Dallas Mavericks: Carl Landry

3-pointer: Dirk Nowitzki's struggles

February, 10, 2013
DALLAS -- Saturday night, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki missed his first six shots against the Golden State Warriors.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki has struggled since his return from injury and he can't quite pinpoint the reason why.
When his night was done, Nowitzki had scored 15 points, but went 3-of-12 from the field. Nowitzki said he's physically fine but since returning from a right adductor strain, he has shot just 33 percent from the field and his stat line doesn't have the look of a superstar player.

Nowitzki has made 13 of his last 42 field-goal attempts and while he's getting open looks they're not falling.

Is it a slump?

Is Nowitzki still hurting?

In the three games before injuring himself, Nowitzki made 24-of-49 field-goal attempts and scored 26, 18 and 15 points.

"Feel OK," Nowitzki said. "It felt like I'm moving a lot better than I was a month ago. That’s a positive."

Nowitzki doesn't have to carry the Mavericks offense at this stage of the season. Saturday night, as he struggled, Shawn Marion played one of his best games, scoring a season-high 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Guards O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison combined for 37 points and 17 assists.

Elton Brand added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"All of them played well," Nowitzki said. "[Marion] had a phenomenal game on both ends of the floor as he always does on the boards. Collison [is] shooting the ball well, Mayo had some big threes if I remember, EB played some good defense on Carl Landry, their low-post player so I think everybody played well."

Nowitzki missed the start of the season when he underwent knee surgery and it was expected he would need some time before finding a good rhythm. It seemed he found it but his recovery from this latest injury might have caused him some problems.

"I'm moving nice and decent, I just don't have a good touch," he said. "Last game I missed a bunch of shots that I usually make but [I] got to keep on working."

A few notes for the rest of the weekend.

1. Sometimes you forget about the veteran Brand and his presence on the defensive end. Brand scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.

"Elton was great defensively in the first half and was a real presence around the basket and was doing great thing offensively," coach Rick Carlisle said. "This was a night where we needed a physical presence out there with a guy like Landry and [Andris] Biedrins and he was a guy that stepped up for us."

Brand posted his sixth double-double of the season and 402nd of his career. The Mavericks are 7-3 when he grabs 10 or more rebounds in a game.

2. The Mavericks are 2-0 on this season-long five-game homestand. Finishing a perfect 5-0 would do wonders for the Mavericks' record, currently at 22-28. At home, the Mavs are 14-9, but the road record (8-19) is what worries Nowitzki.

"I thought even the homestand we had two weeks ago, we had a little momentum going," he said. "We've been playing well at home, we've caught some teams on back-to-backs and we took care of homecourt and yeah, we've been playing better at home. As long as we keep losing on the road, obviously a 1-3 trip wasn't what we wanted last week, so you got to find a way to win home games and get a little momentum here going into the [All-Star] break."

3. Mayo and Collison had a nice little one-two punch going in the victory over the Warriors. As the season has progressed, the guards have fed off each other, especially if Nowitzki or Marion struggles from the field.

"We feel like we have a rhythm and we have an understanding of what's needed at each position," Mayo said. "We're just trying [like] every guy to do their particular job and go out as hard as we can. If it's not good enough, it's not good enough. But a lot of times if we give our best effort at each spot we have a good chance at winning."

ETC: Vince Carter sprained his left ankle in the second half but returned. He finished with seven points in 22 minutes. ... The Mavericks are off on Sunday. ... Saturday's victory was the first this season over the Warriors in three tries.

No homecomings for Dallas' homegrown?

July, 27, 2012
Deron Williams was the obvious headliner among Dallas-area products who could potentially come home and play for the Dallas Mavericks next season.

Williams, the three-time All-Star who starred at The Colony High School, chose to remain with the Brooklyn Nets. Still, three other local lads also hit free agency on July 1, plus one former Mavs forward. All remain on the market.

Unfortunately for them, the Mavs have filled their 15-man roster.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had dinner in New York on July 1 with Skyline High star and Utah Jazz shooting guard C.J. Miles, who is just 25 years old. Dallas showed initial interest in Minnesota Timberwolves big man and Woodrow Wilson product Anthony Randolph, just 23. And the elder statesman of the Dallas group, power forward and Bryan Adams product Kenyon Martin, is still looking for work at 34.

Josh Howard, drafted by the Mavs with the 29th pick in 2003, is also still without a team. He played last season with the Jazz.

Grinding market: Players still available

July, 10, 2012
After a big-money flurry during free agency's first week, things have slowed down considerably in week two, and those players still left on the market might be looking at lesser deals they didn't think they'd have to take.

