Dallas Mavericks: Dallas Mavericks

HOUSTON -- As a 17-year veteran, Dirk Nowitzki dreads back-to-backs under any circumstances.

To have been on the butt end of a back-to-back for all four meetings against a fierce rival? That strikes Nowitzki as strange, to say the least.

That’s the case for the Dallas Mavericks against the Houston Rockets this season. Without prompting, Nowitzki made a point to note it after Mavs’ 95-92 loss Saturday night.

“They’re catching a break this year,” Nowitzki said, replying to a question about whether the Mavs failed to take advantage of a break with Rockets center Dwight Howard missing the game due to a knee injury. “They’re catching us four times on back-to-backs. I’ve never even seen this in this league before, but it is what it is. You catch a break, you don’t catch a break, it doesn’t matter. You’ve still got to win a game.”

The Rockets hadn’t played since Wednesday night. They’ll be extraordinarily well rested for their next two meetings with the Mavs, too.

Houston is off the previous two days before hosting the Mavs on Jan. 25. Houston will have nine days off when they go to Dallas for their first game after the All-Star break on Feb. 20. In the final meeting between the teams of the regular season, the Rockets will also be on a back-to-back, hosting the Sacramento Kings the night before playing in Dallas on April 2.

“Hey, it kind of looks weird on paper,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in this league, that you play one team four times on a back-to-back, especially a good team that you’re trying to fight with. But it is what it is. And, like I said, back-to-back or not, you’re up four in the last minute, you’ve got to find a way to close it out.”

Mavs owner Mark Cuban shrugged off the strange scheduling quirk, joking about a conspiracy theory.

“It’s the scheduler -- he’s a Rockets fan. He showed me his ring from ’94,” Cuban said sarcastically. “I don’t know, it’s just the way it is.”
videoHOUSTON -- This is far from how Chandler Parsons hoped his return to his former NBA home would play out.

The booing by Houston Rockets fans every time he touched the ball didn’t bother Parsons too much, though he did make a point to remind them via the media that he was a restricted free agent and the franchise declined its right to match his three-year, $46 million contract. Parsons said he was actually touched by the “real classy” tribute video played on the Toyota Center big screens during a timeout, when he waved to acknowledge the crowd while receiving more cheers than jeers.

All in all, the Rockets fans and organization treated Parsons fine during his first trip here as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons’ problem was with his performance in the Mavs’ 95-92 loss Saturday night to the injury-depleted Rockets.

“Wish I would have played a little bit better,” said Parsons, who scored 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting and went 0-of-5 from 3-point range. “Never really got settled in. It’s part of it, but the most frustrating part is just to lose.”

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons and the Mavs were pretty well contained by the Rockets.
Parsons had plenty of company in his misery, as the 10-4 Mavs’ six-game win streak was snapped. Dallas’ two most potent offensive weapons also had off-nights.

Heck, Parsons was sizzling, compared to all-time great Dirk Nowitzki, who knocked down only four of his 18 shots from the floor and none of his eight 3-point attempts. That was a shocker for a future Hall of Famer who is putting up the most efficient numbers of his career. Shooting guard Monta Ellis, the Mavs’ scoring leader, wasn’t much better and scored 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting.

Nowitzki and Ellis, in particular, have been the focal points of a Dallas offense that has gotten off to a historically hot start and is averaging more points per possession than any NBA team on record. The Mavs were fresh off matching the scoring record at the American Airlines Center while lighting up the Los Angeles Lakers for 140 points in Friday's blowout win.

Dallas’ Run DMC trio -- Dirk, Monta, Chandler -- each scored more than 20 points in that rout, despite sitting out the fourth quarter. They combined to miss only 10 of 33 shots against the Lakers, the league’s worst defensive team.

That makes the trio’s 14-of-48 shooting night against the 10-3 Rockets all the more startling. Sure, Houston has the best defensive efficiency in the NBA, but the Rockets were without defensive anchor Dwight Howard, who wore a bow tie and watched from the bench while nursing a strained right knee.

“We didn’t have a good shooting night, which is going to happen, and on those nights, your defense has got to hold you in there,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Clearly, from start to finish, our defense wasn’t good enough.”

Dallas’ defense was dreadful in the first half, when Houston moved the ball like the Mavs have most of the season and sizzled from long range. The Rockets’ 13-of-25 shooting from 3-point range fueled their 60-point first half.

