Dallas Mavericks: Erick Dampier
Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Al Jefferson has agreed to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats on a three-year, $41 million deal. Restricted free agent Tiago Splitter, another potential Dallas target if the Mavs didn’t win the Dwight derby, committed earlier this week to stay in San Antonio for $36 million over four years.
|ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard. |
There had been indications from Jefferson’s camp that he planned to wait until Howard made his decision before picking a team because he wanted Dallas and Atlanta to be able to get in on the bidding if they didn’t hook the biggest fish in free agency. However, it’s extremely unlikely that the Mavs would have been willing to make a bid in the ballpark of the Bobcats’ offer. And that’s putting it conservatively.
The Mavs were intrigued with the possibility of pairing an outstanding post scorer with Dirk Nowitzki, but they had major concerns about that duo defensively. There was also a fear that the 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson’s physique would continue to fill out as he aged, causing a bad defender to become even worse.
Those are the same concerns, along with Jefferson’s high salary, that led the Mavs to look elsewhere instead of pulling the trigger on a 2010 summer trade with the Timberwolves that would have sent Jefferson to Dallas in exchange for Erick Dampier’s instantly vanishing contract and picks.
The Mavs ended up sending the Dampier contract to Charlotte for an injury-prone, highly paid center named Tyson Chandler, with Dallas somehow dumping the contracts of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera in the trade. It was a terrible trade for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats because it was a salary dump that didn’t save Charlotte money over the long haul.
It was a terrific trade for the Mavs because a healthy, hungry Chandler was the final piece to their championship puzzle.
The Mavs can only hope the center they find this summer works out nearly that well, whether it’s the one they really want or one of the fallback plans.
A conspiracy theory: The Rockets emerged as a rumored frontrunner to throw folks off the scent that Dwight Howard has been ticketed for Dallas all along.
Those are whispers that ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne has heard on the West coast.
|ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard. |
Start with the Shawn Marion situation. If this was a done deal, wouldn’t Fegan have convinced his client on the Mavs’ roster to cooperate and make things much easier for everyone?
The best-case scenario for the Mavs would have been Marion exercising the early termination option in his contract and then returning to Dallas on a three-year deal with a salary reduced enough to squeeze Howard’s max deal under the cap. Technically, the Mavs couldn’t have negotiated Marion’s new contract before he opted out, but we’re talking wink-wink, nudge-nudge deals here.
How can the Mavs create enough cap space to sign Howard now? Dumping Marion’s salary in a trade is the most likely scenario. If this was all a pre-arranged deal, would Fegan put another veteran client in danger of being shipped to an undesirable team? (Yes, Marion would pocket an extra $1.4 million with his trade kicker, but if this was all just a money grab for Fegan, he’d be determined to get Howard to stay in L.A. instead of bolting to Dallas.)
It’s true that Cuban and Fegan have a strong business relationship, even a friendship, and have worked together to get several deals done. Hey, maybe Fegan really does feel like he owes Cuban for that Erick Dampier contract!
But, if Marion gets dealt this summer, add that to the list of business decisions made by Cuban that disappointed Fegan clients.
*The Mavs shipped Fegan client Drew Gooden to Washington in the deal that got rid of Josh Howard and brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas.
*Jason Terry fired Fegan in part because of frustration stemming from the Mavs’ lack of interest in making a long-term commitment to him during his last year in Dallas.
*The Mavs waived Delonte West, a Fegan client at the time, after twice suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team last fall.
It helps for an owner and agent to have a good relationship, but it guarantees nothing for either side.
That’s a big if, as evidenced by his triple-digit games-missed total over the last five seasons. And it’s also faint praise, as proven by all the praise about the pick-setting ability of bricklaying Mavs centers over the years.
Just for fun -- and because we don’t have anything better to do with a week and a half before the Mavs open camp -- let’s rank the best offensive seasons by a big man in franchise history. We’re talking solely centers, so Roy Tarpley, Sam Perkins and others who played a lot of power forward aren’t included.
Tyson Chandler, 2010-11: He understood his limitations and was phenomenally efficient, averaging 10.1 points while shooting 65.4 percent from the floor and 73.2 percent from the line. Chandler wasn’t a post-up threat, but he was a highlight waiting to happen as a pick-and-roll finisher. He’d knock down an occasional elbow jumper, but Chandler earned his keep offensively by setting rock-solid picks, finishing strong at the rim and creating extra possessions with his hustle and hops.
