Dallas Mavericks: Oklahoma City Thunder

Mavs' debt on Lamar Odom deal finally paid

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:22
AM CT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Dallas Mavericks have finally paid their debt on the disastrous Lamar Odom deal.

The protected first-round pick the Mavs gave up in the trade, which has since been shipped from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder, is officially OKC’s property in this draft.

The pick was top-20 protected through 2017, so the Mavs had to finish with one of the NBA’s top 10 records to unload the pick this season. With the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls both losing their regular-season finales, the 49-33 Mavs have the league’s 10th-best record, giving the pick to Oklahoma City.

Had the Bulls or Raptors won, there would have been a random drawing to break the tie with the Mavs and determine the draft order. If the Mavs won the drawing, they wouldn’t have lost the pick this year.

It was the Mavs’ preference to part with the pick this season.

“I’d rather just get it over with,” owner Mark Cuban said before the Mavs’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “I’m fine just getting it out of the way so it’s no longer over our head or an issue.”

The Mavs owing Oklahoma City a protected pick prevented Dallas from discussing giving up future first-round picks in trade talks. An NBA rule prevent teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years, so the earliest first-rounder the Mavs can deal now would be their 2016 pick.
Dirk NowitzkiMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsWould Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs have a fighting chance against Kevin Durant and the Thunder?
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. How much of a difference does it make whether the Mavs face the Thunder or Spurs?

Gutierrez: It makes a dramatic difference. Dallas has the advantage in coaching and bench support against Oklahoma City. At best, they're even in those categories against San Antonio. The Spurs struggle against younger and athletic teams. No one will confuse the Mavericks as either of those. Dallas has lost nine straight to their neighbors to the south. Meanwhile, the recent run of success against the Thunder should give the Mavericks more confidence if they were to matchup in the first round. I think a series against San Antonio would be death by paper cuts, while a series against Oklahoma City would potentially be death by technical knockout.

Taylor: The Mavs really have no chance to beat San Antonio in a seven-game series. The Spurs are too disciplined and too good offensively and defensively for the Mavs to beat them. The have virtually no chance to beat Oklahoma City, but it's more of a chance than they have to beat San Antonio. First, they beat Oklahoma City the last two times they've played them even though OKC didn't have its full squad either time. So much of professional sports is about confidence. The Mavs believe they can beat Oklahoma City. In their heart of hearts, I don't know that they believe they can beat the Spurs. They will compete, but I don’t know if they believe when it comes to San Antonio.

MacMahon: The Mavs wouldn’t be favored in either series, but they’d at least have a shooter’s chance against the Thunder. They’d be in serious jeopardy of getting swept by the Spurs. You can debate how much stock should be put in Dallas’ two March wins over Oklahoma City, but they at least gave the Mavs reason to believe they can beat the Thunder. That doesn’t exist against a San Antonio team that hasn’t lost to the Mavs since Jason Kidd was playing point guard in Dallas. The Mavs’ ball movement gives the Thunder big problems. If the Mavs are hot from 3-point range, they’ve got a shot to beat the Thunder.

(Read full post)

Kevin Durant, Dirk NowitzkiLayne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki have a similar workout program and mutual respect for each other.
DALLAS -- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a four-time scoring champion copying your unique training program is about as high a compliment as can be offered to an NBA player.

That’s the case with Kevin Durant following in the one-legged footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki, as reported in great detail by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Durant, the MVP favorite whose Oklahoma City Thunder might face Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks in the first round, has gone so far as to hire a Holger Geschwindner pupil to put him through workouts similar to those that helped Dirk develop from a skinny kid in Wurzburg, Germany, to the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history.

“I'm not even sure if he needs it,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, he's one of the best players on the planet. He's already got the whole package.

“Credit to him that he loves working out, he loves getting better. And he's already one of the best players ever or in the league now. He's constantly in the gym, working out on the road, working out at home. That's a credit to him being hungry and constantly improving.

“To me, he's got the whole package. He can shoot off the dribble, he can post, he can shoot from 3 anywhere. He's already pretty good.”

