Dallas Mavericks: Avery Johnson

DALLAS – Before the sixth Mavericks-Spurs series started, Dirk Nowitzki took a trip down memory lane with ESPNDallas.com.

Nowitzki reflected on each Mavs-Spurs playoff meeting, going into great detail. You can read the whole post here, but his recollection of the 2006 Western Conference semis is especially interesting with the Mavs trying to repeat history by winning a Game 7 in San Antonio.

“Maybe the best over the course of seven games, the best series I’ve had in my career.

“Just felt locked in, felt in my prime and felt whatever coverage they’re doing, I can score on it. That’s how confident I was. What a great series.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki called his overtime-forcing and-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 West semifinals one of the biggest plays of his career.
“We win both home games here and went up 3-1, but that’s just how good they are. They just keep coming. They win down there and it’s 3-2. We try to close out here, and they just keep coming. They make it 3-3. Jet [Jason Terry] was suspended for one of those games for a little [groin] clip, so that was tough.

“Then we go down there for Game 7 and it’s one of the greatest games I remember. We were rolling early. We were up 20 in the first half. Just everything goes -- Josh [Howard], Jet, Devin [Harris] driving, I was shooting it -- so it was great. Avery [Johnson] was like, ‘Hey, those boys are going to keep playing.’ Sure enough, it was almost methodically. They always come back. They get stops, they keep grinding and next thing you know ...

“I always remember Jet leaving [Manu] Ginobili on the wing when [Tim] Duncan was posting up on me, and he pulled the trigger. I looked when it was in the air -- boom! Bottoms! The place went absolutely nuts.

“Down three and I remember we had [32.9 seconds left], and I was thinking we were kind of in a similar situation in Game 6. We were down three and I shot a bad 3. I was thinking to myself and Avery even said it: ‘In this situation, don’t hoist a bad 3. Make sure you get to the basket. Anything can happen.’

“So I just spun and put my head down on [Bruce] Bowen and said, ‘I’m going to lay this in.’ We can foul again and at least extend the game. And Ginobili just left [Jerry Stackhouse] in the corner and came over and wanted to block it. I was able to kind of luckily muscle it over a little bit. It hit the rim and bounced in. That was probably one of the biggest plays of my career. Made the free throw.

“I don’t think I scored again in overtime. (He actually hit two free throws to put the Mavs up eight with 9.9 seconds left, giving him 37 points for the game.) The boys were great. We subbed in Gana [Diop] and he made some big stops on Duncan. He had one or two big offensive rebounds. Stack made two pull-ups, I remember.

“Yeah, that was a fun game, fun series for me. I mean, to win a Game 7 in that building is about as sweet as it gets in this league.”

Devin Harris still saves best for Spurs

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
4:00
PM CT
DALLAS – Perhaps this series is a reward to Devin Harris for all his hard work while rehabilitating from complicated summer toe surgery.

“A reward to play the San Antonio Spurs? I don’t know,” Harris said.

No, it certainly isn’t a treat for most players to get matched up with the Spurs in the playoffs. Harris, however, is an exception.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsSomething about being matched up with the Spurs agrees with Devin Harris.
For whatever reason, Harris tends to be a burr in the Spurs’ side, especially in the playoffs. That was true in 2006, when ex-Mavs coach Avery Johnson’s decision to insert the then-second-year guard in the starting lineup for Game 2 was a critical decision in a classic series that Dallas won in seven games. It’s still true during Harris’ second stint with the Mavs in 2014, as Harris averaged a team-high 18.5 points and 5.0 assists off the bench to help Dallas split the two games in San Antonio.

The 31-year-old Harris has scored at least 17 points in 10 of his 50 playoff games during his nine-year career. Seven of those 17-plus-point games came at the Spurs’ expense, including the first two games of this series, when Harris shot 60 percent from the floor.

So, if anybody is happy to see the Spurs in the playoffs, it’s Harris.

“It’s what I came back for,” Harris said, referring to his decision to return to Dallas this summer after stints with the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks after the Mavs made him the centerpiece of the package they gave up to get Jason Kidd. “It’s why I wanted to come back, to be in this type of situation and play in these type of games and be in this type of series. It’s perfect fit for me.”

Then again, midway through this season, Harris was just happy to be playing basketball again. Harris, an All-Star in 2008-09 and a solid starter for most of his career, admitted there were moments that he wasn’t sure he’d get back to play at a high level during a rocky rehab from the operation on the second metatarsal in his left foot.

Harris didn’t know that he needed the surgery until a physical examination by Mavs team doctor T.O. Souryal after the guard agreed to a three-year deal worth more than $9 million in early July. That discovery prompted the parties to mutually agree to take that offer off the table, at least temporarily costing Harris millions of dollars.

The Mavs signed Harris for the veteran’s minimum of $1.27 million for one year later in July, using a chunk of the money they saved by not finalizing his previous contract to fill the starting shooting guard spot originally slotted for him with Monta Ellis.

