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March 22, 2:00 PM ET
Mavs with Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan
  (2:00 PM)

Welcome back,folks...We're down to the final 12 games. So let's talk stretch run and the playoffs. Here we go.

Jaime (Mexico)

Hi Jeff, hope you did ok in this weekend. I think the Mavs and especially us shouldn't be worry about play off time, I think this losses have worked for the players, because as I have seen them a little bit overconfident, so I think they will be ok in this coming weeks, what do you think about it? Should we press the panic button? Thank You!

Jeff Caplan
  (2:02 PM)

Jaime,good to hear from you down south. I'm certainly not suggesting anyone press the panic button, but the Mavs need to sharpen their focus and play better in the fourth quarter. They have not fared well against Western Conference playoff teams over the last month or so and that is a problem.

Luke (portland) [via mobile]

Be honest. Mavs are scared of a first round matchup with the blazers right?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:03 PM)

Luke,I think it's just the opposite. I think they like that matchup. all three games have been very close, but I think they feel like they can score against Portland and if they can limit LaMarcus Aldridge in just one game in a series, they're looking good.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:03 PM)

Luke,I think it's just the opposite. I think they like that matchup. all three games have been very close, but I think they feel like they can score against Portland and if they can limit LaMarcus Aldridge in just one game in a series, they're looking good.

kevin (lewisville)

No, the mavs will not even get ouf of the first round playing like they are currently so another 50 win team and nothing to show for it. My questions is this when will they ever address the real issues on this team and go get a guard such as monta Ellis or someone that can take over a game. I know roddy not ready but not sure after watching him play that he is the answer this year. Also if they go on strike and Kidd retires what will they do at point guard? Until they get the player to help Dirk or be better than him this team is not going anywhere fast.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:06 PM)

Kevin, your points are well taken. This team has not had a two-guard with size, shooting ability and driving ability since the early days of Michael Finley. They want one they just haven't been able to land one. Remember, this team has been way over the luxury tax for years, so in the offseason they have only had the mid-level exception to throw at players and that is not going to land a top free agent. And with the contracts they've had over the years, a trade had not been feasible. But, yes, the biggest question heading into the playoffs is how do they score when the offense stagnates? Who do they turn to when Dirk is hounded?

Mavs Fan (Saginaw)

Hi Jeff... Has Roddy lost his running floater in the lane? It seems last year it was a very confident shot that he made at a high percentage. He really seems to be dishing the ball back out at an extremely high rate. In my opinion we really need to have more of a "paint presence". I'd rather have Roddy attempting his floater than more 3's...

Jeff Caplan
  (2:08 PM)

Yeah, I agree. I really don't have much of a problem with him dishing out to an open 3-point shooter, but when he's in at the basket, it would serve him well to attack and get to the free throw line. He's a good FT shooter and we all know the Mavs don't get there enough because no one drives to the rack. Even Dirk said after the Golden State game that he wants Roddy to drive more and stop taking so many 3s. Roddy has hoised 57 already in 16 games and he's only shooting it at 30 percent. He can get into the lane at will against many defenders, so I would like to see him go strong to the bucket and score or at least give himself the opportunity to draw a foul.

Brendan (DC)

While I don't quite see the doomsday scenerio some do, I can't imagine the Mavs beating the Lakers in a best of 7 especially without HC advantage. Is their any reason for me to think otherwise or should I prepare myself now for the gut punch I'm sure to get by early May?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:10 PM)

Brendan, I wish I could brighten your day, but I can't sit here and say at this very moment that the Mavs can beat the Lakers in a 7-game series. I don't see it. I thought it was critical for the Mavs to get homecourt advantage, but it looks like the Lakers should be able to hold on. It looked like L.A. might lose in Portland the other night and that would have tied things up, but I don't see them relinquishing the No. 2 seed now and that will make things very tough on the Mavs. I will be interested to watch the March 31 game in L.A. to see how the Mavs stack up in that last regular season game. They should have a full complement of players for that one including Peja and a less-intimidated Roddy B.

Brendan (DC)

What happened to Corey Brewer? No on expected an offensive force, but to think he can't contribute to the team as a defensive specialist is troubling. Should we already regret the long term deal?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:12 PM)

I'm having a little trouble posting questions. Give me a second to see what's up here.

