Dallas Mavericks: Joe Johnson

Buy or Bye: O.J. Mayo

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
11:30
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ESPNDallas.com will estimate the market value for each of the Mavericks' eight free agents and examine their worth to the Mavs in a once-per-day series.

O.J. Mayo


SportsNation

Should the Mavericks buy into or say goodbye to O.J. Mayo?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,804)

After opting out of the second year of his contract, O.J. Mayo declared that he hoped to sign a long-term deal to stay in Dallas.

Coach Rick Carlisle, who had vented his frustration with Mayo just a few days earlier, made it clear that he’d welcome the shooting guard back.

“I like O.J. a lot,” Carlisle said. “I think he fits into what we’re doing. Like everything else in this world, this is probably going to come down to money.”

In relative terms, there wasn’t much of a market for Mayo last summer, when the former third overall pick hit free agency after struggling as a sixth man during his final two seasons in Memphis. He took a little less money to come to the Mavs, hoping that a year of work with Carlisle would boost his value.

We’ll see this summer whether that happened after a hot-and-cold season for Mayo that ended with an icy stretch.

The Mavs won’t break the bank to keep Mayo. They consider him capable of starting for a contender, but they don’t view him as a cornerstone player.

If Dallas doesn’t keep Mayo, the Mavs will have to address a major hole in the lineup. He led the Mavs in points, was second in scoring and second in assists.

But the free agent market will be flooded with starting-caliber shooting guards. Reasonably priced alternatives could include Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick, Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans, Randy Foye, Tony Allen and Nick Young. (Not listed due to price/probability of staying with their current contenders: J.R. Smith, Manu Ginobili and Andre Iguodala.)

2012-13 stats: Averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.6 turnovers in 35.5 minutes per game. Shot 44.9 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from 3-point range.

Age: 25

Comps:

DeMar DeRozan – Averaged 18.1 points, 2.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.8 turnovers in 36.7 minutes per game. Shot 44.5 percent from the floor and 28.3 percent from 3-point range. Signed four-year, $38 million deal in 2012.

Jamal Crawford – Averaged 16.5 points, 2.5 assists, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.9 turnovers in 29.3 minutes per game. Shot 43.8 percent from the floor and 37.6 percent from 3-point range. Signed four-year, $21.4 million deal in 2012.

Eric Gordon – Averaged 17.0 points, 3.3 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.8 turnovers in 30.1 minutes per game. Shot 40.2 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from 3-point range. Signed four-year, $58 million deal in 2012.

Joe Johnson – Averaged 16.3 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.7 turnovers in 36.7 minutes per game. Shot 42.3 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. Signed six-year, $123.7 million deal in 2010.

Arron Afflalo – Averaged 16.5 points, 3.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 2.2 turnovers in 36.0 minutes per game. Shot 43.9 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from 3-point range. Signed five-year, $38 million deal in 2011.

Wesley Matthews – Averaged 14.8 points, 2.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.6 turnovers in 34.8 minutes per game. Shot 43.6 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent from 3-point range. Signed five-year, $26.8 million deal in 2010.

Estimated contract: How many millions did Mayo cost himself by struggling down the stretch? At the All-Star break, it appeared that Mayo might get a four-year deal in the $40 million range. Now, $25 million over four years sounds more likely. The Mavs might not want to go above the midlevel exception (four years, $21.4 million).

Are new CBA rules making teams more cautious?

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
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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.

Opinions vary on Mavs' summer moves

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
11:48
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The grand plan didn't work. Deron Williams, citing his hearty approval of a last-minute trade by the Brooklyn Nets that landed Joe Johnson, isn't coming home.

In the weeks that followed, the Dallas Mavericks filled out the 15-man roster with surprising and unexpected moves. They successfully and drastically lowered the median age and added athleticism, particularly in the backcourt, and scoring punch on the front line.

