Dallas Mavericks: Chauncey Billups

If Dwight Howard chooses Dallas, then what? How do the Mavericks fill out the roster around him?

The grand plan is to add another major piece or two to the championship puzzle next summer, when Dirk Nowitzki clears cap space by taking a drastic pay cut on his next contract. But the immediate goal will be to construct a roster that gives the Mavs the best possible chance of contending this season.

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Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.

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Let’s take a look at the options, assuming for the sake of discussion that the Mavs dump Shawn Marion’s salary in a deal to create the cap space necessary to sign Howard to a max deal and then some. If the Mavs took no money back in a Marion trade, that’d leave between $5.6 million and $6.6 million in cap room after signing Howard, depending on whether they kept Brandan Wright’s Early Bird rights and the non-guaranteed contracts of Bernard James and Josh Akognon.

That could very well be enough money to sign point guard Jose Calderon, a prime Mavs target who turned down an offer from the Kings this week because he wanted to play for a winner.

If that’s the case, the Mavs would have a terrific basketball brain, distributor and spot-up shooter to help put Howard and Nowitzki in position to succeed offensively. Calderon’s defensive flaws – and that’s putting it politely – would be masked by having a three-time Defensive Player of the Year behind him.

Other point guard options include Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack and Monta Ellis. Acquiring a starting point guard is a must, and it’d be a bonus to get a savvy veteran willing to mentor rookie backups Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel.

The Mavs would like to re-sign Wright, a backup center/power forward who has received interest from the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons. The Early Bird rights would allow Dallas to make a competitive offer – up to the average player salary of more than $5 million per year, if they wanted – for the high-flying backup center/power forward.

The Mavs would still have holes at shooting guard and small forward. They’d prefer to keep Vince Carter as a sixth man, so his minutes can be limited while he provides scoring punch off the pine. Jae Crowder is a candidate to start at small forward, but it’d be ideal to have other options.

The Mavs would have the midlevel exception, bi-annual exception and minimum-salary deals to fill out the roster.

Matt Barnes might not win a popularity contest with Mavs fans, but he’d be a great fit as a gritty, versatile, 3-point threat who could play significant minutes at small forward and spot duty as a small-ball power forward. He was a major bargain as a minimum guy for the Clippers last season, drawing interest from a dozen teams early in free agency. Could the Mavs get him for the $2 million bi-annual exception? A chunk of the midlevel exception? (UPDATE: Barnes is off the board. He announced via Twitter that he will re-sign with the Clippers.)

Another potential bi-annual exception target: Chauncey Billups, whose career took off when he played for coach Rick Carlisle in Detroit. He could be a 16-minute per game starter at shooting guard and still play point guard if needed.

Anthony Morrow didn’t make any impact during his brief tenure in Dallas last season, but Howard’s good buddy would make sense as a low-cost shooter off the bench.

Elton Brand might get better offers elsewhere, but the Mavs are interested in bringing him back as a low-cost bench banger.

Let’s say Howard commits to the Mavs -- and that, of course, is a monstrous assumption -- and the balls keep falling their way in the following days. Here’s how their roster could look in that case:

PG – Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Gal Mekel
SG – Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Ricky Ledo, Josh Akognon
SF – Matt Barnes, Jae Crowder, Anthony Morrow
PF – Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright
C – Dwight Howard, Elton Brand, Bernard James
The Mavericks’ search for a starting point guard includes exploring a potential sign-and-trade deal that would send O.J. Mayo to the Los Angeles Clippers and bring Eric Bledsoe to Dallas, sources told ESPNDallas.com.

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Mavericks top draft pick Shane Larkin joins Galloway and Company to discuss his future in Dallas.

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The Clippers, who called Mayo in the early hours of free agency, are aggressively shopping Bledsoe, a dynamically athletic, 23-year-old, three-year veteran who has spent the last two seasons serving as Chris Paul’s apprentice. Bledsoe, an outstanding defender who averaged 8.5 points and 3.1 assists in 20.4 minutes per game last season, is widely seen as being ready for a starting role.

The Mavericks and Clippers have been exchanging concepts on a sign-and-trade headlined by both Mayo and Bledsoe this week, sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

“It’s been discussed,” said one source close to the process.

The deal would have to include other pieces because Bledsoe is due to make $2.63 million next season in the final year of his rookie deal, which is likely to be far less than what Mayo will get this summer.

One source said swingman Matt Barnes, a gritty free-agent swingman who averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds off the Clippers’ bench last season, could be part of the deal. The Mavs would first have to convince Barnes to come to Dallas.

Aaron Goodwin, Barnes’ agent, said the Mavs are one of 12 teams that have expressed interest in Barnes during the first day of free agency.

“He knows Mark (Cuban) is going to be able to build a championship team,” Goodwin told ESPNDallas.com. “If the Mavericks are interested, we’re definitely going to listen.”

The Mavs also have interest in Clippers free-agent guard Chauncey Billups. Mayo signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Dallas last summer in part because of the advice of Billups, who credited Carlisle for helping his career take off during their year together in Detroit.

The deal is among the Mavs’ potential contingency plans if they don’t win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Dallas would have to renounce Mayo’s rights as part of the process of clearing out the cap space to give Howard a max contract.

Search for starting PG remains a priority

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
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The Mavericks remain in the market for a starting point guard after acquiring 18th overall pick Shane Larkin and agreeing on three-year, minimum-salary deal with Israeli star Gal Mekel.

