Dallas Mavericks: Caron Butler

Free-agency preview: Small forwards

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
8:30
AM CT
Luol DengAP Photo/Mark DuncanLuol Deng is one of the few players in the league as defensively versatile as Shawn Marion.
The Dallas Mavericks hope to finally land a big fish in free agency.

They also firmly understand that they’re in a long line of teams trying to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Put it this way: The Mavs had better odds of getting Deron Williams or Dwight Howard the last couple of offseasons than signing one of the superstars available this summer.

The Mavs are on a short list of teams that have the cap space to offer a full max contract to either of the available in-their-prime, future Hall of Fame small forwards, but several teams can maneuver to create room. And the superstars’ current teams can trump offers from anyone with contracts featuring an extra year and more than $30 million. Plus, don’t assume that the Mavs would be willing to give Anthony a full max offer with a starting salary of more than $22 million.

The Dallas front office isn’t approaching this summer with a big fish-or-bust mentality. They’ll have strong Plans B, C, D, etc. in place, particularly at small forward.

One of those is re-signing Shawn Marion, the Mavs’ best defender and rebounder over the last five seasons and a critical piece of the 2011 championship puzzle. There is strong mutual interest in Marion’s return, although it is uncertain whether the 36-year-old “Matrix” would be enthusiastic about staying in Dallas if the Mavs envision him as a reserve.

The Mavs are optimistic that they’ll re-sign sixth man Vince Carter, who plays the majority of his minutes at small forward.

A look at some of the Mavs’ other small forward options in free agency:

Luol Deng: There’s a lot to like about the 6-foot-8, 29-year-old Deng. He’s one of the few players in this league as defensively versatile as Marion, but he’s seven years younger and a much more productive offensive player at this point of their careers.

As Rick Carlisle said when Deng came to Dallas with the Cavs last season, any coach would love to have Deng on their roster due to his toughness, intelligence and talent.

(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.”

OT: Catching up with '11 champions

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
8:00
AM CT
Keeping the powder dry didn’t pan out for the Dallas Mavericks.

Breaking up a championship team wasn't a popular decision by the Dallas front office at the time, to put it politely. And the Mavs brass’ CBA forecast is still easy fodder for critics more than two years later, with Dirk Nowitzki still the lone All-Star on the roster.

But Mark Cuban and Co. were absolutely right about one thing: Keeping that roster intact would have only guaranteed a large luxury-tax bill. All due respect to Tyson Chandler, who the Mavs will see Monday night at Madison Square Garden, but it’s delusional to believe that Dallas was denied a potential dynasty.

Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd and Brian Cardinal have retired. Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones can’t get NBA jobs. Brendan Haywood, an amnesty clause casualty in Dallas, is collecting checks in Charlotte while sitting out the season following foot surgery. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion -- who combine to make $32 million this season -- are the only 2011 champions who remain on the Mavs’ roster.

Here’s a look at what’s happened to the rest of the title team:

Tyson Chandler
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $55.4 million deal with the New York Knicks
Chandler was the finishing piece of the Mavs’ championship puzzle, but he’s an outstanding role player, not a star capable of being a centerpiece of a title contender. That’s evident by the fact that the Knicks, who feature a legitimate superstar in Carmelo Anthony, have won only one playoff series since signing Chandler in December 2011 and are a long shot to make the playoffs this season. Injuries have limited Chandler to 32 games this season, and he is averaging 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, numbers that certainly don’t justify a $14 million salary.

The Mavs declined to make Chandler a multiyear offer after the lockout, much less match the Knicks’ deal. That will always leave the Mavs’ front office open to a couple of second-guess hypotheticals: Could the Mavs have done a respectable job defending their title with Chandler anchoring the 2011-12 Dallas defense? By dangling Chandler, could Dallas have pulled off a blockbuster deal to land Dwight Howard instead of helplessly watching the Los Angeles Lakers use Andrew Bynum to get the league’s best big man in the summer of 2012?

