Dallas Mavericks: Marc Gasol

Dirk: LeBron 'can have keys to the city'

June, 26, 2014
In his self-deprecating style, Dirk Nowitzki jokes that premier free agents must not like him. After all, the Dallas Mavericks have failed to hook a big fish the last two summers.

The Mavs are ready to try, try again, with Nowitzki preparing to play a key role on the Dallas recruiting committee in the pursuit of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
AP Photo/Alan DiazThe Mavs have plenty of selling points to try to entice LeBron James.
Nowitzki has repeatedly said the Mavs “would love to have” Anthony, one of the league’s elite scorers. It’s obvious they would prefer James, a four-time MVP who led the Miami Heat to the Finals each of the last four years.

Dirk’s sales pitch to King James?

“C’mon, you can have the keys to the city,” Nowitzki said to reporters while at Steve Nash's charity soccer game in New York. “It’s all yours.”

If the Mavs can get a face-to-face meeting with James, as they are set to have with Anthony, Nowitzki would surely have much more to say.

The Mavs, who are much more optimistic about their odds of landing one of the superstar small forwards after pulling the trigger on Wednesday’s trade for Tyson Chandler, are prepared to pitch James and Anthony on the opportunity to play for what they believe would be the league’s elite frontcourt next season. Adding one of the league’s top three scorers to the Dirk/Monta Ellis duo would also give the Mavs the NBA’s most potent offensive trio.


Will the Mavs win another title in the next three years?


Discuss (Total votes: 15,353)

Coach Rick Carlisle’s presence on the Dallas bench is also one of the Mavs’ best assets as they attempt to sign a superstar. He is without question one of the league’s premier coaches, as James found out firsthand during the 2011 Finals, and Carlisle proved again when the eighth-seeded Mavs pushed the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Mavs will also sell the franchise’s championship culture and proven ability to sustain a contender, pointing to their 13 playoff trips in 14 seasons and recent run of 11 consecutive 50-win campaigns.

But the future is much more important than the past for free agents. That’s why the Mavs will pitch a plan that includes potentially adding an All-Star again next summer, when the Mavs will have ample cap space again and intend to pursue Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and/or Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge.

That’s an awfully optimistic plan. The second step would be much more likely if the Mavs manage to finally reel in a big fish this summer, especially if it’s the biggest in the NBA waters.

"All the teams with cap room got to try [to sign James]," Nowitzki told reporters. "He's the best player in the league right now. If he's a free agent – which obviously doesn't happen very often that the best player in the league is a free agent – then you got to obviously go at it. I don't know what our chances are, but you at least have to try."

Dirk is offering the keys to the city. More importantly, the Mavs’ front office is offering a chance to compete for championships immediately and for years to come.

Dallas' dominance of Memphis misleading

April, 16, 2014
MEMPHIS -- From the Dept. of Misleading Statistics: The Dallas Mavericks are 3-0 this season against the Memphis Grizzlies with an average margin of victory of 13.4 points.

Memphis was at full strength for only one of those games, and that was way back on Nov. 2, when the Grizzlies were stumbling out of the gates at the beginning of the season.

The Mavs had the good fortune to face the Grizzlies while Memphis was missing one of its stars in the other two meetings. Center Marc Gasol missed the Grizzlies’ Dec. 18 loss in Dallas. Point guard Mike Conley sat out when the Mavs won at FedExForum on Feb. 5.

“This time around, they look like a playoff team,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s going to be a tough game. That’s all right. The more tough games we can play headed into the playoffs, that should help us. We’re going to have to be ready.”

The Grizzlies have had to be one of the best teams in the league since the calendar flipped to 2014 to earn a playoff spot in the West. Memphis was 13-17 on Dec. 31, including 10-13 without Gasol. Since then, the Grizzlies are 36-15, with only the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers posting a better record in that span.

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Larry SandersFernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images Could the Mavericks acquire Milwaukee big man Larry Sanders before the trade deadline?
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.

