Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban

Mavs make most of vet minimums

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
DALLAS – Nobody maximizes the veteran’s minimum like the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavs have managed to build one of the West’s best benches almost solely with vets who accepted minimum contracts to come to Dallas. With a $3.9 million salary, Devin Harris is the exception for the Mavs’ second unit, and he returned to Dallas on a minimum deal last season. The rest of the reserves in Dallas’ rotation – Amar’e Stoudemire, Al-Farouq Aminu, J.J. Barea, Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva – make the minimum.

At that cost, the players typically have plenty of options, particularly a high-profile midseason free agent such as Stoudemire. What makes the Mavs so attractive to the vet-minimum crowd?

“Guys like that want to come play with great players that can enhance their games, and Dirk [Nowitzki] is a guy that people have such great respect for,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s been a big draw here for a long time and continues to be. The other reason is Mark [Cuban]. They know he’s a great owner that takes care of players and is going to do all the right things to help us win.”

Cuban, the billionaire who will spare no expense to build a winner but sweats every cent while managing the salary cap, lists three major reasons that Dallas is a destination city for veterans willing to play for NBA peanuts.

“We have an amazing medical staff,” Cuban said via the Cyber Dust messaging app. “We have an open style of play that can play to the strengths of any player. And we are in the playoff hunt in the West.

The Mavs have long prided themselves on their ability to find quality in the “merry minimums.” In terms of acquiring a bunch of bargain-priced talent, this might be the front office’s finest season yet.

Stoudemire, who will make less than $500,000 the rest of this season after negotiating a buyout in the final year of his five-year, $99.7 million deal with the New York Knicks, might be the best vet-minimum addition in Mavs history. Like Peja Stojakovic in 2011, Stoudemire is a former star who joined the Mavs midseason searching for his first championship ring and eager to contribute to a contender.

Stoudemire’s knees will no longer let him log the minutes he did during his days as a six-time All-Star, but he’s still capable of explosive production in limited playing time when healthy. The sterling reputation of Dallas athletic trainer Casey Smith was a critical element in making the Mavs clear frontrunners for Stoudemire before his divorce from the Knicks was even done.

“I was very, very familiar with the organization from playing against them so many times during my time in Phoenix,” Stoudemire said after scoring 14 points in 11 minutes during his Dallas debut. “I knew about the training staff here that was a really, really good training staff, which is a positive for me to prolong my health.

“And then the players are guys who are ready to win. Obviously, coach Carlisle is a phenomenal coach and a champion as well. All those tangibles I thought about. “

Barea was another buyout blessing, but he joined the Mavs during the first week of the season. Like Harris the previous year, it was a homecoming for Barea, who spent his first five seasons in Dallas and was a key role player during the title season. He has resumed his role as a playmaker off the bench who is capable of being a solid spot starter.

Villanueva simply wanted to salvage his career after it fizzled the last few years in Detroit. He accepted a camp-invitation deal with no guaranteed money, choosing the Mavs over the Los Angeles Clippers because he thought Dallas could use a reserve stretch power forward and was convinced Carlisle would have him a legitimate shot. Villanueva earned a roster spot and eventually a limited role with a green light to shoot.

Aminu, like Brandan Wright four years ago, arrived in Dallas as a young lottery-pick bust whose career took off under Carlisle. Aminu has emerged as a multi-positional glue guy with the Mavs whose defense, rebounding and energy have drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion.

Jefferson, a former 20-point-per-game scorer, was a starter for the rebuilding Utah Jazz last season. He was more than willing to sacrifice minutes and money to have a chance to contend for a championship.

“You start looking at the roster and what they’ve accumulated,” Jefferson said after his 10-point, 10-rebound, four-assist performance filling in for injured starting small forward Chandler Parsons in Sunday’s win. “I’m in year 14 now. I want to win. If that means I have to take less money for a year or two to help a team win, then so be it.”

Can Holger help Rondo? They're trying

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
DALLAS – Rajon Rondo, a basketball savant who has never figured out the art of shooting, quietly observed Holger Geschwindner working with his masterpiece on the Dallas Mavericks' practice court before the All-Star break.

After his shooting session was done, Dirk Nowitzki made an offer to his point guard, if not a suggestion.

“If you want to work with Holger, now is the time,” Nowitzki told Rondo, mentioning that Rondo would be sidelined another week to 10 days due to facial fractures. “You’re more than welcome.”

As Nowitzki recalled the moment, he added: “And Holger obviously loves challenges in his life.”