Jason Terry
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $15.7 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Jet is a journeyman now, having been traded twice over the last eight months. His brief tenure with the Brooklyn Nets was an unmitigated failure, as the 36-year-old Terry averaged only 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting before being shipped to the NBA equivalent of Siberia. He’ll sit out the rest of the season instead of reporting to the Sacramento Kings. The hope is that focusing on rehabbing his left knee -- he apparently never fully recovered from summer surgery -- will allow Terry to contribute again next season. However, it’s painfully clear that Jet’s days as an elite bench scorer are over.

J.J. Barea
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $18 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves
Barea is a quality backup point guard, but that’s a steep price to pay for that type of player. Barea’s stats have dipped this season (8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG), but his contract is the primary reason Barea’s name was floated in trade rumors before the deadline.

Caron Butler
Dallas departure: signed three-year, $24 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers
This was a crazy contract to give a then-31-year-old who was coming off a serious knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season on New Year’s Eve. Butler is a high-character guy, but he’s a low-efficiency offensive player at this point of his career. The Clippers insisted on including him in the three-team deal that sent Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns and Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to the Clippers. The Bucks are stuck with an expensive part-time starter who is shooting less than 40 percent from the floor for the NBA’s worst team.

Corey Brewer
Dallas departure: traded to the Denver Nuggets along with Rudy Fernandez for a future second-round pick
The Mavs dumping Brewer’s reasonable salary before the 2011-12 season made little sense, considering Dallas needed all the energy and athleticism it could find on the cheap. The Mavs made creating salary-cap space their priority, but they could have easily found takers for Brewer the next summer if need be. However, the Dallas front office didn’t see a role for Brewer after signing Vince Carter. After a couple of quality seasons coming off the Nuggets’ bench, Brewer signed a three-year, $14.1 million deal to become the Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting small forward.

Ian Mahinmi
Dallas departure: signed four-year, $16 million deal with Indiana Pacers
If the Pacers were confident in Mahinmi, they wouldn’t have rolled the dice on Bynum. Mahinimi is averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds and making $4 million this season.


A conspiracy theory: The Rockets emerged as a rumored frontrunner to throw folks off the scent that Dwight Howard has been ticketed for Dallas all along.

Those are whispers that ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne has heard on the West coast.

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

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The implication: A wink-wink, nudge-nudge deal has long been in place between Mark Cuban and his pal Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent. I love a good conspiracy theory, but it’s too easy to shoot holes in this one.

Start with the Shawn Marion situation. If this was a done deal, wouldn’t Fegan have convinced his client on the Mavs’ roster to cooperate and make things much easier for everyone?

The best-case scenario for the Mavs would have been Marion exercising the early termination option in his contract and then returning to Dallas on a three-year deal with a salary reduced enough to squeeze Howard’s max deal under the cap. Technically, the Mavs couldn’t have negotiated Marion’s new contract before he opted out, but we’re talking wink-wink, nudge-nudge deals here.

How can the Mavs create enough cap space to sign Howard now? Dumping Marion’s salary in a trade is the most likely scenario. If this was all a pre-arranged deal, would Fegan put another veteran client in danger of being shipped to an undesirable team? (Yes, Marion would pocket an extra $1.4 million with his trade kicker, but if this was all just a money grab for Fegan, he’d be determined to get Howard to stay in L.A. instead of bolting to Dallas.)

It’s true that Cuban and Fegan have a strong business relationship, even a friendship, and have worked together to get several deals done. Hey, maybe Fegan really does feel like he owes Cuban for that Erick Dampier contract!

But, if Marion gets dealt this summer, add that to the list of business decisions made by Cuban that disappointed Fegan clients.

*The Mavs shipped Fegan client Drew Gooden to Washington in the deal that got rid of Josh Howard and brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.

*Jason Terry fired Fegan in part because of frustration stemming from the Mavs’ lack of interest in making a long-term commitment to him during his last year in Dallas.

*The Mavs waived Delonte West, a Fegan client at the time, after twice suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team last fall.

It helps for an owner and agent to have a good relationship, but it guarantees nothing for either side.
ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks and Clippers in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Chris Paul's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We'll focus on Dwight Howard next week.

Here’s where the Mavs have to make a heck of a sales pitch.

PODCAST
Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the latest Mavericks news, Dirk Nowitzki and much more.

