Dallas Mavericks: Portland Trail Blazers

One of the Dallas Mavericks' prime summer of 2015 targets has no plans to test the open market.

All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge told The Oregonian that he intends to stay in Portland, although he will wait until next summer to sign an extension with the Trail Blazers to maximize the length and size of the contract.

"I'm happy to stay, happy to be here, happy with the direction the team has gone the last year or two," said Aldridge, who could sign a three-year deal worth $55 million this offseason or wait until next summer and get a five-year, $108 million deal. "This has no impact on my interest in staying in Portland. I just want to get a five-year deal. I feel like that's the best decision on my part."

The Mavs will have enough cap space to offer a max contract again next summer and have three players in mind, according to sources: Aldridge, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol.

Aldridge's comments, coming in the aftermath of the Trail Blazers winning 54 games and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, put a major dent in the hopes of the Mavs talking him into a homecoming. Aldridge, 28, who attended Seagoville High just outside Dallas and the University of Texas, made it clear that he'd prefer to spend his entire career in Portland.

"I want to be the best Blazer -- ever," said Aldridge, who averaged career highs of 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season.

A lot can change in a year, but it's clear Aldridge has no intention to come home to Dallas to succeed Dirk Nowitzki as the face of this franchise. Filling that role in Portland suits him just fine, as will signing a nine-figure deal next summer.
They’d love to come back to Dallas, but the veteran free agents on the Mavericks’ roster will all be willing to listen to any contenders interested in their services this summer.

The mutual interest is strong enough that it’s a decent bet that Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Devin Harris will re-sign with the Mavs in July. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision each of them getting intriguing offers from teams that can claim they’re better positioned than the Mavs to make a title run.

A look at a couple of contenders that could be fits for each of the trio:

MARION

Shane Battier, the Heat’s savvy, versatile veteran defender, intends to retire at the end of the season. The “Matrix,” whose defense was such a critical ingredient to the Heat’s lone playoff series loss in the LeBron James era, would make a lot of sense as Battier’s replacement.

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Marion just happens to still have a home in Miami from his brief stint with the Heat in 2008 and ’09. His hometown of Chicago could also be a fit for Marion.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was rather perturbed when the Chicago front office traded Luol Deng in a salary-dump deal before the deadline. Marion has some of the same traits as Deng – toughness, defensive versatility – at a presumably much lower price. If the Bulls add Marion, they’d likely be able to lighten the load on Jimmy Butler, who averaged 38.7 minutes per game last season.

Miami, assuming its stars stay, would be able to offer Marion no more than the taxpayer midlevel exception ($3.28 salary for next season). The Bulls’ bid would likely be in that same range. But Marion, who has made about $133 million in his career, made it clear that the chance to win another championship is much more important than the size of his checks next season.

“When July 1 comes, I'll look at my options and see which options are best suited to me to add to my legacy,” Marion said. “It's not about money right now. I've made a lot of money in my career. I've been truly been blessed. I'm not taking any of this for granted. I've just got to weigh my options.”

CARTER

Told that ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Toronto Raptors are kicking around the idea of trying to bring Carter back north of the border, the man formerly known as “Air Canada” couldn’t help but crack a big smile.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Carter said, raising his eyebrows. “You never know. I think more than anything I’m hoping that a lot of teams that appreciate, at my age, what I bring to the table.”

Carter’s divorce with the Raptors in 2004 didn’t go well, but the idea of his return should be appealing to Toronto for many reasons other than a potential marketing boon. The Raptors could really use a boost to their bench scoring, and Carter could serve as a mentor for promising young wing players DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.

For Carter, a return to Toronto could complete the circle of his career and give him a chance to help the Raptors advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, when he was a rising superstar in his third season. The Raptors fell one game short in the first round this season, losing to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games.

Carter’s best chance to compete for a championship might come just north of the Red River. Oklahoma City considered the midseason signing of Caron Butler to be a key acquisition. Carter, a better shooter and athlete, would be an upgrade for the Thunder.

HARRIS

Of these three, money is most important to Harris, who had made much less than Marion and Carter over the course of his career. He’s hoping to get something in the range of the three-year deal for a little more than $9 million that he originally agreed to with the Mavs last summer before the discovery that he needed complicated toe surgery.

A couple of West playoff teams that might be willing to give Harris that kind of deal are the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors. Both could be in the market for a quality veteran point guard this summer.

