Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo played for college rivals UCLA and USC, respectively, but they’ve shared a backcourt in a bunch of summer pickup games. They believe that informal experience will be a factor in forming instant chemistry now that they’re the Mavs’ starting guards.
“It’s going to help make it a lot easier,” Mayo said. “Competing against Darren, I understand he’s a great player and a heck of a competitor. When we play in the summertime at UCLA, we’re actually on the same team a lot of time just because we’re familiar with each other and feel like that can give us an edge in pickup games.”
Collison and Mayo will give the Mavs’ backcourt a much different look.
Collison’s speed and quickness are his best attributes, a stark contrast to old man Jason Kidd, the future Hall of Famer whose shoes Collison is filling. Like Jason Terry, Mayo launches a lot of jumpers, but he’s bigger and better at creating his own shot, although Jet’s been more productive.
Collison has confidence that Mayo can fulfill his potential as a former third overall pick with the Mavs after a disappointing tenure in Memphis.
“He’s been through a lot in his career, ups and downs, but he has that definite fire behind him,” Collison said. “I think O.J. is one of the best two guards in this league. He just hasn’t had that opportunity the last two years to start at a consistent level. Starting here, I think he’s going to have the time to prove that.”
And Mayo’s going to have his pickup buddy to try to help make that happen.
DALLAS – Darren Collison has just enough playoff experience to be desperate for a whole lot more.
Collison said he arrived in Dallas with a chip on his shoulder. It’s not due to being traded twice by his 25th birthday or losing his starting job late last season in Indiana.
“The chip, for me personally, is just about not being able to win in the playoffs,” Collison said. “Being knocked off by Miami, being knocked off by Chicago my first year in Indiana, I still have that nasty taste in my mouth. I want to bring some of that here. Even though they have so many more accomplishments here, I definitely want to bring my game and the chip that I have on my shoulder here.”
Derrick Rose‘s Bulls eliminated Collison’s Pacers in five games in the 2011 first round. The Heat knocked out the Pacers in six games in the second round last season.
Collison scored 17 points and dished out nine assists in his playoff debut against the Bulls, but he struggled the rest of that series, averaging 9.4 points on 39 percent shooting and 4.0 assists in the five games.
Collison was productive in a bench role last postseason, averaging 8.7 points and 3.0 assists in 18.6 minutes per game while George Hill started at point guard for the Pacers. Collison’s best playoff performance was a 19-point, nine-assist outing in the first-round closeout game against the Magic.
Collison, who is entering a contract year, sees Dallas as a franchise that will gives him a chance to prove he can be a starting point guard for a team that enjoys playoff success.
“The challenge is really just to find a way to play together,” Collison said. “We’ve got to leave the contract stuff behind us and really just try to focus on the court and try to win games. That’s going to be the challenge when you put guys together.
“For me, as a point guard trying to lead this team, I’ve got to make sure guys understand that this is a great opportunity for us to do something (the Mavs) did two years ago.”
If Chris Kaman can stay healthy, he’ll be the best offensive center in Mavericks history.
That’s a big if, as evidenced by his triple-digit games-missed total over the last five seasons. And it’s also faint praise, as proven by all the praise about the pick-setting ability of bricklaying Mavs centers over the years.
Just for fun – and because we don’t have anything better to do with a week and a half before the Mavs open camp – let’s rank the best offensive seasons by a big man in franchise history. We’re talking solely centers, so Roy Tarpley, Sam Perkins and others who played a lot of power forward aren’t included.
Tyson Chandler, 2010-11: He understood his limitations and was phenomenally efficient, averaging 10.1 points while shooting 65.4 percent from the floor and 73.2 percent from the line. Chandler wasn’t a post-up threat, but he was a highlight waiting to happen as a pick-and-roll finisher. He’d knock down an occasional elbow jumper, but Chandler earned his keep offensively by setting rock-solid picks, finishing strong at the rim and creating extra possessions with his hustle and hops.
Sean Rooks, 1992-93: He was a bright spot during the darkest season in Dallas basketball history, averaging 13.4 points as a rookie for an 11-71 team. That ended up being his career high. He averaged 11.4 points the next season for a much improved Mavs team (13-69 – 18 percent more wins!) and then got traded to the Timberwolves. He averaged 10.9 points his first season in Minnesota and never came close to double figures again.
James Donaldson, 1986-87: He’s still the best big man who played more than one season for the Mavs. His best offensive season in Dallas came during his first year here. The 7-foot-2 Donaldson averaged 10.8 points on 58.6 percent shooting, one of five Mavs to average in double figures that year, led by forward Mark Aguirre’s 25.7 points per game. Donaldson also averaged a career-best 3.6 offensive rebounds per game.