Pretty good, of course, is a great understatement with Durant. Once his fourth scoring title becomes official at the end of the regular season, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain will be the only players in NBA history to have more. At 25 years old, Durant is almost halfway to the exclusive 30,000-point club, which Nowitzki could join as the sixth member in a few years.

(Read full post)

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 your prediction if the Mavs meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs?

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What would be the result of a Mavs-Thunder series?

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Gutierrez: This is the matchup Dallas would like to see. In addition, if this holds, this is the best opening-round matchup in the playoffs. You don’t think the league would love marketing another duel between Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant? It should be noted that Dallas won the season series over Oklahoma City this season, 2-1. Yes, Russell Westbrook missed one of the games and the Thunder went without key rotational players in a majority of the games, but this is the matchup Dallas can hang in. Shawn Marion makes Durant work for every single point he scores, which is essential if you want to try to steal a series. Also, the Mavericks have the bench and coaching advantage against the Thunder. I think the combination of Durant and Westbrook is too much for Dallas, but I think it goes to six, possibly seven games.

Taylor: The Mavs would lose in five after Oklahoma City took a 3-0 lead. Yes, the Mavs have beaten OKC the last two times they met, but they haven't beaten them when the Thunder was at full strength and they haven't beaten them with something like a playoff series on the line. The Mavs are such a bad defensive team that OKC would eventually have their way with them against them in a seven-game series.

MacMahon: How much value do you put on the Mavs’ two wins in March? It’d been a long time since Dallas defeated OKC before then, but the Mavs did expose one of the Thunder’s biggest flaws in those games. OKC tends to get sloppy with its defensive rotations and close-outs on 3-point shooters. The Mavs move the ball and shoot the 3 with the best of them and lit it up in those two games, going 28-of-52 from 3-point range. That could make this series interesting and entertaining because you know KD and Co. are going to put up a lot of points. Thunder in six.

2. What's your prediction if the Mavs meet the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs?

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What would be the result of a Mavs-Spurs series?

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Gutierrez: The Spurs are just a machine. They are simply just too good. There might be some glimmer of hope with them taking the foot off the gas since they’ve clinched the top seed and home-court advantage, but I wouldn’t count on that for a huge boost towards Dallas. There’s too much pick-and-roll action and ball movement that will carve up the Mavericks’ defense. Dallas might be able to score, but they necessarily can’t rely on monster performances from Nowitzki. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the league and he has a defender in Boris Diaw who has done surprisingly well guarding Nowitzki over recent seasons. This is just flat out trouble for the Mavericks. This is a Gentleman’s sweep, meaning Dallas loses in five games.

Taylor: San Antonio would sweep the Mavs. San Antonio plays good defense and they don't make the kind of mistakes the Mavs do at winning time, which leads to losses. And the way the Mavs play defense they'd have no chance to stop San Antonio.

MacMahon: Maybe the Mavs catch a break and Tony Parker’s back keeps acting up, but that’d probably just mean that former Trail Blazers mascot/Brian Cardinal tackling dummy Patty Mills would light it up. Like we needed any further proof that Pop is a coaching genius, he’s developed Patty Mills into a highly productive member of a potential championship team’s rotation. The Spurs are just too tough and too deep for the Mavs to have any real upset hopes. It’d be an accomplishment if they make a second trip to see that muddy-beep thing they call the Riverwalk in this series. Spurs in five.

3. What's your prediction if the Mavs meet the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs?

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What would be the result of a Mavs-Clippers series?

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Gutierrez: Based on the shenanigans in the previous matchups and the players in the mix, I think this could become a very emotional series. Assuming there’s a skirmish or two, this series won’t be for the faint of heart. In addition, there will likely be an understanding that defense will be optional. I don’t trust Dallas’ chances of shutting Chris Paul down enough to secure a series. That said, I don’t trust Los Angeles, outside of Paul, to handle their business in convincing fashion. I don’t see the Mavericks winning the series, but I think they push the Clippers to possibly six games.

