The Thunder are facing the Mavericks tonight for the third time this season, which means that I've been remiss during the first two games in seeking out Mavs Moneyball's GM Lisa Rotter for a Q&A session. If you recall, we had a grand time during last season's playoffs with our Q&A cross-posting between WTLC and MMB, and so we want to continue the discussion here.
The Mavs, lest you have forgotten, were the Thunder's final opponents during last season's playoff run, and their season culminated in the franchise's first championship. This event led to one of the best things I've ever seen a fan write about the championship experience, as Lisa was pulled into the championship aftermath and later relayed it to the great fans at MMB.
So before you tune in tonight, check out the answers Lisa provided to us here:
1. Here is your moment to bask - what does it feel like to be the leading site for and a devoted fan of the defending champs?
You flatter too much. There are plenty of awesome sites out there. We are in good company. But as for being a fan of the defending champs... it's one of those "Your Argument is Invalid" sort of things. No matter what kind of nonsense people say about the Mavericks from this day forward, we fans have the ultimate retort: CHAMPIONSHIP. The only downside is that expectations are now even higher than ever, so when we go through these stretches of lazy basketball, the critics have a field day. Whereas before we could slip under the radar, easing into the playoffs undetected, now there's a giant bulls-eye on our collective backs. Tell you what though, it's totally 100% worth it.
2. The Mavericks lost some key components to last year's championship run. How has the team sought to rebuild itself, and who has stepped up in the place of those who are now with other teams?
I think I speak on behalf of a large majority of Mavericks fans when I say that we're tired of hearing about Tyson Chandler. He was an absolutely integral part of our championship run, yes. But as you can see from the current state of the Knicks, he wasn't the reason for it. Same goes for J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson. They stepped up and filled their roles admirably, but the truth is, they were all replaceable. We have a pretty phenomenal front office at the Dallas Mavericks, and they were able to obtain the likes of Delonte West, Lamar Odom and Vince Carter, all for relatively cheap. Aside from Odom's slow start, we're seeing immediate impacts from all of them. Carter seems to have found Jason Kidd's fountain of youth, and we're getting to see the VC of olden days with high-flying dunks and a bit of swagger. West has been absolutely key in providing a tandem replacement with Rodrigue Beaubois for Kidd as he recovers from various old man injuries. And Odom? When he eventually finds his feet, he's one of the hardest players in the league to stop.
3. How do you think the Mavs are going to hold up with this compressed basketball schedule, and will they be more willing to cede wins now in the hope of being healthy when the playoffs start?
We aren't the Spurs. Now that I got that out of the way, no, I don't think they will cede any wins. The reason I say that is that the Mavs have become consistently among the top bench teams in the league. The additions we made this season only help to further that. We've already seen that the team can with with both Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki on the bench. That speaks volumes- it means that Rick Carlisle can limit the minutes of the older guys and keep them fresh for the playoffs without hurting their chances at winning in the regular season.
4. Which teams do you see as your biggest impediments to getting back to the Finals, and why?
The Thunder. And I'm not just saying that. This team is so dangerous, especially for an older team like the Mavericks. They've already shown they can hang with them when the going gets tough. Also, surprisingly, the Timberwolves. Kevin Love is a freak of nature, and Dallas has already lost to them twice this season. Somehow they've figured out how to beat Dallas repeatedly, and I think they have our number going forward.
Many thanks to Ms. Rotter for her answers, and be sure to check out Mavs Moneyball tonight.