Dallas Mavericks: Don Nelson

One-on-one with Dirk: Legacy on one leg

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
10:00
AM CT
ESPN Dallas recently held court with Dirk Nowitzki. In this series, Nowitzki shares thoughts about his past, present and future.

As time moves on, Dirk Nowitzki will be remembered as one of the most special and unique players to ever play in the NBA. Among his contemporaries, he is held in extremely high regard. We’ve seen the league’s best -- Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James -- pay their respect to Nowitzki by copying his patented one-footed fadeaway jumper.

In addition, he’s earned the respect of some legends. In February 2013, ESPN.com’s Wright Thompson wrote a feature on Michael Jordan for ESPN the Magazine in which Jordan stated Nowitzki was one player who made the short list of stars who could be nearly as successful as he was in his era. Also included were James, Bryant and Tim Duncan.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

A set of fortunate circumstances led Dirk Nowitzki to change the shooting game in favor of big men.

Over years and years of blood, sweat, tears and jumpers, Nowitzki has established a legacy that will live on for generations. When asked about his impact, he couldn’t quite put his finger on what kind of mark he’s left on the game he loves so much.

“I don’t know. I kind of let others do that,” Nowitzki said. “I came in as a little kid, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was just working hard, had some talent and came into the right situation with the right kind of guys with [Don Nelson] and [Mark] Cuban. I got better and better.

“A lot of guys come in with talent and never reach their max. Me having a great surrounding, work ethic and coaching and teammates, it just happened.”

With all of that in his favor, Nowitzki has left his mark in the NBA. Based on his body of work and uniqueness, Nowitzki should be considered a revolutionary player of the modern game.

If you look at the past, the likes of Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and even Duncan and Kevin Garnett defined the power forward position in the traditional manner we knew long ago. Fast-forward to when Nowitzki was starting to gain confidence in the NBA and you see the power forward position being shaped into a position known as the stretch-4.

The idea of a stretch-4 sounded like a gimmick at the time: Stick a big man on the perimeter and present him as a shooting threat to stretch the floor. Players such as Sam Perkins, Kiki VanDeWeghe and Larry Bird were paving the way. Nowitzki took the concept of the stretch-4 and ran with it. The concept of having a stretch-4 is a component every team craves. Nowitzki’s size and shooting are the reason for that.

International scouting already was taking place before Nowitzki joined the league, but his impact forced general managers and scouts to increase the deployment of assets to focus on finding the next international gem. Over the past decade, a goal for front offices has been to find the next Nowitzki.

He came into the league with size and skills no one else had. Time has been his ally when one compares today’s game to that of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The physicality of the past gave way to the fluidity of today’s game, allowing players like Nowitzki to thrive.

“When I first came in, the rules were a little different,” Nowitzki explained. “Now, there’s less handchecking and zone defenses. More of a free-flowing game helped me. I don’t know if the rules were kept the same where there was pounding and one-on-one back-downs for 10 seconds. I’m not sure if I ever would have had the same impact if the rules were the same. There are a lot of circumstances in play that had a role in me succeeding.”

Meshing the rule changes with that next generation of shooter’s like Nowitzki allowed more of a free game. Players now have to respect everyone on the floor as a legitimate scoring threat from anywhere and no matter their size.

"I’m happy now that most of the 5s and 4s can face up and shoot and drive,” Nowitzki said. "It’s fun to watch. Everybody now can score. I think that’s where this game is fun to watch and unbelievable. If all five guys are dangerous, you’ve got to guard everyone. That’s when the game really begins to become fun.”

Though he'll never admit it, his rise in status as an elite scorer provided a key component for those added doses of excitement in today's game. Still, he almost sounds like a proud dad in seeing the league filled with a variety diverse weapons on offense.

Nowitzki's career -- and legacy -- has been the equivalent of a pebble being thrown into the body of water that creates a ripple effect, leading to a wave of shooting big men to arrive after him.

One-on-one with Dirk: Staying power

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
10:00
AM CT
Mark Cuban and Dirk NowitzkiKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsMavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki savored the team's 2011 NBA title.
ESPN Dallas recently held court with Dirk Nowitzki. In this series, Nowitzki shares thoughts about his past, present and future.

Dirk Nowitzki’s negotiations for a new contract will be the first free-agency domino for the Dallas Mavericks this summer. Potential spoiler alert: He’ll re-sign with Dallas.

“We’ve still got a few weeks left,” Nowitzki said of coming to an agreement. “I’m sure there will be some conversations [with owner Mark Cuban]. We’ll just go from there. We’ll find a way where both parties are satisfied and respected and give us a lot of cap room to make this franchise better.”

Nowitzki’s deal with the Mavs could be the final one he signs, signifying the potential for him to stay in Dallas his entire career. With the 2013-14 season complete, Nowitzki joins five players who have spent an entire career of at least 16 seasons with one franchise: John Havlicek (Boston, 16), Tim Duncan (San Antonio, 17 and counting), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers, 18 and counting), Reggie Miller (Indiana, 18) and John Stockton (Utah, 19).

Duncan has one more year left on his deal with the Spurs, though it is a player option. Bryant is locked in with the Lakers for at least two more seasons, meaning he could pass Stockton on the list. Nowitzki, too, could climb. With players moving frequently, Nowitzki has been a constant figure in Dallas. Why?

“I don’t know. I think from the get-go, Dallas was ready and almost waiting for me,” said Nowitzki, who turns 36 this week. “I’m not sure why. Obviously we know that the '90s were tough. Maybe they had a lot of hope in me, I’m not sure. The fans were great to me. Maybe they liked what I brought. I don’t know if they liked my kind of shy personality at the beginning.”

(Read full post)

Dirk goes down Mavs-Spurs memory lane

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:45
PM CT
Tim Duncan, Dirk NowitzkiAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThis marks the sixth time that Dirk Nowitzki has faced off against the Spurs in a playoff series.
DALLAS -- They meet again.

This will make a half-dozen times Dirk Nowitzki has seen the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. He’s felt some agony and some ecstasy in the previous five series against the Mavericks’ Interstate 35 rival, a four-time title-winning franchise that served as a roadblock on Dallas’ route through the West for years.