Taylor: The Mavs could take the Clippers to six or seven games before eventually losing. The problem with the Clippers is finding someone to stay in front of Chris Paul. He's so quick and fast that he creates all kinds of problems for the Mavs when he gets into the lane. The Mavs also a problem with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin inside. But the Mavs have led the Clippers in the fourth quarter of each of the four games they played this season, but only won one of them. The Clippers would not want this matchup.

MacMahon: We know the Mavs can play with the Clippers. They’ve built double-digit leads in all four meetings this season. The question is whether they can close against the Clippers. They haven’t done that yet. Yes, they won in L.A. last week, but they had to hang on for dear life after a 12-point lead got slashed to two in an 85-second span late in the fourth quarter. This series would be an absolute treat to watch with the Lob City high-risers putting together a highlight reel and the Mavs’ conducting an offensive symphony. I just don’t think it’d turn out much better for Dallas than the last time they faced CP3 in a playoff series. Clippers in six.

Calderon (facial injury) will play vs. OKC

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
11:08
AM CT
DALLAS -- Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon will play Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, two days after suffering a facial injury.

“We’re fortunate,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Calderon participated in the Mavs’ shootaround. “It could have been much worse.”

Calderon left Sunday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets after being accidentally hit in the face by rookie center Mason Plumlee’s forearm in the opening minute. There was some bleeding, but Calderon did not need to get any stitches and did not lose any teeth.

Calderon said before the game that he did chip a bone in his face, but he won't wear a mask for protection.

"It was between my teeth and between my nose, so I don’t know what kind of bone is there, but there’s no treatment," Calderon said. "Nothing, it’s going to be all right."

OKC's Westbrook (rest) won't face Mavs

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
5:07
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will rest Sunday against the Mavericks, a precautionary measure with Oklahoma City playing the first game of a back-to-back.
DALLAS -- Small forward Jae Crowder, who has been sidelined the last two games due to a strained abdominal muscle, participated in most of Friday’s practice and expects to play Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just soreness at this point,” Crowder said. “No pain, so that’s a good sign.”

Crowder was pulled about two-thirds of the way into practice for precautionary reasons. He’s expected to be a full participant in Saturday’s practice before joining the team for the trip to Oklahoma City.

“He was doing well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We didn’t want to push him too hard.”

Crowder has drifted in and out of the Mavs’ rotation recently, losing playing time to Wayne Ellington. However, Crowder will likely be useful Sunday, as the Mavs will need to throw a bunch of bodies at NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-6 Crowder has the top defensive rating (100.1 points per 100 possessions) among the Mavs.

“We’ve got to have all our perimeter defenders available,” Crowder said, confident that he will be.

3 Points: More burn for Brandan Wright?

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
12:00
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Brandan WrightRocky Widner/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrandan Wright is making the most of his minutes with the Mavericks.
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. Brandan Wright ranks among the top 10 players in PER this season. Is that evidence that he deserves more minutes or that Rick Carlisle is doing a masterful job picking spots to play Wright?

Gutierrez: It's evidence he's effective in situations where he's poised to succeed. If you look at the matchups against Portland and Indiana, they involved bigger players who were comfortable working in the post. He's generally ineffective against those players because they impose their will in the paint and that provides easy buckets for the opposition. The positioning is also an issue when it comes to rebounding. Look at Carlisle's track record. Rodrigue Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, Carlisle picked his spots with those players and put them in situations to succeed. Wright deserves minutes when they're advantageous for the team.

Taylor: Wright, for the time being, is really nice role player. But his role is limited to certain situations because he's a true tweener. He can't bang against the big boys and that means Carlisle feels comfortable playing him only with certain other players, so the spacing remains good on offense. Wright could force Carlisle to play him more if he was a better and more consistent rebounder, but we haven't seen that yet.

