Dallas Mavericks: Goran Dragic

Speedy, surprising Suns still shining

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
3:24
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DALLAS -- The Phoenix Suns’ rise is one of the remarkable stories in the NBA this season.

Coming off a 25-win season, the Suns were considered by many to be among the tanking teams this season, having traded starting center Marcin Gortat for injured Emeka Okafor and a future first-round pick in late October.

Hornacek
Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsRookie coach Jeff Hornacek has the surprising Suns fighting for a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season.
It’s hard to believe those same Suns are fighting for a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season.

But, much to the surprise of most NBA observers, Phoenix never faded. Rookie coach Jeff Hornacek’s team, which is 47-31 entering its back-to-back in San Antonio and Dallas, has proven it’s for real.

“They remind me a lot of my first Detroit team back in ’01-02,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who was named Coach of the Year after the Pistons won 50 games that season. “It was a team coming off a 32-win season that people didn’t expect to be .500. There are a lot of similarities [to the Suns]. They have a lot of toughness on their team, they have young guys that have been on some bad teams and they’re tired of getting kicked around so they play with attitude, and they’ve got great guard play.”

Goran Dragic, one of those guards, is doubtful for Friday’s game against the Spurs due to an ankle injury and could be sidelined Saturday against the Mavs, the Arizona Republic reports.

(Read full post)

DALLAS – It’s not unusual for Shawn Marion to use colorful language in the locker room, even when he’s in a good mood.

But you know the Matrix is mad when he drops the dreaded E word. And Marion mentioned effort, or a lack thereof, repeatedly after the Mavs managed to let the Suns snap a 10-game losing streak with an 11-point win Wednesday night.

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“You can’t control the ball going in the hoop, but you can control your effort,” Marion said. “I think when you’re not able to go out there and give it your all, give it 110 percent, then something’s wrong. Maybe you need to sit down, you know?

“At the same time, there’s no reason we should have lost this game tonight. Being a professional athlete, dealing with the ups and downs we’ve had this season, you’ve got to look at yourself and ask, ‘Are you giving it your all? Are you doing what’s in your control to go out there and compete and leave it on the floor?’ …

“Effort is the only thing you can control. You can’t control the ball going in or if you can a turnover here or there or whatever or vice versa, but you can control your effort. That didn’t happen tonight.”

Marion didn’t single out any particular Mavs, saying they were all at fault.

A few more notes from what might have been the Mavs’ most embarrassing loss of the season:

1. Dirk won’t sit: The Mavs are officially eliminated from playoff contention, but Dirk Nowitzki has no plans to call it a season.

Nowitzki said he has no intention to sit out any of the Mavs’ final four games.

“I’m going to finish the season like everybody else and try to win the next game,” Nowitzki said. “Try to get at least to .500. We’d love to finish with a positive record. That means something and we’re going to fight for it.”

Nowitzki, who sat out the fourth quarter Sunday after aggravating bone spurs in his ankle, said he felt “fine” after taking a little longer than usual to get loose early in the game.

2. Hairy situation: The Mavs grew tired of .500 beard talk two weeks ago, when they failed to reach the break-even point, getting blown out by the Indiana Pacers.

It’s a subject they certainly don’t want to discuss at this point. They’re now 0-for-3 when they have a chance to reach .500 since sprouting those beards.

“Everything is just being overblown,” said Vince Carter, one of six Mavs who are part of the pact. “All the beard, this, that – let’s just take care of business, just win the game. When that time comes, we’ll take care of it. If not, it is what it is. Right now, it’s just all about winning. That’s what it has to be.”

3. Death by Dragic: The Mavs didn’t make a serious attempt to sign Goran Dragic this summer before he agreed to a four-year, $30 million deal with the Suns. Whether he would have been a long-term solution in Dallas is debatable, but he definitely dominated the Mavs’ stopgap point guards Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Dragic had 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 13 assists.

“Dragic was the best player on the floor,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He shredded us really from the start of the game to the end.”