They are unforgettable highs and lows from those series from the Spurs, memories that are engrained in the minds of Mavs fans, as well as the face of the franchise.

This is how Nowitzki remembers those Mavs-Spurs series, as shared with ESPNDallas.com a day before he departs to start another series in San Antonio:

2001
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Spurs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 23.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 44.6 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “We had no chance.

“We had just beaten Utah in the first round after being down 0-2. I remember when [Karl] Malone missed that last shot in Game 5, we were running around on the court like we won the championship. I mean, it was insane. I was lapping around the arena like twice. It was insane. So just for us to beat those guys, that’s how much respect we had for Utah and Malone and [John] Stockton.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan
Tom Hauck/AllsportDirk Nowitzki says the Mavs had no chance against Tim Duncan and the Spurs in their 2001 series.
“Then it was hard. It was for a young team to turn around and play against those machines. [Tim] Duncan was obviously so good back in those days, so we really had no shot.

“We lost the first two down there. I remember we went straight from Utah to San Antonio for the first one. It was pretty much over with. The second one, we were kind of around, but not really. And if you want to make a series of it, you’ve got to win Game 3. I remember I was sick. I had food poisoning that game, and then we’re down 0-3. That was basically it.

“We played hard in Game 4 and were able to steal one. The game we stole here, I came back in [after getting a tooth knocked out by a Terry Porter elbow] and we won the game. Then in Game 5, they were just so good defensively. Whatever we tried, they had counters. They were long in there with those two 7-footers. I mean, they were good.”

2003
Series: West finals
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 25.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 43.1 FG% in three games

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “I remember we stole Game 1, which was amazing. We were 49-of-50 from the free throw line. That was an amazing, amazing game for us. Game 2, we lost and then here in Game 3 is a big game. Obviously, you want to hold home court, and that’s the game I got hurt.

SportsNation

What will be the result of the Mavs-Spurs series?

  •  
    4%
  •  
    50%
  •  
    31%
  •  
    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,893)

“It was tough. I wanted to play and I was testing [his sprained knee]. It felt OK with the adrenaline going.

“But looking back on my career now, it probably was the right decision. Nellie didn’t want me to play. I was young at the time. At this stage of my career, it probably would have made sense to play. I’m old, but then, even I felt it sometimes getting up in timeouts and stuff. It just wasn’t right, just didn’t feel right. Probably looking back on it now, it was the right decision, but it was tough.

“We go down there [for Game 5] and we’re thinking they might close us out. We steal that game. It’s 3-2 and we have a chance here to force Game 7. We were up [13] in the fourth.

“Nellie played small ball. We played Walt Williams at the 4 and just spread it out and let Nick [Van Exel] and Steve [Nash] drive, and it worked great. Then they subbed in Steve Kerr and he made like three or four 3s in that fourth quarter. They came back, and that was that.

“I don’t know, I might have tried to play in Game 7. You never know, but that was disappointing.”

2006
Series: West semifinals
Outcome: Mavs in seven
Nowitzki’s numbers: 27.1 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 52.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Maybe the best over the course of seven games, the best series I’ve had in my career.

“Just felt locked in, felt in my prime and felt whatever coverage they’re doing, I can score on it. That’s how confident I was. What a great series.

“We win both home games here and went up 3-1, but that’s just how good they are. They just keep coming. They win down there and it’s 3-2. We try to close out here, and they just keep coming. They make it 3-3. Jet [Jason Terry] was suspended for one of those games for a little [groin] clip, so that was tough.

[+] EnlargeNowitzki
D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDirk Nowitzki called his overtime-forcing and-1 in Game 7 of the 2006 West semifinals one of the biggest plays of his career.
“Then we go down there for Game 7 and it’s one of the greatest games I remember. We were rolling early. We were up 20 in the first half. Just everything goes -- Josh [Howard], Jet, Devin [Harris] driving, I was shooting it -- so it was great. Avery [Johnson] was like, ‘Hey, those boys are going to keep playing.’ Sure enough, it was almost methodically. They always come back. They get stops, the keep grinding and next thing you know ...

“I always remember Jet leaving Ginobili on the wing when Duncan was posting up on me, and he pulled the trigger. I looked when it was in the air -- boom! Bottoms! The place went absolutely nuts.

“Down three and I remember we had [32.9 seconds left], and I was thinking we were kind of in a similar situation in Game 6. We were down three and I shot a bad 3. I was thinking to myself and Avery even said it: ‘In this situation, don’t hoist a bad 3. Make sure you get to the basket. Anything can happen.’

“So I just spun and put my head down on [Bruce] Bowen and said, ‘I’m going to lay this in.’ We can foul again and at least extend the game. And Ginobili just left [Jerry Stackhouse] in the corner and came over and wanted to block it. I was able to kind of luckily muscle it over a little bit. It hit the rim and bounced in. That was probably one of the biggest plays of my career. Made the free throw.

“I don’t think I scored again in overtime. [He actually hit two free throws to put the Mavs up eight with 9.9 seconds left, giving him 37 points for the game.] The boys were great. We subbed in Gana [Diop] and he made some big stops on Duncan. He had one or two big offensive rebounds. Stack made two pull-ups, I remember.

“Yeah, that was a fun game, fun series for me. I mean, to win a Game 7 in that building is about as sweet as it gets in this league.”

2009
Series: West first round
Outcome: Mavs in five
Nowitzki’s numbers: 19.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, .493 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “Ginobili was hurt and they really never had enough weapons to beat us that year. I don’t think they had enough weapons without him.

“We tried to take Duncan and [Tony] Parker out as much as we could, and it worked really well. With them without Ginobili, it made it a little easier.”

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Mavs were the No. 2 seed in 2010 but fell to the No. 7 Spurs.
2010
Series: West first round
Outcome: Spurs in six
Nowitzki’s numbers: 26.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 54.7 FG%

Down Memory Lane with Dirk: “It was a little messed up, because we’d just traded for Caron [Butler] and DeShawn [Stevenson] and [Brendan] Haywood and we were actually the No. 2 seed. They played without Ginobili most of the season, and right at the right time he gets healthy. They’re the 7 seed, we’re the 2 seed.

