Dallas Mavericks: Shawn Bradley
But the standard is far from the norm. In the last four games, Samuel Dalembert has approached Chandler’s standard. For most of the season, he’s met the norm for Mavs centers.
From the Dept. of Damning With Faint Praise: A strong argument can be made that Dalembert is actually the best bargain among the Mavs’ starting big men during Dirk Nowitzki’s career. The Mavs obviously got their money’s worth from Chandler’s eight-figure salary, but that makes him the bang-for-buck exception.
Other than DeSagana Diop, who wasn’t overpaid by the Mavs until a few years after his part-time starting stint, Dalembert is by far the cheapest starting center the Mavs have had next to Nowitzki. And Dalembert’s numbers stack up pretty well to his predecessors’.
The list of big men who have played with Nowitzki sticks out like a sore thumb (showing their seasons as the Dirk era Mavs’ primary starting center):
1998-99: 8.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.2 bpg, .480 FG ($6.75 million)
1999-00: 8.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg, .479 FG ($7.56 million)
2000-01: 7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg, .490 FG ($8.37 million)
Mavs memories: The 7-foot-6 Bradley blocked a bunch of shots, but you’ll find many more examples of him ending up on the wrong end of at-the-rim highlights on YouTube. He’s best remembered for being posterized and a lot of painfully awkward offensive possessions.
2001-02: 12.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.5 bpg, .462 FG ($18.75 million)
Mavs memories: He was only a center in the wacky world of Nellie, and even then only for a little more than half of the season before he got shipped to Denver as part of a massive deadline deal. Pairing a young Dirk with Howard proved that Nellie really didn’t care a lick about interior defense.
2002-03: 9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, .518 FG ($7.27 million)
Mavs memories: It took a little more than a year for Nellie to go from envisioning LaFrentz as the key to competing with the Lakers to realizing he was a bad contract Dallas needed to dump. The Mavs actually got some value when they got rid of him, taking Antoine Walker off the Celtics’ hands and flipping him for Jason Terry a year later.
2004-05: 9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .550 FG ($7.7 million)
2006-07: 7.1 ppg, 7.4 ppg, 1.1 bpg, .626 FG ($9.63 million)
2007-08: 6.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .643 FG ($10.59 million)
2008-09: 5.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .650 FG ($11.55 million)
2009-10: 6.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .624 FG ($12.12 million)
Mavs memories: They let Steve Nash go so they could sign this stiff?! Dampier was a more expensive, much less intense version of Kendrick Perkins. At least his contract included a goodbye gift, as the Mavs parlayed his fully nonguaranteed final year into Chandler.
2005-06: 2.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg, .470 FG ($1.85 million)
Mavs memories: Did you forget that Diop started more games than Dampier during the Mavs’ first Finals season? The Mavs’ mistake with Diop occurred a couple of summers later, when they gave him a five-year deal for the full midlevel, somehow suckering Charlotte into trading for him after a couple of months of huffing and puffing.
2010-11: 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .654 FG ($12.6 million)
Mavs memories: He didn’t stay long, but he’ll always be loved in Dallas. Chandler was the final piece to the Mavs’ championship puzzle.
2011-12: 5.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .518 FG ($7.62 million)
Mavs memories: Haywood played a key role as a backup during the Mavs’ march through the West playoff bracket in 2011. But he was so underwhelming as Chandler’s replacement that the Mavs used the amnesty clause on him so they could sign Chris Kaman. Dallas is paying Haywood more than Dalembert this season.
2012-13: 10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.8 bpg, .507 FG ($8 million)
Mavs memories: He had the ugliest .500 beard, and his poor defense was a major reason those whiskers grew so long. Kaman and coach Rick Carlisle don’t exchange Christmas cards.
2013-14: 6.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .590 FG ($3.7 million)
Mavs memories: If he keeps showing up like he has during the Mavs’ winning streak, his oversleeping incidents will be forgotten. He doesn’t seem so bad compared to most of the other big men in recent Mavs history.
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.
*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.