Rondo’s unconventional, ineffective shooting stroke certainly represents a challenge. It’s always been the biggest flaw in the four-time All-Star’s game. That poor touch from the perimeter and midrange is the reason one of the NBA’s premier playmakers is an awkward fit in the Mavs’ free-flowing offense.

To his credit, Rondo, who earned a reputation for being difficult to coach in his younger years, embraced the opportunity to work with Dirk’s longtime mentor and shot doctor.

Rondo started shooting with Geschwindner immediately after Nowitzki made the suggestion – a partnership the media got a quick glimpse of after Thursday’s shootaround in Oklahoma City – and continued until Holger packed up his flannel shirts and blue jeans and headed back to Germany on Friday. Rondo plans to continue following the program that Geschwindner, who will return for the playoffs as is his custom, put in place.

Rondo, however, does not necessarily expect immediate results. He reasonably expects his two weeks of working with Geschwindner to be the beginning of a long-term process.

“It’s a lot different,” said Rondo, a career 26.1 percent 3-point shooter and a 31.1 percent shooter from the free throw line this season. “Some things are not comfortable, but that’s part of it. It’s early in the process. Obviously, Dirk is one of the greatest scorers of all time. He’s worked with Dirk since he was 10, 11 years old. It’s going to take some time, but he’s very positive and I pretty much understand all of his methods.”

Can Rondo progress with the program Geschwindner put in place without supervision from the German shot guru?

“It’s hard,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, I’ve been doing it, obviously, for 20 years, and when he’s gone for six weeks, sometimes I look like I haven’t shot with him in forever. Obviously, that’s when mistakes creep in. It’s hard to keep it up, but even if he just gives him one point that he thinks about when he shoots, that could help.”

No, the placement of Rondo’s shooting elbow was not the one point. For Rondo to become a respectable shooter, he will have to drastically alter his form, keeping his elbow straight underneath the ball instead of cocking it at an awkward angle. But that sort of massive mechanical overhaul is best done during the offseason, not midseason.

Geschwindner actually provided Rondo two points of emphasis: the arch of his shot and his footwork follow through.

“Sometimes I land and I’m not straight facing the basket,” Rondo said. “I think you see Dirk do it – he spreads his legs a lot when he shoots so he can stay on line. That [and] the arch on the ball.”

Rondo is far from the first of Nowitzki’s teammates who have borrowed his shot guru. Brandon Bass and Devin Harris have probably benefited the most from working with Geschwindner, who stays at Nowitzki’s home and travels with the team during his annual early-season, midseason and playoff visits.

Owner Mark Cuban has attempted to make Geschwindner a permanent member of the Mavs’ player development staff. (“If that’s the case, Cuban can pay for an apartment,” Nowitzki cracks, only half-kidding.) However, Geschwindner is committed to keeping his home base in Germany, where he still trains teenage basketball prospects.

Suffice to say, Rondo’s work with Geschwindner received the enthusiastic blessing of the Mavs’ bosses.

“Holger helps everybody he works with,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m pretty certain that work is going to be a positive thing. Holger is a pretty brilliant guy when it comes to shooting. I don’t know if there’s anybody on the planet I’d recommend more for that.”

And there are few, if any, NBA players who stand to benefit more from Holger's help than Rondo.
What are the chances that Chandler Parsons emerges victorious after prancing down the runway as part of the NBA’s first official fashion show?

“Nonexistent,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said with a laugh.

[+] EnlargeChandler Parsons
Kevin Mazur/WireImageChandler Parsons will participate in NBA All-Star Style, a fashion show in New York.
Parsons is one of eight players who will participate in NBA All-Star Style, a one-hour fashion show produced by LeBron James’ Springhill Production Company, filmed Friday night at New York’s Hammerstein Theater and scheduled to air at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday on TNT. The event will have three rounds: dressing for the boardroom, a night out and attire worn to the game.

“I have a stylist that’s going to go and dress me for the three different looks,” said Parsons, who has never done a fashion show before and is eagerly looking forward to the experience. “I haven’t seen them yet, so it’s going to be a surprise, but they’re going to be extremely, extremely attractive.”

Parsons, who has dabbled in modeling, takes his fashion pretty seriously. But his wardrobe, which features a lot of ridiculously expensive skinny jeans and funky shirts and shoes, is a source of great humor for some of the older members of the Mavs’ organization.

“You want to know the truth? I think his fashion is horrible,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “But, then again, he tells me I dress like an old man. We think he dresses like Justin Bieber. So if you’re into that kind of stuff, then I guess you can vote for him. If you like some grown-man stuff, some slacks, some button-downs, then I got him beat.”