Darren Collison, the 25-year-old the Mavs traded for this summer, had three points on 1-of-6 shooting and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench. Mike James, the 37-year-old D-League callup-turned-starter, had nine points and three assists in 27 minutes.

Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 97, Suns 94

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
12:37
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How it happened: The Dallas Mavericks put a dent in the Phoenix Suns’ pockets.

On a night deemed “Satisfaction Guaranteed” night -- where “good times” were guaranteed or fans could get their money back Thursday at U.S. Airways Center -- the short-handed Mavericks upset some fans in the second half.

Guard O.J. Mayo dropped 23 points on the night, including the game-winner against a team that failed in its bid to sign him in the offseason. He continued his sizzling start from behind the arc and made 3-of-5 3-pointers Thursday. Mayo also had five rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.

The Mavericks were able to hold on to their second-half lead despite being shorthanded. Forward Shawn Marion and center Chris Kaman left with injuries in the second half and did not return. Marion strained his right groin in the third quarter, and Kaman sprained his left ankle in the fourth.

The Mavericks were down 44-40 at halftime but outscored the Suns 29-18 in the third quarter to take a seven-point lead into the final frame. They led by as many as 15 in the game but had to withstand a run from the Suns. The bench was a big part of the Mavs' success. Kaman scored 15 of Dallas' 53 points off the bench before leaving. Coach Rick Carlisle elected to bring Kaman and forward Jae Crowder off the bench and start forward Elton Brand and guard Dahntay Jones. Brand scored four points and grabbed seven boards in 27 minutes. Jones and Crowder were scoreless in a combined 29 minutes.

Center Brandan Wright stepped up with 16 points and a critical block down the stretch. Point guard Darren Collison scored 10 of his 16 points at the free-throw line and helped the Mavericks hang on down the stretch.

What it means: The Mavericks are now 2-3 on the second game back-to-backs this season. They’re 9-10 overall and 1-1 on their current three-game road trip.

Play of the game: Mayo came through in the clutch for the Mavericks. He drilled a heavily-contested 21-footer over Sebastian Telfair to give the Mavericks an 89-87 lead with 34.6 seconds left.

Stat of the night: Despite a career-high 17 boards from Markieff Morris, the Mavericks edged out the Suns on the glass, 44-42. It’s only the seventh time this season the Mavericks have outrebounded their opponent.

W2W4: Can Mavs spoil Suns' fun guarantee?

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
1:19
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Maybe the money-back guarantee wasn’t too big of a risk for the Suns’ marketing department.

Fans who don’t have fun tonight can get their ticket prices refunded. That’s not necessarily guaranteeing a win, but it’s not like the Mavs are tough to beat when they’re playing the butt end of back-to-backs.

The Mavs are 1-3 in such games this season. That includes a couple of lopsided loss, being blown out by 19 in Utah and 23 in Chicago.

The Mavs were on the wrong end of a rout against the Clippers last night, but their starters other than rookie Jae Crowder still played pretty heavy minutes. This could be an especially tough task for 38-year-old point guard Derek Fisher, who played 27 minutes in the first half of his first back-to-back of his season.

The Suns have certainly had their share of struggles this season, having just wrapped up a 1-5 road trip, but they are 5-3 at home.

Records: Mavs (8-10); Suns (7-12)

When: 9:30 p.m.

Where: US Airways Center

TV: TNT

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

What to watch: The Suns go as point guard Goran Dragic goes. His numbers from the Suns’ seven wins: 18.9 points, 52.5 field goal percentage, 50.0 3-point percentage, 7.4 assists. His numbers from the Suns’ dozen losses: 13.5 points, 44.5 field goal percentage, 29.4 3-point percentage, 6.1 assists per game. If Darren Collison struggles – particularly on the defensive end – it will be interesting to see if coach Rick Carlisle gives meaningful backup point guard minutes to Dominique Jones.