1. What's the best hypothetical deal you can come up with for the Mavs before the trade deadline?

Gutierrez: I would call Boston and see if they're interested in Shane Larkin and Bernard James for Avery Bradley. Dallas has two second-round picks -- one of them due from Boston -- in this upcoming draft, so those could be further chips to use. The logic I see in this is Boston would be acquiring a young asset they presumably liked in Larkin and Bradley turned down an extension with Boston, so the Celtics may look to just get an asset for him now. They're in tank mode, so getting worse and acquiring cheaper talent would be optimal for them. Bradley doesn't fix a lot for Dallas, but one player can't fix what ails Dallas. Presented with an option, I'll go for a defensive-minded guard.

Taylor: I'm not interested in any trade the Mavs could make because this game has evolved into a league where the team with the most superstars win -- unless you're Indiana or Chicago and you supplement your one true superstar with suffocating defense and two or three guys who are almost stars. Those types of players aren't available for what the Mavs have to offer. Evan Turner or Omer Asik aren't going to turn the Mavs into legitimate contenders. Dirk Nowitzki is still a star, and Monta Ellis is really good, but he's not a star. The Mavs' defense is worse than abject. They're a fun team to watch, but they have not chance to win a title and they're merely delaying the inevitable, while Dirk is still on the team.

MacMahon: It will probably be a disappointing trade deadline for Mavs fans. As JJT mentioned, this team simply doesn’t have enough assets to have any confidence in Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson pulling off a blockbuster deal. A Dahntay Jones-for-Anthony Morrow type deal is much more likely, but I’ll stick with my pie-in-the-sky scenario of the Milwaukee Bucks being motivated enough to dump talented but troublesome big man Larry Sanders before his four-year, $44 million extension kicks in. The purely speculative three-way proposal I came up with would bring Sanders and throw-in power forward Ekpe Udoh to Dallas, send Omer Asik and DeJuan Blair to Milwaukee and Shawn Marion to Houston. Too bad Sanders would likely have to get in another bar fight in the next couple of weeks for this to have a chance of happening.

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Opening Tip: For February, Mavs-Grizz is big

February, 5, 2014
Never mind what the calendar says.

This is not a run-of-the-mill game midway through the regular season. The Dallas Mavericks’ visit to Memphis on Wednesday is a game that could loom large in the middle of April, when the Western Conference’s final two or three playoff bids will probably be determined.

“It’s a big game,” Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said. “You don’t really want to say in February it’s a playoff game, but it definitely will be that kind of intensity.”

All it takes is a quick glance at the West standings to figure out what this game might mean a few months from now. At the moment, the Mavs are a game ahead of the Grizzlies in eighth place and even in the loss column. They've both within striking distance of Golden State and Phoenix.

“They’re a motivated team,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re another motivated team. We’ll lace ‘em up and get ready to go.”

An argument can be made that this game means more for Memphis than it does Dallas. That’s because the Mavs won a couple of home games against the Grizzlies earlier this season, so Dallas can claim the tiebreaker by winning one of its two trips to Memphis.

Just don’t try telling that to the Mavs, who are determined to get back in the playoffs after their 12-year postseason streak was snapped last season.

“All the games are big,” Shawn Marion said.

This is one the Mavs have been anticipating for some time. Nowitzki’s prediction of the Grizzles getting hot once Marc Gasol returned from knee surgery has come true. Memphis has won nine of 11 games with their big man back in the lineup, getting within breath-on-neck distance from the Mavs.

“He’s a huge key to their success,” Nowitzki said of Gasol, who missed one of the Mavs’ wins over the Grizzlies. “They’ve been playing great since he’s been back. They’re a different animal again. They’ve been holding teams to 80s, 90s and that’s how they win games.

“It’s going to be a slugfest. We know that. We’ve got to rebound well. That’s always a big key against them, and it’s going to be a slow-pace, grind-it-out kind of game and we’ll see if we’re ready for it.”

Memphis will be missing point guard Mike Conley, whom Marion calls “the head of the snake” and is sidelined with a sprained ankle. That makes it even more in the Grizzlies’ interest to make this game as gritty and physical as possible.

This is a midseason game with major potential playoff implications. The next Mavs-Grizzlies meeting just might be a win-and-get-in game. It’s scheduled for April 16, the final night of the regular season.