Nowitzki once sarcastically offered Parsons a pair of trainer’s scissors to help him change out of a pair of particularly tight skinny jeans. However, as far as Nowitzki is concerned, the pants aren’t Parsons’ biggest fashion faux pas.

“I don’t think his jeans are the worst,” Nowitzki said. “Sometimes these sweaters that he wears that hang down to his knees – the female pajamas, I call ‘em – that’s the worst look, his sweaters. His shoe game is OK. Sometimes it’s a little too over the top for me, but like I said, these young boys these days, the flashier, the better.”

Suffice to say, some of Parsons’ especially outrageous outfits have resulted in some strange looks from Rick Carlisle, but the coach has come to respect Parsons’ tendency to push the fashion envelope.

“Listen, it’s not my cup of tea, but it doesn’t mean that there’s no value in him wearing that stuff,” Carlisle said. “I wouldn’t say he’s the worst dresser. I would just say he has a lot of balls wearing that stuff.”

3 Points: Expectations after Rondo deal?

December, 24, 2014
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez join Tim MacMahon each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavericks fans.

1. What is the standard for the Rajon Rondo deal to be considered a success for the Mavericks?

Gutierrez: Progression without radical regression. It feels like a two-year process due to the fact Dallas has to deal with a sudden depth depletion as well as the Rondo assimilation. Brandan Wright was a legitimate scoring threat off the bench and provided big man depth. Jae Crowder was a rotational fixture of sorts to Dallas, too. If the starting five can mesh and Dallas works to rebuild its bench over the next few months, the Mavs will be poised to be serious contenders going into next season.

Taylor: They gave up a really nice backup and a rotational player for a legit quality point guard. There really is no downside to the deal unless you don't sign him to a long-term deal. He's one more quality piece to take pressure off Dirk Nowitzki. That said, a trip to the Western Conference finals would be a fantastic year and reaching at least the second round would be a good year because the West is loaded.

MacMahon: The goal of this trade is to make the Mavs a legitimate force in the West for the next few years. That’s how it should be judged. This isn’t a championship-or-bust trade like the Jason Kidd deal, because the Mavs didn’t give up nearly as much. The acquisition of Rondo was supposed to solidify the Mavs’ starting five for the next few years and give Nowitzki a legitimate shot to compete for a ring in his golden years.

2. What is the most interesting aspect of Rondo meshing with the Mavs?

Gutierrez: The most interesting aspect is seeing how he will mesh with Monta Ellis. It was a tale of two games for Rondo as it seemed like both guards were clicking against the San Antonio Spurs only to see them look discombobulated against the Atlanta Hawks. There will be ups and downs and growing pains as they adapt to playing alongside each other, but watching them work together will be the thing that everyone examines.

Taylor: By all accounts Rondo has a prickly personality. Well, the head coach has a little bit of a quirky personality, but we know he doesn't take any mess. Rick Carlisle is also a smart guy who understands he needs to let some guys run free, while still maintaining his authority. Heck, he gets along with Mark Cuban. Watching him find a common ground with Rondo will be fascinating.

MacMahon: I’m fascinated to see the brilliant offensive minds of Carlisle and Rondo attempt to figure out how to minimize the major spacing challenges presented by his poor shooting. It’s been messy so far. The context of a small sample size and only one practice since the trade must be considered, but the starting five’s offensive rating with Rondo is 97.9 points per 100 possessions. It was 116.4 with Jameer Nelson. The Rondo transition has been especially rough on Chandler Parsons. He was averaging 22.2 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 49 percent from 3-point range in December before the deal. In the three games with Rondo, Parsons’ numbers have plummeted to 9.0 points and 1.3 assists, shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3-point range.

3. What stats do you project Rondo to put up for the rest of the season?

Gutierrez: I'm expecting him to hover around numbers that always have him flirting with a triple-double. I can see him averaging nearly 8 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists a night for the Mavericks. The rebounds and assists will likely be the easiest things for him to produce on a nightly basis. The points will be challenging, but teams will give him open space to shoot. He'll need to knock them down in order to bring some balance in terms of spacing.

Taylor: He still can't shoot, but the way Rick wants to play he should be getting a lot more fast-break layups so he'll get about 10.4 points per game with 9.7 assists because he's got Dirk and Parsons as shooters and Tyson Chandler to catch lobs. Plus, he'll get a couple of steals per game.

