The affection of Mavericks fans, early in the season, settled on Jae Crowder with a near Linsanity level of enthusiasm. And why not? After years of the worst drafting the Western Hemisphere has ever seen, here was a rookie who not only seemed capable of doing things well, he LIKED to do them. Had that motor. No Josh Howard here. A rookie capable of starting a Mavs game nearly right out of the box!
Skeptics pointed out that Crowder, never known for his three-point shooting, was doing a lot of damage behind the arc, a blip on the radar likely to fade. No one cared.
But as Crowder's minutes faded from 30 against the Knicks to 6 verse the Cavs, to DNP-Coach's Decision vs. the Warriors, his points per game continued to hover below 7, and his rebounds per game-not expected to be a problem, below 2 and a half, the bloom faded from the rose rather quickly. It is not that Crowder does not have a future in the game, it just doesn't seem to be quite now, today, as was once believed.
That bloom has recently alighted on another player, the surprisingly old rookie Bernard James, whose physicality is born from actual combat experience. In a lot of ways, this makes more sense.
First of all, James, unlike Crowder, fills a need. The Mavericks are getting destroyed on the boards. Although it certainly seems as if Troy Murphy can still shoot the three (which was repeatedly predicted by this writer, who has somewhat of a kneejerk reaction to people writing off players within a week of their returning to the game, or from injury) (7-12 last two games, suckas), he hasn't grabbed more than 4 boards in the last four games, despite ample playing time.
James' 5 boards in 18 minutes against the Warriors, 5 in 16 against the Cavs, 7 in 16 against the Pacers is unqualified good news for a team that got 17 boards from Chris Kaman and still got out-rebounded by 19 against a team that played nobody over 6'10" for more than 21 minutes.
(P.S. Mavs, the lesson of the Golden State game is that you can still rebound if you want to. I digress).
It is not clear that James will be able to score. He is putting in 52% of his shots in the month of November, and is actually shooting 88% from the line, though his 0-3 in this latest one suggests that might not keep up. For what it's worth, his .86 points allowed per game is, so far, worse than Chris Kaman's .83 and even Brandan Wright's .85, though that might not pass the smell test and is, in any case, comparing a rookie to two veterans.
But if he can expand his offensive game, than the rookie most likely to produce for the Mavericks this year, and potentially going forward is, unfortunately for Jae Crowder fans, Bernard James. This could all change if Crowder starts figuring out how to score against NBA defenses from inside the three-point line, and rebounding, but that's where it stands right now.
And of course, we have not seen hide nor hair of Jared Cunningham, J-Flight, the Mavs' highest pick in this last draft, since a minute of garbage time on 11/9 and 11/5, and 8 minutes of garbage time on 11/3. So far he has flashed no parts of his game except for a good-looking three-point shot, and has collected one rebound, one assist, one steal, one turnover, and two personal fouls in his NBA career.
It's early, and Cunningham missed training camp. And Rick hates rookies. But given the Mavericks history at the draft since grabbing Dirk in 1998, no one could blame Mavs fans if they felt like viewing that particular selection askance until proven otherwise.
This has been your Mavs rookie update!