PODCAST
Former Maverick Jason Terry joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss being traded to Brooklyn, Dirk Nowitzki and having his jersey in the rafters at the American Airlines Center one day.

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The Mavs want Larkin and Mekel to compete for backup minutes. They’ll continue to explore all avenues in finding a proven starter at point guard, a problem position last season in Dallas when Darren Collison lost his starting job to a pair of 37-year-olds who were unemployed at the beginning of the season before the Mavs allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Dallas attempting to initiate trade talks with Boston regarding perennial Rajon Rondo created a lot of buzz over the weekend, but it’s an extreme long shot at best that the Mavs and Celtics would make a deal involving the perennial All-Star point guard.

As a source told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, "Danny (Ainge) telling them that they're only interested in Dirk (Nowitzki) is his way of saying: ‘You don't have enough to get in the game.’”

PODCAST
Donnie Nelson joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the crazy NBA draft, new Mavs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo, and Dirk Nowitzki's long-term roll with Dallas.

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The only somewhat feasible scenario in which the Mavs have a chance to land Rondo is if the rebuilding Celtics try to dump a lot of salary along with him, with the Mavs using cap space to absorb the contracts if they miss out on Dwight Howard. A source said the Mavs might be willing to take Brandon Bass (two years, $13.35 remaining on contract) and Courtney Lee (three years, $16.35 million), but not Gerald Wallace (three years, $30.32 million).

Getting back to the realm of much more realistic possibilities, the Mavs are intrigued by Jose Calderon’s high basketball IQ and history of being an extremely efficient distributor and shooter. They’ve expressed that interest, but the Detroit Pistons intend to attempt to re-sign Calderon and several other teams have inquired about him.

USA Today reported that the Clippers, who met with O.J. Mayo in the early hours of free agency, could be interested in a Mayo sign-and-trade that would send Chris Paul's ready-to-start backup Eric Bledsoe to Dallas.

The Mavs will at least touch base with most of the veteran point guards in free agency, such as Mo Williams, Jarrett Jack and Monta Ellis. The Mavs could also reach out to restricted free agents Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague and Tyreke Evans, but the likelihood of the Dallas making an offer their teams would decline to match is slim.

A low-cost, stopgap possibility: 36-year-old Chauncey Billups, who credits coach Rick Carlisle for helping his career take off in Detroit and would be a tremendous mentor to the rookies.

Free-agent PGs: Search for Plan B starter

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
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The first in ESPNDallas.com’s position-by-position series previewing the free agency market that opens July 1.

Barring a one-in-a-million type of miracle, the Mavericks must move on to Plan B.

With Doc Rivers re-locating to Los Angeles, Chris Paul maximizing his money by re-signing with the Clippers is all but a done deal. There’s a steep drop from CP3 to the rest of the point guards available in free agency -- and maybe the Mavs acquire their starter via a trade – but upgrading this position ranks right up there with center among the Mavs’ top priorities.

A look at potential PG fits for the Mavs in free agency:

Jose Calderon: The Mavs were intrigued enough by the 31-year-old Spaniard to engage in trade talks about him with the Raptors before and during last season. Calderon, who has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.2/1.7, would give the Mavs a significant boost of basketball IQ and get Dirk Nowitzki the ball at the right spot and right time on a regular basis. Calderon can also consistently knock down open jumpers, as evidenced by his career percentages that are outstanding by point guard standards (.483 FG, .399 3s).

The concerns with Calderon: He’ll remind Mavs fans of the biggest flaws of the two best point guards who have played with Dirk. Calderon has never been a good creator or defender, and that’s putting it kindly. His hesitation/inability to penetrate is Kidd-like; his 0.9 attempts per game at the rim were the lowest among starting point guards last season, according to hoopdata.com. He’s a Nash-like liability at the defensive end, especially against explosive guards. Those issues aren’t going to improve as Calderon ages.

Nevertheless, Calderon could be the best fit for the Mavs in the market, assuming the price drops significantly from the $11 million he made last season. Estimated cost: three years, $18 million.

SportsNation

Which free agent PG would you like to see with the Mavericks?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,869)

Monta Ellis: He’s the most talented point guard in the market who isn’t a perennial All-Star. The problem: It’s a stretch to call Ellis a point guard. He’s a scorer first and foremost, probably best suited for a Jason Terry-type of role as instant offense off the bench.

The Mavs have major question marks about how Ellis would fit as the starting point guard alongside Nowitzki. Ellis is a premier penetrator in his prime, which makes him intriguing, but he’s never averaged more than six assists per game and is a high-volume, low-efficiency jump shooter. His 3-point percentage last season (.287) was the worst among any player with more than 170 attempts. He shot more long 2s than any point guard other than John Wall but hit only 34 percent of them, per hoopdata.com.

Ellis gets a lot of steals, but he’ll never be confused with a defensive stopper.

He’d give the Mavs the kind of athleticism they haven’t had at point guard since Devin Harris. Of course, you might remember Nowitzki lobbying hard behind the scenes for the Jason Kidd trade because he wanted a more cerebral partner at point guard.

The Mavs will pass if Ellis gets something close to the four-year, $40 million deal he’s rumored to be seeking. If he slips through the cracks like O.J. Mayo last season, the Mavs could be waiting with a short-term offer in the $6 million-per-year range.

