Dallas Mavericks: Alexis Ajinca

Ian Mahinmi ready if shot comes vs. Griffin

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
9:30
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DALLAS -- Ian Mahinmi said he's ready to take the Blake Griffin challenge if he's summoned to play tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Oh yeah. You will never hear me say I can't don't want to guard someone," Mahinmi said. "As a young big, it is always a challenge to guard a rising superstar."

Now that Alexis Ajinca has been traded to Toronto, the Dallas Mavericks are down to three 7-footers at the center position (OK, technically, Mahinmi is listed at 6-11, but three 7-footers sounds better). And Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn't afraid to use all three with Brendan Haywood and Mahinmi providing differing styles behind starter Tyson Chandler.

"I don't know If I am the backup or Brendan, but I just try to stay ready," Mahinmi said. "I think every time I go out there I earn the coaches' trust more and more."

Carlisle likes to plug in Mahinmi when he feels the team needs an energy jolt. Carlisle used him for 13 minutes in Saturday's 87-86 win over the New Jersey Nets. He scored six points and had just one rebound, although he played significantly more than Haywood, who was on the floor for just five minutes while averaging 17.7 minutes.

"We’ve got a real good 1-2-3 punch with our center position and I’ve got to keep all three guys engaged and ready," said Carlisle, who went on to say that he's happy with Haywood's production and work ethic. "I’ve got no complaints about anything having to do with effort or anything like that. It’s just keeping guys engaged, and I want to develop Ian as well as take advantage of what Brendan can give us."

Alexis Ajinca trade still in league’s hands

January, 24, 2011
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DALLAS -- The Mavericks continue to wait for league approval on the contested Alexis Ajinca-to-Toronto trade that will then enable them to sign free agent Peja Stojakovic, who is in town and watched the Mavs' Monday practice.

Ajinca remains in Dallas, too, but he's waiting at home until his fate is determined. Mavs president Donnie Nelson said he's hopeful the trade will gain the NBA's seal of approval, but if it doesn't he said the Mavs are prepared to make a roster space available with a different move. That would likely mean simply waiving the 7-foot-1 center.

As for Stojakovich, he's already been ruled out for Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers by coach Rick Carlisle. Of course, at this pace he might not even be signed by then. The earliest it appears Stojakovic will be ready to suit up is Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

UPDATE: The league approved the Ajinca trade Monday afternoon, and the Mavs signed Stojakovic soon after.

Mavs look to steady ship on homestand

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
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Tuesday kicks off four games and a full week at home for the weary Dallas Mavericks. This team is eager to put the past behind and build off Saturday's win at New Jersey that ended an otherwise brutal stretch in which six of their last seven games and 11 of 17 were on the road.

"We’re going home, got some home games, some practice time. We’ve got to take advantage of it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’ve got to build on our last three games. We’ve played better basketball and we’re getting healthy."

That practice time begins Monday and the Mavs might have a new teammate participating. Peja Stojakovic is expected to sign today, owner Mark Cuban said Saturday night. But, that all depends on the process regarding the league-delayed trade of center Alexis Ajinca that would open a roster spot for Stojakovic.

What normally would be a fun way to start a homestand with the Los Angeles Clippers in town Tuesday is suddenly a much more difficult task with stud rookie Blake Griffin making a hard push for an All-Star spot while making the other L.A. team a much tougher out.

The Mavs also face the Houston Rockets (Thursday), Atlanta Hawks (Saturday) and they close out the homestand against the Washington Wizards (Jan.31), who are 0-20 on the road.

Dallas is looking to get back their winning ways and start chipping away at the San Antonio Spurs' 8 1/2-game lead in the Southwest Conference. San Antonio plays 11 of its next 12 on the road starting tonight. The Mavs have not strung a pair of wins together since Jan. 2-4.