They did it mostly by adding players on the final year of their current contracts or by signing free agents to one-year deals, which puts them in prime position to pursue a max-contract free agent such as Dwight Howard if he makes it to the summer.

So the Mavs will look nothing like the 2011 title team or the one that was swept out of the playoffs for the first time in Dirk Nowitzki's career. With so many new players under the guidance of coach Rick Carlisle, it's impossible to forecast how the team will come together and how dangerous it might become. Because of the unknown, varying opinions are flying on how well the Dallas front office recovered from the Williams disappointment, and where the 2012-13 Mavs are headed.

For example, ESPN.com Insider Chad Ford graded Dallas' offseason moves a B+.
Here's Ford:I don't think the moves will put them back in contention, but they should be back in the playoffs and will enter next summer as the odds-on favorites to get Howard if he doesn't get traded to the Lakers or Nets.

Meanwhile, ESPN the Magazine's Chris Broussard puts the Mavs at the top of his list of teams heading in the wrong direction in his Risers and Fallers breakdown.
Here's Broussard: A year after voluntarily surrendering defense of their 2011 NBA championship, the Mavericks will be fortunate just to make the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference.

Deron Williams: Trade sealed deal in Brooklyn

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
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Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, in Las Vegas for the start of Team USA training camp in preparation for the Olympics, told reporters that the Nets' trade for Joe Johnson kept him from heading home to play for the Dallas Mavericks.

"I was really close to going to Dallas," Williams told reporters. "I actually thought that's where I was going to go. I had the meetings and it kind of changed my mind because once I got out of the meeting with Dallas and saw the way they were going and the team they were putting out there and I saw that we just made a trade for Joe Johnson and I felt like that team for a longer time would be the better team.

"Joe got me over the hump," Williams continued. "I've never played with anybody like him, a guy on the wing that can get his own shot and also get me involved and is a great defender. We could be one of the top backcourts in the NBA for sure."

Knowing how close Williams was to joining his hometown team won't make Mavs fans feel any better as they've watched the roster diminish to just seven players under contract. Jason Terry agreed to a deal with the Boston Celtics and Jason Kidd has agreed to join the New York Knicks.

All that's left of the 2011 champion Mavs is Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones.

"It was a hard decision. It was my hometown, the team that I grew up watching, would have loved to play for and my family would have loved for them to see me play," Williams said. "I kind of felt I let the city I'm from down because they wanted me there so bad. It was a really tough decision, but I think it ultimately came down to where I felt I had a better chance to win for a longer period of time."

Jason Kidd wants to go out swinging

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
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Jason Kidd took a look at the two rosters and decided only one gave him a legitimate chance to contend.

That's why Thursday the 39-year-old point guard walked away from the Dallas Mavericks' three-year, $9 million offer and agreed to a similar deal with the New York Knicks.

PODCAST
Jason Kidd talks about how close Deron Williams was to playing in Dallas, how he can help the Knicks next season and more.

Listen Listen
"It was a tough decision," Kidd said Friday during an appearance on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio in New York. "I looked at the roster and I felt I could go quietly and retire or I felt like I can compete and help a team win. So, I saw the pieces of the Knicks and I thought that I could help them out."

Kidd said he talked to Dirk Nowitzki, who is touring Europe, to seek his blessing.

"Dirk, I talked to him and he totally understood," Kidd said, "which helped me make my decision."

Kidd expects the Knicks match the Houston Rockets' offer for restricted free agent Jeremy Lin. Kidd said he told coach Mike Woodson that he is open to coming off the bench, just as he planned to do if he had joined forces with his first preference, Deron Williams.

"I talked to coach and I told him whatever he needs," Kidd said. "He doesn’t have to worry about it. I’m not 25 years old and I don’t need the fireworks when my name is called for the starting lineup. I just want to be in there at the end of the game to try to help the team win, understanding that the last six minutes in an NBA game is where you make your name. So hopefully I’m in there trying to help my guys win."

