Dallas Mavericks: Michael Jordan

One-on-one with Dirk: Legacy on one leg

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
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ESPN Dallas recently held court with Dirk Nowitzki. In this series, Nowitzki shares thoughts about his past, present and future.

As time moves on, Dirk Nowitzki will be remembered as one of the most special and unique players to ever play in the NBA. Among his contemporaries, he is held in extremely high regard. We’ve seen the league’s best -- Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James -- pay their respect to Nowitzki by copying his patented one-footed fadeaway jumper.

In addition, he’s earned the respect of some legends. In February 2013, ESPN.com’s Wright Thompson wrote a feature on Michael Jordan for ESPN the Magazine in which Jordan stated Nowitzki was one player who made the short list of stars who could be nearly as successful as he was in his era. Also included were James, Bryant and Tim Duncan.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

A set of fortunate circumstances led Dirk Nowitzki to change the shooting game in favor of big men.

Over years and years of blood, sweat, tears and jumpers, Nowitzki has established a legacy that will live on for generations. When asked about his impact, he couldn’t quite put his finger on what kind of mark he’s left on the game he loves so much.

“I don’t know. I kind of let others do that,” Nowitzki said. “I came in as a little kid, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was just working hard, had some talent and came into the right situation with the right kind of guys with [Don Nelson] and [Mark] Cuban. I got better and better.

“A lot of guys come in with talent and never reach their max. Me having a great surrounding, work ethic and coaching and teammates, it just happened.”

With all of that in his favor, Nowitzki has left his mark in the NBA. Based on his body of work and uniqueness, Nowitzki should be considered a revolutionary player of the modern game.

If you look at the past, the likes of Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and even Duncan and Kevin Garnett defined the power forward position in the traditional manner we knew long ago. Fast-forward to when Nowitzki was starting to gain confidence in the NBA and you see the power forward position being shaped into a position known as the stretch-4.

The idea of a stretch-4 sounded like a gimmick at the time: Stick a big man on the perimeter and present him as a shooting threat to stretch the floor. Players such as Sam Perkins, Kiki VanDeWeghe and Larry Bird were paving the way. Nowitzki took the concept of the stretch-4 and ran with it. The concept of having a stretch-4 is a component every team craves. Nowitzki’s size and shooting are the reason for that.

International scouting already was taking place before Nowitzki joined the league, but his impact forced general managers and scouts to increase the deployment of assets to focus on finding the next international gem. Over the past decade, a goal for front offices has been to find the next Nowitzki.

He came into the league with size and skills no one else had. Time has been his ally when one compares today’s game to that of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The physicality of the past gave way to the fluidity of today’s game, allowing players like Nowitzki to thrive.

“When I first came in, the rules were a little different,” Nowitzki explained. “Now, there’s less handchecking and zone defenses. More of a free-flowing game helped me. I don’t know if the rules were kept the same where there was pounding and one-on-one back-downs for 10 seconds. I’m not sure if I ever would have had the same impact if the rules were the same. There are a lot of circumstances in play that had a role in me succeeding.”

Meshing the rule changes with that next generation of shooter’s like Nowitzki allowed more of a free game. Players now have to respect everyone on the floor as a legitimate scoring threat from anywhere and no matter their size.

"I’m happy now that most of the 5s and 4s can face up and shoot and drive,” Nowitzki said. "It’s fun to watch. Everybody now can score. I think that’s where this game is fun to watch and unbelievable. If all five guys are dangerous, you’ve got to guard everyone. That’s when the game really begins to become fun.”

Though he'll never admit it, his rise in status as an elite scorer provided a key component for those added doses of excitement in today's game. Still, he almost sounds like a proud dad in seeing the league filled with a variety diverse weapons on offense.

Nowitzki's career -- and legacy -- has been the equivalent of a pebble being thrown into the body of water that creates a ripple effect, leading to a wave of shooting big men to arrive after him.
Dirk NowitzkiRon Jenkins/Zuma Press/Icon SMIIn 20 elimination games, Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 28.9 points and 11.4 rebounds.

DALLAS -- Bet on a big game by Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks facing elimination Friday night.

That prediction feels much safer a couple of days after witnessing the first burst of Dirk dominance during this first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s not about any anticipated carryover from Nowitzki’s 14-point fourth quarter in Game 5.

It’s based on Nowitzki’s track record of coming up big when the Mavs’ backs are against the wall.

