Gameday: Raptors @ Mavericks, March 16

A song that lodged itself in my head as I started to write this was “I Fall To Pieces” by Patsy Cline, not for it’s heartfelt message of longing but for the literal action in which the Dallas Mavericks organization is taking part. Things do not look great in North Texas.

The on-again-off again question of tanking seems to be off again for the Mavs, with owner Mark Cuban fined 600K by the league for his recent comments in favour of flopping. Cuban’s comments came a day after Sports Illustrated published its fairly damning exposé on the broken and openly hostile work environment within the organization, including allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct by the team’s former president, Terdema Ussery. Even more recently came allegations against Cuban himself. Cuban has since denied—flatly, unsurprisingly, unconvincingly—the allegations, but the incident’s 2011 timing situates it smack dab in the height of Ussery’s tenure and if the fallout of the former president’s actions allowed for a hostile, misogynistic culture to run rampant within the Mavericks it’s a fair bet Mark Cuban clicked with that culture. A job posting for a Chief Ethics and Compliance officer currently sits open for Dallas.

I mention all this in a game day preview because the Cuban allegation, and the state of the Mavericks franchise, is flying under the radar with the more prominent piece of news being the state of the team itself. These two realities aren’t independent of one another. If you want a shining example closer to home just look at the Toronto Raptors. The team is flourishing because top-down, so is the entire organization. The value of respect is enforced at every step of the organizational ladder and intrinsic in the framework of decision making from management to playmaking on the court. To put it in Texas talk, you can’t cure a snakebite just by stomping the snake, you’ve got to remove the venom before it gets too far through the body. In the Maverick’s case, tanking might be the best fit, not just for the team, but from the very top-down. Cultural resets do wonders.

To help set up tonight’s game we reached out to Texas son and writer (Texas Monthly, The New Yorker, Real GM, VICE Sports) Jonny Auping for his insight.

Katie Heindl: How old do you think Dirk Nowitzki really is?

Jonny Auping:  Dirk Nowitzki’s defense is 68 years old. But, to his credit, his offense is still 34 years old. So I think that averages out to his true age being about 51 years old.

What’s something interesting you can share about a player on the team that Raptors fans, succumbing quickly to their own ego and limitless potential, might overlook?

Uhh, Dwight Powell is Canadian? I don’t know, Katie. This isn’t the most interesting team. I’ve personally always found Harrison Barnes’ bland personality interesting in its own special way. Like how even as an adult milk is still the best drink with certain foods (cookies, most things with peanut butter, etc.) When you combine it with all the good stuff he does in the community (he and his wife recently bought out a theater so a bunch of kids could screen Black Panther) his inability to be remotely controversial is almost like an endearing parlor trick.

Champ is an exceptional mascot as far as mascots go, personally he is everything I would want in a mascot (a horse). Why is there need for the Mavs Man? Is his white male mediocrity soothing to some people? Has the Mavs Man ever ridden Champ? 

Wow, typical Canadian presumptuousness. I won’t get into details, but I have personally played basketball against Mavs Man (sans the terrifying basketball mask) and I can give you a little exclusive: He is not white. Maybe we could all benefit from a little more open dialogue about mascots.

Is Seth is the superior Curry?

Yes. He is the superior Curry in the same sense that Luigi is the superior brother. I don’t think I have to elaborate on that so I won’t. Your readers are real ones.

What do you want next year for Dallas, perfect scenario? Remember you are talking to Raptors fans here so we know no dream is too small, too tenuous, too pathetic, too desperate, too hinged on any other given number of impossible qualifiers.

I would like them to draft Michael Porter Jr. because he is the biggest unknown and therefore you’ll have no retort when I project Hall of Fame potential upon him. I would like them to sign Aaron Gordon. I would also like them to trade Wes Matthews’ expiring contract for Dion Waiters. I would then like Dion Waiters to win MVP. That won’t result in an immediate championship, but patience will be one of the biggest points of emphasis for player/coach Dion Waiters.

If the team tanks do you think Mark Cuban should also tank and/or be locked in a tank and sunk into Lake Ray Hubbard, too? 

My opinion has long been that Mark Cuban is probably 5% smarter than the average person and probably about 35% less smart than he thinks he is. So I could certainly envision some sort of scenario where he accidentally locks himself in a tank while trying to prove that the free market should dictate whether or not tanks can open from the inside or something like that. As far as league-enforced mandates, I think that if we use the Cuban smirk of a 60-win Mavs team as the baseline, his facial expression should always be a direct reflection of the number of wins the Mavs are on pace for at any given moment.

Raptors updates

Toronto has been putting up some sticky starts in the last two weeks and while it’s not worrisome yet, it’s nowhere close to how they’ll need to come out in the post-season. Coming off a tight game against the Pacers and a close game against the uh, Nets, even the Swiss Army knife of the Raptors bench has been showing signs of wear.

There’s the question of coasting, namely are the Raptors doing it, with a playoff spot locked and a first seed all but confirmed, but it doesn’t seem aligned with the attitude the team has taken all year of obliterating franchise records wherever they can. A certain amount of fatigue makes sense with the end of the season looming on the horizon, but the Raptors need to lock it in before they get there.

C.J. Miles has been a clutch guy all week, landing deep threes when the team needs some solid ground to dig into and turn games around. And if the bench is a bit tired there are still boosts of energy, like Siakam last night with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and two assists on 5-of-7 shooting in his 20 minutes of game time. With the reach of Nowitzki and the speed of Dennis Smith Jr. to contend with tonight, checking the frequency of turnovers we saw in the Indiana game would be beneficial.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Malcolm Miller, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Nigel Hayes
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: None
TBD: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell

Mavericks updates

With Wesley Matthews out indefinitely and other injuries punching holes through the Mavs rotation, the team’s M.O. is mostly to get the season done and over with. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has been mixing up his lineups around rookie Dennis Smith Jr. and with 15 games left and a sparse amount of options, it’s what he’ll have to continue to do.

Harrison Barnes lit up the Knicks for 30 points on Tuesday and the team’s been resting since then. Not to say the Raptors should expect an onslaught but Dallas will be moving on much fresher legs.

PG: Dennis Smith Jr.
SG: Yogi Ferrell
SF: Harrison Barnes, Doug McDermott
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith, Harrison Barnes, Max Kleber
C: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Nerlens Noel
OUT: Wesley Matthews, Seth Curry
TBD: J.J. Barea, Salah Mejri

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