Jarrett Jack: He excelled as the Warriors’ sixth man this season, often running the point next to Stephen Curry during crunch time. That’s a role that suits him well.

While he struggles to defend quick foes and isn’t a pass-first guy, there are reasons to be intrigued about the 29-year-old Jack’s potential as the Mavs’ point guard. He’s an outstanding midrange shooter (48 percent last season) and has a knack for knocking down floaters in the lane. Those are the kind of shots that come in bunches when running pick-and-pops with Dirk. And Jack has the type of tough-minded mentality that would mesh well with the Mavs’ vets and coach Rick Carlisle.

A four-year, $24 million deal for Jack would make sense for the Mavs. However, it’s a long shot at best that he’d leave Golden State for that kind of money. With Golden State’s ownership promising to spend to sustain success now that the Bay Area is buzzing about the Dubs, another team would probably have to overpay to get Jack.

Mo Williams: The 30-year-old Williams is really a score-first combo guard, not a pure point. He’s a good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (.386 career) who also likes midrange jumpers off the dribble but isn’t much of a threat to drive. He’s an average passer (6.2 assists per game last season) and mediocre defender. And he’s injury prone, missing at least a dozen games in seven of the last eight seasons.

Williams would be a stopgap starter, not a long-term solution. The Mavs probably wouldn’t be willing to pay more than $5 million per year for his services.

Brandon Jennings: The Mavs had mild interest in Jennings before the trade deadline and he’s made it clear that he’d love to play in Dallas. Let’s hold off on the debate about how much the 6-foot-1, 169-pound, lightning-quick, low-percentage-shooting Jennings would benefit from playing with Dirk. Jennings, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign an offer sheet to play one more season with the Bucks before having the freedom to be a free agent with no strings attached. If he’s a Mav this season, it almost certainly means there’s been a trade. (Same goes with Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans, but we’ll classify him as a shooting guard.)

Jeff Teague: There’s a lot to like about a 25-year-old who averaged 14.6 points and 7.2 assists while playing good defense for a playoff team, which is why Atlanta is expected to re-sign the restricted free agent. He’s only an option for the Mavs if the Hawks strike it rich in free agency and are forced to renounce Teague’s rights. You could do a lot worse than signing Teague to a four-year, $30 million deal.

Darren Collison: He clearly considers himself a starting point guard and will search for a team that agrees with him this summer. The Mavs do not. If he slips through the free agency cracks, the Mavs would welcome him back as a backup for the kind of money that reflects that role.

Devin Harris: There’s a lot of love in the Mavs organization for Harris as a person. However, he isn’t perceived to be a starting point guard at this point of his injury-prone career. He averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists as a part-time starter for the Hawks last season. The Mavs wouldn’t mind bringing Harris back to Dallas, but it’d have to be as a $3 million-per-year backup.

Nate Robinson: He’s like a turbo edition of J.J. Barea with baggage that has caused Robinson to bounce around to five teams in the last five seasons. He was arguably the best minimum-salary bargain in the league last season, averaging 13.1 points and 4.4 assists off the bench for the Bulls and starring in some playoff wins. How much did Robinson boost his value? The Mavs wouldn’t spend big on him, but if he’s in the $2 million salary range, he’d be a great fit.

Chauncey Billups: His career really took off during his season playing for Rick Carlisle with the Pistons, so there’s a strong tie there. But he’s 36 years old and wasn’t close to being the same player when he came back from a torn Achilles tendon last season. The Mavs might value his veteran savvy enough to offer Billups the bi-annual exception of a little more than $2 million.

Shaun Livingston: The 6-foot-7 former straight-outta-high school high lotto pick whose career was destroyed by a devastating knee injury wouldn’t be a bad, low-dollar backup. He’s not a good shooter, but Livingston is a solid defender, passer and rebounder.

Will Bynum: The 30-year-old, who averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 assists off the Pistons’ bench last season, is a poor man’s Barea. If he’s getting offers for the minimum, the Mavs should be interested.

Mike James: The 38-year-old who ended the season as the Mavs’ starter is an option as a minimum-salary backup.

Daniel Gibson: “Boobie” is a bench shooter who would pique the Mavs’ interest as a minimum guy.

Chauncey Billups assisted on O.J. Mayo signing

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
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DALLAS -- The plan to have Jason Kidd help recruit Deron Williams to Dallas didn’t quite work out for the Mavs.

But the Mavs did get an assist from an old point guard during the free-agency process. It just wasn’t one that’s ever worn a Mavs uniform.

O.J. Mayo reached out to Chauncey Billups, one of his favorite players in the league, while researching potential destinations this summer. Billups strongly recommended that Mayo play for Rick Carlisle, who played a significant role in Billups achieving his potential.

“He said (Carlisle) is a great coach for me to help expand my game,” Mayo said.

Billups, like Mayo now, was a No. 3 overall pick in his mid-20s who hadn’t lived up high-lottery expectations when he signed with the Carlisle-coached Pistons in the summer of 2002. Detroit was Billups’ fifth NBA team, and while he showed promise as a part-time starter the previous season in Minnesota, he had yet to prove he could be a premier point guard.

Carlisle gave Billups that opportunity in 2002-03, when he started for a 50-win team that advanced to the conference finals. That was the only seasons Carlisle coached Billups, but Billups gives Carlisle credit for helping him become a five-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion who is now known as Mr. Big Shot.