Nowitzki has averaged 28.9 points and 11.4 rebounds in 20 career win-or-go-home games. To put that into perspective, per the Elias Sports Bureau, only five players in NBA history have higher scoring averages when facing elimination (minimum of 10 games).

The prestigious list: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson and Jerry West.

It would be a stretch to say Nowitzki enjoys these elimination situations. It’s no fun to know that you’re possibly one game away from your season going up in smoke. However, with rare exception, he has responded extraordinarily well to that immense pressure.

“Maybe you’re on the edge a little more,” Nowitzki said. “You don’t even want to think that the long season could actually come to an end tomorrow. You don’t even want to let it cross your mind. You want to stay focused and you kind of want to stay in the moment.”

(Read full post)

James, Durant imitate Dirk's fadeway

November, 25, 2013
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In the heat of the moment with the game on the line, players do what they feel like they have to do. During a matchup in mid-November, the Dallas Mavericks were looking to get a crucial defensive stop against the Miami Heat. The Mavs’ defense put LeBron James in a bind, and with no other options left, he hit a classic Dirk Nowitzki one-foot fadeaway jumper.

In an interview with ESPN Dallas, Nowitzki said the shot didn’t go unnoticed.

“Yeah, I actually saw that,” Nowitzki said with a grin. “I looked at him and gave him a smirk. It was a heck of a shot. ... I didn’t think he’d shoot a one-legger. It looked pretty smooth. I’ve got to give it to him. He made it look easy.”

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/AJ MastDirk Nowitzki's one-legged fadeaway is well on its way to becoming an iconic shot.
Was James trying to get back at Nowitzki and the Mavs for what happened in 2011 through imitating Nowitzki’s shot? Actually, it was the farthest thing from that.

"No, it was a show of respect," James told reporters in Miami after the game. "Dirk is one of my favorite guys. I love the way he approaches the game, the way he plays the game, he's amazing, obviously, we all know that. But I took that from him. I don't do that as well as him, though. He's been doing it a lot longer than me."

That comment was made just a little over a week after Oklahoma City Thunder scoring machine Kevin Durant continued to profess his admiration for the Dallas forward. As Oklahoma City and Dallas have squared off in the playoffs over recent years, Durant has been very open about his respect for Nowitzki and wanting to use his shot. Durant mentioned that when he was 13, Nowitzki was 23 and the young gunner was already working on Nowitzki’s patented shot.

“Sorry I’m making Dirk seem a little bit old, but that’s when I started focusing on Dirk, and he became one of my favorite players to ever play this game,”

Durant told reporters prior to the game between the Mavs and the Thunder in early November, “I just tried it one day when I was working out in the summer. It was rougher than I thought it was going to be, so it took me some time to figure it out, but I think I’m doing all right with it.”

It should be noted that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was the first to really copy Nowitzki’s shot, but he hasn’t had a chance to use it yet this season due to his Achilles injury. Nonetheless, the other two stars are using it and loving it and it’s clear that Nowitzki doesn’t hold any ill will toward the young juggernauts as they use his shot.

“It’s obviously an honor if the two best players in this league think that. That’s great. It makes me feel proud of the work I’ve put in now in my 16th season. I’m glad that other teams and players are watching us play. It makes me happy,” Nowitzki continued. “I’m glad it’s a weapon they use and like.”

It’s not like James and Durant need any additional help to their games on offense. They have the full repertoire. They have post-ups, unlimited range and the ability to get to the rim off the dribble, but having Nowitzki’s one-foot fade makes them that much more filthy. There’s a big difference though in when the three players are required to use the shot. Ever the one to self-deprecate, Nowitzki explained the difference.

“The good thing about that shot is that you can always get it off, but those two guys are so quick off the dribble that they’re not stuck a lot. I usually get stuck,” Nowitzki joked. “I get stuck a lot, so that’s always a shot I can do. They’re still in their prime and quick off the dribble, so they don’t get stuck that much.”

The league has seen Kareem’s skyhook, Hakeem’s dream shake and Michael’s fadeaway emerge as some of the most iconic shots. Speaking of Michael Jordan, don’t forget that Jordan cited Nowitzki as one of the current stars in this era he felt could be as successful in his era. Back to the shots, is it possible that Nowitzki’s one-foot fade could become the next shot to join the group?