So instead of getting a starting job for the whole season, Harris accepted a reserve role that he’d need to rehab months to fill. At that point, it’s not as if he had other realistic options.

It worked out well in the long run for the Mavs, who need Ellis’ offensive firepower to make the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. Harris ended up being one of the most valuable reserve guards in the league after he finally got into the Mavs’ rotation following a rehab process that took even longer than anticipated due to a stress fracture he developed in his non-surgically-repaired third metatarsal in the left foot in December.

“It’s been a long road since the summer,” said Harris, who had to change the mechanics of how he ran. “We’ve had a lot of things happen, but I stayed positive and worked hard and obviously we’re in a good situation now.”

(Read full post)

Dirk goes down Mavs-Spurs memory lane

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:45
PM CT
Tim Duncan, Dirk NowitzkiAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThis marks the sixth time that Dirk Nowitzki has faced off against the Spurs in a playoff series.
DALLAS -- They meet again.

This will make a half-dozen times Dirk Nowitzki has seen the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. He’s felt some agony and some ecstasy in the previous five series against the Mavericks’ Interstate 35 rival, a four-time title-winning franchise that served as a roadblock on Dallas’ route through the West for years.

They are unforgettable highs and lows from those series from the Spurs, memories that are engrained in the minds of Mavs fans, as well as the face of the franchise.

This is how Nowitzki remembers those Mavs-Spurs series, as shared with ESPNDallas.com a day before he departs to start another series in San Antonio:

2001
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Spurs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 23.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 44.6 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “We had no chance.

“We had just beaten Utah in the first round after being down 0-2. I remember when [Karl] Malone missed that last shot in Game 5, we were running around on the court like we won the championship. I mean, it was insane. I was lapping around the arena like twice. It was insane. So just for us to beat those guys, that’s how much respect we had for Utah and Malone and [John] Stockton.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan
Tom Hauck/AllsportDirk Nowitzki says the Mavs had no chance against Tim Duncan and the Spurs in their 2001 series.
“Then it was hard. It was for a young team to turn around and play against those machines. [Tim] Duncan was obviously so good back in those days, so we really had no shot.

“We lost the first two down there. I remember we went straight from Utah to San Antonio for the first one. It was pretty much over with. The second one, we were kind of around, but not really. And if you want to make a series of it, you’ve got to win Game 3. I remember I was sick. I had food poisoning that game, and then we’re down 0-3. That was basically it.

“We played hard in Game 4 and were able to steal one. The game we stole here, I came back in [after getting a tooth knocked out by a Terry Porter elbow] and we won the game. Then in Game 5, they were just so good defensively. Whatever we tried, they had counters. They were long in there with those two 7-footers. I mean, they were good.”

2003
Series: West finals
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 25.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 43.1 FG% in three games

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “I remember we stole Game 1, which was amazing. We were 49-of-50 from the free throw line. That was an amazing, amazing game for us. Game 2, we lost and then here in Game 3 is a big game. Obviously, you want to hold home court, and that’s the game I got hurt.

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“It was tough. I wanted to play and I was testing [his sprained knee]. It felt OK with the adrenaline going.

“But looking back on my career now, it probably was the right decision. Nellie didn’t want me to play. I was young at the time. At this stage of my career, it probably would have made sense to play. I’m old, but then, even I felt it sometimes getting up in timeouts and stuff. It just wasn’t right, just didn’t feel right. Probably looking back on it now, it was the right decision, but it was tough.

“We go down there [for Game 5] and we’re thinking they might close us out. We steal that game. It’s 3-2 and we have a chance here to force Game 7. We were up [13] in the fourth.

“Nellie played small ball. We played Walt Williams at the 4 and just spread it out and let Nick [Van Exel] and Steve [Nash] drive, and it worked great. Then they subbed in Steve Kerr and he made like three or four 3s in that fourth quarter. They came back, and that was that.

“I don’t know, I might have tried to play in Game 7. You never know, but that was disappointing.”

2006
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Mavs in seven
Nowitzki’s numbers: 27.1 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 52.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Maybe the best over the course of seven games, the best series I’ve had in my career.

“Just felt locked in, felt in my prime and felt whatever coverage they’re doing, I can score on it. That’s how confident I was. What a great series.

“We win both home games here and went up 3-1, but that’s just how good they are. They just keep coming. They win down there and it’s 3-2. We try to close out here, and they just keep coming. They make it 3-3. Jet [Jason Terry] was suspended for one of those games for a little [groin] clip, so that was tough.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki called his overtime-forcing and-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 West semifinals one of the biggest plays of his career.
“Then we go down there for Game 7 and it’s one of the greatest games I remember. We were rolling early. We were up 20 in the first half. Just everything goes -- Josh [Howard], Jet, Devin [Harris] driving, I was shooting it -- so it was great. Avery [Johnson] was like, ‘Hey, those boys are going to keep playing.’ Sure enough, it was almost methodically. They always come back. They get stops, the keep grinding and next thing you know ...