“That’s obviously a tough matchup for any 2 seed, to run into the Spurs healthy at the right time.

“We made some mistakes, but they were good. They were healthy at the right time.

“We wanted to win and force it here and at least force it to a Game 7. I remember we were so good on the road after we traded for these guys, and we just needed to win one road game. We lost all three games down there and that ultimately sealed it. They stole Game 2 up here and we figured we’ve got three chances to steal a game down there, because we’re pretty good on the road. They won all three down there, and that’s what ultimately lost us that series.”

Opening Tip: Ellis on 'Nellie being Nellie'

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
9:00
AM CT
DALLAS -- Monta Ellis smiled and shook his head when asked for his reaction to Don Nelson's recent comments about him in Sports Illustrated.

That's a pretty pleasant response to being called "a pain in the ass when I had him" and "little selfish bastard" by the man who coached him for four seasons with the Golden State Warriors.

"That's Nellie being Nellie," Ellis told ESPNDallas.com, chuckling. "I mean, at that time, I was, but it is what it is."

Nelson has never been one to bite his tongue, as folks in Dallas fondly recall from his eight-year tenure as the Mavericks coach. His comments on Ellis were one entertaining nugget in a story about Nelson's retirement in Hawaii, where he watches basketball on a regular basis when he isn't busy playing poker with neighbors Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.

"I said, 'You know, Monta, this is what I want you to do in practice today. I don't want you to take a shot. I think you have the ability to create and make plays. If you could ever be a point guard, the way you can score, you could really be a special player,'" Nelson told Sports Illustrated, recalling a conversation he had with Ellis during their time together with the Warriors. "So he did. He found people in practice. And I said, 'Monta, why don't you focus on being a great point guard? They have the most fun of anybody. They're the man, they control everything.'"

At this point, Nelson paused.

"He said, 'Coach, I just want to play. I just want to play,'" Nelson continued. "He wouldn't consider that. Now, as he's matured, he's started making plays. To his credit, he's a pretty good player right now. When I had him, all he wanted to do, little selfish bastard, was to shoot every time. And never pass."

Ellis, who started playing for Nelson as a 21-year-old in his second NBA season, confirmed that they had that conversation. Ellis isn't any more concerned about Nelson's opinion now than he was then.

"That's him," said Ellis, who averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game in his final season playing for Nelson. "There really ain't nothing negative I can take from him. I give my career start to Nellie. It's going to stay that way, but he was saying that when I was there. It's nothing new to me.

"He did come to me about that, but like he said, I told him I was a guard. I just play basketball. I mean, I've had success with my career doing what I've been doing my whole career. Like I said, that's Nellie. Ain't nothing you can do about it but just laugh it off. That's it."

Buzz: Cuban proud of fans booing Odom

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
7:25
PM CT
DALLAS – Mark Cuban was a rowdy, loud and proud man Tuesday night, when he watched the Mavs’ OT thriller on television in the Cayman Islands, his family’s annual spring break getaway destination.

The fact that the Mavs managed to pull out the 109-102 win over the Clippers obviously pleased Cuban.

PODCAST
Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the historical perspective of Miami's 27-game win streak, the Mavericks' playoff push, the job Rick Carlisle has done this season and if it's a good idea for the Mavs to shave their .500 beards.

Listen Listen
He was also content with the sellout crowd’s rough treatment of Lamar Odom, who was booed relentlessly the second he started to take off his warm-ups, and every time he touched the ball.

“Absolutely,” Cuban said before Thursday’s game against the Pacers, which he’ll watch before flying out in the morning to rejoin his wife and kids. “I was proud of the way everybody received Jet. Proud of the energy the crowd had [Tuesday night]. You could feel it through the TV. We felt it in the Caymans.”

Jason Terry, aka Jet, received the appropriate standing ovation when the Mavs legend recently returned to the American Airlines Center for his first appearance here as a member of the Boston Celtics.

Odom, of course, received the polar opposite sort of welcome, which was appropriate given his disgraceful partial season in Dallas that ended prematurely after Cuban basically kicked him off the team.

Odom told ESPNDallas.com before Tuesday’s game that he felt no guilt about what happened during his tenure with the Mavs, but would apologize if he ever had a conversation with Cuban.

Confused? Well, Odom’s pseudo-intellectual comments didn’t exactly clarify his stance, but they did give Cuban some comedic fodder.

“You might be married to somebody for 40 years and then go to the Caymans,” Cuban said, mocking Odom’s bizarre explanation of why he felt no guilt about his failed Dallas stint. “You might just go the Caymans one time and just move there and live there for 100 years. That’s just a thing a man has to figure out.”

Odom indicated that he felt that Cuban didn’t really have any harsh feelings for him, saying, “I can say, 'F--- that garbage can,' but I love it. And you wouldn't ever know, because every time I come up to you I say, 'F--- that garbage can,' you know what I'm saying?”

Cuban’s laughing response to the garbage can metaphor: “Why do you think they line it with plastic?”

However, Cuban did indicate that he’d be willing to have a conversation with Odom at some point.

“Look, there’s only one person, two maybe that I still hold grudges against and neither are basketball related,” Cuban said. “You guys thought the same thing about [Don Nelson]. Nellie and I get along great. So …”
DALLAS -- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who bid against the current Texas Rangers ownership group when that franchise went to bankruptcy auction in 2010, claimed not to know much about the controversy regarding Nolan Ryan’s reduced power and potential departure.

PODCAST
ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to talk about the Mavericks and what it might take to fix their problems.

Listen Listen
Cuban has been through that kind of situation before. He went through a bitter divorce with former coach/general manager Don Nelson, who was none too happy when Cuban took away final say on personnel decisions.

But Cuban vows there will never again be any confusion about who is the ultimate decision-maker on the Mavs’ personnel moves.

“Me, because I have to write the check,” Cuban said during his pregame workout Wednesday evening. “So it’s my ultimate judgment, not so much on which guy, but does he fit economically into the big picture?”

That doesn’t mean Cuban ignores the input of president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavs’ other basketball minds. He values that very much, but these decisions ultimately come down to dollars, especially under the new collective bargaining agreement.