Then I had to adjust it to the best dunks of modern-day Mavs history. Hey, my memory is foggy and YouTube is lacking on dunk footage from the Reunion Rowdy days.
Dunks victimizing Mavericks don’t count in this conversation, so don’t bother bringing up Tracy McGrady rocking Shawn Bradley into retirement or Kevin Durant dropping Brendan Haywood off on the 10th floor. Only dunks by Dallas players were considered.
With some help from my Twitter followers, I put together a six-pack of sick Mavs slams with accompanying YouTube links.
Yao-zers: Who cares about a one-foot height disadvantage? Not Michael Finley, who punched it hard on Yao Ming’s head after catching Cuttino Mobley cheating on a pick.
Vintage Vinsanity: Half Man, Half Amazing still has it in him. He left no doubt about that a couple of weeks into his Dallas tenure, driving baseline by New Orleans’ Marco Belinelli and putting big man Emeka Okafor on a poster.
Delivering on the Mailman: Finley slashed past three Jazz defenders, took off at the charge circle and threw down a tomahawk in Hall of Famer Karl Malone’s face. (Clip is about 25 seconds into the highlight package after a couple of Finley dunks on the Mavs while wearing a Spurs uniform.)
Take Dat Wit Chu!: Guest color commentator Dirk Nowitzki’s classic call became part of Mavs’ lore, but Tyson Chandler’s dunk stands on its own. It was the most memorable of Chandler’s many alley-oop finishes on lobs from Jason Kidd in the big man’s lone season with the Mavs. Chandler soared over a pair of Raptors for the ferocious two-handed finish on a pick-and-roll.
JET takes off: Chandler was on the wrong end of this one, the best of a pretty impressive collection of driving dunks by the 6-foot-2 Terry. After blowing by a Hornets defender near the top of the key, Terry took off from a step outside the charge circle, cocked the ball back and threw it down hard with two hands despite contact from the wanna-be shot-blocking big man.
Kiddin’ with Trix: Kidd puts the ball high off the glass on a fast break against the Clippers and leaves the hard work to Shawn Marion, who soars for the two-handed slam as Steve Blake (and a ballboy trying to mop up sweat) scramble to get out of the way.
Yes, the Worm, now 50, will be best remembered for wearing a wedding dress and his decorative use of boas. The flamboyant power forward has promised a full fashion blowout tonight, accentuated by acrobats and allegedly a helicopter entrance, for his induction as part of the 2011 class of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame (6 p.m., NBA TV).
Rodman, who graduated from Dallas' South Oak Cliff High School and played mostly anonymously at Southeastern Oklahoma State, first made a name for himself as a rebounding machine with the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons. Later, he won titles as a the maddening, tattooed, multi-pierced, temper-tantrum-throwing, ugly step-child playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
At the time brand-spanking new Mavs owner Mark Cuban reached out to a 38-year-old Rodman for pure spectacle purposes, Dallas was actually just starting to play respectable basketball under coach and general manager Don Nelson after the dark decade of the 90s. Rodman had been out of the league for a year and well, the Dallas stint was certainly the media circus Cuban knew it would be. On the court it was pretty much epic failure. The Mavs had just gone on a 10-3 run and talk of possibly getting into the playoffs surfaced
Rodman played 12 games in a Dallas uniform. The team won four games. He scored 34 points, but showed he could still manhandle the boards, grabbing 171 rebounds.
The outspoken one was, too, with the Mavs -- a squad that included a second-year, baby-faced Dirk Nowitzki, a developmental Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Shawn Bradley, Robert Pack, Hubert Davis, Sean Rooks and Gary Trent. Twice Rodman was tossed from games and both instances he challenged NBA commissioner David Stern, once to a boxing match -- naked.
"I wish me and David Stern could put some damn gloves on and go in the ring," Rodman said. "We'll see who comes out the winner. I've been a marked man for years. That's the first person they're going to look for - Dennis Rodman."
Rodman was also one of the first to criticize the club's young, billionaire owner for being too chummy with players and intruding on the players' space.