“I always remember Jet leaving Ginobili on the wing when Duncan was posting up on me, and he pulled the trigger. I looked when it was in the air -- boom! Bottoms! The place went absolutely nuts.

“Down three and I remember we had [32.9 seconds left], and I was thinking we were kind of in a similar situation in Game 6. We were down three and I shot a bad 3. I was thinking to myself and Avery even said it: ‘In this situation, don’t hoist a bad 3. Make sure you get to the basket. Anything can happen.’

“So I just spun and put my head down on [Bruce] Bowen and said, ‘I’m going to lay this in.’ We can foul again and at least extend the game. And Ginobili just left [Jerry Stackhouse] in the corner and came over and wanted to block it. I was able to kind of luckily muscle it over a little bit. It hit the rim and bounced in. That was probably one of the biggest plays of my career. Made the free throw.

“I don’t think I scored again in overtime. [He actually hit two free throws to put the Mavs up eight with 9.9 seconds left, giving him 37 points for the game.] The boys were great. We subbed in Gana [Diop] and he made some big stops on Duncan. He had one or two big offensive rebounds. Stack made two pull-ups, I remember.

“Yeah, that was a fun game, fun series for me. I mean, to win a Game 7 in that building is about as sweet as it gets in this league.”

2009
Series: West first round
Outcome: Mavs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 19.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, .493 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Ginobili was hurt and they really never had enough weapons to beat us that year. I don’t think they had enough weapons without him.

“We tried to take Duncan and [Tony] Parker out as much as we could, and it worked really well. With them without Ginobili, it made it a little easier.”

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Mavs were the No. 2 seed in 2010 but fell to the No. 7 Spurs.
2010
Series: West first round
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 26.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 54.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “It was a little messed up, because we’d just traded for Caron [Butler] and DeShawn [Stevenson] and [Brendan] Haywood and we were actually the No. 2 seed. They played without Ginobili most of the season, and right at the right time he gets healthy. They’re the 7 seed, we’re the 2 seed.

“That’s obviously a tough matchup for any 2 seed, to run into the Spurs healthy at the right time.

“We made some mistakes, but they were good. They were healthy at the right time.

“We wanted to win and force it here and at least force it to a Game 7. I remember we were so good on the road after we traded for these guys, and we just needed to win one road game. We lost all three games down there and that ultimately sealed it. They stole Game 2 up here and we figured we’ve got three chances to steal a game down there, because we’re pretty good on the road. They won all three down there, and that’s what ultimately lost us that series.”

100 guesses: Mark Cuban's biggest regret?

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
11:15
AM CT
What is Mark Cuban's biggest regret?

It has nothing to do with the circumstances of a big game or his relationships with his past coaches or lambasting commissioner David Stern or losing out on a key player.

Give up?

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Mavs owner Mark Cuban on why he feels the team is better without Deron Williams, why Jason Kidd's jersey will never hang in the rafters and more.

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"Letting Don Kalkstein, our psych doctor go," Cuban said Tuesday during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show.

Co-host Jeff "Skin" Wade, an admitted unabashed Mavs fan, instantly responded by saying, "C'mon, really?"

"Seriously," Cuban said. "I think if I hadn’t done that we win a championship with Avery (Johnson)."

It was Johnson, who holds a psychology degree from Southern University, who no longer wanted Kalkstein around. Cuban listened to the young head coach he promoted in 2005 and made it so. Kalkstein then joined the Boston Red Sox and wears a 2007 World Series ring. He rejoined the Mavs as director of sport psychology after Johnson was fired in 2008 and Rick Carlisle was hired.

The Mavs, one might remember, from Cuban to Johnson and all the way down, melted into a puddle of goo in Miami during the 2006 Finals. Johnson panicked and moved the team from the party scene in South Beach to placid Fort Lauderdale, a tactic that failed to prevent the horrific collapse that saw Dallas' 2-0 lead over the Heat disintegrate into a six-game defeat.

Kalkstein, now well into his second stint with the Mavs -- as well as the Texas Rangers -- might have helped blow all that steam in a more productive direction.

Cuban was fined $250,000 during the '06 Finals for repeated misconduct, Johnson lost his cool with a reporter after a loss in Miami and the franchise suffered the ignominy of being called chokers -- a moniker that would stick all the way up to the 2011 triumph. Kalkstein is heaped with praise for his work with that team, one that emerged as stunning mental heavyweights.

"Organizations may not win championships, but organizations can lose championships," Cuban said. "I think there’s just so many little things that people don’t realize are important. That’s why you hear terms 'coach killers' and you hear about dissension in the locker room. All these little elements are critical. We’ve had years where we’ve had great teams and my inability to solve that problem or in the case of not having Doc there, hurt us, so literally that was the biggest mistake I made."

Should Rick Carlisle earn top dollar?

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
12:49
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Contract disputes are about money. The person seeking the contract always wants more than the person handing out the contract wants to give.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle might not yet describe this lingering contract situation as a dispute, but the bottom line is that Carlisle has yet to ink a new deal. Neither side is talking about it, so it can only be assumed that money is a central issue.