While Cuban doesn’t trust his eye for talent, he is confident in his ability to make decisions based on financial fit and the opinions of his basketball people.

“First of all, I never use my eye test, because I’m blind when it comes to that, so it goes by what Donnie and all our guys say,” Cuban said. “I just give my input, we discuss and we make a decision.”

By “we,” Cuban means he makes the decision, with a lot of help from his basketball people.

It wasn’t always that way. "Big Nellie" used to have free rein, but Cuban reconsidered that approach a few years into their relationship, stripping the coach of the ability to agree to player contracts and pull the trigger on trades without the owner’s permission.

“That’s when the head-butting started,” Cuban said, pinpointing the turning point as the rich contract given to blockbuster-trade bust Raef LaFrentz.

Rick Majerus' death felt deeply in Dallas

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
4:26
PM CT
Rick Majerus' solitary season on an NBA bench in 1986-87 was spent as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant to head coach Don Nelson and sidekick to then-Bucks assistant Del Harris. Nelson and Harris quickly became two of Majerus' closest friends in the game.

The longtime college basketball coach's passing Saturday was thus felt deeply in Dallas, where the Nelson-and-Harris tag team remains firmly entrenched after they reunited with the Mavericks from 2000 through 2007 alongside current Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

Said Harris on Sunday: "Rick will be known by his friends and those players who followed him closely by one short sentence: He cared.

"Regardless of how demanding he was, Rick proved his love for friends and players past and present in a myriad of ways. I have recorded and saved voicemails he has sent me and my son Dominic has saved encouraging letters Rick sent him from years past. Obviously I could go on and on.

"He had tons of friends (in the game). He was totally dedicated to his family, particularly caring for his mother after his father died. He called me the brother he never had and I suspect he used that expression a lot."

Majerus died Saturday at 64 after a lengthy battle with heart disease and a career filled with NCAA successes at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis. He was likewise close to Denver Nuggets coach George Karl and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, meeting Rivers as a kid and calling him "Doc" before anyone after seeing him at a Marquette summer camp in Dr. J T-shirt.

(Read full post)

Countdown: No. 6 Brandan Wright

May, 24, 2012
5/24/12
11:35
PM CT
Tenth in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

PODCAST
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith chimes in on the Dallas Mavericks' season, their free agency plans and more.

Listen Listen
Brandan Wright is easily the most athletic big man the Dallas Mavericks have put on the floor since ... well, Tyson Chandler. Wright, the Human Pogo Stick or the Human Exclamation Point as a certain colleague of mine dubbed him this season, brought a high level of energy and excitement -- and a higher level of two-handed alley-oop slams -- as he earned more and more playing time.

The former lottery pick of the Golden State Warriors provided two areas that the Mavs' sorely lacked and will look to gain more of this offseasaon -- youth, he's only 24, and athleticism. He's a high-motor big man who can run the floor. He has soft hands and is an impeccable finisher around the rim with a nice array of moves -- he boasted a team-best 61.8 shooting percentage.

The biggest issue with Wright is where he fits. His natural position is power forward, but coach Rick Carslisle converted him to center because Dallas obviously has Dirk Nowitzki entrenched there and at the time they believed Lamar Odom would fill the bill when Nowitzki sat. At center, Wright started out on the depth chart behind Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi, but as the season wore on the spindly-framed Wright at times logged more minutes than the others.

Until the playoffs.

And that's the conundrum with Wright. He hasn't developed a mid-range game to be able to play power forward effectively in Dallas' offense and he's not physically strong enough to consistently defend the center position. When he got his brief chance to play in the first round against Oklahoma City he had a serious case of butterfingers and the moment, the first playoff action of his career, seemed a bit too big. He played a total of 26 minutes in the series with a high of eight in the Game 3 blowout.

But at less than $1 million last season and next (assuming the Mavs pick up the team option), Wright is cheap, cheap labor and a talent worth trying to develop for the long run. In fact, he could be a talent the Mavs must develop for significant minutes next season because the center position at the moment is in total chaos.

Haywood is a prime candidate for the amnesty provision and Mahinmi is a free agent with no guarantee that he'll be back. Dallas won't dare go into the regular season with Wright as its primary man to patrol the paint, but he could certainly be relied upon to become a prime player.

The Countdown winds down a second week with No. 6...

BRANDAN WRIGHT
Pos.: C/PF
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-10, 210
Experience: 4 years
Age: 24 (Oct. 5, 1987)
2011-12 stats: 6.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 16.1 mpg, 49 G
Contract status: Team option for next season
2011-12 salary: $915,852
2012-13 salary: $947,907

[+] EnlargeBrandon Wright
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezBrandan Wright brought needed energy to the Mavs. The challenge now is finding a spot for him.
His story: Perseverance has Wright on the right track to remove his name from the long list of lottery busts and onto a more flattering one of productive rotation players. Drafted eighth overall in 2007 by Charlotte and traded to Golden State for Jason Richardson, Wright was buried on Don Nelson's bench and then injured his shoulder during an October 2009 practice. Surgery sidelined him the entire season and the next year the Warriors traded Wright to the New Jersey Nets. In his first three seasons, Wright played in 114 games so the 49 he got in this season was something of a landmark, a career-high he hopes to build upon. He's already been busy back in the gym, proving it by tweeting pictures. "I worked really hard to get back where I am," Wright said at the end of the season. "I'm blessed to have the opportunity to heal up from those injuries. This is a process and you’ve got to stick with it. When you start thinking like that (negatively), it's easy to start slacking off with rehab or getting back to where you want to be."

His outlook: Wright has to feel good that the Mavs will pick up his option (it would certainly seem to be a no-brainer). The real question is whether Carlisle will continue to try to mold him into a center or if power forward can be an option now that Odom is out of the picture and Shawn Marion (if he returns) might seem better off exclusively, or close to exclusively, at small forward. Wright believes he can develop a consistent mid-range jumper that could force defenses to extend out, providing the spacing the Mavs need to operate their halfcourt sets. He also needs to add muscle to his 210-pound frame (for a bit of reference, 6-5 guard Dominique Jones weighs 215 pounds) so he can hold his ground defensively at either the 4 or 5. If he can do that and sharpen his jumper, combined with his vertical jump and ability to finish at the rim, Wright could eventually live up to his lottery-pick status.