Portland’s Mo Williams doesn’t plan to exercise his option to make a salary of $2.77 million, preferring to test the market in hopes of getting a significant raise. Williams has been a good fit with the Blazers, but if his price tag is too high, Harris could be a good alternative for a combo guard off the bench.

The Warriors traded for Steve Blake this season, when he made $4 million in a deal that expires this summer. Harris could provide a similar veteran presence in a more athletic package for Golden State.

Mailbag: Preferred 2nd-round opponent?!?!

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
12:02
PM CT
DALLAS – I’ll readily admit that a certain sort of cynicism flows through my veins.

For example, it’s hard for me to look at the San Antonio Spurs' recent dominance of their old Interstate 35 rivals and envision anything other than the West’s top seed advancing to the second round. With the Spurs winning 10 straight over the Mavs, it’s tough to forecast Dallas winning four of the next six games.

It’s not my job to pump sunshine when black-and-silver clouds fill the sky. But I am here to serve the fans, and I must commend some of you MFFLs on your blind faith and enthusiasm.

Case in point: The first question of this week’s playoff-edition mailbag.

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What will be the result of the Mavs-Spurs series?

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Tim, who would the Mavs rather see in the second round? Blazers or Rockets? – Jake (Philadelphia)

Jake, I must admit that I hadn’t given this subject a second of thought before reading your question. The easy answer is the Mavs would be absolutely ecstatic to have the chance to play either one of them.

The Mavs actually fared pretty well against both Portland and Houston this season. They went 2-1 against the Trail Blazers, winning in Portland on Monta Ellis' buzzer-beater and in Dallas despite blowing a 30-point lead. They split four games against the Rockets, including a classic Mavs comeback win at home.

I’d say flip a coin. Both potential opponents present major defensive challenges for the Mavs, featuring two stars (LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard for the Blazers and James Harden and Dwight Howard for the Rockets) with talented supporting casts.

But if you pin me down and make me pick one, I’d take Houston. They don’t have an answer for defending Dirk, who averaged 31.5 points in the four games against the Rockets this season.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki's numbers in the clutch may not be quite as impressive as in the past, but he's still getting the job done and setting up others.
What are the stats of Dirk Nowitzki in crunch time and OT? He seems to be wearing down late in games. -- @JonathanBlick on Twitter

There’s no doubt that the fight against Father Time is especially tough late in tight games, especially if the 35-year-old star’s minutes were extended that night.

According to NBA.com’s clutch stats (score within five points in the final five minutes), Nowitzki is averaging a still extremely respectable 37.2 points per 48 minutes in those situations, plus 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. However, his percentages plummet: 39.2 from the floor, 20.7 from 3-point range. Yet his plus-minus (plus-25.6 per 48 minutes) is phenomenal, a testament to Dirk’s value as a decoy and Ellis’ ability to take advantage.

By comparison, Nowitzki averaged 41.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per 48 clutch minutes in 2010-11, shooting 46.5 percent from the floor but only 12.5 percent from 3-point range. His per-48 plus-minus was 38.3.

During the 2011 playoffs, when Nowitzki went on one of the great closing runs in NBA history to key the Mavs’ title run, those numbers were absolutely ridiculous. In 49 clutch minutes that postseason, Nowitzki put up 66 points, 11 rebounds and three assists while shooting 53.6 from the floor and 60 percent from 3-point range. The Mavs outscored their opponents by 73 points in those 49 minutes. SEVENTY-THREE POINTS!!!

Nowitzki’s OT numbers this season are actually pretty darn good: 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting (3-of-7 from 3-point range), six rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes.

Do you think that our flaws exposed by playing the Spurs will affect what kind of player we target in free agency? For example, going after a more athletic/offensive center versus a SF. – Micah (Stephenville, Texas)

No, because it’s not like the Spurs will expose flaws the Mavs didn’t know about. They’ll be in the market for an all-around small forward and an upgrade at starting center regardless of what happens in this series. It’d be nice to get a center with scoring ability, but the Mavs’ priority this summer will be drastically improving the defense.

This is an elite offensive team and a below-average defensive team. The result is a 49-win season and an extreme long shot to win a playoff series in the West.

(Read full post)

DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle wants the Mavericks’ players focused on the task at hand each day, not caught up in checking the scoreboard and Western Conference standings.

Of course, Mavs owner Mark Cuban can do whatever he pleases, and he sees significant opportunity when he scans the standings with 10 games to go in the regular season.

