After the Dallas Mavericks fell to the Washington Wizards at home Tuesday night, 127-126, Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma took to Twitter to chastise the Mavericks. “The funny thing is they don’t play winning basketball,” Kuzma wrote, followed by a string of emojis.
Kuzma was responding to a tweet from The Dallas Morning News beat writer Callie Caplan, who had quoted Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie after the game. “For them, it’s a showcase. They’re over there trying to get paid, not trying to play winning basketball. For a team that has real aspirations and has an MVP, went to the conference finals last year, we have to be better to a man,” Dinwiddie said.
While Kuzma’s tweet expectedly went viral, his remarks aren’t entirely without merit. The Mavericks haven’t been playing winning basketball—recently and for much of the season. Dropping Tuesday’s game to Washington, who had just traded Rui Hachimura and were without Kristaps Porzingis, is another reminder that Dallas is heading in the wrong direction.
“Just not getting the wins,” Mavericks star Luka Doncic said about his frustrations after the game. “We let a couple games go.”
The Mavericks are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have lost two in a row. Dallas dropped games to the Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers (twice), Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers (twice) and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers and Hawks are the only teams currently in playoff contention.
Dallas’ defense has suffered mightily in that span. It ranks twenty-seventh in league with a defensive rating of 121.3. Only the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have a worse rating in their last 10 games. Each of those franchises is lottery-bound, vying for Victor Wembanyama.
It isn’t just a dreadful defense that is doing Dallas in. The team also can’t make its free throws. Against the Wizards, the Mavericks shot decently from the charity stripe, making 22 of their 26 attempts. However, they only shoot 75.1% at the line in their last 10 games, despite shooting free throws with the second-highest frequency in the league.
Things are grim from a wins and losses perspective of late, but the mood in the locker room is still good, Dinwiddie says. He knows that the only place the team can look to place blame is with itself.
“I think this is one of the highest character, more close-knit teams I have been a part of,” Dinwiddie said. “Talking about Theo [Pinson] and DP [Dwight Powell] and those guys a lot, just in terms of keeping the mood solid. As far as the frustration and disappointment in ourselves, we can all look in the mirror with that same maturity and recognize that we are not doing our jobs at the level we are capable of.”
The Mavericks were able to turn their season around last year, mainly due to a trade with the Wizards that shipped out Porzingis and brought in Dinwiddie. There’s no indication that another season-saving trade is on the horizon, but it’s apparent that the Dallas front office needs to do something to energize the team.
Kuzma’s condescending description perfectly defines the Mavericks at the present moment. The team is mired in mediocrity and heading in the wrong direction. They sit one game over .500 at 25-24 and are in danger of falling into the play-in tournament bracket. Dallas will have to put the loss to the Wizards—and other recent disappointments—in the rearview mirror if they hope to turn things around.
“I think it could be disappointment,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said, describing the team’s mood. “In the shootout, we had our chances. Give the Wizards credit there for getting a stop at the end of the game. We had our chances coming down the stretch, and we just couldn’t close the door. But, the guys fought. Disappointment, probably. It’s a game we’ll learn from and get ready for this road trip.”