"We're close to getting our mojo back," guard Jason Terry said. After the Laker game we felt a little something. Chicago game we figured if we got to the fourth quarter, execute a little better, we win that one and now we’re really high. Coming into [New Jersey] was a must-win, we can’t lose this one, I don’t care what the score is, how close it was, we had to win it and the fashion that we did that builds your confidence. Things are good. We stayed positive through all this and [now] we've got a big homestand."

Alexis Ajinca and the cold side of NBA life

January, 22, 2011
1/22/11
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Alexis Ajinca, the Dallas Mavericks' 7-foot-1, usually upbeat, fourth-string center, arrived at United Center Thursday in Chicago and walked through the concourse headed to the locker room as he always does with his head phones on and his head gently bobbing atop his long, lanky body.

But, this day would be like no other in his three-year career. The Mavs were in the process of acquiring a verbal commitment from Peja Stojakovic to join the team after he was waived by the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. To make room on the 15-man roster, Dallas would have to shed a player and it was working on a trade to send Ajinca to the Raptors, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

Ajinca was getting ready for the game when TNT, which was broadcasting the game, caught Mavs coach Rick Carlisle breaking the news to Ajinca, a Frenchman who is quite friendly with French-speaking teammates Ian Mahinmi and Roddy Beaubois. Because of the ongoing nature of the trade mechanics, Ajinca was sent back to the team hotel and presumably he figured he would soon be told when he would be leaving to join his new team.

Only a snag has held up the trade, as Stein reported, leaving Ajinca a man essentially without a team. Ajinca did not travel to New Jersey on Friday with the team. Instead he is back in Dallas waiting to be informed where he'll go next and when.

Alexis Ajinca awaits word back at hotel

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
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DALLAS -- Fourth-string center Alexis Ajinca is the odd-man out to make room on the 15-man roster for the impending signing of Peja Stojakovic.

As ESPN.com's Marc Stein is reporting, the Dallas Mavericks are working out a trade to send Ajinca to the Toronto Raptors.

Because of the ongoing talks, Ajinca was sent from the United Center where the Mavs play the Chicago Bulls back to the team hotel to await word on his immediate future.

"We've sent him back to the hotel because there is a possibility that he will be traded," Carlisle said. "Nothing's happened yet. I'm not sure anything's going to happen tonight or anytime in the immediate future, but there is that possiblity."

No-brainer in signing shooter Peja Stojakovic

January, 20, 2011
1/20/11
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CHICAGO -- Adding Peja Stojakovic and subtracting Alexis Ajinca is a no-brainer move for the Dallas Mavericks, a club that doesn't need a fourth, albeit affable, center and desperately needs another proven weak-side shooter to fill the void left by the injured Caron Butler.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein has reported that Stojakovic has given the Mavs a verbal agreement to join them once he clears the 48-hour waiver period. To make room for him on the 15-man roster, Dallas, in a separate trade, is shipping Ajinca, a throw-in last offseason in the Erick Dampier-Tyson Chandler deal, to Toronto.

The only question is how much Stojakovic has got left. At 33, Stojakovic's All-Star days are well behind him and injuries are an ongoing issue. This was not a blockbuster deal but rather a small, but heady move to get a sharpshooter that can dial it in on any given night. He's dealing with a knee problem now that's kept him on the bench for all but two games in Toronto after being traded there from New Orleans in a salary dump.

If Stojakovic can get on the floor and stay there he is one of the great pure shooters in the league and provides the Mavs with an additional spot-up threat on the wing. He's played in just eight games this season -- six with New Orleans two with Toronto -- so it's questionable as to what kind of immediate help he can offer. Still, in his limited time, he's made 48.4 percent of his 3-balls (15-of-31).

The signing certainly can't hurt. After all, this a team that is now starting 10-day contract player Sasha Pavlovic at small forward so Shawn Marion can come off the bench where he's been extremely effective as a scorer and defender.