As for his buddy Williams, who spurned the Mavs' four-year, $75-million max offer to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets for five years, $98 million, Kidd reiterated his belief that Williams was torn and at one point said he was leaning toward his hometown team. But, Kidd said, the Nets' roster moves, in particular the trade for Joe Johnson, convinced him to stay.

"If he had to make the decision after he had an eagle at Atlantic Country Club he would have signed with Dallas. That’s how close it was," Kidd said. "He really wanted to go back home and that’s when I asked him after he had an eagle. That was the best time to ask; he was in a great mood so it wasn’t like he was upset or anything, so he said, 'Look, if I had to make this decision it would be Dallas today.' I think when he saw the roster, I think he felt if Dirk went down, it would be a long season."

Brendan Haywood high on Joe Johnson trade

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
12:31
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Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood is watching the Deron Williams saga as closely as anyone. After all, his future is at stake, too.

PODCAST
Mavs center Brendan Haywood gives his own percentage chance on Deron Williams coming to Dallas.

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If Williams agrees to sign with the Mavs, Haywood very well could be released via the amnesty clause to clear cap space. Haywood, on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Ben & Skin Show," said he's a big fan of the deal the Brooklyn Nets pulled off Monday to acquire Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, saying it will definitely give Williams something to think about.

"When I saw the deal I thought he would definitely have to consider staying just because Joe is that talented," Haywood said. "If you look at that team as constructed right now if they get D-Will back; if you give me D-Will, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, a big man at (power forward) and Brook Lopez at (center); people forget Brook Lopez averaged 20 points per game, he’s very valuable and he was hurt last year. That team right there, to me, is already the second-best team in the East, right behind Miami with (Chicago Bulls point guard) Derrick Rose recovering from that knee injury."

The 7-foot Haywood certainly has a future in broadcasting if not with the Mavs. He's still under contract for three more seasons at around $27 million, and if the Mavs do use the amnesty clause on him, the team will be on the hook for his full salary, but it will not count against the cap. Haywood is well aware of the D-Will ramifications.

"I follow it (free agency) very closely," Haywood said. "For me, I have to see who goes where to see if I’m even in Dallas next year. Guys like myself, Shawn Marion, we have to follow it closely because we have no idea if we’re going to be here or not."

Regardless of the Johnson acquisition, Haywood said not to discount the fact that the Nets can pay Williams about $25 million more than the Mavs. Even though Williams could potentially make up that money with a second max contract in Dallas, Haywood said players tend to look at the guaranteed money on the table at the moment.

"Most guys look at the money that’s guaranteed, where they can get the most money at," he said. "So, if they do the state income tax and it comes out where Dallas ends up almost the same thing, then maybe he comes to Dallas. But I don’t think the state income tax is going to save him $25 mil. So at the of the day, most guys look for where it’s the most guaranteed money because that’s the only thing you know for sure."

And then, of course, there's the ongoing Dwight Howard situation, and at least the slim possibility that the Nets could still acquire him in a trade with the Orlando Magic. Brendan, are you paying attention to the Dwightmare?

"I watch the Dwight Howard As-The-World-Turns saga every day to see what’s going to happen today: 'I’m coming, I’m staying, I want to go, I want to stay,' " Haywood said, mocking the Magic big man. "No one knows what’s going to happen up there. It’s something different every day."

Source: Deron Williams working out at Nets facility

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
10:42
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What does it mean that Deron Williams is said to be working out at the Brooklyn Nets' training facility this morning as he's supposedly weighing the massive decision to either re-sign with the Nets or agree to join his hometown Dallas Mavericks?

PODCAST
Senior NBA writer Marc Stein shares the latest news on the Deron Williams saga. How does the Joe Johnson trade impact Dallas' pursuit?

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ESPN.com's Chris Broussard tweeted that a source tells him that Williams is indeed working out at the Nets' facility.