"He doesn't need to be hanging around the players like he's a coach or something," Rodman said. "That's like [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones and it's dumb. That's why the Cowboys went down. He needs to be the owner, step back and put people in who can get this team in the right direction."
Rodman said that on March 7 and he was released on March 8, ending his colorful NBA career with averages of 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds a game.
At the time, Cuban said Rodman's comments about him -- and that one wasn't the only one -- had nothing to do with releasing him. Cuban said the team just didn't get the wins he thought they would with one of the all-time great rebounders, defenders and characters on the squad.
Maybe so, but Cuban -- who, remember, had Rodman shack up at his guest house when he arrived in town -- also declined two requests this week to reminisce about Rodman's month-long carnival in Big D.
For the playoff edition of the Inside Skinny, we figured we’d give you our scouting report on the Portland Blazers and how they do what they do. First off, here are a few nuggets about their team identity as a whole.
While they’re last in the league in PACE (average possessions per game), they’re 10th when it comes to offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Then factor in that they’re third in the league in Offensive Rebound Rate -- percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed -- as well as a low turnover team.
And, finally, you take note that they’re fifth in Defensive Plays Rate (steals, blocks and charges per 100 possessions) and you can see how Portland is able to force opponents into playing the type of game they want -- a tough, grind-it-out-and-don’t-make-mistakes affair.
Aiight, I’m done nerding out. Here’s the eyeball stuff.
Mr. LaMarcus Aldridge -- you grows up, you grows up and you grows up. The skinny kid from Seagoville did damage this year, and he has absolutely had his way with the Mavs in all four meetings. He came to Dallas and dropped 35 in a loss on Dec. 15. It was the real jump-off point for a huge season in which he’s posted career highs in points, rebounds and assists.
But the most memorable Aldridge moment for me was in the final contest vs. the Mavs when he backed down Brendan Haywood on the right block, treating Haywood like he was Shawn Bradley. He leaned back towards the middle of the lane before drop-stepping baseline side and flipping a feathery shot over his left shoulder. It was monstrous. The ease with which he moved the bigger Haywood and the skill to finish the move was at a level that only a handful of posts in the league are able to sniff. That boy is good.
When I saw Portland’s Defensive Play Rate, I couldn’t help but think of their three long defensive specialists in Nic Batum, old-man Marcus Camby and February trade acquisition Gerald Wallace (aka, “I was burnt out in Charlotte”). The first time that Portland played Dallas with Wallace in the lineup, I thought he looked like the same “floater” I’d see in Charlotte who didn’t involve himself in games with the intensity that a player of his immense talents should. When we saw him again on April 3, I thought he was fantastic. He used his length and athleticism to cause havoc and create opps for the Blazers. Camby is a savvy defensive player and rebounder, and Batum helps spread the floor with his range and can be a really sticky on-the-ball hawk.
What a coup Wesley Matthews ended up being. Some ripped Portland for giving Matthews their full mid-level exception. I’d say he saved their season filling in for Roy at the two and emerging as their second-leading scorer, best 3-point shooter and a rugged defender bothering opposing team’s shooting guards. One of the real value players in the league without question.
The sad story of Roy’s struggles with knee pain has been well-chronicled. He’s often used in a backup distributor role now, but can still take over a game when his body cooperates as his 21-point performance against the Mavs back in March will support. He’s a guy who can hit some big-time shots. Rudy Fernandez also is a guy capable of hitting some ridiculously tough shots. Though it wouldn’t shock me if he tried to bounce a ball in the basket off his head. He gives off a wacky juggler vibe. I think he’d be an awesome Globetrotter.
Andre Miller has played his entire career feeling underappreciated and disrespected. Remember when he hung half a C-note on Dallas last year? Yes, he does too.
This has the makings of a fantastic series. I'll be curious to see if the ridiculously underrated Nate McMillan is tempted to roll out the smaller Aldridge at center and Batum and Wallace at the 3 and 4 slots. McMillan used that lineup at times down the stretch, including vs. the Mavs on March 15. It forces Dirk to cover a much quicker player; then again, the Blazers have to cover Dirk, too. I’d think Portland’s size advantage in the backcourt -- which was used to great effect in that final route in Portland -- will be negated this time around with DeShawn Stevenson and Corey Brewer more in the mix.