Then again, depending on how the standings shake out, that game might not mean anything. But there’s no doubt about how this one will feel.

“It’s going to be a playoff-type atmosphere,” Nowitzki said. “For sure.”

Active Dalembert makes a 'different team'

February, 3, 2014

DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has taken Samuel Dalembert out of games for several reasons this season.

With 53.9 seconds remaining in Monday night’s 124-107 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Carlisle just wanted to make sure Dalembert’s effort was properly recognized and appreciated by the American Airlines Center crowd, waiting until between free throws to sub out the center by himself.

There have been plenty of times this season when Carlisle looked like he wanted to kick Dalembert in the butt as the maddeningly inconsistent big man walked by the coach en route to the bench. In a rare, refreshing moment Monday, Carlisle joined the crowd in applauding Dalembert, who delivered an 18-point, eight-rebound, two-block, 24-plus-minute performance that ranks among his best in a Mavs uniform.

[+] EnlargeSamuel Dalembert
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez"He's proven he can take us to a higher level," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Samuel Dalembert's performance Monday. "We just have to keep reinforcing with him the things that we need him to do."

“He’s proven he can take us to a higher level,” Carlisle said. “Tonight, he did.”

Why doesn’t Dalembert play like that more often? That’s what frustrates coaches, and it explains why the Mavs are his fifth team in five seasons.

Nobody expects Dalembert, who has averaged 7.8 points per game in his career and 6.2 this season, to put up double-digit point totals on a consistent basis. Scoring nights like this one, when Dalembert had four dunks and was 7-of-8 from the floor, are a bonus.

But the Mavs desperately need it to be the norm for Dalembert to play with the kind of energy, aggression and intensity he had against the Cavs.

“I always said when he’s active, rebounding, blocking some shots, we’re a different team,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 23 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes. “He was phenomenal. He was alert. He was blowing plays up. He was meeting guys at the rim. He was rebounding. He blocked some shots. He was phenomenal.”

With this version of Dalembert, the Mavs are confident they can make the playoffs and be a tough out. They have good reason to believe that given Dallas’ 22-13 record with the only true center on the roster in the starting lineup and a 10-4 record when Dalembert plays at least 24 minutes.

That 10-4 record is particularly impressive, but Dalembert doesn’t quite seem to understand why he doesn’t get at least half the big-man minutes on a regular basis.

“I don’t make the decisions about the minutes or anything like that,” Dalembert said. “I want to play. The goal is winning, so there are times where other guys are playing well.”

Oh, but Dalembert does have a big say in his playing time. When he shows up mentally and physically -- and on time, which has been an issue a couple of times this season -- Carlisle is happy to give Dalembert the bulk of the big-man minutes. When he’s lackadaisical and undisciplined, Carlisle tends to stare daggers at Dalembert as the big man walks to the bench.

“He’s a good guy,” Carlisle said. “We just have to keep reinforcing with him the things that we need him to do.”

The Mavs really need Dalembert to do those things in their next game, a road matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, the team they’re fighting for eighth place – representing the final playoff spot -- in the Western Conference at the moment. The Grizzlies win by bullying teams inside, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol might be the best all-around big man in the NBA.

“We’d love for Sam to be active again,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously, he’s not going to get 18 and eight a night, but we love him active. If he goes after shots and contests shots at the rim, rebounds, gets some tip-outs and finishes around the rim, we’re a different team. He knows that.

“We’ll see what happens Wednesday.”

If Dalembert matches his Monday intensity, the Mavs like their chances. If he doesn’t, well, nobody will be surprised.

W2W4: Grizzlies present big problems for Mavs

December, 21, 2012
The Mavs will probably have some big problems in Memphis.

That would likely be the case against the Southwest Division-leading Grizzlies regardless of the circumstances. However, it certainly doesn’t help matters that the Mavs will face Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol with a depleted frontcourt, as Dirk Nowitzki isn’t ready to make his season debut and Elton Brand and Brandan Wright are likely to miss another game due to injuries.

