Dallas Mavericks: Brandan Wright

Cap space: Harris, Dirk agreements stand

July, 14, 2014
The Dallas Mavericks still have to formally sign Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris, which would take up the rest of their cap space. When asked about the idea of altering the agreements with both players in order to create more space, Cuban said that wasn't going to happen.

"I wouldn't ask them to do that. We're good," Cuban said. "We're set. We have our 2.7 [million-dollar exception]. We'll go from there."

The Mavs clearly have a couple of different areas they will want to improve in, and they'll pick the best player in those different areas.

Big man coming
The Mavs acquired Greg Smith in a trade with the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Tadija Dragievi on Monday, and it's expected that Smith will go through a physical on Tuesday and could be available for summer league play starting Wednesday.

Cuban went out of his way to say that Smith was a player the team has coveted for quite some time.

"We've been trying to trade for him for two years, so we're thrilled," Cuban said.

"He's a 5/4 [center/power forward], backing up Tyson and being able to bang. He's athletic and really skilled. He's young, so like most big men, it's going to take some time.

"He banged against Dwight [Howard] all last year, so he's got some experience there, too. He can play."

Cuban wasn't quick to rule that the addition of Smith would mark the end of DeJuan Blair's time in Dallas.

"Greg has a change to take Blair's place if DeJuan leaves," Cuban said. "There's a chance DeJuan stays. There's a chance we keep any of our guys. You never know."

That remains up in the air as ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported over the weekend that Dallas was in advanced negotiations with the Washington Wizards in regards to a potential sign-and-trade deal for Blair. There hasn't been any update in those talks.

Backing up Dirk
If the Mavs are limited in cap space, they will have to be creative in finding a backup for Nowitzki. If you ask Cuban, it appears the search may not be that hard.

"B-Wright [Brandan Wright] will play more 4," Cuban said. "Right now, there's guys that we think will be minimum players but they don't want to be minimum players, so they're holding out to get the best offer they can get. We'll see what we can do."

That idea of Wright playing the power forward seems like more of a change in direction over recent seasons as the Mavs preferred to have a floor-spacing big man to back up Nowitzki. What has changed since then?

"He's had time with Devin [Harris]," Cuban said of Wright. "For us, the Devin/B-Wright combination is lethal. Chandler can throw a lob. He's good at that, too, so we'll see him in the pick-and-roll. I think we got a lot more versatile."

With Smith logging more minutes at center and Wright shifting to power forward, is it possible that Wright and Tyson Chandler could be on the floor together?

"Yeah, because as long as we put shooters around them," Cuban said.

With the addition of Parsons and veteran forward Richard Jefferson, the Mavs hope they will have acquired perimeter shooting with room for more.

"Guess who was second in the year on corner 3s last season," Cuban questioned.

"Monta. And Richard Jefferson shot above 40 percent and shot 49 percent on corner 3s. If you have one skill that you can be top-10 NBA, I want you even if the rest of you sucks because there's a situation where we can put you to work."

Ellis shot 54.2 percent on corner 3-pointers last season, to be specific.
The pie-in-the-sky scenario at least seems a little more possible after Mark Cuban’s trip to Cleveland.

The shameless “Shark Tank” promoter sarcastically claimed his Ohio visit was related to the reality TV show, but he was there to meet with LeBron James' agent Rich Paul, as ESPN.com reported Thursday.

Maybe that’s as far as the Mavs’ courting of King James goes. Or maybe they’ll be one of the teams to get a meeting with the four-time MVP in the coming days. Stay tuned.

At this point, it appears that James is at least contemplating leaving the Miami Heat, and the Mavs, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are in the mix if he decides to bid farewell to declining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh after four Finals trips and two titles in four seasons together.

Who knows how good the Mavs’ odds would be if James is serious about leaving South Beach? But when a franchise has any chance at landing the world’s best player, they’d be foolish not to play it out. (Unless Carmelo Anthony makes the surprising decision to come to Dallas. After all, a big fish on the boat is worth more than two in the ocean.)

Cuban said before free agency opened that he didn’t intend to make any max offers, but it’s a safe bet that he wouldn’t let a few million dollars get in the way of signing James. The Mavs could easily create enough cap space to sign James to a max contract with a starting salary of $20.7 million by trading Raymond Felton or Brandan Wright in salary-dump deals.

That would leave the Mavs with little more than their cap room exception (approximately $2.7 million per year for no more than two seasons) and minimum-salary slots. With LeBron on board, the Mavs would likely be able to add a few bargain, ring-chasing veterans to fill out the rotation with quality players.