Carlisle earned $4.5 million in the fourth and final year of his contract this past season. That ranked him seventh at the start of the season, according to Forbes, among the league's highest-paid coaches. Three of the top six on the list didn't make it out of the season. Mike D'Antonio ($6 million, tied with San Antonio's Gregg Popovich for second) resigned from the New York Knicks, Nate McMillan ($5.5 million, fourth) was fired by the Portland Trail Blazers and Flip Saunders ($4.8 million, sixth) was fired by the Washington Wizards.

According to Forbes, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers is the highest-paid coach in the NBA, earning $7 million this season. He's in his 13th season as a head coach and eighth with the Celtics, who hold a 1-0 lead on the Philadelphia 76ers in the East semifinals. Rivers and the Celtics won the 2008 championship and returned to the Finals in 2010, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.

Is Carlisle looking for Rivers-type money? Or perhaps the $6 million that Popovich, a four-time championship coach, is pocketing this season? The NBA's Coach of the Year has the Spurs in the West semifinals on the heels of a first-round sweep.

In Carlisle's third season in Dallas, he molded a group of title-less veterans into unexpected champions, providing Cuban and the franchise with its first title. While the Miami Heat, the team the Mavs dispatched in the NBA Finals in six games, rewarded coach Erik Spoelstra with an extension in December prior to the start of the season, Carlisle's reward never came.

Cuban dismantled the title team and the season was a struggle from start to finish. Dallas ended it 36-30 in the regular season and then was swept out of the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder under coach Scott Brooks, who is also coming to the end of his contract and will command a bigger payday.

Cuban claims it's simply not his business style to grant extensions (the 2006 extension he gave Avery Johnson backfired). But now that the season is over and still no deal exists, it figures that either the two sides are negotiating a workable salary or that Carlisle, who would be a hot commodity as a free agent, is keeping his options open.

After all, the Mavs' future, in terms of its roster as Dirk Nowitzki turns 34 in June, is as unsettled as ever in Cuban's dozen years as owner.


DALLAS – If you’re looking to blame somebody for the Mavs’ failure on the final two possessions, pin it on coach Rick Carlisle.

But the majority of Tuesday night’s 93-92 loss to the New Jersey Nets is on the Mavericks’ players.

The Mavs rallied from a 10-point deficit midway with five minutes remaining to put themselves in position to pull out a victory in a game they really had no business winning. The Mavs got two chances to win it after the Nets regained the lead with 42.4 seconds remaining, but both possessions ended with bricked 3-point attempts by Jason Kidd.

“It didn’t work out, so that’s on me,” Carlisle said when asked about the final possession of the game. “In fact, the last two plays of the game -- those are on me. I take full responsibility for those.”

After Brook Lopez’s free throws, the Mavs tried to operate the offense through Kidd on the post despite the fact that Nets All-Star Deron Williams is a strong, physical defender for a point guard. That possession turned into a scramble that ended with Kidd jacking up a contested 3 as the shot clock ticked down.

On the last possession, the Mavs went to a play that used to be Avery Johnson’s favorite, getting Dirk Nowitzki the rock above the elbow and letting him go to work. Nowitzki kicked it to the corner to Kidd when the double-team came as he dribbled, and Kidd ended up putting the ball on the floor before throwing up a 3 with DeShawn Stevenson all over him at the buzzer.

The ball didn’t even draw iron.

“I should have shot the first ball that he gave me,” said Kidd, who was 1-of-7 from the floor with his lone bucket a 3 that briefly gave the Mavs the lead in the final minute. “I had a wide-open look. And then D-Steve got his hands on the pump-fake.”

Added Nowitzki, who finished with 24 points but was 7-of-19 from the floor, including 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter: “Me having the ball in the high post, I don’t think that’s a bad play. We’ve seen that a million times. The one before that was probably a little questionable.”

Jason Terry certainly wasn’t thrilled with the plays called down the stretch, but that’s because he’s a competitor who wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Yes, even on a night when Terry was 4-of-14 from the floor and 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t know if it’s lack of execution or play-calling or whatever you want to call it, but we didn’t get the shot we wanted,” Terry said. “That’s why we lost.”

Actually, you can make a strong argument that the Mavs lost because they let a bad team build a double-digit lead. The Mavs stunk it up on both ends for most of the night against the 11-25 Nets.

And it’s sort of a stretch for Carlisle to take all the blame for the final two possessions, although it’s in character for him. Maybe his best move in his tenure as the Mavs’ coach was taking the blame for the Game 4 collapse in the first round of last postseason, when he fell on the sword for failing to adjust defensively as Brandon Roy carried the Trail Blazers to a comeback from 23 points down.

We all remember how the Mavs rallied after that moment of misery.

Carlisle considers it his duty to call himself out in this sort of situation, even though he had two future Hall of Fame players on the floor that failed to execute. It gives him the credibility to call out his players when necessary.