MacMahon: I've got a condition I call the Roddy B. Reflex that makes me very hesitant to second-guess Carlisle's rotations. I lobbied hard for Beaubois to get a bigger role as a rookie, and we all know how he wilted when his minutes increased. Having said all that, I'd like to see Wright in the 25-minute-per-game range. He earned his two-year, $10 million deal by flourishing in an increased role down the stretch last season, and his net rating (plus-6.1 points per 100 possessions) is by far the best of the Mavs' centers. Next time Carlisle asks my advice, I'll tell him to stop using DeJuan Blair as the first big off the bench and give those minutes to Wright.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
AP Photo/John F. RhodesSince his return, Devin Harris has impressed when his Achilles isn't bothering him.
2. Should Devin Harris be in the closing lineup on a consistent basis?

Gutierrez: A sore right Achilles halted Harris' night in Golden State and easily leaves him questionable for the game against Utah. If he's able to avoid missing a lot of time, he's primed to be a factor in the closing lineup. Harris is a quasi-DeShawn Stevenson or maybe even a mixture of Stevenson and Jason Terry. Back in 2011, Stevenson set the tone in terms of defense to start games, and Terry didn't care about starting games during his time in Dallas -- he cared about being out there during crunch time. If Harris can bring some dribble penetration and bring some defensive disposition, it's the best of both worlds. Jose Calderon appears to be the one who will draw the short straw in terms of closing minutes, but he's a veteran and is willing to do what is best for the team. Health permitting, it appears Monta Ellis and Harris could be the closing backcourt during the stretch run.

Taylor: Well, we saw the problem with Harris in Tuesday night's blowout loss to Golden State. We can't trust his health yet. This is the second time he's had a sore Achilles. The best thing to do, right now, regarding Harris is just accept what he can give you on a game-by-game basis. No expectations. When he can play and he's playing well, then use him in fourth quarter. But until we can trust his health it's hard to define his role.

MacMahon: This sore Achilles is pretty poorly timed, but the Mavs don't believe it's serious. If Harris is healthy enough to play, he should be part of the Mavs' closing lineup unless Calderon is just lighting it up that night. Harris earned those opportunities with his clutch heroics over the weekend. He's the Mavs' best defensive guard and his ability to create off the dribble makes a major difference in crunch time. Calderon has been just a floor-spacer during closing time this season -- and not particularly effective in that role. This is an easy decision unless Harris' health complicates the issue.

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Which West team should the Mavericks most want to avoid in the playoffs?

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3. Which West team should the Mavs most want to avoid in the playoffs?

Gutierrez: It's clear that both San Antonio and Oklahoma City are the teams Dallas needs to avoid. If you're forcing me to pick one, I'm going to go with Dallas needing to avoid San Antonio. They have so much depth at their disposal and that depth can negate Dallas' strength in numbers approach. As we saw in the matchup just over a week ago, the ball movement and pick-and-roll action they create puts the Mavericks in an incredible bind. San Antonio is a machine and Dallas doesn't have the components to slow them down. To avoid both, Dallas needs to emerge as the sixth seed in the West.

Taylor: It's a tie. The Mavs have no chance to beat San Antonio because the Spurs are too smart, and they have no chance to beat Oklahoma City because the Thunder are too athletic. If the Mavs played a lick of defense they'd have a sliver of a chance against these two teams. Since they don't, they would be lucky to force either series to six games.

MacMahon: The Spurs and Thunder are both horrific matchups for the Mavs, but I'd call Oklahoma City the greater of the two evils. There is high potential for humiliation if you face a team with two premier young superstars such as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a playoff series. Side note: Bricktown is better than that muddy-beep thing they call the Riverwalk.

Value of picks painful lesson for Mavs

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
2:58
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DALLAS -- Draft picks have never been more precious commodities in the trade market.

That’s one conclusion reached by owner Mark Cuban as the Mavericks do their annual due diligence of exploring any possible opportunities to upgrade their roster. It confirms what the Mavs have learned over the last couple of years.

“Teams really value picks more than they used to,” said Cuban, who has used picks as sweeteners in trades in the past, such as the Jason Kidd deal. “Teams now value receiving picks a lot more than they used to, so I think teams would rather not do a deal than do a deal without picks.