With the coming crunch of the new tax penalty, teams are becoming increasingly wary of handing out multiyear contracts. As Dallas Mavericks fan have quickly come to realize, the local plan is to sign up players preferably on one-year deals. Dallas might be able to hand out a higher salary for the one year than a player might be able to make in the first year of a multiyear deal with another team, then setting the player up to become a free agent again in 2013.

That's the type of decision with which a player such as point guard Ramon Sessions is likely to grapple. He wants to start, and the security of a multiyear was initially high on his priority list. The Mavs can offer a starting job, but not the security.

Over the last few days, some players have been taken off the board and others added.

Here's a look at five players at each position who remain on the board. Some are realistic options for the Mavs and some might not be. Dallas, still with just seven players under contract -- plus three draft picks -- needs reinforcements just about everywhere.

Point guard
Ramon Sessions
Raymond Felton
Randy Foye
Leandro Barbosa
C.J. Watson

Shooting guard
Lou Williams
O.J. Mayo
C.J. Miles
Courtney Lee
Marco Belinelli

Small forward
Josh Howard
Sam Young
Anthony Tolliver
Donte Green
Matt Barnes

Power forward
Kenyon Martin
Carl Landry
Anthony Randolph
Jordan Hill
Ronny Turiaf

Chris Kaman
Mehmet Okur
Daniel Orton
Nazr Mohammed
Tony Battie

Will Mavs be in market for backup PF?

December, 2, 2011
If the Dallas Mavericks dip into the free-agent market beyond their own guys seeking deals, they'll be looking for short-term, cheap labor. Whether center Tyson Chandler re-signs or not, the Mavs could be interested in a power forward that can do some pounding and boarding when Dirk Nowitzki takes a breather.

The Mavs relied on Shawn Marion to move between small and power forward, which he did so admirably, but Dallas could use some more beef in that role. Carl Landry, 28, is a quality garbage man that can score and grab some boards, but he's not a minimum guy. That doesn't mean the Mavs couldn't go after him with their mid-level exception ($5 million, if they don't go more than $4 million over the $70 million luxury tax threshold -- meaning no Chandler -- or $3 million if they do spill over). Chuck Hayes, also 28, is another quality guy always around the action. He can board and he improved his scoring last season, but he is also not a minimum-salary player.

Speaking of veteran-minimum guys, hard-nosed Brian Cardinal is always an option to bring back on a one-year, minimum contract and the Mavs have reached out to agent Mark Bartelstein. Still, Dallas could also take a look at others, especially if Chandler walks and rebounding becomes a higher priority. Here's two home-staters to consider:

Jeff Foster, 6-11, 236
The soon-to-be 35-year-old has spent all 12 years of his career with the Indiana Pacers, including four seasons playing for Rick Carlisle. He's a classic heart-on-his-sleeve grinder who'll give all he's got every game. Foster, born in San Antonio and played at the since-renamed Southwest Texas State, last season averaged 3.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 16.8 minutes a game, which breaks down to 13.4 rebounds and 6.1 on the offensive glass per 36 minutes.

Kurt Thomas, 6-9, 230
It might a few years too late for the 39-year-old former TCU and Dallas Hillcrest star. He always seemed a perfect fit over the years for the Mavs, but he never quite made it (OK, he did play five games with Dallas in 1997-98). Thomas did have two brief stints with the San Antonio Spurs a few years ago, but didn't get the championship his career still lacks. Thomas, 39, would be a perfect fit in the locker room and if he's got anything (he did average 22.7 minutes, 4.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in 52 games) he could finally be a fit.

Will Mavs search for backup PF again?

July, 5, 2011
A summer ago the Dallas Mavericks made hard pushes for free-agent power forwards Al Harrington (chose to sign with the Denver Nuggets) and Udonis Haslem (re-signed with the Miami Heat).

Obviously, a guy named Dirk Nowitzki has the position pretty well locked down, but could the Mavs again be in the market for more of a traditional power forward -- perhaps a Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes or short-time Mav Kris Humphries -- to back up Dirk? Remember, for much of the season small forward Shawn Marion shifted between the two forward positions.

Or did the little-used, yet ever-ready Brian Cardinal, also a free agent, secure his return to the team next season and potentially bigger minutes after filling such a vital role in the NBA Finals?

For starters, scratch high-priced free agents such as Kenyon Martin and David West off the wish list. The Mavs will not be dipping into the deep end of that pool, and there's obviously no reason for entrenched starters to join Dallas.

