Dallas Mavericks: Zach Randolph

W2W4: Grizzlies present big problems for Mavs

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

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

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

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

When: 7:00 p.m.

Where: FedEx Forum


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

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

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

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

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

Sizing up the competition: Seven and down

August, 27, 2012
Two weeks ago I shared my 2012-2013 Western Conference rankings, in which I put the Dallas Mavericks sixth. Last week I analyzed what's changed with the five teams ranked ahead of them and how the new-look Mavs match up.

The most push back I received was slipping the Memphis Grizzlies to the eight-hole after they finished fourth last season. Those who disagreed mostly suggested that the Grizz will be the sixth seed, finishing ahead of the Mavs and my No. 7 pick, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and could even push into the top five.

[+] EnlargeZach Randolph
AP Photo/Tim SharpGrizzlies big man Zach Randolph's size has posed problems for the Mavericks.
The argument revolves mainly around a healthy Zach Randolph, who missed all but the final 28 games last season with a knee injury and was never the force we're accustomed to throughout the first-round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, my No. 3 pick for the coming season. Ultimately, I dropped Memphis to No. 8 to hold it accountable for the horrific home playoff losses in Games 1 and 7 against the Clips, and returning this season without their best 3-point threat and new Mavs starting shooting guard, O.J. Mayo.

Is the sixth seed a bit generous for a totally re-tooled Mavs team? Perhaps. But, with a rested Dirk Nowitzki, youth and speed in the backcourt, a scoring center in Chris Kaman, two-thirds of the roster in a contract year and coach Rick Carlisle at the controls, Dallas is an intriguing outfit with upside.

Still, it doesn't guarantee Dallas will improve upon last season's disappointing seventh seed. This should be a hotly contested race for the top eight spots with enough good teams, including my sleeper team, the Utah Jazz, to shove the Mavs or the Wolves, or any team in the bottom four that has a misstep, out of the playoffs.

The last time Dallas wasn't in the postseason: 1999-2000.

Here's a quick glance at how the Mavs match up against the teams I've ranked behind them:

No. 7 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last season's results (Wolves won, 2-1): @Wolves 99, Mavs 82; Wolves 105, @Mavs 90; Mavs 104, @Wolves 97
This season's games: Nov. 12 vs Wolves; Dec. 15 @ Wolves; Jan. 14 vs. Wolves; March 10 @ Wolves
What's changed: A lot under Rick Adelman, starting with malcontent Michael Beasley being shipped off and Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko coming in. The Brandon Roy experiment will be interesting to watch. The Wolves expect center Nikola Pekovic to continue to emerge and Kevin Love to continue to be a scoring and rebounding force, but all hope for a playoff berth rests on the recovery and return date of point guard Ricky Rubio coming off the ACL injury. Rubio's status makes this a tricky, if not an overly ambitious, pick.
How the Mavs match up: The Wolves turned the tables on Dallas last season after years of dominance. Like with most teams in the West, Dallas' backcourt youth movement should allow it to compete better defensively against clubs with top point guards. The Wolves should be an excellent rebounding team, which has to be one of the big concerns for Dallas and its 30-something frontcourt.

No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Last season's results (Grizzlies won, 2-1): @Grizzlies 96, Mavs 85; @Mavs 95, Grizzlies 85; @Grizzlies 84, Mavs 89
This season's games: Dec. 21 @Grizzlies; Jan. 12 vs. Grizzlies; Feb. 27 @ Grizzlies; April 15 vs. Grizzlies
What's changed: The Grizzlies' best 3-point shooter, Mayo, now plays for the Mavs. Memphis brought in guards Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington, but they have no sure-fire shooting guard behind defensive-minded Tony Allen. Memphis ranked 27th in 3s made last season and remain a non-threat from beyond the arc.
How the Mavs match up: The sheer size of 260-pound Randolph and 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol are going to again cause massive paint problems. Behind center Chris Kaman, the Mavs turn to undersized power forward Elton Brand and underweight Brandan Wright. On the perimeter, Darren Collison and Mayo should be fun to watch against Mike Conley and Allen with Shawn Marion and Rudy Gay going at it on the wing.