Key matchup: Chris Kaman vs. Marcin Gortat – The Mavs at least need Kaman to hold his own in the big man matchup. A big offensive night from Kaman, who has had three 20-point game this season, would be nice. It’s imperative, however, that he gives a solid defensive effort. Kaman has struggled with the Mavs’ pick-and-roll coverages, which require their big men to aggressively show and recover. Gortat, who averaged 15.4 points last season but has seen his scoring average dip almost four points per game, is at his best as a roll man.

Injuries: Mavs – PF Dirk Nowitzki (knee) is out. Suns – F Channing Frye (heart) is out.

Up next: at Houston Rockets, 7 p.m. Saturday

Could summer superstar-chase approach be shifting?

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
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The long-range plan is to keep the powder dry and wait out a superstar. It's why when Deron Williams chose Brooklyn over Dallas, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson didn't get in a bidding war for a player such as Goran Dragic but rather targeted players either on the last year of their current deals or who were open to a one-year contract.

Check out the current roster. Of the five players acquired this summer -- excluding the three rookies that give Dallas eight new faces on the 15-man roster -- all are on one-year deals. O.J. Mayo's reduced-rate contract is technically for two years, but the second year is a player option that he will almost certainly exercise.

One-year deals allow the Mavs to easily create cap space for next summer to chase marquee free agents. But with the 2013 "big fish" free agency class threatening to be a dud with Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Chris Paul all with good reason to stay put, could the Mavs' philosophy be moving away from the rent-a-player approach of these last two offseasons?

After all, how do you sell player jerseys of guys that won't be around but eight or nine months?

"I’m not a big believer in rent-a-players, not in your top seven or eight guys anyways," Cuban said during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show. "I want these guys to stay and develop because they can be a great, young nucleus. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know in basketball, particularly when you have an infrastructure that hopefully can continue to develop these guys. That’s the goal and we still have flexibility then to do sign-and-trades, potentially sign a free agent; just see where it takes us."

Cuban's great, young nucleus comment is in reference to 24-year-old guards Darren Collison, penciled-in to start at point guard, and Mayo, who will start at shooting guard. Collison will be a restricted free agent next summer and can entertain offers from other teams with the Mavs being able to match. Mayo, with a strong year, could get the payday he hoped for this summer. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand will be seeking to play their way to multiyear deals as well, either with Dallas or somewhere else.

The Mavs might be the team to give it to one or all of them, but likely only after they are convinced that none of the superstar free agents will be available to any team but their current one, which can offer one more year and millions more than other teams. And they'll also keep an eye on the bottom line for the summer of 2014, when the Mavs will have no players under contract and could chase multiple potential free agents such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

"The blueprint is to say, like a Jet (Jason Terry) scenario, or even Josh Howard’s first year, Marquis’ (Daniels) first year, where it’s not apples to apples, it’s like wow; we want these guys to develop into a D.C. and O.J. tandem that can be a foundation for years to come and we keep them together and we improve and we grow with them and have the ability to continue to add players," Cuban said. "So the optimum scenario is everybody plays great."

And then perhaps instead of gutting the club to chase a Dwight Howard, the team-building focus turns to re-signing their own and chasing, say, a Josh Smith and cohesion.

Are new CBA rules making teams more cautious?

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
10:37
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Five days into free agency, as the Dallas Mavericks quietly scanned the proceedings after being turned down by Deron Williams, the player movement and big money that flowed around the league certainly didn't suggest that a new collective bargaining agreement was sinking its sharpened teeth into management.

The Brooklyn Nets overpaid Gerald Wallace, signing him for four years and $40 million. They then spit in the eye of the harsher luxury tax to come by acquiring Joe Johnson, still owed $89 million, to play with Williams, who signed a five-year, $98 million deal.

The Lakers completed a sign-and-trade for Steve Nash, handing the 38-year-old a three-year, $27-million deal. Prior to that, the Toronto Raptors offered the beloved Canadian point guard a reported three years and $36 million.

The Minnesota Timberwolves gave Brandon Roy, who had retired because of chronic knee issues, two years and $10.4 million and then signed Portland forward Nicolas Batum to a four-year, $45 million offer sheet. The Suns signed guard Goran Dragic, a player they once traded, to four years and $34 million and also inked troubled Minnesota forward Michael Beasley to three years and $18 million.