“It already is,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas. “You’ve got those guys [James and Durant] emulating it and basically going out of their way to learn to shoot it as a tribute to him.

“I can make a case that Dirk has changed the NBA game as much as any player in history with his shooting ability. Just look at the way the game is played now, it’s fast-paced, it’s jump-shot oriented, it’s skill-oriented. It all lines up with when he came in the league. Now, big guys that can’t shoot really are of minute value. Power forwards that can’t shoot really hold a marginalized value. Dirk’s one of the all-time greats. He’s a pioneer because there’s no seven-footer that’s ever transformed the game the way he has. He’s why the league has made the term, stretch four.”

When asked about the theory that his shot could become the next iconic shot, Nowitzki pondered, grinned and quickly dismissed the notion of it.

“I’m not sure about of that,” Nowitzki laughed. “I’m glad that I’ve left a little mark. I’ve been able to do some good stuff and win a lot of games in this league, score a lot of points. It’s been a pleasure. It’s been a good ride. I wouldn’t quite put my shot up there with the dream shake or the Jordan fadeaway, but it’s definitely a good shot.”

When you see the NBA logo, you know that it’s Jerry West. When you see the Jumpman logo, you know that it’s Michael Jordan. That’s the true definition of an icon. Nowitzki might not agree, but his one-foot fadeaway is an iconic shot. Maybe one day, the shot will be immortalized in true icon status as a statue outside the American Airlines Center.
DALLAS –- It’s an understatement to call Michael Jordan’s recent comments about current players who could have been superstars back in the day an honor for Dirk Nowitzki.

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Nowitzki considered Jordan to be his hero while growing up as a basketball-loving kid in Germany, so he was beyond flattered to be mentioned among LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan as modern-day superstars whom Jordan thinks could have been as successful when he was dominating the league.

“For him to even know my name is crazy, to be honest,” said Nowitzki, who noted he thought several deserving players were left off of Jordan’s list. “For him to say that I could have been a good player then means a lot. It’s humbling. It’s been great. It’s been a crazy ride over 15 years. It’s great to get respect from the greatest of all time.”

It’s not just a nod to Nowitzki’s unique skill set. There has never been another 7-footer with Dirk’s ability to dominate from the perimeter, but that’s often been a knock against Nowitzki.

The "soft" stereotype got slapped on Nowitzki almost as soon as he got off the plane from Germany. It took him 13 years -- and one unbelievable championship run -- to get rid of it for good.

The respect from Jordan, widely considered the most ruthless competitor in NBA history, is a nod to Nowitzki’s unconventional, undeniable mental toughness, something Dirk developed during his career along with the ability to attack off the dribble and post up.

“To me, there’s obviously two types of tough,” said Nowitzki, who acknowledges that 7-footers who are solely spot-up shooters will get labeled as soft. “There is the rah-rah tough, the elbow and play physical and go in there and dunk on people. That was never my kind of tough. I was never that physical. I’m not blessed with a 40-inch vertical. So my toughness was [that] I wanted to be out there for the guys, I wanted to fight with the guys, I wanted to win, I wanted to be there for the team when the game’s on the line. I play hurt. I play sick. I always wanted to be there.

“That’s mentally tough that I developed over the years. I didn’t have that when I first got in the league, but I got better and better with experience and with a will to win a championship.”

Dirk’s game and mind frame developed so well over the years that he’s recognized by his childhood hero as a rare player who could have been great in any era.
Think Dirk Nowitzki was sending a subtle message to Mark Cuban with his tweet after playing two more years and then seeing how he feels?

Think again.

It was just an honest answer to a fan’s question. That’s it.

Nothing has changed for Nowitzki in terms of how he views his basketball future once this contract expires. He has consistently said since he signed the four-year, $80 million deal that it could be his last NBA contract.

Nowitzki’s loyalty to the Mavs, and Cuban, hasn’t wavered. He made that clear later during his impromptu weekend Twitter Q&A when asked why he doesn’t try to jump to a so-called super team.

“I bleed blue,” Nowitzki replied.

Maybe the quality of the Mavs’ roster will influence Nowitzki’s decision on whether to continue his career into his late 30s. Maybe he’ll figure he needs to play for a legitimate contender to muster the competitive fire at that point in life.

Perhaps Nowitzki’s family life will be a major factor, too. He got married this summer. Maybe he’ll decide to become a stay-at-home dad.

