Ken Berger: ‘The Chemistry May Be Becoming An Issue’

The Dallas Mavericks haven’t just been losing in the last couple of weeks; they’ve been getting destroyed.

The Mavs were mashed, 127-94, at home by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. Dallas has now lost five of its last seven, with an average margin of defeat of 18.8 points.

How bad has it gotten? Amar’e Stoudemire, who was acquired from the Knicks in February, publicly criticized his new teammates for their lack of focus. That’s right. Amar’e Stoudemire. Who has won nothing. And spent the last five years with the Knicks.

Dallas (41-25) is 5-6 since the All-Star Break.

“They’re really struggling,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Amar’e Stoudemire (called) them out as a group last night, saying, ‘We can’t cheat the game. We can’t fool around.’ Of course, then he was dressed like he was in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I don’t know what that was all about.”

Stoudemire, 32, is averaging 11.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.1 blocks in eight games with Dallas.

“Everybody knows he’s not going to be a big defense and rebounding guy,” Berger said, “but offensively, he’s been giving them what they need off the bench. Dirk is in a shooting slump right now. Tyson Chandler is banged up. That seems like something that we say all the time. He just has such a hard time staying healthy.”

And then there’s Rajon Rondo. The Mavs were 19-8 when they acquired the mercurial point guard from the Celtics in December. They’re 22-17 ever since.

“With Rondo, the chemistry there – or lack of it – may be becoming an issue,” Berger said. “Long-term, everybody understands it’s going to be an issue. Rondo might just be the kind of personality, the kind of guy, to walk away from money and go somewhere where he’d feel more comfortable. But in the short term, they’ve got to figure it out. They’ve really come back to the pack.”

The Mavs, once in contention for a top-four seed in the West, have fallen all the way to seventh. They still have a healthy 4.5-game lead over Oklahoma City (35-28) for the eighth spot, but things aren’t looking good.

“The West was so deep, 1 through 8,” Berger said, “and now you’re staring to see some separation of teams that are the serious contenders and the ones that are kind of struggling.”

Getting back to Rondo, though, Doug Gottlieb will tell you that the most important part of being a point guard is being a guy with whom people want to play – and a guy for whom people want to play.

Rondo, it seems, is neither of those things.

“That’s a fair point,” Berger said. “He is a very passionate guy, I guess is the kind way to say it. He’s extremely headstrong. He has a certain way of going about things.”

Rondo is averaging 9.3 points, 6.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 31 games with Dallas. Those numbers are down across the board with his career totals. He’s also shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor.

Berger said Rondo is similar to Kobe Bryant in his competitiveness and stubbornness, but it’s a little different.

“When you’re Kobe Bryant and you have five rings and you’re one of the top scorers of all time, you can do some of that,” Berger said. “I think Rondo may be running into some difficulty personality-wise. He was so good with the Celtics because all those guys were kind of nuts. And now he’s got to find a way to fit in with this group.”

The Mavs host the Clippers (41-23) this Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

 

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