Dallas Mavericks: Chicago Bulls

The Dallas Mavericks will acquire minimum-salaried reserve big man Greg Smith in a trade with the Chicago Bulls as soon as Monday, a source confirmed.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Smith averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game over the last three seasons with the Houston Rockets. The Bulls signed him through next season after Houston waived him in April.

According to the source, the Mavs are giving up "nothing" in the deal, which was first reported by Yahoo Sports. The Bulls are simply dumping a little bit of salary to help them make another move.

Smith, who will make $948,163 in 2014-15, fills the Mavs' need for a low-priced banger off the bench, the role filled by DeJuan Blair last season. The Mavs are also likely to re-sign Bernard James to a minimum-salary deal, a source said.
Shawn Marion has no shortage of suitors for what might be the final contract of his NBA career.

The Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and a few other teams join the Dallas Mavericks among those who have expressed interest in Marion, a source said.

Marion, 36, a 15-year veteran, said that he planned to play two more seasons. He has made it clear that his priority in free agency is finding a team that has a chance to compete for a championship, a group that he believes includes the Mavs.

"I'm going to weigh my options out and see what it's going to take for me to get another championship ring," Marion said the day after the Mavs' season ended. "I would love to add to the ring I have."

The market for Marion, who remains an outstanding, versatile defender, is expected to be in the range of $5 million per year.
They’d love to come back to Dallas, but the veteran free agents on the Mavericks’ roster will all be willing to listen to any contenders interested in their services this summer.

The mutual interest is strong enough that it’s a decent bet that Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris will re-sign with the Mavs in July. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision each of them getting intriguing offers from teams that can claim they’re better positioned than the Mavs to make a title run.

A look at a couple of contenders that could be fits for each of the trio:

MARION

Shane Battier, the Heat’s savvy, versatile veteran defender, intends to retire at the end of the season. The “Matrix,” whose defense was such a critical ingredient to the Heat’s lone playoff series loss in the LeBron James era, would make a lot of sense as Battier’s replacement.

SportsNation

Who do you most want to see return to the Mavs next season?

  •  
    29%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    48%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,245)

Marion just happens to still have a home in Miami from his brief stint with the Heat in 2008 and ’09. His hometown of Chicago could also be a fit for Marion.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was rather perturbed when the Chicago front office traded Luol Deng in a salary-dump deal before the deadline. Marion has some of the same traits as Deng – toughness, defensive versatility – at a presumably much lower price. If the Bulls add Marion, they’d likely be able to lighten the load on Jimmy Butler, who averaged 38.7 minutes per game last season.

Miami, assuming its stars stay, would be able to offer Marion no more than the taxpayer midlevel exception ($3.28 salary for next season). The Bulls’ bid would likely be in that same range. But Marion, who has made about $133 million in his career, made it clear that the chance to win another championship is much more important than the size of his checks next season.

“When July 1 comes, I'll look at my options and see which options are best suited to me to add to my legacy,” Marion said. “It's not about money right now. I've made a lot of money in my career. I've been truly been blessed. I'm not taking any of this for granted. I've just got to weigh my options.”

CARTER

Told that ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Toronto Raptors are kicking around the idea of trying to bring Carter back north of the border, the man formerly known as “Air Canada” couldn’t help but crack a big smile.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Carter said, raising his eyebrows. “You never know. I think more than anything I’m hoping that a lot of teams that appreciate, at my age, what I bring to the table.”

Carter’s divorce with the Raptors in 2004 didn’t go well, but the idea of his return should be appealing to Toronto for many reasons other than a potential marketing boon. The Raptors could really use a boost to their bench scoring, and Carter could serve as a mentor for promising young wing players DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.

For Carter, a return to Toronto could complete the circle of his career and give him a chance to help the Raptors advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, when he was a rising superstar in his third season. The Raptors fell one game short in the first round this season, losing to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games.

Carter’s best chance to compete for a championship might come just north of the Red River. Oklahoma City considered the midseason signing of Caron Butler to be a key acquisition. Carter, a better shooter and athlete, would be an upgrade for the Thunder.

HARRIS

Of these three, money is most important to Harris, who had made much less than Marion and Carter over the course of his career. He’s hoping to get something in the range of the three-year deal for a little more than $9 million that he originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer before the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery.

A couple of West playoff teams that might be willing to give Harris that kind of deal are the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. Both could be in the market for a quality veteran point guard this summer.