“If I’m going to get on their ass about not being into the game early, then I’ve got to be willing to take the heat when the two plays at the end of the game don’t work out,” Carlisle said. “It’s accountability; that’s how it works.”
DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki sees a lot of similarities in Avery Johnson and Rick Carlisle. Despite the Mavs’ bitter divorce with Johnson, the All-Star forward means that as a compliment to both coaches.

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Johnson gets credit from Nowitzki and Jason Terry for instilling a defense-intensive culture in Dallas, which Carlisle took to a new level during last year’s championship run. Carlisle and Johnson are both known for long film sessions and their commitment to holding players accountable.

And they’re the only two coaches to lead the Mavs to the Finals. The Mavs flopped after building a 2-0 lead over the Heat in the 2006 Finals, which was at the end of Johnson’s first full season as a head coach. They finally finished the job last season, winning the franchise’s first title in Carlisle’s third season.

“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out with Avery, but I liked the change of fresh air when he took over, his enthusiasm, his energy,” Nowitzki said. “He definitely started the building block for us winning it all.”

Why has Carlisle survived and sustained success when Johnson couldn’t in Dallas?

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki credits former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson for putting the team on the path that led to last year's NBA championship.
Start with the fact that this is Carlisle’s third stop as a head coach, meaning he had plenty of trial-and-error education by the time he arrived in Dallas. Johnson was learning on the job, although he was loathe to admit it at the time.

Perhaps the biggest reason Johnson couldn’t sustain success in Dallas is because he had so much of it so early. An enlarged ego got the best of the Little General, who stopped listening – to players, to assistants, to his boss, to everybody.

In the process, Johnson lost a lot of people, most importantly Dirk and Mark Cuban. That led to him losing his job after the Mavs second consecutive one-and-done playoff appearance in 2008, when the front office tried to save Johnson by trading for Jason Kidd, only to have the need for a new coach confirmed when Avery refused to let go of control.

Johnson, who left Dallas with the best winning percentage in NBA history, returns tonight as the much more humble coach of the talent-deprived 10-25 Nets.

“For me individually as a coach, I’ve grown,” Johnson said. “I would assume that Coach Carlisle too has grown since his first coaching stint with Indiana. I’ve definitely grown, but I think the core beliefs of what I believe in – defense and rebounding and discipline and organization, having great lines of communication with your players and holding them accountable – still stand.

“You learn. The same way I learned when I played in trying to improve my game, I think in the craft of coaching and all of the disciplines of coaching, you’ve got to improve in those areas also.”

Carlisle’s hiring as Johnson’s replacement raised some eyebrows at the time because of their similar styles. Carlisle had a reputation as a brilliant basketball mind whose relationships with players came with an expiration date after stints with the Pistons and Pacers.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Carlisle in Dallas, either. There were some rocky times during his first two seasons, when the Mavs won a total of only one playoff series.

One of the keys to Carlisle’s success with the Mavs has been Carlisle’s willingness to change and adapt. He essentially gave Kidd full control of the offense midway through their first season together and frequently takes input from the Mavs’ veterans on anything from the practice schedule to lineups.

“I’ve definitely become a better listener and my hope is that I’ve become a better communicator,” Carlisle said. “I know all too well the pitfalls if you don’t. I’m vigilant about that.”

Carlisle has also maintained a friction-free relationship with Cuban, which certainly wasn’t the case for Johnson.

Cuban’s involvement, which is unique to say the least for an owner, annoyed Johnson. Carlisle calls it “different,” but has always focused on the benefit of having an owner so emotionally invested in the team.

“The perception from afar is that Mark is a zany guy who is into anything, but the truth is he lets you do your job,” Carlisle said. “I’ve been very open with him about everything that we do. There’s a constant open line of communication. I encourage him to be in the locker room pregame, halftime, postgame, on the road. I want him to see everything that’s going on, and I honestly feel that his presence helps engage our players even more.

“I’m more than fine with that; I encourage it.”

If he had to do it all over again, maybe Johnson would do the same.

As it is, Avery is trying to make the best of it as the Nets prepare for their move to Brooklyn, while Carlisle’s Mavs are trying to get ready for a repeat run. Which hammers home the most important lesson a coach can learn.

Said Carlisle: "The best solution to challenges that come up is good players."

W2W4: New Jersey will come raining 3s

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
12:59
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DALLAS -- The New Jersey Nets are most dangerous when they bang home 3-pointers. Avery Johnson's club is second in the league in 3-pointers attempted (24.7 a game) and second in 3-pointers made (8.8).

Considering the Nets enter this game with a 10-25 record, the fact that they are 8-9 when having a better 3-point percentage than their opponent speaks to the need to cut off the 3.

And Dallas, as strong as it's been defensively this season, ranked 12th in opponents' 3-point percentage. Teams are shooting 33.9 percent against Dallas from beyond the arc.

Anthony Morrow leads the Nets' 3-point shooters at 40.2 percent. Deron Williams is at 37.1 percent and MarShon Brooks is shooting the long ball at 35.6 percent.