The schedule also doesn’t help the Mavs, who are playing the butt end of a back-to-back after being blown out by the Miami Heat on Thursday night. It’s tough enough to win in Memphis, where the Grizzlies are 11-2 this season, without arriving at the airport at approximately 2 a.m.

Records: Mavs (12-14); Sixers (12-12)

When: 7:00 p.m.

Where: FedEx Forum


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

What to watch: It could get especially brutal on the boards. The Mavs rank last in the NBA in rebounding margin (minus-4.7 per game). The Grizzlies rank fifth (plus-3.9). Randolph has the potential to dominate Dallas in this department. He ranks second in the NBA with an average of 12.9 rebounds per game. With the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Randolph around, a missed shot by Memphis might as well be an assist in many instances.

Key matchup: O.J. Mayo vs. Tony Allen – There’s some history here. Allen replaced Mayo in Memphis’ starting lineup, and they infamously fought over a gambling debt on the team plane. The Mavs need Mayo to be great to have any realistic hope of beating the Grizzlies. He has averaged 25.2 points on 55.5 percent shooting in the Mavs’ wins, compared to 15.9 points on 40.1 percent shooting in their losses. Allen is considered the NBA’s best shutdown shooting guard, having been voted to the All-Defensive team the last two seasons.

Injuries: Mavs – PF Dirk Nowitzki (knee) and Derek Fisher (knee) are out. F/C Brandan Wright (ankle) and F/C Elton Brand (groin) are day-to-day but not expected to play. Grizzlies – None.

Up next: at San Antonio Spurs, 6 p.m. Sunday

Sizing up the competition: L.A. Lakers

August, 24, 2012
Last in a series looking at the five teams ahead of the Dallas Mavericks in our early 2012-13 Western Conference rankings and how the revamped Mavs match up.

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers
Move along, nothing here to see. Yeah, right. Luxury tax be damned, the Lakers are must-see TV this season with their retooled roster that reads like an All-Star team or an Olympic squad or, if you will, a future Hall of Fame roll call. General manager Mitch Kupchak, who in 2008 acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis -- a deal long-ridiculed as thievery although the Grizzlies did get Marc Gasol -- finagled Steve Nash for draft picks. He then landed the most dominant defensive big man in the league, Dwight Howard, who has also averaged 20 points or more in four of the last six seasons. So the Lakers will roll out a starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard. The Lakers were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team last year and that should begin to change the moment Howard returns from back surgery. Offensively, this should be a lot of fun with Nash running the show and making life super easy for Kobe, Pau and Howard. Move over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, a new Lob City might be taking up residence at Staples Center.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Lakers acquired Steve Nash (above) and Dwight Howard in the offseason, but it's the reinforced bench that will vault L.A. to the top.
Last season's results (Lakers won, 4-0)
@Lakers 73, Mavs 70
Lakers 96, @Mavs 91
Lakers 109, @Mavs 93
@Lakers 112, Mavs 108 (OT)

This season's games
Oct. 30: @ Lakers
Nov. 24: vs. Lakers
Feb. 24: vs. Lakers
Apr. 2: @ Lakers

What's changed?
Obviously, the marquee moves the Lakers made with Nash and Howard have everyone talking. But it's the ancillary acquisitions to bolster the bench that pushed me to hand L.A. my No. 1 ranking ahead of West champion Oklahoma City. Bringing in veteran forward Antawn Jamison and 3-point specialist Jodie Meeks to join guard Steve Blake and energetic young forward Jordan Hill gives the Lakers' second unit proven scoring and some muscle. There's lots of talk that the Lakers could challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72 wins, but considering Howard will probably miss the beginning of the season recuperating from back surgery, the age of key stars such as Nash and Kobe and time needed to jell, that feat doesn't seem terribly likely. That's not the goal anyway. The end-game is fitting Kobe for a sixth ring to match Michael Jordan and getting Nash and Howard their first. The intriguing aspect is how second-year Lakers coach Mike Brown will handle this gift of talent and how he'll adjust offensively. For instance, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as time went on with Jason Kidd, relinquished most of the play-calling and allowed the offensive to "flow" from Kidd. Nash's presence as the primary ball handler will also be a major adjustment for Bryant, who can take on the role of a more traditional shooting guard playing off the ball. It should greatly benefit Bryant, who turned 34 on Thursday.

