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Outsider Report: Growing Pains

The Outside Report is a monthly column that delivers an in-depth look at a topic trending in my head.

2707865156_9482dd0fd7_bGrowing Pains. No, I’m not talking about Growing Pains, the sitcom that had a recurring character named “Boner” in it. Growing pains are a part of something that is starting anew.

Dirk Nowitzki had some bold words in regards to his team over the weekend.

“The way we let those games slip away, I don’t think we’re a playoff team. We’ve got to win those games. We should be able to find a way to get some stops and then protect the homecourt.”

Nowitzki said that in the locker room after the team’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. L.A. erased a seven-point deficit with 4:06 to play by finishing the game on a 16-2 run to send the Mavericks to another frustrating loss.

I don’t think Nowitzki has seen the recent standings breakdown because the Mavericks currently are a playoff team. I’m kidding, of course. It’s evident that Nowitzki is frustrated with the defensive disposition of the team. His candid nature does lend itself to delivering gold to the media. This clearly was scooped up by the masses and it delivered significant headline porn.

Proof? Nowitzki said the comment was taken out of context. It’s just a case of wording working against him. I get what he’s saying. They’re in a spot to make the playoffs, but if they keep losing games the way they’re losing them, then they’ll no longer be a playoff team. He just didn’t express his point in the clear and proper way. It happens. In the 24-hour news cycle, the idea of Nowitzki saying the Mavericks “aren’t a playoff team” will fade away.

The hits kept on coming as the Mavericks could only muster 80 points against a somewhat struggling New York Knicks roster.

If got to the point where during the game against the Knicks, Dirk yelled What the f— are we doing, man?”

A high-pitched response from a woman sitting in some expensive seats? “That’s what I want to know!”

Back to growing pains. The general lack of frustration from both Nowitzki and the fans comes from the lack of defense and rebounding, but it also probably comes from the lack of familiarity within the new core.

Think about it, when the Mavericks were most successful they were that due to have cohesion and chemistry through establishing a core. They established their core and brought in ancillary pieces that would work well off the existing core. Sometimes those pieces worked and sometimes they didn’t.

Over the last two years, the core has been blown up and reinvented into different incarnations. For now, it appears that Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis will be the new pieces to the core that will work with Dirk Nowitzki. Even within this season, changes had to be accounted for as the team had to adjust to bringing Brandan Wright back into the mix. They will have to do it once again when Devin Harris makes his eventual season debut.

Change is often hard and painful. Everyone knew coming in that Dallas would struggle on the defensive end of the floor. Things could radically change with Harris’ return or maybe it won’t. Either way, the Mavericks appear to be at least one or two players away from making some significant headway in their overall development.

 It sounds like the changes will need to include some tough love as Samuel Dalembert was benched for the second time this season due to oversleeping. For those who don’t remember, he was benched for the first quarter of Dallas’ Nov. 18 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I just feel ashamed of it right now,” Dalembert told reporters after the loss to the Knicks.

It should be noted that this is Dalembert’s fifth team in just as many years. Dalembert is a 12-year veteran in the league. He clearly knows what it takes to make it in the league, but he also knows what exactly he can do to skate by and get away with things without facing major repercussions.

“He’s been in this league long enough,” Nowitzki told reporters. “It can’t happen. It can happen once. We’ve all been late, we’ve all slept too long, but then you’ve got to learn from it and try to be a professional. It happened again unfortunately. I guess we didn’t play him tonight and will kind of move forward, but as a team, we can’t let that be a distraction all the time.”

The Mavericks are at a bit of a crossroads in their season. Change is certainly needed. With the lowest of the lows potentially upon the team, it’s up to Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavericks to ensure they don’t fall out of the playoff picture.