The Mavs managed to rally from an 18-point deficit in the second half, but they failed to finish the deal after building a five-point lead with 1:22 remaining. Rockets star James Harden had five of his 32 points in the final minutes, including the go-ahead, old-school 3-point play that left Nowitzki wondering why a charge wasn’t called.

In the final seconds, Ellis missed a 3 that would have sent the game into overtime. The Mavs couldn't believe it came down to that, as badly as their best scorers shot the ball.

“Still should have won the game,” said Nowitzki, whose 11 points were a season low. “I don’t care, I missed a lot of shots, but up four with fifty-something seconds to go, you’ve got to find a way against a division rival to pull that game out.”

The Mavs won't find a way to win many when their best scorers struggle so badly.
HOUSTON -- The Dallas Mavericks' six-game winning streak was snapped despite rallying from an 18-point deficit in the second half. The short-handed Houston Rockets charged back to take the lead in the final minute.

Player of the game: Rockets shooting guard James Harden, one of only two healthy Houston starters by the end of the game, scored a game-high 32 points, including the go-ahead bucket and free throw in the final minute. Harden also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists.

Play of the game: Harden gave the Rockets the lead for good on an and-1 drive in transition with 28.2 seconds remaining. Former Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons tried to draw the charge but was whistled for a blocking foul.

Greeting of the game: The Toyota Center crowd, which included a surprising number of empty seats for a game between rivals who are Western Conference contenders, welcomed Parsons with loud boos during pregame introductions. Houston fans booed every time Parsons touched the ball. A lot of Rockets fans did show some love midway through the third quarter, when a Parsons video tribute played on the big screens during a timeout, thanking him for “three great seasons in Houston.” Parsons had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds.

Stat of the night: The Rockets, who were sizzling from 3-point range in the first half, made only two of 21 attempts beyond the arc in the second half. Houston finished 15-of-46 from long distance, just three attempts shy of the record set by the Mavs in a March 5, 1996 win over the New Jersey Nets.
DALLAS -- For the last few years, Chandler Parsons ranked among the Houston Rockets’ fan favorites. He’ll return to the Toyota Center on Saturday night as a rival, perhaps even a villain.

The Rockets are likely to welcome Parsons with a tribute video on the big screens at some point during the game, as they did for guard Jeremy Lin when he visited with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week. But the audio might be drowned out by fans who are disgruntled that Parsons departed for Dallas, of all places. Those hard feelings are fueled by the bitter public exchanges Parsons had via the media this summer with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and star shooting guard James Harden.

[+] EnlargeChandler Parsons
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons showed some swagger, dropping 21 points on the Lakers while covering Kobe Bryant.
“I think the women will cheer and the guys will boo,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said, half-kidding about the full-time small forward, part-time jeans model’s popularity with the ladies.

“I don’t know, I have a feeling a couple of girls will boo,” Parsons said with a smile that probably doesn’t seem as charming to the Rockets’ female fans as it did the past few years.

You can bank on Parsons hearing how overpaid he is a few hundred times. The three-year, $46 million contract he signed with the Dallas Mavericks as a restricted free agent, deemed by Morey to be too rich for the Rockets to match, is part of Parsons’ identity at this point.

But there is one sure way Parsons can shut up any bitter Rockets fans: Ball like he did during Friday night’s 140-106 rout of the Lakers, when he was worth every penny and then some.

Parsons scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting against the Lakers before joining the rest of the Mavs’ starters on the bench for the fourth quarter. He scored several of his buckets after making smart cuts to the basket, looking as comfortable in the Mavs’ offense as he has all season.

However, Parsons’ most impressive work came on the other end of the floor. He was the primary defender on 32,000-point scorer Kobe Bryant, who struggled to get 17 points on 6-of-22 shooting.

“When you play a team that’s so dominant by one player, I want to take the challenge,” Parsons said. “I wanted to guard him and I wanted to do whatever it took for our team to win. You stop him, you stop them. I just wanted to make it difficult for him. He’s one of the best scorers to ever play the game, so I just tried to use my size and stayed down on his fakes and make him shoot over a taller defender.”

So does Parsons want the challenge of covering his old buddy Harden?

“Yep,” Parsons said. “For sure.”