No. 15 Lamar Odom
No. 14 Brian Cardinal
No. 13 Yi Jianlian
No. 12 Dominique Jones
No. 11 Brendan Haywood
No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike
No. 9 Ian Mahinmi
No. 8 Vince Carter
No. 7 Rodrigue Beaubois
No. 6 Brandan Wright
No. 5 Coming Monday

Don Nelson's innovation leads to induction

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
6:10
PM CT
Don Nelson's passion was for reclamation projects, and he proved to be a master architect and orchestrator at just about every stop in what has finally become a Hall of Fame coaching career.

Nelson got the call Wednesday morning that he will be among this year's Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class.

"It's a great honor to cap my career," the one-time Mavericks coach said. "I've had a great time and a great life coaching basketball. I don't actually need to be rewarded for anything, but I am very proud and my family is very proud of this award."

Nellie Ball included small ball and point forwards and an emphasis on playing fast and scoring in bunches.

He traded for a little-known, mop-topped, 7-foot teenager from Germany named Dirk Nowitzki at the 1998 draft. Nelson set him free to shoot 3-pointers and the future course of the Mavs’ franchise, one of the worst in the NBA if not in all sports during the 1990s, was set.

When owner Mark Cuban bought the team on Jan. 4, he kept Nelson at the half. Trades for Steve Nash and Michael Finley (prior to Nelson's arrival) landed the Mavs a Big Three, and Nelson guided the Mavs to the Western Conference finals in 2003 for the first time since 1988.

Nelson stepped down with 18 games remaining in the 2004-05 season, handing the reins to assistant coach Avery Johnson, who a year later led the franchise to its first NBA Finals.

“I enjoyed building teams,” Nelson said. “I enjoyed going into cities that had losing records and getting involved in their franchise and building it into a contender. When you do it that way you end up with teams that won 20 games the year before. It forces you to be innovative to be competitive. It’s a necessity to learn how to do it to be competitive.”

Nelson took over the 1997-98 Mavs after a 4-12 start under Jim Cleamons, who won 24 games in his first season. Nelson went 19-31 in the lockout-shortened 1999 season and then had Dallas flirting with .500 at 40-42 the next season, paving the way for 11 consecutive playoff appearances.

The relationship between Nelson and Cuban soured toward in the final years and hit a low point with a contentious lawsuit. In 2007, Nelson revived the Golden State Warriors in his second stint there and relished the moment as his eighth-seeded Warriors, calling them a bunch of “schmoes,” ousted the No. 1 seed Mavs in the first-round series.

Nelson said he and Cuban have reconciled and exchanged text messages Wednesday after Nelson received the news of his inclusion.

When asked for his reaction, Cuban said via email, "I'm happy for Nellie. He deserved it."

Now that Nelson will be among the game’s greats in the Springfield, Mass., shrine, does he still have a passion to coach? He was highly interested in the Minnesota Timberwolves opening that was went to Rick Adelman.

Would the right job lure him back for a chance to add to his 1,335 career victories?

“That’s a good question,” Nelson said. “I would doubt it. But, I would never say no.”

Memory Bank: Brad Davis signing

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
11:43
PM CT
We started this little flashback column to help us deal with the devastatingly chilly fallout of the NBA Nuclear Winter. The good news is that this is the last one because the NBA is coming back on X-Mas day. Just as we did last week, we got help from the Mavs site created by the great Patricia Bender.

Dec. 2 is a particularly eventful day in Mavs history. It’s littered with brilliant performances from names like Mark Aguirre and Jason Kidd, great honors for folks like Don Nelson and Steve Nash, and sadly also includes yet another tragic turn for Leon Smith. But two things jump out and grab me as fantastic moments in Mavericks history.

[+] EnlargeBrad Davis
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesOn Dec. 2 of their inaugural season, the Mavericks signed former Lakers first-round pick Brad Davis, who went on to become one of the best guards in team history.
In 2004, we were treated to an epic scorers’ duel between Dirk Nowitzki and then-Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady that felt like one of those great 80s battles between the elite scoring forwards of that decade. McGrady was unstoppable, draining 3s from all over the floor -- pulling up and bombing off the dribble no matter how tightly contested -- en route to 48 in an overtime loss. That’s right, the ROX took the L because Dirk was even better, dropping 53 and grabbing 16 boards in front of a primetime national audience on a Thursday night TNT joint the Mavs won 113-106. It was one of the most entertaining Mavericks games of the decade.

But I also wanted to note that on Dec. 2 of their inaugural season, Dallas signed former Lakers first-round pick Brad Davis. Davis had bounced around the League and spent time in the CBA and was on the verge of retiring when he gave pro basketball and the Mavericks one last chance. He went on to become one of the best guards in team history and the first player to have his jersey retired.

When I think of Davis’ playing days the images that flood my mind include:

1. Davis taking violently vicious charges

2. Catching and shooting that crank behind his head and fling jumper after Aguirre passed out of double teams

3. The chomping of that gum being exaggerated due to the wicked mustache game he was throwing down

4. That Toyota commercial in which he unleashed the Camry Jam and Corolla Rolla dunks on an 8’ goal

5. That perm, yo!

Some so-called Mavs fans that either don’t know any better, weren’t old enough to remember, or just plain weren’t paying attention at the time view Davis as some sort of Bill Bates hustle type that was only out there cuz he played really hard and set a good example. They think that it’s somewhat shameful that his number is retired.

Those people are just wrong. Davis was a baller.

About a month ago, FSSW re-aired the classic Moody Madness game and it was great to watch it for a number of reasons, but I really dug watching Brad’s game again. He did for the Mavs during that era what Mo Cheeks was doing for Philly. He ran the show and orchestrated the offense. And he made perfect entry passes to Aguirre who was just devastating on the block.