"We’ve got to keep New Jersey from making a lot of 3s," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "They’re among the teams that take the most 3s per game, they make among the most per game in the league and Williams, Morrow, Brooks, those 3 guys are lethal out there. So, we’ve got to take that away. It’s going to be a tough night."

Records: Nets (10-25); Mavs (21-13)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FSSW

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: The Mavs know they're in a tough spot Wednesday night when they play a rested Grizzlies team coming out of the All-Star break. That means Dallas will want to take care 0f business against the struggling Nets early and allow their starters, primarily Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, to ride the pine as long as possible, especially in the fourth quarter.

Key matchup: Deron Williams vs. Shawn Marion
Here we go again? Marion would again seem the likely candidate to start out on the All-Star point guard who is averaging 22.2 points and 8.2 rebounds. Before the All-Star break, Marion remarked how difficult this stretch of covering top guards has been, but Dallas has little choice with Delonte West sidelined and Kidd and Vince Carter unable to hang with the 27-year-old Williams. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones could also see time on the brawny, 6-foot-3 point guard from The Colony.

Injuries: Nets - F Damion James (right foot surgery) is out; C Mehmet Okur (sore lower back) is out; Shawne Williams (sprained left shoulder, sore left knee/foot) is out; G Jordan Farmar (strained right groin) is questionable. Mavs - G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) is out; F Lamar Odom (personal reasons) is out.

Up next: Mavs at Memphis Grizzlies, 7 p.m., Wednesday

Defense first: Avery Johnson or Rick Carlisle?

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
11:42
AM CT
DALLAS -- Jason Kidd only played a few months under Avery Johnson in the spring of 2008, but he's certain that the defensive mentality that has stamped the Mavericks as a top-five defensive team starts and ends with Rick Carlisle.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon takes on Randy Galloway's opinion that Avery Johnson's influence is still on the Mavericks.

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Asked what Avery influences remain nearly four years after Mark Cuban fired him following the 2008 first-round playoff loss to New Orleans and Kidd said: "I don’t know. I think it’s a different team, it’s a team that now has been in the top five in defense, which when you talk about Dallas it always was about scoring, so I don’t think there’s not too much of Avery still here. Carlisle has put his stamp on this team and it has helped us win a championship."

Carlisle took a much more diplomatic approach, saying point-blank that Johnson changed the culture in Dallas from one of free-spirited offense to a focus on gritty defense.

"There’s no confusion, Avery changed it and he changed it when he took over in 2005," Carlisle said. "And he got this franchise on a path to a championship by instilling a playoff style of basketball, which meant defense first and then, of course, you’ve got to be a good offensive team as well, but there’s no confusion on that and that should be made very clear."


DALLAS -- All-Star point guard Deron Williams doesn’t want to address the subject of possibly playing in his hometown on a permanent basis during this trip to Dallas, but his coach acknowledged that the Mavericks are a major threat to sign the free agent-to-be.

New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson believes that because of the respect he has for his former boss, billionaire Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who has teamed with Dallas president basketball of operations Donnie Nelson to give the Mavs the financial flexibility this summer to attempt to sign Williams and/or Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.

“He’s a threat, OK?” Johnson said of Cuban after the Nets’ practice Monday night at SMU. “I know the guy. I think because of the success he’s had -- and I know he got criticized a lot for quote-unquote having all those years where he didn’t win a championship -- but he’s had some great success here that rivals any situation. So that’s a threat.”

Williams, whose team plays the Mavericks on Tuesday night, pretended to not be aware that the Mavericks would have enough salary-cap space to be major players in free agency this offseason. He made it clear that he had no intention of discussing the possibility of joining Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas next season.

“I’m just going to play out this season and look at my options after this season,” Williams said, repeating several variations of that statement during a five-minute session with the media.

But Williams, a native of Dallas suburb The Colony who attended several Mavs playoff games during last year’s championship run, acknowledged that he enjoys playing in the American Airlines Center.

“I’ve always liked playing here,” Williams said. “This is one of my favorite arenas to play in, probably my favorite arena to play in. I just enjoy playing in it. I enjoy playing in front of my friends and family. It’s always good for them to get the chance to see me play.”

Williams, who has averaged 22.3 points on 50.3 shooting in 10 career games at the American Airlines Center, said he likes the shooting background in the arena. He also appreciates the atmosphere.

“It’s always good when an arena has a lot of energy,” Williams said. “Ours doesn’t have too much energy.”

The Nets hope that changes when they move into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. They also hope that Williams will be the face of the franchise when that happens.

“For us, we don’t make any assumptions until we get Deron signed on the dotted line,” said Johnson, who played 55 games for the Mavs late in his career and was the head coach in Dallas from 2005-08. “The main thing is we keep doing what we’re doing. Deron’s been a major part of what we’re doing behind the scenes. He’s been a major part of what we’re doing with the new Barclays Center, so we’re saying he’s doing all of that with the intent that he’s going to remain with us in the future.”