The Mavs’ hope of hitting a home run this summer is very much alive at the moment. It’s still nowhere near probable, but it’s unquestionably possible.

Free-agency preview: Centers

June, 27, 2014
Chris AndersenIssac Baldizon/Getty ImagesThe Mavericks have been rumored to have interest in "Birdman," a high-energy rebounder.
The Dallas Mavericks made a major upgrade in the middle before free agency began by trading for Tyson Chandler.

They have a productive backup on the roster in Brandan Wright, the lanky, high-leaping lefty who has ranked among the league’s most efficient reserves the last few seasons.

The search for center depth isn’t a top priority for Dallas in free agency, but it’s definitely on the Mavs’ checklist.

If the Mavs don’t succeed in their quest to sign a superstar, they’d still be interested in pursuing Pau Gasol. He’d get some playing time at center, but the majority of his minutes would probably come at power forward while Dirk Nowitzki rests his 36-year-old legs.

The more likely scenario is that the Mavs sign a low-priced banger to be the final piece of a three-headed center rotation. A look at some of the potential fits:

DeJuan Blair: The 6-foot-7, 260-plus-pound Blair was a bargain banger as a minimum-salaried Mav last season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.6 minutes per game. He put up a pair of double-doubles in the playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, his former team that was simply too physical for Wright.

The Mavs value Blair’s toughness and tenacity. They just aren’t willing to pay a premium price for it, particularly after bringing Chandler back to Dallas.

Blair would obviously like to be paid more than the minimum, but if that’s his price tag, he’d be welcomed back in the Mavs’ locker room.

Chris Andersen: The Mavs have been rumored to have interest in “Birdman,” a high-energy rebounder and rim protector who doesn’t fly quite as high as he used to. However, for the money the Mavs would offer, it’s hard to envision Andersen leaving Miami unless LeBron James goes elsewhere.

Andersen would be excellent insurance for the Mavs given Chandler’s durability issues. Bringing Birdman on board would assure the Mavs of always having an athletic, physical, intelligent, long, defensive-minded center available.

(Read full post)

Big Picture: Working all the angles

June, 6, 2014
Dirk NowitzkiFort Worth Star-Telegram/Zumapress/Icon SMIDirk Nowitzki, 35, is a free agent, but the smart money is on him returning to Dallas.
Now that the dust has settled on the Dallas Mavericks' season, ESPNDallas.com will explain the big-picture outlook the Mavs need to analyze as they look ahead to the offseason and beyond.

Ever since the 2011 championship, the Mavs have been involved in various installments of the franchise’s "biggest summer ever." They’ve made their attempts to lure free agents such as LeBron James, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. They came up short in those attempts but have done a valiant job in putting together rosters that remained competitive. Be that as it may, the organization doesn’t see just being competitive as the goal.

Sports mortality might make this summer one in which Dallas needs more hits than misses. Dirk Nowitzki is a free agent, but the safe money is on him re-signing with the Mavs. That said, this is likely the last contract Nowitzki will sign with the idea of him playing at a very high level. There’s also a possibility that this is the last contract the 35-year-old signs altogether. With that in mind, the Mavericks have to look at players who can fit during this window as capable supporting mates for Nowitzki, or those who could take on larger roles on the back end of their deals.

Reports are circulating that the Houston Rockets will make another attempt at acquiring Nowitzki. The odds of them getting Nowitzki to turn on the Mavs are about as good as those of sinking a full-court, buzzer-beating shot. The Mavs will re-sign Nowitzki for a number that is respectful for him and the team in regard to preserving cap space. The additional focus will be on retaining Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris on team-friendly deals. The cap space will be an intriguing thing to keep track of.

Dallas could theoretically use all the usual avenues of improving a team -- free agency, trade and the draft -- and each path could yield players of impact.

[+] EnlargeZach Randolph
Justin Ford/USA TODAY SportsGetting Shawn Marion, left, and Vince Carter, right, back at team-friendly prices is key for Dallas.
Teams around the league could inquire about some of the Mavs' cap-friendly trade assets such as Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington and point guards Shane Larkin and Gal Mekel. None of them will fetch an elite player in return, but a specific combination of them, money and other assets to the right team could net a valuable rotational player and free up a roster space. In terms of other assets, one ace in the hole for Dallas is that it can finally get back into the trade market with a first-round pick at its disposal.