No. 9 Utah Jazz
Last season's results (Mavs won, 2-1): Mavs 94, @Jazz 91; @Mavs 102, Jazz 96; @Jazz 123, Mavs 121 (3OT)
This season's games: Oct. 31 @ Jazz; Jan. 7 @ Jazz; March 24 vs. Jazz
What's changed: Devin Harris is no longer running the point and that's probably a good thing for Utah. Mo Williams and Randy Foye join Earl Watson and should provide more energy and much better perimeter shooting as the Jazz finally possess 3-point threats to go with a strong interior of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, up-and-comers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and newcomer Marvin Williams.
How the Mavs match up: Up front, the Jazz hold a significant edge and should be able to do damage on the boards. They ranked No. 3 in the league in rebound differential last season and could be even better. Perimeter defense will be key as Utah can now bomb from the outside with Williams, Foye and Gordon Hayward. The great equalizer remains Dirk Nowitzki, who averaged 30.7 points on 54.2 percent shooting last season against Utah.

Offense bound to change, but will scoring increase?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Mahinmi steps up as Brendan Haywood recovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan Haywood deals with limited movement

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

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

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

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

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

W2W4: Fatigue factor in Mavs' favor

April, 4, 2012

DALLAS -- If ever there was a game that the Dallas Mavericks should have fresher legs than their opponent it is tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis comes to the American Airlines Center tonight set to play its fifth game in six nights and third in a row. The Mavs know how that feels and it certainly didn't look pretty.

The Grizzlies, however, do have a head of steam coming in and motivation to finish off a perfect back-to-back-to-back. They slayed the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Monday night and rallied from 12 points down in the fourth quarter at home Tuesday night to defeat Golden State.

Advantage Mavs, right?

"It's really no advantage," guard Delonte West said. "But what we have to do is we have to come out and put it on them. We've got to bring energy. If the calculations are right, they should be the more tired team. We can't come out and let them dictate tempo and, you know, decide the game. We've got to bring it to them and hopefully we can wear them down by the fourth."

A win tonight would give the Grizz a three-game lead over the Mavs in the loss column with a chance to further widen the gap when the two teams meet again in Memphis on Saturday night.

Conversely, if Dallas can find the energy to get an important win in the middle game of this three-game homestand, it can put the pressure on Memphis, which plays at Miami on Friday before meeting up with the Mavs to finish off this season series that the Grizz lead 1-0.

Records: Grizzlies (30-22); Mavs (30-24)

Where: American Airlines Center


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

What to watch: Rebounds. The Mavs have been getting killed on the boards, particularly on the defensive end where they're giving up way too many second-chance points. How effective the Mavs are at rebounding against a team that will be weary could very well dictate their fate.

Key matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Zach Randolph
Nowitzki lasted 10 minutes in the Feb. 29 loss at Memphis because of lower-back tightness. Randolph was still out with a knee injury, so these two will go at it for the first time this season. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Randolph likes to defend Nowitzki by using his weight to lean on Dallas' 7-foot forward who has to have high scoring games these days for the Mavs to win. Randolph, whether playing for Portland, New York, the Clippers or Grizzlies has had a knack for terrorizing the Mavs.

Injuries: Grizzlies -- F Darrell Arthur (torn ACL) is out. Mavs -- G Jason Kidd (strained right groin) is out.

Up next: Portland Trail Blazers at Mavs, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Week ahead: Rising up at home imperative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brendan Haywood expects to return Friday

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

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

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

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

Haywood's work will be cut out for him upon his return. After defending Howard, his defensive assignments next week will be the Clippers' Blake Griffin, the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol and/or Zach Randolph (twice) and the Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge.

W2W4: Looking to avoid worst stretch since 1-4 start

February, 29, 2012

During his postgame press conference Tuesday, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle seemed particularly perturbed at his team's lackluster performance in the 93-92 home loss to the New Jersey.

Starting a stretch of nine games in 12 nights, but seven against teams with losing records, dropping one to Jersey wasn't on anyone's mind.