How the Mavs match up
The Mavs will get an early look when they open the season in L.A. in what should be quite a Hollywood scene. This Lakers squad brings just about everything: Star power, size, skill, strength, savvy and doses of athleticism that will be difficult for any team to match. Howard probably won't be ready to go just yet, but Nash will be primed for a big opener with his new club. As big a problem as Andrew Bynum was for the Mavs to handle defensively and on the boards (he averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds last season vs. Mavs) and as difficult as Howard will be, Gasol was a killer last season. Dirk Nowitzki is often saddled with guarding Gasol, arguably the most skilled 7-foot low-post player in the league. Gasol averaged 19.8 points and 8.5 boards in four games against Dallas and shot 55.9 percent from the field. Against teams Gasol played more than two times last season, he shot a higher percentage against only Houston and Minnesota. Chris Kaman will probably get Gasol in the opener, but when Howard's in the lineup, Kaman will have that nasty assignment with Nowitzki on Gasol. Shawn Marion will be happy to get help from newcomers Dahntay Jones and O.J. Mayo when it comes to guarding Bryant. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a tough matchup -- and the Mavs are lucky enough to try it four times this season.

Previous entries
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder

Offense bound to change, but will scoring increase?

July, 23, 2012
The flow -- as in "flow" offense -- is gone. So what does it mean?

For starters, coach Rick Carlisle took back the keys to the offense when point guard Jason Kidd -- who has played 11 more seasons and has 9,902 more assists than the new Dallas Mavericks backcourt tandem of Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo -- walked out the door.

Then there's the addition of a 7-foot, low-post scoring threat in center Chris Kaman, and the solid mid-range game of power forward Elton Brand presumably off the bench. Neither player will win any foot races -- unless maybe they're racing Dirk Nowitzki -- so it figures that an offense that Kidd looked to push up the floor will take on a more methodical approach with Carlisle's fingers waving play calls in the air.

Collison has already expressed excitement about continuing the Mavs' pick-and-roll legacy with Nowitzki, and the offense figures to add an inside-out dimension that ultimately might not be too dissimilar from Collison's days playing with David West and Roy Hibbert with the Indiana Pacers, and Mayo's time with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph with the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Mavs, Grizzlies and Pacers all shared some similarities last season. All three finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, according to Hoopdata.com. Yet, perhaps not as expected was the similarity in the statistic of pace, or the average number of possessions in a game. All three teams finished tied in the bottom half of the league at 93.5 possessions per game.

Indiana was the best of the three in offensive efficiency, ranking eighth in the league at 103.5 points per 100 possessions. Memphis and Dallas, which struggled all season to score, ranked 20th and 21st, respectively.

On paper, the Mavs' new lineup, which presumably features Collison and Mayo in the backcourt with Shawn Marion, Nowitzki and Kaman filling out the front court, have increased their firepower. Last season, Dallas' starting lineup included two virtual non-scoring threats in Kidd and center Brendan Haywood. Marion averaged just 10.6 points and neither starting shooting guard, Vince Carter and Delonte West, averaged more than 10.1 points.

Other than Nowitzki (21.6 ppg), no Mavs starter last season averaged more than Marion, and Marion's points came largely on slashes to the bucket and offensive rebounds. Dallas' starting five averaged just 53.7 points a game (and slightly less with West as the starter).

The projected starting five for next season stands to feature three new faces and, on paper, will yield more scoring threats.

Ian Mahinmi staying back with baby

April, 7, 2012
MEMPHIS -- The Dallas Mavericks won't have backup center Ian Mahinmi tonight against the burly Memphis Grizzlies, putting the lankier Brandan Wright on notice.

Mahinmi informed the masses on Twitter on Saturday afternoon that he will return to the team for Monday's practice back in Dallas as he remains with his fiancee and newborn daughter:
"Baby is finally here! Camille & Mummy are doing great & Daddy is in Heaven! Thank y'all support! I'll be back with the Team on monday."