Lots of delicious matchup potential. I can’t wait to see it unfold starting Saturday night in the Dub -- Uptown Saturday Night style.
When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to counter with an offer anywhere close to the $65 million the Suns put on the table, Nash quickly made his call. The Big Three, one year removed from the West finals, was no more. Nash returned to Phoenix, Dirk Nowitzki lost his best friend and coach Don Nelson lost his point guard, and later would admit lost his enthusiasm to coach the new-look Mavs.
"It's exciting, but it's also bittersweet," Nash told ESPN.com at the time. "I'm really sad to leave my teammates, but I'm glad to be going somewhere where they really wanted me."
Cuban, who had not been shy in spending big money to acquire players, said no this time. He contended that Nash's body couldn't endure another five or six years playing the break-neck style that had come to define his game. At the time, it seemed many fans agreed.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson got to work and acquired streaky shooting Atlanta Hawks guard Jason Terry to run the point. He would join rookie guard Devin Harris. Veteran center Erick Dampier and ornery swingman Jerry Stackhouse came aboard via different trades.
The club thrived to win 58 games. The final 16 game under Avery Johnson, who took over when Nelson abruptly stepped down on March 19. The Mavs reached the second round, but in the end, it was Nash who got the last laugh, at least for one season, and set the stage for his double MVPs to come.
Coach: Don Nelson (64 games)/Avery Johnson (18 games)
Record: 58-24 (2nd, Southwest Division)
Playoffs: defeated Houston (4-3), lost to Phoenix (4-2)
Team payroll: $91.9 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($14.6 million)*
In-season transaction: Dec. 3, 2004: Traded Dickau and a 2005 second-round draft pick (Marcin Gortat) to New Orleans for Darrell Armstrong; Feb. 24, 2005: Traded Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson to Milwaukee for Keith Van Horn.
The high: The Mavs finished the season on a 9-0 run under Avery Johnson but lost their first two playoff games at home against Houston. Dallas rallied and won Game 7 at home by 40 points, the largest margin of victory in a Game 7 in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki put together a remarkable regular season, averaging a career-best 26.1 points and 9.7 rebounds that would see him finish third in in MVP voting and make him the first Mavericks player to be named All-NBA first team.
The low: Nash did it all in the West semifinal series against his old team, putting up the best numbers of his career. Nash averaged 30.3 points, 12.0 assists, and 6.5 rebounds a game. He recorded his first playoff triple-double and scored 48 points in Game 4, then followed it up with 34 points in Game 5 and 39 points in the series-clincher. In that Game 6 on the Mavs' home court, Nash hit the biggest shot of the series, nailing a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 5.7 seconds left with Jason Terry -- who poured in 36 points -- drifting off of him to force overtime. The Suns had trailed by 16 points with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Nash 3-pointer to tie led Nowitzki to verbally berate his first-year teammate Terry on the court, a rare scene from the frustrated 7-footer. Losing Nash, then losing to Nash, did not foreshadow what was to come next for the Dallas Mavericks.
F Dirk Nowitzki (26.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
G Michael Finley (15.7 ppg, 40.7% 3FG)
G/F Jerry Stackhouse (14.9 ppg as sixth man)
F Josh Howard (12.6 ppg, team-high 116 steals)
G Jason Terry (12.4 ppg, 42.0% 3FG)
F Keith Van Horn (12.2 ppg in 29 games with Dallas)
C Erick Dampier (9.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg)
G/F Marquis Daniels (9.1 ppg)
G Devin Harris (5.7 ppg, 19 starts in 76 games)
G Darrell Armstrong (2.3 ppg in 52 games with Dallas)
F Alan Henderson (3.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 15.4 mpg)
C Shawn Bradley (2.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 11.5 mpg)
C Calvin Booth (2.4 ppg in 34 games with Dallas)
G Dan Dickau (played just four games)
C DJ Mbenga (played just 15 games)
C Pavel Podkolzin (played five games)
The Dallas Mavericks were fresh off an exciting run to the Western Conference finals and motivated by the belief that had Dirk Nowitzki not suffered a knee sprain in Game 3, they would have defeated the San Antonio Spurs and advanced to the franchise's first NBA Finals.
But, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made wholesale changes that he would later say were a mistake. The Big Three of Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley returned along with Shawn Bradley and Eduardo Najera.
The rest of the roster received a major makeover, namely with two lanky, head-band wearing rookies and two big-name acquisitions named Antoine, er, Antawn.
All-in-all, the 2003-04 season would prove to be a disappointing watershed year for Nash, Nowitzki, Don Nelson and the franchise as a whole.
Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 52-30 (3rd, Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Lost to Sacramento (4-1).
Team payroll: $76.5 million*
Highest-paid player: Antoine Walker ($13.5 million)*
Offseason transactions: F/G Josh Howard (drafted in first round, 29th pick); G/F Marquis Daniels (rookie free agent); G Travis Best (free agent); traded Evan Eschmeyer, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones, Antoine Rigaudeau and Nick Van Exel to Golden State for Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Danny Fortson and Jiri Welsch; traded Raef LaFrentz, Mills, Welsch and a 2004 first-round draft pick (Delonte West) to Boston for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk.
In-season transaction: Jan. 30, 2004: Signed Scott Williams (free agent).
The low: The new lineup some called the 'Fantasy Five' just didn't click. After winning 60 games the prior season, the Mavs dropped by eight wins and settled for the No. 5 seed. Nelson often liked to go with a small lineup with Walker at center -- in fact, Nelson made Walker agree to play center in the final 10 games just for him to get on the floor -- but that didn't stop Walker from hoisting 305 3-pointers, (he made 82 of them) second on the team behind Michael Finley's 370. Nash received heavy criticism for his defense on Sacramento guard Mike Bibby in the five-game, first-round loss. Bibby outscored Nash in the series, 23.6 to 13.6, and went off for six 3-pointers and 36 points in the Kings' series-clinching victory. Nelson, as well as many of the Mavs players, ended the season with a cloudy future. To be sure, an offseason of change was on the horizon again, but no one saw the biggest change of all coming.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 21.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg)
G Michael Finley (18.6 ppg, 40.5% 3FGs)
F Antawn Jamison (14.8 ppg, 53.5% FG)
G Steve Nash (14.5 ppg, team-leading 8.8 apg)
F Antoine Walker (14.0 ppg, 26.9% 3FG)
F/G Josh Howard (8.6 ppg, 23.7 mpg)
G/F Marquis Daniels (8.5 ppg, 18.6 mpg)
G Tony Delk (6.0 ppg)
F Scott Williams (3.0 ppg in 27 games with Dallas)
F Danny Fortson (3.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
C Shawn Bradley (3.3 ppg, 74 blocks in 66 games)
F Eduardo Najera (3.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg in 58 games)
G Travis Best (2.8 ppg, 1.8 apg in 61 games)
Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 60-22 (T1st, Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Defeated Portland (4-3); defeated Sacramento (4-3), lost to San Antonio (4-2)
Team payroll: $72.9*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($11.95 million)*
Offseason transactions: G Walt Williams (free agent); G Raja Bell (free agent); F Popeye Jones (free agent); G Adam Harrington (free agent, then released in January)
Major transaction: G Antoine Rigaudeau (free agent, signed Jan. 17, 2003)
The high: The Mavs posted a second consecutive franchise record for wins. They started the season 14-0, falling one win shy of tying the NBA record. Dallas led the NBA in scoring for a second straight season (103.0) and committed an NBA record-low 11.6 turnovers a game. Dirk Nowitzki averaged a career-best 25.1 points a game, finishing sixth in the league, and joined Mark Aguirre as the only Mavericks player to score 2,000 or more points in a single season. Nowitzki finished with 2,011. He and Steve Nash (17.7 points, 7.3 assists) made the West All-Star team again. After taking a 3-0 lead over Portland in the first year of the first-round being expanded to best-of-7, the Mavs had to pull out a Game 7 to advance. Dallas then slayed Sacramento in seven games, a series that included a thrilling 141-137 double overtime win in Sacramento and a 112-99 Game 7 win in Dallas in which Nowitzki scored 30 points and had 19 rebounds. It put the Mavs in the West finals for just the second time in franchise history and first since 1988.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 25.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 111 steals)
G Michael Finley (19.3 ppg, 37.0% 3FG)
G Steve Nash (17.7 points, team-high 7.3 assists and 41.3% 3FG)