Portland signed emerging Indiana center Roy Hibbert to a $58 million offer sheet. The Rockets signed Bulls backup center Omer Asik to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet and did the same with New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

Does it mean the new CBA isn't working as planned? Mavs owner Mark Cuban hasn't been shy about expressing his displeasure with the final product, comparing the new CBA to the old one by saying owners are now drowning in 2 feet of water instead of 10. We know the rules have radically altered his philosophy for building his team.

Since the opening flurry of moves, some made by teams with cap space to fill, the majority of teams, Cuban points out, have acted responsibly in preparation for the stiffer tax that starts in the 2013-14 season.

"This offseason we saw maybe six teams try to win the summer and make a big splash," Cuban said. "The vast majority did little or nothing beyond keeping their own players."

In 2009-10, 11 of the 30 teams spent into the luxury tax. That number dropped to seven in 2010-11 and six last season. Five to seven teams are headed for the luxury tax this season, a number that does not include the Mavs for the first time in Cuban's ownership. In a year or two, only the Lakers, Knicks, Nets and Heat could be luxury tax violators.

Cuban has vowed that he will spend into the luxury tax again, when the time is right.

Cuban points out two examples of the new CBA in action.

"The best example of the new rules having an impact are the Knicks walking away from Jeremy Lin and the Bulls walking away from three of their rotation players," Cuban said.

The Knicks have supported the most bloated payroll in the league over the last decade. Yet, presented with the Lin offer sheet from the Rockets that included a "poison pill" third year that jacked Lin's salary from $5 million to $15 million, which has been estimated to swell to more than $40 million after tax penalties, it was too much for even the hand-over-fist, money-making Knicks.

The Bulls surrendered Asik because of a similar "poison pill" third year that would have killed their cap. Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver were also sacrificed -- and Chicago tried to trade Rip Hamilton -- all in the name of whittling down payroll.

Source: Rockets in play for Ramon Sessions

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
6:44
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The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, Southwest Division rivals in need of a starting point guard, are both in discussions with Ramon Sessions.

A source said the Mavs had a second round of talks with Sessions' agent and that the Rockets are now in play for the 6-foot-3 guard seeking a starting job and the security of a multiyear deal.

Dallas failed to bring Deron Williams into the fold in the first week of free agency and watched Plan B, Steve Nash, go to the Los Angeles Lakers in a trade. On Thursday, Jason Kidd decided not to re-sign with the Mavs after coming close to a three-year agreement and instead chose to head to the New York Knicks, leaving Dallas with the vacancy in their starting lineup.

The Rockets lost Goran Dragic in free agency to Phoenix and then traded Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors. Houston made a lucrative offer to Knicks restricted free agent Jeremy Lin, but the Knicks are expected to match.

Sessions, 26, was traded from Cleveland to the Los Angeles Lakers in March. He opted out of the final year of his contract that would have paid him $4.55 million next season.

With Steve Nash out, will Jason Kidd waver?

July, 4, 2012
7/04/12
10:49
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Deron Williams was close to choosing Dallas but is staying in Brooklyn. Steve Nash is on his way to L.A. to play with Kobe Bryant. As the Mavericks scramble to make up ground well down the list of their offseason alphabet planner, will Jason Kidd add to a mounting nightmarish offseason by fleeing to the New York Knicks?

It is positively a legitimate question now that the Knicks' hopes of trading for Nash are dashed. Earlier Wednesday, Kidd said his priority was to work out a deal to stick with Dirk Nowitzki and the reshuffling Mavs. But that was when signs pointed heavily to Nash landing in New York.

But with Nash stunningly going Hollywood (and here's the real kicker: The Lakers slide Nash into the trade exception created when they traded Lamar Odom to the Mavs), the Knicks will absolutely match any offer made to restricted free agent and Mavs target Jeremy Lin (they were expected to, even with Nash in play) and push hard to bring in the 39-year-old Kidd.