Cuban has heard all the talk about the possibility of the Mavs finishing in ninth place, which would mean missing the playoffs for the second straight season after the franchise earned 12 consecutive postseason berths. He wonders why there isn’t any discussion about Dallas climbing up a few spots and grabbing the fifth seed.

“We’re, what, two games behind Portland?” Cuban said.

Yep, the 43-29 Mavs are only two games behind the slumping Trail Blazers (3-7 in their last 10 games) and own the tiebreaker by virtue of Dallas winning the season series, 2-1. The Mavs are 1 games behind the sixth-place Golden State Warriors and have a golden opportunity to make up a game when the Warriors visit Tuesday.

But the Mavs have no breathing room at the bottom of the playoff picture. They’re sitting in the final spot at the moment, percentage points behind the Memphis Grizzlies and a half-game ahead of the Phoenix Suns entering Wednesday night’s NBA action.

As much as the Mavs are living by the one-day-at-a-time mantra, there is a strong belief in the locker room that their battle for a playoff spot will go down to the last week of the season.

The Mavs’ final two games are April 12 at home against the Suns -- a meeting that will determine the Dallas-Phoenix tiebreaker -- and April 16 on the road against a Memphis team that is 0-3 against Dallas this season. The Grizzlies play in Phoenix on April 14, so the final week of the season essentially features a round-robin tournament between the three teams who are within a half-game of each other now.

“We’re going to have our hands full just to get in,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We’ve got a heck of a schedule coming down the stretch, so I guess that’s all we’re focusing on now, finishing strong these last 10 games, keep competing and playing off each other on offense and see what happens. We’ll worry about matchups when we finally know, but the way it’s looking, it’s going to come down to the last couple of games.

“We kind of waited on Phoenix the whole season to kind of cast away, but they just keep coming. They’re just so athletic and they’re well coached. They’re a fun, fun group to watch. They’re going to keep pushing, and so are we and Memphis.”

A reminder from Cuban: Don’t forget about Portland and Golden State.

Mavs mailbag: Is fifth seed within reach?

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
12:00
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MavsAP Photo/Jim CowsertWith Portland struggling and LaMarcus Aldridge hurt, can the Mavericks climb to the No. 5 seed?

The Mavericks have won five of six, so the sunshine is pumping in the mailbag. On to the questions ...

With Portland struggling and LaMarcus Aldridge hurt, can the Mavs get as high as the 5th seed? -- @ParkerAllen41 on Twitter

Well, I gave up on the Mavs’ chances to get the sixth seed after they got blown out by Golden State last week, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask. Looking at the standings now, you can’t count out the Mavs moving up a spot or two. They’re only a game behind the Warriors, who are the Mavs’ final foe in this marathon homestand, and two and a half games behind Portland.

However, even with Aldridge’s return from a lower back contusion still at least a game or two away, I’d be stunned if the Mavs catch the Trail Blazers. The schedule is pretty kind the rest of the way for the Blazers, who play eight sub-.500 teams in the final 15 games.

Golden State plays eight sub-.500 foes in their final 14 games, so they’ve got a friendly schedule down the stretch, too.

My crystal ball still has the Mavs fighting with the Memphis Grizzlies for the seventh seed.

If the Mavs somehow advance in the playoffs and cause a few upsets along the way, how much of an impact will that have on their offseason decision making? Let's say they were to reach the conference finals. -- Jake (Philadelphia)

Man, this is a mighty optimistic mailbag. No, I don’t think a nice playoff run would change the Mavs’ offseason thought process much, if at all. No matter what, the Mavs will have a lot of cap space and will aggressively attempt to upgrade the roster.

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What seed will the Mavs be in the playoffs?

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Dirk Nowitzki has committed to re-sign and take a “significant pay cut” from his $22.7 million salary. The goal is to give him the best possible chance of competing for another championship during his golden years. I don’t see the Mavs’ front office fooling itself into thinking the roster doesn’t need major tinkering because an old team made a surprising playoff run.

One thing a playoff run might affect is Devin Harris’ market value. He’ll be a free agent again this summer, and the Mavs obviously have interest in him returning. The question is how much they’re willing to pay. The three-year, $9-plus-million deal they agreed to before discovering he needed toe surgery sounds awfully good right now, at least to the Mavs. If Harris performs in the playoffs like he has lately, he might be able to get more money.

