Dallas Mavericks: Golden State Warriors

They’d love to come back to Dallas, but the veteran free agents on the Mavericks’ roster will all be willing to listen to any contenders interested in their services this summer.

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

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

MARION

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

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

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

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

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

CARTER

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

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

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

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

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

HARRIS

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

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

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

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

Mavs playoff seeding scenarios

April, 13, 2014
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DALLAS – The Mavericks have made the playoffs. Now it’s a matter of what seed they get.

It’s possible for the Mavs to land anywhere from sixth to eight in the Western Conference. That means first-round matchups with the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder (almost certainly second seed) and Los Angeles Clippers (almost certainly third seed) are all still possibilities.

A quick look at the potential scenarios for each seed:

Sixth seed: If the Golden State Warriors lose their last three games and Mavs win in Memphis

Seventh seed: If Mavs win in Memphis or Grizzlies lose another game

Eighth seed: If Grizzlies win out, including beating Mavs

The remaining schedules for the teams relevant to the Mavs’ seeding:

WARRIORS (49-30)
Sunday: at Portland Trail Blazers
Monday: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Wednesday: at Denver Nuggets

GRIZZLIES (47-32)
Sunday: at Los Angeles Lakers
Monday: at Phoenix Suns
Wednesday: vs. Mavs

Dalembert: 'Tough' sitting vs. Warriors

April, 2, 2014
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DALLAS -- The biggest bright spot in the first seven games of the Mavericks’ marathon homestand mostly warmed the bench in the finale.

This wasn’t a case of Samuel Dalembert earning another stint in coach Rick Carlisle’s doghouse. The small-ball Warriors simply forced the Mavs to go away from playing a traditional center.

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Dalembert played only seven minutes, starting both halves. The Warriors outscored the Mavs by 15 points during that span, giving Dalembert the worst plus/minus in the game.

“We were basically matching to them,” said Carlisle, who was well-aware before the game that the matchups might dictate significantly less playing time for Dalembert. “Credit them. They made it their kind of game.”

Dalembert understands the logic of why he spent most of the overtime loss wearing warm-ups and waving a towel. That didn’t make it any easier for him to swallow.

“It was tough,” said Dalembert, who averaged 9.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 23.7 minutes in the previous seven games. “I’m not going to sit down and lie. It was tough, but what can I do? You can’t get mad at things you can’t control. You can only cheer for your teammates when they’re out there. The guys they put out there were doing a good job. We just have to support each other.”

Heartbreaker ends Mavs' homestand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With only two home dates among the seven games remaining on the schedule, the Mavs will have to prove they deserve a playoff spot on the road.
DALLAS – The referees’ explanation didn’t make any sense to Dirk Nowitzki.

Before walking off the floor after the Dallas Mavericks’ 122-120 overtime loss Tuesday to the Golden State Warriors, Nowitzki asked the officiating crew of Danny Crawford, Sean Corbin and Eric Dalen why Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal wasn’t called for goaltending on his critical block of a Monta Ellis floater with 13 seconds remaining and the game tied.

“I think his layup has a chance to get to the rim, and if that’s the case, you can’t just get it out of the air,” Nowitzki said. “To me, that’s a goaltend. I asked the referees what happened. The explanation was that the ball was two feet short. If that’s the case, then he can get it out of the air, but where I was from, I think it had a chance to at least hit the rim. That’s a goaltend to me.”

Reviews show that there is no question that the ball would have at least reached the rim. O’Neal insisted that he got his right hand on the ball before it started its descent, making it a legal block.

“It was like a second away from goaltending, if you're too late, and I was on top of it,” said O’Neal, noting that Ellis dunked on him to finish an almost identical drive from the right wing in the fourth quarter. “I blocked it, grabbed it and outlet it. There's no way they could have called that.

“When your hand is on top of the ball, that's a good block. I caught it like this, I didn't bat it, I caught it like this, so there's no way they could have called it goaltending.”

Ellis left the locker room before the media were allowed in, as he often does after losses.

Crawford, who has repeatedly drawn the ire of Mavs fans and officials over the years, was the referee closest to the play, positioned on the baseline.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, whose seven-figure fine total during his 14-year tenure has been largely assessed due to criticizing officiating, declined to comment. He voiced his displeasure to the officials on the floor.

NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn released a statement Wednesday regarding the situation, admitting an error.

“Upon review at the league office, we have found that a shot taken by Dallas’ Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds remaining in overtime was on the way down when initially contacted and ruled a block by Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal, and should have been ruled a goaltend. The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye, and the play was not reviewable.”