MacMahon: In his first three games in Dallas, Rondo averaged 10.7 points, 9.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if the assists slipped -- and that might be best for the Mavs. This offense is based on great ball movement. If it’s humming, a lot of Rondo’s good looks will end up being hockey assists and won’t count in the box score.

No Kidd-ing: Rondo deal ends PG search

December, 19, 2014

DALLAS – The long, winding path to find a worthy successor for Jason Kidd took several painful twists for the Dallas Mavericks over the past 2½ years. It's finally over.

Welcome to Dallas, Rajon Rondo.

It’s not a coincidence that Rondo reminds the Mavs' brass an awful lot of Kidd in style, substance and circumstance of their arrival.

"We're kind of taking a page out of the championship run," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told ESPNDallas.com after putting the finishing touches on the trade to get Rondo, which required the Mavs to give up center Brandan Wright, small forward Jae Crowder, point guard Jameer Nelson, a protected first-round pick and a second-round pick.

"This is a true pass-first point guard that guards and rebounds. The closest thing that we've had to that is J-Kidd, and that worked out OK."

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
Brian Babineau/Getty ImagesJason Kidd helped Dallas to a title, which is just the path Rajon Rondo would like to emulate.
The Rondo-Kidd comparison isn't perfect. At 28, Rondo should be in his prime and much more athletic than the 34-year-old version of Kidd that joined the Mavs for a second stint after forcing a trade from the New Jersey Nets before the 2008 deadline. Kidd had developed into a dangerous spot-up shooter by that point of his career, something that certainly can't be said for Rondo (25 percent from 3-point range) right now.

But there's good reason that Rondo has been frequently compared to Kidd since he broke into the league, including by Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, who coached Kidd in Phoenix. The similarities between Kidd and Rondo, two triple-double threats every time they put on a uniform, are remarkable.

Kidd was, without question, one of the premier passers in NBA history, ranking second all time with 12,091 dimes. Rondo is putting together that kind of résumé, ranking among the league’s top two in assists per game for the fifth consecutive season.

"Guards like that -- I played with Steve [Nash], J-Kidd and now Rondo -- they almost thrive more from getting another guy an open shot at the basket than scoring themselves," said Dirk Nowitzki, the future Hall of Fame power forward and longtime face of the Mavs franchise. "That's how they think in their head. It should be fun for all of us. We got to keep moving and get used to probably some crazy passes that we haven't seen around here in a while."

They are rare breeds as point guards who rebound like power forwards. The 6-foot-4 Kidd wouldn't have 107 career triple-doubles unless he consistently crashed the boards and chased down long rebounds. The 6-foot-1 Rondo leads all NBA guards in rebounding this season with 7.5 per game.

They're also crafty defenders with strong, quick hands. (Kidd ranks second all time in steals; Rondo is among the league leaders in that category on an annual basis.) They're also point guards who are willing and able to put up a defensive fight against much bigger foes, which is especially important when paired with a smaller shooting guard, whether it's Jason Terry with Kidd or Monta Ellis with Rondo.


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"I can see the parallels as far as two tough point guards, gritty toughness," said center Tyson Chandler, another title teammate of Kidd's. "Rondo displays it differently than Kidd did, but Kidd is one of the fiercest competitors that I've ever been around in my life."

Maybe most importantly to the Mavs, Kidd and Rondo are born winners, the kind of guys whose competitive fires roar after leaving rebuilding franchises to play for a legitimate contender.

"J-Kidd was a competitor," Rondo said. "He wanted to win. He did a lot of intangibles on the court to make his teammates and his team win games, so I would say I compare to that. I love to compete. I love to win."

Realistically, like Kidd's later years in New Jersey, Rondo didn't have a chance to win on a consistent basis since the Celtics stripped down the team around him in the summer of 2013.

The Mavs believe the circumstances, and not the right knee Rondo had surgically repaired after tearing his ACL in January 2013, is the primary reason the four-time All-Star point guard hasn't consistently seemed to have the same type of intensity during the Celtics' rebuilding process as he did while Boston was battling for titles.

"When you taste a championship, you want more," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. "When you're not in that circumstance, it can be deflating at times. Rajon rose above it and competed every night, but great players are better with great players around them. As coach [Rick Carlisle] mentioned, the best is yet to come."

The Mavs believe Rondo, like Kidd, is at his best in the moments that matter most. That is supported by the fact that Rondo's career postseason statistics (14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals per game) are better across the board than his career averages.