(Read full post)

Facing debacle, Mavs fight for win

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:52
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Devin HarrisJerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDevin Harris' go-ahead, and-1 basket put the Mavs back in the lead in the waning seconds.

DALLAS -- Other than some groans and a few fans shuffling for the exits, the sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center was almost silent with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in Friday’s game.

LaMarcus Aldridge had just ferociously finished an alley-oop to give the Portland Trail Blazers, who trailed by 30 points in the first half, a six-point lead. It felt like a foregone conclusion that the Dallas Mavericks’ free fall would continue in soul-crushing fashion with a fourth consecutive loss that matched the franchise record for the biggest blown lead.

As the crowd sat in stunned silence during the ensuing timeout, challenges were delivered in the Mavs’ huddle. Leave everything on the floor and let the chips fall where they may.

Believe it or not, the Blazers didn’t get another bucket to fall the rest of the game. Dallas closed the game by scoring the final 11 points to pull out a desperately needed 103-98 victory.

“I thought we showed some great fight there in the fourth quarter to come back,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who publicly challenged the Mavs to raise their competitive level after Wednesday’s disastrous loss to the lottery-bound Denver Nuggets. “Just fight for each other, fight with each other. You’re going to lose some, but I like our chances if we’re out there playing together and fighting together.”

Maybe this wasn’t an ideal victory, but the Mavs aren’t exactly in a position to be whining about beauty points when they win.

The Mavs would certainly prefer not to have to scratch and claw down the stretch after opening with their most dominant quarter of the season, seizing that 30-point lead. But it’s no secret that Dallas is a defensively flawed team that tends to have trouble protecting big leads.

[+] EnlargeDirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images"I like our chances if we're out there playing together and fighting together," said Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 22 points Friday.
“If we want to be a playoff team, if we want to go deep into the playoffs, if you have that kind of lead against a team that can score in so many ways, you have to close it,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “You have to put them out. We know it, but I’m just glad to see everyone stay in it, not hang their heads. Not check out of the game and say, ‘It’s over, we lost,’ and find a way to get it done.”

Well, the Mavs might have to work a bit on that blown-lead deal.

Heck, the Mavs have lost five games this season in which they led by at least 17 points. It’s such a sensitive subject that it caused coach Rick Carlisle to curse during his postgame news conference -- and promptly tell his 9-year-old daughter, Abby, who was sitting off to the side with her mouth wide open in shock, that she didn’t hear that dirty word.

But at least the Mavs did the dirty work necessary to pull out a win they needed to maintain the slimmest of margins over the Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.

How’s this for grit? The Mavs got nine consecutive stops to end the game. Their four buckets during that span were all off of drives or in the paint, including an off-the-glass, and-1, go-ahead bucket with 24 seconds remaining by backup point Devin Harris, who got the call for crunch time because of his ability to drive and defend. Carter’s offensive rebound with 17.4 seconds to go essentially sealed the win.

“If you talk about doing it the hard way,” Carlisle said, “there’s no harder way to do it than what we did tonight.”

Not that the Mavs expect it to get much easier. An angry, East-leading Indiana Pacers team, fresh off being blown out by the Houston Rockets and wanting revenge for losing to the Mavs before the All-Star break, will be in town Sunday. The Mavs’ three games after that are on the road, including visits to two teams above them in the West standings. And so goes the Mavs’ schedule, one of the toughest in the league in terms of opponents’ winning percentage the rest of the season.

“It’s going to be a character test,” Carlisle said. “It’s going to test our team resolve the next 19 games, but that’s good. If we’re not up to it, we don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”

The Mavs’ playoff hopes might go down to the wire. With these Mavs, why should you expect anything other than a wild finish?
DALLAS -- Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert wore a white jersey during Friday morning’s shootaround.

That’s a pretty good clue that Dalembert’s latest demotion from the starting lineup was only for the second half of Wednesday’s indefensible and defenseless loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Of course, coach Rick Carlisle offered no confirmation on whether Dalembert would start Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“My lineup policy hasn’t changed in six years,” said Carlisle, who typically won’t reveal his starters until 16 minutes before tipoff, as required by NBA rules. “We’ll let you know tonight.”

Carlisle doesn’t need to tell us that the Mavs need an engaged version of Dalembert to have a decent chance of beating the Trail Blazers.