Mayo hasn’t bounced around the league, having spent his entire four-year career with the Memphis Grizzlies, but he has a lot of similarities to the 2002 version of Billups. Mayo is a No. 3 overall pick whose career hasn’t progressed as anticipated.

Billups’ advice to Mayo: Let Carlisle coach you.

That’s exactly what Mayo has done. He arrived in Dallas a month ago specifically so he could work with Carlisle.

Mayo usually works on one specific weakness each summer. He’s worked on whatever Carlisle wanted recently.

“My whole thing is to give my game to Coach and let him help me get better in ways I can help the team,” Mayo said.

That’s included refining something Mayo considered one of his biggest strengths: shooting the ball.

They’ve worked on keeping the ball high and staying ready to shoot, especially when Mayo gets fatigued. Carlisle used Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton -- a couple of elite shooters he’s coached -- as examples and pointed out Mayo’s flaws while reviewing film of Grizzlies games.

“It was different, because I had never worked on it,” Mayo said. “It was actually a little irritating because I was comfortable with my shot, but he’s helped it a lot. Through workouts, it’s more efficient, more consistent. He’s just a great coach.”

Just like Billups told Mayo.

Sizing up the competition: L.A. Clippers

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
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Third in a series looking at the five teams ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in our early 2012-13 Western Conference rankings and how the revamped Mavs match up.

No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
There is not a more beleaguered coach in the league than Vinny Del Negro. During a particularly trying spell last season in which the Clippers went 7-12 bridging February and March, some pundit on a daily basis was calling for Del Negro's head on a platter, and it even seemed as though the players were fed up, too. But then something happened. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Co., won six in a row to right the ship, and they closed out the final 19 regular-season games with a 14-5 record. They produced one of the most remarkable comebacks in playoff history in Game 1 on the Memphis Grizzlies' floor and then won there again in Game 7 despite Paul and Griffin being badly banged up. Sure, the Clips were easy pickings for the rolling San Antonio Spurs in the second round, but Del Negro -- for better or worse -- kept his job. The Clippers, who won 40 games for the first time since 2006-07 despite playing just 66 games and at least that many for just the sixth time in Clippers franchise history, look to have the pieces in place to build upon that this season.

[+] EnlargeClippers
Kirby Lee/US PresswireThe Clippers hope Blake Griffin is healthy and can expand his offensive game, which would make him and Chris Paul an even more formidable combo.
Last season's results (Clippers won, 2-1)
@Clippers 91, Mavs 89
@Mavs 96, Clippers 92
Clippers 94, @Mavs 75

This season's games
Dec. 5: @Clippers
Jan. 9: @Clippers
March 26: vs. Clippers

What's changed?
First off, the Clippers hope the knee injury Griffin sustained in July working out with Team USA is a non-issue when training camp opens (as well as Paul's surgically repaired thumb). It might also serve as another signal for Griffin to find less violent ways to play the game and score the basketball. The All-Star power forward is widely criticized for possessing little offensive prowess outside of catching lobs and punishing defenders on his way to a posterizing dunk. Even so, Griffin has averaged a double-double in each of his first two seasons, averaging at least 20 points in both. He averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, so if he does develop a true low-post game, the 6-foot-10, 251-pounder will be downright scary if not indefensible. The Clippers believe they've enhanced their roster, starting with the return of veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who missed 46 games last season with an Achilles injury. Grant Hill is one of several new additions. The 39-year-old was brought on board for his heady defense and his steady head. They also signed sharpshooter Jamal Crawford to replace Randy Foye and Mo Williams. The wild card acquisition was taking Lamar Odom off the Mavs' hands. The Clips will pay Odom his full $8.2 million and they hope to get a rejuvenated effort out of one of the league's most versatile forwards.

How the Mavs match up
No one can seriously claim they match up well with CP3, but as with the Nuggets' Ty Lawson and the Spurs' Tony Parker, Dallas can now at least shadow Paul with the youth and quickness of Darren Collison, as well as O.J. Mayo. L.A.'s backcourt could be dynamic with Paul fresh off winning the gold medal, Billups returning, Eric Bledsoe healthy again and Crawford popping 3s off the bench. The front court will also be a load. Mavs center Chris Kaman will likely be assigned to Griffin, just as Brendan Haywood was last season, allowing Dirk Nowitzki to handle the mostly negligible offensive threat of Clips center DeAndre Jordan. Sturdy defender Elton Brand will be a welcome addition to take turns on Griffin as well as Odom, whom Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has predicted a big season for in his return to his cherished L.A. And then there's still the toughness of Caron Butler, who played in the postseason with a broken wrist, and the declining but still dangerous mid-range game of old man Hill. At least Shawn Marion knows he won't have to tackle Paul this time around. All-in-all, the Mavs possess more speed and athleticism on the perimeter to play with the Clips, but this looks to be a very difficult matchup, particularly in a seven-game playoff series.

Previous entries
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs

If Deron Williams doesn't come, who does?

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
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The leading question about the Dallas Mavericks heading into Sunday's start of free agency is, if not Deron Williams, then who?

Well, it's a fine question. In fact, if the Mavs lose out on Williams to the Brooklyn Nets, they could very well be on full alert for a starting and backup point guard. Jason Kidd, also a free agent on Sunday, has spent a lot of time talking about playing with Williams in Dallas or Brooklyn. Kidd led the Nets to two Finals appearances a decade ago and has an affection for New York. He's also talked highly about the club's prospects as it moves to Brooklyn under Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

So not only could the Mavs be in line to miss out on one of the league's elite point guards, they could also lose their starting point guard from the last four-plus seasons.