However, Johnson is also saying that he’s aware that Cuban’s Mavs will be serious competition for Williams’ services this summer.

Week ahead: Nine games in 12 days (really)

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
8:50
AM CT
Here it comes: Nine in 12.

"We've got 32 left and this stretch right after the break is critical obviously -- nine games in 12 days," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway & Co. on Friday. "I don't know if that kind of stretch has ever happened. It's happened some this year with teams and this will be the first for this franchise and it's going to be tough, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."

Heading into the break Carlisle said he would tell his troops to enjoy the time off and come back ready to roll.

This week starts the much-talked-about nine-in-12 sequence that ends next week with the lone back-to-back-to-back of the season. As for this week, it includes four games in seven nights packed into two home-road back-to-backs.

Here's a look:

Tuesday: vs. New Jersey Nets (10-25), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Welcome back Avery Johnson. Welcome home Deron Williams? The Colony native is high on the Mavs' wish list this summer. And wondering whether Williams will address his pending free agency and his desires is about all the intrigue that the Nets' visit should provide. Now, if the Mavs come out of the break sluggish, they could be dealt an ugly setback coming off Wednesday's home loss to the Lakers. Seven of New Jersey's 10 wins have come on the road, including recent victories at Chicago (without Derrick Rose) and at the Knicks. Still, these guys are 2-8 in their last 10.

Wednesday: at Memphis Grizzlies (19-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: This is where things should get interesting. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies couldn't beat the Mavs, never, ever. The tables have turned recently and the young Grizz are a bona fide threat in the West. When (if?) Zach Randolph returns they'll be downright dangerous. The Mavs come into town on the second night of a back-to-back while the Grizzlies will be waiting to resume their season following the All-Star break. They're 13-5 at FedEx Forum and have won seven of 10 overall. None were of landmark quality, but confidence is brimming.

Friday: at New Orleans (8-25), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Hornets can jump up and sting, just ask Jeremy Lin. New Orleans went into the break having won four of six games with the victory at Madison Square Garden being the feather in their cap. They don't score much, but they don't give up much either, and the Mavs' big men better keep an eye on Chris Kaman (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg last seven games). The Hornets are actually better on the road than at home (3-14), so the Mavs, after a day of rest, need to bear down and make sure they pad their record against a team they should beat.

Saturday: vs. Utah Jazz (15-17), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The wayward Jazz will make their way to Dallas after two home games against Houston and Miami. They face the Mavs the night after playing the Heat. A Utah team that lost 10 of 13 heading into the All-Star break has plummeted out of the playoff mix. The reunion of Devin Harris and Josh Howard just hasn't clicked. With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back and both traveling, this is one in which the Mavs must defend their turf against a spiraling club that is 3-11 on the road.

Week ahead: Two big ones before the break

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
11:00
AM CT
Standing in the quiet Dallas Mavericks locker room Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Shawn Marion, tugging on his designer jeans after a long day chasing Jeremy Lin, was reminded that in about 24 hours he'd be at the American Airlines Center warming up for tonight's game against the Boston Celtics.

"Whew," was about all Marion could muster with a shake of the head and a quick rise of the eyebrows.

After weeks of playing four, five and six games a week, to say the Mavs are looking forward to the All-Star break come Thursday is a vast understatement. Only Dirk Nowitzki will be headed to All-Star Weekend in Orlando as a participant, a reserve for the 11th consecutive time for the West squad. Jason Terry will be there doing work with Reebok.

Otherwise, this squad, the oldest in the league, will take a break on Thursday and won't return until Monday. They won't play again until Tuesday when a point guard named Deron Williams comes to town with Avery Johnson and the woebegone New Jersey Nets.

But, first there's a little business to take care of against the Celtics tonight and Kobe Bryant and those Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

"That's how we like it, we like it tough," Terry said. "These are the type of games you love -- New York, Boston, L.A. What more can you ask for?"

Tonight: vs. Boston Celtics (15-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Celtics enter this one in desperation mode as losers of three in a row. They fell to .500 Sunday and 4-7 on the road with a 96-81 wipeout at the hands of the suddenly hot Detroit Pistons. The Celtics could be rather shorthanded as well with former Mavs forward Brandon Bass nursing a sore left knee, Kevin Garnett's status uncertain due to personal reasons and point guard Rajon Rondo awaiting word from the league on a possible suspension after being ejected against the Pistons. The Mavs will be looking to close out their nine-game run with bounce-back game after falling to the Knicks Sunday afternoon. They beat the Celtics in Boston, 90-85.

Wednesday: vs. Los Angeles Lakers (18-13), 8:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Lakers don't win much on the road, just five times in 16 games, including a 102-90 spanking at Phoenix on Sunday. L.A. will play Portland on Monday before traveling east for a back-to-back at Dallas and Oklahoma City. Last month, Dallas lost a tough, ugly one in L.A. on a Derek Fisher 3-pointer in the final seconds for a 73-70 win. Maybe Dallas can take advantage of a fatigued team. Where the Mavs have concentrated on keeping their stars' minutes, down, Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum rank near the top of the league in minutes played. Kobe is averaging more than 38 minutes and Gasol is at 37. A victory over the Lakers would send the Mavs into the All-Star break having to feel pretty good about the first half of the season and looking forward to a second half that becomes road-heavy entering March.

