Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carlisle > Avery

Tuesday: Carlisle > Avery ...

Yes, I said it. I said it Sunday at this very blog and then I had the audacity to say it again on the radio on Monday. Let me repeat for emphasis for anyone not sure if I mean it.

Rick Carlisle is coaching this team better than Avery Johnson could.

This, of course, will send some people to their emails to fire me back a retort about "Avery got them to the NBA Finals", and that is true. He did. He got the mentally strong Dallas Mavericks of 2006 to the NBA Finals, and for that, Avery Johnson should be credited heavily. As for the mentally weak Dallas Mavericks of 2007 and 2008? Not so much.

I am not comparing Carlisle '09 to Avery '06. In fact, I was a huge fan of Avery '06. But, then he lost his head - and in doing so, the Mavs lost their nerve. He seemed to alienate many of his assistant coaches and many more of his players between June '06 and April '08. He forgot what made this team special 24 months prior and seemed to go somewhat crazy in his efforts to find a solution that he could never locate. The premise of firing Avery Johnson was an easy conclusion . He lost the team. So, therefore, he lost his job.

Meanwhile, here is Rick Carlisle, who has yet to win a series with the Mavericks. So, I understand some recoiling in anger by "Avery Loyalists" if it sounds like I am comparing both of their bodies of work when I say Rick Carlisle is making sense out of Avery's mess. I am not looking at their full Mavericks resumes. In that competition, Avery Johnson is arguably the most successful coach in Mavericks history - after all, he is the only coach to get this team to an NBA Finals and the only coach to help a Maverick win the MVP (Just ask him).

But, in the name of elaboration, allow me to say why the abrasive Carlisle is more appealing to me right now than Avery '08; I saw this team out-coach its opponent in a playoff series (to this juncture). I saw a Mavericks coach deploy a bench player (JJB) who gave the opponent's coach fits (You may recall Avery had the opposite done to him in the Golden State Series). I saw a Mavericks coach require the opponent's coach - who has 4 rings - to counter his adjustments by starting Bruce Bowen in Game 4. I saw a Mavericks coach push the Spurs coach to run up a white flag in Game 3 with 20 minutes of basketball left. And, most importantly, I saw a Mavericks coach figure out a plan when the opponent took away what the Mavs like to do offensively.

That means the Mavericks have a coach in '09 that can do something that their coach could not do in '07 or '08; adjust to the series when the series is not adjusting to him.

And when he did make his adjustments, the Spurs looked out-matched. We shall see if he can get the toughest of the 4 wins to close the series, but I love knowing that the Mavericks have Plan B and Plan C when Plan A is not working on offense.

Avery Johnson could not make sense of this roster just 1 year ago if Dirk and Jet were not stuck on automatic. It turned into desperation 3 pointers from other players in hopes of turning the game. Now, we have more frequency in trips to the paint and to the rim. Erick Dampier, who Avery campaigned to get in a trade and then who Avery took off the floor in the Golden State series, now appears to be one of the main reasons the Mavs have found success in Games 1-4. And a win without Dirk leading them? How about 3 wins without Dirk dominating with the ball?

This Carlisle is making me think he has a few tricks up his sleeve.

So, if you are confused, I am not saying Carlisle winning 3 games in the first round of a series is better than Avery's entire body of work. I AM saying that Rick Carlisle has the 2009 Dallas Mavericks - with all of their limitations - playing better than Avery Johnson could get them to play.

It doesn't mean that they will be in the 2009 NBA Finals. If they beat the Spurs tonight, it is possible that they will lose in Round 2 (although I am willing to play the series), but this is about whether or not the Mavericks are playing to the best of their ability. And I think they finally are. Let's see if Carlisle can continue to out-maneuver Popovich and find another decent road performance in a hostile environment.

But, let the record show from this corner of the blogosphere: The decision the Mavericks made last year to end the Avery Johnson era has proved to be the proper one.

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