Is he saying good-bye to the few teammates remaining on the roster? Is he giving newest Net Joe Johnson a tour?

Would he really show up at the facility for a workout if he's on the verge of leaving for the Mavs?

The drama continues to unfold. A decision could come today. It could come Wednesday.

All we know is the Nets continue to try to pry Dwight Howard away from the Orlando Magic, a move that would surely solidify Williams' commitment to the franchise, if they haven't secured it already.

Stay tuned.

Deron Williams and the decision: The wait is on

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
8:00
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UPDATE: Hold the phone on everything. Overnight, the Nets and Orlando Magic have re-engaged in trade talks that could send Dwight Howard to Brooklyn, and obviously could have a profound effect on the thinking of prized point guard Deron Williams.

PODCAST
ESPN Dallas' Chuck Cooperstein says if Deron Williams wants to win, he'll go to Dallas. If Williams wants money, he'll go back to the Nets. That could change if the Nets land Dwight Howard though.

Listen Listen
If Monday was D-Day, let today be known as Judgment Day.

The Dallas Mavericks made their pitch first, closely followed by the Brooklyn Nets. Now both franchises await All-Star point guard Deron Williams' final decision, one that has anxiously awaited and hotly debated.

Did the Nets' Monday trade for Joe Johnson and his massive contract -- an acquisition that effectively takes the indecisive Dwight Howard off the table this year and likely next -- convince Williams to stay or to flee?

The Mavs' recruiting team included president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, head coach Rick Carlisle and special assistant Michael Finley. They laid out a history of shrewd decisions, Dirk Nowitzki, a family culture and winning basketball. They hope it's enough to offset the fact that Brooklyn can offer Williams a five-year deal worth close to $100 million while the Mavs are locked into a four-year contract for about $75 million.

The Nets also met with the Steve Nash and say they are interested in the 38-year-old former two-time MVP, with or without Williams. The Mavs will be dialing up Nash quickly if Williams opts to become the face of the new Brooklyn franchise.

Nash already has a significant offer from the Toronto Raptors -- three years and $36 million -- and the New York Knicks are attempting to get Nash to Manhattan, perhaps with a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns.

As for Williams, he has the information, he's met with the clubs. It's time for a decision.

And don' forget about Jason Kidd, who could well be on his way to Brooklyn if Williams stays, or ready to back him up with the Mavs.

Stay tuned.

Shawn Marion's hands full with Kevin Durant

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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Before Thursday's finale against the Hawks, when the Mavericks still weren't sure if they would face the Lakers or Thunder in the playoffs, Shawn Marion wouldn't let his mind wander to his next defensive assignment.

Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant. Black Mamba or Durantula. Pick your poison. But what else is new for the Defensive Player of the Year candidate?

"He’s had his hands full all year," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We stuck him on point guards, we stuck him on forwards, we stuck him on 2s, 3s, wherever the best player was he’s out there competing for us. That’s the good thing about him; he can guard multiple positions. He’s fast enough to stay with the small guys but he’s also long enough to bother some of the bigger guys. So yeah, he’s going to be big for us."

On Saturday night, the 6-foot-7 Marion, 10 days removed from his 34th birthday, will employ his long arms and fearless mindset into attacking arguably the longest-limbed and most lethal offensive weapon in the game today in the 6-foot-9 Durant. And don't discount the occasional possession in which Marion's task will shift to explosive point guard Russell Westbrook.

"Oh man, it’s difficult, it’s not easy," Marion said. "Like tonight, I go from from Joe (Johnson) to Josh (Smith) and there’s no telling. You got to do what you got to do."

The 23-year-old Durant just wrapped up his third consecutive scoring title, becoming the first to win it in three years in a row since Michael Jordan. Durant finished this season averaging 28.0 points on a career-best 49.6 shooting.