The Mavs also see in Rondo the same kind of innate ability to make all kinds of crunch-time impact that Kidd had. Carlisle refers to it as resourcefulness, a knack for finding a way to win.

"He's one of those guys that in the last two minutes of a close game, he can make amazing things happen," Cuban said. "So that's his greatest similarity to J-Kidd."

That's something the Mavs have been missing since a graying Kidd decided to leave Dallas to spend his final NBA season with the New York Knicks. It wasn't for a lack of effort.

Dallas got turned down by Deron Williams despite offering a maximum deal. The Mavs never even got a chance to make a max-salary recruiting pitch to Chris Paul.

A long list of point guards -- Darren Collison, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Jose Calderon, Nelson -- auditioned as Dallas' starter. None were more than a temporary plug at the position for the Mavs.

The revolving door stops with Rondo.

Cuban made it clear that Rondo, who like Kidd was traded to Dallas in the final season of his deal, is definitely not a "rent-a-player." The point guard is the final piece to a starting five that stacks up well against any in the league, a group the Mavs intend to keep together at least as long as the 36-year-old Nowitzki keeps knocking down jumpers.

That all sounds good to Rondo, who wants to be part of another championship parade and truly believes that is possible with the Mavs.

Rondo has developed a bit of a reputation for surliness, but he was all smiles after landing in Dallas on Cuban's private jet Friday afternoon, going through a 2˝-hour physical exam and meeting with the media.

At this point, Rondo is kind of like a Kidd in an NBA candy store.

Mark Cuban: I feel Kings owner's pain

December, 17, 2014
As relationships soured with a couple of head coaches, Mark Cuban has been accused of being a meddlesome owner at times over the years.

That’s one term being used to describe Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive after the stunning decision to fire coach Michael Malone a quarter of the way into his second season despite drastic improvement by the team. That decision has been widely criticized, including by Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, as the president of the NBA’s coaches association called it “disappointing” and pointed out how drastically the Kings’ culture changed for the better during Malone’s tenure.

“It’s not so much meddling and hands-on. That’s not the issue,” Cuban said. “The hardest thing in professional sports for an owner is hiring a coach. Period, end of story. I’ve said that a dozen times. The second hardest thing is hiring a general manager because there’s no template. No one does bad interviews because they’re all quality just to get there. I mean, it’s just not easy.

“After that, it’s really hard to turn off some of your basic business instincts. I would always try to push myself to learn more and get involved on the business side more to kind of take all that anxiety.”

In regard to basketball decisions, Cuban took an approach that is the polar opposite of Ranadive’s after purchasing the Mavs almost 15 years ago. He intentionally didn’t make any major decisions despite public pressure to fire coach Don Nelson and clean house.

“I really tried to learn,” Cuban said. “That’s why I didn’t make any changes when I first got there on the basketball side, because I wasn’t smart enough to know where to go or what changes to make. I feel [Ranadive’s] pain. It’s not easy. It is not easy. And you make mistakes.”

Cuban, who has essentially acted as the Mavs’ general manager since his divorce from Nelson, has made plenty of personnel mistakes over the years. His track record of hiring coaches, however, is pretty impressive.

Nelson oversaw the Mavs morphing from an NBA punchline to a perennial Western Conference contender after Cuban stuck with him. The team went to the Finals in Avery Johnson’s first full season as a coach. And Carlisle, who has the second-longest current tenure among NBA head coaches, coached the Mavs to a title.

Seven years into their relationship, there have been so signs of friction between Cuban and Carlisle. One reason is because Carlisle has consistently had an open mind to Cuban’s commitment to analytics instead of viewing it as meddling. It also probably helps that Cuban has mellowed considerably over the years, although he still says he lives and dies with every Mavs possession.

“As an owner, in business you’re used to everything is a variable that reflects on the decisions that you have made,” Cuban said. “So one loss that you’re supposed to win, one win that you’re supposed to lose, a guy plays a certain way when everybody you talked to said it was supposed to be Y and he’s X ...

“In business, when there’s diversion from your expectation, your mind is to immediately fix it. That’s why, like when I first got in, I took it all out on the refs because if anything the rulebook was supposed to be the rulebook. That’s the one necessary constant. And I still sometimes take it out on the refs.”

Better the refs than his coach.

Cuban: Ellis gets no respect from refs

December, 8, 2014
DALLAS -- Mark Cuban considers Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis to be kind of like the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA paint attackers.

“Monta gets no respect on his drives ever,” Cuban said. “He gets hit on his body all the time and it’s like nothing. I told him he’s got to flail like all these other guys. I mean, I don’t know how he doesn’t get to the line. It’s crazy.”

