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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Will this bench be better than last one?

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- Jason Terry used to call last season's bench the best in the NBA and it often was. The Dallas Mavericks' new bench posted 47 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and two blocked shots with just five turnovers in Monday's 13-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And then the possibilities came flooding through.

"Right now, it is on paper," Terry said when asked if this bench is better than last season's, a unit that sometimes outscored the starters. "But, it hasn’t been there consistently the first six ballgames. We’re going to have to get it done. There’s no other way around it. The team is counting on us."

The roll call of players coming off the Mavs' bench still has something of a surreal quality to it: Terry, Lamar Odom, Vince Carter.

"It’s a different makeup than last year; different style, different strengths, so we’ve got to play to those," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’re going to have to figure things out as we go along to a certain degree. But, it’s a good bunch of guys and they’re trying. We’ve got to keep pushing them.”

Those three players are a combined 100 years old -- 101 when Carter turns 35 in three weeks -- and have started 2,211 NBA games. It makes Dallas' bench arguably the most unique combination of players in the league. It includes two of the last three sixth men of the year (Terry and Odom) and an eight-time All-Star that Carlisle continually pumps as a sure-fire Hall of Famer (Carter).

As Terry, noted, the first six games haven't been perfect. Carter started the opener at shooting guard,but was out of the starting lineup by the start of the second half of that Christmas Day game. Odom has had an especially difficult time adjusting from his comfort zone with the Lakers and living in L.A. to suddenly being traded to the Mavs.

Odom is on a rigid conditioning program after he opened the season 6-of-37 from the floor in the first five games. Carter is shooting just 34.9 percent, but he's over 42 percent from bey0nd the arc and he has hit some timely shots. He was a major factor doing one-on-one work against the Thunder, scoring a season-high 14 points and getting to the free throw line nine times.

Terry, well, he just keeps on being the Jet.

"It’s a part of the game we need," Terry, averaging 14.5 points and 42.9 percent on 3s, said of bench production. "It’s going to be a strength of ours because when we come in there with that second unit there’s going to be matchup problems. One of the problems they’re going to have is facing Vince Carter in the post with one of their smaller guards. Lamar Odom, at the three or four position, where he’s either going to have a speed advantage or a size advantage. Those are opportunities we have to take advantage of.

"If we don’t win those matchups, we’re going to struggle."