The 7-foot-1 Ajinca might one day amount to a role player in this league, but he offers next-to-nothing for a veteran team like Dallas with championship aspirations. He'll get some developmental time at rebuilding Toronto, while Stojakovic, knees allowing, can provide spurts of instant offense like he did on Nov. 15 when he hit 4-of-6 from the arc and scored 17 points in 19 minutes -- against the Mavs.

Dirk's out and Tyson Chandler is sick

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
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SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks will be without Dirk Nowitzki tonight against the San Antonio Spurs and as if the situation isn't dire enough, Dallas could be down another starter. Center Tyson Chandler is under the weather and missed the morning shootaround.

Asked if Chandler will be able to play, coach Rick Carlisle said, "Hopefully."

Chandler was having a difficult time speaking after Thursday's practice because his voice was going hoarse. Later Thursday night he took to his Twitter account to ask for advice on what to take when you lose your voice.

Fourth-string center Alexis Ajinca said he expects to make his second consecutive start at power forward. If Chandler is unable to play, that leaves Carlisle with an interesting decision. He can start backup Brendan Haywood or former Spurs backup center Ian Mahinmi, who performed well the last time the Mavs played in San Antonio.

Mahinmi received playing time in that Mavs victory on Nov. 26 because Carlisle suspended Haywood for the game after a dust-up between the two at the morning shootaround. Haywood has yet to face the Spurs this season. Carlisle curiously did not play him in the second meeting on Dec. 30 in Dallas. It is Haywood's only DNP-CD of the year.

Inside Skinny: Alexis Ajinca showcase?

January, 13, 2011
1/13/11
10:16
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The Dallas Mavericks are searching for ways to win in the temporary absence of Dirk Nowitzki and in the wake of the season-ending injury to Caron Butler. It's not going well.

Dallas is 2-6 since Dirk went down with a knee sprain, and they've looked like a team that will really struggle to score in half-court situations come playoff time. But that's no surprise considering three of their top four scorers are out.

The problem is that the Mavs know Butler isn't coming back. They feel pretty good Dirk will be fine. And Roddy B? Considering he has yet to play this season, I'm not sure where the confidence comes from. It's fine to be optimistic, but positivity is a tough thing to hang your hat on when you have championship aspirations.

One of the coaching tropes you've heard a million times is that injuries to rotation guys mean opportunities for someone else. That's what coach Rick Carlisle was alluding to after the game in regards to his decision to start Alexis Ajinca at power forward in Wednesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers. Ajinca played 14 minutes -- after playing 21 minutes in the previous seven games without Dirk -- and actually launched the Mavericks' first shot, from the elbow in the same offensive set that Mavs fans are accustomed to seeing Tyson Chandler get that same shot at the start of many games.

Alexis Ajinca
Danny Bollinger/NBAE/Getty ImagesAlexis Ajinca was the third player to start at power forward in Dirk Nowitzki's absence, scoring just four points on 2-of-7 shooting with three rebounds vs. Indiana.
There was nothing particularly special about his 4 point/3 rebound game. Carlisle said Ajinca had been practicing well and that he felt like his ability to stretch the floor with his shot and utilize his length earned him some playing time. Shawn Marion had been starting at power forward with DeShawn Stevenson moving over to small forward during Dirk's absence. But the Pacers start a bigger small forward in Danny Granger, so the idea that Marion could check him as the three certainly made match-up sense.

But I couldn't help but think there was perhaps a little something extra involved in Ajinca's presence in the game. Because Dallas is an older team, there is a tremendous sense of urgency with this group of guys to try and win it all now. The Butler injury was obviously a devastating blow to those chances. But because he's in the last year of his deal and Dallas has a history of being aggressive on the trade market, there's plenty of discussion on talk radio and in cyberspace about the need for the Mavericks to make a move with Butler's expiring deal being a part of that discussion. But unless a team is doing a straight salary dump, the Mavs don't have a whole lot to offer on the trade front.

Cash? Low first-round picks? Dominique Jones? These aren't exactly blockbuster trade assets. Nice complementary chips -- sure. But not the crux of a solid deal.