In Thursday's draft, the Mavs could certainly pull the trigger on North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall if he's available when Dallas picks at No. 17. And while trades are always a possibility, the Mavs will look to replenish the point guard position, to whatever extent, in the free-agent market.

The free agent market isn't dripping with game-changers at the point. Here's the top contenders:

Steve Nash, Suns -- The former Mav is 38 and still truckin' at an elite level. He has said he's interested in a multiyear deal and he wants fair market value, no discounts.

Goran Dragic, Rockets -- Stands to get a significant raise from his $2.1 million salary. Broke out last season, his fourth, after Kyle Lowry's injury. Rockets will want to re-sign him.

Andre Miller, Nuggets -- Seems like he's been underrated his entire career, but now at 36 he'd serve as a relatively inexpensive stop-gap in Dallas. Has been reported that Denver wants him back.

Kirk Hinrich, Hawks -- His better days are well behind him. Picking him up as backup would be far more palatable than settling on him as your starter.

Chauncey Billups, Clippers -- One of the most respected players in the league, he's getting long in the tooth and is coming off that awful Achilles' injury. Clips reportedly want him back.

Ramon Sessions -- Turns out he wasn't the Lakers' savior. Sessions has opted out of his deal to test free agency. His playoff performance certainly won't encourage teams to break the bank.

Cold shooting in Chicago for Dirk Nowitzki

April, 21, 2012
4/21/12
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CHICAGO -- Dirk Nowitzki is famous for shooting the lights out in some of the league's most famous arenas. He takes target practice at Madison Square Garden, destroys the Boston Celtics in Beantown and has scored more points at Staples Center than any other visitor.

Chicago's United Center is a different story. Nowitzki and the Mavs make their lone visit against the Bulls tonight, a game the 7-footer is fully expected to play in despite Dallas having clinched a playoff berth.

Nowitzki might not play his full allotment of minutes, but he will be looking to raise his shooting percentage in the Windy City. According the Elias Sports Bureau, Nowitzki has a .415 career field-goal percentage at the United Center, his lowest career field-goal percentage in any arena in which he has at least 100 attempts.

Other tidbits from Elias heading into tonight's nationally televised game on ESPN:

* Nowitzki has scored 24,095 points during the regular season, all with the Mavs. Only four players in NBA history scored 24,000 points while playing their whole career with one team: Kobe Bryant (29,458 with Lakers), John Havlicek (26,395 with Celtics), Reggie Miller (25,279 with Pacers) and Jerry West (25,192 with Lakers).

* Jason Kidd is not expected to play tonight, which leaves him with one final opportunity on Thursday at Atlanta to extend his streak of recording at least one triple-double to 18 consecutive seasons. He holds the NBA record of 17 seasons in a row. Kidd has had at least two triple-doubles in every season he has been in the NBA. He nearly got it done on April 12 at Golden State, but finished one point shy with nine points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

* Jason Terry has made at least one 3-point field goal in 78.7 percent of the regular-season games he has appeared in during his career (804 of 1,021). Only four players in NBA history have made a 3-pointer in a higher percentage of their games than Terry (minimum: 500 games): Ray Allen (89.0), Peja Stojakovic (85.2), Reggie Miller (80.1) and Chauncey Billups (79.2). (The NBA instituted the 3-point line in 1979-80.)

* The Mavs are 10-6 against Eastern Conference teams this season. With two games to go, they are assured of finishing with a winning record over the other conference for a 12th consecutive season. Only one other team has posted a winning record against teams from the opposite conference in each season since 2000-01: San Antonio.

* The Mavs have posted a 10-6 (.625) record at the United Center since the Bulls began playing their home games there in 1994. That is tied with the Clippers (go figure) for the second-highest winning percentage among visiting teams, behind the Thunder (11-6, .647).

* Bulls 3-point specialist Kyle Korver is shooting only .344 from the field in the second half of games this season. Only three players in the league have a lower second-half field-goal percentage than Korver (minimum: 150 FGA): Toney Douglas (.313), Stephen Jackson (.330) and Lamar Odom (.335).

The good, bad and ugly of potential playoff foes

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
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The Mavericks clinched the franchise's record 12th consecutive playoff berth with Houston's loss to New Orleans on Thursday night.

THE GOOD: Los Angeles Clippers (currently No. 4)

How they have played: The Mavs are 1-2 against the Clips, who won the first matchup at home, 91-89, without Chris Paul. But Dirk Nowitzki shot horribly, Mo Williams went off for 26 points and Chauncey Billups (out for the season) hit a game-winning buzzer-beater. The Mavs took the second game at home, 96-92, with both teams healthy with the exception of Billups. Dirk didn't shoot well again, but went 11-of-15 from the line. The third game might have been the Mavs' most disappointing performance of the year. They failed to show up, shot 39 percent and were embarrassed on the boards in a 94-75 home loss.

How Dirk has played: Nowitzki shot just 38 percent in the three games, but he's getting to the foul line a lot. Blake Griffin's athleticism always creates a tough matchup and defensive specialist Kenyon Martin adds an edge the Mavs are quite familiar with from his Denver days. The numbers don't tell the whole story though. Only Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion started all three games against the Clips.

