The Dark Side: Q and A Preview of the Dallas Mavericks

Nov 22, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) is fouled on a shot attempt by Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) is fouled on a shot attempt by Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder face off Friday night. The Mavericks, a long-time rival for OKC, continue to evolve and find a way to be a threat in the Western Conference. We caught up with Rami Michail (@RyMichail), former editor of and contributor to SB Nation’s, to discuss possible trades and the end of Nowitzki Era in Dallas.

Adding Wes Matthews to the team seemed to have been a risky move during the offseason What do you think was the reasoning behind his addition and how has that move worked out so far?

Adding Wes was a risk for obvious reasons, but the team saw plenty in him to take a gamble. First, we all know about his work ethic. If anyone was going to come back from this injury, it would be him. Second, after seeing Delonte West, O.J. Mayo, and Monta Ellis line up at shooting guard since the championship season, the team finally found stability at the position.

Wes hasn’t only come back sooner than expected — Estimated return was mid-December. He started opening night — he’s starting to show why the team gave him the max. While his offense is still rounding into shape, his defense has been phenomenal. And after having Monta Ellis starting at shooting guard the last two seasons, it’s a pleasant sight for Mavs fan all around.

I expect Wes to keep getting better and to consistently be the guy we saw in Portland the last few years.

In keeping with the same theme, many didn’t expect Dallas to have been as good as they have been. Are you surprised by their record this year and what has been the biggest reason for this “unexpected” improvement? What are your expectations for the team now that we’re halfway through the season?

Am I surprised? Naw, not at all. I’m more surprised how bad the West has been overall though.  But on the Mavs, as long as you have Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle, this team will always compete. In my opinion, many experts expected Wes and Chandler Parsons to miss a good chunk of the year, and be horrible while recovering. They probably thought Dirk would look old, and expected Deron Williams to be bad. Not even us Mavs’ fans expected Zaza Pachulia to be the double-double machine he’s been.

Thankfully none of that has really happened (knock on wood). This team should continue to get better. Parsons and Wes are still getting healthier. Also, let’s not forget this roster didn’t have a preseason together, so the chemistry is getting better game after game.

As for expectations, I think they hover around the fifth and sixth seed barring any major shakeups in the West

With the NBA Trade Deadline fast approaching, are the Mavs buyers or sellers? Do you have an area of need or a particular trade that you’d like to see addressed?

I can’t see the Mavs being sellers or big buyers. I think they try to add back-end rotation pieces, hopefully. The team can really use some help and length on the wing and at power forward behind Dirk. The Mavs aren’t exactly stacked with assets, so pulling off any beneficial move could be tough.

What is, in your opinion, the reason for Rick Carlisle’s continuous success? No matter what roster the team fields from year-to-year, he always seems to have them perform at a high level.

Simply, Carlisle is a Wizard. He knows his players very well, and plays them to their strengths, which seems like simple thing, but it makes such a big difference on the court. Which is why we see vets “revitalizing” their careers in Dallas.

Another under-appreciated trait of his is his ability to stagger lineups. The Mavs usually will have balanced lineups on the court throughout the whole game, which will always give them a chance to compete.

Carlisle at times drives us crazy. He loves playing J.J. Barea and Charlie Villanueva. But despite that, there’s no denying he’s a top-two coach and know’s what he’s doing.

Lastly, it’s clear that we’re nearing the end of Dirk Nowitzki’s hall-of-fame career. What has he meant for you and the Mavs fanbase, how much does he have left in the tank and how do you see the team be able to move on when he eventually decides to call it a career?

Dirk Nowitzki is the Dallas Mavericks. At least for me. Anytime I picture the Mavs, Dirk comes to mind. I can go on and on, but this would never end.

As far as how much left in the tank, I believe he can play another 2-3 years of quality basketball if not more. His skill set will always allow him to be a weapon on offense. The issue will be his rebounding and defense, where he’s obviously a hinderance at this stage of his career.

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I have no idea what the Mavs will do or be once he’s gone. The team invested in Parsons and Wes, and thought they had DeAndre Jordan in the mix. Mark Cuban will do everything possible to get another star in Dallas. But that’s easier said than done.

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