Ask Derek Harper how difficult Davis was to play against. He went against him every day in practice and has enormous respect for his game.
“And if you don’t know, now you know …”

AJ: 'Would do anything to have that moment back'

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
4:34
PM CT
DALLAS -- With Avery Johnson's return, inevitably talk of the failed 2006 Finals remains a topic of intrigue. Johnson made peace long ago with the blown 2-0 lead, one that was five minutes away from becoming a commanding 3-0 margin before Dwyane Wade took over and the Miami Heat won four in a row.

Still, making peace doesn't mean Johnson doesn't think about how close he came to leading the Dallas Mavericks to its first NBA title. And it doesn't mean it still doesn't sting either.

"More than anything [I think about] that 10-point lead with about five minutes to go and we just could not get a bucket. We couldn’t get stops, could not get a bucket and Miami had a guy [Wade] that averaged 20 free throws a game," Johnson said. "I just felt awfully bad for our team. You know I would do anything to have that moment back again. Because anytime you get in the Finals, you’re one of the last two teams standing and I’d do anything to have that chance back again, and I know Dallas would love to get back to the Finals after that."

Johnson took over the Mavs late in the 2004-05 season from Don Nelson,who stepped down after acknowleding that he had lost his desire to coach the team.

"That first day was still kind of surreal," Johnson said. "Nellie at 9 a.m. informed me that I was going to be the head coach. The next thing you know we had shootaround at 11, and he passed me a whistle and said, 'Boys, so long, here’s the next coach.' That’s typical Nellie."

The Finals trip came in Johnson's first full season as head coach and he won the NBA's Coach of the Year Award. As fast as the ride up was -- including a franchise-best 67-win season in 2006-07 -- the bottom fell out quickly as well -- including a six-game playoff loss to Golden State following the 67 wins. It all came to end in May 2008 after the Mavs feebly lost a five-game first-round playoff series to the New Orleans Hornets.

After spending the next two seasons in the ESPN studious as an NBA analyst, Johnson was hired as head coach of the rebuilding New Jersey Nets under new Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Here's more of Johnson's thoughts on a variety of topics after the Nets wrapped up practice Wednesday afternoon at the American Airlines Center:

On staying in contact with Mavs players and personnel: Mark [Cuban] and I text every three weeks or so. [Jason] Terry is good. I get a lot of messages from Dirk Nowitzki through [Nets assistant coach] popeye [Jones], [assistant general manager] Keith Grant and I are still close. I’m really good with everybody here."

On having regrets from time in Dallas: "Oh no, none, no regrets, no way, not one. I would say as you go back, I was 39 years old when I got this job, maybe a lineup change here or there, or a situation here or there, but I wouldn’t say as a regret. It’s something I learn from."

On how he's changed: "I’m a different person in some ways. Not from discipline or accountability or details, just teaching a lot more, I got younger guys. I inherited a [Dallas] team that didn’t have a lot of playoff experience, but had quite a bit of regular-season experience and basketball players that could work themselves out of some jams. I’m teaching a lot more now than I did then at that point.

On what caused Josh Howard's downfall:"I talked to him one or two times in the offseason. Josh is recovering from an ACL injury and he’s 30 now and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with his career. Obviously, there were some setbacks here, but Josh played awfully well for me. Josh was the best first-quarter player that I coached and I had seen in a long time. His versatility at the 3-spot really was a huge asset for us. Josh got better, became an All-Star. Obviously, there was a setback here and there, but I’m interested to see what type of player he’s going to be post-ACL injury, because if he can get back to playing the way he played when he was an All-Star he’s going to be an asset for any franchise."

On being fired despite owning the best winning percentage (.735) in franchise and league history:Time for me to go. That was it. Time for me to go. Like we say sometimes in professional sports, teams need a new voice and a coach needs a new audience, no matter what his record is. That’s why, again, you see me still in contact with Mark Cuban. That’s why he still gets one of my beautiful Christmas cards every year. I don’t think when a guy gets fired it’s always got to be a bad thing and there has to be animosity. When I left San Antonio, [coach Gregg] Popovich helped me pack when I went to Denver, and he’s one of my closest friends. So, again, it’s the same thing here. Because I got fired it [doesn't] always got to be a bad thing. Everybody just needed to go in a different direction. I needed a two-year break and it was fantastic, on a personal level and on a professional level."

On reuniting with point guard Devin Harris: "It's been good. I'm glad to be back with Devin. He’s playing awfully well. The two games he missed here recently [with a knee injury] we definitely missed him. He came back and had 18 [points] and 13 [assists] last night. When he’s on the floor and he’s playing well we’re a pretty good team. And he’s got a lot of pressure on him because when he’s not playing well, we’re not as good."

On if he still hears Mark Cuban's voice in his head screaming at officials from his baseline seat: Not at all. That was a good thing because that actually got me hired because he was so close to the bench. [Prokhorov] sits in the suites and I barely even see him sometimes after the games."

Streak? Rick Carlisle focused on Warriors

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
4:56
PM CT
DALLAS -- With his Dallas Mavericks riding a nine-game win streak, Rick Carlisle has very little patience to discuss what happened yesterday. He's focused solely on today. So when asked Monday about his team's back-to-back sweep of the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, he scoffed.

"Those games are done," he said tersely. "Look, Golden State is a team that doesn't have a great record, but they can beat anybody at any time because of their explosiveness, and their two guards are phenomenal. They were down 23 last night [at Oklahoma City] and cut the game to a three points with under five seconds to go, so we've really got to play and we've got to concentrate on what we're doing."

One reason Carlisle might have been quick to jump forward and focus on the Warriors' visit Tuesday night is what happened in Golden State's first visit to Dallas last season. Don Nelson was ailing, and so were the Warriors. With just six players, Monta Ellis led the short-handed visitors to a 111-103 victory.

The assistant coach who filled in at the time is now head coach Keith Smart.

"That's a dangerous team, and he's ready," Carlisle said of the Warriors and Smart. "Last time he coached in here he took over for Nellie and he beat us, so he's very capable."

The Mavs (16-4) begin a season-long, six-game homestand against Golden State. During the two-week stretch, only Utah (Saturday) and Phoenix (Dec. 17) have winning records. At the same time, the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs (17-3) are in the midst of a six-game homestand and nine of 10 at home.

