The Mavs will finish their line of cupcakes today against the Miami Heat, a team that is about as cupcake as they come. They are 11-53, which is the worst in the league, and now things are looking even dimmer...
More breaking news from the NBA trade front: Heat not interested in dealing Shaq. Believe Pat Riley if you wish, but some around here are spreading rumors that Shaq is obtainable and not only that, but he would put the Mavs over the top for that elusive championship. Certain voices want the Mavs to deal their rights to Keith Van Horn for The Diesel. Surely, this is part of Riley's strategic plan to ultimately trade The Big Aristotle to the Mavs. Surely.
Shaq, Jason Williams, Dorrell Wright and Alonzo Mourning are already out for tonight's game with injuries. And now Dwyane Wade is out, too. He's got a whole host of injuries aside from the recovering shoulder and sore knee. Oh brother. Here's the Heat's starting lineup: 6-7 F Ricky Davis, 6-8 F Udonis Haslem, 7-0 C Mark Blount, 6-2 G Chris Quinn and 6-5 G Daequan Cook.
Avery Johnson said that when he was a rookie head coach, the Rockets sent word that Tracy McGrady would not be playing in the Houston-Dallas game, so Johnson did not spend practice time focusing on McGrady.
"Then he played and got 30," Johnson said.
So despite Shaquille O'Neal missing the last two games with hip problems, Johnson said the Mavericks would be ready for him tonight.
"We always plan for everybody being there," Johnson said. "I got tricked on that my first year in coaching, about a guy not being in. So we are planning for [Dwyane] Wade, Shaq, Jason Williams, we're planning for Dorell Wright and he didn't even make the trip."
As Mavericks fans painfully know, Dwyane Wade torched Dallas in the 2006 NBA Finals, winning the MVP award with an average of 34.7 points per game. The Heat is struggling big time this year with an 8-24 record, which is second worst in the league behind Minnesota.
But Wade is still an issue and can lead a team to victory. Here's what Jerry Stackhouse had to say about Wade at practice today:
"Whenever you have a guy that demands double coverage,
you’re kind of at the mercy of the other guys on the floor. You’ve got to try and force the ball to go into areas that you want it to go to. The guys
who maybe are not used to taking or making shots. But it’s the NBA. Everybody is
capable. So you always stand a chance that when you double a guy, you put
yourself at a disadvantage, so you put the onus on your defense on rotate and
just be active. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of that."
Wade was hurt at the end of the last game and has bruises on his right pinkie and shoulder. He's listed as probable, but expected to play.
The Mavericks play the final game of a four-game home stand against the Miami Heat. The Mavs have won six straight against Miami and 12 of their last 14 (if you don't include the playoffs...and let's not). After tonight, the Mavs play 9 of their next 28 games on the road, but that isn't near as brutal as what the Heat have endured so far because...
Miami ain't so hot No, they aren't just run-of-the-mill bad, they're the worst team in the Eastern Conference so far. That means they have a worse record than the Knicks, which is really saying something. Their 8-24 record is also worse than all but one West team. They have lost five in a row and nine of their last 11. They are bottom five in the league in three-pointers made and attempted, offensive rebounds, field goal attempts and are 29th in free-throw percentage and 30th in rebounding. Many never thought they'd never see one of Shaq's teams place dead last in the league in rebounding, which brings me to the next point...
Not much Diesel left in the tank It's no secret that Shaquille O'Neal has aged dramatically over the last two years, and his current injury shouldn't come as any surprise. He sat out 42 games last season, and a similar fate was bound to come soon this season. He's averaging career lows in points, rebounds, assists, shot attempts and minutes. On the bright side, he's shooting his best free-throw percentage in four seasons (but is 49.1 percent anything to brag about?). Unfortunately, we don't get to see Erick Dampier outplay him, so instead we'll have to settle for him outplaying Mark Blount. Alonzo Mourning is also out with a season-ending knee surgery.
The bright spots After missing the first seven games of the season, Dwyane Wade has returned to form, and is the main reason the Heat have at least those eight wins. He had one of those amazingly fun-to-watch 23 free-throw attempt nights one week ago, so the Mavs might want to be careful with their breathing and phantom hand-checking tonight. Additionally, Udonis Haslem has stepped up for the lack of Miami center support and is having a career year. He's averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and free-throw percentage and is one of the few bright spots for the Heat outside of Wade.