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It wouldn’t be difficult for the Mavs to create enough cap space to give Chris Paul a max deal while keeping Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. That might give the Mavs a chance to be competitive next season, but the opportunity to play with a couple of savvy veterans with expiring contracts isn’t going to convince Paul to leave Los Angeles.

To have any hope, the Mavs must make Paul believe in their ability to build a legitimate contender around him next summer. And that’s where the dollars difference between Dirk Nowitzki and Blake Griffin might matter.

Nowitzki is on record as saying he’ll take a “significant pay cut” when he re-signs with Dallas next year, which guarantees that the Mavs can be major players again in the 2014 free agency market. Griffin’s five-year max deal kicks in next season, starting with a $13.7 million salary that increases by a little more than $1 million each year.

Worry about the semantics of what “significant” means if you wish, but Nowitzki has made it clear that his salary won’t get in the way of the Mavs making major upgrades after his current contract expires. The Clippers won’t have nearly as much flexibility with two max players plus center DeAndre Jordan due to make $21.4 million over the next two seasons.

PODCAST
ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett discuss the upcoming NBA draft and possible moves the Mavericks could make.

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It’s not enough to get Paul to envision the personnel possibilities in Dallas. The Mavs brass has to get CP3 excited about them. It’s a virtual lock that Dallas will be a preferred destination if Paul is running the point and the Mavs have ample cap space.

Hey, did you know CP3 and LeBron James (who can opt out of his contract next summer) are great buddies? Too far-fetched? OK, how about DeMarcus Cousins coming to Dallas as a restricted free agent?

The Clippers have a couple of complementary talents in addition to Griffin already locked up. You can argue that Jordan is overpaid, but he’s a young big man with freakish athleticism. Jamal Crawford, who has three years remaining on his midlevel deal, is a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

The Clippers also have a couple of assets that could be extremely attractive in the trade market this season: restricted free agent-to-be point guard Eric Bledsoe, who is stuck as Paul’s backup but good enough to start for a lot of teams; and the $8 million expiring contract of Caron Butler.

The Clippers’ supporting cast looks better on paper. The Mavs leave a lot more room for the imagination.

EDGE: Clippers, unless Mark Cuban manages to convince CP3 otherwise.
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We planned to have updates as long as Mavs championship alums were alive in the playoffs, but frankly, Ian Mahinmi alone doesn't merit it.

Ian Mahinmi is the last member of the Mavericks’ championship team left standing in these playoffs.

With Mahinmi watching all but four minutes from the bench, his Pacers eliminated the Knicks in Game 6, ending a miserable series for two integral pieces of the 2011 title team.

Indiana’s Roy Hibbert dominated Tyson Chandler before the Knicks big man fouled out with 3:12 remaining. Jason Kidd was benched for the second half for the second straight game and went scoreless for the 10th consecutive game, dating to Game 2 of the first round.

Hibbert had 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the series finale. Chandler had two points and six rebounds, limited to only 23 minutes because of foul trouble.

For the series, Hibbert averaged 13.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, compared to 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for Chandler. The Knicks were outscored by 23 points with Chandler on the floor in the series, including 17 in Game 6.

The 40-year-old Kidd had a historically horrible offensive performance during these playoffs. He averaged 0.9 points and shot 12 percent from the floor, the lowest postseason field goal percentage for a player with at least 25 attempts since 1947.

This might not quiet the outcry about Mark Cuban opting to break up the Mavs’ championship team – that’d probably require signing a superstar this summer – but it definitely deadens the angry mob’s factual ammunition.

Here is what Cuban feared: The Mavs would look a lot like the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks, veteran teams who weren’t good enough to be true contenders and have extremely limited avenues to improve because of their bloated payrolls and the restrictive rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Imagine if the Mavs paid the price to keep all of their championship pieces. Chandler, Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Caron Butler will cost a total of $35.1 million next season, which would put the Mavs in luxury-tax territory, handcuffing them this summer. Only Butler’s $8 million salary would come off the books in 2014-15.

With a Dirk Nowitzki as the lone star surrounded by an supporting cast of players who are primarily also on the decline, do you really believe the Mavs would have been a threat to come out of the West?