Mahinmi played well in Wednesday's win at Dallas against the Grizzlies, grabbing 10 rebounds -- four offensive -- with four points in 24 minutes while battling 7-foot-1, 265-pound Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and 6-foot-9, 260-pound power forward Zach Randolph.

The lankier, 6-foot-10 Wright logged just two minutes in the game. On Friday against Portland, which does not possess a big, skilled center, Wright had 13 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.

Wright has had some success against the Grizzlies. In the Feb. 29 game at Memphis, Wright played 21 minutes, recording eight points and seven rebounds, while coach Rick Carlisle opted not to play Mahinmi.

Ian Mahinmi steps up as Brendan Haywood recovers

April, 5, 2012
Ian Mahinmi repeated the same phrase over and over after the Mavs' win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night: It's all about trust.

The backup center is earning it while Brendan Haywood continues to see fewer minutes as he recovers from a knee injury.

"Between me, [Haywood], and Brandan Wright, we have that trust that if something happens to one of us, one of us is going to have their back," Mahinmi said. "We have a great relationship and that trust has been good to us."

After the Mavs were embarrassed on the glass in the 94-75 loss to the Clippers on Monday night, head coach Rick Carlisle called out his team for not attacking the boards.

Mahinmi answered the call. He was active all night, out-hustling Memphis' bigs to snatch up a season-high 10 rebounds -- including four on the offensive glass -- in 24 minutes.

"I just wanted to come out with a lot of energy," Mahinmi said. "I can be that type of guy that brings energy and helps my teammates feed off of that."

He also helped shut down Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The two combined to go 5-of-19 for just 14 points, and Dallas outscored Memphis 44-36 in the paint, something not a lot of teams have been able to do this season.

Mahinmi wasn't brilliant on the offensive side of the ball (2-of-5, four points), but the Mavs don't rely on Haywood for a lot of points either. If Mahinmi can stay active, expect Carlisle to put more trust in the young center to give Haywood quality time on the bench to rest those knees for a possible playoff run.

Brendan Haywood deals with limited movement

April, 4, 2012
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks could use a healthy Brendan Haywood to help protect the paint and bang the boards. They'll have to settle for the one who's locked into a bulky knee brace and whose lateral movement remains limited.

Haywood has played two games since missing seven with a sprained right knee. He has 10 points and seven rebounds in 42 minutes and his plus-minus rating is sagging at a minus-32.

"It serves its purpose," Haywood said as he strapped the brace on his right knee prior to pregame warmups. "It's big and clunky as hell, but it's hard to get hurt in it."

Haywood said he hopes to be rid of it by the end of the week, but that "my knee might tell me something totally different. I'm just taking it day by day by day."

Haywood might be pressed into bigger minutes tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies with a front line of 7-foot-1, 265-pound center Marc Gasol and 6-9, 260-pound power foward Zach Randolph, who has been coming off the bench. Games against teams with hulking big men have typically reduced minutes for lanky Mavs center Brandan Wright, with Ian Mahinmi serving as the backup.

Week ahead: Rising up at home imperative

April, 2, 2012
After playing just three games last week, it's back to the unforgiving grindstone for the Dallas Mavericks, who embark on what could be a monumental week with four intriguing games, three at home and three against two teams the Mavs are sandwiched between.

By the time this slate ends Saturday night at Memphis, Dallas will have nine games remaining. Opportunity is abundant ahead of them in the West standings, but peril also lurks below.

The question is, which way will the Mavs, precariously perched at No. 5, go?

"We got a huge week here,” coach Rick Carlisle said. "We’ve got to pick our game up and we’ve got to be good at home. There’s a lot to be decided. This week is going to go a long way toward a lot of those scenarios. The Clippers have been a quality, high-level team all year. Like everybody, they’ve had their ups and downs. But they’re a tough matchup for us."

With two days off after their stirring, 15-point turnabout at Orlando that officially ushered Delonte West back into the mix, will the Mavs be able to carry momentum into tonight's game against the curious Los Angeles Clippers? Vinny Del Negro remains the head coach. Since the stories of internal grumbling hit, L.A., the No. 4 seed and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mavs, has won five in a row.