I mentioned in last week's Inside Skinny that I had zero feel for Ajinca's game until I saw him up close upon his arrival in Dallas along with Chandler this past summer. What we've learned is that he's a solid athlete for a 7-footer with a nice outside touch comfortably stretching out to the short-porch corner 3. He's also in the last year of a deal making $1.5 million. He's only 22. The more you see him play, the more intrigued you become. Add it all together and that has value.

Teams that may be in trade discussions with the Mavericks right now need to see him play. He's not just a "throw-in." He has skills worth developing, but he's a project and -- as we mentioned in last week's column -- that ain't part of the program with a veteran team thinking about hardware.

Carlisle said it best after the game: "He's a young player that needs a shot." I agree, but when your MVP candidate power forward returns, I see those shots few and far between. Ajinca may have started strictly because Carlisle thought it gave Dallas the best shot to win that game.

But it also felt a little bit like a showcase. A showcase for a shot. Somewhere else.

Rapid reaction: Pacers 102, Mavs 89

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
8:35
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How it happened: Dallas Maverickscoach Rick Carlisle was right. The Indiana Pacers were happy to see his struggling, shorthanded team.

Carlisle tried to mix things up by starting little-used center Alexis Ajinca at power forward and returning Jason Terry to the bench. It worked to the extent that Terry led the team in scoring with 18 points, but he didn't have a great shooting night, making 9-of-20 from the field and missing his only two 3-point attempts.

Otherwise it was another slow offensive night as Dirk Nowitzki missed his eighth consecutive game with a sprained right knee. The Mavs shot just 41.3 percent from the floor -- although they were strong from 3-point range at 9-of-22. Terry led five Mavs in double figures, but none had more than 13 points. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd both had 13, Shawn Marion finished with 12 and DeShawn Stevenson had 10.

Newly signed Sasha Pavlovic saw his first game action and recorded two points, an assist, a steal and two blocks in 16 minutes.

The Pacers shot just 44.6 percent and weren't good behind the arc, making just 8-of-33, but Brandon Rush scored 20 and Danny Granger and Darren Collison had 17 points each.

For the third consecutive game, the Mavs got off to a fast start offensively and led 26-25 after one quarter and were tied 52-52 at the half. And, in what is becoming a trend, Dallas had little going in the second half, scoring 17 points in the third quarter, the difference in the game, and 37 in the second half.

Kidd's 3-pointer made it 93-87, but the Mavs couldn't get any closer. Indiana kept rebooting down the stretch, funneling seemingly every loose rebound for extra possessions, and it was easy to see the frustration building among the Mavs. The Pacers outrebounded the Mavs, 46-41.

What it means: The Mavs suffered their second three-game losing streak without Dirk Nowitzki and fell to 2-6 without him. It doesn't get any easier as the four-game road trip heads to San Antonio on Friday night for the season's third matchup of the season. It is possible that Nowitzki could make his return, but it certainly is not a given.

Stat of the night: Jason Kidd entered Wednesday's game with 1,718 career 3-pointers, tied for fourth all-time with Peja Stojakovich and just one behind Dale Ellis. Kidd made of 4 of 7 from 3-point land against the Pacers to move into third place all alone on the all-time list. Now with 1,722, Kidd will have to hit a whole heck of a lot of 3s if he's going to catch Ray Allen at No. 2. Entering Wednesday's games, Allen had made 2,522. Reggie Miller will hold the 3-point title for a little longer. He made 2,560 in his career.

Is Brendan Haywood earning more PT?

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
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Brendan Haywood runs through the same game-day routine. A long session on the elliptical before the game and then another one after the game. Apparently when logging a career-low 17.8 minutes a game, additional conditioning work is necessary.

But, maybe Haywood is working himself into additional minutes. It's been a tough go for him in his second season with the Dallas Mavericks, but in his last three games he's shown positive signs. He's averaged 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, both above his season average.