Parsons tried to downplay the matchup with the Rockets as “just one game out of 82,” but this is no doubt different. He admitted his return to Houston would be an emotional experience for him. His parents -- “My party buddies!” Cuban greeted them, referring to the night Parsons signed his offer sheet at an Orlando club -- are visiting and will make the trip.

“These things are never easy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “They always are emotional. He just needs to approach the game the same way he did tonight and it’ll be good.

“He was so locked into everything from the most minute defensive coverage detail, and he was moving the ball great and moving great. When you’re doing that, you just react and play. That’s what he’s got to do and that’s what we’ve all got to do tomorrow.”

Parsons won’t win any popularity contests in Houston, but he can help the Mavs win a game.

Mavs 140, Lakers 106: Run DMC leads rout

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
10:05
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DALLAS -- The NBA’s best offensive team blew out the league’s worst defensive team. Who could have possibly seen that coming?

Player of the game: This was perhaps the best all-around performance in a Dallas Mavericks uniform by Chandler Parsons. He scored 21 points in 29 minutes, going 8-of-13 from the floor with several of his buckets coming off smart cuts to the basket. He also did an excellent job as the primary defender on Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who needed 22 shots to score 17 points. Honorable mentions go to Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 21 minutes) and Monta Ellis (20 points, 7-of-10 shooting, 10 assists).

Spurt of the game: The Mavs managed to score seven points in the final 5.9 seconds of the first quarter to stretch their lead to 11 points. After Nowitzki knocked down two free throws, Jae Crowder picked off a comically poor inbounds pass by Lakers center Robert Sacre, who made matters worse by fouling Crowder on a layup. Crowder missed the and-1 free throw, but Richard Jefferson batted the rebound out to J.J. Barea, who drilled a double-pump 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Stat of the night: The Mavs’ Run DMC trio -- Dirk, Monta, Chandler -- each had at least 20 points. None of them played a second in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the night, part 2: The Mavs had at least seven players score in double figures for the third time in 13 games this season. Dallas did that only three times all last season. It's the second time this season the Mavs have had eight players score in double figures -- something that didn't happen at all the last three seasons.

Are Rockets better with Ariza or Parsons?

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
5:38
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Chandler ParsonsMelissa Majchrzak/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons has struggled at times on offense with Dallas.

HOUSTON -- Most of the Houston Rockets’ headliners watched their words carefully this week regarding the replacing of Chandler Parsons, who will return to town this weekend with the rival Dallas Mavericks.

Center Dwight Howard danced around the subject, saying he didn’t want to compare Parsons and Trevor Ariza, who filled the Rockets’ void at small forward with a much more cap-friendly contract than the three-year, $46 million deal Parsons signed with Dallas.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who offended Parsons with his July explanation of the Rockets’ decision not to exercise their right to match the Mavs’ offer to the restricted free agent, simply declined an interview request via Houston’s media relations office.

However, shooting guard James Harden responded to a question about how Ariza has changed the dynamic in Houston with the ruthlessness of one of his basket attacks, certainly not shying away from contact, perhaps even seeking it.


“His leadership, his defensive abilities, his shot-making -- all three of those things are something that we were lacking last year,” said Harden, who ruffled Parsons’ feathers this summer when he downplayed the impact of the small forward’s departure, describing himself and Howard as Houston’s cornerstones and the rest of the roster as role players. “[Ariza] brings that ability to the table this year.”

The Mavs, who are 10-3 and have the NBA’s best offense entering Saturday night's game against the Rockets, unquestionably became a better team because of Parsons’ move up Interstate 45. Can the 9-3 Rockets make the same claim? The early results suggest that's the case.

Parsons, for the record, says he hopes Houston does well but doesn't concern himself with how Ariza fares filling his shoes.

"I don't pay any attention to him," Parsons said recently. "Listen, many people replace many people every year in this league. He's a good, proven player in this league. He's supposed to play good for them."

Ariza’s intangibles, by definition, can’t be measured against Parsons’. Ariza, who is averaging 14.5 points and 2.6 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the floor and 39.2 percent from 3-point range, hasn’t matched Parsons’ offensive production from last season other than slightly better 3-point shooting. But there’s no denying the defensive impact the 6-foot-8 Ariza has made for the Rockets.