How the Mavs will fare: Most agree this is probably their most favorable matchup, but nothing is a lock for the defending champions. If Dallas wants to move into the second round, they'll have to be on their toes when it comes to transition defense and find a way to get others beside Nowitzki involved in the offense.

THE BAD: Los Angeles Lakers (currently No. 3)

How they have played: The Mavs are 0-4 against the Lakers, but three of those could have gone either way. Shawn Marion is as good as anyone in the league checking Kobe Bryant, but the Pau Gasol-Andrew Bynum connection has averaging 36.8 points a game Injuries skewed games for both teams. Bryant's best game, a 30-point performance in the 109-93 win in Dallas, came with Marion sitting out.

How Dirk has played: He's averaging a double-double with 24 points and 10.3 rebounds, but shooting just 30 percent from beyond the arc.

How the Mavs fare: This matchup heavily rides on the health of Kobe. Nothing will keep him out of the playoffs, and he is expected to return on Friday. But if his sore left shin continues be a problem, the Mavs might catch a break. If he comes back healthy and refreshed after averaging a whopping 38.5 minutes a game, don't count on much rust from the league's leading scorer. Even if he does struggle with his shot, Gasol and Bynum have played lights-out against Dallas.

THE UGLY: Oklahoma City Thunder (currently No. 2)

How they have played: The Mavs are 1-3 against the Thunder and the ugly fact that the youthful Thunder found ways to pull games out late is concerning considering the Mavs prided themselves on such heroics during their championship run, and especially so against OKC in the West Finals. Kevin Durant stole the first meeting with a 3-point buzzer-beater at OKC in third game of the season. The Mavs looked great in one of their best all-around wins of the season, 100-87, soon after in the second game at home. The Thunder returned to Dallas a month later and returned the favor. But the Mavs were severely shorthanded without Jason Kidd, Brendan Haywood and Lamar Odom. Durant and Russell Westbrook struggled in the season finale, but the Thunder defense shut down the Mavs in the final minutes to win at OKC.

How Dirk played: Nowitzki was solid if not spectacular against the Mavs' Red River rival. He shot 44 percent and averaged 22.5 points per game. We haven't seen him be "championship Dirk" consistently this season, but the German torched the Thunder for 32.2 points per game in last year's playoff series.

How they fare: The Thunder have struggled late in the season, and losing the top seed to San Antonio wouldn't be any help to their momentum. The Mavs have held Westbrook and Durant below their season averages in scoring. The problem is that no one but Dirk can score consistently against the Thunder.

THE UGLY II: San Antonio Spurs (currently No. 1)

How they have played: It's hard to imagine the Mavs are 2-2 against San Antonio because Dirk has not played well in three of the four games. The Spurs embarrassed Dallas 93-71 in the first game without Manu Ginobli and with a barrage of 3-pointers, which became a theme against Dallas. In the final game of the series, a shorthanded Spurs squad did it again to the Mavs by 17 points, playing without Tony Parker. The Mavs coughed up a huge lead in the second game at home and won in OT after Danny Green's buzzer-beater was reversed by replay and the game went to an extra five minutes.

How Dirk played: In the third game of the series, a 106-99 win, he had a team-high 27 points. In the other three games, he scored 10.6 points per game on an abysmal 13-of-46 shooting.

How they fare: The Spurs have successfully mixed young, athletic newcomers with the Big Three and have arguably been the most consistent team in the NBA. Jason Terry has been great against the Spurs this season, but they'll need Dirk to find his rhythm to get past this potential first-round foe.

3-pointer: Jason Terry determined to fly through lane

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
9:00
AM CT
DALLAS -- Delonte West is a pretty tough guy, so he knows tough when he sees it. And he says Jason Terry is as tough as they come.

Terry showed it when midway through the fourth quarter of a still nip-and-tuck battle against the Houston Rockets, he yet again made a determined drive to the bucket. Terry broke free and rose up, going for a rare, one-handed stuff against Houston big man Patrick Patterson.

He got to the rim, but couldn't finish off the dunk as he got hammered to the ground and was left their laying flat on his back, writhing in apparent pain, knees bent and his feet alternately pounding the floor.

"He gave us all a scare for a minute," West said. "I saw his legs go underneath him and that's not good. But, one thing I learned about Jet, he's a fighter. I played in Seattle (2007-08) before they moved to Oklahoma City and I visited his high school. All they could talk about is his toughness. When he jumped up, I knew what time it was."

Go time, is what West meant. Suddenly, Terry went from needing an ambulance to hopping to his feet and bouncing to midcourt while waving his arms and playing to the crowd in typical Jet fashion.

"He didn't need an ambulance," Jason Kidd said. "When you got a shooter or a scorer they want to get those two free throws. They’re not coming out of the game."

The Mavs' playoff hopes were greatly dependent on Wednesday's 117-110 victory over the Rockets, who were virtually eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.

Terry missed the second of the two free throws, but the first gave the Mavs a 97-92 lead with 6:22 to go. On the next possession, Terry drove again, but missed a 6-footer. But, the miss is beside the point. Terry, a streaky and often cold-blooded jump shooter who is also often criticized for living and dying by the long ball, is making a concerted effort in recent games to get to the cup, not unlike his fearless 2011 postseason.