You can make a strong case that it’d have been better for the Mavs to have kept the title core together and at least be a playoff team than the mediocre mess the franchise put on the floor this season. But this really isn’t a Chandler vs. Chris Kaman conversation. It’s a risk/reward discussion.

In Cuban’s opinion, the potential reward didn’t justify the risk of sacrificing roster flexibility if they kept the championship team intact. Finances were only a factor in the post-lockout decisions as they related to limiting the Mavs’ upgrade options.

Cuban decided to dream big, putting immense pressure on him to pull off a superstar acquisition this summer. That ultimately needs to happen to justify stripping down the title team as a good decision.

But if you think the Mavs broke up a dynasty, you clearly didn’t watch much of the first two rounds of these playoffs.
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We’ll have daily updates as long as Mavs championship alums are still alive in the playoffs.

Tyson Chandler: This looked like the Chandler who played such a critical role in the Mavs’ title run. This was the Chandler the Knicks envisioned when they signed him to a rich four-year deal.

Chandler came up with nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a handful of clutch plays that didn’t necessarily show up in the box score to help the Knicks close out the Celtics for their first playoff series win since 2000.

“I felt 100 percent tonight,” Chandler told reporters. “It’s absolutely the best I’ve felt the entire playoffs, obviously coming off the neck injury. Tonight was the first time I came in the game feeling 100 percent and being able to go through my regular routine.”

Jason Kidd: Kidd’s scoreless drought reached four consecutive games. He averaged only 1.8 points per game in the series and hasn’t scored since hitting a 3-pointer during the first quarter of Game 2.

At this point, Kidd is the Knicks’ third point guard behind Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The Knicks were outscored by nine in Kidd’s 16 Game 6 minutes, with him contributing three rebounds, one steal, one assist and three turnovers.

Jason Terry: JET at least went out with his pride intact.

Terry got off to a slow start in his first playoff series with the Celtics – including a scoreless Game 1 – but he finished strong. He scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes in Game 6. In three elimination games, Terry averaged 16.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting.

However, Terry and the Celtics weren’t able to pull off a historic comeback. Not from an 0-3 series deficit or from a 26-point hole in Game 6, but they gave the Knicks a serious scare in both cases.

“That’s what the definition of a true Celtic is. Never say never, never say die. I’m proud to wear this uniform.”

Caron Butler: Butler scored 14 points on 7-of-16 shooting in the Clippers’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Grizzlies.

Butler had a pretty disappointing series, averaging 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and failing to dish out a single assist in six games.

Ian Mahinmi: Mahinmi had no points on 0-of-3 shooting, three rebounds and two blocks in 10 minutes off the bench as the Pacers closed out the Hawks.

DeShawn Stevenson: He was DNP-CD’d as the Hawks’ season ended. Stevenson played a total of 61 seconds in the final four games of the series.
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We’ll have daily updates as long as Mavs championship alums are still alive in the playoffs.

Caron Butler: On a night that Chris Paul desperately needed a scoring sidekick in the starting lineup, Butler had five points on 2-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He had two rebounds, no assists and a turnover. His plus-minus (minus-14) was the Clippers' worst in a home loss to the Grizzlies that gave Memphis a 3-2 series lead.

Corey Brewer: The Nuggets stayed alive with a win over the Warriors despite Brewer's off night. He was 1-of-11 from the floor (0-of-5 from 3-point range) during his four-point performance. He did come up with three steals, helping Denver force 17 turnovers.
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We’ll have daily updates as long as Mavs championship alums are still alive in the playoffs.

Caron Butler: Butler was a role player during the Clippers’ thrilling win over the Grizzlies. He scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and grabbed one rebound in 21 minutes. He watched from the bench as Chris Paul carried the Clippers during crunch time.
The Mavericks aren’t in the playoffs for the first time since 2000, so we have to find something to fill the time this spring. Might as well keep up with the players from the Mavs’ title team who are scattered throughout the postseason. We’ll have daily updates as long as Mavs championship alums are still alive in the playoffs.