"Now's not the time to pat ourselves on the back or feel good about anything," Carlisle said. "This homestand is a key stretch for us. We've got to continue to be respectful of every opponent and continue to bring the same sort of energy and disposition to the game that we've been bringing during this streak."

Who is Nemanja Bjelica?

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
10:52
AM CT
He's a rising Serbian star. He's 6-foot-10. He's a point guard. He's a shooting guard. He's a small forward. By size alone, he should be a power forward. What, is Nemanja Bjelica the next Kevin Durant?

Well, not yet at least.

But, with ballhandling skills usually reserved for men of smaller stature, he is one of the more interesting players in the draft and at least one mock draft board -- DraftExpress -- has him slotted at No. 50 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Maybe that's because of the Mavs' diligence in sizing up European players or their willingness to go after unique players. Can't you see it now: a 7-foot power forward in Dirk Nowitzki who plays like a shooting guard and a 6-10 guy who'll play point forward?

Maybe if Don Nelson still coached the team it would make more sense.

However, Bjelica might not be as attractive after DraftExpress.com reported Wednesday that he signed a three-year deal overseas with Benetton. He has a $1 million NBA buyout after each season.

Of course, if the Mavs were to draft him, he'd likely play overseas anyway.

2006-07: Greatness then a gut punch

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
11:59
PM CT
Seventh in a series chronicling the Dallas Mavericks' streak of 10 seasons with 50 or more wins (previous installments).

[+] EnlargeMavs
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezBaron Davis and the eighth-seeded Warriors delivered a first-round knockout punch to Devin Harris and the top-seeded Mavs.
The debate of rust vs. rest will forever vex head coaches of every sport and especially every NBA coach whose team has locked up the division title and still has a week or so to go in the regular season. Avery Johnson faced the dilemma as the most successful regular season in Dallas Mavericks history wound down.

Johnson chose to rest his players down the stretch and he rarely deployed a lineup that would play together once the No. 1 seed Mavericks opened their first-round series against Don Nelson's feisty, but hardly worrisome, No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors.

Dallas had clinched its first outright division title since 1986-87 and had won 65 games by Game No. 78. With the Chicago Bulls' 72 wins out of reach, Johnson took his foot off an accelerator that had been mashed all season. The Mavs started 0-4, the anticipated hangover after the Finals flop the prior season. But, motivated by it and their driven head coach, the Mavs proved to be the class of the league.

It will never be known for certain what happened in the first-round loss. Was it rust? Was the team burned out from Johnson's hard-charging style? Did Johnson's starting lineup switch to match the Warriors' smaller starters send the wrong signal? Was the Little General, just in his second full season as head coach, outcoached by Nellie the mad scientist? Were the Mavs simply outplayed?

All that is known is the Mavs followed up their epic Finals failure with the franchise's greatest regular season and then a humiliating postseason. It forced the NBA to celebrate the league's MVP after he had been eliminated. Dirk Nowitzki solemnly picked up his award and then vanished into the Australian outback.

Despite the setbacks, it hardly seemed plausible at the time that Johnson's tenure was fragile and that the entire future of the organization would soon change again.

Coach: Avery Johnson
Record: 67-15 (1st, Southwest Division)
Playoffs: Lost to Golden State (4-2)
Team payroll: $88.1 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($16.1**); Dirk Nowitzki ($15.1)*

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/Matt SlocumBy the time Dirk Nowitzki picked up his 2006-07 MVP award, the Mavericks were out of the playoffs.
Offseason transactions: Drafted G Maurice Ager (first round, 28th pick); signed G J.J. Barea (rookie free agent); signed G Greg Buckner (free agent); signed G/F Devean George (free agent); signed F Pops Mensah-Bonsu (free agent); traded G/F Marquis Daniels to Indiana for F Austin Croshere; traded G Darrell Armstrong, F Rawle Marshall and F Josh Powell to Indiana for G Anthony Johnson.

In-season transaction: Feb. 22, 2007: Traded Anthony Johnson to Atlanta for a 2007 second-round draft pick (Nick Fazekas); April 2, 2007: Signed F Kevin Willis.

The high: The season was all about the regular season. The 67 wins was a franchise best and earned the Mavs the West's No. 1 seed. Their .817 winning percentage was the sixth-best in NBA history, and they were the sixth-fastest team in league history to reach the 50-win mark (59 games), and that was after an 0-4 start. The season included win streaks of 12, 13, eight, 17 and nine games. Dirk Nowitzki completed his best all-around season. He averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and a career-high 3.4 assists. He set career-bests in field goal percentage (50.2), 3-point percentage (41.6) and free throw percentage (90.4). Nowitzki was rewarded by becoming the first player in franchise history to earn the league's MVP award. He was also a first team All-NBA selection. Nowitzki joined Josh Howard, an injury replacement, on the West All-Star team, marking the first time two Mavs were named to the team since Nowitzki and Steve Nash in 2003.

The low: This is all about the postseason. It was strange from the start when former Mavs coach Don Nelson brought his undersized Warriors to the American Airlines Center for Game 1. Mavs coach Avery Johnson decided to match small-for-small and deferred from his usual starting lineup by sitting center Erick Dampier. Golden State stole Game 1, a precursor of things to come as Dallas lost all three games in Oakland and became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed since the first-round expanded to best-of-7 in 2003. In the 111-86 Game 6 debacle that clinched the series for the Warriors, Dirk Nowitzki was frustrated by constant trapping defense and went 2-of-13 from the field. It set up a most uncomfortable MVP ceremony back in Dallas, one in which Nowitzki had a terrible time finding solace among Mavs owner Mark Cuban and NBA commissioner David Stern. Later, as part of a lawsuit between Cuban and Nelson, Cuban would contend that his former head coach used insider information to beat the Mavs.