"Yeah, I am," Jet said when asked if he's been more committed to drive. "That's what time of year it is for us and somebody's going to have to get to the basket for us. Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it don't. The one in the Lakers game I wish I had that drive back to do again. But, teams are playing me for my jumper. I have to be more and more aggressive to get to the paint."

1. Jet can still shoot it, too: Just because he's driving more doesn't mean Terry is going to stop launching 3s. He put six against the Rockets and nailed three of them. His first made 3 in the second quarter moved him ahead of Chauncey Billups and into fourth place on the NBA's all-time 3-point list. Terry now has made 1,786 3-pointers in his 13 seasons. Who's next on the list? Jason Kidd with 1,874.

2. Matrix takes a seat (again): For the second consecutive game, Shawn Marion was a spectator in the fourth quarter. The man the Mavs have pumped all season as a leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate has been stuck on the pine while Vince Carter has logged the crunch-time minutes. It's hard to argue with the results. At Utah, Carter had 18 points and 12 rebounds as that unit rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation and then went three overtimes before succumbing. Carter had a season-high 23 points against the Rockets and the fourth-quarter unit rallied to score 39 points for the win. Just don't expect to see Marion riding pine in the fourth quarter of playoff games when Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are playing on the other team.

"We're trying to win games right now," coach Rick Carlisle said. "They had a good rhythm going and that's all it was."

3. Center rotation: Brandan Wright returned to the spotlight as the Mavs' three-headed center position continues to rotate from game-to-game. Against big Andrew Bynum and the Lakers on Sunday, Brendan Haywood played 38 minutes. At Utah, Ian Mahinmi logged 35. On Wednesday, Wright played 21 minutes, six more than the starter Haywood and nine more than Mahinmi. Wright finished with four points and five rebounds.

Dirk Nowitzki improves as injuries mount

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
12:15
PM CT
DALLAS -- The Western Conference is besieged by key injuries. Two of the Dallas Mavericks' upcoming opponents were hit hard Monday night. Wednesday's opponent, the Denver Nuggets, lost leading scorer Danilo Gallinari to a fractured ankle. The Los Angles Clippers, in town next week, fear Chauncey Billups could miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury.

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The list is long: Oklahoma City backup point guard Eric Maynor is out for the season. San Antonio's Manu Ginobili continues to sit with a broken hand. Memphis lost Darrell Arthur for the season and Zach Randolph is still out with a knee injury.

Of course, Dallas has not been immune. Vince Carter missed five games, Jason Kidd will likely miss his 10th game over two injury stints on Wednesday at Denver, and Dirk Nowitzki appears to be returning to form after a four-game hiatus.

The Mavs might be in the best of shape of the aforementioned teams, needing only Kidd to return -- and that will be soon if not imminent --to be back to full strength.

Nowitzki said Monday that his progress is coming more rapidly now, but he's not out of the woods just yet.

"I came out of halftime [at Cleveland] and was a little stiff, shot like 0-for-5," Nowitzki said. "Next thing you know, we were down eight or down 10. There’s always room to improve, room to get better."

Nowitzki again showed he's gaining confidence in his troublesome right knee when he took Cavs forward Antawn Jamison off the dribble and converted at the rim.

"I’m definitely getting better, moving better, I thought, finally being able to put the ball a little bit on the floor again, getting to the basket some," Nowitzki said. "That was a big part of my game the last couple of years. When people take my jump shot away I’ve got to be able to get to the basket some, make some moves."

Remarkably, as Nowitzki's game has finally taken off the last two games with 30 and 24 points on a combined 21-of-32 shooting, the Mavs' offense has backfired. After scoring more than 100 points in three consecutive games, Dallas has slowed to 86, 87 and 88 points in three consecutive losses.

"I’m getting more confident in my ability to move again. That’s big, but it doesn’t help if we lose," Nowitzki said. "Either way, we’ve got to find a way to all play at a high level. If I’m playing better now, we can’t have other guys go down. It’s got to be collectively playing well, especially defensively and rebounding and get back to doing some of the stuff we were doing when we were winning."

At the half: Clippers 52, Mavs 51

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
10:45
PM CT
LOS ANGELES -- The Dallas Mavericks thought they caught a break with Chris Paul sitting out a third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Then they were reminded that Chauncey Billups loves to shoot against them and that Mo Williams can still play in this league.

Williams and Billups combined for 32 points 12-of-18 shooting, including a blistering 7-of-7 from Williams, who hit from just about everywhere on the floor.

The Mavs are hanging in this one, and really had the lead for much of the second quarter, thanks to some high-scoring from one of their guards. Delonte West leads Dallas with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

The Mavs though are stuck in another poor shooting game overall, connecting on just 41.7 percent. But, they've been hot from beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-10 to match the Clippers' five from deep.

Blake Griffin has been held to just six points and DeAndre Jordan has 10 points and rebounds.

Dirk Nowitzki is 4-of-11 from the field for 10 points. Shawn Marion has six points and seven rebounds. Jason Terry is scoreless and took just two shots in the first half.

After 1: Clippers 31, Mavs 27

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
10:08
PM CT
LOS ANGELES -- Dallas Mavericks, meet Mo Williams. The formerly injured Los Angeles Clippers guard subbed in and got down, scoring 11 points in five minutes, burying all five of his shots. He led the Clippers back from a 22-16 deficit with about four minutes to go.