Here's what Kidd must weigh: Re-sign with Dallas and a roster that now only includes Dirk, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and spare parts Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones from the 2011 title team, or finish out his career at Madison Square Garden setting up Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, and mentoring Lin, a fellow Bay Area native.

It's not clear if the Mavs are offering Kidd more than one year, but the Knicks most certainly will.

Kidd's vision of teaming up with friend Deron Williams next season was dashed with Williams' five-year commitment Tuesday to the Nets. Meanwhile, Kidd is hoping to have a deal wrapped up with the Mavs in a day or two. He was not available Wednesday night to respond to the rapidly shifting landscape and the potential ripple effect.

While Western Conference teams around the Mavs get stronger, Dallas has yet to add a single player in free agency and declined to match the Boston Celtics' three-year, $15 million offer to Jason Terry.

Meanwhile, the next point guard of interest around the league, Goran Dragic, is being hotly pursued by the Suns, and reports have the Charlotte Bobcats ready to make an offer.

If Kidd opted to leave Dallas for New York, where he could set up shop at his recently purchased house in the Hamptons, the Mavs would be staring at a point guard position made up combo guards Beaubois, Jones and last week's draft pick, Jared Cunningham. Delonte West remains an option to re-sign.

As the Knicks are sure to ramp up their efforts to land Kidd, so too will Dallas, which simply can't afford to lose him now if simply from a morale factor that threatens to leave Nowitzki looking around and wondering what just happened.

If he isn't already.

Sources: Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin top Mavs' list

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
7:43
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The Dallas Mavericks' point guard priorities are now shifting to 39-year-old former Mav Steve Nash and one-time Mavs Summer League hand Jeremy Lin, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

SportsNation

With Deron Williams staying with the Nets, which point guard would you most like to see the Mavs acquire in free agency?

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Sources, Stein reports, say the Mavs will pursue Nash and the New York Knicks' Lin, a restricted free agent, but that they are undecided regarding Houston Rockets free agent Goran Dragic, who visited the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and could command a starting salary of $10 million. The Knicks can match any offer made to Lin.

It appears the Mavs are set to lose shooting guard Jason Terry to the Boston Celtics, who have offered the veteran a three-year deal for more than $15 million. Terry's departure and Deron Williams' decision to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday could open the door for combo guard Delonte West to re-sign with the Mavs.

West, who played in Dirk Nowitzki's charity baseball game Saturday and held a basketball camp in Fort Worth on Tuesday despite not being under contract, said he does not know what other teams might have interest in signing him. West said he is seeking a multiyear deal after playing on one-year, minimum contracts the last two seasons.

"Looking for a team to pay me what I'm worth, not a cent more," West said.

If Deron Williams doesn't come, who does?

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
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The leading question about the Dallas Mavericks heading into Sunday's start of free agency is, if not Deron Williams, then who?

Well, it's a fine question. In fact, if the Mavs lose out on Williams to the Brooklyn Nets, they could very well be on full alert for a starting and backup point guard. Jason Kidd, also a free agent on Sunday, has spent a lot of time talking about playing with Williams in Dallas or Brooklyn. Kidd led the Nets to two Finals appearances a decade ago and has an affection for New York. He's also talked highly about the club's prospects as it moves to Brooklyn under Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

So not only could the Mavs be in line to miss out on one of the league's elite point guards, they could also lose their starting point guard from the last four-plus seasons.

In Thursday's draft, the Mavs could certainly pull the trigger on North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall if he's available when Dallas picks at No. 17. And while trades are always a possibility, the Mavs will look to replenish the point guard position, to whatever extent, in the free-agent market.

The free agent market isn't dripping with game-changers at the point. Here's the top contenders:

Steve Nash, Suns -- The former Mav is 38 and still truckin' at an elite level. He has said he's interested in a multiyear deal and he wants fair market value, no discounts.

Goran Dragic, Rockets -- Stands to get a significant raise from his $2.1 million salary. Broke out last season, his fourth, after Kyle Lowry's injury. Rockets will want to re-sign him.