Houston has gone from decent to dominant defensively. The Rockets, with Ariza joining Howard and point guard Patrick Beverley as proven stoppers in the starting lineup, have the league’s stingiest defense so far this season.

Houston ranked 12th in the NBA in defensive rating last season, allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions. That number has plummeted to a league-low 94.3 after 11 games -- 92.5 with Ariza on the floor.

“I’ve been able to instill some of the beliefs that I’ve had throughout my career here as well as understand what they already do and try to build on that,” said Ariza, a 10-year veteran who has no issue with being characterized as a role player. “I think that’s something that our staff has always believed in but this year we’re focusing on more.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Ariza
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesTrevor Ariza has helped make the Rockets a better defensive team.

“Me being a player that throughout my career I’ve been known to be a defensive player or presence or whatever the case may be, it just helps out a lot. And it’s been a great fit so far.”

It certainly isn’t how Morey hoped to piece together the Rockets’ starting lineup this summer. The plan was to add a proven All-Star in free agency and then exceed the salary cap to keep Parsons.

Houston had to go to Plan B when Chris Bosh surprised the team by re-signing with the Miami Heat and the Mavs gave Parsons a much more lucrative offer than the Rockets anticipated the restricted free agent receiving.

At that point, Morey made the call to prioritize cap flexibility over continuity, essentially declaring that he didn’t believe Parsons would blossom into the third star the Rockets need to maximize their championship chances. By signing Ariza to a four-year, $32 million deal, Houston replaced Parsons without sacrificing its chance to pursue an All-Star again next summer.

(Get ready for the Rockets-Mavs rivalry to heat up again over the offseason, when they’re both positioned to be at the front of the line for free-agent-to-be point guard Rajon Rondo, among others.)

“It came down to a bet of Harden, Howard and Parsons being the final piece, because we would have had no ability to do anything after that,” Morey said on Sports Talk 790 AM in Houston the day that Parsons’ deal with Dallas became official. “And Harden, Howard, Parsons could have been good enough. I think Parsons is a tremendous player and is going to keep getting better.

“The question is, is it better with that core or is it better with Ariza plus the hundreds of moves that might be able to upgrade us in the other scenario?”

Perhaps at some point the Rockets will miss Parsons’ offensive versatility, which the Mavs valued so much. Maybe that time has already come.

The Rockets, who also dumped guard Jeremy Lin and his double-digit scoring average this summer to create cap room for Bosh, have averaged only 85.5 points over the past four games, a span in which Houston is 2-2 with close, low-scoring wins over the 0-11 Philadelphia 76ers and 3-10 Oklahoma City Thunder.

Of course, Parsons didn't exactly explode out of the gates in Dallas, fighting through the worst shooting slump of his career. His numbers -- 14.5 points, 41.9 field goal percentage, 34.7 3-point percentage, 2.4 assists -- are significantly down from last season and lower almost across the board than Ariza’s this season.

Not that the Mavs, who had the luxury of bidding high because Dirk Nowitzki gave them a historically steep hometown discount, have any buyer’s remorse. They still view the 26-year-old Parsons, who has been a key cog in the league’s most efficient offense by far, as a terrific fit with huge upside.

“They’re both top-shelf small forwards,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “You could sit here and compare apples and oranges, but they both put their own unique stamp on the position.

“We both came away with probably our best-case scenario at the small forward spot.”

Legends Latest: 'James Gang' going strong

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
1:45
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Each week, ESPNDallas.com will take a look at the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate for the Dallas Mavericks, in order to see how the two are working hand in hand to improve one another.

The Dallas Mavericks released a parody video a few weeks back. In it, the Mavs' trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons dress up like the old-school hip hop group Run DMC -- in this case, Dirk, Monta and Chandler -- and show off their rhyming skills.

The Texas Legends, meanwhile, are rolling to the beat of the "James Gang." That's Bernard James, Damion James and Mike James, who have powered the Mavs' D-League affiliate to a 2-0 start to the 2014-15 season.

Dallas fans are familiar with the work of Bernard and James, both of whom suited up for the big-league squad in recent years. But Damion James, the 24th overall pick of the 2010 draft by the Atlanta Hawks who has also played for the Nets and Spurs, is making the most of his first impression. James is averaged 14.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the team’s first two games, including an 18-point, 14-rebound performance in the Legends’ recent victory against the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Mike James, meanwhile, has been the stabilizing influence the Legends were hoping for when they acquired the veteran point guard. James, 39, is averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 assists for the Legends while on his quest for one more shot in the NBA.