[+] EnlargeEllis
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsMonta Ellis "gets hit on his body all the time and it's like nothing," Mavs owner Mark Cuban says.
Cuban complained about the issue last season. He plans to take another step soon with his lobbying to get Ellis to the line more often.

The Mavs’ video crew, under instruction from Cuban, is putting together a lengthy tape of Ellis drives that the team believes should have resulted in a foul call. Cuban intends to send the tape to the league office with the goal of illustrating that the contact Ellis consistently draws on his drives is more than incidental.

“One off is easy to dismiss,” Cuban said. “When you have a history, it’s more impactful.”

According to the NBA’s player-tracking data, Ellis ranks second in the league in drives with 227 this season. He’s tied for 24th in free throws attempted with 98.

By extreme contrast, Houston’s James Harden has attempted a league-leading 192 free throws -- nearly twice as many as Ellis -- and driven to the basket 55 fewer times.

Harden’s ratio of 1.116 free throws per drive is by far the highest among the NBA’s top 20 dribble attackers. Ellis’ free throw/drive ratio (.432) ranks 13th in that group and has actually declined significantly since last season (.514).

The list of the league’s most aggressive dribble penetrators who get fewer whistles than Ellis: New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando’s Elfrid Payton and New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday.

“I don’t think those guys take on as much contact as he does,” Cuban said. “He looks for contact. I mean, this guy is one of the league leaders in charges taken, and his charges are real. He doesn’t flop.”

Ellis doesn’t flail, either, despite his boss’ advice. So Cuban is looking for other ways to help the Mavs’ leading scorer get to the line more often.

Dirk rests vs. Bucks, but back feels 'fine'

December, 3, 2014
MILWAUKEE -- For the second time on this four-game road trip, Dirk Nowitzki will take a game off for precautionary rest.

Nowitzki dealt with back tightness during Tuesday night's double-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls but still logged a season-high 42 minutes. He said after that game that he planned to play Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, but a different decision was reached after a discussion at the team's morning breakfast.

The 36-year-old Nowitzki, who also rested during Saturday night's win over the Philadelphia 76ers, said his back felt "fine" and wouldn't have caused him to sit out a game. The decision, made in consultation with head athletic trainer Casey Smith, coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban, was made primarily because of Nowitzki's heavy workload in Chicago and the Mavs' hectic schedule.

"Just really looking at our schedule, we got almost the most games in the Western Conference and we still got six games in nine days coming up," Nowitzki said. "We got some tough games. We got a back-to-back next week that obviously I plan on playing. So I guess it's the best, especially after double OT last night, to take a night off and rest and get ready for Friday for myself."

Coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged that the Mavs want to make sure that Nowitzki's back tightness doesn't become a nagging issue, but the 17-year veteran downplayed that as a concern.

Nowitzki missed only two games last season, one for precautionary rest and one due to an illness. He has already matched that total and will likely rest for several more games the rest of the season, as the Mavs have put a priority on having Nowitzki as fresh as possible for the postseason.

"I mean, I don't like missing games. I never will like missing games. But you got to be smart," Nowitzki said. "I do have a lot of miles now on my legs and I do plan on playing with this team for a long time, hopefully, this season. So if it helps me play better down the stretch, or even if this night off here helps me play better on a back-to-back next week, then that'll be great."

Dirk: One-legged fade 'own Dream Shake'

November, 12, 2014

DALLAS -- After catching the ball in the post with a Sacramento Kings defender on his back, Dirk Nowitzki made a pretty reverse pivot and launched a one-legged fadeaway that looked like it was going to fall.

That would have been such a fitting way to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, Nowitzki's iconic shot bumping the Dream Shake down a spot.

Alas, the shot rimmed out. Nowitzki passed Olajuwon to become the leading scorer among foreign players in NBA history with 8:56 remaining in the game on a regular ol' catch-and-shoot 19-footer.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki scored 23 points against the Kings and now has 26,953 in his career, good for ninth place all time.
You don't score so many points -- 26,953 for Nowitzki, 26,946 for Olajuwon -- without being able to put the ball in the basket a bunch of different ways. But their unique go-to moves will always be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about these legends.

Nowitzki's one-legged fade has been mimicked by other stars in the NBA. Nowitzki admits he couldn't copy the Dream Shake if he tried.

"I think you need a little athleticism for that move," Nowitzki said with a deadpan delivery. "The footwork, the shaking and baking wasn't really my forte. I came up with a shot where you have to basically lean back and not be athletic at all and just hoist it up.