5 to 9? Playoff seeding wide open for Mavs

March, 26, 2014
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DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle wants the Mavericks’ players focused on the task at hand each day, not caught up in checking the scoreboard and Western Conference standings.

Of course, Mavs owner Mark Cuban can do whatever he pleases, and he sees significant opportunity when he scans the standings with 10 games to go in the regular season.

Cuban has heard all the talk about the possibility of the Mavs finishing in ninth place, which would mean missing the playoffs for the second straight season after the franchise earned 12 consecutive postseason berths. He wonders why there isn’t any discussion about Dallas climbing up a few spots and grabbing the fifth seed.

“We’re, what, two games behind Portland?” Cuban said.

Yep, the 43-29 Mavs are only two games behind the slumping Trail Blazers (3-7 in their last 10 games) and own the tiebreaker by virtue of Dallas winning the season series, 2-1. The Mavs are 1 games behind the sixth-place Golden State Warriors and have a golden opportunity to make up a game when the Warriors visit Tuesday.

But the Mavs have no breathing room at the bottom of the playoff picture. They’re sitting in the final spot at the moment, percentage points behind the Memphis Grizzlies and a half-game ahead of the Phoenix Suns entering Wednesday night’s NBA action.

As much as the Mavs are living by the one-day-at-a-time mantra, there is a strong belief in the locker room that their battle for a playoff spot will go down to the last week of the season.

The Mavs’ final two games are April 12 at home against the Suns -- a meeting that will determine the Dallas-Phoenix tiebreaker -- and April 16 on the road against a Memphis team that is 0-3 against Dallas this season. The Grizzlies play in Phoenix on April 14, so the final week of the season essentially features a round-robin tournament between the three teams who are within a half-game of each other now.

“We’re going to have our hands full just to get in,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We’ve got a heck of a schedule coming down the stretch, so I guess that’s all we’re focusing on now, finishing strong these last 10 games, keep competing and playing off each other on offense and see what happens. We’ll worry about matchups when we finally know, but the way it’s looking, it’s going to come down to the last couple of games.

“We kind of waited on Phoenix the whole season to kind of cast away, but they just keep coming. They’re just so athletic and they’re well coached. They’re a fun, fun group to watch. They’re going to keep pushing, and so are we and Memphis.”

A reminder from Cuban: Don’t forget about Portland and Golden State.

Mavs mailbag: Is fifth seed within reach?

March, 18, 2014
3/18/14
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MavsAP Photo/Jim CowsertWith Portland struggling and LaMarcus Aldridge hurt, can the Mavericks climb to the No. 5 seed?

The Mavericks have won five of six, so the sunshine is pumping in the mailbag. On to the questions ...

With Portland struggling and LaMarcus Aldridge hurt, can the Mavs get as high as the 5th seed? -- @ParkerAllen41 on Twitter

Well, I gave up on the Mavs’ chances to get the sixth seed after they got blown out by Golden State last week, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask. Looking at the standings now, you can’t count out the Mavs moving up a spot or two. They’re only a game behind the Warriors, who are the Mavs’ final foe in this marathon homestand, and two and a half games behind Portland.

However, even with Aldridge’s return from a lower back contusion still at least a game or two away, I’d be stunned if the Mavs catch the Trail Blazers. The schedule is pretty kind the rest of the way for the Blazers, who play eight sub-.500 teams in the final 15 games.

Golden State plays eight sub-.500 foes in their final 14 games, so they’ve got a friendly schedule down the stretch, too.

My crystal ball still has the Mavs fighting with the Memphis Grizzlies for the seventh seed.

If the Mavs somehow advance in the playoffs and cause a few upsets along the way, how much of an impact will that have on their offseason decision making? Let's say they were to reach the conference finals. -- Jake (Philadelphia)

Man, this is a mighty optimistic mailbag. No, I don’t think a nice playoff run would change the Mavs’ offseason thought process much, if at all. No matter what, the Mavs will have a lot of cap space and will aggressively attempt to upgrade the roster.

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Dirk Nowitzki has committed to re-sign and take a “significant pay cut” from his $22.7 million salary. The goal is to give him the best possible chance of competing for another championship during his golden years. I don’t see the Mavs’ front office fooling itself into thinking the roster doesn’t need major tinkering because an old team made a surprising playoff run.

One thing a playoff run might affect is Devin Harris’ market value. He’ll be a free agent again this summer, and the Mavs obviously have interest in him returning. The question is how much they’re willing to pay. The three-year, $9-plus-million deal they agreed to before discovering he needed toe surgery sounds awfully good right now, at least to the Mavs. If Harris performs in the playoffs like he has lately, he might be able to get more money.