But here’s betting that Dirk’s decision comes down to how his then-36-year-old body feels after 16 seasons of the NBA grind.

Nowitzki’s knee trouble early in last year’s lockout-shortened season was the first sign of wear and tear taking its toll. The Mavs hope and believe, however, that the knee soreness was a result of the sudden end to the lockout and compressed schedule, not necessarily a painful sign of things to come.

Nevertheless, Nowitzki is likely to have logged close to 50,000 NBA minutes, including playoffs, by the time his contract expires. Plus, that 7-foot frame made a ton of trips up and down the floor while playing for Germany in international competition.

On the other hand, Nowitzki’s game should age well. It isn’t as if he became one of the best power forwards of all-time because of awesome athleticism.

It’s not like Nowitzki will suddenly lose his shooting touch in his old age. He preferably wouldn’t have to create his own shot so often and carry the Mavs’ offense on his shoulders, but Nowitzki could be a scoring threat until his blond hair goes gray.

And Nowitzki has the benefit of working on a daily basis with Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith, who is widely considered one of the best in the business and happens to be one of No. 41’s best friends.

While Nowitzki has never focused on his numbers, there’s something to be said for cracking the 30,000-point barrier, an exclusive club that includes only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and should be joined by Kobe Bryant this season. Nowitzki will probably need two more pretty good seasons to get there after this deal is done.

If his body is still able, it’s hard to envision Nowitzki not being willing to continue cashing Cuban’s checks and knocking down jumpers in a Mavs uniform.

Sizing up the competition: L.A. Lakers

August, 24, 2012
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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

Brendan Haywood follows path to Charlotte

July, 14, 2012
7/14/12
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What is it with the Charlotte Bobcats and overpaid Dallas Mavericks centers?

They took DeSagana Diop off the Mavs' hands just months after Dallas lavished the Senegal native with the full mid-level exception. Then Charlotte traded Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier and his fully non-guaranteed contract. On Saturday, the Bobcats acquired Brendan Haywood through the amnesty waiver process, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported, citing sources with knowledge of the move.

Dallas used its amnesty rights on the former North Carolina Tar Heels player on Thursday, shortly after agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal with center Chris Kaman. Haywood, who lives in Charlotte during the offseason, is owed $27.2 million over the next three seasons, including $8.3 million this season, all of which will be paid to Haywood but wiped off the Mavs' books in terms of salary cap and luxury tax ramifications.

The Bobcats' winning bid for Haywood was $2.05 million, according to NBA.com, meaning Charlotte will be responsible for that amount of Haywood's salary, with the Mavs picking up the balance. It's just $50,000 less than the bid the Mavs submitted earlier this week to win the services of power forward Elton Brand.

Haywood, 32, will join Diop in Charlotte on Michael Jordan's wayward club that set an NBA record for lowest winning percentage (.106) last season.

It was an up-and-down tenure in Dallas for Haywood. He was part of the 2010 deadline trade that brought him, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson over from Washington for Josh Howard and others. The deal ultimately paid off in a championship with, interestingly enough, Stevenson becoming the key piece of the deal in terms of the 2011 title.

Haywood's performances were erratic. At times he flashed signs of being a double-double machine and other times appeared as if he would rather be on a beach somewhere. Never a true offensive threat, his defensive abilities deteriorated as this season progressed, and he averaged just 15 minutes a game in the playoff sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Haywood figured to become an amnesty victim if the Mavs were successful in luring top free-agent target Deron Williams. When that didn't happen, Haywood figured to be staying. That the Mavs used their amnesty on his contract goes to show just how fed up they had become with the passive 7-footer.

Now it's off to Charlotte, where Haywood will certainly feel the comforts of home.

Long build to title, swift fall from grace

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
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It took Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki nearly a dozen years to raise the Dallas Mavericks from the ashes of the 1990s to the pinnacle of the NBA as champions.

Just 13 months later, a nearly complete dismantling of the title team has created one of the swiftest falls from grace in league history. In 1998-99, the Chicago Bulls, having moved on from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, followed a second three-peat with a 13-37 record in the lockout-shortened season.

The Mavs' downward spiral is most similar to that, ironically, of the 2006 Miami Heat, the Dwyane Wade-led team that rallied from an 0-2 hole to beat Avery Johnson's squad. The next year the Heat finished a mediocre 44-38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs ended this lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule at 36-30 and were swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The following year, the Heat won 15 games. It would be a stretch to think the Mavs will crater to such depths next season, but with a roster now in full rebuild mode -- and one that will not include Jason Terry or Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, for that matter -- Dallas could face a long, hard climb to extend the franchise's record 12-year playoff run.

