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Discussing the Dallas Mavericks with Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com

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DallasBasketball.com is an independent NBA team website that covers the Dallas Mavericks and the man behind the madness is Mike Fisher, an award-winning sports journalist that has been around the block (spending a decade as a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for example) and who also covers the Dallas Cowboys, among other things. DallasBasketball.com is a must-read for people who want to get their fix on the Mavs because it blends old-fashion reporting with humor.

Because he's in Dallas, Fisher reported 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend and described the experience as "a breathtaking spectacle." Coming from a man who's covered 16 Super Bowls, that's high praise. Seriously. Fisher's resume as a writer is impeccable.

A few days ago, I was able to ask Fisher a few questions to preview tonight's game between the Orlando Magic and the Dallas Mavericks.

I know some people think that, unless Caron Butler plays at or near an All-Star level, the Dallas Mavericks' acquisition of him and Brendan Haywood doesn't do much to dramatically improve the team. What are your thoughts on that?

I think most people with an understanding of the cap and the future – combined with the on-court stuff – see that this is a steal for Dallas. They are giving up a disgruntled Josh Howard (who recently just played 11 minutes in a game from the back of the rotation) for two starters … Josh was going to be a summer trade chip.

… now Caron can be that (even better) chip if they want to sell him in combination with The DUST Chip (Dampier’s super-instant-expiring) for a huge free-agent sign-and-trade. … and contractually, Haywood now has his Bird Rights here so Dallas has its center of the present/future locked in. In terms of where Dallas was a year ago without these moves (and this is including the Marion acquisition), the Mavs have actually CUT costs!

And on the court, it’s a major win. The Mavs moved out a Josh Howard who was out of gas here and get in Butler the sort of wing who, athletically, this franchise has pretty much never had. … plus a center who is top-notch defensively and sound offensively … plus the loss of Gooden in the trade might boomerang back to them.

In the last two major trades, Dallas will likely end up having moved out (in terms of actual front-of-rotation-level players) Josh Howard … while moving in Marion, Butler, Haywood, Gooden, rookie Roddy Beaubois. The whole thing sets Dallas up to continue to win 50-a-year at a pace matched only by the Spurs … and to maintain that level, plus flexibility, in the future.

 

More after the jump.

 

If Marcin Gortat is a member of the Mavericks, does Haywood get acquired? The logical answer seems to be no, what do you think?

Definitely not.

As you know, the Mavs have searched for years for that elusive answer at center. They’ve gone freakish (Shawn Bradley) … they’ve gone gimmicky (when Nellie used to use squatty power forward Gary Trent there) … they’ve gone space-age (again Nellie, thinking Raef LaFrentz was going to revolutionize basketball by making traditional opposing centers come play defense out at the arc) … they’ve tried small ball (with Dirk at the 5).

The only thing that’s ever even come close to working is Damp; heck, they almost won a title with him as the center of record.

So the pursuit of your guy (the blocking of which we at DB.com now catch-phrasingly call "Getting Kicked In The Gortats") was an attempt to solve that long-standing problem. Gortat was to take the baton from Damp.

And now Haywood does that … all in the name of trying to combat the Lakers, of course … but as I keep stressing, along the way through 82 games you’ve also got to stop the Boguts and the Perkinses and the Nene’s, you know?

Maybe it’s all The Curse of Roy Tarpley, who would’ve been the ideal big-man answer except for … well, except for everything.

And maybe now the Curse is broken – though, unfortunately, so is Erick Dampier’s finger.

You had the honor of being able to cover the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Dallas. What was that experience like? I know it's tough to summarize everything but maybe if there was one thing that stood out to you during that weekend, what was it?

As you may know, I’m an old coot who has worked as a newspaper beat writer/columnist and a radio talk-show host since forever … I’ve covered 16 Super Bowls, just to give you some idea (of how ancient I am!) … therefore, I suppose I’m supposed to be cynical about these things. … and complain because the free hot dogs didn’t have enough mustard or something.

But that All-Star Weekend – especially given the snow, the newness of the Cowboys Stadium experience, and the cloud of the labor dispute – was truly a breathtaking spectacle.

A week before tipoff, David Stern suggested that there was no special reason to return the game to Cowboys Stadium. About two hours before tipoff, I was standing at center court with Jerry Jones and I asked him if he thought the game would return to this building and this city.

"His answer,’’ Jerry told me, pointing towards Stern, ‘would be ‘yes.’’’

This experience was so incredible that even David Stern changed his mind. That takes some doing, right?

What are your thoughts on Brandon Bass' lack of playing time, partly due to his troubles picking up Stan Van Gundy's defensive schemes? Are you surprised? What should have Magic fans expected when general manager Otis Smith signed him in the off-season?

Well, Bass is a good dude. I hear some of the rips on him ("Hasn’t learned the plays’’ and such) … and that doesn’t fit at all with what happened here. He was shy but attentive … I found him to be thoughtful enough … he followed the lead of Dirk on many matters, which is always a damn good idea (in basketball and in life!) … but he truly was in a system that appreciated him for what he was … and didn’t ask too much of him beyond that.

Oh, they made him play center, and that wasn’t ideal. But mostly he was a backup 4 who got to play against other backup 4s who were just relieved to not be guarding Dirk.

The audience here loved him, his teammates liked him, and the organization – which, as you know, really "discovered’’ him (or re-discovered, maybe, off the Hornets trash pile) -- hoped he’d get no great offer so he’d come back and remain a part of the family.

He got overpaid. Everybody who is in-the-know here knew that; while the NBA Nation was applauding Otis for "stealing’’ Bass, the people here didn’t think he got stolen: They thought he got purchased at an inflated price.

From the outside, it looks like Otis was playing Fantasy Basketball (and please correct me if I’m wrong) … but he gobbled up all these bodies, some of whom seem redundant, and I’m not sure Orlando is really better than it was.

Having said that, Orlando was and is damn good.

So Dallas replaced Bass (a long-term deal worth $4 mil average) with James Singleton (a minimum-wage deal) AND with Drew Gooden (for less that the MLE).

So Bass has the dough and a chance for a ring and no burn but he’s a good dude.


I like to thank Mike for taking the time to answer my questions.