Jason (Montana)

I liked the sound of nabbing Corey Brewer, now it just kind of looks like a misfire. Should we expect anything out of Brewer heading towards the playoffs?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:14 PM)

OK, I think we're back getting questions posted. Jason, I think at this point Corey Brewer is going to be a spot player at most. Maybe some defensive assignments he can get some time, but he's basically a foul waiting to happen for some reason and his shot is worse than it usually is. Clearly Rick Carlisle is not comfortable using him much. And if Peja can stay healthy and with Marion filling up the 3-spot, not sure Brewer has a lot of time coming to him, but he could be a contributor, we'll see.

Christopher (Dallas)

Is there going to be a time where Dirk averages 18-20 shots per game consistently instead of 15.8 apg. I believe it would make us a better team and our point spread in wins would be larger and the games we lost were all by a few points so we may of won them. No disrespect but I rather have him shoot them extra couple of possessions instead of others sometimes terrible shot selection.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:17 PM)

Christopher, that's a good question and one that has drawn a lot of debate. One side of the coin, and Dirk tends to say this, is that the more guys that are scoring, the harder the team is to guard, which makes sense. The other side is that you want your best player taking more shots than 15.8, especially when he's shooting 52 percent on the season. I think in the playoffs, you will see his shots go up as well as his minutes and some guys getting shots now will go down. Then again, if Peja is stroking it like he did Sunday, you've got Marion who needs touches, Terry, Roddy and a few 3s for J-Kidd that is a lot of shots to go around. We'll just have to see how effective the others are around Dirk come playoff time.

Nick (Dallas)

Why, again, did the Mavs trade Kris Humphries for Eduardo Najera?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:17 PM)

They could use either one of those guys right now. Been saying all year that the only type of player the Mavs really don't have his a garbage man.

Billy e. ( Wichita falls , tx)

Whats the latest on caron butler? We haven't heard anything lately and I'm not sure we would try to play him in the playoffs after such a long layoff. So, is his return a possibility still and does he have a chance to play significant time with roddy and peja in the mix?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:20 PM)

Caron is really making progress. He is working out some on the court and seems to have quite a bit of mobility and is working up a good sweat. What that means as far as when he gets back on the court I don't know. He's adamant that he will get back for the playoffs. First round seems far-fetched, but second round? who knows?

Mike (Pittsburgh)

What is the most pressing concern you think the Mavs have to fix before the playoffs?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:22 PM)

Stability with the rotation and a return to some physical, hard nosed defense. We haven't seen that in a while and that is troubling. There is a lot of talk about that, but so far no action, the Golden State game Sunday notwithstanding, but hard to judge anything on Golden State. And the rotation, they need a healthy Peja to solidify the starting small forward spot and put Marion and Terry together off the bench, that is a tough, tough matchup for an opponent's bench. Then there's the case of Roddy, who needs to grow up quickly and harden as a driven basketball player for playoff success. Did i give you enough?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:22 PM)

Stability with the rotation and a return to some physical, hard nosed defense. We haven't seen that in a while and that is troubling. There is a lot of talk about that, but so far no action, the Golden State game Sunday notwithstanding, but hard to judge anything on Golden State. And the rotation, they need a healthy Peja to solidify the starting small forward spot and put Marion and Terry together off the bench, that is a tough, tough matchup for an opponent's bench. Then there's the case of Roddy, who needs to grow up quickly and harden as a driven basketball player for playoff success. Did i give you enough?

DC (MO)

After a rousing speech from Chandler the defense decided to show up for a game. Do these vets have enough in the tank to perform at a playoff level of intensity with their defense, or are we seeing their tired legs at the end of the season again like last year?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:24 PM)

DC, I'm not really going to buy into any tired legs theory. Carlisle has done a good job of keeping Kidd's minutes reasonable as well as Dirk's. There shouldn't be anyone else on this team that needs rest. If this truly is the deepest team in the league, then minutes should be spread out and everyone should be fine for the postseason. All teams have injuries and so forth, but they've got to be ready.

D (Dallas)

Mavs lose in the first round, over pay Chandler horribly, lose again in first round. Does that sound likely? Isn't it time to say this group can not get it done.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:25 PM)

Are you saying, they should not re-sign Chandler? Do you want Brendan Haywood as your starting center next season? I truly don't believe this team will lose in the first round. I just can't see that happening whether it's Portland, New Orleans or Memphis. I know New Orleans gives them trouble and beat them without Chris Paul, but if this team goes down in the first round, then something drastic must occur.