With that, here's a somewhat intriguing list of power forwards that will hit the open market whenever the lockout comes to an end:

Good bet Dirk bounces back in Detroit

January, 17, 2011
The seven points Dirk Nowitzki scored in his return from injury Saturday night ended a string of 89 consecutive games (including playoffs) in which he scored in double figures.

He played just 15 minutes before being ejected for arguing early in the third quarter of the 89-70 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. The last time Nowitzki didn't reach double figures he didn't get to finish that game either. On Dec. 18, 2009 against the Houston Rockets at the American Airlines Center, Nowitzki drove to the basket when his elbow collided with the mouth of Rockets forward Carl Landry.

Landry lost three teeth, which were found embedded in Nowitzki's elbow. Neither player returned to the game. Nowitzki finished with five points in 10 minutes.

Remarkably, Nowitzki missed just one game after having Landry's teeth extracted from his elbow. He returned four nights later and delivered 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting against Portland to start this just-concluded consecutive games streak.

It's a good bet to think Nowitzki will get back to double digits this afternoon against the Detroit Pistons (2:30 p.m. tip).

Nowitzki hasn't gone consecutive games played scoring in single figures since 2003 when he left a Nov. 26 game at Phoenix with a sprained ankle. He played seven minutes and was scoreless. He returned to action on Dec. 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers and scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes.

He'd settle for single digits three more times that season. Then, from March 14, 2004 to Nov. 29, 2006, Nowitzki put together a string of 231 consecutive double-digit scoring games (including playoffs).

And since then, the number of single-digit scoring games Nowitzki's had is ... seven.

Inside Skinny: Roster upgrade thoughts

January, 6, 2011
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.
Something to ponder as you’re digesting 48 more hours of nationwide obsessing about the state of LeBron James’ elbow and how much it contributed to Tuesday night’s 120-88 home loss to Boston that stunningly shoved the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of elimination:

Dirk Nowitzki missed just one game earlier this season with his elbow injury.

Only one game with someone else’s teeth in his elbow.

You’ll recall that Houston’s Carl Landry collided face-first with a driving Nowitzki on Dec. 18, lodging at least five of Landry’s teeth in Dirk’s right elbow.

Although there’s little question that Nowitzki’s shooting was affected for a few weeks after the injury -- he endured a stretch of seven consecutive games with sub-50 percent shooting shortly after scoring 27 points against Portland in his comeback -- he sat out only one game.

The game Nowitzki missed, incidentally, was Dallas’ 102-95 victory over James’ Cavs on Dec. 20.

Dirk has no hard feelings for Landry

December, 31, 2009
I'm not sure exactly what to make of Erick Dampier questioning the toughness of Rockets forward Carl Landry.

Maybe there is some bad blood there. However, Dirk Nowitzki has no hard feelings for the dude whose left a couple of teeth in his elbow earlier this month.

It's not like Landry meant to foul Dirk's elbow with his face. The gruesome collision left Dirk with a nasty gash on his shooting elbow, but Landry definitely got the worst of it. He had five teeth knocked out or broken, leading to five hours of emergency dental surgery.

Dirk tracked down Landry's number the next day. They exchanged text messages, making sure each knew there was no ill will.

Landry seemed pretty tough when he returned after missing only one game. The Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner has averaged 20.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in five games since gettig his grill rearranged.

Dampier: "Is he (Landry) tough?"

December, 30, 2009
The last time the Mavericks and Rockets tangled, Houston forward Carl Landry left some of his teeth in Dirk Nowitzki's elbow. The nasty collision left Nowitzki with stitches, while Landry required emergency, five-hour dental work.

Both players missed one game, returning four nights later. Coincidentally, both players scored 27 points in their respective games. Nowitzki continues to wear a big, puffy elbow pad for protection. Landry showed up with a a set of brand-new chompers. Pretty tough huh?

Mavericks center Erick Dampier, not known as much of a trash talker, didn't seem impressed on Wednesday with Landry's quick recovery.

"Is he tough? We don’t know if he’s tough," Dampier said. "We just know he got his teeth knocked out. I mean there’s still a question about his toughness. We’ll see how he plays tomorrow."

Quite the challenge from the Mavs' big man. Of course, Dampier has a bit of a score to settle with the Rockets. He was ejected in the 116-108 overtime loss at the AAC on Dec. 18 after he was flagrantly fouled by Houston guard Aaron Brooks during the overtime. The refs reviewed the play to see if Dampier had swung an elbow at Brooks after the play. They determined he had and nailed Dampier with a technical foul, his second of the game, resulting in an automatic ejection.