Jason Kidd: This was classic late-career Kidd. He didn’t post a spectacular line (eight points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals in 35 minutes), but he was a significant force during closing time in the Knicks’ win over Boston.

All three of his steals came in the final five minutes. On the first steal, the 40-year-old Kidd deflected a pass and outhustled 26-year-old Jeff Green by diving for a loose ball to spark a fast break. With 2:20 remaining and New York up five, Kidd diagnosed a play that’s a Celtics staple and helped from the weak side to strip Green under the basket. Kidd’s strip of Kevin Garnett on a mismatched post-up in the final minute essentially sealed the win.

“He beats everyone with his brain,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said at his postgame press conference. “If you think quicker than a guy can move, you’re still quicker. That’s why he’s there first, because he thought what the guy was going to do before he did it. He’s just a valuable player to have on a basketball team.”

Tyson Chandler: The fiery big man was a nonfactor in Game 1 against the Celtics after missing 16 of the Knicks’ final 20 regular-season games due to a neck injury. He had five rebounds and one steal in 20 scoreless minutes, and the Knicks opted to play Kenyon Martin at center instead of Chandler in crunch time.

"I knew I would be rusty. I knew I would be a little winded. I knew at some point my legs would get the best of me," Chandler said, according to ESPNNewYork.com. "I just wanted to be out there with my team."

Chandler said his neck didn’t bother him. He acknowledged that conditioning was a factor.

“I should obviously be much better in Game 2,” he said.

Jason Terry: For the first time in his career, Terry failed to score a point in a playoff game.

JET was 0-of-5 from the floor in 20 minutes. His only contributions to the Celtics were three rebounds and one steal. Meanwhile, Boston’s bench was outscored by a 33-4 margin.

"You don't get too high or down too low," Terry said, according to ESPNBoston.com. "It's a long series. If I bet on myself, I know how this is going to end up. I'm going to keep grinding, do the things necessary to win."

Corey Brewer: Brewer scored 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes during Denver’s Game 1 win over the Warriors. He didn’t have any rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.

Caron Butler: Butler, who was sidelined by a serious knee injury during the Mavs’ title run, had a terrific Game 1 to help the Clippers blow out the Grizzlies. Butler scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and had a block and a steal in 24 minutes.
DALLAS – Mark Cuban makes one guarantee about any potential moves the Mavericks make before the trade deadline.

“If you read about it,” Cuban said, “it ain’t happening.”

Of course, that comes from the man who once advised a reporter to “put the crack pipe down” in response to an inquiry about a package the Mavs might send to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. That blockbuster deal went down days later and looked a lot like the reporter’s proposal.

There was also a lot of pre-trade buzz the last time the Mavs pulled off an All-Star weekend blockbuster, shipping Josh Howard and spare parts to Washington for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.

One good rule to follow around this time of year is to take anything said on the record by an NBA decision-maker with a few big grains of salt.

“That’s probably true,” Cuban said. “You’re a very handsome man.”

3-pointer: Mavs fall 10 games under .500

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:07
AM CT
It seems like the Mavericks hit a new dozen-year low on a daily basis.

It happened again Wednesday night despite a spirited fight against the team with the NBA’s best record. The Mavs’ 99-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers dropped the Mavs to 10 games below .500 for the first time since March 30, 2000, the last season the franchise failed to make the playoffs.

The Mavs are 13-23 after losing 10 of their last 11 games and 13 of their last 15. They head to Sacramento for the butt end of a back-to-back staring up at the lowly Kings in the West standings.

It’d take an absolute miracle for the Mavs 12-year playoff streak to be extended. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no West team has qualified for the playoffs after being 10 games below .500 at any point of the season in at least 15 years.

“We’re going to keep digging,” point guard Darren Collison told reporters after leading the Mavs with 22 points. “It’s early on in the season. We’re going to keep a positive mindset. I tell you one thing: Once we get this rolling, we turn this thing over, I don’t think there’s no looking back for us.”

It’s early in the season, but it looks like it’s too late for the Mavs.

A few more quick notes from the Mavs’ loss in L.A.:

1. Fourth-quarter failure: The Mavs managed to build a double-digit lead in the third quarter and it lasted all of 3:15. The Clippers closed the third strong and outscored the Mavs 27-18 in the final frame to claim the win.