"I came up with my own Dream Shake. The white version."

Which one is better: the one-legged fade or the Dream Shake? It's kind of like asking to choose between steak and lobster.

Of course, Mavs owner Mark Cuban didn't hesitate to weigh in with his heavily biased opinion.

"I'd take the one-legged simply because even though the Shake and [Olajuwon's] footwork were amazing, he was in an era where there were a lot of bigs who had different go-to moves," Cuban said. "It started before him with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], but [Patrick] Ewing had moves, guys of his era. There were a lot of low-post guys.

"There weren't guys for Dirk to use as a template to copy and improve on. I think that's the difference. Hakeem took what was happening in the game and perfected it. Dirk took something that hadn't happened before and created. While it's obviously not a knock on Hakeem, I think it's different."

Nowitzki, not surprisingly, deferred to the Dream Shake.

"Man, the Dream Shake was pretty smooth," Nowitzki said, shaking his head and shoulders like Olajuwon after catching the ball on the block. "It was unbelievable. You didn't know which way he was going. He would hit you with the fade both ways, and the jump hook going in the middle. He was a beast, for sure."

As reflected in the record books, Nowitzki is a beast in his own right, with his own style.
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks made room for veteran power forward Charlie Villanueva on their 15-man roster by waiving center Bernard James.

Villanueva, a nine-year veteran who signed a nonguaranteed contract to come to training camp with the Mavs, made the team primarily because of his perimeter-shooting ability. His presence gives the Mavs a power forward off the bench who can stretch the floor.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban was willing to eat a guaranteed contract to give Villanueva, 30, who has career averages of 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game but struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness the last three seasons with the Detroit Pistons, a roster spot. The Mavs will owe James, a 2012 second-round pick who re-signed with the team this summer, his full $915,243 salary.

The Mavs also waived power forward Ivan Johnson and shooting guard Doron Lamb to get to the 15-man limit.
DALLAS -- As the Memphis Grizzlies took the floor for shootaround, the players gravitated to one of the corners of the American Airlines Center court.

“This is the spot, right?” they asked Vince Carter.

Vince Carter
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsVince Carter's finest moment for the Mavs was hitting a game-winning buzzer-beater in last season's playoff series against the Spurs.
“Nah, a little bit over,” Carter replied, basking in the memory of his finest moment with the Dallas Mavericks, that Game 3-winning buzzer-beater in last season’s playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.

Carter has many fond memories from his three years in Dallas, when the eight-time All-Star reinvented himself as one of the NBA’s best sixth men.

The 37-year-old Carter hoped to continue -- and finish -- his career with the Mavericks, but that’s not the way free agency played out. The Grizzlies swooped in with a take-it-or-leave-it, three-year, $12.3 million offer for Carter while the Mavs were waiting to see if the Houston Rockets would exercise their rights to match Dallas’ deal for Chandler Parsons.

Carter, recognizing that the Mavs couldn’t come close to matching Memphis’ deal if Parsons landed in Dallas, opted to take the sure thing from the Grizzlies, a Western Conference playoff team that needed a sixth man with his scoring and playmaking abilities.

“They offered that young man a lot of money,” Carter said, referring to Parsons. “I kind of understood how it goes from there. It’s a business. I get it, so there’s no hard feelings or anything like that. I understand how it goes. It was a great situation, a great offer from Memphis. It was kind of like, ‘If I pass on this now, what would be left here for me?’ Obviously not much. Had to move on.”

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Shawn MarionDavid Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Mavs will face former teammate Shawn Marion as a member of the Cavs for the first time Friday.
DALLAS -- “Weird” is the word used by members of the 2011 title team who are currently employed by the Dallas Mavericks to describe seeing Shawn Marion wearing the wine and gold of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Marion, a man who played such a critical role in delaying LeBron James’ first championship celebration a year, is now a member of King James’ supporting cast.

The Mavs have nothing but fond memories and warm feelings for Marion, who they’ll see tonight when they face the Cavs in a preseason game. Marion didn’t make an All-Star team or put up spectacular numbers during his five years in Dallas, as he did during his run with the Phoenix Suns. But owner Mark Cuban should seriously consider raising the Matrix’s No. 0 to the American Airlines Center rafters when Marion retires to the home he’s building in the Dallas suburbs.

“He’ll go down as one of the all-time great Mavs because of his contributions to a championship team, number one,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Marion, who will rest instead of playing Friday night. “But number two is his versatility and his ability to do so many different things that contribute to winning.”