“Teams have kind of defined their strategy post-CBA where you either went all in and the team you’ve got is the team you’ve got [or] you went all under and you’re going young and you’re mining for draft picks. What I call the three years away from three years away strategy. Then there’s teams like us that are looking to make deals, that are flexible but aren’t willing to give up picks.”

Never mind willing. The Mavs aren’t able to give up any first-round picks before 2020 because of the top-20-protected pick they owe from the dreadful Lamar Odom deal that is now owed to Oklahoma City.

That makes it awfully tough for the Mavs to get any significant conversations started. Cuban says there are ways around it, methods the Mavs could use to be able to peddle picks, but he declined to elaborate. Suffice to say, it wouldn’t be simple or easy.

(Read full post)

That pesky pick from the Lamar Odom deal

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
10:39
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The Mavericks essentially have one hand tied behind their back as they explore options for upgrading their roster before the trade deadline.

They’d prefer to be in the same situation next season, although only under certain circumstances.

That’s because the Dallas front office wants to have a first-round pick in what’s considered the deepest NBA draft in years. The Mavs still owe the Oklahoma City Thunder a top-20-protected pick, an asset the Mavs originally used to get Lamar Odom (oops) from the Los Angeles Lakers, who traded it to the Houston Rockets, who used it as part of the package to land James Harden.

It’s not that the uncertainty of their first-round pick, which forbids the Mavs from trading any first-rounders, is preventing the Mavs from making a deal. It just eliminates one major form of trade-deadline currency for a buyer. With no picks and no young talent that’s good enough to headline a package, it’s extremely unlikely that the Mavs will do anything significant before Thursday’s deadline.

As it stands coming out of the All-Star break, the Mavs have the eighth best record in the league, meaning the Thunder would own the No. 23 pick.

The Mavs obviously don’t want to drop into the lottery, which is the only way they can guarantee holding on to their pick this year. The ideal situation would be for a few East teams to finish strong enough to bump the Mavs up in the draft order.

Good luck with that. The Toronto Raptors (28-24) and Chicago Bulls (27-25) are the only East teams other than the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers who are even above .500.

This is a pick the Mavs expected to unload in the summer of 2012, but Dallas stumbled in the lockout season and ended up with the No. 17 pick, which they turned into Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James after a draft-day trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Mavs ended up in the lottery last season, selecting Shane Larkin at No. 18 overall after twice trading down in cost-cutting moves.

The worst-case scenario would be for the Mavs to fail to finish high enough in any season to unload the pick before it becomes unprotected in 2018. Can you imagine the Mavs being in rebuilding mode after Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement and having to donate a lottery pick to the Thunder due to the Odom disaster?

Despite the deep draft, a strong case could be made that it’d be in the Mavs’ best interests to give up the pick this year, especially considering Dallas’ draft history the last decade.

How Mavs match up with potential playoff foes

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
12:55
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The Mavericks head into the All-Star break as one of the NBA’s hottest teams, winning six of their last seven games, a run punctuated by beating the big, bad Indiana Pacers in a brawl.

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Who would you most like to see the Mavs face in the first round of the playoffs?

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As Dirk Nowitzki heads to New Orleans and his teammates scatter to sunny vacation destinations, the Mavs sit in sixth place in the Western Conference standings. That’s a far cry from being six games under .500 at the All-Star break a year ago.

The Mavs can afford to take nothing for granted, but the math is certainly in their favor when it comes to making the playoffs. The Hollinger Playoff Odds, a statistical formula created by Memphis vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger during his days as an ESPN analyst, put the Mavs’ chances at 79.1 percent. (Hollinger’s ninth-place Grizzlies are at 39.1 percent.)

If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Mavs would be matched up with their Interstate 45 rival, the Houston Rockets. That sounds like a lot of fun, pairing two high-scoring teams with the potential for some juicy off-court banter between Mark Cuban and Dwight Howard, last summer’s heartbreaker.