G Nick Van Exel (12.5 ppg, 4.3 apg, 27.8 mpg as sixth man)
F/C Raef LaFrentz (9.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 91 blocks in 69 games)
C Shawn Bradley (6.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 170 blocks in 21.4 mpg)
F Eduardo Najera (6.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg in 48 games)
F Walt Williams (5.5 ppg, 37.4% 3FG)
G/F Adrian Griffin (4.4 ppg in 18.6 mpg)
F Tariq Abdul-Wahad (Played in just 14 games)
G Avery Johnson (3.3 ppg in 48 games)
G Raja Bell (3.1 ppg in 75 games)
F Popeye Jones (2.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 26 games)
G Antoine Rigaudeau (1.5 ppg, 0.5 apg in 11 games)
F/C Evan Eschmeyer (1.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg in 17 games)
The alterations were fitting with the Mavericks moving into the luxurious American Airlines Center and leaving behind the cozy, but run-down Reunion Arena and the dark days of the 1990s. With exuberant new owner Mark Cuban wearing jeans and T-shirts behind the bench, and an exciting Big Three taking hold, Dallas was suddenly a player again in the Western Conference.
A second consecutive big deadline deal injected toughness into Don Nelson's team -- which wouldn't fully be realized until the following season -- and it was clear the city was getting behind this fun-and-gun team that was bringing breakneck offense back to the NBA.
Consider that the Mavs finished the season with the league's top-scoring offense at 105.2 points a game. Dallas was one of four teams to average at least 100 points. Now this is truly amazing: This season, 18 teams averaged at least 100 points. So, the Mavs were doing something almost no one else was at the time and excitment was building for a second playoff run.
Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 57-25 (2nd, Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Defeated Minnesota (3-0); lost to Sacramento (4-1).
Team payroll: $56.98 million*
Highest-paid player: Juwan Howard ($17.8 million)*
Offseason transactions: G Adrian Griffin (free agent); C Evan Eschmeyer (free agent); F Danny Manning (free agent); G Johnny Newman (free agent); traded 2004 second-round draft pick (Matt Freije) to Miami for G Tim Hardaway.
Major transaction: Feb. 21, 2002: Traded Tim Hardaway, Donnell Harvey, Juwan Howard, cash and a 2002 first-round draft pick (Frank Williams) to Denver for Avery Johnson, Raef LaFrentz, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Nick Van Exel.
The low: The playoffs started with the Mavs rolling past Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves by an average of 10.6 points in a three-game sweep. The Mavs then got the split they wanted at ARCO Arena to start the second round against the Chris Webber-Mike Bibby-Peja Stojakovic Kings and came home to the AAC. The good times didn't last long as the Mavs lost both home games, including a 115-113 overtime defeat in Game 4 that saw Nowitzki score 31 and Webber go for 30. The Kings took Game 5, 114-101, back in Sacramento to end the Mavs' season with a thud.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 23.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg)
G Michael Finley (20.6 ppg, team-high 39.9 minutes)
G Steve Nash (17.9 points, team-high 7.7 assists and 45.5% 3FG)
G Nick Van Exel (13.2 ppg, 4.2 apg in 27 games with Dallas)
F Juwan Howard (12.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg before traded in February)
F/C Raef LaFrentz (10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 60 blocks in 27 games with Dallas)
G Avery Johnson (3.2 points, 8.9 minutes in 17 games with Dallas)
G/F Adrian Griffin (7.2 ppg in 58 games)
F Eduardo Najera (6.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 21.9 mpg)
G Greg Buckner (Avg. 5.8 points in 44 games)
F Tariq Abdul-Wahad (Played just four games with Mavs after trade)
C Wang Zhizhi (5.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg in 55 games)
G Johnny Newman (Avg. 4.2 points in 47 games)
C Shawn Bradley (4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 14.3 mpg)
F Danny Manning (Played just 41 games)
F/C Evan Eschmeyer (Played just 36 games)
G Charlie Bell (Played just two games with Mavs, seven overall)
G Tim Hardaway (9.6 ppg before deadline trade to Denver)
F Donnell Harvey (Played just 18 games)
G Darrick Martin (Played just three games)
So, here we go, starting where it all began with the 2000-01 season, Cuban's first full season since adding the title of ambitious owner to biggest fan. Twenty players dotted the roster and The Big Three started to take hold:
Coach: Don Nelson
Record: 53-29 (T2nd in Midwest Division)
Playoffs: Defeated Utah (3-2); lost to San Antonio (4-1).