Durant's numbers against the Mavs and Marion improved this season in four regular-season games, three won by the Thunder. In last year's Western Conference finals, in 163 minutes in which Durant and Marion were on the floor at the same time, the Texas ex scored 91 points on 29-of-76 shooting (38.2 percent), including just 3-of-20 from beyond the 3-point arc. When Marion was on the court, Durant's plus-minus rating was a minus-30. With Marion off the floor, Durant swung to plus-15.

His numbers vastly improved in the four meetings this season. In 125 minutes with both players on the court, Durant scored 82 points on 27-of-57 shooting (47.4 percent), including 6-of-15 on 3s (an area of significant improvement for Durant this season at 38.7 percent). He was plus-4 with Marion on the floor compared to plus-2 with Marion off the court.

"You play to do everything, you play because you love the game. you play to compete," Marion said. "And when you’re a competitor you want to compete, you want to go out there and do what you’ve got to do."

Wild West: All spots clinched, matchups are not

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
8:00
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We take a look at the games that impact the West playoff picture each morning for the rest of the regular season.

SportsNation

Of their potential first-round opponents, who do the Mavs have a better chance of beating?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,237)

Mavs' spot in the standings: Dallas heads into its fourth consecutive day off knowing it will face either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. The Los Angeles Clippers' loss Tuesday locked the Lakers into the No. 3 seed. The Clips are now trying to hold onto the No. 4 seed for home-court advantage in a first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

TUESDAY'S GAMES
Jazz 100, Suns 88: Paul Millsap poured in 26 points and Al Jefferson had 18 to secure the final playoff spot and knock Steve Nash out for a second consecutive season. Utah will face the No. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs in the first round.

Hawks 109, Clippers 102: Blake Griffin scored 36 points, but Joe Johnson had 28 to lead the Hawks, who are bearing down on home-court advantage in the first round in the East. The Clips were eliminated from contention for the No. 3 seed in the West and now hope to stave off the Grizzlies for home-court advantage.

TODAY’S MEANINGFUL MATCHUPS
Nuggets at Thunder
Clippers at Knicks

If the playoffs started today: Mavs vs. Thunder

Jason Terry's All-Star 3-point campaign bricks

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
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Jason Terry won't need to get another tattoo.

The Mavericks shooting guard said he'd get one that would say he'd win the 3-point contest during All-Star weekend if selected, just as he forecasted Dallas' championship last year when he got a Larry O'Brien trophy inked on his biceps in the preseason.

The list of six competitors for the Feb. 25 event in Orlando was released today and Terry, who leads the Mavs in 3-pointers made, was not on it. Defending champ James Jones of the Miami Heat will go against teammate Mario Chalmers, Kevin Love of the Timberwolves, Joe Johnson of the Hawks, Ryan Anderson of the hometown Magic and Anthony Morrow of the Nets.

Terry has participated in two All-Star 3-point contests and was knocked out in the first round of both in 2006 and 2007. He's unsuccessfully lobbied a couple of times in recent years to get another shot

The 34-year-old veteran sharpshooter has shot the 3-ball at a respectable 37.6 percent (59-of-157) this season. Vince Carter is the Mavs' top 3-pointer shooter percentage-wise, knocking down 46.1 percent (35-of-76).

Buying into concept of zone defense

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
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DALLAS -- Rick Carlisle isn't necessarily trying to turn the Dallas Mavericks into Syracuse of the NBA, but he is seemingly taking the use of zone defense from game to game to a new level.

"You can’t just be a zone team. That’s just not going to work in this league because teams are going to adjust," Carlisle said. "But, look, it’s something that we have pride in. It’s something we work a lot on and it’s something we’ve got to continue to keep working on because we want to be the best zone team in the game."

According to guard Jason Terry, the Mavs are already that.

"We’re the best zone team in the league, by far," Terry said. "It’s not even close and I think it’s because we work on it and guys take pride in it. NBA teams just don’t prepare for zones as much as college teams."