"This is going to be an emotional stretch of games," Carlisle said. "There's going to be a lot going on, a lot of good teams, a lot of hungry teams that don't necessarily have good records. Similar to [Tuesday], if we don't put our best game forward, we put ourselves in harm's way."

Tonight is not one of those nights against a team that does not have a good record. The Memphis Grizzlies are just 19-15, but they've put some things together lately as they eagerly await the return of power forward Zach Randolph -- who had thoughts of coming back against Dallas, but apparently will hold off just a bit longer.

The Mavs, who have averaged just 90.2 points in their last five games, enter this one just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Grizzlies, and a loss would tie the two clubs in the loss column. Dallas enters the game having lost two in a row and looking to avoid a fourth loss in five games, which would tie their worst stretch since starting the season 1-4.

It won't be easy. Once a Dallas doormat, Memphis has won four of the last six meetings on their home floor and six of 10 overall.

Records: Mavs (21-14); Grizzlies (19-15)

When: 7 p.m.

Where: FedEx Forum


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

What to watch: The Mavs are coming off a stinging loss at home Tuesday night while the Grizzlies rested up with an extra night off following the All-Star break. Dallas wasn't ready to play at home against the Nets, falling behind early and allowing 56 first-half points. How fresh will they be tonight after Tuesday's intense finish? A fast start by the Grizzlies could be fatal to the Dallas. Memphis allows just 92.2 points a game.

Key matchup: Marc Gasol vs. Brendan Haywood
The Mavs' big man has another tall task tonight against the Grizzlies' All-Star center, who is averaging 15.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.1 blocks. While Haywood had a night to remember offensively with a season-high 18 points Tuesday night against Nets counterpart Brook Lopez, he had a night to forget at the other end. Lopez torched Haywood for a season-high 38 points on 17-of-28 shooting. Gasol has scored in double figures in 10 consecutive games and recorded a double-double in three of his last four games.

Injuries: Mavs - G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) is out; F Lamar Odom (personal reasons) is out. Grizzlies - F Zach Randolph (torn right MCL) is out; F Darrell Arthur (torn right Achilles) is out.

Up next: Mavs at New Orleans Hornets, 7 p.m., Friday

Week ahead: Nine games in 12 days (really)

February, 27, 2012
Here it comes: Nine in 12.

"We've got 32 left and this stretch right after the break is critical obviously -- nine games in 12 days," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway & Co. on Friday. "I don't know if that kind of stretch has ever happened. It's happened some this year with teams and this will be the first for this franchise and it's going to be tough, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."

Heading into the break Carlisle said he would tell his troops to enjoy the time off and come back ready to roll.

This week starts the much-talked-about nine-in-12 sequence that ends next week with the lone back-to-back-to-back of the season. As for this week, it includes four games in seven nights packed into two home-road back-to-backs.

Here's a look:

Tuesday: vs. New Jersey Nets (10-25), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Welcome back Avery Johnson. Welcome home Deron Williams? The Colony native is high on the Mavs' wish list this summer. And wondering whether Williams will address his pending free agency and his desires is about all the intrigue that the Nets' visit should provide. Now, if the Mavs come out of the break sluggish, they could be dealt an ugly setback coming off Wednesday's home loss to the Lakers. Seven of New Jersey's 10 wins have come on the road, including recent victories at Chicago (without Derrick Rose) and at the Knicks. Still, these guys are 2-8 in their last 10.

Wednesday: at Memphis Grizzlies (19-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: This is where things should get interesting. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies couldn't beat the Mavs, never, ever. The tables have turned recently and the young Grizz are a bona fide threat in the West. When (if?) Zach Randolph returns they'll be downright dangerous. The Mavs come into town on the second night of a back-to-back while the Grizzlies will be waiting to resume their season following the All-Star break. They're 13-5 at FedEx Forum and have won seven of 10 overall. None were of landmark quality, but confidence is brimming.

Friday: at New Orleans (8-25), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Hornets can jump up and sting, just ask Jeremy Lin. New Orleans went into the break having won four of six games with the victory at Madison Square Garden being the feather in their cap. They don't score much, but they don't give up much either, and the Mavs' big men better keep an eye on Chris Kaman (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg last seven games). The Hornets are actually better on the road than at home (3-14), so the Mavs, after a day of rest, need to bear down and make sure they pad their record against a team they should beat.