Sean Rooks, 1992-93: He was a bright spot during the darkest season in Dallas basketball history, averaging 13.4 points as a rookie for an 11-71 team. That ended up being his career high. He averaged 11.4 points the next season for a much-improved Mavs team (13-69 -- 18 percent more wins!) and then got traded to the Timberwolves. He averaged 10.9 points his first season in Minnesota and never came close to double figures again.
James Donaldson, 1986-87: He’s still the best big man who played more than one season for the Mavs. His best offensive season in Dallas came during his first year here. The 7-foot-2 Donaldson averaged 10.8 points on 58.6 percent shooting, one of five Mavs to average in double figures that year, led by forward Mark Aguirre’s 25.7 points per game. Donaldson also averaged a career-best 3.6 offensive rebounds per game.
Tom LaGarde, 1980-81: You’ve got to go all the way back to the Mavs’ inaugural season to find the highest scoring season by a center in franchise history. LaGarde lit it up for a career-best 13.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting for the merry band of 15-67 misfits.
Raef LaFrentz, 2002-03: Remember when LaFrentz’s perimeter shooting was going to pull Shaq from the basket and help pave the Mavs’ way to a title? Well, LaFrentz did make 40.5 percent of his 3-point attempts during his lone full season in Dallas. He averaged 9.3 points in 23.3 minutes per game that season -- and gave up a heck of a lot more than that on the defensive end.
Erick Dampier, 2004-05: Dampier’s most productive season in Dallas was his first one, when he averaged 9.2 points on 55 percent shooting. He never averaged more than 7.1 points in another season for the Mavs, which is why he became the most overhyped screen-setter in NBA history.
Shawn Bradley, 1997-98: Do you recall Bradley averaging double figures (11.4 points per game) during his first season in Dallas? Thought that merited a mention, although it’s amazing that a 7-foot-6 dude shot 42.2 percent from the floor.
“I have to say it’s the first time since I’ve owned the Mavs when I’ve walked downstairs and saw our centers taking jump shots and that I didn’t cringe,” owner Mark Cuban said.
Well, how quickly they forget the Raef LaFrentz era. What about Wang Zhi-Zhi? And Brandon Bass did play a lot of center for the Mavs despite being generously listed at 6-foot-8.
But you get Cuban’s point. The two men who will play the vast majority of center minutes for the Mavs this season do the majority of their offensive damage with their jumpers.
That’s quite a difference from Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood, whose limitations just damaged the Mavs’ offense. The Mavs actually ran a play on occasion to get Tyson Chandler an elbow jumper that he knocked down pretty efficiently, but it’s not like opponents game-planned to prevent the missing piece to the Mavs’ championship puzzle from getting midrange looks.
“We have a new dynamic this year,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “and we really think it’s going to help our offensive game.”
Brand, who will split time at power forward and center, is one of the league’s most effective shooters in the 10-to-15-foot range.
According to HoopData.com, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant are the only players who attempted more shots from that range last season than Brand (3.4 per game). Brand hit 45.6 percent of those attempts, which ranked behind only Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, Bass, David Lee, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Duncan and Luis Scola among power forward/centers who operate from that range on a regular basis.
Brand isn’t bad a bit further from the hoop, hitting 43 percent of his 2.5 shots per game from 16-23 feet last season.
Kaman excels at that range. He hit 45 percent of his shots from 16 to 23 feet last season, which ranked fifth among centers, trailing only Zaza Pachulia (seriously), Kurt Thomas, Marreese Speights and Duncan. Kaman averaged almost as many attempts from 16 to 23 feet (3.3 per game) as he did at the rim (3.6).
Kaman also does a lot of work from 10 to 15 feet, launching more shots from there (3.0 per game) than every center except Al Jefferson last season. His shooting percentage in that range (43.6) ranked sixth among big men.
"When I was doing 'Dancing with the Stars,' I was taking breaks because I was talking to Kobe’s agent because Kobe wanted to get traded," Cuban said during Tuesday's appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show. "Literally, in between 'Dancing with the Stars' practices I thought we had traded at one time for Kobe Bryant. I even talked to their owner [Jerry Buss], I thought we were going to have a done deal and then [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak changed [Kobe’s] mind and brought him back."
|Mavs owner Mark Cuban on why he feels the team is better without Deron Williams, why Jason Kidd's jersey will never hang in the rafters and more. |
When Stephen A. asked Kobe where he'd like to play, Kobe did not deliver a Dwight Howard-like list of options: "At this point I'll go play on Pluto."
