Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitkzi

No real backup PF? No problem for Mavs

July, 25, 2014
7/25/14
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The Dallas Mavericks do not have a pure power forward on the roster other than Dirk Nowitzki. They do not consider that to be a problem.

It’s been that case for several years, with Shawn Marion sliding over a spot for most of the minutes when Nowitzki rested. Marion’s tenure in Dallas has almost certainly ended, but the Mavs have several players on the roster they believe are capable of playing quality minutes at power forward.

Coach Rick Carlisle, who would like to cut Nowitzki’s minutes down to 30 per game if possible (the 36-year-old played nearly 33 in 2013-14), listed Chandler Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jae Crowder and Richard Jefferson as the primary candidates. He’s also open to the idea of giving Brandan Wright more minutes at power forward, although Wright’s career has been redefined in Dallas an athletic center who thrives with floor-spacers around him.

"I don’t see us having a problem of finding a guy who can play that position effectively," Carlisle said. "It’s a matter of figuring out who plays well with who, getting the right guys on the floor together."

Parsons played some small-ball power forward for the Houston Rockets and will continue to do so for the Mavs. He presents a major matchup problem for the opposing defense when he plays that position. He has struggled defending bigger power forwards in the post, which is part of the reason he’s emphasizing strength training this summer.

However, Parsons might not necessarily play the majority of the power forward minutes when Nowitzki is off the floor, as Marion did.

Carlisle sounded especially intrigued by the idea of Aminu, an extraordinary athlete who is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, at power forward. He sees Aminu, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Mavs for the veteran’s minimum with a player option for the second season, as someone who can mitigate some of the things the Mavs will miss absent Marion.

The Mavs believe Aminu has elite defensive potential. He has proved to be a premier rebounder, leading the league’s small forwards in rebounding percentage the past two seasons.

"He’s played mostly the 3 so far in his career, but I really feel like the 4 is a better position for him,” Carlisle said. “Those backup Dirk minutes are going to be a possibility for him to really bring a different dimension."

Cap space: Harris, Dirk agreements stand

July, 14, 2014
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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.

LeBron could upgrade sidekicks in Dallas

June, 24, 2014
6/24/14
1:06
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Nowitzki/James/EllisGetty ImagesOn paper, Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki look much more attractive than Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
When you have a chance to hit a grand slam, you’ve got to step in the batter’s box and take your cuts.

The odds of the Dallas Mavericks winning the LeBron James derby aren’t good, but it’d be foolish for a team with ample salary cap space not to make every possible attempt to sign the planet’s best player.

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Which team is LeBron James more likely to join?

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    57%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 12,471)

It remains to be seen whether Mark Cuban and the Mavs get an audience with King James before he makes his decision -- or The Decision II. If they do, the Mavs should surely pitch James on the franchise’s championship culture and the fact that Rick Carlisle ranks among the NBA’s elite coaches, as LeBron found out firsthand during the 2011 Finals.

The Mavs can also make the claim that James would be part of a better Big Three if he moved to Dallas instead of staying in Miami.

Go ahead, pick the pair of sidekicks you’d prefer to play with:

DUO 1: A shooting guard who averaged 19.0 points and 4.7 assists while missing 28 games due to health issues and the need for preventative rest, and a perimeter-shooting 6-foot-11 guy who averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.

DUO 2: A shooting guard who averaged 19.0 points and 5.7 assists while playing every game, and a perimeter-shooting 7-footer who averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds.

(Read full post)

Big Picture: Working all the angles

June, 6, 2014
6/06/14
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Dirk NowitzkiFort Worth Star-Telegram/Zumapress/Icon SMIDirk Nowitzki, 35, is a free agent, but the smart money is on him returning to Dallas.
Now that the dust has settled on the Dallas Mavericks' season, ESPNDallas.com will explain the big-picture outlook the Mavs need to analyze as they look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Ever since the 2011 championship, the Mavs have been involved in various installments of the franchise’s "biggest summer ever." They’ve made their attempts to lure free agents such as LeBron James, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. They came up short in those attempts but have done a valiant job in putting together rosters that remained competitive. Be that as it may, the organization doesn’t see just being competitive as the goal.