Saturday: vs. Utah Jazz (15-17), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The wayward Jazz will make their way to Dallas after two home games against Houston and Miami. They face the Mavs the night after playing the Heat. A Utah team that lost 10 of 13 heading into the All-Star break has plummeted out of the playoff mix. The reunion of Devin Harris and Josh Howard just hasn't clicked. With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back and both traveling, this is one in which the Mavs must defend their turf against a spiraling club that is 3-11 on the road.

Dirk Nowitzki improves as injuries mount

February, 7, 2012
DALLAS -- The Western Conference is besieged by key injuries. Two of the Dallas Mavericks' upcoming opponents were hit hard Monday night. Wednesday's opponent, the Denver Nuggets, lost leading scorer Danilo Gallinari to a fractured ankle. The Los Angles Clippers, in town next week, fear Chauncey Billups could miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury.

ESPN NBA analyst Marc Stein dishes on Dirk saying he doesn't deserve to be in the All-Star Game, on the absence of Jason Kidd, the play of Roddy B and much more.

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The list is long: Oklahoma City backup point guard Eric Maynor is out for the season. San Antonio's Manu Ginobili continues to sit with a broken hand. Memphis lost Darrell Arthur for the season and Zach Randolph is still out with a knee injury.

Of course, Dallas has not been immune. Vince Carter missed five games, Jason Kidd will likely miss his 10th game over two injury stints on Wednesday at Denver, and Dirk Nowitzki appears to be returning to form after a four-game hiatus.

The Mavs might be in the best of shape of the aforementioned teams, needing only Kidd to return -- and that will be soon if not imminent --to be back to full strength.

Nowitzki said Monday that his progress is coming more rapidly now, but he's not out of the woods just yet.

"I came out of halftime [at Cleveland] and was a little stiff, shot like 0-for-5," Nowitzki said. "Next thing you know, we were down eight or down 10. There’s always room to improve, room to get better."

Nowitzki again showed he's gaining confidence in his troublesome right knee when he took Cavs forward Antawn Jamison off the dribble and converted at the rim.

"I’m definitely getting better, moving better, I thought, finally being able to put the ball a little bit on the floor again, getting to the basket some," Nowitzki said. "That was a big part of my game the last couple of years. When people take my jump shot away I’ve got to be able to get to the basket some, make some moves."

Remarkably, as Nowitzki's game has finally taken off the last two games with 30 and 24 points on a combined 21-of-32 shooting, the Mavs' offense has backfired. After scoring more than 100 points in three consecutive games, Dallas has slowed to 86, 87 and 88 points in three consecutive losses.

"I’m getting more confident in my ability to move again. That’s big, but it doesn’t help if we lose," Nowitzki said. "Either way, we’ve got to find a way to all play at a high level. If I’m playing better now, we can’t have other guys go down. It’s got to be collectively playing well, especially defensively and rebounding and get back to doing some of the stuff we were doing when we were winning."

DoJo to Vegas & Rudy Fernandez update

September, 9, 2011
The NBA lockout ruined a summer of supervised development for Dallas Mavericks guard Dominique Jones. With the Summer League canceled and Jones prohibited from training at the American Airlines Center with coaches, the 6-foot-4 second-year shooting guard out of South Florida will finally get a chance to put his game on the floor in a controlled and competitive environment.

Jones is one of 70 NBA players that will participate in the Impact Basketball League, a two-week competitive training series that some are calling the “Lockout League.” They'll train and play games from Sept. 12-23 at Impact Basketball's facility in Las Vegas. Impact Basketball is run by Joe Abunassar, considered the the world's top basketball trainer and "Trainer to the pros."

Impact Basketball released the roster of players expected to attend. Jones is the only Mavs player, but he'll be joined by pretty solid NBA company, including veterans like Chauncey Billups, Stephen Jackson, Zach Randolph and Jermaine O'Neal, to a slew of young guys like John Wall, Texas ex's Jordan Hamilton (Denver Nuggets) and Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics), former Oklahoma State guard James Anderson (San Antonio Spurs) and Baylor center Ekpe Udoh (Golden State Warriors).

Jones is coming off a fractured foot during a rookie season in which he found minimal playing time and was never active during the playoffs. He's staring at a crowded shooting guard position with Jason Terry, Rudy Fernandez and Rodrigue Beaubois under contract, plus the possibility of free agent DeShawn Stevenson returning.

* The Mavs have three players currently involved Olympic qualifying tournaments. J.J. Barea has the Puerto Rico into the semifinals in the FIBA Americas tournament in Argentina. Dirk Nowitzki is trying to keep Germany alive in its quest for a 2012 Olympic bid and Rudy Fernandez is playing for a powerful Spain team.

* Fernandez, at this moment, appears to be the lone Mavs player to have agreed to a contract to play overseas if the lockout continues. That's according to reports out of Spain last month. Those reports also say Fernandez has signed a four-year contract with Real Madrid. While he would return to the Mavs when the lockout ends, according to those reports he would apparently resume his career in Spain after this season. However, a source with knowledge of Fernandez's thinking says nothing has been set in stone. It is certainly a possibility that Fernandez could play in Spain during a prolonged lockout and return to his home country permanently after this season. The source said Fernandez will likely meet with representatives early next week in Lithuania and that a definitive plan could be reached in a couple weeks. Fernandez played his first three NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers and was acquired by the Mavs in June in a draft-night trade.

* Barea has said throughout the summer that he will play in Spain during a lockout, but it is not believed that he has a deal in place as of yet. His agent, Dan Fegan, has not returned repeated phone calls.

* Corey Brewer was in talks to play overseas, possibly in Spain, but his agent, Happy Walters, said earlier this week that deals have not worked out for various reasons. He said they are exploring other options as they monitor progress made in labor negotiations.

* Nowitzki told ESPN.com's Marc Stein prior to the European Championship that he would make a decision about playing overseas after the tournament.

Caron Butler talks on all topics

July, 28, 2011
Following another grueling workout with fitness guru Tim Grover on Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks forward Caron Butler dished on topics such as getting paid during the lockout, his availability for a Game 7 in the Finals, watching the team win the title without him, the camaraderie of the 2010-11 Mavs and, of course, his venture into free agency.

* First off, Butler is one of maybe a handful of NBA players who can financially rest easy if the lockout eats up the first couple months of next season (I know, millionaires should not be worried about going broke for a few months without a paycheck, but it happens -- a lot). Thanks to the foresight of agent Raymond Brothers, Butler spread his payments over 12 months instead of getting paid only during the season.

Butler is one of four Brothers clients, as first reported by USA Today, to have payments spread out over as many as 24 months. Brothers structures contracts differently for different clients. For instance, Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had money deferred. Butler didn't defer payments, but his paycheck schedule runs every two weeks from December to December, so while his contract is effectively up, he will receive paychecks through December.

"It’s just about security," Butler said. "Some guys structure their contracts differently. Fortunately for me, I have a great agent making sure that I had a source of income coming in, so I’m in a good situation."

* Now, ever since the first round against Portland, Butler hinted that he was this close to returning from January surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. As hard as Butler worked, he never did get final clearance to play. However, he said if a Game 7 was necessary in the NBA Finals he could have played.

"Oh yeah. I was doing two-a-days, I was working extremely hard, I was working out 3-on-3, 2-on-2, all that," Butler said. "I finally was going through the preparation with the team. In the offensive shootarounds I was able to play Lebron James on the scout team and start helping the team get prepared, so I was on my way. They brought my jersey, they brought my shoes, all my padding and gear that I wear in the games and they brought it on the trip and said I may have an opportunity to play. So I was really like just looking forward to the opportunity, but I was glad it happened the way it did. We got the title, so that’s all that really matters."

Now, would Butler really have played in a Game 7? That's highly doubtful considering he had not played in a game since Jan. 1. Could coach Rick Carlisle have made Butler active and allowed him to suit up? Absolutely, and Carlisle probably would have done it.

* It must have killed Butler not to be able to play as the Mavs continued to advance in the playoffs. He never showed it, especially during the celebration just after Game 6 when the team gathered on the makeshift stage on the floor of American Airlines Arena in Miami. He said not being able to play didn't make winning the first championship of his nine-year career any less significant.

"It was even more significant because I had to do so much as a player behind the scenes just trying to get back out there on the court," Butler said. "My teammates and everybody in the organization saw how hard I was working to get back out there on the court. The camaraderie that we built, from the Dallas Mavericks organization keeping me on board and Mark Cuban telling me that I wasn’t going anywhere (prior to the trade deadline) and that he wanted me to be a part of this franchise and I was part of the fabric of what this organization was built upon, it made me feel really special."

* Butler was one of several Mavs players to accept a lesser role than he was used to throughout his career. Yes, Butler was the starting small forward, but he averaged just 29.9 minutes, well below his career average of 36.3, and on many nights he didn't touch the floor in the fourth quarters.

"You hear a lot of teams and guys say this, but on that team all anyone ever cared about was winning and I think it was sincere. I think it was real and I think it was authentic," Butler said. "Just all they cared about was winning. Whatever coach told us we should do or had to do to make that happen, to accomplish our goal, that’s what we did, and you saw that in the play. You saw guys, we were nine or 10 deep that could have been a starter on any team in the NBA -- but guys just making the sacrifice. You know, me not playing in the fourth, other guys playing less minutes, Shawn Marion coming off the bench, other guys taking a lesser role and deferring more. It was a special thing to be a part of and it was a collective effort all the way around. It was truly special."

* It sounds like an ideal situation that Butler wouldn't mind repeating, but doing so this time fully healthy. Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has said he hopes to bring back the whole gang, but the NBA is a business (and no one needs a lockout to remind them of that). Butler is expected to seek a multi-year deal. Re-signing with the Mavs, for both sides, will come down to money and length of the contract, which will greatly be predicated on a new collective bargaining agreement.

"It’s a great organization, it’s a great city, it has some of the best fans," Butler said of Dallas. "The energy in that place was just unbelievable, but we’ll see. That’s Raymond’s job, to make sure that I’m in the best situation possible, able to provide for my loved ones and obviously myself. I just let him take care of all that. But, I will be playing basketball. I’m feeling great and I’ll be playing basketball at a high level for years to come."

Deciper this: Carlisle on Thunder, Grizzlies

May, 15, 2011
DALLAS -- Finally, the Western Conference finals matchup is hours away from being set.

Who do the Dallas Mavericks want to play?

Well, read coach Rick Carlisle's words and try to decipher what he thinks.

Carlisle on the Oklahoma City Thunder:

"Oklahoma City looks different because we didn’t see them when they made the trade, so their personnel situation is much different. They had a great year last year, they took the Lakers to six games, so their season was viewed as very positive... and then now they’re on the brink of being in the third round, so they’ve gained a lot of confidence. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have continued to get better. And because of the trade, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were both guys that got shots when they were structured that way before. Now, the ball is in Westbrook's and Durant’s and James Harden’s hands more and their better players are getting a higher concentration of shots, which means they’re a better team."

Carlisle on the Memphis Grizzlies:

"Memphis has continued what they did the last month, month-and-a-half of the regular season. And that is they’re a defense-first, strong-willed, inside, beat-you-up, kick-the crap-out-of-you type team. Rebounding is a monster stat when you play Memphis."

And finally...

"It’s no bargain either way. You’ve got two super athletes [Westbrook and Durant] with Oklahoma City. They’re great skill players that are both either first-team All-NBA or second team All-NBA, and with Memphis you got Zach Randolph and a bunch of guys that really get after you defensively and really create a lot of problems by forcing turnovers."

Better matchup: Memphis or OKC?

May, 13, 2011
DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks could know their Western Conference finals foe as soon as tonight. The Oklahoma City Thunder will attempt to make the Memphis Grizzlies sing the blues once and for all in Game 6 in Memphis.

If OKC wins, it will open the West finals in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. If Memphis wins, Game 7 will be Sunday at OKC with the winner moving on to Dallas for Game 1 on Tuesday night.

"That series is not over," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle informed. "It’s far from over. There’s still a lot to be determined."

Opinions on which young, up-and-coming team the Mavs should want to play seem to be evenly split -- unless you're J.J. Barea and, pressed for an answer on ESPN's First Take, you say you'd rather see, you guess, Memphis. Who knows, maybe Barea was employing reverse psychology.

"Both teams can get up and down and they harass you on the defensive end," Jason Kidd said. "They play a quicker game than the Lakers, so as much as you talk about halfcourt [dominating playoff basketball], you have to take care of the ball because those guys can get out and run."

Well, that didn't clear up much. OKC and Memphis employ different styles. The Grizz play inside-out with Mavs killer, forward Zach Randolph and always improving center Marc Gasol. OKC is brilliantly athletic with 6-foot-9 freak-of-nature Kevin Durant and explosive point guard Russell Westbrook.

Memphis plays better overall team defense and is stingy on the perimeter with Tony Allen, but OKC has preeminent shot blocker Serge Ibaka, plus the late addition of scowling center Kendrick Perkins.

Made up your mind?

"Oklahoma City’s team has changed a lot since we played them and we only played them three times," Carlisle said. "I guess the bottom line is the things that happen during the season aren’t that significant for a lot of reasons. Memphis got better and better as the season went on. We played them late, they beat us here and at that point they were really starting to gel and play well. We played Oklahoma City earlier in the year, they had not made the Perkins trade, their team was completely different. So I think all that we can throw out the window."

Before we chuck it all, why not a look back at the two regular-season series?

Dallas 2, Oklahoma City 1

Nov. 24 at OKC - Mavs 111, Thunder 103: Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points on 9-of-15 shooting and the Mavs ended OKC's five-game win streak with a dominant, 36-22, fourth quarter. Kevin Durant had 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

Dec. 27 at OKC - Mavs 103, Thunder 93: Riled OKC fans won't forget this one. Nowitzki was off to another huge game with 13 points in 11:32 before he fell to the floor early in the second quarter after shooting a fallaway. A sprained right knee would keep him out of the game -- as well as the next nine -- but a spirited defensive effort to hold OKC to 12 fourth-quarter points got Dallas the win. Caron Butler -- remember him? -- scored a team-high 21 points and slammed the ball down at the buzzer on an emphatic win.

Jan. 6 at Dallas - Thunder 99, Mavs 95: With Nowitzki out of action with that sprained knee and Butler's season-ending knee injury not even a week old, Dallas managed to play a competitive game before Durant (28 points) and the Thunder pulled away in the fourth quarter. Shawn Marion scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half.

Memphis 3, Dallas 1

Oct. 29 at Dallas - Grizzlies 91, Mavs 90: Dallas led by eight after its first basket to start the fourth quarter and then scored just 13 more points in the fourth quarter. Gasol made the game-winning free throw with 6.7 seconds left. Randolph did not play.

Nov. 10 at Memphis - Mavs 106, Grizzlies 91: Six Mavs scored in double figures led by Jason Terry with 25 while Nowitzki had just 12. The Mavs led throughout and blew it open with a 31-19 third quarter. Randolph had 23 points and nine rebounds.

Jan. 15 at Memphis - Grizzlies 89, Mavs 70: Nowitzki's return from a sprained right knee was short-lived. He was ejected early in the third quarter after getting double technicals. He was just 2-of-7 from the field. It was a miserable game from start to finish, evidenced by Ian Mahinmi leading Dallas in scoring with 17 points. Randolph had 23 points and 20 rebounds. Tyson Chandler was ill and did not play.

March 6 at Dallas - Grizzlies 104, Mavs 103: Dallas blew a 17-point halftime lead as Memphis won the third quarter, 41-23. It appeared that Nowitzki had saved the day when he dropped a fallaway from the free throw line with 3.1 seconds to go to put Dallas up by one. But, Randolph sank a beautiful 17-foot rainbow from the corner for the win. It was just the Mavs' second loss in 20 games and the first time Dallas lost a season series to the Grizz.

Settle anything?

Now chuck it out the window.



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9