Andre Miller, Nuggets -- Seems like he's been underrated his entire career, but now at 36 he'd serve as a relatively inexpensive stop-gap in Dallas. Has been reported that Denver wants him back.

Kirk Hinrich, Hawks -- His better days are well behind him. Picking him up as backup would be far more palatable than settling on him as your starter.

Chauncey Billups, Clippers -- One of the most respected players in the league, he's getting long in the tooth and is coming off that awful Achilles' injury. Clips reportedly want him back.

Ramon Sessions -- Turns out he wasn't the Lakers' savior. Sessions has opted out of his deal to test free agency. His playoff performance certainly won't encourage teams to break the bank.

If not Deron Williams, then who?

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
11:00
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DALLAS – When the Mavs opted not to offer Tyson Chandler and Co. long-term deals, this summer’s free-agency crop was expected to be headlined by a few superstars.

SportsNation

Which free agent is most important for the Mavericks to retain?

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Discuss (Total votes: 9,443)

The landscape quickly changed when Chris Paul exercised his player option for next season after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. It changed for the worse again when Dwight Howard surprisingly committed not to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Orlando Magic just before the trade deadline.

That leaves Deron Williams as the lone big fish. What happens if the Mavs don’t convince The Colony native to come home?

“You’ve got to have your A, B, C, D and E and so on, but you also understand that this is a global plate tectonic,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “Things are moving and situations are fluid. You go into it with eyes wide open and hopefully you can come out of it with what you want.”

The Mavs want a player who can create offense on his own, a necessity to take pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki.

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A reunion with Steve Nash is a possibility. The Mavs declined to pay what it took to keep him in Dallas eight seasons ago because of concerns about durability, but he’s coming off a season in which he led the Western Conference in assists (10.7 per game) and shot a career-best 53.2 percent from the floor.

Everyone knows the chemistry with old pal Nowitzki would click. However, the Mavs would probably take a major step back defensively by adding a 38-year-old point guard who has always been considered a liability on that end of the floor.

Houston’s Goran Dragic, who made himself a ton of money as the fill-in starter for Kyle Lowry in the second half of the season, is a much younger option. Dragic, 26, Nash’s former backup, averaged 18.0 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 49.0 percent from the floor in 28 games as a starter this season.

Some other proven shot creators in the market: New Orleans’ Eric Gordon (restricted), Memphis’ O.J. Mayo (restricted), Minnesota’s Michael Beasley (restricted and off-court issues) and Boston’s Ray Allen (turns 37 in July).

The market for big men, which will be a big need if the Mavs use the amnesty clause on Brendan Haywood, is headlined by Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (restricted), Denver’s JaVale McGee (restricted), Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez (restricted), New Orleans’ Chris Kaman, Houston’s Marcus Camby, Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes and Chicago’s Omer Asik. The Mavs might also explore taking a minimum-salary flyer on Greg Oden in hopes of resuscitating the former No. 1 overall pick’s career after it has been derailed by knee injuries.

“There’s a lot of good players out there,” Nelson said. “Whether it’s A, B, C, D, E, F, or keep the powder dry, which is always an option. Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it.”

Is putting a subpar supporting cast around Nowitzki for another year of the twilight of his prime really an option? Isn’t there a sense of urgency to maximize the chances of winning another championship while the best player in franchise history is still a superstar?

“Listen, how many years have we made it in the playoffs in a row?” Nelson said. “We don’t plan on putting out anything less than a championship-caliber team. That’s me and Mark’s history and that’s our commitment to our fans and this city.”

They’ve got their work cut out for them this summer, especially if they swing and miss on Williams.

W2W4: Whole lot on the line vs. Rockets

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
3:19
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DALLAS – Regular-season games don’t get much more pressure-packed than this one.

This is pretty much a must win for the Houston Rockets, who bring a four-game losing streak to the American Airlines Center and are fighting for their playoff lives, currently standing on the outside of the Western Conference’s postseason picture.

If the Mavs don’t win this one, the defending NBA champions would put themselves in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. They’re sitting in seventh place, just a game and a half ahead of the Phoenix Suns and Rockets, with four games remaining in the lockout-compressed regular season.