Almost every NBA team does play some form of zone defense during a course of the game. If it's not an obvious 2-3 zone, principles of zone defense will show up in man-to-man coverage. But, the Mavs seem to be playing it a lot more than ever before and perhaps more than anyone in the league.

Carlisle started tinkering with the zone in his first year, increased its use last season and apparently has the team believing in the benefits of more zone this season. Carlisle said zone is not designed to cover up weaknesses, such as defensive mismatches on the perimeter against point guards such as Chris Paul or Derrick Rose or Tony Parker -- who the Mavs will see for the first time this season on Friday -- that can consistently beat their man and get in the paint.

"That’s not why we play zone," Carlisle said. "We play zone because it’s a defense that can be effective against any lineup if you know your job within the zone, if you can cover your areas and, most importantly, get your block-out assignments."

The zone, Carlisle said, is beneficial for the Mavs because it plays to a strength, tremendous length on the back line. The key for Carlisle's push to zone this season is the 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. The athletic and agile center provides a wide wing span that anchors the zone when teammed with fellow 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki and either Shawn Marion or Caron Butler. And Chandler is quick enough to hop in and out of the lane to avoid a littany of defensive 3-second calls.

"It’s been great for us," Chandler said. "Sometimes teams have been hot, we go into zone and they get stagnant. At Atlanta it was huge for us because that’s a team that likes to play a lot of one-on-one, likes to drive. We played a zone and they’re looking at three guys in front of them. We went to it early in the [first] half. They were stagnant. If you can get a team to be stagnant three or four possessions in a row, it allows you to bust out."

Rebounding has been somewhat of a problem when playing zone. When in mand-to-man, it's easy to pick up your man and box out. In the zone, players cover an area and have to seek out a man to prevent a significant number of offensive rebounds, such as the Chicago Bulls turned 20 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.

But, it can also provide a changeup and lock up offenses that get on a run. On Saturday against Atlanta, as Chandler pointed out, the Mavs turned the zone early and it grinded the Hawks' offense into a funk, leading to a double-digit Mavs lead.

"They looked kind of hesitant when we put the zone out there," Terry said. "Our length is what gives the zone great ability to stop people. Teams that play one-on-one basketball and don’t have good ball movement tend to struggle more [against the zone] than teams that are used to swinging the ball around and making three or four passes."

Said Chandler: "The zone can be effective against anybody. It can be effective against a guy like Dwight Howard, who likes to iso [isolate] guys or use his strength. Instead of using his strength and, for example, trying to pin me under the basket, he’s got Caron Butler sitting in his lap. Against a guy like Joe Johnson, who’s used to lining guys up, being able to go one-on-one, being able to post smaller guards, now he’s looking at Jason Kidd at the top, me from the weak side, he doesn’t know where the help is coming from, so it can be difficult for offensive players."

Carlisle has turned to the zone with his smaller lineup as well, using Terry and J.J. Barea up top with Kidd at a wing and Nowitzki and either Chandler or backup center Brendan Haywood.

But, can a team ultimately be successful playing a lot of zone defense in the NBA where every team has two or three shooters that can knock down 3-pointers on a regular basis? While the Mavs might be using the zone more than just as a "change-up," it seems to be working.

They're fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 92.3 percent and sixth in field-goal percentage at 43.5 percent. They haven't been getting killed from 3-point range, ranking in the middle of the pack at 35.2 percent.

"If you understand anything about basketball, [every] team is playing zone these days," Nowitzki said. "You look at the Lakers. They might start in man-to-man, but once there’s some action on the strong side, the big guy comes over and zones it up. We played New Orleans, who is one of the better defensive teams this year. They switched everything down the stretch in the last five minutes, which really ends up being a zone. I think the best defensive teams are going to play zone with man-to-man principles and man-to-man with zone principles.

"Guys are just too good in one-on-one and they can beat their man at any time. So the zone is a great factor of taking guys out of what they want to do and just making them run something else; not killing you with pick and roll and not killing you with post-up and isos."

