Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Updated: April 8, 2:58 PM ET
Cuban: Focus key to Mavs taming West
By Tim MacMahon
A 5-6 slump hasn't lowered expectations or limited the swagger of the Dallas Mavericks, starting with the man who signs the checks.
Owner Mark Cuban oozed confidence during a guest appearance Monday night on Jason Terry's radio show on ESPN 103.3 FM, pointing out that the Mavericks aren't the only Western Conference power that has had problems recently.
"Half the teams are sucking wind, and half the teams are playing well," Cuban said. "... The Lakers are getting torched at home worse than we've been the last few games. Oklahoma City has been playing well, but they haven't had an injury yet -- literally, not one single injury of any consequence -- so it'll be interesting to see if they can keep that up.
"Utah is playing well, but not as well with [Andrei] Kirilenko out. Denver is struggling. San Antonio is playing well most of the time, when Manu [Ginobili] scores 40.
"You look down the list, and nobody's afraid of anybody. Nobody looks at us and says, 'We're afraid of them.' Look, if we dial in, we know we can kill anybody. It's just a question of focus."
Heading into Wednesday's games, only 3½ games separate the No. 2 seed from the No. 8 seed in the conference. The Mavericks, Suns and Nuggets all are a half-game behind the Jazz for the No. 2 seed.
The Spurs, who have pulled within two games of the Mavericks in the Southwest Division, are tied with Oklahoma City at the Nos. 6 and 7 spots. And Portland, currently at No. 8, still has plenty of opportunity to improve its seeding.
Cuban acknowledged that the Mavs have proved they can lose to anybody when they just go through the motions. With five games remaining in the regular season and the Mavs in the midst of a battle royale for playoff seeding, you'd think that wouldn't be a problem.
"If you look down the list, who are the stars that beat us?" Cuban said. "It's the rest of the team when we're out there. You know, we're shutting down Carmelo [Anthony]. We're holding down Kobe [Bryant]. We're holding down Brandon Roy.
"Then we just relax, and that's when we get beat."
Shawn Marion, the Mavericks' top defender, will miss Wednesday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies with a strained oblique and possibly could be out longer.
"The big thing is we're not panicking," Jason Kidd said Tuesday. "We know what we have to address. We're together, that's not a question."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.