(Read full post)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors' cushion over the Dallas Mavericks has been extended to three games after they delivered a 108-85 whipping of the Mavs on Tuesday night, so Dallas’ hopes of earning the West’s sixth seed are so slim they’re not even worth discussing.

Actually, the Mavs aren’t interested in discussing potential playoff seedings at all at this point.

“I’m thinking about how we’re playing right now, what went wrong tonight and what we’ve got to do to get ready for tomorrow,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, ready to flush this stinker and fast forward to Wednesday night’s visit to Utah. “As far as the seeding, that’s a distraction from the task at hand, which is making sure we’re as right as we can be.”

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs couldn't get out from underneath the Warriors, falling three games behind Golden State for the 6-seed.
If the Mavs aren’t right more often than not the rest of the regular season, there’s a good chance that they’ll be playoff spectators for the second straight year, a fate that simply isn’t acceptable for a franchise that participated in the previous 12 postseasons.

The 38-27 Mavs are sitting in eighth place at the moment, percentage points behind the Memphis Grizzlies, who are 20-7 since big man Marc Gasol’s return from a knee injury. Dallas is just one game ahead of the Phoenix Suns, whose remaining schedule is heavy with teams from the lesser Eastern Conference and Western Conference lightweights.

“It’s going to be a beast to get in,” Dirk Nowitzki said. He he had an off night, finishing with only 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting. “But we’ve got to take care of what we can control, which is to play hard and win as many games as we can.”

The Mavs certainly can’t control who they’ll meet in the first round if they do make the playoffs. In all likelihood, they’ll head either north or south on Interstate 35 and make a quick postseason exit.

That’s just the harsh reality. The Mavs have lost eight straight games to the San Antonio Spurs. Their losing streak against the Oklahoma City Thunder stands at 11 games, including a sweep in the 2012 first round.

It’s not like Dallas would have been favored against any of the West’s potential 3-seeds, but the Mavs would at least have a puncher’s chance against the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers. Against the Spurs or Thunder, it would be an accomplishment for Dallas to win a playoff game for the first time since their title run, much less a series.

But the Mavs can’t afford to think that far ahead. As Nowitzki said, they just hope to earn the right to compete on a playoff stage at this point.

“Right now with this situation, we’ve got to win every game,” said point guard Jose Calderon, who committed a season-high six turnovers as the Mavs shot a season-low 36.6 percent against the Warriors. “If we want to be in the playoffs, I think there’s no time to think about where you’re going to be. You want to be there. That’s all you can think about. Right now, it’s just trying to be there. If we can think about seeding in the last game of the season, OK, I’ll take it, meaning we’re in.

“I just want to be in the playoffs. That’s all.”

Any higher hopes for Dallas would just be delusional.
SAN FRANCISCO -- For at least a brief moment Tuesday night, Dirk Nowitzki will look up and admire his unintentional artwork at Oracle Arena.

The big hole up high in the wall outside of the visitors’ locker room is the result of Nowitzki’s frustration during one of the lowest points of his certain Hall of Fame career. It’s also a reminder of just how hard the big German’s journey to an NBA championship was.

After the “We Believe” Warriors completed their historic 8-over-1 seed upset over the 67-win Mavs in 2007, a devastated Dirk picked up a trash can and heaved it at the wall. The hole has never been repaired. In fact, it’s now covered by a piece of plexiglass that Nowitzki autographed a couple of years ago.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Tim MacMahon/ESPNDallas.comThe hole Dirk Nowitzki created in Oracle Arena after being eliminated by the Warriors in 2007 has not been repaired.
“It always makes me smile,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ Tuesday morning shootaround. “It’s part of my history. I guess all these playoff failures and disappointments are part of why we won in 2011. It made me into the player and the person that I am.

“Always, year after year disappointments, but keep working and keep getting better and ultimately being the closer I needed to be in 2011.”

It took a while -- and a title -- for Nowitzki to see the humor in the hole. As self-deprecating as he is, Nowitzki admits he wouldn’t have responded so warmly if the Warriors asked for his signature before he earned a championship ring.

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Opening Tip: Mavs feasting in February

February, 26, 2014
2/26/14
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The Mavericks’ success this month shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’re supposed to be one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

Just look at their February schedule.

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Give the Mavs credit for going 8-2 so far this month, the NBA’s third-best February record behind the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, and recognize that they had quality road wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers. But the Heat, who beat Dallas by 11, are the only other team with a winning record the Mavs have faced during their hot streak.

