|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
DALLAS -- After another blowout loss, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he is prepared to use drastic measures to force improvement on what he feels is an underachieving team.
"The last week, I've had to literally scream in the face of two guys in practices and shootarounds to get the point across and I will do that," Carlisle said after Sunday's 111-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. "And I will continue to do that. If I have to start suspending guys for not doing things they're supposed to be doing on the court, I'll do it. And Mark [Cuban] and I will get into it about that. But somehow, things have got to change and it can't just be about that it's a tough schedule. It just can't."
For Carlisle, the Mavericks are a perplexing team. Even though they have nine new players on the roster, Carlisle said the Mavs' talent is good enough to compete with the better teams in the league.
"I've said it repeatedly that I like the roster," said Carlisle, who rejected all excuses after the team's sixth consecutive loss. "We're over 30 games into the season. We're not that new. We got to fix it."
The maddening part of the Mavericks' performance for Carlisle -- and probably for fans, too -- is that the team has had its moments. During a 15-minute period that started midway through the first quarter, the Mavericks outscored the Spurs 35-24.
The problem was that stretch began with the Mavericks trailing 20-6.
"It's a 48-minute game, so we've got to be better early, we've got to be better late," Carlisle said. "I don't want to get into a dialogue on the parts of the game that were OK. It's not what this organization has been about since Mark bought the team. This is a stretch that is unprecedented, really. It's bad. We've got to fix it and it starts with me. I'm taking the blame for it."
Carlisle's level of irritation was a surprise to Dirk Nowitzki, who played his fourth game since returning from knee surgery.
"That's a little aggressive," Nowitzki said. "I never heard anything like that. But it starts with the players. We need to compete at all times. And I said it numerous times, we're not as talented as the top teams are. That's pretty obvious. So we really have to make up for it by playing harder, by scrambling on defense, rebounding and five guys being in there scrambling, boxing out, getting the ball. If we take the ball out of the net every time down we're going to have trouble.
"I'm not sure if that helps if [you start] suspending people left and right."
Although Nowitzki was only 3-of-9 from the field with eight points and five rebounds, he said he was making progress physically.
"I felt 10 times better even though I had nothing to show for it," he said, "but just the way I was moving. Today I had a lot more pep in my step. I was really moving even though my shot wasn't really going, but I felt I had more spring in my lift. So that's a good thing."
The Spurs scored the first two points of the game and never trailed. Even when the Mavericks made runs, the Spurs never flinched. They moved the ball crisply and had numerous open shots -- and they hit most of them. They shot 50.6 percent from the field for the night.
They were led by their Big Three. Tony Parker had 21 points, Manu Ginobili had 20 and Tim Duncan had 18 and added 10 rebounds.
Darren Collison had 18 points to lead Dallas while Elton Brand chipped in 14.
Again, the Mavericks had some stretches of strong play. But a good play here and there was not enough for Carlisle, who undoubtedly is not pleased with the Mavericks' 5-10 December record. That is the worst month in the Cuban era -- and the worst since they were 4-10 in December 1999.
"Right now, you'd have to question everything," Carlisle said. "I'll just leave it at that. And again, I'm still going to stay on record saying I believe in the group. But we've all got to do better. And it starts with me."
Jan Hubbard is a contributor for ESPNDallas.com.