Summer-league standout Eric Griffin has also shined, showing off his athleticism by scoring at least 20 points in both games this season. He’s also averaging 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals.

Mark your calendars

The Legends begin a four-game homestand Friday with a matchup against the Santa Cruz Warriors. They host the Austin Spurs at Dr. Pepper Arena on Saturday night. Both games start at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen live on the D-League's YouTube Channel.

Here is sales pitch from Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations for the Mavs and co-owner of the Legends:

“[Fans] will see a high-octane caliber of basketball," Nelson said. "They will be able meet those players afterwards. It’s an opportunity to meet a young Dirk before he becomes untouchable and take pictures with them. It’s an extremely affordable mode of entertainment that is a three-ring circus. We’re blending basketball with Ringling Bros.

“You’ve got a bunch of cool stuff going on in the arena. Even if you’re not a rabid basketball, you’re going to have a great time, watch an incredible game of basketball, and meet all of the players afterwards."

But not least ...

Just as the James Gang was gaining steam, it appears that “the band” may be breaking up. Multiple sources confirmed that center Bernard James will sign a deal to play in China. While that is a loss for the Legends, it presents an opportunity for James to play against international competition and possibly earn a little more money.

The situation with James is the nature of the beast for a team like the Legends. As they perform well and have players perform well, they will find opportunities outside of the D-League.

With the Legends' next four games set in Frisco, Mavs swingman Ricky Ledo has been assigned to the team.

Devin Harris (leg) out vs. Lakers

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
11:30
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DALLAS -- Mavericks guard Devin Harris will miss his second consecutive game Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavs are being mysteriously elusive about details of Harris' lower right leg injury.

Harris declined to speak to the media after the Mavs’ shootaround, saying he had been told not to say anything and deferring questions to coach Rick Carlisle.

“He’s doing a little bit better,” Carlisle said. “We’ll have an announcement probably later in the day.”

About a half hour later, Carlisle sent reporters a text message saying Harris was out against the Lakers.

Carlisle declined to answer any follow-up questions about Harris, including how much the veteran guard participated in the shootaround.

Harris, who is averaging 8.6 points and 4.4 assists per game, did not play in the second half of Monday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets and sat out Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards. He said during the road trip that his leg had been bothering him for about a week before the decision was made for him to rest.

Terry on 'other side' of Mavs-Rockets rivalry

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
3:45
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HOUSTON – Jason Terry proudly wears Houston Rockets red these days, happy to have a chance to play with a contender again at the age of 37.

But “Jet,” who spent half of his 16 NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, readily admits that there’s still a lot of blue running through his blood.

“I’m still true to what we accomplished with the organization,” Terry told ESPNDallas.com a few nights before he’ll face the Mavs at the Toyota Center. “It’ll never be forgotten. But now I’m with the Rockets. I walked right into the rivalry. These two teams do not like each other. I’m just on the other side now.”

Terry used to be considered a Rockets killer, a title he earned during the 2005 playoffs, when he had a pair of 30-plus-point performances to help Dallas dig out of a 2-0 hole to eliminate Houston in the first round. He’s heard countless times this season how strange it is to see him in red.

When it comes to rivalries, however, Terry considers himself somewhat of a chameleon.

“It’s my job,” Terry said. “Whatever team I go to, I take on whatever they’ve got. Like when I was in Boston, it was the Lakers. We couldn’t stand each other. I played for Brooklyn and had a thing for the Knicks. I jumped right in. I wear whatever hat I play for. It’s always personal for me. They’re the enemy now.

“It’s not a disdain. It’s just a healthy, competitive [feeling]. I definitely don’t want them to win.”

Terry developed a two-fold reputation during his years in Dallas: He was an elite clutch scorer and perhaps even more potent trash talker. However, you won’t hear him say a harsh word about the Mavs.

Terry, who is averaging 7.4 points per game off the Rockets’ bench, still considers several members of the Mavs organization to be close friends. That isn’t limited to coach Rick Carlisle and former teammates Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris.

Terry, who has been promised a position with the Mavs once he decides to hang up his Reeboks, feels a great debt of gratitude for the way the franchise has treated him since his departure from Dallas, where he hoped to finish his career.