Portland’s Mo Williams doesn’t plan to exercise his option to make a salary of $2.77 million, preferring to test the market in hopes of getting a significant raise. Williams has been a good fit with the Blazers, but if his price tag is too high, Harris could be a good alternative for a combo guard off the bench.

The Warriors traded for Steve Blake this season, when he made $4 million in a deal that expires this summer. Harris could provide a similar veteran presence in a more athletic package for Golden State.

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 94, Mavericks 87

July, 20, 2013
7/20/13
12:16
AM CT
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks were unable to end their Las Vegas Summer League run on a high note, as they suffered a loss Friday night to the Chicago Bulls.

How it happened: Playing in their fourth game in as many days, the Mavs were without the services of Jae Crowder (sprained left ankle) and D.J. Stephens (left knee bone bruise).

Dallas came out sluggish to start the game as the Mavs missed five of their first six shots. They got things going as Josh Akognon was able to hit two 3-pointers. That was a welcome sight for the Mavs, as he was 1-of-14 from the field for only five points on Thursday night against Golden State. Ricky Ledo was showing his versatility as he attacked the Bulls’ defense. When the defense collapsed on him, he was able to find the open man. It was a balanced effort, as six different Mavs scored in the first quarter to give them a 20-16 lead.

Akognon’s streaky shooting continued as he scored 10 points in the second quarter. He ended up going 4-of-6 from 3-point range in the half. Dallas built a lead to as many as 10 points at 35-25 with 5:45 left in the half, but Chicago battled back in the closing portion of the second quarter to get the deficit to within three. Akognon’s shooting kept the Bulls at bay in the period. Dallas took a 46-40 lead into halftime.

A severe thunderstorm passed through Las Vegas during the game and it ultimately caused the roof to leak within the first three minutes of the third quarter, stopping the game for a few minutes. The delay seemed to get the Bulls going, as they regained the lead with 6:15 left in the third. Dallas’ defensive rotations started to slip and that allowed Chicago to gain further separation in the quarter. Chicago’s lead got as large as 10 points with 1:19 left in the third; the Bulls took a 67-60 lead into the final quarter.

Making up the deficit in a hurry, Justin Dentmon started the final quarter with a 3-point bucket and hit three free throws after being fouled on a shot attempt. Chicago battled back and regained a nine-point lead with less than six minutes to go. With crafty passing from Gal Mekel, Dallas battled to get the score within three with 3:25 left in the game. Chicago weathered the storm and created more distance off a four-point play by rookie Tony Snell. That gave the Bulls an 88-79 lead with just over a minute to go. It was a lead they would not relinquish.

What it means: The Dallas Mavericks have officially wrapped up their summer league duties. Shane Larkin will continue his rehabilitation after having surgery on his fractured right ankle. Mekel is expected to take some time to recover after a grueling period of coming back to America and learning the Mavs’ system for the summer league. He’s expected to resume working out shortly. Jackie Carmichael’s performance garners a potential invite to training camp.

Mavs players of the game: Honors go to Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon. Both shot the lights out as they combined to go 14-of-30 from the field and 7-of-11 from 3-point range, while scoring 41 points in the loss.

Stat of the night: Chicago had its way with Dallas on the boards, with a 46-30 rebounding edge. The Bulls also enjoyed a 44-20 points in the paint edge over the Mavs.

Carmichael's summer block party: Jackie Carmichael established a summer league high for blocks on Thursday. Click here for the full story.
It’s probably painful for the Mavericks’ front office to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder during these playoffs.

PODCAST
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gives his take on the contrasting styles of the Pacers and Knicks, Carmelo Anthony, Bulls-Heat, Tom Thibodeau, the state of the West and more.

Listen Listen
Derek Fisher is essentially doing exactly what they envisioned when they signed the five-time champion point guard to a veteran minimum deal early in the season. He’s knocking down open jumpers at a ridiculous rate (61.3 percent from 3-point range), drawing charges and doing all sorts of savvy type of dirty work and serving as a plus-minus monster (plus-21 per 48 minutes).

Of course, the Mavs had no control over Fisher’s decision to leave Dallas. And Mark Cuban’s hard feelings have been well chronicled regarding Fisher’s late-season change of heart over the value of family time once a contender called.

Nevertheless, a strong argument can be made that the Mavs would have at least extended their playoff streak if Fisher would have stuck around. But he’s not even the best point guard playing for the minimum in these playoffs.