The equally mysterious Memphis Grizzlies, a team that has Zach Randolph back but has won just four of its last 10 and has been awful on the road, are next up Wednesday. The No. 6-seeded Grizz begin the week a spot behind the Mavs in the standings, but actually with one fewer loss.

However, this is a doozy of a week for Memphis and tough timing for this matchup because it's the last of a dreaded back-to-back-to-back that starts at Oklahoma City on Monday then back to Memphis on Tuesday for Golden State and then on to Dallas (and it doesn't get better for the Grizzlies for Saturday's rematch in Memphis, see below).

The Mavs on Friday get the woebegone Trail Blazers, who come into Dallas having fired their coach and shuffled their deck, and with a 7-19 road record heading into the week.

These three home games mark half of what's left on the home schedule, meaning if the Mavs don't take care of business -- and they're just 19-8 at the AAC -- then playoff seeding and perhaps even just making the postseason will have to be secured on the road -- where they're a head-scratching 11-15.

With that, here's a look at this big week ahead:

Today: vs. Los Angeles Clippers (31-21), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Clips have lost 10 in a row in Dallas, including a 96-92 decision on Feb. 13. That was one of just four games the Mavs have won when trailing after three quarters. Caron Butler narrowly missed a go-ahead 3-pointer with five seconds left after Jason Kidd made an uncharacteristic turnover. The Clippers' string of five consecutive wins all came at home. They haven't played on the road since March 22 and haven't won the road since March 9, but it was a big one, 120-109 at San Antonio. The best news for Dallas is that West is back in the rotation and should give Shawn Marion a break from chasing around Chris Paul. L.A., just 11-13 on the road, didn't play Sunday after sweeping a back-to-back Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday: vs. Memphis Grizzlies (28-22), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Zach is back but he isn't quite yet all that. The Memphis big man has played nine games since tearing the MCL in his right knee on Jan. 1. He put up 25 points and nine rebounds in his return against Toronto, but since he's averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds while the team has gone just 4-5. Still, no one is going to want this bunch in the first round. The Grizz won easily in Memphis at the end of February and make their one and only appearance in Dallas this season. They've won three in a row in this series and seven of 11. Their size with Randolph and skilled center Marc Gasol are not only a problem on the defensive end, but Memphis can use both massive bodies to blanket Dirk Nowitzki.

Friday: vs. Portland Trail Blazers (25-28), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The last time the Blazers rolled through town, native son LaMarcus Aldridge was a freshly minted All-Star, Nate McMillan still had a job and Portland was still considered by some to be a title contender. Dallas won that Feb. 11 meeting in double overtime with a boost from West coming in cold for the second overtime as coach Carlisle pulled Kidd in the name of minute management. Who knows what to expect from the Blazers, who are just three games out of a playoff spot, this time around? They're 5-5 in their last 10 and took the Clippers to the buzzer before falling Friday night. One thing the Mavs can't do is sleep on this team or else it will be an angry flight to Memphis.

Saturday: at Memphis Grizzlies (28-22), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The standings could look much different by the time this game is played (see above) with the weeks these two teams have. And if you think the Grizzlies will be more rested for this one than they were in Wednesday's game in Dallas, don't be too sure. After playing Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, Memphis is back at it Friday night -- at Miami.

Brendan Haywood expects to return Friday

March, 29, 2012
Mavericks center Brendan Haywood is ready to return from a sprained right knee, but he expects to wait one more day to play.

Mavs C Brendan Haywood talks about Thursday's finals rematch against the Heat and says the tentative plan is to table his return until Friday's game against Dwight Howard and the Magic.

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Haywood said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben and Skin Show that the tentative plan is to wait until Friday night's game against All-NBA center Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Haywood has missed the last six games entering tonight's Finals rematch against the Miami Heat.

"I think the training staff is leaning toward having me play tomorrow, because with it being a back-to-back and us playing Dwight in Orlando tomorrow, I think they really want me out there more that game than this game," Haywood said. "In your first game back from injury, it’s tough to come back on a back-to-back. I think right now, I could probably play tonight, but I think they’re leaning toward holding me out and having me play tomorrow, get my minutes and have a couple days rest and then play the next game."