Sports mortality might make this summer one in which Dallas needs more hits than misses. Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent, but the safe money is on him re-signing with the Mavs. That said, this is likely the last contract Nowitzki will sign with the idea of him playing at a very high level. There’s also a possibility that this is the last contract the 35-year-old signs altogether. With that in mind, the Mavericks have to look at players who can fit during this window as capable supporting mates for Nowitzki, or those who could take on larger roles on the back end of their deals.

Reports are circulating that the Houston Rockets will make another attempt at acquiring Nowitzki. The odds of them getting Nowitzki to turn on the Mavs are about as good as those of sinking a full-court, buzzer-beating shot. The Mavs will re-sign Nowitzki for a number that is respectful for him and the team in regard to preserving cap space. The additional focus will be on retaining Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris on team-friendly deals. The cap space will be an intriguing thing to keep track of.

Dallas could theoretically use all the usual avenues of improving a team -- free agency, trade and the draft -- and each path could yield players of impact.

[+] EnlargeZach Randolph
Justin Ford/USA TODAY SportsGetting Shawn Marion, left, and Vince Carter, right, back at team-friendly prices is key for Dallas.
Teams around the league could inquire about some of the Mavs' cap-friendly trade assets such as Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and point guards Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. None of them will fetch an elite player in return, but a specific combination of them, money and other assets to the right team could net a valuable rotational player and free up a roster space. In terms of other assets, one ace in the hole for Dallas is that it can finally get back into the trade market with a first-round pick at its disposal.

The first-round pick Dallas gave up in the trade to acquire Lamar Odom ended up in the possession of the Oklahoma City Thunder after it was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Rockets, and is now finally paid in full. That means the Mavs won’t have a first-round pick this season and will have one next season. Due to rules in the collective bargaining agreement, a team can’t trade its first-round pick in consecutive drafts. That means Dallas can officially offer its 2016 first-round pick in deals. First-round picks are now the most coveted form of currency among general managers, and Dallas has shown it's not afraid to wheel and deal.

Speaking of the draft, Dallas has the 34th and 51st picks -- both in the second round -- this year. While second-round picks don’t necessarily guarantee success, they give teams suitable amounts of wiggle room. Second-round picks aren’t guaranteed roster spaces or contracts, thus giving a team like Dallas the potential to go either way with both assets. That might not mean much on the surface, but roster spaces become more and more valuable as the summer moves along.

While ammunition isn’t at maximum value, Dallas has enough wiggle room and flexibility to be a player this summer. That’s a good position to be in, but this is a summer in which there isn’t a definitive route to take through free agency. While there have been big-name free agents available in past offseasons, there’s a strong possibility there won’t be one out there this summer. In addition, there’s always the uncertainty of the trade market. You just never know what will happen in that realm or who will actually be available or is on the trade block.

With roughly $30.5 million in cap space, other assets and no definitive direction in free agency, this summer appears to be filled with unknowns. If that’s the case, it’s good to be in a position like the one Dallas finds itself in, in which it can strike via free agency, draft or trade. The mantra has always been that the Mavs will be opportunistic. Time dictates that opportunity has to strike now.

Big Picture: Understudy Role

June, 5, 2014
6/05/14
10:00
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MavericksJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs need legitimate backups for Dirk Nowitzki, because the only way Dallas can contend is if Nowitzki plays fewer minutes to stay fresh.
Now that the dust has settled on the Dallas Mavericks' season, ESPNDallas.com will explain the big-picture outlook the Mavs need to analyze as they look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Dirk Nowitzki’s regular-season performance showed that he clearly wasn’t done being an elite scoring weapon.

He averaged 21.7 points per game on 49.7 percent shooting from the field, 39.8 percent from 3-point range and 89.9 percent from the free throw line. The series against the San Antonio Spurs proved to be a matchup issue for Nowitzki, and his postseason numbers saw a steep drop in terms of percentages. He scored 19.1 points per game in the seven-game series against the Spurs, but shot just 42.9 percent from the field, 8.3 percent from 3-point range and 80.6 percent from the free throw line.

It was a matchup problem, but it also shined a light on what will be a lingering problem for the golden years of his career: He will struggle against teams that take away his airspace.