That’s the continuation of a troubling trend for the Mavs, who have been miserable closing games. It’s been especially painful lately, with the Mavs leading entering the fourth quarter in the last three games and losing each time.

“It just seems like the same story I keep telling you guys over and over,” said Collison, who didn’t score any of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. “We’re right there, making the same mistakes. We’re all hurting, too. We’re feeling the same pain after every game.”

The most painful moments down the stretch in this loss were a couple of offensive rebounds by ex-Mav Caron Butler on one late possession. The Clippers didn’t score, but the extra possessions basically served like a couple of first downs for a football team protecting a two-score lead.

Vince Carter, who was on the floor instead of Mavs’ leading rebounder Shawn Marion, failed to box out Butler.

“Down the stretch, you’ve got to get a rebound,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “You can’t give up two offensive rebounds when you get a good stop.”

2. CP3 special: Sometimes you’ve just got to give the other guy credit. Clippers point guard Chris Paul showed why he’s a leading MVP candidate with a 19-point, 16-assist performance.

Paul took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring six points and dishing out six assists.

"They've got the best leader to me right now in the league," Nowitzki said. "Chris Paul can turn it up anytime he wants. He can take games over.”

3. Look at Lam Lam: Lamar Odom’s line (four points, two rebounds, three assists, five fouls, one steal) doesn’t look very impressive, but one of the biggest dogs in Dallas sports history continued to help the Clippers.

Odom was a key part of the Clippers’ closing unit, doing a respectable job defending Dirk down the stretch. L.A. was plus-8 in his 27 minutes. L.A. is plus-191 in Odom’s 671 minutes this season despite him being in awful shape for the first month or so.

Mavs close again but can't get over hump

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
1:42
AM CT
LOS ANGELES -- Elton Brand leaned against the wall next to his locker, shook his head and smiled.

He wouldn't go as far as to say it's as bad now as it was 13 years ago, when the futile Chicago Bulls finished 17-65 his rookie season. But right now, it's bad for the Dallas Mavericks, who dropped yet another game -- this one by a 99-93 score to the Los Angeles Clippers.

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The Mavericks blew a 10-point lead. Down by two possessions, they failed to grab a much-needed rebound twice in the final minute, all but sealing their fate. It was their 13th loss in the last 15 games.

"Words can't even express it right now," said Shawn Marion, standing nearby. "This is painful. To be losing like this, when we were so close, we just find a way to bite ourselves. When we get right there, we do something to mess it up."

The Mavericks had a chance late, getting two stops on perimeter shots, but former Mav Caron Butler pulled down both loose balls. Vince Carter missed a jumper that would have trimmed the deficit to two with less than seven seconds remaining.

Losing a double-digit lead against the team with the best record in the NBA, in a sold-out arena, was not an excuse, even for a reeling squad that continues to search for answers.

"Our motivation is to get wins, plain and simple," Carter said. "If you can't motivate yourself off of that, you shouldn't be playing."

Four Mavericks starters scored in double figures, led by point guard Darren Collison's game-high 22. O.J. Mayo had 10 points in the second half but needed 10 shots to get there. Dirk Nowitzki had nine in the second half and finished with 15.

"We're right there," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We just have to keep working to get over the hump."

In the locker room, Brand leaned against the wall and smiled.

"Once we break through," Brand said, "we'll be fine."

3-pointer: Darren Collison disappoints again

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
9:30
AM CT
Let’s just say Darren Collison didn’t do anything in Los Angeles to convince Rick Carlisle that it was a bad idea to give away the point guard’s starting job.

A moment early in the fourth quarter illustrated why the Mavs can’t trust Collison to run their team. His sloppy, careless pass was easily intercepted by Matt Barnes, leading to a fast-break opportunity for the Clippers that Barnes finished with a layup.

Carlisle responded by calling a timeout. The reason he wanted the break was to bench Collison, who was replaced by Dominique Jones with the Mavs trailing by 21 points.

Collison got back off the bench for garbage time. He committed another turnover on his first possession after checking back into the game.