Most impressive has been an array of jump hooks he's displayed and hit against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic. In the last three games, he's made 9-of-14 shots and his 4-of-6 performance in the 84-81 win over the Portland Trail Blazers tied his season-high for shot attempts and was one shy of his season-high for field goals (five back on Oct. 31).

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle often works after practice with centers Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca. But, Haywood said his hook is nothing new.

"It's the only shot Eddie Jordan would let me take," Haywood said of his former coach with the Washington Wizards.

What's been impressive about Haywood's recent outburst is that it's come while playing fewer minutes, not more. He put up five points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 10 minutes Saturday against Orlando. He had seven points and four boards -- three offensive -- in 13 minutes against Oklahoma City and four points and six rebounds in 16 minutes against Portland.

Carlisle has said he'd like to keep starting center Tyson Chandler under 30 minutes a game, but that's happened only once in the last six games. Whether Haywood's upswing results in more playing will be seen starting tonight when the Mavs begin a four-game road trip at Indiana.

Now, if he can just do something about that free throw percentage.

Inside Skinny: Roster upgrade thoughts

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
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Most Dallas Mavericks fans are focused on some sort of vintage Cuban-era, headline-grabbing trade in the wake of Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury. I guess it's what we've come to expect. In this case, however, I'm not sure it's what makes the most sense.

Ace homie Marc Stein did a nice job of laying out the trade landscape. Unless the Mavericks are acquiring a young stud, I don't see the point in completely changing the dynamic of this team for an older player. While Stephen Jackson remains a seemingly good fit if the price were right -- right being expiring contract, pick and cash -- I wouldn't mess with my chemistry too much if I were the Mavs. And be realistic, they probably don’t have the trade assets to get a young stud who can do what they need anyhow.

What they need is a healthy Roddy Beaubois. Mavs Nation was abuzz Wednesday that Beaubois was actually shooting jumpers. I know that sounds ridiculous to get all excited about the idea that a guy many of us thought would be back by Thanksgiving is just now leaving the floor during casual shooting, but we're starved for what he could deliver. He's the guy to break down a halfcourt defense with his effortless penetration and money jumper.

[+] EnlargeOmri Casspi
Greg Ashman/Icon SMIOmri Casspi is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Sacramento Kings this season.
Aside from everyone’s personal feelings for Butler, from a team perspective, it wasn't devastating that Dallas lost its current #2 scoring threat to Dirk (when does he return again?). It was devastating that someone as good as Butler was probably going to be the third scoring option behind Beaubois come May. And JET was the spark off the bench. Put that picture in the frame along with the Mavs' stellar D and Jason Kidd's guidance and you have the makings of a deep playoff run. But without Butler and with the uncertainty of Beaubois' situation and, well, it looks like the Mavs are going to need a bigger boat.

But don't put me in the boat with those that think the Mavs need to immediately start shopping. I like the idea of what Stein is reporting as the most likely plan, which is to try and buy a couple of fancy life rafts. The target team that intrigues me the most is Sacramento. Them boys are bad. Not Run DMC bad. I mean hard to watch bad. It's disappointing really, considering I kind of dug what they were doing last year. But this season has definitely been tough sledding. Stein has mentioned that Omri Casspi and Carl Landry are both movable at the right price. I'd love to get both, if that seems a tad unrealistic, but it's worth work-shopping in this here space.

Acquiring Landry seems easier to pull off. He's in the last year of his $3 million dollar deal and highly unlikely to resign there. What's the point of the Kings keeping him around? Doghouse be damned, he shouldn't be getting any of Jason Thompson's minutes. That dude needs to be a positive for them. And if Thompson is going to get back on the right developmental path, he needs as many minutes as he can get. It makes sense to ship Landry elsewhere. Why for the Mavs? Because he's a solid scoring option. Not in the same ways that Butler was, but he can stick the ball in the basket. He's crafty in the paint and just plain goes hard. If he's soaking up all the power forward minutes that Dirk isn't, then Shawn Marion plays exclusively at small forward for the remainder of the season. That's better for him defensively anyway, even if it doesn't suit his offensive game.