But the playoff pairings could shift on a daily basis, with Houston one of three teams who are 5 games back from the first-place Oklahoma City Thunder and the Mavs leading a pack of three teams within a half-game of each other at the bottom of the playoff bracket. It’s a long shot that the Mavs can climb any higher than sixth in the standings, so let’s look at how they might match up in a playoff series with each of the teams above them.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The Thunder have the league’s best record despite perennial All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook missing much of the season due to knee surgeries. Kevin Durant is the clear-cut MVP leader, which is remarkable considering that LeBron James is still in his prime. Oklahoma City has won 12 of 13 meetings with Dallas since the Mavs eliminated the Thunder in the 2011 West finals. Needless to say, the Mavs would much prefer to avoid being the eighth seed.
Season series: Thunder, 1-0
Mavs’ shot: A Samuel Dalembert 80-footer

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs’ winning streak over the Mavs stands at seven games. The average margin of victory during that streak is 16.9 points. Gregg Popovich is probably the only coach in the West who would have an edge over Rick Carlisle. Tony Parker is a matchup nightmare for the Mavs’ guards. Same goes for Tim Duncan inside. And the Spurs have several role players who have come up big against Dallas.
Season series: Spurs, 2-0
Mavs’ shot: A contested Shawn Marion halfcourt heave

HOUSTON ROCKETS
How about first to 120 wins each game? James Harden and Monta Ellis can’t guard each other. The Mavs have no answer for Howard. Nor do the Rockets for Nowitzki. The regular-season series is already over and it ended up even – not just in wins, but in points. This could be a really fun series between teams that have enough bad blood (at least in the front offices) to make for a heck of a Lone Star State rivalry.
Season series: Tied, 2-2
Mavs’ shot: A Dirk one-legged fadeaway with Howard in his face

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Clippers pulled off a couple of jaw-dropping comebacks over Dallas with Mavs castoff Darren Collison playing point guard. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence if a healthy Chris Paul is running the show for Lob City and setting up athletic freaks Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Clippers small forward Matt Barnes, who has faced the Mavs in memorable playoff series with the Warriors and Lakers, used to get under Dallas’ skin as much as anybody. That dishonor might go to Griffin now.
Season series: Clippers, 2-0
Mavs’ shot: An off-the-dribble 30-footer by Monta Ellis

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The first-round matchup with the Blazers ended up being the Mavs’ toughest challenge en route to the 2011 Finals. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are the only players left from that Portland roster. Nowitzki and Marion are the only championship pieces left on the Dallas roster. The Mavs would have a puncher’s chance in this series because the Blazers aren’t any better than Dallas defensively. In fact, Portland is the only team that would make the playoffs at this point that ranks lower than the Mavs in defensive rating.
Season series: Tied, 1-1
Mavs’ shot: A Vince Carter 3-pointer
I’m skipping all the questions about the trade deadline this week.

I simply don’t see the Mavs pulling off a deal of any significance. Maybe they surprise me, but all I could offer at this point is speculation, and I’ve already done plenty of that.

Plus, the Mavs have won five in a row for the first time in two years. Let’s talk about a team that’s given some reason for optimism.

Of the top 4 seeds in the West (OKC, SA, POR, and LAC) which playoff matchup would be the best for the Mavs? -- Michael (Aubrey)

We can include the Rockets in this mix, too, and from a media standpoint, that would be the most interesting series. You know Mark Cuban would have some interesting things to say about Dwight Howard and he might just be able to get in the mentally fragile big man’s head.

Mavericks Defense
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezThe Mavs' last meeting with Portland didn't go well, but would the Blazers be the best playoff matchup for Dallas?
The Mavs split the season series with the Rockets, but it’s certainly worth noting that Houston didn’t have James Harden in one of their losses.

We know the Mavs want no part of the Thunder or Spurs, two teams that have dominated Dallas since the lockout.

If I had to pick a team based on the Mavs’ chances to advance, I’d go with the Portland Trail Blazers. Yes, I’m well aware that the Blazers blew out the Mavs during their last stop in Dallas, but the Mavs won at the buzzer in Portland. Really, it’s about styles. Portland is also a poor defensive team. I’d give the Mavs at least a puncher’s chance to win a series that would be a bunch of wild West shootouts.