The Lakers were smack in the middle of the Shaq-less years and the transition wasn't going well. L.A. failed to make the playoffs in 2004-05 with a 34-48 record followed by consecutive first-round losses. Meanwhile, Shaq won his fourth title in '06 -- at the expense of the Mavs -- to push ahead of Kobe in the ring department at the time, 4-3.
So, Kobe was at an all-time low, and in swoops Cuban feeling rather opportunistic.
Naturally, a deal for Kobe would have to involve an exchange of superstars, Bryant for Nowitzki.
"No," Cuban said, "it wasn't Dirk for Kobe."
Wow, so Cuban had all but filed the paperwork with the league office on a deal that would have paired Kobe and Dirk on the 2007-08 Mavs?
"Yeah, but they [the Lakers] were smart and didn't let it happen," Cuban said. "But Kobe was upset and he wanted out -- and this was all public, I don't think this is anything new -- and the owner was resigned to that fact. I talked to the owner, and then I went back and practiced my Rumba."
Now recall the Mavs' state of mind after the 2006-07 season? A dark, dark place. A year removed from the colossal collapse in the Finals, Dallas won a franchise-record 67 games, yet as the West's No. 1 seed lost in six games to the No. 8 Golden State Warriors coached by former Mavs coach Don Nelson.
OK, so just who would the Lakers have agreed to take back in a trade for the great Kobe if not Dirk? The assets the Mavs had the time could have included: Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop.
Amazingly, a year later the Lakers pulled off a stunner, trading for Memphis forward Pau Gasol, and Kobe and the Lakers win two more titles. Steve Nash and Dwight Howard will wear the cherished purple-and-gold this season and odds are being placed on L.A. surpassing the 1995-96 Bulls' 72 wins.
The Mavs finally won their first title in 2011. Now, totally rebuilt around Dirk, the Mavs face a stiff challenge to climb back.
"Point being that teams go through cycles and teams go through ups and downs and these teams -- it's unfortunate that it's the Lakers that made the comeback as opposed to the T-Wolves, right, and maybe the T-Wolves will be good this year with Ricky Rubio, we'll see -- but it's just the way it works," Cuban said.
In 2007, both Kobe and the Mavs were looking for a jolt. If a deal was really as close as Cuban makes it sound and it didn't involve Dirk going to L.A., then this no-trade should go down as one of the great what-if scenarios in NBA history.
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
Perhaps no team was lavished upon more last season than the Spurs for their ability to retool on the fly, adjust their on-court philosophy and still manage to remain a top contender. For the second consecutive season, the Spurs owned the West's best regular-season record and extended their string of 50-win seasons to 13 in a row despite the 66-game schedule. They swept the Jazz and Clippers and had a 2-0 lead in the West finals, appearing to be on their way for a shot at a fifth title in the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich era. But then the Oklahoma City Thunder rose up to win four in a row. Back to a normal 82-game season, Popovich will no doubt pace his team as he has as the Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili get older. The Spurs should again hit the 50-win mark, but last season's dominance seems unrealistic. Still, each new season seems to be the last of this group's window of opportunity, only until it's not. Here we go again.
@Spurs 93, Mavs 71
@Mavs 101, Spurs 100 (OT)
@Mavs 106, Spurs 99
@Spurs 104, Mavs 87
This season's games
Dec. 23: @ Spurs
Dec. 30: vs. Spurs
Jan. 25: vs. Spurs
March 14: @ Spurs
Much more with the Mavs than the Spurs, who bring back the Big Three for an 11th consecutive season after Tim Duncan re-upped for three more years. The supporting cast remains the same after the midseason maneuverings that brought back former Spur Stephen Jackson and added Parker's French buddy Boris Diaw. Another Frenchman, 25-year-old Nando Colo, a 6-foot-5 guard who played on the French Olympic team in London, joins the Spurs this season. He's another one of those late international picks San Antonio specializes in, taken 53rd overall in 2009. With the Big Three another year older, including Ginobili having turned 35 in July, the Spurs will rely on the continued improvement of guards Gary Neal and Danny Green and forwards Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, last season's rookie sensation in South Texas.