Dating to a victory over the Sacramento Kings on the last day of January, seven of the Mavs’ last nine wins have come against teams that are at least 11 games below .500.

The Mavs have done a magnificent job of handling their business against bad teams, a trend they need to continue Wednesday night with the 23-33 New Orleans Pelicans in town. As tough as the West is, the Mavs need every win.

The Mavs have managed to move up a spot in the West standings by winning nine of the last 11 games. They’ve gone from two games back to one game up on the Phoenix Suns, who have had a .500 February. The Mavs have pulled within a game and a half of the Golden State Warriors and created a two-game cushion over the Memphis Grizzlies, a 1 -game difference in both instances since Jan. 31.

But the Mavs’ schedule is about to get much tougher. In fact, the Mavs have the most difficult schedule the rest of the season of the four teams fighting for the final three spots in the West playoff race.

A look at the remaining strengths of schedule for those teams, determined by opponents’ winning percentage:

Mavs: .542 (tied for third toughest in the NBA)
Grizzlies: .518 (seventh)
Suns: .510 (eighth)
Warriors: .500 (tied for 16th)

The Mavs have seized an opportunity presented by a soft stretch of schedule with their phenomenal February. To make the playoffs, they’ll need to keep the wins coming against much stronger competition in March and April.

3 Points: Odds Mavs win a playoff series?

February, 19, 2014
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ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez will join me each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavs fans.

Samuel DalembertGlenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesIs Samuel Dalembert the Mavericks' biggest X factor for the rest of the season?
1. What odds do you give the Mavs of winning a playoff series?

Gutierrez: It really depends on the opponent they draw in the first round. I think it’s incredibly low, hovering around 15-20 percent, if they end up having to face Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the first round. That’s why it’s incredibly important for them to hold on to the sixth spot in the West. If they hold on and face someone like the Trail Blazers or Rockets, I still don’t put them as a favorite to win a series, but I will say their chances improve dramatically. As of right now, putting a percentage on it, I’d say it hovers around 30-40 percent in terms of odds to win a series if they are the sixth seed in the West.

Taylor: Considering the Mavs seem destined to finish sixth, seventh or eighth in the West, I'd say the odds of the Mavs winning a playoff series are about 10 percent. Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Houston each have such good offenses that it would be difficult for the Mavs to win a series against any of those three teams. The Mavs' defense is so bad overall that it would be difficult to shut down either of those three teams and win a series. The Mavs won't make it easy, and their first-round opponent will have to do some work but the real question is whether the Mavs could win more than two games in a first-round series.

MacMahon: I’d give the Mavs a puncher’s chance against Portland or Houston, but that’s it as far as potential playoff foes. And it doesn’t look likely that either of those teams will be a top-three seed. If the Mavs get matched up with the Thunder or Spurs, the question isn’t whether the Mavs can win the series. It’s whether they can win a playoff game for the first time since the title-clincher in Miami.

2. Where will the Mavs finish in the West standings?

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Gutierrez: I think their schedule dictates that they are due for a fall. The schedule is rather favorable in February but becomes monstrous in March. Facing teams like Oklahoma City (twice) Portland, Indiana, Golden State among others mean that losses are going to come. That’s not to say that they’re going to lose all of them, but loses are coming. Golden State’s struggles this season have been surprising to an extent, but they’re too talented and explosive to be held down. I think they start to hit their stride as the season winds down. It’s a fight between the Mavericks, Warriors and Suns for positioning, with the Grizzlies being on the outside looking in. When the dust settles, the Mavericks end up making the playoffs, but I think they wind up being the seventh seed in the West.

Taylor: The Mavs dropped from sixth to eighth with one loss. I'd say when the season ends they're going to be seventh. The biggest task for the Mavs is to beat the teams they're supposed to beat. They can't really afford any more losses to the dredges of the league.

MacMahon: I’ve been surprised by two things on this subject over the last couple of months. I expected Phoenix to fade and Golden State to make a push for a top-four seed. The Suns have held strong despite Eric Bledsoe’s absence, and the Warriors have been the West’s biggest underachievers. The Mavs’ playoff seed -- and let’s not just dismiss the possibility of the Grizzlies grabbing a spot from one of these teams -- could come down to tie-breakers with the Suns and Warriors. The Mavs have split with the Warriors so far and still see them at home and on the road. They are 1-1 against the Suns, whose only remaining meeting with the Mavs is April 12 in Dallas. As tight as the West is, that could be the difference between a sixth seed and a lottery pick. I’ll wager on the Mavs finishing seventh.