Imagine if Nate Robinson would have been on the Mavs’ roster.

Lil’ Nate is the buzz of the Eastern Conference playoffs right now – having just dropped 27 points and nine assists despite getting 10 stitches in his lip during Chicago’s Game 1 upset of the Miami Heat – but he was a journeyman desperate for a job in the offseason. He accepted a partially guaranteed minimum deal to join the Bulls.

Robinson, the 5-foot-9 former slam dunk champion, has always had a Jason Terry-like borderline irrational type of confidence. And that hasn’t always gone over well, which is part of the reason he’s played for five teams in the last four seasons.

But Robinson has the game of a hyperathletic J.J. Barea. He’s got the ability to score in bunches – as a 3-pointer shooter, off the dribble, as a pick-and-roll initiator. It’s certainly intriguing to think about how he’d fit as an off-the-bench sparkplug playing with Dirk Nowitzki.

There didn’t seem to be a fit for Robinson in Dallas last summer, when Delonte West was on the roster to back up Darren Collison and provide what the Mavs hoped would be a healthy edge. (Yeah, so much for that.)

Might the Mavs and Robinson be a match this summer? His game would definitely work in Dallas, but his playoff performance could be putting him out of the Mavs’ price range for a backup point guard.
DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop raving about one of his starters after Saturday’s stunning comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.

No, it wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki, the dude who scored eight of his season-high-tying 35 points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning bucket.

Carlisle kept gushing about how proud he was of O.J. Mayo, the guy who finished the game with four points on 1-of-13 shooting.

“Here’s a guy who is banged up, and I just thought he was totally engaged in the game and did a lot of things even though he didn’t shoot the ball well,” Carlisle said. “If we’re going to get where we want to get in the next nine games, the example that he set out there today is really important.

“That’s just grit and guts – being totally in and totally committed.”

Mayo is playing through the pain of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, an injury suffered on a hustle play late in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers and diagnosed by an MRI on Friday. He’s the only Maverick who has played in every game this season.

Mayo played with a harness protecting the shoulder during Thursday’s loss to the Pacers but ditched the restrictive device after the first quarter Saturday afternoon.

“I just said, to heck with it, and just tried to play without it,” said Mayo, whose only bucket was a big one, a driving layup to trim the deficit to six with 1:44 remaining. “If your shot is broke, you at least want to shoot it comfortably. You want to be comfortable shooting a broke shot. You don’t want to be uncomfortable shooting a broke shot.

“But, hey, it was a great win, a win we needed. I’ll get in the gym tomorrow and try to fix that break in my shot and keep playing hard.”

Easter Sunday is officially a day off for the Mavs, but Mayo has work to do.

There’s not much Mayo or the Mavs’ medical staff can do to ease the pain in his shoulder before Tuesday’s critical game against the Lakers.

“It is what it is,” Mayo said. “You’ve got to deal with it. I can still walk, run and communicate out there, so whatever it takes to help us win.”

Mayo managed to help the Mavs win despite an awful shooting outing Saturday, which is why his coach kept praising him.

A few more notes from the Mavs’ thrilling comeback win:

1. Wright big off bench: Brandan Wright’s streak of starting ended after four games, with Elton Brand replacing him in the lineup. Wright responded with his first double-double in a Dallas uniform.

Wright scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Bulls.

“No matter who starts, when you get an opportunity to play your minutes, just play them to the best of your ability,” Wright said. “That’s what it’s been about the whole year. I know it’s been a revolving door at the center position. We know what to do when we get in the game.”

Wright’s last double-double came on April 1, 2011, when his New Jersey Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Wright noted that the lottery-bound Nets were simply playing out the string at that point.

“This one means much more,” Wright said. “We’re playing for something.”

Wright’s emergence is part of the reason the Mavs are playing for something. After being in and out of the rotation all season, Wright averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game in March, when the Mavs went 11-5.

2. ‘Like a video game’: It appeared early in the fourth quarter that Nate Robinson was going to hog the headlines after this game.

Chicago’s backup point guard caught fire, going on a personal 11-2 run after the Mavs and Bulls entered the fourth quarter tied. Then Robinson drilled a 32-footer, pulling up from near the midcourt logo after tracking down a loose ball with the shot clock ticking down, giving him 14 of his 25 points in span of six minutes.

“He was so on fire that it was almost like a video game,” said Nowitzki, who went into video-game mode down the stretch.

Robinson was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range, but his last bucket was that 32-footer. He missed his last two shots, including a jumper at the buzzer that could have sent the game into overtime.

Give Mike James a lot of the credit for cooling off Robinson.

“My teammates looked at me and said, ‘Look, stop asking for help on that screen. Turn that water hose off,’” James said.

3. Rally cry: The Mavs get a day off before leaving for a huge four-game road trip. That trip begins with a must-win game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers before a Thursday date in Denver against the Nuggets and their West-best 33-3 home record.

“Regardless of who the opponents are coming up, it’s just important that we continue to fight and battle and stick together,” Carlisle said. “That’s the rally cry.”

Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 100, Bulls 98

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
3:40
PM CT

How it happened: Dirk Nowitzki dominated winning time, willing the Dallas Mavericks to a miraculous comeback win.

Nowitzki matched his season high with 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting, including 15 in the fourth quarter and eight in the final minute. He finished his clutch scoring flurry with the game-winning 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining.

The Mavs stormed back from a 12-point deficit in the final minutes, finishing the game with a 15-1 run over the last 3:32.

Nowitzki’s corner 3 with 53.5 seconds remaining made it a two-point game. After Chicago’s Carlos Boozer split a pair of free throws, Nowitzki hit a one-legged fadeaway on the baseline to trim the deficit to one. He hit the game-winner the next possession.

Nate Robinson was one of three Bulls to score 25 points, joining power forward Carlos Boozer and small forward Luol Deng, but the reserve point guard’s ridiculous scoring flurry early in the fourth quarter appeared to be the turning point of the game.

Robinson took over right after the Mavs closed the third quarter with a 12-1 run to tie the game. He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the right wing, starting a personal 11-2 run in the first 3:27 of the quarter to give the Bulls the lead for good.

Robinson finished his hot streak with one more 3, a ridiculous 32-footer with the shot clock ticking down midway through the quarter. He finished with 14 of his 25 points in the fourth. He was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range in the game, 5-of-8 and 4-of-4 in the fourth.

But Dirk wasn’t done.

Robinson had a chance to send it into overtime after Nowitzki's heroics, but his jumper at the buzzer clanked off the iron.

What it means: The Mavs (36-37) pulled within a game of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers in the fight for the West’s final playoff berth, pending the results of Saturday night’s games. Dallas won four of six games during the homestand, capping it with a thrilling victory over the 39-32 Bulls, the East’s fifth-place team.

Play of the game: How could it not be Nowitzki’s game-winner with 2.9 seconds remaining? He drilled in in Luol Deng’s face after Vince Carter found Nowitzki on the left wing.

Stat of the day: Nowitzki has a season-high 35 points in two of the Mavs’ past three games, lighting it up in heart-pounding wins over the Clippers and Bulls.

Mayo will play despite sprained AC joint

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
11:57
AM CT
DALLAS – An MRI revealed that Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo has a mild sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder, an injury that will not prevent him from playing Saturday afternoon against the Bulls.

“I’m good to go,” Mayo said when asked about the pain. “Ready to play.”

Mayo, who suffered the injury when he crashed into courtside seats while chasing a loose ball late in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers, is the only Maverick who has played in every game this season.

The five-year veteran has never missed a game to injury –- he served a 10-game suspension and missed one game because of bronchitis in his tenure in Memphis –- and has played through several nagging injuries this season.

“He’s going to be in some pain,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who doesn’t anticipate having to limit the playing time of Mayo, the Mavs’ leader in minutes. “It’s what he can tolerate, but he’s one of the toughest guys we’ve had here in a long time. …

“Those are the kind of guys you want to be able to get in a foxhole with.”

Mayo wore a bulky harness to protect the shoulder in Thursday’s loss to the Pacers, when he scored only seven points on 3-of-10 shooting. He hoped that head athletic trainer Casey Smith could come up with some less restrictive protection for his shoulder.

“I’m going to see if we can lighten it up a little bit,” Mayo said. “It was like playing with football pads on.”

The Bulls will be without center Joakim Noah (foot) and shooting guard Marco Belinelli (abdomen).
DALLAS – There’s no denying the fact that the Mavericks came up with a terribly timed dud, getting blown out by the Indiana Pacers on a night that they could have made up a game on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Elton Brand called it “disheartening.” Dirk Nowitzki used a more simple term: “It sucks.”

PODCAST
Rick Carlisle joins Galloway & Company to discuss getting Dirk Nowitzki more involved in the Mavericks' game plan and much more.

Listen Listen
It’s the kind of loss that could linger with a mentally weak team.

The Mavs have many flaws, but mental weakness isn’t among them. For better or worse, they’ve proven that they can get past an awful loss.

“I think we have plenty and plenty of tough losses this year,” Nowitzki said. “We should know how to recover from it and flush it and maybe watch some of this stuff [Friday]. … It’s the same way we flushed all the other 40 losses and come back ready to play Saturday.”

Just look at how the 35-37 Mavs responded to their last blowout loss, when they were humiliated in Houston on March 3. They beat the Rockets in a rematch a few days later, starting a four-game winning streak and a stretch of nine wins in 12 games.

In this case, the Mavs must bounce back against a different set of East bullies before heading on a road trip that begins with a potentially pivotal game against the Lakers.

For now, the Mavs’ focus is firmly on the Bulls, who they face at 1 p.m. Saturday. They’re well aware that Chicago is just as capable of kicking their butts on the boards as the Pacers were.

Indiana, the league’s top rebounding differential team, had a 55-34 edge on the glass Thursday night. The Mavs rank 28th in rebounding differential.

“It was a wipeout inside as far as the rebounding,” Carlisle said. “That’s been a challenge for us and we’ve got to get ready for it again on Saturday, because Chicago’s got the same kind of team.”

That requires a quick flushing and refreshed energy for a Mavs team fighting for a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

Rapid Reaction: Bulls 101, Mavericks 78

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
9:39
PM CT

How it happened: This one was over shortly after the start of the second quarter.

On a night in which they were without point guard Darren Collison (sprained finger), the Dallas Mavericks played a decent first quarter before the equally struggling Chicago Bulls took over for good to hand the Mavs their third straight loss.

Despite shooting 55 percent in the first quarter, the Mavericks trailed by a point heading into the second due in large part to six turnovers, a reoccurring issue for this team. The Bulls trounced on Dallas, starting the second on a 18-4 run to distance themselves for good. The Mavs went on to shoot a season-low 34.6 percent from the field.

The deficit swelled to 23 for the Mavs, who had no answer for center Joakim Noah (13 points) and All-Star forward Luol Deng (22). The Mavs also provided the Bulls' bench one heck of a confidence boost, as Chicago's reserves outscored Dallas' 50-34, led by Nate Robinson's 10-point second quarter.

Dominique Jones (10 points, five assists) made his second straight start, and the shortage at point guard forced Rodrigue Beaubois into action. Collison was seen shooting around more than an hour before the game, but he was held out with a sprained right middle finger. X-rays were negative.

Forward Elton Brand came off the bench for a second straight night but couldn't duplicate his production from Philadelphia, finishing with just four points and six rebounds in 25 minutes against Chicago.

What it means: Mavs have lost three straight for the second time this season and remain paper thin at point guard. The Mavs return home for Saturday's game against the Detroit Pistons before hitting the road again for three straight.

Play of the game: This game didn't produce any highlight reel worthy plays, but Robinson's second-quarter scoring barrage gave the Bulls a nice cushion. The guard shot 3-for-4 from the field in just over 10 minutes of action in the second, including a pair of 3-pointers -- his second trey gave Chicago a 17-point lead. While it was no play of the game, Shawn Marion had a nice turnaround block on a Luol Deng fastbreak layup midway through the third.

Stat of the night: The Mavs shot a season-low 22.2 percent (4-for-18) from behind the arc. They entered the game averaging 40 percent shooting from 3-point range, which ranked fifth in the league.

W2W4: Mavs try to climb back to .500

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
1:00
PM CT
The phrase, “We can’t [fill in the blank] when the playoffs start,” has been said several times in the Mavericks’ locker room.

They better start winning or they won’t have to worry about that.

Sure, it’s premature to panic about playoff positioning, but if the Mavs lose to the Chicago Bulls tonight, they’ll be under .500 at the latest point of a season since 1999-2000. That just happens to be the last season that the Mavericks landed in the lottery.

The Mavs are hoping to keep their heads above water until Dirk Nowitzki is ready to play, which will hopefully be in mid-December. After losing seven of their last 10 games, they need this win over a Bulls team that is also missing its superstar.

Records: Mavs (7-8); Bulls (6-7)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV: FSSW

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

What to watch: Will the Mavs play with energy a night after a down-to-the-wire loss? They are 1-2 in the butt end of back-to-backs this season. The Mavs have been guilty of allowing their offensive efficiency to impact their energy level too often this season. That can’t be the case against the Bulls, one of the NBA’s toughest defensive teams. This game isn’t going to be pretty. Can the Mavs grind out an ugly win?

Key matchup: Chris Kaman vs. Joakim Noah: Noah, an athletic center with Tasmanian Devil-like energy, is the kind of big man who can exploit the Mavs’ problems on the boards. He has had double-doubles three of the last four times he faced Kaman, including a 15-point, 16-rebound performance in their last meeting, a Bulls win over the Hornets. Kaman is coming off an efficient 20-point performance against the Sixers, but he’s been a nonfactor as a rebounder recently. Since grabbing a season-high 17 boards in last week’s loss to the Warriors, Kaman has only 12 rebounds in three games.

Injuries: Mavs – PF Dirk Nowitzki (knee) is out. Bulls – PG Derrick Rose (knee) is out.

Up next: vs. Detroit Pistons, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Week ahead: Mavs start road-intensive stretch

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
9:00
AM CT
The homestand wasn’t too sweet. The Mavs will live out of a suitcase for the next month and a half, playing 16 of their next 23 games on the road.

The Mavs will be away from the American Airlines Center five of the next six games and eight of the next 10.

But let’s just focus on this week, beginning with a road back-to-back, instead of looking too far ahead.

Philadelphia 76ers (6 p.m. Tuesday, Wells Fargo Center): It will be Elton Brand's first trip back to Philadelphia since the Sixers used the amnesty clause to let him go, a move that would look much better if Andrew Bynum's bad knees cooperated. The 8-6 Sixers are a couple of games above .500 in large part because point guard Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison's former UCLA backcourt mate, is blossoming into an All-Star candidate. The 22-year-old Holliday, a big point guard at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, is averaging 18.6 points and 9.2 assists and is coming off a 33-point, 13-assist performance in Sunday’s win over the Suns.

Chicago Bulls (7 p.m. Wednesday, United Center): With superstar Derrick Rose recovering from knee surgery, the 6-6 Bulls have to win ugly. They’re capable of doing that because coach Tom Thibodeau’s team is among the defensive elite again, ranking third in the NBA in points allowed per possession. Luol Deng (17.8 points per game) is the closest thing the Bulls have to a legitimate go-to guy with Rose out. Led by athletic big man Joakim Noah, the Bulls could present big problems on the boards, especially with the Mavs playing the butt end of a back-to-back.

Detroit Pistons (7:30 p.m. Saturday, American Airlines Center): Detroit is a dreadful team, but the 3-11 Pistons can be dangerous on any given night. They have wins by 18 points over the 76ers and by 20 points over the Celtics. Young center Greg Monroe (17.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game) has been the Pistons’ biggest bright spot. Among their biggest problems are the struggles of guard Rodney Stuckey, who has been one of their best players in recent years but is shooting in the low 30s this season.

Sizing up the competition: L.A. Lakers

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
12:01
AM CT
Last 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. 1 Los Angeles Lakers
Move along, nothing here to see. Yeah, right. Luxury tax be damned, the Lakers are must-see TV this season with their retooled roster that reads like an All-Star team or an Olympic squad or, if you will, a future Hall of Fame roll call. General manager Mitch Kupchak, who in 2008 acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis -- a deal long-ridiculed as thievery although the Grizzlies did get Marc Gasol -- finagled Steve Nash for draft picks. He then landed the most dominant defensive big man in the league, Dwight Howard, who has also averaged 20 points or more in four of the last six seasons. So the Lakers will roll out a starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard. The Lakers were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team last year and that should begin to change the moment Howard returns from back surgery. Offensively, this should be a lot of fun with Nash running the show and making life super easy for Kobe, Pau and Howard. Move over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, a new Lob City might be taking up residence at Staples Center.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Lakers acquired Steve Nash (above) and Dwight Howard in the offseason, but it's the reinforced bench that will vault L.A. to the top.
Last season's results (Lakers won, 4-0)
@Lakers 73, Mavs 70
Lakers 96, @Mavs 91
Lakers 109, @Mavs 93
@Lakers 112, Mavs 108 (OT)

This season's games
Oct. 30: @ Lakers
Nov. 24: vs. Lakers
Feb. 24: vs. Lakers
Apr. 2: @ Lakers

What's changed?
Obviously, the marquee moves the Lakers made with Nash and Howard have everyone talking. But it's the ancillary acquisitions to bolster the bench that pushed me to hand L.A. my No. 1 ranking ahead of West champion Oklahoma City. Bringing in veteran forward Antawn Jamison and 3-point specialist Jodie Meeks to join guard Steve Blake and energetic young forward Jordan Hill gives the Lakers' second unit proven scoring and some muscle. There's lots of talk that the Lakers could challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72 wins, but considering Howard will probably miss the beginning of the season recuperating from back surgery, the age of key stars such as Nash and Kobe and time needed to jell, that feat doesn't seem terribly likely. That's not the goal anyway. The end-game is fitting Kobe for a sixth ring to match Michael Jordan and getting Nash and Howard their first. The intriguing aspect is how second-year Lakers coach Mike Brown will handle this gift of talent and how he'll adjust offensively. For instance, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as time went on with Jason Kidd, relinquished most of the play-calling and allowed the offensive to "flow" from Kidd. Nash's presence as the primary ball handler will also be a major adjustment for Bryant, who can take on the role of a more traditional shooting guard playing off the ball. It should greatly benefit Bryant, who turned 34 on Thursday.

How the Mavs match up
The Mavs will get an early look when they open the season in L.A. in what should be quite a Hollywood scene. This Lakers squad brings just about everything: Star power, size, skill, strength, savvy and doses of athleticism that will be difficult for any team to match. Howard probably won't be ready to go just yet, but Nash will be primed for a big opener with his new club. As big a problem as Andrew Bynum was for the Mavs to handle defensively and on the boards (he averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds last season vs. Mavs) and as difficult as Howard will be, Gasol was a killer last season. Dirk Nowitzki is often saddled with guarding Gasol, arguably the most skilled 7-foot low-post player in the league. Gasol averaged 19.8 points and 8.5 boards in four games against Dallas and shot 55.9 percent from the field. Against teams Gasol played more than two times last season, he shot a higher percentage against only Houston and Minnesota. Chris Kaman will probably get Gasol in the opener, but when Howard's in the lineup, Kaman will have that nasty assignment with Nowitzki on Gasol. Shawn Marion will be happy to get help from newcomers Dahntay Jones and O.J. Mayo when it comes to guarding Bryant. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a tough matchup -- and the Mavs are lucky enough to try it four times this season.

Previous entries
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Long build to title, swift fall from grace

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
11:00
AM CT


It took Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki nearly a dozen years to raise the Dallas Mavericks from the ashes of the 1990s to the pinnacle of the NBA as champions.

Just 13 months later, a nearly complete dismantling of the title team has created one of the swiftest falls from grace in league history. In 1998-99, the Chicago Bulls, having moved on from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, followed a second three-peat with a 13-37 record in the lockout-shortened season.

The Mavs' downward spiral is most similar to that, ironically, of the 2006 Miami Heat, the Dwyane Wade-led team that rallied from an 0-2 hole to beat Avery Johnson's squad. The next year the Heat finished a mediocre 44-38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs ended this lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule at 36-30 and were swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The following year, the Heat won 15 games. It would be a stretch to think the Mavs will crater to such depths next season, but with a roster now in full rebuild mode -- and one that will not include Jason Terry or Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, for that matter -- Dallas could face a long, hard climb to extend the franchise's record 12-year playoff run.

So where has everybody gone from the title team that partied deep into the South Beach morning last June?

Let's take a look.

Still around: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beauobois, Dominique Jones

Coming back?: Ian Mahinmi (unsigned free agent), Brian Cardinal (unsigned free agent)

Long gone: Tyson Chandler (signed as free agent in 2011 with New York), J.J. Barea (signed as free agent in 2011 with Minnesota); Caron Butler (signed as free agent in 2011 with L.A. Clippers), Corey Brewer (traded in 2011 to Denver), DeShawn Stevenson (signed as free agent in 2011 with New Jersey, traded to Atlanta), Peja Stojakovic (retired)

All but gone: Jason Terry (agreed to terms this week with Boston), Jason Kidd (agreed to terms this week with New York).

Live in-game chat: Mavs-Bulls

April, 21, 2012
4/21/12
6:45
PM CT
Follow along with our experts as they tweet and chat throughout tonight's Mavs-Bulls game at the United Center.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.1 4.2 1.9 33.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.4
AssistsR. Rondo 6.4
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksT. Chandler 1.2