The Mavs need a big body to bang with Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center Robin Lopez. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Aldridge is an All-Star who averages 23.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The 7-foot, 265-pound Lopez, whom Carlisle calls “the most underrated acquisition on their team,” averages 11.0 points and 8.7 rebounds and is especially effective on the offensive glass (fourth in the NBA with 4.0 offensive rebounds per game).

In other news, Wayne Ellington is expected to be available Friday night after missing Wednesday’s loss due to personal reasons. Ellington was traveling from his hometown of Philadelphia on Friday morning.

UPDATE: Dalembert did indeed get the start Friday night, taking the opening tip against Portland's Robin Lopez.

Opening Tip: How can Mavs fix defense?

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
8:49
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Samuel DalembertIsaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY SportsThe Mavs have many defensive issues that need to be addressed to have a shot against the Blazers.

DALLAS -- A simple question stumped Dirk Nowitzki: What’s the easiest thing to fix about the Mavericks’ defense?

“I’m speechless, bro,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 115-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets, who scored 41 points in the first quarter and 36 in the fourth.

After thinking for a moment, Nowitzki identified a long list of defensive issues Dallas needs to address.

“We’ve just got to keep people in front of us,” Nowitzki said. “They’re very good in transition. It felt like somebody shot and we just had four guys watching. Our guards have got to sprint back. There were just layups after layups. We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us. We’ve got to be better on pick-and-roll coverage. We’ve got to find the shooters.

“I mean, you can start wherever you want.”

The Mavs better get to work right away. They’ll try to stop the bleeding of their first three-game losing streak of the season Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, who are tied for the league lead in scoring at 107.7 points per game.

(Read full post)

How Mavs match up with potential playoff foes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What is the best potential playoff matchup for the Mavericks?

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

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

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

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This five-day stretch of Mavericks schedule served as a strong reminder of one of the underrated strengths of the 2011 title team: the brainpower on the bench next to coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs benefited from one of the best coaching staffs in recent NBA history.

Want proof of that staff’s prowess? Just look at the success the top two assistants from that team are having this season.

Terry Stotts’ Portland Trail Blazers, who blew out the Mavs on Saturday night, have established themselves as a surprise contender in the Western Conference. Dwane Casey’s Toronto Raptors, who host the Mavs on Wednesday night, are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture in a season in which they were expected to compete only for the top overall pick. They've both been named the coach of the month in their conference once this season.

None of this comes as a surprise to Carlisle, who leaned heavily on offensive coordinator Stotts and defensive coordinator Casey during Dallas’ surprise championship season. Carlisle has always credited Stotts and Casey for their strategic input during that title run, when the Mavs’ offense was a free-flowing work of art and the defense managed to slow down Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James in the last three series.

“They had a lot of responsibility on my staff,” Carlisle said. “Both of them took over situations that were not good situations. There’s a saying that I’ve heard, I think it’s a Lou Holtz saying: ‘There’s no such thing as getting a good job. You’ve got to get a bad job and make it a good job.’ That’s what both of those guys have done. Toronto is a team now that’s really on the rise. Portland’s situation speaks for itself.”

Carlisle lobbied strongly for Casey and Stotts to get shots to be head coaches again. As Carlisle mentioned several times during their Dallas stints, neither got fair chances to succeed in their previous head coaching stints.

Casey spent a season and a half as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach, getting fired when the team was 20-20 midway through 2006-07. The Timberwolves finished 32-50 that year and haven’t won more than 31 games in a season since.

The Raptors are 20-20 right now – and 14-8 since the Rudy Gay deal, which a lot of people perceived as a white-flag trade that meant Toronto was officially in tank mode. Casey left the Mavs the summer after the title run to take over a Toronto team coming off a 22-60 campaign. The Raptors have made progress each season under his watch, going 23-43 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 and 34-48 last season and before leaping to .500 now.

Stotts never got to finish two full seasons in his previous two head coaching stints. He took over as an interim coach in Atlanta during the 2002-03 season, finishing that campaign 24-31, and got fired after going 28-54 the next year. The Hawks, who had a bad roster and an ownership situation in flux at the time, won only 13 games the next season. Stotts got fired before the end of his second season as head coach in Milwaukee, where he had a 63-83 overall record.

The Trail Blazers, a young team with no depth, tailed off in Stotts’ first season to finish 33-49. After a couple of key offseason additions to complement stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, Portland has taken off this season, sitting only a game and a half out of the top spot in the West standings with a 31-11 record.