Team payroll: $51.4 million*
Highest-paid player: Michael Finley ($8.4 million)*
The high: Cuban bought the team in the middle of the previous season (Jan. 4, 2000) and the Mavs finished on a roll. The momentum carried over and the franchise finally ended an 11-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA and then rallied from 2-0 deficit to stun Utah in the first round, 3-2 ... Only team in the league to finish in the top five in points per game (100.5, 4th), field-goal percentage (45.9, 5th), free throw percentage (79.4, 2nd) and 3-point field-goal percentage (38.1, 4th) ... It was the team's first 50-win season in 13 years and the franchise's third since joining the league in 1980.
Major transaction: February 22, 2001: Traded Courtney Alexander, Hubert Davis, Christian Laettner, Etan Thomas, Loy Vaught and cash to Washington for Juwan Howard, Calvin Booth and Obinna Ekezie.
F Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 21.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 151 3FGs)
G Michael Finley (21.5 ppg, lead team with 118 steals)
F Juwan Howard (17.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg in 27 games with Dallas)
G Steve Nash (15.6 points, team-high 7.3 assists)
G Howard Eisley (Started 40 games, played 82, second on team with 107 3FGs)
C Shawn Bradley (7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, team-high 228 blocks)
G Greg Buckner (Played in just 37 games)
C Calvin Booth (Always remembered for game-winning layup to defeat Jazz in Game 5)
C Wang Zhizhi (7-foot, second-round pick played in five games)
G Vernon Maxwell (Mad Max averaged 4.3 points in 19 games after being signed as free agent)
F Gary Trent (Injuries reduced him to just 33 games played)
F Eduardo Najera (Traded from Houston to Dallas in the summer; played 40 games)
F/C Obinna Ekezie (Played in just four games)
F Donnell Harvey (Played in just 18 games)
F/C Mark Bryant (Played in just 18 games, started one)
F Christian Laettner (7.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg before trade to Washington)
G Hubert Davis (Started seven of 51 games before trade to Washington)
G Courtney Alexander (Averaged 4.2 ppg before trade to Washington)
F Loy Vaught (Averaged 3.1 points before trade to Washington)
F Bill Curley (Played in five games)
That's only a slight overreaction, considering the Mavs' center-starved history.
The Mavs have really only had two legitimate true centers in their three-plus decades. James Donaldson and Erick Dampier combined for a grand total of one All-Star appearance.
Coach Rick Carlisle and others will tell you that Dampier is one of the league's elite screen setters, but we'll give Haywood the edge over him based on more quantifiable facets of the game such as scoring, rebounding and blocking shots.
(Quick aside: Whether Haywood continues to start when Dampier is ready to return from the open dislocation to his right middle finger will be very interesting. My hunch is that Dampier will return to the starting lineup, but Haywood will play more minutes.)
Haywood will have to re-sign with Dallas and put a few solid seasons together because he trumps Donaldson, who averaged a double-double in two of his six Dallas seasons.
Not-so-honorable mentions go to Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Bradley, Pat Cummings and Lorenzo Williams. (Roy Tarpley was a power forward.)
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.