What do you think of the Mavs' chances to climb to the fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference? -- TSC_HookEm on Twitter

Maybe sixth. And that’s much more optimistic than I was a week ago. That has as much to do with the Golden State Warriors’ struggles as it does the Mavs taking advantage of a soft stretch of schedule. I thought the Warriors would be fighting for home-court advantage in the first round, but for whatever reasons, they haven’t been nearly as good offensively as I anticipated.

That gives the Mavs and Suns a shot at the sixth seed. I can’t see them catching the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Clippers, especially after the Clippers kept the ship sailing while Chris Paul was sidelined.

Has Devin Harris been as big of a boost as it seems or is this winning streak more about Dirk's dominance and consistent play from Samuel Dalembert? -- Parker (Dallas)

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What is the best potential playoff matchup for the Mavericks?

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Harris has been a big boost, but he’s been the third best player on the bench during this winning streak. Vince Carter and Brandan Wright have been outstanding. In fact, they have the best plus-minuses on the team over the last five games. Harris helps them by giving the bench a proven, versatile guard.

Nowitzki’s dominance makes life easier for everybody offensively, but he’s been playing at an All-Star level all season, save for the occasional off night. When Dalembert plays with the kind of energy and intensity he has recently, the Mavs are a different team, as anyone in that locker room will tell you.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that none of the teams the Mavs have beaten during this streak would be in the playoffs if the season ended now, and only Memphis has a winning record. But the Mavs aren’t just squeaking by bad teams. They’re dominating inferior competition.

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Mavs' misery vs. OKC continues

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
12:42
AM CT
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a good thing the Dallas Mavericks got those Oklahoma City kids when they did.

The northern neighbors have dominated the Red River rivalry since those savvy veteran Mavs made quick work of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2011 Western Conference finals. Bricktown was just a speed bump on the route to a championship parade in downtown Dallas at the time.

[+] EnlargeRussell Westbrook
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsRussell Westbrook and the Thunder have won 13 of the last 14 games against the Mavs, including Wednesday's win in OKC.
Those talented kids, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, have grown up a lot in the past couple of years. They're no longer blossoming superstars; they're simply among the league's best players. The Mavs grew old and broke up the gang.

Many of the faces have changed over the past couple of seasons for the Mavs, but their results against the Thunder have been frustratingly consistent. Dallas' 107-93 loss Wednesday night marked the 13th Oklahoma City victory in the past 14 meetings between the teams, including a sweep in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

"It's basically a new team here, so I don't know if they're in anybody's heads but me and Matrix's," Dirk Nowitzki said, referring to Shawn Marion, the only other member of the 2011 title team who remains on the Mavs' roster. "They're good. They got better. We beat them in 2011. They took the next step from there.

"They got better and better, and we didn't."

The Thunder are more talented than the Mavs and the vast majority of other NBA teams. That doesn't make Dallas' losses to Oklahoma City any less frustrating.

The Mavs have an 11-game losing streak to the Thunder. This was one of the more lopsided losses of the bunch. Nine of those losses were decided by six points or fewer, adding to the Mavs' frustration.

"It is frustrating and we're aware of it, of course," said second-year forward Jae Crowder, whose 17 points off the bench were one of the bright spots of the loss. "It'll come. It'll happen."

Maybe the Mavs' inability to beat the Thunder has something to do with Dallas' irritability against this particular foe.

There have been many heated moments in the rivalry over the past few years, and that list got longer Wednesday night. The surprise was that none of the incidents involved Kendrick Perkins, an Oklahoma City enforcer whose basketball skills eroded long ago.

"They've got the white Kendrick Perkins now," Nowitzki cracked.

Nowitzki was referring to rookie center Steven Adams, who was in the middle of the most notable dust-up during this visit from Dallas. Mavs sixth man Vince Carter was ejected and subjected himself to a suspension with a retaliatory whack across Adams' forehead with his forearm in the third quarter.