What would get it done? According to the superbeast salary resource ShamSports, the Mavs have a $3 million dollar trade exception from the Eduardo Najera deal that would allow them to take on Landry’s salary without sending another player back. If they send back cash plus a future first-rounder and a future second-rounder then that's a pretty nice financial swing for giving up a player that in no way helps their rebuilding efforts. Is that enough to get it done?

[+] EnlargeCarl Landry
Craig Bennett/Icon SMICarl Landry is averaging 11.8 points this season with Sacramento after averaging 18 points in 28 games after joining the Kings last season.
How about the whole enchilada? Getting Landry and Casspi? You could offer a second deal of another future first-round and second-round pick and seldom used but immensely intriguing former first rounder Alexis Ajinca -- who makes right at the same dough as Casspi. Before I saw Ajinca on a regular basis, I thought he was a total bust of a pick for Charlotte. Now I realize he'd just been Larry Browned there. He's got a nice feathery touch from the outside and he's a solid athlete for his 7-foot frame. I think he may have a future, he just needs playing time to develop. That ain't gonna happen here, son.

So final tally after swapping, Dallas receives Casspi and Landry to address depth at the three and the four, and Sacramento receives Ajinca, a positive plus $5 million dollar swing, and two probably late first-round picks and two second-round picks.

Is that enough for both players? Hard to know what Sacramento is getting offered for Casspi but my instinct says its borderline at best. Most indications are that Sacramento is asking a lot for Casspi. The move that has a better chance to get the deal done would be for the Mavs to send Butler, J.J. Barea and Ajinca (or one of those guys if Sac wants) plus a pick for Landry, Casspi and Beno Udrih -- all three years and plus $20 million dollars of him. While I think it's a fantastic talent grab for Dallas, I think the Mavs would be way against Udrih's contract and even more reluctant to move the extremely well-liked Barea. And as Tyson Chandler pointed out Wednesday on the Ben and Skin Show, Butler is still very much a part of this team and still emotionally invested as a teammate. And seeing the way these guys have fought for one another this year, I think that'd be a tough move for the front-office to make and one that would disappoint "the room."

Not sure if I'd do it or not. I do think the roster would be upgraded. It’s a big expense financially and emotionally, and I'm not sure it’d put them close enough to the top. It's definitely intriguing.

Dirk Nowitzki's status uncertain for OKC

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:10
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DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle stuck by his stance of not providing a Daily Dirk Watch, so the status of the team's leading scorer's sprained right knee heading into Thursday's home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder is the same as it's been -- day-to-day.

Carlisle did not have a formal practice session on Wednesday. The team watched film and then a few players such as Brendan Haywood, Alexis Ajinca, Ian Mahinmi, Dominique Jones and DeShawn Stevenson hit the court for a light workout and shooting. Roddy Beaubois was also on the floor taking jump shots, a small step for him after being limited to set shots for months.

Dirk Nowitzki missed his fifth consecutive game Tuesday, an 84-81 win over the injury-depleted Portland Trail Blazers. The competition turns decidedly tougher to close out the three-game homestand. The Thunder, smarting from two home losses to the Mavs, including the Dec. 27 loss when Nowitzki hurt his knee early in the second quarter, are trying to avoid a season sweep by Dallas.

On Saturday, Dwight Howard and the revamped Orlando Magic, winners of six in a row, come to town looking to avenge the Mavs' road victory on Dec. 21.

Nowitzki is averaging 24.1 points on 54.5 percent shooting, plus 7.4 rebounds.

Big-shot Alexis Ajinca provided big boost

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
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Alexis Ajinca came to the Dallas Mavericks as a spare part in the deal that landed starting center Tyson Chandler. From the moment he arrived, Ajinca, a 7-foot, 220-pound Frenchman, the fourth center on the roster, has been on the trading block.