The Mavs allowed Terry, who still has a home in Frisco, to train at their facility during his recent time in NBA limbo, when he was officially on the Sacramento Kings' roster but in reality waiting to be moved to another franchise. Terry is especially appreciative of the treatment he received from Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith while recovering from the knee surgery he underwent in the 2013 offseason.

For 48 minutes on Saturday night, Terry will put those warm feelings aside, for the first of four meetings between franchises that have become two of the NBA’s fiercest rivals.

“It’s like your brother, if you were to play against him,” Terry said. “It’s always going to be the toughest battle you have. At the end of the day, I hope I win, and then we’ll shake hands afterward and give hugs.”

3 Points: Can Mavs keep up offensive pace?

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
9:30
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ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor in chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. Can the Mavs keep up this historically efficient pace on offense?

Gutierrez: Absolutely. Dallas has a main core of players that works harmoniously with Dirk Nowitzki, which is crucial. They believe in the “pace and space” approach. On top of that, this group possesses a high level of basketball IQ. They will work to spread the floor, pass frequently and attack when the opportunity presents itself. If this group can stay healthy, this offense will go down in the history books as one of the best.

Taylor: Of course not. As Rick Carlisle has said numerous times, the Mavs are in the easy part of their schedule and they're doing what they should do to bad teams. The Mavs will be one of the NBA's top teams this season, but they're not going to be one of the top offensive teams in NBA history -- and that's OK. As the schedule gets tougher their numbers will dip, but they will embarrass a lot of teams on the second night of back-to-back games this season.

MacMahon: Why not? This was an elite offensive team last season that made significant upgrades at two spots in the starting lineup. It’s not a surprise that the Mavs are by far the league’s most efficient offense so far this season. It is a bit surprising that the Mavs have been so explosive with Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson off the slow starts. Those two will get better, so we might not have seen the Mavs hit their offensive peak yet.

2. Other than Dirk Nowitzki and his hometown-discount deal, which Maverick is the best bargain?

Gutierrez: Brandan Wright is an easy choice, based on his salary, but give me Monta Ellis ($8.3 million). When he’s going right and drives toward the rim, Ellis is a truly dynamic weapon that can sometimes be nearly unstoppable. He might be the perfect weapon alongside Dirk when they go with pick-and-pop action. Ellis is a heck of a No. 2 option, and he’s giving Dallas everything it needs on offense.

Taylor: If Parsons is getting $15 million, I don't know how you could have a bigger bargain than Ellis. He's a perfect fit on this team for what Carlisle wants to do and how he can play off Dirk -- and he only costs a little more than $8 million. Do you really think Parsons is twice the player Ellis is?

MacMahon: It comes down to two dudes with minimum deals: Al-Farouq Aminu and J.J. Barea. As much as I like Aminu’s athleticism and upside, Barea gets the nod, in large part because the little guy has proven he can perform in big moments. The 2011 Finals hero carried the Mavs in the clutch during Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, putting up 10 points and four assists in the fourth quarter. He’s averaging 7.8 points and 4.3 assists in 16.6 minutes off the bench this season, pretty impressive considering he didn’t join the Mavs until the second day of the season. His net rating (plus-19.5 points per 100 possessions) is the best on the team.

3. As we get ready for Chandler Parsons’ return to Houston this weekend, how much bang are the Mavs getting for their 46 million bucks at this point?

Gutierrez: The consensus is that they overpaid for Parsons. That’s OK because Dirk took less money and you will overpay for younger talent and potential. His development in Dallas is still a work in progress, but he’s fitting into a role that works best for Year 1: an athletic Jose Calderon. He will spot up on the soft side of the floor and be a bailout option for Nowitzki and Ellis, with the ability to drive and finish.

Taylor: Parsons seems to be doing exactly what Carlisle said he could do, which is score points, rebound, dish a little and hit the 3. He's had a couple of clunkers, but that's to be expected because he's a really good player -- not a star. He might evolve into one, but he still has work to do.

MacMahon: Not as much as anticipated. The Mavs, who pegged Parsons’ value at around $10-12 million per year but had the luxury of bidding higher due to the Dirk discount deal, weren’t banking on him morphing into a superstar. But it was reasonable to expect Parsons to at least match his production from last season (16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists) after improving in all those categories each of his three seasons in Houston. His numbers are down across the board, but there’s no need to panic about Parsons. It’s early, and he is playing a significant role on a 9-3 team.