The roster:
F Dirk Nowitzki (24.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg)
F/G Josh Howard (18.9 ppg, 6.8rpg)
G Jason Terry (16.7 ppg, 43.8% 3FG)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (12.0 ppg, 38.3% 3FG)
G Devin Harris (10.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 26.0 mpg)
F Erick Dampier (7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
G/F Devean George (6.4 ppg, 21.4 mpg)
G Greg Buckner (4.0 ppg, 18.1 mpg)
G Anthony Johnson (3.8 ppg in 40 games with Dallas)
F Austin Croshere (3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 11.9 mpg)
F Pops Mensah-Bonsu (2.4 ppg in 23 games)
F Kevin Willis (2.4 ppg in five games)
G J.J. Barea (2.4 ppg in 33 games)
C DeSagana Diop (2.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 18.3 mpg)
C DJ Mbenga (0.8 ppg in 21 games)
G Maurice Ager (2.2 ppg in 32 games)

*Source: Basketball-Reference.com

**The Mavericks waived Michael Finley on Aug. 15, 2005, taking advantage of a one-time amnesty provision that allowed them to avoid luxury taxes on the $51.8 million owed him over the next three years. Finley became an unrestricted free agent and joined the San Antonio Spurs, although the Mavs remained on the hook to pay his full salary.

2004-05: Nash haunts, Nellie leaves

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
12:18
AM CT
Fifth in a series chronicling the Mavericks' streak of 10 seasons with 50 or more wins (previous installments).

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty ImagesSteve Nash left the Mavericks for MVP pastures with the Suns.
The summer of 2004 will be remembered as the summer of Nash. No one ever imagined a scenario in which Steve Nash would leave the Mavericks. But the free agent, who had just come off a tough first-round series loss to Mike Bibby and the Sacramento Kings, was pursued by the Phoenix Suns, who swooped into Dallas armed with a big bag of cash.

When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to counter with an offer anywhere close to the $65 million the Suns put on the table, Nash quickly made his call. The Big Three, one year removed from the West finals, was no more. Nash returned to Phoenix, Dirk Nowitzki lost his best friend and coach Don Nelson lost his point guard, and later would admit lost his enthusiasm to coach the new-look Mavs.

"It's exciting, but it's also bittersweet," Nash told ESPN.com at the time. "I'm really sad to leave my teammates, but I'm glad to be going somewhere where they really wanted me."

Cuban, who had not been shy in spending big money to acquire players, said no this time. He contended that Nash's body couldn't endure another five or six years playing the break-neck style that had come to define his game. At the time, it seemed many fans agreed.

President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson got to work and acquired streaky shooting Atlanta Hawks guard Jason Terry to run the point. He would join rookie guard Devin Harris. Veteran center Erick Dampier and ornery swingman Jerry Stackhouse came aboard via different trades.

The club thrived to win 58 games. The final 16 game under Avery Johnson, who took over when Nelson abruptly stepped down on March 19. The Mavs reached the second round, but in the end, it was Nash who got the last laugh, at least for one season, and set the stage for his double MVPs to come.

Coach: Don Nelson (64 games)/Avery Johnson (18 games)
Record: 58-24 (2nd, Southwest Division)
Playoffs: defeated Houston (4-3), lost to Phoenix (4-2)
Team payroll: $91.9 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($14.6 million)*

[+] EnlargeJason Terry
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesThe Mavs brought in Jason Terry to replace Steve Nash, who nevertheless did a number on his former team in the Western Conference semifinals.
Offseason transactions: Traded Antoine Walker and Tony Delk to Atlanta for Jason Terry and Alan Henderson; traded Antawn Jamison to Washington for No. 5 overall draft pick Devin Harris, Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse; traded Laettner, Luis Flores, Eduardo Najera, cash, Mladen Sekularac, a 2007 first-round draft pick (Petteri Koponen) and a future first-round draft pick to Golden State for Erick Dampier, Dan Dickau and Evan Eschmeyer (retired); traded Danny Fortson to Seattle for Calvin Booth; D.J. Mbenga (free agent); traded 2005 first-round draft pick (Linas Kleiza) to Utah for Pavel Podkolzin.

In-season transaction: Dec. 3, 2004: Traded Dickau and a 2005 second-round draft pick (Marcin Gortat) to New Orleans for Darrell Armstrong; Feb. 24, 2005: Traded Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson to Milwaukee for Keith Van Horn.

The high: The Mavs finished the season on a 9-0 run under Avery Johnson but lost their first two playoff games at home against Houston. Dallas rallied and won Game 7 at home by 40 points, the largest margin of victory in a Game 7 in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki put together a remarkable regular season, averaging a career-best 26.1 points and 9.7 rebounds that would see him finish third in in MVP voting and make him the first Mavericks player to be named All-NBA first team.

The low: Nash did it all in the West semifinal series against his old team, putting up the best numbers of his career. Nash averaged 30.3 points, 12.0 assists, and 6.5 rebounds a game. He recorded his first playoff triple-double and scored 48 points in Game 4, then followed it up with 34 points in Game 5 and 39 points in the series-clincher. In that Game 6 on the Mavs' home court, Nash hit the biggest shot of the series, nailing a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 5.7 seconds left with Jason Terry -- who poured in 36 points -- drifting off of him to force overtime. The Suns had trailed by 16 points with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Nash 3-pointer to tie led Nowitzki to verbally berate his first-year teammate Terry on the court, a rare scene from the frustrated 7-footer. Losing Nash, then losing to Nash, did not foreshadow what was to come next for the Dallas Mavericks.

The roster:
F Dirk Nowitzki (26.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
G Michael Finley (15.7 ppg, 40.7% 3FG)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (14.9 ppg as sixth man)
F Josh Howard (12.6 ppg, team-high 116 steals)
G Jason Terry (12.4 ppg, 42.0% 3FG)
F Keith Van Horn (12.2 ppg in 29 games with Dallas)
C Erick Dampier (9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
G/F Marquis Daniels (9.1 ppg)
G Devin Harris (5.7 ppg, 19 starts in 76 games)
G Darrell Armstrong (2.3 ppg in 52 games with Dallas)
F Alan Henderson (3.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15.4 mpg)
C Shawn Bradley (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 11.5 mpg)
C Calvin Booth (2.4 ppg in 34 games with Dallas)
G Dan Dickau (played just four games)
C DJ Mbenga (played just 15 games)
C Pavel Podkolzin (played five games)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

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