Rick Carlisle takes blame for Mavs' start
DALLAS -- Consecutive stunning home blowout losses in which the listless defending champions trailed by more than 30 points in each game had a sullen Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle shouldering the blame Monday night.
"Because I'm the head coach and it's my job to make sure these guys are ready to play and it's clear that they're not," Carlisle said after Monday's 115-93 trouncing by the Denver Nuggets. "Right now that's not something that's easy for me to say and it's not an easy thing to live with, so I've got a lot of work to do."
The Miami Heat drubbed Dallas on Christmas Day, 105-94, but led by 35 points early in the third quarter. In their season opener, the young, up-tempo Nuggets followed the same recipe and ran the Mavs off their own floor with a 20-0 second-quarter blitz that ultimately gave them a 33-point bulge (95-62) with 2:31 to go in the third quarter.
A crowd that roared as the franchise raised its first championship banner one day earlier rained boos on the team late in the first half after consecutive turnovers led to two of the Nuggets' 20 fast-break points.
The Mavs credited their championship run a season ago to a top 10 defense spearheaded by departed center Tyson Chandler. In two games, a revamped Mavs squad that did not return six players from the title team and added five new faces -- including a so-far disappointing Lamar Odom and Vince Carter -- allowed 97 points in the first three quarters of both games and a total of 51 fastbreak points.
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"It's terrible, it's terrible," Carlisle said of his team's defensive effort.
"The biggest thing is we've got to rebuild trust defensively," Carlisle said. "We've lost some; we've lost a lot and I've got to do a better job coaching these guys. It's as simple as that."
Dirk Nowitzki, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, described the team through two games as looking "old and slow and out of shape."
"It's all of us together," Nowitzki said. "Obviously, it was a weird situation with the short (training) camp, but we've got to deal with it now. Coach always tries to take the blame if some stuff doesn't go right, but we've got a lot of veteran guys and we've just got to keep on working and eventually turn the corner. It might take another week, it might take another two weeks, but we've got to find ways to stay in games and not be down 30 at half."
The schedule doesn't get easier. The Mavs play their first road game Thursday at the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that routed Dallas twice in the preseason. Before that, the Mavs will rest on Tuesday and will then return to the practice facility on Wednesday for a workout that Carlisle described as going to be a "hell of a practice."
Forward Shawn Marion said rebuilding trust on the defensive end begins in the middle where the demonstrative Chandler took charge during his one season in Dallas. Starting center Brendan Haywood and a collection of power forwards new to the team are trying to fill the void.
"He was our big presence inside and we need that," Marion said of Chandler, a free agent who joined the New York Knicks via sign-and-trade. "We all collectively got to help each other and get it. Somebody's got to be barking back there on that back line. We've all got to communicate with each other and you've got to have that presence."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.