There won’t be a cure-all to fix this problem, but the Mavs can work to keep him fresh as the playoffs approach by continuing to reduce his minutes during the regular season. He averaged 32.9 minutes this season, right within the boundary that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was shooting for. Not accounting for last season, where he missed more than a third of the season due to knee surgery, the 32.9 minutes average was the lowest Nowitzki logged since his rookie season.

Dallas’ quandary is finding a legitimate backup for its star. The Mavs have been in constant pursuit of an option that can make him the second-best player or a player who could run alongside him. They’ve found the running mate in Monta Ellis. They must now shift the emphasis to finding a player who can spare him during the regular season. They have to do it because the 16 to 18 minutes that Nowitzki isn’t on the floor is when the balance of the game can easily swing.

The situation with Shawn Marion presents a ripple effect because he’s primarily been Nowitzki’s main backup since 2009. Before then, you saw the likes of Brandon Bass, Keith Van Horn and Austin Croshere. The basic theme of those options is that the team is looking for someone who can stretch the floor while Nowitzki is resting. They’ve essentially been searching for a Dirk-lite.

When fully healthy, Dallas has been a team that has had one of the better benches over recent league history. Even so, Nowitzki's backup has still been one of the weakest links. It’s understandable to not put as much of an emphasis on finding an understudy for someone who logs as many minutes as Nowitzki does, but the time has come to make it more of a priority.

Replicating his ability to stretch the floor might be a challenge, based on the available options. The market presents more in terms of traditional power forwards, with those who can shoot with some range, but not at the level or consistency that Nowitzki can. Boris Diaw, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson and Mike Scott are potential options. While they don’t fit the qualifications of being a Dirk-lite, they do present legitimate options as backups. Maybe things work out and Marion can return simply as a backup power forward, giving him the summer to truly prepare for that position.

With so many areas of need to fill this summer, finding a true backup for Nowitzki may be a tricky situation. Be that as it may, this is one area of need where the Mavericks can’t cut any corners.

Big Picture: Moving Forward

June, 4, 2014
6/04/14
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Rick CarlisleChris Covatta/Getty ImagesThe Mavericks will have to consider moving on from Shawn Marion, who turned 36 in early May.
Now that the dust has settled on the Dallas Mavericks' season, ESPNDallas.com will explain the big-picture outlook the Mavs need to analyze as they look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Shawn Marion has been the anchor for the Mavs’ defensive approach since he arrived in 2009. Over time, he emerged as one of the most versatile options on the team, both offensively and defensively. Alongside Dirk Nowitzki, he is one of the lone pieces remaining from the 2011 championship roster. He now approaches free agency, a place he hasn’t been since 2009. Having been able to rely on Marion as a constant at small forward, the Mavs will have to decide if they need to start anew at the position.

Along the lines discussed earlier in this series, bringing Devin Harris back and possibly inserting him into the starting lineup creates new opportunities, but it also creates more problems. While he will boost the team’s versatility, speed and defensive disposition, he shrinks the floor in terms of perimeter shooting. Both Harris and Monta Ellis will cause chaos for the opposition with their penetration, but coaches can counter that by giving them space, daring them to shoot. At that point, it’s essential to have a small forward who can space the floor. You can’t expect Nowitzki to be the lone weapon who consistently stretches the floor.

To his credit, Marion expanded his game and tried to stretch the floor this season as he hit 58 3-pointers. That’s a tremendous uptick in production from beyond the arc as he made a total of 51 treys in his previous four seasons with Dallas (23 in 2012-13, 20 in 2011-12, five in 2010-11 and three in 2009-10). Marion’s 35.8 percent shooting from 3-point range was his highest since he shot 38.7 percent for the Phoenix Suns during the 2002-03 season.

[+] EnlargeLuol Deng
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsLuol Deng has been linked to the Mavs, but he likely would come with a heavier impact on Dallas' salary cap.
The problem is, Marion is 36 and has already said he’s willing to consider retirement after two more seasons. That means Dallas has to consider moving on from Marion to find the heir apparent at small forward. There have been options linked to the Mavs such as Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza, both as potential replacements for Marion. There have been pie-in-the-sky options such as Carmelo Anthony and other options such as Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Thabo Sefolosha, P.J. Tucker and Al-Farouq Aminu, but it likely comes down to Deng and Ariza as the primary targets.