So where has everybody gone from the title team that partied deep into the South Beach morning last June?

Let's take a look.

Still around: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beauobois, Dominique Jones

Coming back?: Ian Mahinmi (unsigned free agent), Brian Cardinal (unsigned free agent)

Long gone: Tyson Chandler (signed as free agent in 2011 with New York), J.J. Barea (signed as free agent in 2011 with Minnesota); Caron Butler (signed as free agent in 2011 with L.A. Clippers), Corey Brewer (traded in 2011 to Denver), DeShawn Stevenson (signed as free agent in 2011 with New Jersey, traded to Atlanta), Peja Stojakovic (retired)

All but gone: Jason Terry (agreed to terms this week with Boston), Jason Kidd (agreed to terms this week with New York).
DALLAS -- Rodrigue Beaubois figured he knew the consequences if his flair backfired before he wrapped the ball around his back and soared for a SportsCenter-worthy slam dunk to finish a fast break.

“Oh, I’m out, for sure,” Beaubois said when asked what would have happened if he botched the showboat act.

[+] EnlargeRodrigue Beaubois
Glenn James/Getty ImagesRodrigue Beaubois scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
That’s not necessarily the case, according to Rick Carlisle, the man who has emphasized the importance for Roddy B. to make being a competitor the priority over being an entertainer.

As long as Beaubois is competing, Carlisle can deal with the occasional flash. And Beaubois competed up to Carlisle’s standards during the second half of Thursday’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring eight of his 14 points and grabbing all four of his rebounds in the fourth quarter.

Carlisle demands intense defense and aggressive offense from Beaubois. Give the coach that and he’ll be cool with playing to the crowd a little bit.

“I had no problem with that because he was playing with great intensity at both ends,” Carlisle said. “He was competing hard at both ends. In the first half, he was out there, but he wasn’t a factor. He had no presence. I talked to him about that at halftime, and in the second half, he got in his stance and he made things happen.

“It’s one of the habits that he’s got to continue to develop, and that is the habit of keeping the motor going. It doesn’t come natural to some guys, and so it’s got to be things that keep you on, and we’ll stay on him about it.”

A few more notes from Thursday’s win:

1. Oh no, DoJo: The Mavs came dangerously close to blowing a 17-point lead in the final four minutes. Carlisle thought a 10-point lead was safe with 1:40 remaining an dpulled Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry from the game, but they were back in their five points and 61 seconds later. Reserve guard Dominique Jones especially stunk it up during garbage time, committing a careless turnover and compounding the mistake with a foul seconds later.

“I made the mistake of subbing too early,” Carlisle said. “I shouldn’t have put Jones in there. He went in there and half-stepped it.”

2. Matrix plays in pain: Shawn Marion’s left knee didn’t feel good despite taking Wednesday’s practice off. “Hell no,” Marion said. “I’m good, though. I’ll fight through it.”

Marion is the only Maverick who has played every game this season, but he didn’t play particularly well against the Bobcats. He had four points on 2-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. Carlisle said that the Mavs wouldn’t let Marion play if there was any question about whether he would benefit from sitting out a game or two.

3. Dallas dumping grounds: The presence of three ex-Mavericks at the end of the Bobcats’ bench is evidence of what a miserably managed franchise Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are. DeSagana Diop, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera will combine to make $13.6 million this season. They combined to score four points and grab three rebounds in the Bobcats’ loss to the Mavs, with Carroll and Diop never taking off their warm-ups.

The Mavs shipped Diop to Charlotte months after making a massive mistake by giving him the full midlevel exception in 2008, getting Carroll and rental reserve center Ryan Hollins in exchange. Diop will make $7.3 million next season.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban somehow convinced Jordan to take the contracts of Carroll and Najera off the Mavs’ hands in what was supposed to be a Tyson Chandler salary dump. Najera comes off the books this summer, but Carroll is due another $3.5 million next season.
Dirk Nowitzki scoring 40 points in 29 minutes Saturday night somehow was an afterthought to the Lamar Odom saga.

Let's put into perspective just how rare a point-per-minute feat that was.

