Aw, shoot. That's Texan for "there is no quick fix." You've heard it before, especially if you've visited Dallas lately. Aw, shoot, the Cowboys have gone south. Aw, shoot, somebody blew the whistle at SMU. Aw, shoot, there's an oil glut. Aw, shoot, the Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Lakers again, 112-104, at The Forum on Friday night. Aw, shoot. That's right. That's the spirit. Just keep on shooting, Dallas. You've got the Mavs to keep you company all winter.
The Mavericks believe in shooting. In fact the Mavs are among the shootingest teams in the NBA, hot pistoleros whose only curse is that they're still a little wet behind the trigger fingers. But save your sympathy for the Cowboys. The Mavericks are no quick fix. Last season they were second in the NBA in scoring with 115.3 points per game, despite an almost nonexistent fast break. This year the Mavericks lead the NBA in scoring with 117.3 points per game, and the lowest field goal percentages among their starters belong to top guns Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman (the two were shooting a combined .501 as of Sunday). Aguirre and Blackman didn't help their average by shooting 11 for 31 against the Lakers. "Our big guns weren't into it," said coach Dick Motta. "Mark didn't want it tonight. Ro had five turnovers. Unusual. He's not a turnover player."
"We won't have eight nights like this all year," said Aguirre. Blackman agreed: "One bad night. But we have a whip here. We won't sweat one game."
Certainly no need for sweat, not when you can put up numbers like the Mavs can. Sandwiched around their loss to the Lakers were games in which Dallas shot the lights out in Sacramento and edged the Kings 127-124, and beat the Golden State Warriors 109-104 on Saturday night in Oakland. The win over the Warriors was the 66th consecutive game in which Dallas has been in triple figures. "We can really shoot," says Motta, who, in his 19th year in the NBA, is about to get noticed as a coach again, and not just because he sometimes crosses his fingers when a Maverick puts one up from the scorer's table. Aw, shoot, Dick. Don't sweat it. It's going down.
It's not just Aguirre and Blackman that the rest of the NBA has to worry about. It's all those other guys who have helped to build Dallas's 12-6 record and 1½-game lead in the NBA Midwest Division—and who make the Mavs a team of the future that can play today. It's point guard Derek Harper, who leads the team in assists and has great shooting range. "And he's a thief on defense, besides," says Blackman. It's 6'9" forward Sam Perkins (.530 from the field), who stalks the offensive perimeter, adjusting his bombsight and looking for the 18- to 25-footers he can hoist—and make—without hesitation. It's Detlef Schrempf, Aguirre's West German caddie, who leads the league with an impossible three-point field goal percentage of .625.
Still, in the last two minutes Aguirre and Blackman are the ones that Motta wants to see punching passes in a two-man game, with the 6'6", 232-pound Aguirre using that mountainous derriere to control the low block and absorbing the ball with hands that wear a size 14 ring. "Mark is a monster down there," says the 6'6" Blackman, who can move furiously off a great pivot foot, squaring himself to the basket while Aguirre is settling down low. "If you're on D, which one do you want?" Blackman asks. "Me or Mark? I don't think you want either."
Unless you're the Lakers. The Mavs have lost twice this season to the Riders of the Purple Break, and they lost four out of six to L.A. in last year's playoffs. "It always happens that way," said Perkins. "We just let them get away." The Lakers, however, have taken note. "Dallas is tougher than Houston," said Magic Johnson after his 27 points, 10 assists and 8 boards sent the Mavs away mumbling. "You know Houston is going down low. With Dallas, you have to play everybody."
Blackman and Aguirre combined for 61 against the Kings and 38 against the Warriors. Against the Lakers? Aw, shoot. Only 27. But sooner or later, Ro and Aguirre, the Muffin Man, will figure out that they can shoot it in front of Jack Nicholson just like they shoot it in front of everybody else.
But do Harper, Perkins, Schrempf, James Donaldson, rookie Roy Tarpley and Al Wood have enough starch in their wrists to keep the Mavs close, so that Blackman and Aguirre can shoot them into—or out of—the NBA finals? The Lakers of Abdul-Jabbar and the Rockets of Olajuwon will have something to say about that. The 55-year-old Motta has never had a dominant center like those in L.A. and Houston, and he has the character lines in his face to prove it. But boy, can he condition a team and get a shot for a shooter. At times, though, his dry wit is lost on the latter. After Aguirre scored 32 no-sweat points in the Mavs' win at Sacramento, Motta said, "Everybody on the team has the green light. Except Mark." Motta laughed. It was a pleasant joke. Aguirre, sitting on the floor close by, made a muted laughing sound. He found it only mildly amusing. No love lost? No doubt, but some things were meant to be. "I can get my shot," Aguirre said later. "Nothing [that Motta] and I have gone through has caused me a problem on the court. Sure, it's no fun being thought of as trade bait, especially when you think you've done a lot for an organization. But Dick wants to win. I can help. So that's the bottom line."
"Mark is a unique individual," Motta says. "He's a bleeping genius. And most geniuses are bleeped up. They hear different drummers."