How the Mavs match up
The first thing that comes to mind is that Duncan will have to expend energy on defense like never before against the Mavs. San Antonio typically has gotten away with Duncan defending the Mavs' center, who, from Erick Dampier to DeSagana Diop to Brendan Haywood to Tyson Chandler and back to Haywood, has not been an offensive threat. So someone other than Duncan has mostly had the privilege of guarding Dirk Nowitzki. This season if, say, Diaw, draws Dirk, Duncan won't have the luxury of only casually defending the Mavs' center. He will now face Chris Kaman, a legitimate back-to-the-basket threat and the most offensively skilled of the Mavs' long list of 7-foot centers. From a Mavs defensive standpoint, new point guard Darren Collison brings needed speed to combat Parker's penetrations and shooting guard O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones will be better equipped to help defend Ginobili than the options -- mainly Shawn Marion -- the Mavs had last season.
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
What is it with the Charlotte Bobcats and overpaid Dallas Mavericks centers?
They took DeSagana Diop off the Mavs' hands just months after Dallas lavished the Senegal native with the full mid-level exception. Then Charlotte traded Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier and his fully non-guaranteed contract. On Saturday, the Bobcats acquired Brendan Haywood through the amnesty waiver process, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported, citing sources with knowledge of the move.
Dallas used its amnesty rights on the former North Carolina Tar Heels player on Thursday, shortly after agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal with center Chris Kaman. Haywood, who lives in Charlotte during the offseason, is owed $27.2 million over the next three seasons, including $8.3 million this season, all of which will be paid to Haywood but wiped off the Mavs' books in terms of salary cap and luxury tax ramifications.
The Bobcats' winning bid for Haywood was $2.05 million, according to NBA.com, meaning Charlotte will be responsible for that amount of Haywood's salary, with the Mavs picking up the balance. It's just $50,000 less than the bid the Mavs submitted earlier this week to win the services of power forward Elton Brand.
Haywood, 32, will join Diop in Charlotte on Michael Jordan's wayward club that set an NBA record for lowest winning percentage (.106) last season.
It was an up-and-down tenure in Dallas for Haywood. He was part of the 2010 deadline trade that brought him, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson over from Washington for Josh Howard and others. The deal ultimately paid off in a championship with, interestingly enough, Stevenson becoming the key piece of the deal in terms of the 2011 title.
Haywood's performances were erratic. At times he flashed signs of being a double-double machine and other times appeared as if he would rather be on a beach somewhere. Never a true offensive threat, his defensive abilities deteriorated as this season progressed, and he averaged just 15 minutes a game in the playoff sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Haywood figured to become an amnesty victim if the Mavs were successful in luring top free-agent target Deron Williams. When that didn't happen, Haywood figured to be staying. That the Mavs used their amnesty on his contract goes to show just how fed up they had become with the passive 7-footer.
Now it's off to Charlotte, where Haywood will certainly feel the comforts of home.
At the time of Haywood's arrival (along with Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson), Erick Dampier was injured. Once Dampier returned, Haywood lost his starting gig -- and he wasn't exactly thrilled with it. He would get a promise that summer from coach Rick Carlisle that the starting job would be kept warm for him as they looked to unload Dampier and his fully non-guaranteed final year.
Only they unloaded Dampier and acquired Tyson Chandler, who wasted no time winning the starting job, another decision that didn't sit well with Haywood for much of the championship season.
Haywood's production in Dallas was a roller coaster. The flashes came and went, and so did the duds. His engine didn't run nearly as hot as his fervor for fantasy football, and that was a big issue when the Mavs needed much more out of the position this season.
He was injured for the majority of the NBA Finals and was horrible this past postseason in the sweep to the Oklahoma Thunder, having his playing time basically stripped while averaging 3.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.3 minutes a game, less than backup Ian Mahinmi.
The writing was on the wall at that point that if the Mavs landed Deron Williams -- therefore forcing the use of the amnesty clause on either Haywood or Shawn Marion to create enough cap space -- the 7-footer would be the one to get it.
Even though the Mavs did not get Williams, Wednesday's one-year agreement with Chris Kaman and the Mavs' desire to pursue amnestied 76ers forward Elton Brand, have made Haywood expendable. If the Mavs get Brand, they'll essentially swap out Haywood and Mahinmi for Brand and Kaman.
Haywood, 32, will now be up for bid among teams with cap space. Portland, which lost out on Roy Hibbert after making a max offer to the restricted free agent and was prepared to make an offer for Brook Lopez, and New Orleans could be bidders. If no team bids on him during the waiver process, Haywood will become a free agent.