Deng would likely come with a heavier impact on the salary cap for Dallas, but at 29 years old, he provides a much younger option. He is a legitimate two-way player and a strong veteran presence in the locker room. Unfortunately, there are concerns about his durability. On top of that, he didn’t exactly turn things around in Cleveland with the Cavaliers when he was traded there in January. While he is versatile, he doesn’t have the same elasticity that Marion has when it comes to defending smaller players, though he’s skilled against small forward-like options in a variety of defensive settings.

Ariza played the probably best stretch of basketball of his career during the Washington Wizards’ playoff run. He was a skilled defender on the perimeter and shot an incredibly efficient 44.6 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs. There is concern because his 40.7 percent shooting from long range this season was a career high. Was it a turning of the corner or a contract-year aberration? Where Deng might struggle with smaller players on defense, Ariza can be effective. Taking size and versatility into account, Ariza might be the best defensive option of the three.

Marion said it wouldn’t take Dallas “too much” for him to return during the team’s exit interviews. That might be the case, but teams such as the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers could easily come and call, offering championship contender opportunities. Marion and the Mavs are at a crossroads, and both must decide if it is best to part ways. If that decision is made, it will have a ripple effect on the entire roster.

Mavs-Spurs defies predictions with classic

April, 27, 2014
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DALLAS -- Everyone seemed to pencil in the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series as a predictable snooze-fest.

Instead, we've seen some incredibly beautiful basketball as two of the NBA's best offenses go toe to toe. The latest chapter of the wild West shootout saw a dramatic buzzer-beating 3-point basket Saturday by Vince Carter, just 1.7 seconds after the Spurs scored a go-ahead bucket.

"In my mind, I was ready for it," Carter said of the winner. "I already had made the shot before the play happened if I got the ball. I'm just glad it worked out."

The emotions were running high as both teams delivered potential back-breaking shots in the closing seconds, with the Mavericks hitting the mark.

[+] EnlargeVince Carter
AP Photo/LM Otero"In my mind, I was ready for it," Vince Carter said of his winning shot. "I already had made the shot before the play happened if I got the ball."
"Unbelievable," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said after the 109-108 Dallas victory. "Just unbelievable. The basketball gods were smiling on us tonight. It’s one game. Just one game, but it was a fun one."

It was just one game, but it might be good enough to leave the smile on Cuban's face until Monday, when Game 4 comes around.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Game 3 featured two go-ahead shots in the final two seconds of the game. It was only the third game in the 15 most recent postseasons in which there were two go-ahead shots in the final two seconds. Dallas and/or San Antonio have been involved in four of those matchups.

Here's a quick recap of games with multiple go-ahead field goals in the final five seconds over the past 15 postseasons:

May 13, 2004: Lakers def. Spurs 74-73
May 24, 2006: Suns def. Mavericks 121-118
May 22, 2009: Cavaliers def. Magic 96-95
May 6, 2013: Spurs def. Warriors 129-127 (2OT)
Saturday: Mavericks def. Spurs 109-108

The instant classic saw an incredible 18 ties and 18 lead changes, highlighted by the dueling daggers from Manu Ginobili and Carter.

Fans certainly got their money's worth in Game 3 in the final 1.7 seconds.

“Unbelievable game to be a part of,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Really going back and forth all game long. They made a run, we made a run, and then down the stretch it was anybody’s ballgame. Great plays on both sides by great players, and we were obviously a little fortunate at the end.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is getting a ton of mileage out of a play he set up during the team's shootaround ahead of a Dec. 7 game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Dallas used the play that very night as Monta Ellis drilled the game-winning jumper. It was used once again in the overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors on April 1, but Ellis was unable to catch the inbounds pass. Once again, Ellis took the shot, and missed, in the team's final game of the regular season against Memphis.

Wrinkles in the play design have come along the way, creating a variety of fallback options. Carter ended up being the third, behind Ellis and a cutting Nowitzki. Carter got the ball, and the rest is history.

"The crowd went absolutely nuts," Nowitzki said. "That was as loud as I’ve ever heard this building."