*There are only two active players who can claim to have scored 40 points while playing 30 or fewer minutes. The last player to do that was Rodrigue Beaubois, who lit up the Warriors for 40 points in 29:52 off the bench as a rookie two seasons ago. J.R. Smith did it twice while with Denver.

*You have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a 40-point performance in fewer minutes. Indiana center Rik Smits had 40 points in 27 minutes against the Sixers.

*There have been only 14 40-point, 30-or-fewer-minute performances since 1986-87, according to basketball-reference.com's database. The players to pull off the feat in reverse chronological order: Nowitzki, Beaubois, Smith (twice), Gilbert Arenas, Stephon Marbury, Gary Payton, Smits, Walt Williams, Terry Porter, Michael Jordan, Sleepy Floyd, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird.

Ex-champ Vince Carter still dunk contest fan

February, 25, 2012
2/25/12
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It’s been a dozen years since Vince Carter won the NBA’s slam dunk contest. He can still morph into Half Man, Half Amazing at moments -- just ask New Orleans big man Emeka Okafor, Carter’s recent YouTube victim -- but the 35-year-old can’t envision himself as a participant in the featured event of All-Star Saturday ever again.

“I don’t think so,” Carter said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d have to have an epiphany.”

You can count on Carter watching Saturday’s dunk contest that features four first-time participants: Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, Indiana’s Paul George, Utah’s Jeremy Evans and Houston’s Chase Budinger. He doesn’t like the changed format -- “endurance dunking,” he calls it -- but Carter will always be a dunk aficionado.

“I used to tape all the dunk contests and watch them over and over and analyze them,” Carter said. “I like to see just like a judge in gymnastics. I say gymnastics because I’ve been to a lot of my daughter’s gymnastics meets. They always look at body control, all the technical stuff, and that’s how I’ve always been with the dunk contest.”

Carter lists Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and J.R. Rider as his favorite dunk showmen. You can see their influence in his spectacular routine during the 2000 contest.

He borrowed from Dr. J and Jordan with a variation of the free-throw line jam, taking off from a step inside the line but throwing it down with two hands. He also did a Jordan-esque side-leaning tomahawk, adding flair by hanging from the rim with his elbow.

Carter enhanced Rider’s between-the-legs jam by doing it after catch a bounce pass from teammate Tracy McGrady. And he delved into Dominque’s genre with two nasty windmills -- one a 360, the other a 180 after taking off from behind the basket.

In Carter’s opinion, it’s the details that make a contest dunk.

“I like to see guys do the windmill,” Carter said. “I always wanted to do a windmill with the arm straight, straight down. Not half-cocked. If you half-cock it, your arm is bent.”

Of course, it helps to have a 40-plus inch vertical.

At the half: Mavs 44, Celtics 34

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
8:17
PM CT
DALLAS -- Jason Kidd stole Ray Allen's pass into the paint midway through the quarter to give Kidd his 2,515th career steal, pushing him past Michael Jordan to become No. 2 on the NBA's all-time steals list.

The theft led to a Dirk Nowitzki jumper that was part of 10 consecutive points scored by the big German. He finished the half with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Sounds like all fun and games, but as poorly as the massively undermanned Celtics are playing, Dallas might think it should be leading by more than 10. Boston, playing without starters Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, plus reserve forward Brandon Bass, are shooting 40.5 percent. The Mavs aren't doing much better at 40.9 percent, which means no one besides Dirk is doing much on the offensive end.

OK, Jason Terry is 3-of-4 with two 3s for eight points.

But, to the point, Dirk is 8-of-18 from the floor and the rest of the team is 10-of-26 for 23 points.

Paul Pierce leads Boston with 11 points. Allen and Texas-ex Avery Bradley have eight points each.

Jason Kidd about to steal way past Michael Jordan

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
1:55
PM CT
With his next steal, and that figures to come at some point in tonight's game against the Boston Celtics, Jason Kidd will pass Michael Jordan and take over sole possession of second place on the NBA's all-time steals list.

Kidd has had at least one steal in each of the last eight games he's played (excluding the Jan. 27 game when he injured his right calf and left after just two minutes). In the last three games, Kidd has eight steals, including three Sunday in the loss to the Knicks, tying him with Jordan with 2,514 career steals.

So many of Kidd's thefts are a result of pure anticipation and pure instinct, understanding where an opposing player wants to go with the basketball and then almost ambushing the play.