The first-round pick Dallas gave up in the trade to acquire Lamar Odom ended up in the possession of the Oklahoma City Thunder after it was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Rockets, and is now finally paid in full. That means the Mavs won’t have a first-round pick this season and will have one next season. Due to rules in the collective bargaining agreement, a team can’t trade its first-round pick in consecutive drafts. That means Dallas can officially offer its 2016 first-round pick in deals. First-round picks are now the most coveted form of currency among general managers, and Dallas has shown it's not afraid to wheel and deal.

Speaking of the draft, Dallas has the 34th and 51st picks -- both in the second round -- this year. While second-round picks don’t necessarily guarantee success, they give teams suitable amounts of wiggle room. Second-round picks aren’t guaranteed roster spaces or contracts, thus giving a team like Dallas the potential to go either way with both assets. That might not mean much on the surface, but roster spaces become more and more valuable as the summer moves along.

While ammunition isn’t at maximum value, Dallas has enough wiggle room and flexibility to be a player this summer. That’s a good position to be in, but this is a summer in which there isn’t a definitive route to take through free agency. While there have been big-name free agents available in past offseasons, there’s a strong possibility there won’t be one out there this summer. In addition, there’s always the uncertainty of the trade market. You just never know what will happen in that realm or who will actually be available or is on the trade block.

With roughly $30.5 million in cap space, other assets and no definitive direction in free agency, this summer appears to be filled with unknowns. If that’s the case, it’s good to be in a position like the one Dallas finds itself in, in which it can strike via free agency, draft or trade. The mantra has always been that the Mavs will be opportunistic. Time dictates that opportunity has to strike now.

Lack of D wastes Dirk's flash of dominance

April, 30, 2014
SAN ANTONIO -- For the first time this postseason we saw a glimpse of the Dirk Nowitzki, who carried the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA title a few years ago.

Nowitzki morphed into 2011 mode in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs, when he finally found his offensive rhythm and rattled off 14 points. Those championship Mavs made so many playoff comebacks, riding the shoulders of the big German, who had one of the great clutch runs in hoops history during those playoffs.

Too bad the Mavs didn’t have 2011 Tyson Chandler, too.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki was brilliant in Game 5, registering his series highs with 26 points and 15 rebounds. But the Mavs couldn't stop the Spurs' shot makers.
In that fantasy world, maybe the Mavs could have finished off the comeback Wednesday, like they did so many times during that title run. The reality is that the Mavs are facing first-round elimination after the top-seeded Spurs seized a 3-2 series lead with a 109-103 win Wednesday night in Game 5.

The Mavs desperately needed a defensive anchor as they attempted to rally from an eight-point deficit at the end of the third quarter against San Antonio, which has lost only once out of the 55 times it has entered the final frame with a lead this season.

Dirk finally did his part after mostly struggling in the first 19 quarters of the series, taking over the game for a stretch and drilling seven of his first eight shots of the fourth. Monta Ellis did a pretty good Jason Terry impersonation, scoring 10 of his 21 points and dishing out four of his five assists in the fourth.

But their offensive brilliance didn’t matter because the Mavs defended like a bunch of bullfighters.

“We didn’t play enough defense to win,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, both by far his highs for the series. “Even when I was scoring there in the fourth every time down, we just couldn’t get the stops to get back into it.”

The smoke and mirrors Mavs coach Rick Carlisle cooked up to make the Spurs’ offense sputter early in the series have been solved. San Antonio picked apart the Mavs with the pick-and-roll, scoring 54 points in the paint.

That’s no surprise. Anyone who watched the Spurs average 112.3 points while sweeping the regular-season series against the Mavs figured it would be a matter of time before San Antonio’s splendid offense started humming again.

It didn’t help matters for the Mavs -- who already were short-handed at center with DeJuan Blair suspended -- when starting big man Samuel Dalembert twisted his right ankle a few minutes into the game. He returned minutes later after getting it re-taped, but Dalembert was clearly hobbled.

Backup center Brandan Wright, who played 24 minutes, struggled mightily on defense. But he had plenty of company among the Mavs, who allowed five Spurs to score at least 15 points, including center Tiago Splitter, whose nine points in the fourth quarter were more than he averaged per game this season.

The Mavs scored 32 points in the fourth quarter, which ought to be enough to at least make it a white-knuckle final few minutes. It wasn’t.

That’s because the Spurs lit it up for 30 points in the last dozen minutes.