Rapid Reaction: Mavs 110, Knicks 108

February, 24, 2014
2/24/14
9:14
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NEW YORK -- Dirk Nowitzki drained a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer, and the Dallas Mavericks escaped with a 110-108 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

How it happened: After the Mavericks lost a 108-100 lead with 97 seconds remaining, Nowitzki bailed them out. His dominance at MSG continues. He scored just 15 points -- none bigger than the final two.

The Mavericks ended up going 15-for-36 from 3-point range. Vince Carter led the way with a season-high 23 points and went 7-for-12 from 3-point territory. Monta Ellis had 22 points, but needed a season-high 22 shots to get there and had two crucial turnovers which nearly cost the Mavericks what looked like an easy victory. Jose Calderon added 20 points.

What it means: The Mavericks (35-23) swept their three-game road trip and improved to 9-2 in their last 11 games.

Play of the game: Early in the second quarter, Brandan Wright and Devin Harris combined on a brilliant screen-and-roll alley-oop in which Wright used his long wingspan to catch the lob and convert a highlight-reel-caliber two-handed slam.

Stat of the night: 44. That’s how many points Carmelo Anthony had, as stretch forwards continue to give the Mavericks trouble. LeBron James had 42, Thaddeus Young 30 and Josh Smith 32 in consecutive games against Dallas.

What's next: The Mavericks return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday.

Rapid Reaction: Heat 117, Mavericks 106

February, 18, 2014
2/18/14
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DALLAS -- LeBron James was simply too much for the Dallas Mavericks in their 117-106 loss to the Miami Heat.

How it happened: It was all over once James got off the bench after a brief rest at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

James, who finished with a season-high 42 points, simply seized control of the game at that point. He scored the next eight points to spark a 14-0 run that gave the Heat the lead for good.

The Mavs managed to lead with less than eight minutes remaining despite a dominant performance by James, who was 16-of-23 from the floor and stuffed the box score with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. But Dallas ran out of gas as James floored it in the fourth quarter.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but he was only 1-of-4 from the floor in the fourth quarter.

That was when James was at his best. The four-time MVP, who was so heavily criticized for his fourth-quarter failures on this floor in the 2011 NBA Finals, finished off the Mavs with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the final frame. One of James' misses in the fourth quarter was a heat-check 3-pointer from well beyond the arc.

What it means: The Mavs couldn’t pull off an amazing feat of beating the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in consecutive games. They’ve still won six of their past eight games, including a road victory against the Indiana Pacers just before the All-Star break. Dallas dropped to 32-23, putting them in a three-way tie with the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors for sixth place in the West standings, pending the Suns’ outcome against the Denver Nuggets. Miami is 38-14 after its ninth win in 11 games.

Play of the game: As far as pure entertainment goes, it doesn’t get much better than LeBron’s first bucket. With the Heat in transition, James beat everyone down the floor and soared to slam home a half-court alley-oop from Dwyane Wade.

Stat of the night: James’ two highest scoring outings of the season have come against the Mavs. He had 39 points in the Heat’s Nov. 15 win over the Mavs in Miami.
DALLAS – The Kings’ two previous meetings with the Mavericks this season kind of sum of DeMarcus Cousins’ career so far.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Cousins
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesDeMarcus Cousins has averaged 27.0 points on 61.3 shooting in two games against the Mavs this season.
The 22-year-old big man’s phenomenal talent was on display. Cousins torched the Mavs for an average of 27.0 points on 61.3 shooting in those two games, showing off an amazing arsenal of skills for a 6-foot-11, 270-pound dude.

It’s that ability that makes the Mavs one of several teams that would love to deal for Cousins when/if he wears out his welcome with the Kings.

It’s his immaturity that could lead to Cousins’ exit sooner than later from Sacramento/Seattle, although all signs are that it won’t happen before the Feb. 21 trade deadline with team’s ownership in a state of transition.

Cousins landed a no-look punch below O.J. Mayo’s belt Dec. 10 in Dallas and drilled Vince Carter with a forearm to the head a month later in Sacramento. Cousins claimed accidental contact both times, but it’s painfully clear that his infamous temper got the best of him in both instances, leading to a one-game suspension for the Mayo hit and an overtime ejection for the Carter crack.