That summer of 2010, when Carlisle visited Haywood at his North Carolina home and made the promise, Haywood's next visitor was Heat president Pat Riley. If Haywood gets through the waiver process, he could sign a minimum deal and play for the defending champs for a second consecutive season.
No matter what, Haywood will receive the remaining $27.2 million over the final three years of his contract.
Brendan Haywood to create cap space as expected, how would the Mavs fill their huge hole in the middle?
They could just re-sign free agent Ian Mahinmi and pair him with Brandan Wright, but it’s hard to see the Mavs emerging as a legitimate contender without more of a presence at center. There are plenty of options in the free agent market.
A look at the most attractive available big men:
Roy Hibbert (restricted): The 7-foot-2, 260-pound Hibbert has great size and good skills. He’s only 25, so there is still room to grow in his game after he averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks this season. He’d be by far the best low-post threat ever to be paired with Dirk Nowitzki. But the Pacers have the right to match any offer he gets, a ton of cap space and executive of the year Larry Bird calling the shots. If the Mavs get Hibbert, it probably means they’ve significantly overpaid another big man.
Kevin Garnett: The 36-year-old KG sure looks like he has a lot left in the tank during these playoffs. His regular-season minutes must be managed, but Garnett is still a major defensive force and good scorer and rebounder. He’ll take a pay cut after making $21 million this season and almost $300 million in his career, but Garnett won’t come cheap. It’s hard to see the Celtics letting him go when they have a chance to contend.
Marcus Camby: He’s 38 years old and doesn’t offer much offensively any more, but Camby could be an affordable stopgap solution. He’s still a defensive presence in the paint, averaging 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game last season. Camby becoming a Maverick would probably mean that neither side was satisfied with what they found in the free agency market.
JaVale McGee (restricted): He tends to be comically boneheaded, but he’s a freakish athlete for a 7-footer and is talented enough to put up a 21-point, 14-rebound performance in a playoff win over the Lakers. He’s one of the league’s best shot blockers and finishers, but his basketball IQ hovers around his jersey number. He’s also only 24 years old, with the potential to be really, really good if a coaching staff can ever get through to him. Then again, he also has the potential to make an owner regret signing his paychecks every couple of weeks for the next four years.
Chris Kaman: Dirk’s German Olympic teammate would be the best offensive center in Mavs history, although his .446 shooting percentage for the Hornets last season isn’t exactly appealing. He’s a good post defender and shot blocker. He’s also injury prone, having missed major chunks of four of the last five seasons. How can the Mavs feel comfortable making a major investment in a 30-year-old with that medical record?
Brook Lopez (restricted): He’s a skilled, high-scoring young 7-footer who wouldn’t be a good fit with Dirk. The Mavs can’t afford to have a slow, subpar-rebounding, poor-defending big man on the floor with Dirk, especially if that center is expensive. Lopez missed all but five games last season, but he managed to score 38 points in a win over the Mavs.
Spencer Hawes: He’s a 24-year-old former lottery pick who has had some bright moments as the Sixers’ starting center the last two seasons, although he was injured for much of this year. But his game isn’t a good fit with Dirk’s. He’s a finesse big man who lives on long jumpers and too often doesn’t carry his weight defensively.
Robin Lopez (restricted): He’s 24 years old, stands 7 feet tall and has some experience. He’s a pretty good shot blocker and pick-and-roll finisher, but he’s slow-footed, an amazingly awful passer and a poor rebounder. He’s not a starting-caliber center.
Greg Oden: Oden might not play at all next season. Heck, he might never play again after knee injuries made the big man picked before Kevin Durant a bust in Portland. But the Mavs’ medical staff, which helped everyone forget about Tyson’s Chandler’s injury history, could give Oden his best chance at having a respectable NBA career. It’s worth a minimum-salary flyer to find out if Oden can get and stay healthy enough to become the dominant defensive presence he was expected to be.
Erick Dampier: Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention.
Carlisle is a pragmatist. He doesn't obsess over what might have been.
|The Ben & Skin Show explores a few teams that will have the power to prevent DFW native Deron Williams from coming home to the Mavericks this summer. |
One has to wonder how badly Odom really wanted it to work since only he could control his attitude and effort. The Odom chapter is not yet closed because, well, he's still a member of the team. The Mavs would love to slam the book shut by trading Odom around the draft and getting rid of the $2.4 million potential cap hit, the amount guaranteed on the final year of his deal that in full is worth $8.2 million.