3. Who is the biggest X factor for the Mavs the rest of the season?

Gutierrez: I’m not really sure how it’s not Samuel Dalembert. It’s an exaggeration to say that this team can score in its sleep, but they’re really efficient on the offensive end of the floor. That means that the emphasis continues to be place on the defensive end of the floor. Dallas continues to be a dramatically different team when they have an active and motivated Dalembert. Rick Carlisle and the players will openly tell you that things are different when he plays well. If he can bring any form on positive and consistent play for the final stretch of the season, Dallas has a chance to sustain its pace. That said, it’s a dangerous proposition to depend on the enigmatic center.

Taylor: It pains me to say this because he hasn't earned our trust, but Samuel Dalembert is the Mavs' X factor. There is noticeable difference in the way the Mavs defend when he's on the court and playing well. The problem, of course, is that we never know when that's going to happen. We know what almost every other player gives the Mavs on a nightly basis. We have no idea what Dalembert will do.

MacMahon: OK, this one was a layup with Dalembert, but I’ll discuss another X factor: Vince Carter. The Mavs are a tough team to beat when Carter brings efficient scoring off the bench. Dallas is 14-6 when Carter shoots at least 45 percent from the floor this season. Conversely, they’re 10-13 when he shoots less than 35 percent. The Mavs’ biggest challenge is being able to hold their ground when Dirk sits down. For better or worse, Carter is a huge part of that.

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."

Rapid Reaction: Warriors 95, Mavs 93

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
12:19
AM CT

How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks' crunch-time one-two punch couldn't keep up with Stephen Curry's one-man show.

Curry accounted for all of the Warriors' 19 points in the final six minutes to allow the Golden State Warriors to pull off the comeback win. Curry had 14 points, including the game-winning jumper with three seconds remaining, and two assists down the stretch.

Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis combined to score all 11 of the Mavs' points in that span. That wasn't enough with Curry, arguably the NBA's best shooter, catching fire.

Curry, who finished with game highs of 33 points and 10 assists, tied the score with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the second of which came with a little more than five minutes left. He also hit a midrange pull-up, had a four-point play and drilled the game-winner during crunch time. Both of his assists in the clutch came off drives, including a lefty, cross-court feed to Draymond Green for a 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds left that gave Golden State its first lead since the first quarter.

Ellis, who matched Nowitzki with a team-high 21 points, got fouled on the ensuing possession but made only one of two free throws. Curry and Ellis traded missed field goals on the next two trips, setting the stage for Curry’s dramatic, off-the-dribble dagger.

What it means: The Mavs went 2-2 on their trip, dropping the last two games, and return home with a 13-10 record. Dallas has split its first two meetings this season with Golden State, which pulled even with the Mavs for eighth place in the West standings.

Play of the game: Curry's game-winner. After Shawn Marion switched onto him, the Golden State point guard dribbled to a spot a few feet from the right elbow, got Marion to bite on a pump fake and swished an 18-footer to give the Warriors the lead with a few seconds left.

Stat of the night: Jose Calderon (18 points, 7-15 FG) has attempted at least 10 field goals in seven straight games for the first time in his career. Calderon has averaged 13.7 points on 46.8 percent shooting during that span.
The Mavericks missed out on another center with multiple All-Star appearances.

OK, this doesn't exactly sting as much as Dwight Howard's decision to head to Houston, but sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Jermaine O'Neal will sign with the Golden State Warriors.

The Mavs had shown interest in the 34-year-old O'Neal, who was a four-time All-Star while playing for Rick Carlisle in Indiana last decade, as a low-cost backup center. He averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 55 games for the Suns last season.

Sources with knowledge of the team's thinking said O'Neal was not one of the team's upper-echelon priorities in free agency. The Mavs had been in talks with O'Neal, sources said, but were not ready to commit while they continue to negotiate with several other free agents.

Mavs out of Dwight Howard sweepstakes

July, 5, 2013
7/05/13
4:23
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPNDallas.com and other local media via e-mail on Friday that the Mavericks have been notified that they are out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

"Got word we are out of the DH sweepstakes. We gave it a shot and it didn't work out . It was truly an experience. At some point I will post our video and presentation we made."

Cuban also said he had no knowledge of the free agent center's decision on a team.

"I have no idea what team he is going to," Cuban wrote in the e-mail. "They wouldn't tell me."

"So it's on to Plan B."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.3 4.4 1.8 33.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 7.1
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4