“We’re well aware of all the situations and scenarios,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We got to earn our way into the playoffs. That’s the reality. It’s not an easy road. We’ve got tough games we got to play and tough opponents we’ve got to beat.”

Records: Mavs (34-28); Rockets (32-29)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: TXA 21

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

What to watch: Will the Mavs have enough gas in the tank to finish strong against the Rockets? They had a day off Tuesday and skipped shootaround this morning, but this is the Mavs’ fifth game in seven nights, and that includes an overtime loss Sunday to the Lakers and a triple-overtime loss Monday to the Jazz. Dallas’ key closers – Dirk Nowitzki (96), Jason Terry (91) and Jason Kidd (85) -- racked up massive minute totals in those two games.

Key matchup: Goran Dragic vs. Delonte West – Dragic has been the Rockets’ best player since Kyle Lowry’s illness pushed him into the starting lineup, averaging 18 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from 3-point range in the last 23 games. That includes averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 assists in two losses to the Mavs last month. West didn’t play in those games due to a fractured right ring finger, forcing small forward Shawn Marion to be the Mavs’ primary defender on Dragic. The Mavs will rely on West, who avoided suspension for the bizarre, ear-poking incident during Monday's loss to Utah, to harass Dragic and keep the Rockets’ offense from establishing a rhythm.

Injuries: Mavs – G Rodrigue Beaubois (strained right calf) is expected to play; Rockets – C Marcus Camby (sore lower back/left wrist sprain) is a game-time decision.

Up next: Golden State Warriors at Mavs, 7:30 p.m., Friday

DALLAS – The Mavericks looked at this home-and-home set with the Houston Rockets like a mini-playoff series.

The Rockets didn’t have that luxury.

The Mavs got a day off and a practice day after Saturday’s overtime win over the Rockets at the Toyota Center. The Rockets played another overtime game Monday night, rallying to beat the Sacramento Kings.

Houston has had an especially hard time in the butt end of back-to-backs since the All-Star break. The injury-ridden Rockets have lost four of five such games, with the lone win coming over the Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA’s worst team.

The schedule gave the Mavs a significant edge in a game that could be critical in the fight for playoff positioning. The Rockets can pull even with the Mavs in the standings by winning on the road, but a Dallas win would create a two-game cushion for the Mavs.

"They played last night, so we have to come out and attack early and often," Mavs swingman Vince Carter said. "We have to get up and down the floor. First of all, if we rebound the ball, we can get up and down the floor. We have one one of the best decision-makers in the game so we have to take advantage of it."

Records: Mavs (28-22); Rockets (27-23)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FSSW

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

What to watch: Rockets point guard Goran Dragic plans to play after twisting his right ankle during overtime last night. Houston has huge problems if Dragic can’t go or isn’t effective. Their other healthy point guards are Earl Boykins, a 5-foot-5 35-year-old who signed a 10-day contract Monday, and D-League call-up Courtney Fortson. Dragic had 24 points, eight assists and only one turnover Saturday night against the Mavs.

Key matchup: Samuel Dalembert vs. Ian Mahinmi – Mahinmi has to give the Mavs more than he did Saturday night in Houston, when he had only one point and two rebounds in 18 minutes. Dalembert had 16 points – nearly double his average – in that game. Dalembert scored eight points in the first nine minutes against Mahinmi, allowing the Rockets to build an early nine-point lead.

Injuries: Mavs – C Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) and G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) are officially listed as questionable but not expected to play. Rockets – PG Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) and SG Kevin Martin (shoulder) are out; PG Goran Dragic (ankle) expects to play.

Up next: Mavs at Miami Heat, 7 p.m., Thursday
HOUSTON -- Dirk Nowitzki’s potential career as a model took another hit during Saturday night’s overtime period, when he got caught with an errant elbow above the right eye.

“Just four stitches,” Nowitzki said after getting postgame medical treatment. “I’ll be all right.”