Houston, we have a problem. The refs actually never should have reviewed the play because by rule a Flagrant 1 foul is non-reviewable. So Dampier should not have garnered the technical and he shouldn't have been ejected.

"We definitely owe them one," Dampier said.

In what amounts to a scheduling the quirk, the Southwest Division rivals will conclude their four-game season series before Jan. 1. The Mavs hold a 2-1 edge.

The Come Up: Rockets again, then roll through Cali

December, 28, 2009
Monday means “The Come Up” – and the Mavs follow up a light, yet successful X-mas week with another light load. Dallas was focused this past holiday weekend with what was probably their best back-2-back set all year. They hope to get a repeat this upcoming New Year’s weekend in a similar situation. And it go a ‘lil summin’ like this:

Oh, It’s You Again…

Honestly, I’m sick of writing about the Rockets in this space. The most interesting thing about this game is the stuff going on off the court that may or may not get resolved this week before both teams tip it up on New Year’s Eve this Thursday night.

Remember that it was just over a week ago when these two played one of the weirdest and wildest games of the year. Carl Landry went to the hospital after pieces of his grill broke off in Dirk Nowitzki’s lower forearm. Then it got really bizarre.

A myriad of technical fouls, referee conferencing, ejections and video reviews in an overtime home loss motivated the Mavs to file a still unresolved protest. Brother Stein provides the latest on that right here.

Then there’s the Tracy McGrady saga. He went home as one unhappy camper.

Safe money says both of these will still be ongoing sagas come Thursday, but there’s no doubt the Mavs would like to enter 2010 with a five game cushion and the season series advantage on Houston.

Uptown Saturday Night with the cool kid

The casual NBA fan probably didn’t realize what an impressive win the Mavs pulled off against the Memphis Grizzlies (7-4 in December) last Saturday afternoon. If Dallas leaves Sacto on Saturday night with a W, I imagine the significance will also be lost on that same casual fan. But you know better, right?

The Kings are 10-5 at home (for reference, Dallas is 11-5), and they’re coming off a tough double-overtime home loss to the Lakers – more on them in a moment. Tyreke Evans is such a beast and certainly doesn’t play like a kid. Going into last year’s draft I said he’d be the second-best player to Blake Griffin, but I didn’t expect anything like 20 a night and their undisputed leader two months into the season.

Evans was dominant the first time these two played in Dallas a few weeks back when Dallas escaped with a two-point victory. Evans put on a show with 29 points and 10 assists.

The Mavs catch a little bit of a break this time in that Sacramento plays the night before at the Lakers, but that break does a 180 on Sunday night as the Mavs have to fly to LA and play those very same Lakers.

Remember opening weekend? So do they…

I distinctly remember the looks on folks faces in the bowels of the AAC after the Mavs opened the season with a horrific home loss to a bad Washington Wizards team. There was actual panic. Knee-jerking was at an all-time high. There was a thought that Dallas fans knee-deep in Cowboys hysteria would have little time to pay attention to an old Mav team that was far from exciting on the floor.

Then the Mavs went to LA and swept the Lakers and the Clips, and everyone realized that indeed the pulse was there. That Laker win was beyond huge, despite the fact that the Lakeshow was rolling sans Pau Gasol.

That was the night that the glimpse of this team’s true identity first emerged. The Mavericks would be defense first. They held the Lakers to 80 points on 39.5 percent shooting. But most important, they gave Kobe Bryant several different looks, and all of them were effective.

Kobe went 6-for-19 from the floor on a 20-point night, and Shawn Marion, Quinton Ross and Jason Kidd all took turns taking a run at the league’s best player. And this time around, the Mavs will also have Josh Howard to throw at him. Ask 'Melo how effective a JoHo/Matrix defensive tandem can be.

Since that night the first weekend of this season, the Lakers have been the best team in the league. Gasol is back and in the mix for many years to come. You assume Ron Ron will be a strong presence as well, though everyday life has a tendency to derail him in the strangest of ways.

But these boys are the best, and ths is yet another great early-season test of just how good that Mavs’ D can be.

Elbow doesn't bother Dirk

December, 23, 2009
DALLAS -- The best thing about Tuesday night's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers was that Dirk Nowitzki didn't have any serious issues with his elbow.

Nowitzki wore a large pad on his right elbow, which sustained a nasty gash in a collision with Houston's Carl Landry on Friday, when a couple of Landry's teeth ended up lodged in the laceration. The Mavs' trainers custom made the pad, cutting a hole in the middle so it didn't rub up against the three stitches in Nowitzki's elbow.