Crowder got whistled for a double technical along with Westbrook with 1:32 remaining. According to Crowder, Westbrook hit him with a ball during a timeout. Crowder made sure Westbrook knew it wasn't appreciated.

"I'm not surprised it went that route because those guys talk a lot of smack and they can get under your skin a little bit," Crowder said.

As he was leaving the locker room, Crowder muttered, "We'll see those guys again."

But it's hard to see the balance of power in this series shifting again any time soon.

Locker Room Buzz: Mavs-Thunder

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
12:24
AM CT
OKLAHOMA CITY – Some quick hits from the Mavericks’ 107-93 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night:

Red River rivalry: Maybe it’s the proximity of the cities or the recent playoff history – although there aren’t many Mavs remaining from the 2011 West finals or 2012 first round series – but this was a typically chippy Dallas-Oklahoma City game. There were three technical fouls assessed and Vince Carter was ejected after being called for a flagrant 2 for hitting Thunder rookie center Steven Adams in the head with a retaliatory elbow.

“We’ve been going at it for a couple of years now and have good battles up here always,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “It got chippy a little bit and the refs didn’t really have it under control. They let a lot of stuff go, and that’s what happens.”

Too many turnovers: Turnovers are trouble against any opponent, but it’s especially true against the Thunder due to the freakish athleticism of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Oklahoma City actually committed more turnovers than the Mavs, but coughing the ball up 21 times at Cheseapeake Energy Arena is a good recipe for a road loss.

“It’s extra costly against them because they’ll make you pay so fast,” Nowitzki said. “Without you even having a chance to get back, it’s a dunk.”

All-around loss: Coach Rick Carlisle saw a lot of numbers he didn’t like in the box score. Too many turnovers. Not enough rebounds, with OKC winning the battle of the boards by a 44-36 margin. The Thunder shot 54.4 percent from the floor. And we could go on.

“I don’t think there is any area in this game where you could say we couldn’t have done better,” Carlisle said.

Durant: Dirk 'one of my favorite players' ever

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
4:36
PM CT
OKLAHOMA CITY – Thunder superstar Kevin Durant didn’t suddenly decide to steal Dirk Nowitzki’s signature move a couple of summers ago.

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki
AP Photo/Eric GayKevin Durant has worked Dirk Nowitzki's patented one-legged fadeaway into his own repertoire and calls the Mavs superstar "probably my favorite player in the league."
To hear Durant tell it, it’d been in the works for about a decade.

Asked after Oklahoma City’s morning shootaround when he identified the one-legged fadeaway as something he wanted to implement into his game, Durant told reporters, “When I was 13.” Nowitzki was 23 at the time and in the midst of the first of his 11 All-Star seasons.

“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 said hours before the Mavs meet the Thunder at Cheseapeake Energy Arena. “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.”

The first time Durant unveiled the shot publicly just so happened to be in the gym that Dirk built. Durant knocked down a one-legged midrange jumper in the teams’ preseason opener at the American Airlines Center after the lockout, and it’s become a regular part of his arsenal ever since.

As is the case with the 7-foot Nowitzki, it’s a virtually unblockable shot for Durant, who appears to be at least two inches taller than his listed 6-foot-9 and has the wingspan of a pterodactyl. Their length allows them to get the shot off at will, but it takes great skill to be able to consistently make a shot that isn’t in any basketball textbooks.

Durant, a three-time NBA scoring champion at the ripe old age of 25, learned the shot by watching Nowitzki and working in the gym. He’s never discussed the technique with Nowitzki, who has always had high praise for Durant, particularly during the two playoff series between the Mavs and Thunder.

“I would love to,” Durant said. “I really admire Dirk – probably my favorite player in the league. No, I haven’t talked to him about it. I’m too busy trying to compete with him.”

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Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.

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Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Marc Stein

Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.

Fitzsimmons & Durrett: The Standoff

Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.

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ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.

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Fitzsimmons & Durrett: Marc Stein

ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Dalembert 6.8
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksS. Dalembert 1.2