Jason Kidd can relate to Lamar Odom

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
3:22
PM CT
DALLAS -- If Lamar Odom wants an empathetic ear, all he has to do is walk over to Jason Kidd’s locker.

Kidd understands the challenges of trying to fit in with the Mavericks on the fly while dealing with great expectations. He went through it after returning to Dallas in a blockbuster 2008 deadline deal with the Nets.

PODCAST
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle talks about whether Lamar Odom should take some time off like Dirk, and how he expects his team to respond after Wednesday's loss to the Timberwolves.

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It’s a distant memory now that there’s a championship banner hanging in the rafters, but you might recall that Kidd’s second stint in Dallas was far from an instant success. The Mavs were mediocre the rest of the season, which ended with coach Avery Johnson being fired a day after a one-and-done, five-game postseason appearance was finished.

A popular opinion at the time was that the Nets ripped off the Mavs, making a financially-friendly deal that delivered Devin Harris to Jersey. History won’t be so harsh on Mark Cuban and Co., considering Kidd has a shiny new championship ring and Harris has changed addresses, coincidentally returning to Dallas tonight with the Jazz.

So Kidd gets what Odom is going through, at least from the perspective of trying to fit in with an established Mavs team. His message to Odom: We’re here to help.

“We just need him to play his game,” Kidd said. “It’s going to take some time. I was in the same position. You want to make sure you don’t step on anybody’s toes. He has to understand that we’re all here for him. We want him to be successful.”

When does Odom stop worrying about stepping on toes and just start playing his game? Kidd insists that it’s not that simple.

“It’s easier said than done,” Kidd said. “When you look at the talent in this room and all the battles he’s been in on the other side, you just want to fit in. We need him to be him. Again, it’s just time. Unfortunately, with the shortened season, we don’t have a lot of time.”

Pregame buzz: Jason Kidd would enjoy backing up Deron Williams?

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
6:08
PM CT
LOS ANGELES -- With Chris Paul now calling Los Angeles home, Deron Williams stands alone as the top All-Star point guard that could be available in free agency next summer. But, don't sleep on another veteran point that will also hit the market -- Jason Kidd.

All three passed through L.A. this week with Williams and his struggling Nets losing to the Clippers on Monday night and Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks in town for a Lakers-Clippers swing that culminates tonight against Tinseltown's newest glamour boys, the ones in red and blue, not purple and gold.

Of course, there's plenty of buzz swirling around a possible return home next summer for Williams to play for Mark Cuban's club. Kidd wants to go two more years to play a 20th season at 40 years old. Kidd said he took some lumps playing golf with Williams over the summer, but the sting has eased, said Kidd, who would welcome Williams to Dallas -- and hand him the baton that is Kidd's starting job.

"It would be great to back him up," Kidd said Monday night, "wherever he’s at."

Kidd politely smiled as he answered a question about a possible return to the Nets through free agency to join Williams in Brooklyn, but that would certainly seem to be a long shot. (Now, if Jersey winds up making an increasingly doubtful-looking trade to acquire Dwight Howard, then we'll revisit the subject. Of course, if the Nets believe they have no shot at Howard and believe Williams will walk, they could look to m0ve him before the March trade deadline.)

Kidd certainly knows what it's like to feel blue in Jersey. Traded last season from Utah after Jerry Sloan abruptly retired, Williams is clearly have a tough time playing on Avery Johnson's team that is 3-11 and offers little hope on the horizon.

"It's tough," Williams told ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne after Monday's loss. "We've had a brutal schedule. Everybody has. We've been on the road and played a lot of games in a short amount of time. We're a young team, a team that was just put together. So it's been tough. We knew everything wasn't going to come together overnight."

Kidd said he's been thinking about Williams through this difficult opening stretch.

"I was going to give him a call and just tell him to stay positive and keep teaching while you’re playing," Kidd said. "He’s got a young team. They’re going to make some adjustments, but they’re definitely looking towards the future in the sense of going into Brooklyn."

And Kidd might be looking towards a future playing behind Williams -- wherever he's at.

DeShawn Stevenson finds home with Nets

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
9:54
AM CT
The last of the Dallas Mavericks six free agents has found a new home. Tough-minded shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson has finally agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the New Jersey Nets, according to an ESPNNY.com report.

Stevenson joins former Mavs coach Avery Johnson and point guard Deron Williams, a native of The Colony near Dallas who is highly coveted by the Mavs when he can become a free agent this summer.

Four of the Mavs' six free agents from last season's title team are with new teams. Brian Cardinal re-signed with Dallas and Peja Stojakovic retired.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9