Nowitzki was bleeding profusely after the cut was opened up with 47.9 seconds remaining in overtime. He thought he got hit with an elbow by Houston point guard Goran Dragic, who was called for an offensive foul. However, it appeared that it was actually teammate Brandan Wright’s elbow that did the damage during a scramble for a loose ball.

Not that it mattered much after the Mavs pulled out the 101-99 win.

“It was an offensive foul,” Nowitzki said, “and we moved on from there.”

Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith made like a cut man in a boxer’s corner during the timeout after Dragic got whistled for the foul. He managed to stop the bleeding, allowing Nowitzki to get back on the court for the next possession, when Jason Terry hit a pull-up jumper off a pick-and-roll with Nowitzki to give the Mavs the lead for good.

“Hats off to the training staff for getting the blood stopped,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “[Nowitzki] being able to go back into the game created that scoring opportunity for Jet, because [Marcus] Camby was hugging Dirk so closely that it created a double screen and Jet got a really good look to put us in strong position.”

Mavs weaknesses stick out after Suns' romp

May, 10, 2010
5/10/10
2:51
PM CT
The No. 2 seed Dallas Mavericks made themselves feel better by referring to the San Antonio Spurs as no ordinary No. 7 seed.

And then the Phoenix Suns quickly reminded everyone that throughout the regular season the Spurs were a mediocre defensive club, had trouble integrating a slew of new players, most notably Richard Jefferson, and often couldn't get out of their own way.

And, really, only a final-week collapse by the young Oklahoma City Thunder prevented San Antonio, which did play better in the final month-and-a-half of the season -- mind you, without the injured Tony Parker -- from finishing as the No. 8 seed in the tightly contested West.

So how do the Mavs reconcile their 4-2 first-round defeat to the Spurs, whose supposedly stalwart defense so short-circuited Dallas' offense, after the run-and-gun Suns took the broom to San Antonio?

It's not rocket-science. The Suns (109.5) averaged nearly 17 points more a game than the Mavs (92.8) by excelling in three areas in which Dallas failed.

One and Two: Sensational offensive production at the point guard and post positions. At 36, Steve Nash might be at his all-around best. He averaged 22.0 points and 7.7 assists against the Spurs. His uncanny ability to slice the defense, get into the lane and score, or force defenders to collapse for kick-outs to open shooters or dump-offs to Amare Stoudemire, torched San Antonio. Stoudemire is the second aspect. He averaged 20.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in the four games. Stoudemire is a powerful force coming off the pick-and-roll and he's become an efficient shooter off the pick-and-pop.

The Mavs did not get Jason Kidd at his best, having averaged 8.0 points and 7.0 assists. Kidd could not get into the lane and create for others and he was way off with his 3-point shot. And, the Mavs got nothing in the post. While Dirk Nowitzki was able to drive and get some scoring in the paint, he's obviously a player who lives by the step-back jumper. That leaves offensively limited centers Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood to score down low. How'd that go? The pair combined to average 6.0 points in the six-game series. Dampier did not have a single field goal. During the series, Nowitzki acknowledged that the Spurs weren't even guarding the Mavs' centers, allowing for more pressure on the perimeter.

At those two critical positions, the Suns averaged nearly 30 points more a game than the Mavs.

Third: 3-point shooting. The Mavs want to play like the Suns, but lacking a point guard that can get into the lane and with no inside scoring threat to run the offense through, perimeter shooting better be near-perfect. Dallas shot 32.8 percent from beyond the arc against San Antonio. If Jason Terry and Kidd aren't hitting 3s, as they weren't, the Mavs are in trouble. Caron Butler is not a consistent 3-point shooter and Shawn Marion hasn't shot them since he left Phoenix.

The Suns, meanwhile, as they have done all season, shot a blistering 41.2 percent from long range for the series with a bevy of different players -- Nash, Jason Richardson, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley all producing on the big stage.

Those are big holes the Mavs will try to address this summer. They can thank the Suns for making it all the more apparent now that they've exposed the Spurs as a true No. 7 seed.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9