Collison padded his point total during garbage time, but his line in the box score was still butt ugly: eight points, two assists, two rebounds, four fouls and five turnovers in 18 minutes. The Mavs were outscored by 24 with him on the floor, the worst plus-minus of any player.

By contrast, Fisher was the only Mav who finished with a positive plus-minus. Dallas outscored the Clippers by two points in Fisher’s 25 minutes, with the 38-year-old point guard scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting.

A few more quick notes from the Mavs’ lopsided loss in L.A.:

1. Lam Lam shows life: As if getting blown out by the Clippers wasn’t bad enough, the Mavs actually let Lamar Odom look like he belonged in an NBA uniform.

Odom, who stunned people who paid no attention to his disastrous stint in Dallas by reporting to Clipper training camp in terrible shape, played 24 active, productive minutes in L.A.’s rout. He grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds and had four points, two steals and two assists. Odom didn’t have a double-digit rebounding game during his abbreviated season in Dallas.

Oh, there was one classic Lam Lam lowlight, when he had zero lift on a layup attempt he managed to miss by several feet.

2. Butler did it: Another ex-Mav on the Clippers’ roster also enjoyed facing his former team. Caron Butler, who left Dallas with nothing but the utmost respect and admiration from the Mavs’ franchise, contributed to the Clippers’ win 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and five rebounds.

Of all the Clippers’ highlight-worthy dunks – and there were a bunch of them – Butler might have had the most impressive. He put Chris Kaman on a poster while finishing a baseline drive with a ferocious one-hand slam.

3. Crowder’s struggles continue: Rookie second-round pick Jae Crowder’s offensive woes as a starter continued with an 0-of-6 shooting night. Crowder is now averaging 4.0 points on 25 percent shooting as a starter, compared with 8.7 points on 52.7 percent shooting as a reserve.

Elton Brand started the second half instead of Crowder, perhaps a sign of things to come.

Rapid Reaction: Clippers 112, Mavericks 90

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
12:28
AM CT

How it happened: Chris Paul, Chris Paul and some more Chris Paul.

The point guard, who Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle dubbed "probably the best in the game" in his pregame interview, had 14 points, 13 assists and five steals. He exerted his will from start to finish and harassed the Mavs' backcourt all night.

But Paul had a lot of help, too.

Blake Griffin, fresh off a 30-point, 11-rebound performance in Utah, chipped in with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Jamal Crawford added 20 points off the bench, including a four-point play off an O.J. Mayo foul.

Speaking of Mayo, the Mavericks' leading scorer came back down to earth Wednesday, scoring only 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. The Clippers paid specific attention to him any time he touched the ball, which resulted in seven assists, tying his season-high.

With Mayo struggling, the Mavs looked elsewhere for offensive production and found it in Vince Carter (16 points off the bench), Derek Fisher (15 points), Chris Kaman (14 points) and Shawn Marion (14 points).

In a perturbing road trend, the Mavericks turned the ball over 22 times, resulting in 26 points off of turnovers for the Clippers. Even worse, 18 of those turnovers came off Clipper steals, a clear sign that the Mavericks were not making smart decisions offensively.

The Clippers took control in the second quarter, when they outscored the Mavericks 29-15 over the final 8:14 and turned the contest into a blowout. L.A. also outrebounded the Mavs 49-41 and held Dallas to just 40.5 percent shooting from the field.

What it means: The Mavericks, who have lost five of their last seven games, drop to 8-10 on the season and a disappointing 2-7 on the road. What's worse is that five of those seven road losses have been by double-digits. They will look to bounce back in Phoenix on Thursday.

Play of the game: Crawford's four-point play with 3:15 remaining in the second quarter. The basket, which was preceded by consecutive 3-pointers by Caron Butler and Crawford, gave the Clippers an 18-point lead and established permanent control. Crawford is the all-time leader in four-point plays with 34 throughout his 13-year career.

Stat of the night: "Paint points," as Carlisle referred to them prior to tipoff. The Clippers outscored the Mavericks 62-30 in the paint and it wasn't even that close. Wednesday's loss showed the limitations of the Mavericks' front line against more athletic opposition.

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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