The deadline to trade Odom and wipe his potential cap hit from the books is June 29. Any team that has him on its roster by that date is responsible for paying him his guaranteed money. Two well-documented trade partners include Sacramento and Toronto, teams with substantial cap space to absorb Odom on the payroll and waive him. The Mavs will throw in cash to cover the buyout and maybe even throw in a second-round draft pick.
That strategy has seemed the most logical because, the thinking has gone, the Mavs in no way will take back salary because it would burn their cap space and squeeze their ability to offer Deron Williams a max contract in free agency.
Then, Carlisle on GAC offered just a scenario.
"One of the things about Odom’s contract is it is a contract that is going to be very desirable because it is a large number with a small guarantee, like (Jerry) Stackhouse’s and like (Erick) Dampier’s deal," Carlisle said. "Those two contract situations turned into (Shawn) Marion and (Tyson) Chandler. Those were two important building blocks to a championship."
Whether he meant to or not, Carlisle opened the door for speculation that the Mavs could be open to dealing Odom for a player of relevance. It would require packaging him with say, Shawn Marion ($8.6 million next season), for a high-dollar player another team wants to get out from under the contract, for example Pau Gasol in Los Angeles or Amare Stoudemire in New York.
The catch is that such a deal would make it difficult for the Mavs to then carve out enough cap space to offer a max deal to Williams. That is unless Dallas then moved the incoming player to another team in exchange for a player whose salary matched Marion's, as ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Jeff "Skin" Wade explained on Wednesday's Ben & Skin Show.
Such a scenario would rid the Mavs of Odom's cap hit, bring in a player at (most likely) a position of need and keep the Mavs in play to offer Williams the moon.
Such a plan won't be easy to carry through, but it certainly was curious of Carlisle to mention, unprompted, the possibility.
So let the speculation begin.
*Steve Nash was back at Dirk Nowitzki’s side during Sunday night’s All-Star Game, but Nash is no longer in the top five in terms of regular-season games played as a Dirk teammate. Jason Terry has played 559 regular-season games alongside Nowitzki for the Mavs, followed by Michael Finley (471), Shawn Bradley (467), Erick Dampier (412) and Josh Howard (411).
*Nowitzki’s run of 11 consecutive All-Star selections is the second-longest active streak in the league. After Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan saw their respective runs of 14 and 13 end over the weekend, Dirk trails only Kobe Bryant’s 14 straight All-Star trips among active players. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are next in line with eight straight All-Star trips.
*The Mavericks shot 46 percent from the 3-point line in their four-game playoff sweep of the Lakers. In this season’s two meetings? Dallas is shooting just 20.7 percent from long range against L.A.
*The loss to the Lakers in their final game before the All-Star break was the Mavs’ first this season in which they held a fourth-quarter lead at home. That leaves Chicago, Indiana and Oklahoma City as the only teams that haven’t lost at home after leading in the fourth quarter this season.
*Last Wednesday’s game was Kobe Bryant’s 52nd regular-season appearance against Dallas, breaking Bryant’s tie with James Worthy (51) for the most games against Dallas for any Laker.
*The Mavs still narrowly rank as the league’s second-oldest team with an average age of 30.0 … just behind Atlanta’s average age of 30.2.
"It takes a lot out of you. Them big [expletives] hit me a couple of times, I wanted to fall down," said Marion, who couldn't afford to fall down because he was chasing NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant. "They really take pride in making sure they set some hard screens. A couple of them, I was like I was ready to hit somebody for real."
Marion said the Mavs' bigs don't set screens with the same level of commitment. For years Erick Dampier might have gotten ripped for fumbling balls out of bounds among other aspects of his game, but coach Avery Johnson always loved the way the big man stonewalled defenders with screens that sprung shooters for open looks.
Tyson Chandler happily performed that duty last season and Marion, who held Kobe Bryant to just 15 points on four field goals with seven turnovers, said the Mavs' bigs need to step it up.
"We got to start hitting people like that too," Marion said.
Then Erick Dampier got healthy, got his starting job back and Haywood was perceived to have sulked. That summer, with Dampier on his way out, Haywood thought he had the starting job sewn up, and why not, coach Rick Carlisle promised it to him. Along comes Tyson Chandler, who goes on to change everything we always thought we knew about the Mavs.