"Jason reminds me of Larry Bird that way," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He has a unique anticipation, it’s almost savant-like. He kind of senses things before they happen, I mean he senses when a guy’s going to throw the ball into the post before the guy even knows he’s going to throw the ball into the post. And then Jason, he gets around and is able to knock it away and goes the other way. Bird was the same way, so he’s an all-time great, one of the best ever."

Dirk Nowitzki could reach two milestones tonight:

* He needs just seven points to pass Celtics great Robert Parish and claiming No. 20 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Nowitzki's season-high 34 points on Sunday gives him 23,328 career points.

* He also still needs one block to reach 1,000 for his career.

Six-Pack: Vince Carter moves up scoring list

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
2:06
PM CT
A six-pack of Mavs statistical nuggets following Wednesday night’s home rout of Denver:

*With 15 points in the 102-84 win, Vince Carter passed David Robinson (20,790 points) for 33rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

*Dallas scored the first five points in the win and never relinquished that lead. It’s the third time already this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that the Mavericks never trailed or were even tied. The Mavs had only one such game during the 2010-11 regular season and only one during its postseason run to the championship (Game 3’s 93-87 victory over Oklahoma City in the West finals.)

*The Mavericks have held their last nine opponents under 100 points and rank No. 5 in the league in scoring defense at 91.3 points per game allowed. Even without Tyson Chandler, Dallas ranks fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions.

*Going back to Monday night, Dirk Nowitzki’s 11 points in the fourth quarter marked the first time all season he scored in double digits in the final period. Dirk did that 12 times last season. Yet over the past seven games, Nowitzki has averaged 23.7 points on 50.8-percent shooting, compared to 16.2 points per game on 43.0-percent shooting in the Mavs’ first 19 games.

*With one more block, Nowitzki will have 1,000 for his career, making him just the third player in league history to rack up 1,000 career 3-pointers and 1,000 career swats, joining Clifford Robinson and Rasheed Wallace. Jason Kidd, meanwhile, is five steals away from tying Michael Jordan for second place on the NBA’s all-time thefts list (2,14) behind John Stockton (3,265). At 38 days and 331 years old, Kidd is the fourth-oldest active player in the league behind Portland’s Kurt Thomas (39 years, 136 days old), Phoenix’s Grant Hill (39-135) and Miami’s Juwan Howard (39-10).

Dirk nears 23,000 points, top 20 all-time

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
12:00
PM CT

The milestones are coming fast and furious for Dirk Nowitzki. Through the first 10 games, he has already reached 8,000 career field goals, 1,200 career 3-pointers and he played in his 1,000th career game.

Tonight against the Boston Celtics, the 7-footer needs 19 points to reach 23,000 in his illustrious career. Nowitzki currently sits 23rd all-time in the NBA with 22,981 points. Another 354 points and Nowitzki will pass Boston Celtics great Robert Parrish and move into the top 20.

Nowitzki's scoring average this season is down at 18.9 points, but his minutes, 31.0 a game, are also being closely monitored because of the nature of the compacted schedule. He busted out of a two-game, 5-of-22 slump by hitting 9-of-10 shots for 18 points Tuesday night in the 100-86 win at Detroit.

"We all had a feeling that he was going to play a great game because the way the schedule is set up these last couple of days," coach Rick Calrisle said, nothing the Mavs had two days off before Tuesday's game after playing six games in eight nights.

Can Nowitzki get the 19 points tonight to become the 23rd player in NBA history to notch 23,000 points? Odds are good considering Boston's TD Garden is like a second home to him. Nowitzki's 27.8 scoring average there is his highest at any NBA venue and is the second-highest for any player there behind Michael Jordan's 29.3 average, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Also, Nowitzki's 27.4 career scoring average against the Celtics is his personal highest against a single team. He has the second-highest career scoring average against Boston among active players.

Here's some additional Dirk scoring tidbits:

* He passed Hal Greer (21,586), Larry Bird (21,791), Gary Payton (21,813) and Clyde Drexler (22,195) on the all-time scoring list in 2010-11.

* He ranks third among active players in career scoring, trailing only Kobe Bryant (28,192) and Kevin Garnett (23,426).

* Only three other players born outside of the U.S. have more career points than the 7-footer from Germany: Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946, born in Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (26,668, born in France) and Patrick Ewing (24,815, born in Jamaica).

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TEAM LEADERS

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