Dirk didn't have any problem shooting the ball, knocking down 10 of 13 shots during a 27-point performance. He tried to avoid contact with his elbow, using his hands instead of forearm while playing post defense.

"It worked out pretty good," he said. "It wasn’t actually too sore."

Infection avoided, Dirk is day to day

December, 20, 2009
DALLAS – The Mavericks’ medical staff feared infection when Rockets forward Carl Landry’s teeth opened up a deep gash on Dirk Nowitzki’s right elbow.

That might have meant surgery for Nowitzki. It definitely would have caused an extended absence for the MVP candidate, who was injured Friday night on a play which resulted in Landry getting called for a foul and suffering significant damage to five teeth.

The worst-case scenario was avoided after a doctor removed pieces of two of Landry’s teeth from Nowitzki’s elbow and thoroughly cleaned the wound.

“We definitely didn’t want that,” Nowitzki said, “so we washed it out for like 30 minutes, closed it up, took X-rays, saw some more stuff and opened it back up, washed it up some more and closed it back up.”

Sound painful? It was. And Nowitzki’s elbow still is extremely sore, which is why he didn’t play in Sunday night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was obvious that he wasn’t ready when he couldn’t bend or extend his elbow when he tried to shoot jumpers Sunday afternoon.

“I’m on every pill there is, so we’ll just see how it responds tomorrow and kind of take it day by day,” said Nowitzki, who exchanged texts with Landry to make sure there were no hard feelings about the unfortunate play. “I’d love to play. We all know that, but if it’s not Tuesday, then definitely on [Saturday].”

Dirk in locker room with elbow injury

December, 18, 2009
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki has been in the locker room since the 9:28 mark of the second quarter, apparently getting his right elbow stitched up after it collided with Rockets forward Carl Landry, knocking out three of his teeth. Landry fouled Nowitzki on the play and Nowitzki shot both free throws left-handed. He missed the first and made the second.

His free throw made it 28-26 Mavs. Since, the Rockets have taken control and lead 44-33 with 3:26 to play in the first half.

The Mavericks have not provided an injury report yet on Nowitzki.

Houston's visit to American Airlines Center figured to be another prime opportunity for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to take a couple in-game looks at the most potent offensive lineup he can put on the floor: Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in the backcourt, Josh Howard and Shawn Marion at the forwards and Dirk Nowitzki masquerading as a center.

Yet we never saw that unit.

Erick Dampier

Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

Erick Dampier had 14 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in the Mavericks' win over Houston on Tuesday.

After testing that group out twice in Saturday's cakewalk against Toronto, Carlisle didn't see an opening or need to bring it back in Tuesday night's 121-103 trouncing of the Rockets, even though Houston routinely plays plenty of small ball with Yao Ming out for the season and the undersized Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry serving as its main Yao fill-ins.

The reason?

It would appear that Erick Dampier convinced his coach not to go that route.

Dampier was so dominant against the Rockets -- with 14 points, 20 boards and three blocks -- that Carlisle was understandably motivated to ride him. On the occasions Dallas did go small against Houston, Drew Gooden was given the opportunity to log nearly 17 minutes of center play after missing four games with a strained rib-cage muscle.

The Mavs, though, still have high aspirations for what Kidd simply refers to as a "dangerous lineup for us." Howard's slower-than-expected recovery from offseason ankle and wrist surgery wiped out that the fivesome's opportunity to get reps in the exhibition season, but the brief glimpses against Toronto were well-received by the coaching staff.

In a lot of ways, Marion -- not Nowitzki -- takes on most of the responsibilities of a center for that unit. He can start the fast break with his rebounding ability to push the ball and has already impressed folks internally with his passing touch and knack for getting inside on pick-and-rolls. Marion, furthermore, is the Mav most likely to be guarded by opposing centers in that alignment, because teams aren't about to keep a five man for long on the versatile Nowitzki. Dirk's role and offensive approach, remember, don't change even when he's the biggest Mav on the floor.

But there's also little reason to stray from the conventional when Dampier is playing like this. It's still way early, obviously, but he's giving Dallas even more than even the biggest optimists out there -- knowing that the 34-year-old has to deliver in what's effectively a contract year -- were expecting.

Dampier ranks No. 1 among Western Conference centers in blocked shots (2.57 swats per game), second in rebounding (11.1 boards per game) and tops the entire league in shooting percentage (70 percent from the floor) while averaging 9.6 points. He's also rung up three double-doubles in just seven games after averaging only 8.6 double-doubles per season in his first five seasons as a Mav.

Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com and contributes to ESPNDallas.com.



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9