“He’s one of them guys that he reacts sometimes emotionally and physically when it comes to something that don’t go right for him on the court,” Mavs vet Shawn Marion said. “But get him around some older guys, he probably could get that under control.”

That’s exactly what the Mavs’ front office is thinking.

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The belief is that Cousins would benefit greatly from the leadership and consummate professionals such as Dirk Nowitzki, Carter and Marion. The Mavs also place a lot of value in their franchise’s culture and support staff, including sports psychologist Don Kalkstein, although last season’s Lamar Odom saga proved that there’s no such thing as a foolproof team culture.

And the Dallas decision-makers have a lot of confidence that coach Rick Carlisle could fully tap that immense potential of a young player who is averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds despite his issues. Cousins, who was briefly suspended by the team after butting heads with inexperienced Kings coach Keith Smart, has a clean record of non-basketball-related behavior.

Cousins, who is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014 and recently switched agents to Mavs-friendly Dan Fegan, ranks among the NBA’s biggest knuckleheads at the moment. But there aren’t many more talented big men – and none his age.

You’ll never hear Carlisle comment about potential trade activity, but he makes it clear that he has a great deal of respect for Cousins’ game. Carlisle, who got into a heated exchanged with Cousins during a timeout at the AAC earlier this season, raves about the “diversity” of Cousins’ skill set.

“He’s got tremendous ball skills for a guy his size – great driver, drives under control, terrific finisher, underrated passer, shoots the ball well from outside and is a force on the inside,” Carlisle said. “There really is no part of the game that he is not adept at. He rebounds well. He just does a lot of things very, very well.”

Cousins could probably do all those things better and more consistently in Dallas. It’s a matter of the Mavs’ front office figuring out how to get him here.

Mavs close out AAC in style in 2010-11

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
6:21
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DALLAS -- The Mavericks finished up their 2010-11 run at American Airlines Center on a high note, taking control of the NBA Finals with Thursday night's 112-103 victory in Game 5.

Playing in front of another sellout crowd -- the 58th straight in the playoffs -- the Mavs took a 3-2 series lead against the Heat and now own a closeout opportunity Sunday night at Miami. Capacity crowds are the norm at the AAC, with a regular-season sellout streak reaching 399 that ranks as the longest current string in the league.

The fans have grown accustomed to winning over the last decade in the friendly confines. The Mavs were 38-14 at home this season, including 9-2 in the playoffs.

"It's awesome for the fans and for Dallas to go out like this," J.J. Barea said. "They enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun to play all year here for them, so hopefully we can bring the title here to Dallas."

Though getting past the Heat in Game 5 represents much more in the title chase than just playing at home, the Mavs were conscious of what it meant for their loyal supporters. Still, not returning to Miami down 3-2 was the overriding motivation.

"The fans have been great," Jason Terry said. "They're the best in the business. We really take pride in our homecourt advantage. We use it as an edge. And from the tip they were into it. It's something that we love. We cherish it.

"And now we have to go on the road and take care of business. We want to win this thing for them as much as we do for ourselves."

If the Mavericks are going to bring back the first title in franchise history, they'll have to win in another AA building. Miami's verson --- the AmericanAirlines Arena -- is the site for Sunday night's Game 6 and, if needed, Tuesday night's deciding Game 7.

Dallas was 28-13 on the road during the regular season, tying the Heat for the best road record. The Mavs' 6-3 road mark in the postseason includes a Game 2 win at Miami. Get one more and they're the champs.

"We're going in there Sunday swinging, like we did [Thursday] from the jump," Dirk Nowitzki said, "and hopefully steal one Sunday."

New role works for DeShawn Stevenson

June, 8, 2011
6/08/11
12:53
AM CT


DALLAS -- DeShawn Stevenson understood the move to the bench Tuesday night despite starting every previous game of the playoffs. And he sees no reason to go back after the Dallas Mavericks knotted the NBA Finals at 2-2 by nipping the Miami Heat, 86-83, in a must-win Game 4.

"We need anything," Stevenson said of the switch to J.J. Barea in the starting lineup. "We went with that and just got to keep going with it."