Devin Harris (leg) out vs. Wizards

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
10:30
AM CT
Dallas Mavericks reserve guard Devin Harris will not play Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards due to soreness in his lower right leg.

Harris told reporters after the Mavs’ morning shootaround that he hopes to miss only one game.

Harris, who is averaging 8.6 points and 4.4 assists in 23.1 minutes off the bench, did not play in the second half of Monday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets because of the pain in his leg. It’s a condition he has been dealing with for about a week, but the Mavs don’t consider it a major concern.

J.J. Barea is likely to have his minutes increase in Harris’ absence. As the Mavs’ fourth guard, Barea has averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 assists in 15.9 minutes per game.

Guard Raymond Felton still must sit out three more games to satisfy the terms of his NBA suspension, which stemmed from his guilty plea to gun charges in New York last season.

How is Brandan Wright so efficient?

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
9:00
AM CT
Brandan Wright gets easy buckets for a living.

That's a heck of a lot harder to do in the NBA than it sounds.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Wright
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonBrandan Wright leads the NBA in field-goal percentage (.750) and has shot at a .636 clip since arriving in Dallas in 2011.
Wright does it as well as anyone, which is why he leads the league in field-goal percentage, hitting exactly three-quarters of his shots so far this season. Sure, it's a small sample size to this point. But Wright shot 67.7 percent from the floor last season and sits at 63.6 percent over his three-plus years with the Dallas Mavericks.

"Each year, I've been getting better and better as far as field-goal percentage," said Wright, who is averaging 9.7 points in 18.2 minutes off the Mavs' bench. "One of these days, it's going to go down."

As long as the 27-year-old Wright can get up to eye level with the rim, it's a safe bet that his shooting percentage will rank among the NBA's highest. After all, there aren't many players with a 36-inch vertical leap and a 7-foot-4 wingspan.

Wright plays to his strengths with his shot selection. He has worked to expand his shooting range to about 18 feet, and he's knocked down 100 percent of his attempts outside the paint so far this season. That is, he's 1-of-1 on such shots.

The vast majority of Wright's attempts come at point-blank range or pretty close to it. According to NBA.com's data, 45 of Wright's 60 attempts have come within five feet of the basket, where he's shooting 80 percent. His 45 field goals include 16 dunks and 17 layups.

"My job is simple. When I get the ball, I need to make a play with it," said Wright, who has ranked in the league's top 25 in player efficiency rating the past three seasons and sits second behind only New Orleans' Anthony Davis in the category so far this year. "Thankfully, most of the time, I've been able to finish."

But it's not as simple as standing by the rim and waiting for the ball to come your way. Wright, who benefits from playing the vast majority of his minutes at center alongside a floor-spacing power forward, has mastered the art of making himself available around -- and above -- the rim.

Wright's high basketball IQ, honed over hours of studying film and helped by playing in the same offensive system since arriving in Dallas as a lottery-pick reclamation project in 2011, helps him get on highlight reels.

"He's a knowledgeable player that understands where openings are," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He does a good job anticipating and getting to them. We've got guys that understand where to get him the ball, where he is and things like that. That helps, too."

Wright, like 70-percent-shooting starting center Tyson Chandler, flourishes at catching and finishing after rolling hard from a pick set for the ball handler. Wright also excels at slipping screens, cutting to the rim when he catches his defender cheating a half-step in anticipation of showing against the guard. And Wright has a knack for finding cracks in the defense, whether he's cutting from the weak side or exploiting a defense compromised by a drive.

"He's got a feeling of when to get around the ball," said Mavs guard Devin Harris, who has assisted on 12 of Wright's buckets this season. "He understands how to read his defender, and it's easy to get the ball to him. You can't overthrow him. I have actually [tried]. It hasn't happened yet."

Wright, in his eighth year in the league and fourth with Dallas, is still rising.

Crunching numbers from Mavs' hot start

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
1:15
PM CT
It’s a small sample size. The early-season schedule has been soft. There are surely other reasons to discount the awesome statistics being produced by the Dallas Mavericks if you wish.

But the numbers are at least worth noting.