Yet, after a recent home game, team president Donnie Nelson intimated that the lanky big man might be sticking around, suggesting that Dallas wants to hold on to young, developing talent. And after his fruitful 19 total minutes in three games, including a momentous -- even momentum-changing -- seven minutes of emergency duty at Oklahoma City Monday, his first action since Dec. 7, heck, maybe Ajinca will remain a part of the Mavs' three-man French Foreign Legion.

With Dirk Nowitzki out with a sore knee, and Chandler having picked up his third and fourth fouls within 33 seconds midway through the third quarter, acting head coach Dwane Casey turned to Ajinca to play power forward with 1:58 left in the third quarter.

It was a critical juncture. The Thunder had finally built up some momentum. Serge Ibaka's slam with 1:36 to go in the quarter put Oklahoma City up 78-76 and then a Jason Terry turnover led to a Kevin Durant floater that had the Thunder on a 7-0 run while tying their largest lead of the quarter, 80-76, with 1:06 to go.

And then here comes the Mavs back on offense with a lineup of J.J. Barea, Terry, DeShawn Stevenson, Ajinca and Brendan Haywood. Where would the Mavs go for a good look? Ajinca in the corner for a 3-pointer?

Bingo.

Ajinca handled the pass from Terry and in one motion launched only the third 3-point attempt of his three-year career and the first in two years.

With flawless rotation, it hit nothing but net. The raucous sellout crowded moaned. The Mavs' bench exploded. The Thunder's run had been halted and the Mavs wound up going into the fourth quarter with the momentum, trailing by a bucket, 81-79.

As for Ajinca, he had earned himself five good minutes to start the fourth quarter.

Sick as a dog: No Brian Cardinal tonight

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
7:07
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Mavericks reserve forward Brian Cardinal won't be available tonight. He's back at the team hotel dealing with a second bout of stomach illness over the last couple of weeks.

Activated in his place is 7-foot, fourth-string center Alexis Ajinca.

Assistant coach Dwane Casey is at the controls tonight as Rick Carlisle watches back in Dallas recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Mavs' Melo dreams remain big long shot

December, 23, 2010
12/23/10
11:15
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The Mavericks' not-so-secret hopes of forcing their way into the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes and corresponding willingness to trade for him without Melo signing an extension as part of the trade have been addressed numerous times in this cyberspace (here and here) and even on the air in a recent interview on 103.3 FM with Mavs owner Mark Cuban.

The concept, in other words, is hardly new.

The reality for the Mavs, furthermore, is that essentially nothing has changed over the past few weeks with regard to their chances of emerging as a feared factor in the Melo bidding.

The subject nonetheless received a significant (and overstated) amount of national attention this week until things came to deeply sad halt Wednesday, when the Nuggets began to inform teams that Anthony trade talks were being placed on an indefinite hold out of respect to their All-Star forward after the death of his 36-year-old sister caused by a pre-existing medical condition.

The following five-point update is where a variety of trade issues stood from the Mavericks' perspective before the sudden and tragic halt to the Melo trade chase, which is expected to put all Anthony-related discussions on hold until after Christmas:

* The Nuggets, according to sources briefed on the teams' discussions to date, have greeted the Mavericks' inquiries with "nothing but pushback" every time they’ve called to check on the status of Anthony's availability. Reason being: Dallas can't come close to the package the New Jersey Nets can assemble, which includes two probable lottery picks in addition to prized rookie Derrick Favors. One source close to the process says Denver remains "heavily" focused on trying to complete a deal with New Jersey, while New York obviously continues to rank as the other standout team in the Melo chase because the Knicks are overwhelmingly regarded around the league as Anthony’s favored destination. Most GMs agree that, at this point, there is no No. 3 option … Dallas or otherwise.