[+] EnlargeDeShawn Stevenson
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesDeShawn Stevenson didn't start for the first time in the playoffs, but provided a big lift off the bench.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle's decision to change up the rotation wasn't just about swapping Stevenson for Barea. Carlisle also had to manage the minutes of a fever-stricken Dirk Nowitzki and an overworked Shawn Marion.

Brian Cardinal was the first big off the bench, stealing 7 1/2 minutes. Brendan Haywood tried to give it a go before realizing his hip wasn't going to allow it. Barea missed some open looks, but scored eight and was praised by Nowitzki for his gritty play. It wasn't the prettiest of performances at times for the Mavs, but the matchups worked out in the end.

"We all came out and stayed with it," Stevenson said. "It says a lot about our ballclub."

The combination of Jason Kidd, Marion and Stevenson limited LeBron James to a pedestrian eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. Chris Bosh scored only two points in the fourth quarter. Heat role players Mike Biddy, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers had little to no impact on the game. Dwyane Wade had 32 points, but also botched Miami's final possession.

Carlisle refused to give himself credit for the coaching adjustments.

"The players play the game," he said. "And the guys you put out there, they got to be ready. This time of year we've done a lot of shuffling with the lineup because of the matchups. It's hard. You're talking about two guys with great size, dynamic, athleticism. Three, really, with Bosh. They have other guys that are underrated athletically.

"Look, everybody has to be ready, and our game has to be a team game. We're not going to outrun or outjump these guys. But we've got to play a sound game, we've got to play a persistent game. It was tough. We had are a lot of shots that were there that didn't go tonight. But the guys kept believing. They kept battling. And then the defense in the fourth held us in and we were able to get out of here alive."

Stevenson also provided some of the offensive punch that's been lacking for the Mavs. He scored all 11 of his points in the second quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers. Those shots have been there in the corner throughout the series for Stevenson, Kidd and Jason Terry when the Heat pre-rotate off Nowitzki.

"When we knock those down it's the ballgame," said Stevenson, who shot 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Despite not starting, Carlisle stuck with Stevenson down the stretch over Barea and Marion. Stevenson ended up playing 26 minutes -- four more than Barea -- and added three rebounds. More than his offensive spark -- which was critical -- Stevenson was on the court because of what he provides at the other end.

"We picked them up full court," Stevenson said. "We have to be into those guys. Dwyane Wade is playing awesome right now. We have to get into him [and] LeBron. When we make it tough for them and take care of the ball, it makes it tough for them to score."

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Dirk stays home to rest

December, 19, 2009
12/19/09
2:33
PM CT
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki did not practice Saturday, instead staying home to rest after a hard collision with Houston Rockets forward Carl Landry Friday night gashed open Nowitzki's right elbow, requiring three stitches. Nowitzki's elbow crashed into Landry's mouth.

Nowitzki left the game at the 9:28 mark of the second quarter and did not return. Reports from the locker room were that pieces of Landry's teeth -- he broke five and had to go to the hospital -- were lodged underneath Nowitzki's skin.

The Mavs' leading scorer remains questionable for Sunday's 6:30 p.m. game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dallas is looking to avoid consecutive losses and a fifth home loss. They lost nine all last season.

Dirk's the OT hero again

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
11:31
PM CT

DALLAS – Dirk got it done in the end. On both ends of the floor.

The big German dominated overtime to lift the Dallas Mavericks to an intense 99-94 victory over the Interstate 35 rival San Antonio Spurs.

Dirk dropped 11 of his game-high 41 points in the overtime period, including a dagger 3-pointer that set off another jersey-tugging celebratory strut down court. Not a bad follow-up to his game-winning OT buzzer-beater Monday night in Milwaukee.

Even more impressive: Dirk’s defense on Tim Duncan during the extra frame. With Erick Dampier in a suit and Drew Gooden fouled out, Dirk was forced to defend arguably the best post-up player of this generation. He held Duncan scoreless during OT, forcing him to miss three tough shots.

So much for the silly perception of Dirk being soft, huh?

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
19.9 4.5 1.8 33.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 12.2
AssistsR. Rondo 7.1
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4