A small sample of some of the 8-3 Mavs’ most impressive stats:
  • The Mavs lead the league in point differential at plus-11.1 per game. The 2007-08 Boston Celtics, who won the title that season, are the last team to have a positive double-digit point differential for an entire season.
  • The Mavs lead the league in offensive efficiency with 115.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com’s statistics. The gap between the Mavs and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the second-ranked team, is roughly as large as the gap between the Cavs and the two teams tied for No. 15, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks.
  • Basketball-reference.com, which uses a slightly different formula, calculates the Mavs’ offensive rating at 117.3. No team in the website’s database has had a higher offensive rating for a season.
  • The Mavs are committing the fewest turnovers in the league (11.0 per game), and they rank second in field goal percentage (49.2) and fourth in assists (24.5).
  • Two Mavs centers are shooting better than 70 percent from the floor. Reserve big man Brandan Wright leads the league in field goal percentage, hitting 75.0 percent of his shots. Starting center Tyson Chandler (70.3) ranks third.
  • Three Mavs rank among the league’s top 10 in player efficiency rating: No. 2 Wright (28.36), No. 6 Dirk Nowitzki (26.27) and No. 9 Chandler (24.47).

Mavs' new starters shine in Charlotte

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
9:43
PM CT
video

The Dallas Mavericks won 49 games and gave the San Antonio Spurs a seven-game scare in the first round last season with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as co-stars.

The Mavs have much bigger things in mind this season after revamping the rest of their starting lineup over the summer, trading for Tyson Chandler and signing Chandler Parsons and Jameer Nelson.

[+] EnlargeJameer Nelson
Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty ImagesJameer Nelson had his best game as a Mav on Monday, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, along with eight assists.
Nowitzki and Ellis were the least impressive of the Mavs' starters during Monday's 107-80 blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets.

It's not that they were bad, although they weren't as efficient as usual. Ellis scored a team-high 18 points but was only 7-of-17 from the floor. Nowitzki added 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, joining Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as the only players in NBA history to score 27,000 points with one team in the process.

But this performance could serve as a template of what the Mavs need from their three new starters to make a deep playoff run. Chandler, Parsons and Nelson each excelled in their role, allowing Nowitzki to watch the fourth quarter from the bench for the third consecutive game.

"We've got to have balance," coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. "It can't all come from one guy. We can't put the whole game on Dirk's shoulders or Monta's shoulders or anything like that."

The Mavs gave Parsons a three-year, $46 million deal because they viewed him as a versatile foundation piece just entering his prime. He looked the part against the Hornets, stuffing the box score with 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting and nine rebounds and six assists.

Dallas dealt for Chandler with the expectation that he could be everything they've missed from their starting centers since the Mavs let him leave following the 2011 title run. In short, they need him to defend, finish around the rim and rebound. He played 23 dominant minutes in Charlotte before joining Nowitzki on the pine for the fourth quarter. He had 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting/dunking, grabbed nine rebounds and held star Hornets big man Al Jefferson to six points on 3-of-12 shooting.

The hope for Nelson, a bargain-bin signing for the cap-room exception of $2.7 million, was that the 10-year veteran could be a solid, steady point guard for the Mavs. He got off to a slow statistical start, but Nelson showed what he's capable of Monday with by far his best performance of the season. An 11-point, 4-of-6-shooting, 8-assist, 2-steal, 1-turnover line will do just fine.

Nowitzki and Ellis are a good enough duo to get the Mavs to the playoffs but need a lot of help to do any damage once the postseason starts. Plenty of capable company came to Dallas this offseason.

If this performance is the standard for the Mavs' summer additions, they'll be busy deep into the spring.

Devin Harris exits due to soreness in leg

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
7:45
PM CT
Dallas Mavericks reserve guard Devin Harris did not play in the second half of Monday's win over the Charlotte Hornets due to soreness in his right leg.

Coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game that Harris has been dealing with "a little ankle thing that we’re trying to take care of."

Harris played 10 scoreless minutes in the first half, dishing out five assists.

Harris is essentially the Mavs' sixth man, getting playing time at both backcourt positions and averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 assists in 24.4 minutes per game during Dallas' 7-3 start. If Harris has to miss any more time, J.J. Barea would probably see more minutes.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.7 4.6 1.1 31.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 10.2
AssistsM. Ellis 4.6
StealsD. Harris 1.3
BlocksT. Chandler 1.5