Countdown: Worst-case scenario

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
12:01
AM CT


DALLAS -- All bets are off for the Dallas Mavericks if the remarkably durable Dirk Nowitzki suffers a significant injury this season.

Christmas Countdown
Let's assume Nowitzki, who has never missed more games in a season than the nine games he sat out last season after spraining his knee, stays healthy. The defending-champion Mavericks are at the minimum a playoff team.

The worst-case scenario is that they’ll be another version of the 2003-04 Mavs. That one-and-done playoff squad will always be remembered for the Antoines. Or the Antawns.

See, they couldn’t even get on the same page regarding the spelling of the shared first name for their two major offseason additions. Adding Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison to the mix was a failed chemistry experiment.

The Mavs hope that isn’t the case with Lamar Odom and Vince Carter, a couple of similarly accomplished players who are a little further along in their careers.

“That’s fair,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “The problem with that is we had two guys who couldn’t pass. One wasn’t willing, and one wasn’t able.”

Nelson laughed as he made the point, but he’s not kidding when he says he thinks Odom and Carter have the unselfish mentality to mesh well with the Mavs, who became the symbol for the power of team basketball while beating the superstar-studded Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Another significant difference between these Mavs and their ’03-04 predecessors is that coach Rick Carlisle knows he has a starting-caliber center in Brendan Haywood. Don Nelson went the "mad scientist" route at center in that season, splitting time between wide-body Danny Fortson, creaky Scott Williams, 7-foot-6 stiff Shawn Bradley and various small-ball lineups. The result then was a defensive disaster, as the Mavs ranked second to last in points allowed.

The Mavs’ Tyson Chandler-led defense made a parade in downtown Dallas possible last season. If Haywood can step up to provide a stiff defensive backbone, the Mavs could be the team to beat in the Western Conference. If he can’t, the Mavs could revert back to one-and-done mode.

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103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.

Galloway & Company: Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Mark Cuban talk

Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Marc Stein

Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: The Standoff

Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Ramona Shelburne

ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.

Fitzsimmons and Durrett: Buy or sell

Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Marc Stein

ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2