The Mavs, meanwhile, are right where they usually are, shooting 40.7 percent from the floor. The good news for them is that they're 3-of-6 from the 3-point line (although Jason Kidd is now 0-10 on 3s in L.A).

Chauncey Billups had the hot hand to start the quarter. He has 10 points, so that's 21 for the two guards not named CP3. L.A. shot 56 percent.

Delonte West scored 12 points, including two 3s. Dirk Nowitzki has five points on 2-of-5 shooting.

We got one glimpse of Lob City with Randy Foye lofting a pass that Blake Griffin power-jammed.

W2W4: Nene leads young Nuggets to town

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
1:00
PM CT
The Dallas Mavericks have plenty to improve upon tonight as the Denver Nuggets -- with former Mavs forward Corey Brewer and former Mavs guard that never was Rudy Fernandez -- open their season at American Airlines Center.

The good news is the Nuggets aren't the Miami Heat, who outrebounded Dallas 51-31, scored 97 points through three quarters and drove to the rim with impunity. Still, a revamped Nuggets squad that is without the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler averaged 118.5 points in two preseason games and will look to run and gun and hand the defending champions consecutive losses for the first time since April 21 and 23 in the first round against the Portland Trail Blazers.

"The rebounding is a concern, turnovers are a concern, overall defense from a consistency standpoint is a concern," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Denver is going to come in here with a shot at the champs. It's a situation where we've got to work to make quantum leaps as often and as quickly as we can as a team.

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FSSW

Radio: 103.3 FM ESPN/1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: So, who starts at shooting guard? Vince Carter started Sunday, but Delonte West got the call to start the second half against the Heat because Carlisle said he was looking for playmaking. Carlisle also said the starter at two-guard could change from game to game depending on matchups. The Nuggets start veteran Andre Miller at point guard and the 6-foot-5 Aaron Afflalo is expected to start at shooting guard. This would seem to favor Carter starting with West coming off the bench to back up Jason Kidd and check Denver reserve Ty Lawson. ... Look for the Mavs to involve Lamar Odom early in the offensive sets. He swished his first shot on his first possession entering the game midway through the first quarter, but he missed all of his next five shots and was saddled with early foul trouble before ejected in the third quarter for arguing a charging call.

Key matchup: Brendan Haywood vs. Nene
Haywood had little offensive impact Sunday and defensively he finished up Sunday's opener with no blocked shots and one defensive rebound in 13:38 of playing time. The Heat don't have much of a low-post game, instead using their All-NBA wings to attack the rim. Tonight Haywood gets a chance to bang with skilled and agile big man Nene, who spurned lucrative free-agent offers elsewhere to return to a young and intriguing Nuggets team. Haywood was plagued by foul trouble Sunday, picking up two quickies before the end of the first half for three and then another quick one to start the second half for a fourth. On the surface, this is a difficult matchup for Haywood, but asking Ian Mahinmi or Brandan Wright to stick with Nene for long stretches could be a dangerous proposition.

Injuries: Nuggets - None. Mavs - Shawn Marion (fractured left pinkie finger) is probable.

Up next: Mavs at Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m., Thursday

Week ahead: Nuggets, OKC, Raps and J.J.

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
11:00
AM CT

The 2011-12 season has lifted off and the high-speed ride has only just begun. Following Sunday's Christmas Day opener that included a rousing championship banner-raising ceremony, there is no time to even exhale.

About 27 hours after the players left the American Airlines Center after the 105-94 loss that was actually much worse than the final score against the Miami Heat, they'll be tipping off against the Denver Nuggets in the first back-to-back of 20 on the season.

Every Monday we'll break down the week ahead. This should be a fun one with a stop at the Okahoma City Thunder on Thursday, a visit by former Mavs assistant Dwane Casey and his new team the Toronto Raptors and a visit up north to say hello to old friend J.J. Barea and his new pal Ricky Rubio with the Minnesota Timberwolves on New Year's Day.

Here's a look:

Today: vs. Nuggets, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Who are these guys? Nene returned to anchor coach George Karl's latest incarnation, one that does not include Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith or Kenyon Martin. Still,this is an intriguing club with Nene, Aaron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Mavs castoff Corey Brewer. Expect an up-tempo game that play into the hands of the Nuggets because while it is their season opener, the Mavs will be coming off the big Christmas Day game against the hated Heat.

Thursday: at Thunder, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Thunder beat up Dallas pretty good in two preseason games, building 23-point leads in both contests. But, while OKC played its regular rotation, the Mavs didn't show much. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd sat out the first game and illness forced out Jason Terry and Delonte West in the second game. The Thunder will have to scour tape of the Mavs' games against the Heat and Nuggets to get an idea of Dallas' rotation. The Mavs should have fresh legs and they'll need them because OKC will be primed to run and gun its West finals ouster out of the building.

Friday: vs. Raptors, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Former Mavs assistant and defensive architect Dwane Casey has his own club again north of the border. He doesn't have a lot to work with and his first season will certainly be challenging. He'll have his new club up to play the defending champs and might even show off a new defensive wrinkle or two.

Sunday: at Timberwolves, 6 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: No longer is it safe to assume that a trip to Minneapolis will be a walk in a snowy park. This is an interesting team under the guidance of Rick Adelman. Barea joins the rookie Rubio in the backcourt and Kevin Love and Michael Beasley up front with a few other exciting young players. Another second night of a back-to-back could turn into a track meet, and that's never easy for the older team, even this early into the season.

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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