Now Chandler's gone and this 6-foot-11, energetic French kid is stealing the spotlight.
But Haywood isn't letting Ian Mahinmi's surprise rise get him down. The 7-foot veteran is just going about his business and getting the job done on the defensive end, a significant reason why the Mavs are the third-ranked defensive team in the league.
Haywood, bouncing back from tough night against skilled Lakers center Andrew Bynum, logged two of his higher-minute games in the back-to-back set against the Clippers and Jazz, and for good reason.
Wednesday night in L.A., coach Rick Carlisle tried to give Dirk Nowitzki a break by putting him against offensively limited center DeAndre Jordan while the 7-foot Haywood took on athletic and rugged power forward Blake Griffin, who averages 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Haywood, playing 26 minutes, used his size effectively and held Griffin to 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting (Griffin did miss some point-blank attempts and he did get to the free-throw line eight times, making just two). And what happened with Jordan, who averages 7.8 points a game? He went off for a season-high 19.
In the big win Thursday at Utah, Haywood logged 29 minutes -- nine more than his season average -- and made smooth-scoring center Al Jefferson work for his 22 points on 18 shots. Haywood also supplied three assists and he was a perfect 4-of-4 -- no kidding -- from the free-throw line.
Carlisle called Haywood's game against Jefferson and the Jazz probably his best work of the season.
On the surface, Haywood's 4.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in the first three games of the road trip don't leap off the screen, but he's been a steady presence in the paint, the area of top concern entering the season.
In 2011, the Heat start 6-9 center Joel Anthony while more traditional, but well past their prime post men, Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamal Magliore can't get on the floor. Dallas starts All-Defensive second-team member Tyson Chandler with currently ailing Brendan Haywood (right hip flexor) as the backup.
"He was very good [Tuesday] night. It goes without stating, obviously," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday about Chandler's 13-point, 16-rebound performance in Dallas' series-evening Game 4 win. "Nine offensive rebounds and putting a lot of pressure, getting to the rim. He's an impact player and he has been for several years when he's been healthy. So we understand that. We have to meet him with force, with effort, and we have to be relentless, because he does offer them relief points in the paint with his aggressiveness."
Here's relief: The 7-1 Chandler has drawn the most fouls during the Finals (25), grabbed the most offensive rebounds (20) and has the most second-chance points (17).
Chandler has drawn three more fouls than Dirk Nowitzki, six more than Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and nine more than LeBron James.
Much of that is because of the obvious size mismatch inside, particularly when the Heat use two big men to double Nowitzki. Chandler is drawing fouls on the boards, but the Mavs have also fed Chandler in the paint with the fourth quarter of Game 4 serving as a prime example. Then there's the defensive side. Chandler has been highly active protecting the rim, limiting penetration and free throws for Wade and James.
"We love Chandler," said Jason Terry, who along with Nowitzki are the only remaining members of the '06 team. "Obviously, what he means to us from the inside as a presence offensively and defensively is huge. Each team has to have that presence. They had it in ’05-’06. We have it now and he’s a big difference-maker."
MIAMI -- Erick Dampier lined up next to Dirk Nowitzki for six years in Dallas. They were locker room neighbors and remain friends.
Dampier would like for Nowitzki to win a championship before his Hall of Fame career is done.
Just not this month.
"He's going to do everything in this world to try to win," said Dampier, now with the Heat. "He's an excellent player. Hopefully at some point he'll get to finish off his career with a title."
Dampier isn't the only former teammate of Nowitzki's now with the Heat. Juwan Howard and Jamal Magloire also had stints with the Mavs.
Howard, 38, is also chasing an elusive first title after 17 years in the league. Asked if he would like to see Nowitzki complete that career quest, Howard wasn't going to show it.
"Not this time," he said with a grin. "Not while I'm playing. No disrespect."
Dampier hasn't talked to Nowitzki or any of his former Dallas teammates or coaches going into the Finals, and doesn't expect to until after the series is over.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle recently said that Nowitzki is one of the top 10 players in NBA history. While that could be debated, he's easily the league's greatest European ever.
Dampier doesn't believe the 2006 MVP needs to a ring to cement his place in the game.
"He's one of the best players ever at that position," Dampier said. "There are a lot of people out there that haven't won a title. If he doesn't win one, the legacy he'll leave behind is definitely a great one."
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