Marion, a four-time All-Star during his 20/10 days in Phoenix, transitioned to being the ultimate role player in Dallas.

Marion averaged 11.6 points, scoring in double figures each season, despite never being an offensive focal point, getting a bunch of buckets off cuts to the basket or from crashing the offensive glass. He ranked among the NBA’s most effective rebounding small forwards, averaging 7.0 per game during his Dallas tenure, leading the Mavs in that category the last three seasons.

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Mavs' starting five finally together

October, 15, 2014
DALLAS -- Maybe Mavericks fans should cross their fingers, but it looks like the team’s projected starting five will finally get some game action together this weekend.

All of the starters are finally healthy, with Dirk Nowitzki (hip) and Monta Ellis (knee) recovered from their minor injuries. The group should play together for the first time this weekend, although Nowitzki and possibly other veterans don’t plan to play in both games of the back-to-back.

Chandler Parsons
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty ImagesChandler Parsons, entering his fourth season in the NBA, is the least experienced of the Mavs' starting five.
Getting to the regular season as healthy as possible is the top priority, but the preseason is particularly valuable for a group that features three new pieces in the starting five.

“It’s four other new pieces for me,” said point guard Jameer Nelson, who joins small forward Chandler Parsons and center Tyson Chandler as the fresh faces in the starting five. “It’s tough, because you’re trying to learn the offense, you’re trying to learn the defense. Everything is on the fly. Everything is different.

“I just found myself thinking too much, trying to do things the right way and sometimes that takes away from being aggressive. So I just have to be who I am and figure out the defensive schemes and offensive execution as we go along.”

It’s not all new for Chandler, of course, considering that the Mavs haven’t made major scheme changes since No. 6 manned the center spot during the 2010-11 title season. But Nowitzki is the only player left from that team.

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hopes 44-minute games don’t get past the preseason experiment stage in the NBA.

“I can’t get enough NBA,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com via the Cyber Dust messaging app. “Best entertainment in the world. So more is better.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Dan Le Batard about how he became successful, Roger Goodell's role as commissioner of the NFL and more.

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The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will play a 44-minute game Sunday -– four minutes shorter than the standard NBA game -– as the league tests a format with fewer minutes and fewer mandatory timeouts.

NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said in a statement that the league office is following up on a suggestion from the recent coaches’ meeting to consider a shorter format for games.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters Tuesday that the length of games isn’t nearly as concerning as squeezing so many games into a short period of time, forcing many teams to play more than 20 back-to-backs in an 82-game season.

Cuban, who goes to great lengths looking for ways to help extend players’ careers, understood Spoelstra's point about the value of games but noted that trimming the NBA schedule would have a wide-reaching economic impact.

"More games are always a risk," Cuban said. "But we play in facilities and employ a lot of people who benefit from those games.”
DALLAS -- Jae Crowder carved out a niche as a versatile defensive stopper during his first couple of seasons with the Dallas Mavericks.

Crowder wants to be much more.

Jae Crowder
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsJae Crowder focused on his offensive game during the offseason.
Crowder is well aware that he’ll never be a go-to guy for the Mavs. But he firmly believes he can be much more effective as a scorer and playmaker than he has been in his first two seasons, when Crowder averaged 4.8 points and 1.0 assist in 16.7 minutes per game, shooting 40.9 percent from the floor and 32.9 percent from 3-point range.

“I’m trying to make plays on the other end, not just be one-dimensional,” Crowder said. “I’m a much better player than just a defensive player, but I do bring a lot of defense to my team and that is what has gotten me on the court in my two years in the league. I’m just trying to grow my game and expand my game as much as possible.”

Crowder proved he can be that kind of playmaker, at least at a lower level, by posting triple-doubles in his only two D-League appearances last season. But the Dallas decision-makers don’t envision Crowder developing into an offensive focal point for the Mavs.

Owner Mark Cuban mentions gritty stoppers such as Memphis’ Tony Allen or former San Antonio Spurs pest Bruce Bowen when discussing Crowder’s potential. By the numbers, Crowder was Dallas’ best defensive player last season, when his defensive rating of 99.0 points per 100 possessions was by far the lowest on the roster. (Crowder’s net rating of plus-12.1 was also the Mavs’ best.)

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Monta Ellis
19.4 4.4 1.9 33.8
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.7
AssistsR. Rondo 6.0
StealsM. Ellis 1.9
BlocksB. James 1.8