Maybe it would have been different if Nowitzki knocked down the wide-open midrange jumper he created by pump-faking Splitter off his feet with a little more than two minutes remaining. That would have cut the lead down to two. Even then, however, the Mavs provided no reason to believe they could have done what's defensively necessary to complete the comeback.

“Our defense has got to be better,” Carlisle said. “Really, they just kind of had it going all night. We’ve got to be better from start to finish, over the whole 48 minutes.”

Carlisle has been saying that consistently since Chandler left after the lockout, turning down cap-conscious Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s one-year offer to sign a four-year, $55.4 million deal with the New York Knicks. The Mavs have downgraded defensively at every other position since that title run, with Nowitzki and stopper Shawn Marion aging a few years and Jose Calderon and Ellis making up one of the NBA’s most defensively challenged backcourt.

This isn’t meant to criticize the Mavs’ decision to strip down that aging title team or even let Chandler go; he was the finishing piece to Dallas’ championship puzzle. But the Mavs couldn’t afford to make that kind of long-term commitment to Chandler, knowing they needed to remodel the roster to give Nowitzki a chance to contend during his golden years.

If Chandler is in Dallas, Ellis and Calderon are elsewhere. The Mavs probably don’t make the playoffs without that kind of scoring punch in their backcourt.

But the Mavs won a title because they were such a dominant crunch-time team on both ends of the floor during that postseason. Those Mavs outscored their opponents 137-66 in 49 postseason clutch minutes, as defined by the score being within five points in the final five minutes of the game.

These Mavs are still an elite offensive team, especially when Nowitzki gets in a groove, but they’re not nearly good enough defensively to be considered serious contenders.

Frankly, they’ve exceeded expectations by pushing the Spurs this far, especially with Nowitzki struggling most of the series.

That flash of Dirk dominance was fun to watch. Too bad the Mavs couldn’t get enough stops to make it matter.
DALLAS -- After a Game 1 loss in San Antonio, Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson made a genius adjustment, inserting speedy guard Devin Harris into the starting lineup to match up with San Antonio Spurs blur Tony Parker.

[+] EnlargeDevin Harris
Chris Covatta/Getty ImagesDevin Harris averaged only 20.4 minutes per game in the regular season, but played 32 against the Spurs in Game 1. Any more than that would probably yield diminished returns.
That move paid major dividends with Harris averaging 20.7 points while the Mavs reeled off three straight victories in a classic 2006 Western Conference semifinals series that Dallas won in seven games.

Given the circumstances, why shouldn’t Rick Carlisle give history a chance to repeat itself?

You won’t get Carlisle to say much on the subject -- much less confirm that he’s sticking with Jose Calderon as the starter, although Dirk Nowitzki did it for the Mavs' coach -- but his reasoning might be that he doesn’t want to mess with one of the team’s biggest strengths.

Sure, Dallas’ normal starting lineup has been a disaster against the Spurs, getting outscored by 40 points in 33 minutes this season. Calderon’s inability to defend Parker, prompting Carlisle to put 35-year-old small forward Shawn Marion on the Spurs’ All-Star point guard to start the series, is a big part of the problem. If Calderon isn’t an impact offensive player, it’s a pretty safe bet that Carlisle will have a quick hook for him again.

But the Mavs still had a golden opportunity to win Game 1, primarily because a bench led by Harris (19 points, five assists) played so well. Is it worth potentially killing the chemistry of the Mavs’ second unit to get Harris in the starting lineup?

“It’s been one of our strengths, so there’s a lot of value in it,” Carlisle said of the Mavs’ bench. “[Harris has] been one of the keys to our team since he came back. NBA games are long. There is a lot going on out there.”

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Mavs miss chance to end misery vs. Spurs

April, 20, 2014
Tony ParkerJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsThe Spurs seized the lead for good by scoring 15 points during Dallas' five-minute drought.
SAN ANTONIO -- Want to put on positive spin on the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 1 loss? OK, neither do the Mavs.

But at least Dallas proved it can play against the San Antonio Spurs, a franchise that has dominated its Interstate 35 rival for the last few years. The Mavs managed to build a 10-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining, a minor miracle considering that Dallas led during their four regular-season meetings against the Spurs for a grand total of 10 minutes, 45 seconds.

The Mavs’ success for the first 40-plus minutes Sunday at the AT&T Center doesn’t make their 90-85 loss any easier to swallow, however. If anything, it makes their 10th straight loss to the Spurs feel even more like a kick to the stomach.

“I’m always frustrated after a loss,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who fell far short of his lofty postseason standards with an 11-point, 4-of-14 outing. “Maybe I’ll see the positive tomorrow, but as of today, we had our chance.”

The Mavs couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to end their losing streak to the Spurs and start this series against the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs.

This game was there for the Mavs to take, especially after backup center Brandan Wright’s and-1 layup with 7:45 to go gave Dallas a double-digit lead. Then the Mavs melted down. Or the Spurs flipped the switch, depending on your perspective.

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Rapid Reaction: Spurs 90, Mavs 85

April, 20, 2014
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs slammed the door on the Dallas Mavericks’ Game 1 upset bid, as the West’s top seed dominated down the stretch of a 90-85 win.

How it happened: The Mavs became a mess after building a double-digit lead.

After Brandan Wright’s and-1 free throw put the Mavs up 10 points with 7:45 remaining, the Spurs locked down defensively, holding Dallas scoreless for the next five minutes, 40 seconds. San Antonio seized the lead for good by scoring 15 points during that span, including seven by future Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan.

Dallas didn’t score again from the floor after Wright’s bucket until Devin Harris’ meaningless layup with one-tenth of a second on the clock.

It was a sensational outing for Duncan, other than a scare when he banged knees with Mavs guard Monta Ellis during the third quarter, sidelining him briefly. Duncan scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs’ future Hall of Fame power forward, couldn’t come close to matching his longtime foe. Nowitzki never got in a groove, scoring only 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

After a slow start, the Mavs got a big boost from their bench, which scored 46 points. Harris had 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.

However, the Spurs got big games from the foundation of their last few championship teams. Tony Parker (21 points, six assists) and Manu Ginobili (17 points) served as sensational complements to Duncan.

What it means: The Spurs took a 1-0 series lead, extending their overall winning streak against the Mavs to 10 games. Dallas still hasn’t won a playoff game since clinching the 2011 championship in Miami.

Play of the game: After Nowitzki missed a wide-open layup, Duncan grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Parker to spark a one-man fast break. Parker spun past Harris in the lane and finished with a right-handed layup to give the Spurs the lead with 3:25 to go.

Stat of the day: Ellis’ plus-minus was minus-23 in 36 minutes.

Matchups: Who has edge in Mavs-Spurs?

April, 18, 2014
A look at the matchups in the Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series:

Jose Calderon vs. Tony Parker: This is the biggest mismatch of the series. Calderon, a subpar defender, struggles to guard a lot of point guards. He really gets exploited by Parker, who averaged 23.3 points on 54.2 percent shooting in three games against the Mavs this season. That was Parker's highest scoring average against any team he faced more than once this season. Parker loves pushing the pace and running pick-and-rolls, both of which present major problems for Calderon, whose plus-minus was minus-40 in the Mavs' four losses to the Spurs, including minus-25 in 86 minutes with Parker on the floor. If Calderon isn't lighting it up from long range, coach Rick Carlisle should seriously consider giving Devin Harris a bigger share of the minutes.
EDGE: Spurs

[+] EnlargeMonta Ellis
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Mavericks probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Monta Ellis, who gives them the edge at shooting guard.
Monta Ellis vs. Danny Green: On paper, this is the Mavs' best matchup. It hasn't worked out that way on the floor, however. Green is a lethal 3-point shooter who has especially lit it up against the Mavs, going 12-of-20 from long distance against Dallas this season. The numbers indicate he has also done a good job defending Ellis, who has shot only 38.9 percent from the field when Green is in the game. The Mavs have been outscored by 60 points in the 81 minutes in which Ellis and Green have both been on the court. The Mavs probably wouldn't be in the playoffs without Ellis, a better fit than the Dallas front office believed even when they signed him to a three-year, $25 million deal. They'll need a huge series from Ellis -- who seems to thrive under pressure -- to have a chance to pull off a stunning upset over the Spurs.
EDGE: Mavs

Shawn Marion vs. Kawhi Leonard: Leonard looks a lot like a young Marion -- a freakish, 6-foot-7 athlete who is a versatile defender and efficient offensive weapon. That's an awfully tough matchup for the 35-year-old version of "The Matrix." Leonard gets overshadowed by the Spurs' living legends on the roster, but he's a 22-year-old rising star. His all-around skills were on full display during the Spurs' recent trip to Dallas, on which Leonard stuffed the box score for 16 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. By comparison, Marion had a total of 21 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in three games against San Antonio this season.
EDGE: Spurs

Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan: The two all-time greats don't actually match up with each other much these days, but it will be a treat to watch a pair of surefire Hall of Famers compete in a playoff series for the sixth time in their careers. The 37-year-old Duncan's numbers have dipped in recent seasons, but that's primarily because the priority for him is being as fresh as possible for the playoffs. He's still a dominant defensive presence and capable of putting up a 20-point, 15-rebound line, the way he did in the Spurs' last win over the Mavs. Nowitzki, an All-Star again this season after a one-year, injury-related hiatus, remains one of the most distinct and effective offensive threats in the league. However, Nowitzki has averaged only 15.4 points against the Spurs in the past three seasons, during which San Antonio has won 10 of 12 meetings.
EDGE: Even

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Monta EllisAP Photo/Sue OgrockiThis season has been a case of right coach, right situation and right time for Monta Ellis.
We couldn’t ask for much better drama from a rebuilding Mavericks season.

Every game will matter with the regular-season finale deciding whether the Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies get the unenviable task of opening the playoffs in San Antonio.

Frustrating as the Mavs’ inability to hold leads might be, this is a fun team to watch. It’s one of the best offensive teams in basketball, featuring a historically elite shooter in Dirk Nowitzki, one of the league’s most relentless paint attackers in Monta Ellis and some beautiful ball movement in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow system. Sure, the Mavs are a subpar defensive team, but that’s entertaining, too.

Enjoy the ride. The odds of it ending with a parade through downtown Dallas are extremely slim, but at least Mavs basketball is fun again after one miserable .500 season.

On to your questions ...

I think it's pretty clear Dirk Nowitzki is best Mavs player ever. Who's the second? -- @JohnnyPablo_ on Twitter


After Dirk Nowitzki, who's the second-best Mavs player ever?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,567)

I can make cases for Rolando Blackman, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but I’m going with Mark Aguirre.

Aguirre’s Dallas departure was ugly, but the dude filled it up during his time with the Mavs. He averaged 29.5 points per game during the 1983-84 season, a franchise record that might never be broken. He averaged at least 22.6 points per game for six straight seasons.

We’re talking about one of the best 6-foot-6 post scorers to ever play the game. It’s too bad his No. 24 will probably never hang from the American Airlines Center rafters.

Is Monta Ellis having a great season due to him changing his game under Rick Carlisle or more of a testament to simply being surrounded by a better supporting cast like he was with the Warriors? -- Parker (Dallas)

It’s a case of right coach, right situation and right time of Ellis’ career. He arrived in Dallas sick and tired of losing, recognized the opportunity he had here and attacked it with an open mind.

It’s not that Ellis has changed his game as much as he’s simply played to his strengths. He’s always excelled at attacking the basket. He just settled for way too many jumpers in recent years.

Of course, he never had a teammate that had anything close to the kind of gravitational pull on defenses that Dirk has. Ellis has much more space to operate in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee or Golden State after he became the go-to guy. Carlisle has done a great job putting Ellis in situations to play to his strengths, and Ellis has responded with a season that the Mavs front office considered a best-case scenario when they signed him.

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Wright answers bell with big game

April, 13, 2014
DALLAS – After coming off a curl, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe had a clear path to the basket for a game-tying layup with about 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Until Mavericks center Brandan Wright came flying from the other side of the floor to block a shot that ranks really high on the list of the biggest plays of his career.

“It’s probably No. 1,” Wright said after the Mavs punched their playoff tickets with a 101-98 win Saturday night.

And this was probably the most meaningful performance of Wright’s six-year career.

Wright, whose playing time fluctuates based on matchups and coach Rick Carlisle’s whims, posted his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes. He also came up with three blocks, including the one that potentially prevented overtime.

“Man, he was great,” Monta Ellis said. “He got a lot of rebounds that we needed. He got some big blocked shots that we needed. He played a heck of a game.”

This wasn’t a game suited for Mavs starting center Samuel Dalembert. The Suns play at too fast of a pace to go with a traditional big man. But that style is suited for Wright, a phenomenal athlete who isn’t as physical as most centers.

“Every night, I feel like I’m needed,” said Wright, who averaged 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games against the Suns, well above his norms. “I felt good about tonight. I felt good about our chances. I already had two good games against those guys, so I didn’t see why he wouldn’t go to me. I’m glad he went to me. It paid off for us.”

Rapid Reaction: Mavs 101, Suns 98

April, 12, 2014

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks punched their playoff ticket with a 101-98 win over the Phoenix Suns.

How it happened: After big nights by Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs held on in the final seconds to pull out the wild win.

That duo combined for 44 points after the break to allow the Mavs to erase an 11-point halftime deficit, leaving the Suns and Memphis Grizzlies battling for the West’s last playoff spot.

Nowitzki recovered from a horrendous first half (two points on 1-of-5 shooting) to finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. He was 7-of-10 from the floor in the second half, including a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4:34 remaining that gave the Mavs the lead for good.

Ellis was simply sensational all night. He tied his season high with 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting.

The Mavs led by eight with less than three minutes remaining, but the Suns responded with a 9-2 run to pull within one point. Guard Eric Bledsoe, who had 29 points and six assists, fueled that spurt with five points but missed what would have been a tying free throw with 52 seconds remaining.

The Mavs got a major scare early in that run when Nowitzki appeared to twist his left ankle and limped off the court. He returned to the game after missing only 18 seconds.

Phoenix’s Gerald Green had a chance to give the Suns the lead with 26 seconds remaining, but he missed a short baseline jumper in transition.

After a wild pass that was almost stolen by Bledsoe, Ellis went to the line, splitting a pair of free throws to push the Mavs’ lead back to three with 19 seconds remaining.

Bledsoe drove to the basket on the ensuing possession, but Brandan Wright (12 points, 11 rebounds) came up with the biggest blocked shot of his career.

Ellis couldn’t seal the door at the line, splitting another pair of free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining and leaving the door cracked for the Suns to force overtime.

Markieff Morris' 3-pointer on the final possession -- with Wright's hand in his face -- was way off.

What it means: The Mavs (49-32) clinched a playoff spot for the 13th time in 14 seasons. This win locked up a tiebreaker over the 47-33 Suns, who face the 47-32 Grizzlies on Monday. No matter what happens, the Mavs can claim the seventh seed with a win in Memphis during Wednesday’s regular-season finale.

Play of the game: After Nowitzki’s go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:34 to go, Ellis poked the ball loose from Channing Frye and went flying down the left side of the floor, finishing with a lefty layup despite being challenged by Bledsoe. That stretched the Mavs’ lead to five points with 4:00 remaining.

Stat of the night: The American Airlines Center’s two residents clinched playoff appearances with home wins on consecutive nights. The NHL’s Dallas Stars punched their playoff ticket Friday night with a win over the St. Louis Blues.

DeJuan Blair delivers for Mavs

April, 6, 2014
SACRAMENTO -- Coach Rick Carlisle insisted Friday night that DeJuan Blair wasn’t a forgotten man in the Dallas Mavericks’ rotation.

Two days later, Blair came up big.

Blair banged for six points and nine rebounds and drew a key charge in 17 minutes during Sunday’s 93-91 win over the Sacramento Kings. It was the most playing time in almost a month for Blair, who got double-digit minutes only twice in the previous 11 games. He didn’t take off his warmups in two of those games, including Friday night’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the Mavs turned to Blair when starting center Samuel Dalembert got in early foul trouble Sunday, and the vertically challenged backup big man earned extended minutes against Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins.

“I just liked the way he was playing, so we stuck with him,” said Carlisle, who limited Brandan Wright to six minutes when the lefty leaper struggled to get going in the game following his 23-point, 10-of-10 masterpiece. “[Blair] delivered for us. He really did, and we needed it. We needed every rebound, we needed every point, we needed every hit he put on somebody.”

Carlisle praised Blair for staying ready despite sporadic playing time, a testament to the fifth-year pro’s professionalism.

“This ain’t nothing new to me, man,” said Blair, who fell out of the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation late last season. “You know how it is. It ain’t nothing new to DeJuan to stay ready. I don’t worry about minutes or anything. You know I’m a team player. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.”

Mavs can't sleep on Sacramento

April, 6, 2014
SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings have a 27-49 record after their 33-point loss Friday night to the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings also have the respect of the Dallas Mavericks entering their matchup Sunday at Sleep Train Arena.

Never mind that the Mavs have won 17 of the last 19 games in the series.

The Mavs must have their guard up for every opponent, especially with only five games remaining in the regular season. They have little margin for error, leading the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns by a half-game in the three-way fight for the West’s last two playoff spots.

But the Mavs shouldn’t have any issues giving the Kings their full attention, even with electrifying point guard Isaiah Thomas listed as questionable after missing the last six games with a bruised thigh. The Mavs were blown out during their previous trip to Sacramento and struggled to beat the Kings in Dallas twice.

“Sacramento’s given us trouble this year,” Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said. “We lost there. Both home games were one-possession games coming down the stretch, so we’ve got to be ready for a tough one Sunday.”

Nowitzki also noted that it’s an early tip (3 p.m. Pacific time), making it a quick turnaround for the Mavs after playing a back-to-back against the Los Angeles teams on Thursday and Friday.

The Kings have presented problems for the Mavs with their physical play inside and athleticism. The Mavs have been outrebounded by 26 in the three games. Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (24.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg), small forward Rudy Gay (32.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and Thomas (21.5 ppg, 9.0 apg) have all put up monster numbers against the Mavs.

The fact that the Kings are coming off an embarrassing outing might not work in the Mavs’ favor, either.

“They didn’t play real well [Friday night], so I assume they’re going to come in ready to play,” Mavs reserve big man Brandan Wright said. “That’s a game we need to win.”

Dalembert, Wright come up big for Mavs

April, 5, 2014
Brandan WrightAndrew D. Bernstein/NBA/Getty ImagesBrandan Wright scored 23 points in 27 minutes, on 10-of-10 shooting, off the bench for Dallas.

LOS ANGELES -- Why not think big after this kind of performance from the Dallas Mavericks’ centers?

"If we play like this every night, we’ll win the rest of the games and make it to the Finals," Brandan Wright said with a wry smile, well aware that he’s not going to go 10-for-10 from the floor too often.

But Wright had a perfect-10, season-high, 23-point performance -- and arguably wasn’t even the Mavs' best big man in Friday night’s 107-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Coach Rick Carlisle called Samuel Dalembert the key player of the game after the starting center’s 14-point, 14-rebound outing. At this point, that kind of a night doesn’t come as a surprise for Dalembert, who has been a consistent force for the past month or so.

Sure, it’s worth noting that these Lakers don’t exactly feature a center worthy of following in the footsteps of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal. Heck, they didn’t even have 7-footers Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman, part of L.A.’s MASH unit that wore suits and watched from the bench.

The Mavs will face many better big men than Jordan Hill and Kent Bazemore during their playoff push, but the dominance of Dalembert and Wright shouldn’t simply be dismissed due to inferior competition.

This was the Mavs’ one-two big-man punch -- with DeJuan Blair at least temporarily pushed to the fringe of the rotation -- at its best.

A lack of talent isn’t the reason Dalembert has bounced around to five teams in five seasons. He’s always been an effective rebounder and interior presence when his motor was revved up. The problem has been getting that motor going on a regular basis.

But that hasn’t been a recent issue for Dalembert, who is averaging 8.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.4 minutes over the past 15 games. Carlisle raved about Dalembert’s "energy and activity," specifically when the Mavs need a jolt in the third quarter after a sluggish first half, after the win over the Lakers.

That’s suddenly the status quo for Dalembert.

"When the time is consistent, you’re able to find a way to be consistent," Dalembert said. "The time’s been consistent for us. We pretty much know how many minutes you’re going to play, when you’re going in, when you’re going out. Then, you just go all out. I don’t try to save nothing. You basically just play."

Wright is consistently one of the NBA’s most efficient finishers, so it’s not necessarily shocking to see him go 10-for-10, a perfect shooting night exceeded this season only by a 12-of-12 outing by Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka. After all, the lefty leaper does have a field goal percentage (68.5) that would officially lead the league if Wright had enough attempts to qualify.

Wright can catch and finish above the rim with the best of them, and he’s effective with little floaters when he can’t get all the way to the rim. All of his buckets against the Lakers were in the restricted area, and several of them were highlight material.

"They didn’t have a rim protector in there, and he made them pay for it," said forward Shawn Marion, who had a nice night himself with 15 points and eight rebounds.

That’s exactly what Wright is expected to do. His athleticism and spry legs are particularly valuable on a night like this, when the veteran-heavy Mavs were wrapping up a back-to-back set.

"I know I’ve got to come with my energy when I come in the game," said Wright, who wisely made a point to praise his teammates for setting him up for so many easy buckets. "I can’t be old. I’ve got to play hard and do the things I do best."

The Mavs have been getting the best of Dalembert for about a month. If Wright also gets on a roll, the Mavs should at least have a big finish to the regular season and punch their ticket to the playoffs.



Monta Ellis
20.3 4.4 1.8 33.8
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 7.1
StealsM. Ellis 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4