks have moved to a small-ball offense, he was really thriving. It’s definitely a loss on both the offensive and defensive ends… (They) also don’t have a clear backup to replace him.”
4:03-4:22 On Dallas’ recent struggles and unsustainable luck enjoyed early in the season:

“It was a lot of close games swinging the other way after having too much success or an unsustainable amount of success in close games early in the season…The team (wasn’t) playing too much worse. They had a couple really bad games they should have won, but mostly it was the same level of play with some bad luck mixed in.”
8:52-9:56 On lineup versatility and coach Rick Carlisle adapting to Parsons’ absence:
“Without (Parsons), Carlisle is absolutely a mad genius, a mastermind. Sometimes too much for his own good. He’ll try something absolutely crazy and everyone on the court will see it… He’ll try some wacky lineups and some super-small-ball, where he’ll put Wesley Matthews at the power forward. There’s gonna be more “big ball” than we’ve seen in the past few weeks… He’s going to fall back on those three-guard lineups…but, at the same time, we’ll see more traditional lineups that, at the peak of the small-ball lineups, we had not seen at all.”
11:42-13:18 On the state of Dirk Nowitzki’s game and how much he has left
“As he gets older, he really knows his spots. He knows where he wants to go. He knows where he can get his shots off. And he’s highly, highly efficient, not just with his shooting, but with his movement… He’s got one more year left on his contract. He’s definitely going to play that out. Frankly, beyond that, he could play two, three, four more years just as a specialized shooter off the bench. I don’t think his jump shot’s pretty much ever going away. The question is whether his defense is still playable. It’s already getting pretty tough to hide him defensively right now, and as we go on it’s only gonna get tougher. But as a shooter, as an offensive player, he’s good enough that he could set a number on how long he wanted to play…Realistically, I see about two more years at the most, perhaps just one.”

17:51-18:15 On Carlisle’s relationships with his players:
“There was some animosity with the Rondo thing, but for the most part Carlisle does a very good job sustaining relationships with players and they love him for the way he is–being hard-nosed and tough, stiff, but he can be a really caring coach and really show (compassion). Every once in a while, you can kind of see through that shell, that armor.” 
18:21-18:40 More on Carlisle:
“There’s flaws that Carlisle has at times, definitely. He’s not a perfect coach. I still say he’s the No. 2 coach in the league behind (Gregg) Popovich…And there’s times where I disagree with him as well, but overall I think that the Mavericks are lucky to have him. The day he leaves Dallas is going be a really sad day.” 
19:15-20:11 On Wes Matthews’ inconsistent play following his return from serious injury:
“His Achilles is fine. He may not be 100 percent until he gets an entire offseason in, but there’s no concerns about re-injury or that it’s really holding him back…I wonder if that (conditioning) isn’t the biggest problem. There’s some concern, absolutely. He’s 29 now. That’s reaching the age where you’re about to hit the end of your prime. There’s definitely concerns whether he will bounce back. I tend to think next season’s gonna be great for him. He’s gonna make a lot of people fans again. Overall though, he’s still confident in himself. You can tell it’s trying. You can tell he’s frustrated and he holds himself accountable when he plays poorly and the team loses.”  
25:33-25:57 On Dallas’ decision not to tank this season
“You just can’t tank with Dirk on the roster. You just can’t do it. You owe it to him to try to put the best team around him that you can and try to get to the playoffs and try to give him another shot. And going into next year, I say, ‘Do the same exact thing.’ It may not be the prettiest thing. They may have to hand out some contracts that may not look so great in a couple of years, but they owe it to Dirk to try to give him one more shot.” 
Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod