Dallas Mavericks: Dejuan Blair

Cap space: Harris, Dirk agreements stand

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
6:57
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The Dallas Mavericks still have to formally sign Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris, which would take up the rest of their cap space. When asked about the idea of altering the agreements with both players in order to create more space, Cuban said that wasn't going to happen.

"I wouldn't ask them to do that. We're good," Cuban said. "We're set. We have our 2.7 [million-dollar exception]. We'll go from there."

The Mavs clearly have a couple of different areas they will want to improve in, and they'll pick the best player in those different areas.

Big man coming
The Mavs acquired Greg Smith in a trade with the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Tadija Dragievi on Monday, and it's expected that Smith will go through a physical on Tuesday and could be available for summer league play starting Wednesday.

Cuban went out of his way to say that Smith was a player the team has coveted for quite some time.

"We've been trying to trade for him for two years, so we're thrilled," Cuban said.

"He's a 5/4 [center/power forward], backing up Tyson and being able to bang. He's athletic and really skilled. He's young, so like most big men, it's going to take some time.

"He banged against Dwight [Howard] all last year, so he's got some experience there, too. He can play."

Cuban wasn't quick to rule that the addition of Smith would mark the end of DeJuan Blair's time in Dallas.

"Greg has a change to take Blair's place if DeJuan leaves," Cuban said. "There's a chance DeJuan stays. There's a chance we keep any of our guys. You never know."

That remains up in the air as ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported over the weekend that Dallas was in advanced negotiations with the Washington Wizards in regards to a potential sign-and-trade deal for Blair. There hasn't been any update in those talks.

Backing up Dirk
If the Mavs are limited in cap space, they will have to be creative in finding a backup for Nowitzki. If you ask Cuban, it appears the search may not be that hard.

"B-Wright [Brandan Wright] will play more 4," Cuban said. "Right now, there's guys that we think will be minimum players but they don't want to be minimum players, so they're holding out to get the best offer they can get. We'll see what we can do."

That idea of Wright playing the power forward seems like more of a change in direction over recent seasons as the Mavs preferred to have a floor-spacing big man to back up Nowitzki. What has changed since then?

"He's had time with Devin [Harris]," Cuban said of Wright. "For us, the Devin/B-Wright combination is lethal. Chandler can throw a lob. He's good at that, too, so we'll see him in the pick-and-roll. I think we got a lot more versatile."

With Smith logging more minutes at center and Wright shifting to power forward, is it possible that Wright and Tyson Chandler could be on the floor together?

"Yeah, because as long as we put shooters around them," Cuban said.

With the addition of Parsons and veteran forward Richard Jefferson, the Mavs hope they will have acquired perimeter shooting with room for more.

"Guess who was second in the year on corner 3s last season," Cuban questioned.

"Monta. And Richard Jefferson shot above 40 percent and shot 49 percent on corner 3s. If you have one skill that you can be top-10 NBA, I want you even if the rest of you sucks because there's a situation where we can put you to work."

Ellis shot 54.2 percent on corner 3-pointers last season, to be specific.
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.

Free-agency preview: Centers

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
10:58
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Chris AndersenIssac Baldizon/Getty ImagesThe Mavericks have been rumored to have interest in "Birdman," a high-energy rebounder.
The Dallas Mavericks made a major upgrade in the middle before free agency began by trading for Tyson Chandler.

They have a productive backup on the roster in Brandan Wright, the lanky, high-leaping lefty who has ranked among the league’s most efficient reserves the last few seasons.

The search for center depth isn’t a top priority for Dallas in free agency, but it’s definitely on the Mavs’ checklist.

If the Mavs don’t succeed in their quest to sign a superstar, they’d still be interested in pursuing Pau Gasol. He’d get some playing time at center, but the majority of his minutes would probably come at power forward while Dirk Nowitzki rests his 36-year-old legs.

The more likely scenario is that the Mavs sign a low-priced banger to be the final piece of a three-headed center rotation. A look at some of the potential fits:

DeJuan Blair: The 6-foot-7, 260-plus-pound Blair was a bargain banger as a minimum-salaried Mav last season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game. He put up a pair of double-doubles in the playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, his former team that was simply too physical for Wright.

The Mavs value Blair’s toughness and tenacity. They just aren’t willing to pay a premium price for it, particularly after bringing Chandler back to Dallas.

Blair would obviously like to be paid more than the minimum, but if that’s his price tag, he’d be welcomed back in the Mavs’ locker room.

Chris Andersen: The Mavs have been rumored to have interest in “Birdman,” a high-energy rebounder and rim protector who doesn’t fly quite as high as he used to. However, for the money the Mavs would offer, it’s hard to envision Andersen leaving Miami unless LeBron James goes elsewhere.

Andersen would be excellent insurance for the Mavs given Chandler’s durability issues. Bringing Birdman on board would assure the Mavs of always having an athletic, physical, intelligent, long, defensive-minded center available.

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Blair returns with a vengeance for Mavs

May, 2, 2014
May 2
11:44
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Mark Cuban, DeJuan BlairJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDeJuan Blair gets some love from Mark Cuban en route to 10 points and 14 rebounds.

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks center DeJuan Blair had to watch Wednesday's Game 5 of the team's first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs from the team's hotel room due to a one-game suspension. It was clear that Blair was intent on making up for lost time in Friday's Game 6.

Blair -- who spent four seasons with San Antonio before landing in Dallas -- responded by collecting his second double-double of the series with 10 points, a playoff career-high and game-high 14 rebounds and a playoff career-high-tying four steals in 29 minutes in his team's must-win game against the Spurs.

"It’s just playing," Blair said of his performance. "I’m glad we got the win. Of course I was fired up, playing at home and to force a Game 7 against a tough team. It was fun."

Blair's roles on the Mavericks are very specific: provide a physical presence, bring energy and grab every available loose ball.

He's doing his job, as he's been a combined plus-15 in the past two games he's played in the series. When it comes to defense, Dallas has allowed 99.3 points per 100 possessions when Blair has been on the floor; the Mavs have allowed 110.1 when he sits.

Simply, a switch is flipped when Blair's out on the floor, and that was the case in Friday's victory.

"He looked fired up," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "It's tough to miss a regular-season game. It's actually fun to miss a preseason game. But to miss a playoff game is a killer.

"I know how bad he felt about missing that one, watching that one in San Antonio."

You could see how bad Blair felt for missing Game 5 just prior to halftime. He was able to let off some steam by setting an aggressive pick on Tony Parker. The Spurs guard dropped to the floor, leaving Devin Harris a free release to the rim. In the end, the Mavs scored two points just before halftime, but the play epitomized what Blair can bring to the team.

It's evident that, though undersized, Blair is really making his presence felt all over the floor. He might not be as big as most of the other big men in the league, but he's incredibly active. On top of that, he works with what he's got, using his body very well.

While he wasn't a primary option during his time in San Antonio, he knows what is necessary to perform during the playoffs.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows what Blair can bring to a team, and he saw it on display in Game 6.

"His energy was great," Popovich said. "He was all over the floor, he was a man possessed at both ends of the floor. He was physical and he played good basketball on top of that. I thought he was super."

This series against his former squad has had an underlying theme of revenge for Blair, who missed Game 5 after a run-in with Spurs big man Tiago Splitter in Game 4. And while Game 6 might have been sweet, Blair is hungry for more.

"It's not over yet," Blair said. "We've got Game 7 on their court. Winning on their court would be the best revenge. We just have to bring it next game."

On top of an upset, revenge is just one victory away for Blair.
DALLAS – Mavericks center DeJuan Blair sat in his hotel room by himself Wednesday night, watching his teammates get pushed to the brink of elimination as he served his one-game suspension.

Suffice to say, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound banger is looking forward to Friday night’s Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDeJuan Blair's presence was missed in Game 5 against the Spurs.
“Everybody in the world knows how anxious I am to get back out there and compete and try to get us to a Game 7,” Blair said after Thursday’s practice.

The NBA suspended Blair for kicking Spurs center Tiago Splitter in the head when they were both on the floor after Blair was called for a foul with 3:08 remaining in Game 4. The officials ejected Blair for a “hostile act,” but he claimed after the game that the kick was an emotional reaction to the call, not intended for his former teammate.

Blair declined comment when asked Thursday if he thought the suspension was justified. Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before Game 5 that he believed the league office made a mistake.

“I thought it was wrong,” Cuban said. “It wasn’t intentional. I thought it was wrong.

“I don’t have any say in the matter. But I didn’t think it was the right thing to do.”

The Mavs certainly could have used Blair, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 16 minutes during Game 4. There’s no guarantee that Blair would have solved the Mavs’ major problems defending the pick-and-roll, but he surely would have at least delivered a hard foul or two to interrupt the Spurs’ layup line.

“We missed him last night,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “There’s no doubt about that. When you’re on the road in a hostile environment, you need physical guys. So it hurt not having him. So it’ll be good to have him back.”

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Spurs starting to figure out Mavs

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
11:42
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SAN ANTONIO -- It took at least four games, but the San Antonio Spurs appear as if they have figured out what the Dallas Mavericks want to do in terms of their pick-and-roll defense. The Spurs carved up the Mavs for a total of 54 points in the paint in their Game 5 victory on Wednesday night.

At times, it didn't necessarily feel like Game 5 of a playoff series. Instead, it looked like a team was going through its pregame layup line routine.

"We just played," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about his team's offensive attack. "We just did what we usually do, nothing different."

They played, and they made Dallas' defenders have to fight over every pick that they set.

Dallas had a magical 28-point performance from Vince Carter and the first real strong performance of the series for Dirk Nowitzki as he scored 26 points. The scoring balance wasn't ideal for Dallas as it had only three players score in double figures -- each of whom scored at least 20 points -- but the Mavs know the defensive end of the floor sealed their fate.

"We just have to stick with it," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "They're a tough team. It's a tough series and all of that kind of stuff. It's the playoffs, it's supposed to be tough."

The Spurs continued to show why they're a championship-caliber team, waiting the Mavs out on every possession Dallas had the ball. The Spurs forced the Mavs to play nearly the entire 24 seconds of the shot clock. As they stayed patient, they blitzed the Mavs and carved them up with a variety of pick-and-roll attacks. Dallas simply didn't have an answer for the oldest play in the book.

"Obviously, they're a little smarter with it now," Nowitzki said. "We've been doing it for five games. That roll is tough. You can't give [Tim] Duncan or [Tiago] Splitter those easy, uncontested layups.

"That's something the coaches will look at. We just have to have more energy about our defense."

Energy was certainly missing in that department, meaning DeJuan Blair's one-game suspension doomed the Mavs. Blair had to miss Game 5 because of his kick to Splitter's head in the fourth quarter of Game 4.

In addition to the strong screens, San Antonio is stretching Dallas out just a little bit more with its spacing. With Dallas unwilling to give up the 3-point shots, the extra room is giving San Antonio just enough of a window to deliver punishing interior passes.

"The communication on the pick-and-roll has to be much better," Mavs center Samuel Dalembert said. "We've got to handle that. We've just got to take care of that. There were way too many easy baskets."

Facing elimination for the first time in the series and having to get off the mat once again, the Mavs will have to find a way to deliver in the department that has haunted them all season long. With that in mind, Carlisle says he believes in his team's resolve and their ability to perform.

"We've been down this road. We've had a lot of difficult losses," Carlisle said. "We always find a way to bounce back, and that's what we're going to do for Game 6."

DeJuan Blair's play short but sweet

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
1:13
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DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks tried valiantly to pull off another miracle in Game 4 of their first-round matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.

Once down 20 in the early portion of the third quarter, the Mavs battled back and took a stunning 83-82 lead with 3:51 left in the game. Dallas was fueled by third-string center DeJuan Blair as he rattled off 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the second half.

His night, however, ended abruptly.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

DeJuan Blair was just money before an ejection for a "hostile act" ended his night prematurely.

The Mavs were able to cause a turnover and a leaping Shawn Marion threw the ball blindly back in play in order to avoid returning the favor. Both Blair and Spurs center Tiago Splitter charged at the ball and the officials blew the whistle, calling a foul on Blair. The backup center ended up kicking his legs in disgust of the foul call and his left foot hit Splitter in the head. The officials looked at the video and ruled that a "hostile act" was made, forcing Blair to be ejected from the game.

"It was clearly a reaction to the call," Blair said. "Actually, I didn’t know because I was facing down there so they are going to judge off of what they do.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said his view was distorted, not allowing him to have the cleanest view of the action. But he gave the benefit of the doubt to the officials.

"Scott Foster is one of the best officials," Carlisle said. "If he said that there was a technical foul there and an ejection, then there probably was."

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Veteran forward Marion was asked if he had ever seen a hostile act called during a game.

"Hostile act," Marion questioned. "Is that a movie?"

Actually, a hostile act is in the league's rule book, in reference to Rule No. 13 -- Instant Replays, Section 1, a (4) in relation to replay triggers.

The rule book states that the officials can review the play if one player commits a hostile act against another player, resulting in the offending player being ejected from the game. An example would be when a player intentionally or recklessly harms or attempts to harm another player through the use of a punch, elbow, kick or blow to the head.
It remains to be seen if Blair will be given a suspension for the hostile act.

"I mean, it was an accident, so we'll see what happens," Blair said. "It wasn't intentional. I was just reacting to a call that I thought didn't go my way."

With his first career postseason double-double on 12 points and 11 rebounds, Blair clearly went in and gave the team energy and played tough defense. Unfortunately for the Mavs, he only played a total of 16 minutes.

The league will now decide if Blair will even get to suit up in Game 5.

Rapid Reaction: Spurs 93, Mavericks 89

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
11:32
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DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks fell just short of pulling off the biggest comeback in franchise playoff history, but the San Antonio Spurs evened the series with a 93-89 win.

How it happened: The Mavs made a miraculous comeback but couldn’t complete the job.

Dallas had a chance to tie the score with 3.9 seconds remaining, but guard Monta Ellis’ layup rolled in and out. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who scored a game-high 23 points off the bench, iced the win by making a pair of free throws.

The Spurs’ lead swelled to 20 less than three minutes into the third quarter after San Antonio stormed out of halftime with an 8-2 run. The Mavs immediately responded by busting out of a prolonged offensive funk with a 14-2 run and eventually pulled even with 6:23 remaining in the game.

Dallas third-string center DeJuan Blair, who fell out of San Antonio’s rotation last season, provided a massive spark during the Mavs’ comeback. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound banger had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 15 minutes despite a scoreless, one-rebound first half.

However, Blair was ejected with 3:08 remaining when referees ruled after review that his kick to Spurs’ center Tiago Splitter’s head was a hostile act. Blair kicked Splitter when both were on their backs after a Blair foul.

After Ginobili hit the technical free throw to tie it up, Splitter gave the Spurs the lead by sinking both of his shots from the line.

That set up a wild final few minutes for the second consecutive game in the series.

Ellis (20 points) drove to the basket after getting a handoff from Dirk Nowitzki for an and-1 layup with 52 seconds remaining, tying the score with the free throw. However, the Spurs regained the lead for good on the next possession with a 3-pointer by Boris Diaw, who had 17 points off the bench.

What it means: The top-seeded Spurs survived a scare to regain home-court advantage, evening the series at 2-2. The Mavs narrowly missed pulling off the biggest comeback in the franchise's playoff history, which remains a rally from 19 points down to win Game 5 of the 2003 Western Conference finals in San Antonio.

Play of the game: The Spurs’ French Connection hooked up for the go-ahead bucket with 32.9 seconds remaining. Running a pick-and-pop, point guard Tony Parker dished to reserve forward Diaw for a tiebreaking 3-pointer over Nowitzki.

Stat of the night: The Spurs are 53-1 in games they led going into the fourth quarter this season, including 25-0 on the road. The lone loss was by one point to the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 17.

Physical Blair plays with fire vs. ex-team

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
10:00
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SAN ANTONIO – Truth be told, there might have only been one member of the Dallas Mavericks who was happy to draw the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

That’s bench banger DeJuan Blair, who seeks some sort of redemption or revenge after riding San Antonio’s bench during the Spurs’ run to the Finals last season, his fourth and final year with the franchise.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair, Tim Duncan
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsDeJuan Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes vs. the Spurs in Game 2.
"Yeah, but I'm not going to bring that up,” Blair said after the Mavs evened the series with a stunning rout in Game 2. “The Spurs are a great team, but we can play with the best of them. We showed that tonight, but we've just got to keep it up. It's going to be a long series."

It’s guaranteed to go at least five games now, in part due to Blair’s contributions Wednesday night after a quiet Game 1 against his former team.

Blair had eight points, seven rebounds and four steals in 14 minutes during the win. The Mavs outscored the Spurs by 13 points with Blair on the floor.

Those numbers can be found in the box score. There’s no telling how many bruises the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Blair left on old buddy Tim Duncan while battling his future Hall of Fame former teammate on the block and under the boards.

“He had a physical impact,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Blair. “He was on the boards and was getting deflections. The only way we’re going to win a series against a team like this is to have guys playing at complete full capacity, and he did. He gave us a huge lift.”

The highlight of the night for Blair was stripping Manu Ginobili in the open court and rumbling for a one-man fast break that he finished with a spinning layup. That play was a bonus for the Mavs. Blair’s job is to throw his big body around.

“That's my plan,” Blair said. “We don't have anyone on this team to do that. I know if I can play, I can come in and bring that physicality and just do what I do."

Blair didn’t get to do that much during last season’s playoffs, giving him a little extra motivation when he returned to San Antonio with the Mavs this postseason.

Matchups: Who has edge in Mavs-Spurs?

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
8:00
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A look at the matchups in the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series:

POINT GUARD
Jose Calderon vs. Tony Parker: This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Calderon, a subpar defender, struggles to guard a lot of point guards. He really gets exploited by Parker, who averaged 23.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in three games against the Mavs this season. That was Parker's highest scoring average against any team he faced more than once this season. Parker loves pushing the pace and running pick-and-rolls, both of which present major problems for Calderon, whose plus-minus was minus-40 in the Mavs' four losses to the Spurs, including minus-25 in 86 minutes with Parker on the floor. If Calderon isn't lighting it up from long range, coach Rick Carlisle should seriously consider giving Devin Harris a bigger share of the minutes.
EDGE: Spurs

[+] EnlargeMonta Ellis
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Mavericks probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Monta Ellis, who gives them the edge at shooting guard.
SHOOTING GUARD
Monta Ellis vs. Danny Green: On paper, this is the Mavs' best matchup. It hasn't worked out that way on the floor, however. Green is a lethal 3-point shooter who has especially lit it up against the Mavs, going 12-of-20 from long distance against Dallas this season. The numbers indicate he has also done a good job defending Ellis, who has shot only 38.9 percent from the field when Green is in the game. The Mavs have been outscored by 60 points in the 81 minutes in which Ellis and Green have both been on the court. The Mavs probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Ellis, a better fit than the Dallas front office believed even when they signed him to a three-year, $25 million deal. They'll need a huge series from Ellis -- who seems to thrive under pressure -- to have a chance to pull off a stunning upset over the Spurs.
EDGE: Mavs

SMALL FORWARD
Shawn Marion vs. Kawhi Leonard: Leonard looks a lot like a young Marion -- a freakish, 6-foot-7 athlete who is a versatile defender and efficient offensive weapon. That's an awfully tough matchup for the 35-year-old version of "The Matrix." Leonard gets overshadowed by the Spurs' living legends on the roster, but he's a 22-year-old rising star. His all-around skills were on full display during the Spurs' recent trip to Dallas, on which Leonard stuffed the box score for 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. By comparison, Marion had a total of 21 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in three games against San Antonio this season.
EDGE: Spurs

POWER FORWARD
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan: The two all-time greats don't actually match up with each other much these days, but it will be a treat to watch a pair of surefire Hall of Famers compete in a playoff series for the sixth time in their careers. The 37-year-old Duncan's numbers have dipped in recent seasons, but that's primarily because the priority for him is being as fresh as possible for the playoffs. He's still a dominant defensive presence and capable of putting up a 20-point, 15-rebound line, the way he did in the Spurs' last win over the Mavs. Nowitzki, an All-Star again this season after a one-year, injury-related hiatus, remains one of the most distinct and effective offensive threats in the league. However, Nowitzki has averaged only 15.4 points against the Spurs in the past three seasons, during which San Antonio has won 10 of 12 meetings.
EDGE: Even

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DeJuan Blair delivers for Mavs

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
9:19
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SACRAMENTO -- Coach Rick Carlisle insisted Friday night that DeJuan Blair wasn’t a forgotten man in the Dallas Mavericks’ rotation.

Two days later, Blair came up big.

Blair banged for six points and nine rebounds and drew a key charge in 17 minutes during Sunday’s 93-91 win over the Sacramento Kings. It was the most playing time in almost a month for Blair, who got double-digit minutes only twice in the previous 11 games. He didn’t take off his warmups in two of those games, including Friday night’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the Mavs turned to Blair when starting center Samuel Dalembert got in early foul trouble Sunday, and the vertically challenged backup big man earned extended minutes against Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins.

“I just liked the way he was playing, so we stuck with him,” said Carlisle, who limited Brandan Wright to six minutes when the lefty leaper struggled to get going in the game following his 23-point, 10-of-10 masterpiece. “[Blair] delivered for us. He really did, and we needed it. We needed every rebound, we needed every point, we needed every hit he put on somebody.”

Carlisle praised Blair for staying ready despite sporadic playing time, a testament to the fifth-year pro’s professionalism.

“This ain’t nothing new to me, man,” said Blair, who fell out of the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation late last season. “You know how it is. It ain’t nothing new to DeJuan to stay ready. I don’t worry about minutes or anything. You know I’m a team player. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”

Heartbreaker ends Mavs' homestand

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
12:23
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DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks took one last punch to the gut, courtesy of the Golden State Warriors, before finally heading back on the road.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Glenn James/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki's 33-point, 11-rebound performance wasn't enough to lead the Mavericks over the Warriors.
Sickening as it might have been to see Stephen Curry's pull-up jumper splash through the net with a tenth of a second left on the clock, the 122-120 overtime loss Tuesday night seemed a fitting way to wrap up the Mavs’ marathon homestand.

There was a lot of heartbreak during the longest homestand in franchise history. Fighting for their playoff lives, the Mavs split the eight games at the American Airlines Center, suffering three losses in overtime and blowing a late lead in the other L as well.

“All four losses that we took were just brutal, just gut punches,” said Mavs star forward Dirk Nowitzki, whose 33-point, 11-rebound performance wasn’t good enough to lead the Mavs to a win. “If we pull out one or two somehow, I think it’s a decent homestand. But we didn’t.

“Somehow down the stretch, we just seem to always make a little mistake, and good teams make you pay. A 4-4 homestand was not what we’re looking for, but we’ve got to keep fighting.”

A win over the Warriors would have given the Mavs sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference, just a game behind Golden State. Instead, the loss dropped Dallas to ninth, a half-game behind the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns for the final two playoff spots.

That’s how much these games matter for the 44-31 Mavs, who leave Wednesday for a four-game West Coast swing that starts with back-to-back games against the Staples Center squads.

The margin of error for the Mavs is miniscule. And the Mavs, as well as they played offensively for most of the homestand, made some massive crunch-time errors.

“We’ve made poor decisions,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We haven’t done what we needed to do to get stops. We’re paying the price.”

Case in point: Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson was wide open for a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining in regulation. Carlisle might have been the closest Mav to Thompson at the time.

Big man DeJuan Blair had switched onto Thompson, but figured that the Dallas defense wasn’t designed for a 260-plus-pound dude to chase a shooting guard more than 20 feet. It appeared that Blair expected Mavs stopper Shawn Marion to pick up Thompson as he ran past, but that memo never got to Marion.

It was an inexcusable defensive breakdown for a veteran team that made upgrading its basketball IQ a major priority over the offseason. But it wasn’t uncharacteristic. The Mavs made several similar mistakes this homestand and many more over the course of the season.

“Late in the game, you can’t have that,” said sixth man Vince Carter, who was on the bench at the time. “Can’t have it. We’ve just got to figure it out.”

Ideally, a team whose top six players have a combined 76 seasons of NBA experience would have those sorts of things figured out 75 games into a season.

But that isn’t the case for Dallas, which has to overachieve to be decent defensively and is often dreadful on that end of the floor. That was true Tuesday night, when the Warriors had 62 points in the paint, shot 57.1 percent from the floor and made 15 of 31 3-point attempts.

Still, the Mavs had many chances to win against the Warriors, a testament to a terrific offensive performance led by Nowitzki and Monta Ellis (27 points).

The Mavs led by five with 3:24 remaining in regulation and four after Nowitzki’s 1-foot fadeaway with 1:43 to go. They couldn’t get the stops to close it out.

The Mavs led by four midway through overtime and couldn’t get the stops to close it out. There was a controversial no-call on Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal’s blocked shot of Ellis’ potential go-ahead floater with 13 seconds remaining, but blame the Mavs for letting the game be that close down the stretch against a Golden State team missing two starters.

This was a massive missed opportunity to end a half-empty homestand.

“I’m not big on analyzing how disappointing it is,” Carlisle said. “I know how disappointing it is. We didn’t deserve to win tonight.”

With only two home dates among the seven games remaining on the schedule, the Mavs will have to prove they deserve a playoff spot on the road.
DALLAS – As Russell Westbrook raced full speed toward the basket in transition, Jose Calderon scrambled to position himself in front of the restricted area and braced for a collision.

Westbrook went through Calderon for a layup attempt before the point guards for the Thunder and Mavericks ended up in a heap on the baseline. The whistle blew.

[+] EnlargeJose Calderon
AP Photo/LM OteroJose Calderon is playing with a chipped bone in his nose but still stepped in front of Russell Westbrook to take a charge.
Charge.

That’s a smart, gritty play by Calderon under any circumstances. It’s especially impressive considering that he’s playing with a painful chipped bone just below his nose.

“I think people don’t give this team enough credit for toughness,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “We’ve got guys that are tough. They play to win.”

The coaching staff makes sure that taking a charge is considered a major badge of honor by the Mavs. Coach Rick Carlisle calls it one of the most impactful plays in the game, noting that it’s a turnover and foul for the opponent and often a momentum swing in the Mavs’ favor.

It also epitomizes the sacrifice and toughness required for the admittedly flawed Mavs to challenge contenders such as the Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, who visit the American Airlines Center on Thursday night.

“It’s got to be a collective mindset, a collective mentality,” Carlisle said after stating that he believes the Mavs have the necessary toughness. “This team’s success in the last 10 games can’t be built around a few guys making great individual plays. That’s just not how we’re built. Our basketball karma is just not going to work that way. It’s got to be an all-together type thing.”

Monta Ellis leads the Mavs with 26 charges taken, according to totals kept by the coaches. He ranks third in the league in offensive fouls drawn with 44, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s behind only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher, a couple of veteran guards known for toughness and high basketball IQ.

The rest of the Mavs’ charges leaderboard: Vince Carter 7, Devin Harris 7, Calderon 6, Jae Crowder 5, DeJuan Blair 5.

The fact that Ellis and Carter are the Mavs’ leaders in a dirty-work department speaks volumes for their desire to win. After all, they both arrived in Dallas as volume scorers with reputations as divas who didn’t care much for defense.

“It’s crazy to think that Vince Carter, all the s--- that he’s taken over the years, is probably the first one to step in to take a charge, the first one to go in and battle for a rebound,” Cuban said. “I mean, who woulda thunk that about Monta? That’s the grit we have on this team, and it shows.”
The Mavericks have the second highest paid player in the NBA, are well below the luxury tax and are poised to make the playoffs.

That means there must be some pretty good bargains on the roster. In an effort to determine the best bargains, we borrowed a somewhat scientific formula: Divide dollars by win shares.

For those who don’t keep a calculator in hand while watching hoops, win shares is an advanced statistic created by basketball-reference.com with a pretty self-explanatory name and a really long explanation for how they’re calculated. It might not be a perfect stat, but it’s a pretty good predictor of team success. For instance, the 11 rotation players of the 41-27 Mavs have combined for 39.8 win shares.

Dirk Nowitzki ranks 14th in the league in win shares (8.9), but he’s just the ninth best bargain on the roster because of his massive salary. Here’s a look at whose dollars make the most sense for the Mavs among their rotation players:

DeJuan Blair
Salary: $947,907
Win shares: 3.1
$/WS: $305,776

Jae Crowder
Salary: $788,872
Win shares: 1.7
$/WS: $464,042

Vince Carter
Salary: $3,180,000
Win shares: 3.8
$/WS: $836,842

(Read full post)

3 Points: More burn for Brandan Wright?

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
12:00
PM CT
Brandan WrightRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrandan Wright is making the most of his minutes with the Mavericks.
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

1. Brandan Wright ranks among the top 10 players in PER this season. Is that evidence that he deserves more minutes or that Rick Carlisle is doing a masterful job picking spots to play Wright?

Gutierrez: It's evidence he's effective in situations where he's poised to succeed. If you look at the matchups against Portland and Indiana, they involved bigger players who were comfortable working in the post. He's generally ineffective against those players because they impose their will in the paint and that provides easy buckets for the opposition. The positioning is also an issue when it comes to rebounding. Look at Carlisle's track record. Rodrigue Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, Carlisle picked his spots with those players and put them in situations to succeed. Wright deserves minutes when they're advantageous for the team.

Taylor: Wright, for the time being, is really nice role player. But his role is limited to certain situations because he's a true tweener. He can't bang against the big boys and that means Carlisle feels comfortable playing him only with certain other players, so the spacing remains good on offense. Wright could force Carlisle to play him more if he was a better and more consistent rebounder, but we haven't seen that yet.

MacMahon: I've got a condition I call the Roddy B. Reflex that makes me very hesitant to second-guess Carlisle's rotations. I lobbied hard for Beaubois to get a bigger role as a rookie, and we all know how he wilted when his minutes increased. Having said all that, I'd like to see Wright in the 25-minute-per-game range. He earned his two-year, $10 million deal by flourishing in an increased role down the stretch last season, and his net rating (plus-6.1 points per 100 possessions) is by far the best of the Mavs' centers. Next time Carlisle asks my advice, I'll tell him to stop using DeJuan Blair as the first big off the bench and give those minutes to Wright.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
AP Photo/John F. RhodesSince his return, Devin Harris has impressed when his Achilles isn't bothering him.
2. Should Devin Harris be in the closing lineup on a consistent basis?

Gutierrez: A sore right Achilles halted Harris' night in Golden State and easily leaves him questionable for the game against Utah. If he's able to avoid missing a lot of time, he's primed to be a factor in the closing lineup. Harris is a quasi-DeShawn Stevenson or maybe even a mixture of Stevenson and Jason Terry. Back in 2011, Stevenson set the tone in terms of defense to start games, and Terry didn't care about starting games during his time in Dallas -- he cared about being out there during crunch time. If Harris can bring some dribble penetration and bring some defensive disposition, it's the best of both worlds. Jose Calderon appears to be the one who will draw the short straw in terms of closing minutes, but he's a veteran and is willing to do what is best for the team. Health permitting, it appears Monta Ellis and Harris could be the closing backcourt during the stretch run.

Taylor: Well, we saw the problem with Harris in Tuesday night's blowout loss to Golden State. We can't trust his health yet. This is the second time he's had a sore Achilles. The best thing to do, right now, regarding Harris is just accept what he can give you on a game-by-game basis. No expectations. When he can play and he's playing well, then use him in fourth quarter. But until we can trust his health it's hard to define his role.

MacMahon: This sore Achilles is pretty poorly timed, but the Mavs don't believe it's serious. If Harris is healthy enough to play, he should be part of the Mavs' closing lineup unless Calderon is just lighting it up that night. Harris earned those opportunities with his clutch heroics over the weekend. He's the Mavs' best defensive guard and his ability to create off the dribble makes a major difference in crunch time. Calderon has been just a floor-spacer during closing time this season -- and not particularly effective in that role. This is an easy decision unless Harris' health complicates the issue.

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Which West team should the Mavericks most want to avoid in the playoffs?

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Discuss (Total votes: 565)

3. Which West team should the Mavs most want to avoid in the playoffs?

Gutierrez: It's clear that both San Antonio and Oklahoma City are the teams Dallas needs to avoid. If you're forcing me to pick one, I'm going to go with Dallas needing to avoid San Antonio. They have so much depth at their disposal and that depth can negate Dallas' strength in numbers approach. As we saw in the matchup just over a week ago, the ball movement and pick-and-roll action they create puts the Mavericks in an incredible bind. San Antonio is a machine and Dallas doesn't have the components to slow them down. To avoid both, Dallas needs to emerge as the sixth seed in the West.

Taylor: It's a tie. The Mavs have no chance to beat San Antonio because the Spurs are too smart, and they have no chance to beat Oklahoma City because the Thunder are too athletic. If the Mavs played a lick of defense they'd have a sliver of a chance against these two teams. Since they don't, they would be lucky to force either series to six games.

MacMahon: The Spurs and Thunder are both horrific matchups for the Mavs, but I'd call Oklahoma City the greater of the two evils. There is high potential for humiliation if you face a team with two premier young superstars such as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a playoff series. Side note: Bricktown is better than that muddy-beep thing they call the Riverwalk.

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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