Haywood's work will be cut out for him upon his return. After defending Howard, his defensive assignments next week will be the Clippers' Blake Griffin, the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol and/or Zach Randolph (twice) and the Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge.
NEW ORLEANS -- Maybe Dirk Nowitzki was contagious. Brendan Haywood is also dealing with a sore back.

It isn't an issue that is expected to sideline Haywood against the Hornets, but the Mavs will monitor him.

"At this point, it looks like he's ready to go," coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Mavs have had trouble defending big men during their three-game losing streak. The Lakers' Andrew Bynum (19 points, 14 rebounds), the Nets' Brook Lopez (38 points, six rebounds) and the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol (22 points, 11 rebounds) all had big games.

The Hornets' Chris Kaman isn't having a good season, but he's one of the league's better scoring big men and certainly capable of continuing that trend, especially if Haywood's back acts up tonight.

3-pointer: Centers doing heavy damage

March, 1, 2012
Recap | Box score | Shot chart | Photos

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mavericks center Brendan Haywood notched consecutive double-figure scoring games for the first time in a couple seasons. He had 10 points Wednesday, and not just on put-backs and dunks. His fallaway jumper is becoming quite a weapon for him.

As nice as it is to see Haywood helping out with the scoring load beyond his 5.7-point season average -- he has 28 points in the past two games -- there is another side to the coin.

The problem is at the other end. Haywood has faced three excellent centers, including two All-Stars in the last three games: the Los Angeles Lakers' Andrew Bynum, the New Jersey Nets' Brook Lopez and in Wednesday's 96-85 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Marc Gasol. The three combined for 79 points and 31 rebounds.

Gasol had an All-Star performance with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots. He helped Memphis score 62 points in the paint -- 64.6 percent of their total output. The 62 points is a season-high for a Mavs opponent. Only twice have they given up 50 or more with Cleveland scoring 54 most recently on Feb. 4, which also happened to be the last time Dallas lost three consecutive games.

Of course, all that damage does not solely fall on Haywood. It's on the Mavs' team defense, which misses Delonte West's feisty perimeter defense and on Wednesday, Dirk Nowitzki's 7-foot frame was misssed.

"We struggled to keep them from putting the ball in the basket," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "It was a combination of things — second shots, drives, fast-break situations. It’s not simply that they just pounded it in. It was a tough night."

Here's three more things to consider coming off Wednesday's defeat:

1. Jason Terry can't locate 3-ball: Terry had a team-high 18 points Wednesday night, but six came in the final five minutes with Memphis ahead by 11 points. Still, Terry was aggressive in the game, driving and trying to create, and he came away with a team-high five assists. But, Terry's known for the long ball and right now he's just not connecting. He was 2-of-8 against Memphis and 1-of-6 in the second half when Dallas went ice cold.

Terry isn't taking lightly the fact that he's 6-of-21 from 3-point range during Dallas' three-game skid.

"Right now, it's just not going down and I've got to find it," Terry said. "That's my job. I worked too hard for it not to go down."

2. Dirk's odd free throw slump: Just about no matter who you are, a 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) stretch at the free throw line is nothing to write home about. But, for Dirk Nowitzki it's nearly unheard of. But, after he went 1-of-2 at the line in his limited minutes Wednesday night before leaving with lower back tightness, those are Nowitzki's numbers in the last three games. He was 7-of-11 in Tuesday's loss to New Jersey and he was actually 7-of-12 with three consecutive misses after a Nets lane violation provided a third attempt (only two officially count). Nowitzki was shooting free throws at 90-percent clip for much of the season. He's now down to 85.5 percent.

3. Disappearing Carter: Vince Carter has proven to be an impact scorer early in games sort of the way Josh Howard did years ago as well as Caron Butler last season before he injured his knee. Lately, Carter has not been involved in the offense, at least in terms of taking shots. In the last two games, 12 of his 13 shot attempts came in the first half with 10 coming in the first quarter.



Monta Ellis
20.4 4.4 1.8 33.8
ReboundsT. Chandler 12.0
AssistsR. Rondo 6.9
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.3