For the Mavs anyway, more zone is paying off.

Agent: Johnson mulled over Knicks, Bulls

July, 4, 2010
7/04/10
4:41
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If the Dallas Mavericks truly had eyes for Joe Johnson, it was never a two-way street.

The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter has decided to re-sign with the Hawks for the maximum six years and about $120 million. Johnson's agent, Arn Tellem, wrote on his blog Sunday at The Huffington Post that Johnson considered the the New York Knicks, because he played for coach Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix, and the Chicago Bulls because of their young talents in point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah.

Both teams have cap space and could have signed Johnson outright for five years. The Mavericks are over the cap and could only have acquired Johnson, or any other top-tier free agent, through the more difficult process of a sign-and-trade.

Will Dirk's deal land a star or Haywood?

July, 4, 2010
7/04/10
1:03
AM CT
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki agreed in principle Saturday to a four-year, $80-million contract when he could have demanded the maximum $96 million.

Nowitzki accepted less money in hopes of gaining more help.

As ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported, Nowitzki agreed to the terms "in exchange for assurances that the Mavericks will use that financial flexibility to ramp up their efforts to acquire a top-tier sidekick."

Surely, owner Mark Cuban will ramp things up. Still, the chance of acquiring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh through a sign-and-trade remains remote. Even Joe Johnson at this point appears to be a lost cause.

More realistic is the ability for the Mavs to re-sign center Brendan Haywood, an unrestricted free agent who met with the Miami Heat on Saturday and could command a salary between $8 million and $10 million, a rate the Mavs have not been crazy about. Haywood made $6 million last season.

On Friday, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson called re-signing Nowitzki 1A in priority and Haywood 1B.

Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Saturday that Haywood's meeting with Miami president Pat Riley, "was a very productive meeting, that it was informative, it was straight to the point."

Miller did not return messages to ESPNDallas.com on Saturday, but on Friday he and the Mavs' Nelson said the sides are in contract discussions. Cleveland, Chicago, New York and Boston, among several other teams, have also expressed interest in Haywood, who will likely wait to see where James, Wade and Bosh end up before making a decision.

The Mavs certainly need a mobile, shot-blocking center who can catch-and-finish, but be sure Nowitzki is expecting a bigger haul with his discount.

Traditonal trade is Mavs' best hope

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
2:59
PM CT
The Dallas brass is determined to acquire another “big fish,” to borrow a Donnie Nelson term, to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.

It appears unlikely that the catch will come from the most glorified free agent crop in NBA history.

Maybe the Mavs are still a long shot in the LeBron James sweepstakes, but it can’t be encouraging that they weren’t one of the teams invited to travel to Cleveland for a sitdown with the King. The Mavs might get a meeting with Dwyane Wade, but there’s a miniscule chance of that awkward marriage actually happening.

Dallas native Chris Bosh doesn’t seem interested in working in his hometown or playing most of his minutes at center. Joe Johnson is reportedly prepared to accept Atlanta’s max offer.

We could go on down the list of impact free agents, explaining why the fit isn’t there with the Mavs for each player. But you probably get the point.

The Mavs are taking a patient approach in free agency. It takes three to tango with sign-and-trade deals, and the Mavs are proceeding with caution in part out of concern of perturbing teams they’d need to work with to make the deals.

At this point, however, it looks much more likely that the Mavs’ major offseason acquisition will come from the traditional trade waters.

The same assets that the Mavs hope can make them players in the sign-and-trade market – Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed deal, the expiring contracts of Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea, picks, cash, the rights to Dominique Jones, etc. – will be attractive to cost-cutting teams all summer. (Rodrigue Beaubois isn’t going anywhere unless the Mavs can get an MVP candidate in return.)

The Mavs remain optimistic about the sign-and-trade market, but they’re also realistic. They’ve got plenty of lines in the traditional trade waters, too.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9