Stotts, an elite offensive innovator whose team leads the league in scoring, insists he owes some of his current success to the time he spent in Dallas on Carlisle’s staff.

“I think it really completed me as a coach,” Stotts said. “All those things really gave me a different view of how to approach your team, how to coach your team. I think it made me more of a complete coach.”

Stotts and Casey were key reasons the Mavs completed a playoff run with a championship parade. Their current success is a source of pride for Carlisle, even if it made his job much tougher during this five-day stretch.

League issues correction on box score totals

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
6:31
PM CT
The league announced Monday afternoon that there was a box score error during the Dallas Mavericks' victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. A basket was credited to Monta Ellis with 45.9 seconds left in the game to make it 106-100 in favor of Dallas, but the shot was actually taken by Dirk Nowitzki. With the correction, Nowitzki scored 30 points in the game and Monta Ellis recorded 20 points.

The correction now officially gives Nowitzki his second 30-point effort of the season as well as his 228th 30-point performance of his career. The previous 30-point performance by Nowitzki this season came when he scored 35 points in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Houston Rockets in late November.

In addition, the correction now credits Nowitzki with tying his season-high for field goal attempts made in a game with 13. He also had 13 made field goal attempts in the game against Houston. Now, with 23 shots attempted in the game against Portland, that marks a new season-high for field goals attempted by Nowitzki this season. His previous high was 22 in the road loss to Denver in late November.

Rapid Reaction: Mavs 108, Trail Blazers 106

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
11:38
PM CT


Let's take a quick look at the Dallas Mavericks' 108-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers:

How it happened: This was a classic example of Dirk Nowitzki's clutch dominance, but his sidekick delivered at the buzzer.

Monta Ellis knocked down a 20-footer at the buzzer after Portland point guard Damian Lillard tied it on a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining.

Nowitzki gave the Mavs a chance to win the game after it seemed like the Trail Blazers, the team with the Western Conference’s best record, was on the verge of slamming the door shut.

The face of the Mavericks’ franchise simply took over the game after the Trail Blazers made a run to tie it up with 3:58 remaining. Nowitzki scored nine points over the next three-plus minutes, knocking down four of five shots from the floor.

The clutch scoring spree started with a beautifully designed play out of a timeout, when DeJuan Blair set a screen to free Nowitzki up for a midrange jumper near the top of the key. The Mavs ran the same play with the same results on the next possession.

Nowitzki, who scored 10 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, mixed in an and-1 jumper over Lillard and one of his patented one-legged fadeaways over Nicolas Batum. The fadeaway seemed to be a dagger, giving the Mavs a six-point lead with 45.9 seconds remaining.

But the Blazers rallied in the final minute, getting 3s from Batum (22 points) and Lillard (32 points) to tie it up.

That set up the first game winner of Ellis’ tenure with the Mavs.

What it means: Beating the 17-4 Trail Blazers, who sit atop the Western Conference standings, is by far the most impressive win of the Mavs’ season. The Mavs accomplished something that the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t able to do this week by winning in Portland. This marks the third consecutive win for the Mavs, who improved to 13-8.

Play of the game: For all of the pretty shots knocked down by Nowitzki, it’s impossible to go with anything other than Ellis’ game winner. He started off in the corner, came off staggered screens by Nowitzki and Blair, caught Jose Calderon’s inbounds pass near the top of the arc, took one dribble and drilled the long 2-pointer. That gave Ellis 22 points and set off a wild celebration by the Mavs.

Stat of the night: Calderon made five layups against the Trail Blazers. According to NBA.com’s data, Calderon had five buckets within 8 feet of the basket all season entering Saturday night.
Former Portland Trail Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales will join the Dallas Mavericks as an assistant coach, replacing Jim O'Brien on Rick Carlisle's staff.

O'Brien, who had a 303-327 record as a head coach for the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, informed Carlisle on April 16 that he planned to retire after spending one season with the Mavs.

"Jim said he loved working in the Mavs organization, but being away from family made his decision easy," Carlisle said in an email. "I consider Jim O'Brien a great basketball man of high integrity and thank him for everything he taught me, my staff and our players this past season. We are fortunate that Kaleb Canales became available and had interest in joining the Mavs organization. Kaleb has worked for the Portland Trail Blazers organization in multiple capacities for the last 9 years, and brings great knowledge, enthusiasm and work ethic to the Mavs. He will join Monte Mathis and Tony Brown on the bench and take over in Coach O'Brien's capacity of coordinating our offense."