* There's really only one way that the Melo landscape can change sufficiently for Dallas (or Houston, Charlotte and anyone else willing to "rent" Melo) to get seriously involved: New Jersey would have to pull completely out of the bidding. And that would only happen if Melo tells the Nets face to face that he is refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension as part of an "extend-and-trade," which is what Boston pulled off in July 2007 when it acquired Kevin Garnett from Minnesota and got his signature on a new deal in the process. ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan reported Dec. 12 that Anthony plans to do just that if the Nuggets and Nets finally reach terms on a trade -- which might or might not involve other teams as facilitators -- because of his deep desire to join Amare Stoudemire with the Knicks. The Nets, though, continue to believe that Anthony's stated determination to sign the extension before the next labor deal kicks in (June 30 is the deadline) and the ability of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and part owner Jay-Z to sell him on the team's future in Brooklyn will sway him when the time comes.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony is a hot commodity, but as it stands, the Nets still have the upper hand if the All-Star gets moved.
* It is generally assumed that the Mavericks' best offer for Melo would feature the expiring contracts of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson, multiple future first-round picks (albeit none of them projected to be in the lottery), $3 million (which is the league max for cash sweeteners) and prized youngster Roddy Beaubois. That, again, will only be enough to get in the game if the Nets pull out and the Nuggets are forced to start seriously looking at trade partners from the "rent-a-player" list, as Cuban described it in his radio interview with 103.3 FM on Nov. 30. Bear in mind, though, that Beaubois' biggest fan in the organization happens to be Cuban. So it should be noted that Cuban giving up on Beaubois for a Melo rental can not be regarded as an automatic surrender without some background work first. The odds would certainly strongly favor Dallas surrendering Beaubois if the talks ever get that far, given how much trouble they've had over the years trying to acquire a second star on Dirk Nowitzki's level. Yet you can rest assured that Mavs officials would want to talk directly with Anthony before pulling the trigger to find out how much of a chance he'd legitimately be willing to give Dallas -- with Nowitzki and Team USA pal Jason Kidd heading the welcoming party -- to win him over long-term during whatever's left of the season after a trade.

* Even the Mavericks' appetite for smaller deals, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking, has lessened somewhat thanks to a scorching 23-5 start that has made it Dallas' growing priority to preserve the team's current chemistry. Reserve center Alexis Ajinca, for example, has been available since Dallas acquired him as a throw-in from Charlotte in the Tyson Chandler deal and remains the most likely Mav to be dealt. The Mavs, though, are said to be getting more choosy about what they'd expect in exchange for Ajinca, since there will always be a premium on a still-developing young big man in the NBA.

* You probably won't be surprised to hear that there is essentially no external interest bubbling for Brendan Haywood, given that this is Year 1 on a contract with $41.7 million guaranteed over five years and the swiftness with which Haywood (shooting 25.5 percent from the free-throw line) has fallen behind Tyson Chandler in the Mavs' pecking order. Orlando just proved no one is untradeable with the Rashard Lewis-for-Gilbert Arenas deal, but Haywood is high on the list of trade improbables with so many teams out there averse to taking on long-term contracts when they don't know how restrictive the next collective bargaining agreement will be. I’ve likewise been assured in the strongest terms that Houston, even after losing Yao Ming to a potentially career-ending setback, is not looking at Haywood as a potential replacement and has made that clear to the Mavs, despite what has been reported in some precincts locally. "Less than zero interest" is the way one source with knowledge of the Rockets' thinking jokingly described it. Which is why the similarly reported notion that offering up Haywood could somehow put the Mavs in play for longtime Mavs favorite Kevin Martin -- whom Dallas pursued unsuccessfully last season before the Rockets acquired Martin from Sacramento -- has been politely ignored here.

(PS -- For those of you who love NBA contract minutiae, Haywood’s $10,522,500 salary in 2015-16 is fully unguaranteed as long as he is waived on or before Aug, 1, 2015.)

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.9 4.5 1.7 34.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 9.3
StealsR. Rondo 2.0
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4