Tom LaGarde, 1980-81: You’ve got to go all the way back to the Mavs’ inaugural season to find the highest scoring season by a center in franchise history. LaGarde lit it up for a career-best 13.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting for the merry band of 15-67 misfits.
Raef LaFrentz, 2002-03: Remember when LaFrentz’s perimeter shooting was going to pull Shaq from the basket and help pave the Mavs’ way to a title? Well, LaFrentz did make 40.5 percent of his 3-point attempts during his lone full season in Dallas. He averaged 9.3 points in 23.3 minutes per game that year – and gave up a heck of a lot more than that on the defensive end.
Erick Dampier, 2004-05: Dampier’s most productive season in Dallas was his first one, when he averaged 9.2 points on 55 percent shooting. He never averaged more than 7.1 points in another season for the Mavs, which is why he became the most overhyped screen-setter in NBA history.
Shawn Bradley, 1997-98: Do you recall Bradley averaging double figures (11.4 points per game) during his first season in Dallas? Thought that merited a mention, although it’s amazing that a 7-foot-6 dude shot 42.2 percent from the floor.
“Some of the sets we had is he would pass me the ball and he would shoot and score,” Brand cracked. “I would like to continue that tradition here.”
There’s some truth in that jest. Brand averaged 20-plus points per game in each of the four seasons he played with Kaman in Los Angeles, peaking at a career-best 24.7 points in 2005-06, when the Clippers won 47 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
But it’s not like Kaman was setting Brand up much during those days. The big man never averaged more than 1.2 assists per game while he played with Brand.
Nevertheless, there is a comfort level with the Brand-Kaman pairing. Of course, they understand that neither of them will be the focal point of the Mavs’ frontcourt. They were brought to Dallas to complement Dirk Nowitzki.
“We’re used to having the best big defender guarding us. That’s no longer gonna happen,” Brand said. “They have to guard Dirk. We all know that he’s one of the greatest. So we’re looking forward to that, exploiting matchups and being in the low post, depending on where coach has us get the ball. But we expect to exploit those matchup problems out there with Dirk out there playing with us at different times.”
It will be a transition for Brand to get used to play with Nowitzki. That’s not the case for Kaman, who discovered he had German ancestry just in time to help Nowitzki go to the Olympics.
“I’ve established a pretty good relationship with Dirk,” Kaman said. “I feel like I’m comfortable playing with him, so that was kind of one of the things that helped bring me here to Dallas. And I’m just really looking forward to the opportunity, seeing what it brings in the NBA, as opposed to European players. And I played with Elton for four or five years in L.A., and we have a good relationship as well. So I’m in a pretty comfortable position here.”
“I have to say it’s the first time since I’ve owned the Mavs when I’ve walked downstairs and saw our centers taking jump shots and that I didn’t cringe,” owner Mark Cuban said.
But you get Cuban’s point. The two men who will play the vast majority of center minutes for the Mavs this season do the majority of their offensive damage with their jumpers.
That’s quite a difference from Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood, whose limitations just damaged the Mavs’ offense. The Mavs actually ran a play on occasion to get Tyson Chandler an elbow jumper that he knocked down pretty efficiently, but it’s not like opponents game-planned to prevent the missing piece to the Mavs’ championship puzzle from getting midrange looks.
“We have a new dynamic this year,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “and we really think it’s going to help our offensive game.”
Brand, who will split time at power forward and center, is one of the league’s most effective shooters in the 10-to-15-foot range.
According to HoopData.com, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant are the only players who attempted more shots from that range last season than Brand (3.4 per game). Brand hit 45.6 percent of those attempts, which ranked behind only Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Bass, David Lee, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Duncan and Luis Scola among power forward/centers who operate from that range on a regular basis.
Brand isn’t bad a bit further from the hoop, hitting 43 percent of his 2.5 shots per game from 16-23 feet last season.
Kaman excels at that range. He hit 45 percent of his shots from 16 to 23 feet last season, which ranked fifth among centers, trailing only Zaza Pachulia (seriously), Kurt Thomas, Marreese Speights and Duncan. Kaman averaged almost as many attempts from 16 to 23 feet (3.3 per game) as he did at the rim (3.6).
Kaman also does a lot of work from 10 to 15 feet, launching more shots from there (3.0 per game) than every center except Al Jefferson last season. His shooting percentage in that range (43.6) ranked sixth among big men.