Canales was a finalist for Portland’s head coaching position after the Blazers went 8-15 when he filled in following Nate McMillan’s firing in 2012. The Blazers hired former Mavs assistant Terry Stotts, and Canales remained in Portland as the defensive coordinator on Stotts’ staff.

The 34-year-old Canales is a Texas-Arlington alum who worked his way up the ranks in Portland after being hired as a video intern in 2004.

"I'm very grateful to Paul Allen and Bert Kolde for the opportunity to work with a first class organization for the past nine seasons," Canales said in a statement.

"At this time, I am excited to have the opportunity to join the Dallas Mavericks. I treasure the relationships I built with the players, staff and fans here in Portland and also want to thank Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts for the opportunity to remain with the club this past season."

Canales' departure from Portland for Dallas was originally reported by The Oregonian.
That might have been a money game for Chris Kaman.

Kaman opted to sign a one-year, $8 million deal with the Mavericks last summer instead of taking a similar offer from the Trail Blazers. Considering how he’s bounced between the starting lineup and the end of the bench, it’s hard to believe that Kaman will return to Dallas next season. Portland could be interested again in signing him, however.

Kaman certainly made a strong case Sunday night that he can help the Blazers, who will again have a hole to fill at center with J.J. Hickson entering free agency.

Not to damn his 26-point, 11-rebound, two-block outing with faint praise, but this was arguably the best performance by Kaman during this frustrating season.

Kaman’s season-high point total matching the highest scoring game by a Mavs center during the Dirk Nowitzki era. He also recorded his third double-double of the season – and first since Jan. 2 – despite playing only 25 minutes.

“Kaman was great from the beginning of the game,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “He hit his first shot, was really active on defense, rebounded like crazy and just gave us a terrific all-around game.”

This season, however, has been far from great for the 10-year veteran 7-footer. Billed as the best offensive big man the Mavs have had to pair with Nowitzki, his former teammate on the German Olympic team, Kaman expected to be the full-time starter when he decided to come to Dallas. However, in large part due to his defensive struggles, Kaman has been demoted to part of a starting center committee, playing less than 10 minutes in eight games last month.

Carlisle went back to Kaman as the starter for this road trip, and the former All-Star responded by averaging 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor in 22.8 minutes per game.

Kaman has been honest about his frustrations, mentioning several times that he feels pressure as he prepares to be a free agent again. But he’s remained professional about his situation and proved during this trip that he stayed ready to play even while riding the pine.

“They’re paying me money to play basketball,” Kaman said on the Mavs’ television broadcast. “That’s my job. … I’m here to do a job and be a professional, and that’s what I try to do.”

Kaman might be on Portland’s payroll next season. His performance Sunday night at the Rose Garden probably reminded the Blazers’ brass why they were interested in the big man last summer.

A few more notes from the Mavs’ win that salvaged a split on the road trip:

1. Trix’s trip: Shawn Marion accomplished something on this trip he hadn’t done since March 2011: He scored 20-plus points in two straight games.

Marion starred in the Mavs’ two wins to end the trip. He lit up the Kings for 25 points and 12 rebounds and followed that with a 20-point, seven-rebound performance in Portland. Marion was 20-of-31 from the floor in those two games.

“Marion’s on a roll here,” Carlisle said. “He’s scoring, rebounding and making plays. He did a terrific job again tonight.”

2. Dirk’s difficulties: This was a tough trip for Dirk Nowitzki, who was as hot as he’d been all season when the Mavs left for their week away, having just torched the Bulls for a season-high 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting to carry the Mavs to a miraculous comeback win.

Nowitzki averaged only 11.5 points on 40.9 percent shooting on the four-game trip. His production in the fourth quarters on this trip was particularly terrible: a total of one point, coming on a free throw well after the Mavs’ fate had been decided in their blowout loss to the Lakers.

Nowitzki didn’t play in the fourth quarter Sunday due to a foot/ankle injury, which he suffered earlier in the game and the Mavs consider minor.

3. Within a whisker of .500: For the third time in the last two weeks, the Mavs will have a chance to get back to .500 and earn the right to finally shave.

But Vince Carter, one of the originators of the .500 beard pact, isn’t in any mood to discuss facial hair before the Mavs face the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

“Just win the next game,” Carter said. “That’s all I care about. If it entails having an even record, fine. I’m not going to talk about it. Just win the next game.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9