Bill (Round Rock)

Am I the only one starting to wonder if Carlisle is the problem? The team has gotten worse on defense as the season has progressed and they turn the ball over at an alarming rate. I've begun to think he is simply not able to prepare his team for the playoffs and I hate that he plays veterans who are ice cold over rookies how are scoring albeit with mistakes along the way. Do you get any sense that his job could be in jeopardy if the Mavs make a first-round exit?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:28 PM)

Does Carlisle make stupid turnovers or play bad defense? All he does is preach defense, persistence, toughness and being smart with the basketball. The players have to be accountable. Carlisle took his two previous teams,the Pistons and Pacers to the Eastern Conf. finals. If the Mavs lose in the first round, there will be plenty of blame to go around. As for his job, I don't think it would be in jeopardy with a first-round loss because of the CBA situation. I don't think Cuban will fire Carlisle with a year left on his deal and hire another coach and pay two coaches during a lockout. But, having said that, a first-round loss would call for drastic measures. But, sometimes that means overhauling the team (again) and leaving the coach in place.

Big Chris (El Paso, TX)

Who do you think will be the toughest team to play against in playoffs?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:29 PM)

Um, I'll go with that team in L.A.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:29 PM)

Um, I'll go with that team in L.A.

David (Dallas)

are you concern about the increase in turnovers? Also, is it just me or Barea's is struggling right now with his shot and his turnovers? I notice that whenver a team doubleteam Barea, he will turnover more times than not.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:30 PM)

Yes, I am concerned with turnovers and so is Carlisle. to me, it's a lack of focus. Turnovers end possessions and give the other team an extra possession, often one in transition for an easy bucket. Giving it up 15, 16, 17 times a game is not going to fly.

Ray (Dallas)

The Mavericks' defense needs to step up in order to be championship worthy. This team is basically built like the 03-04 Detroit Pistons that beat the Lakers, the only strong difference is that Detroit team could rely heavily on their defense to win games and this Maverick team can not. Don't you think Rick should continue to preach high quality defense over and over and make it priority number one instead of 'managing minutes' it seems like?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:32 PM)

Ray, believe me, Rick's persistence when it comes to defense is like a drumbeat. Look, outside of Tyson Chandler this just isn't a very good defensive team. And,really, it got weaker when you subtracted Caron Butler and then later added Peja and Roddy while sitting DeShawn Stevenson. So this is not a great perimeter defensive team. It must improve and fast.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:32 PM)

Ray, believe me, Rick's persistence when it comes to defense is like a drumbeat. Look, outside of Tyson Chandler this just isn't a very good defensive team. And,really, it got weaker when you subtracted Caron Butler and then later added Peja and Roddy while sitting DeShawn Stevenson. So this is not a great perimeter defensive team. It must improve and fast.

Jeremy (Nashville)

I view the Mavs as the 4th best team in the West behind LA, spurs, & OKC? Your thoughts

Jeff Caplan
  (2:34 PM)

Well, Jeremy, it's obviously hard to argue with L.A. and S.A., but honestly I have not been terribly impressed with OKC this season. Now, Kendrick Perkins could change things, but I don't like how they've played defense this year. I think they've been soft. Durant is always a dangerous player, but I don't think he's been super. I love Westbrook. They have the ingredients to be a very good and dangerous team, but the Mavs took it to them twice in OKC -- once with Dirk leaving in the second quarter with that sprained ankle. Now, both of those games were early when the Mavs really seemed committed to defense.

Dave (Waxahachie)

Will the Mavs reach the second round?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:34 PM)

I believe they should. Will they? Well...

Jeff Caplan
  (2:34 PM)

I believe they should. Will they? Well...

Sabi Malli (Tupelo, MS)

Do you think it will all come down to wether Dirk plays good or not because he's the main reason they made it this far.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:35 PM)

Nope,I think it all comes down to how everyone else plays around him. I don't think there's any doubt how Dirk will play. He will show up. Will the others, like Jason Kidd and Jason Terry?

eddie (College Station, Tx)

Do you think that the fact that the mavs dont really have a set line up is what is getting this team into a funk? They never really know who is going to start or even play in some cases. Do you think there needs to be a routine set in these last twelve games by Carlisle? It worked really well at the beginning of the season when stevenson started

Jeff Caplan
  (2:37 PM)

Eddie, great question and one I posed to Carlisle just a little bit ago after practice. Injuries and adding players have upset the balance Carlisle had. I do think it is an issue and one that can be and probably must be worked out on the upcoming six-game road trip. Rotation stability and role acknowledgement, I believe, is key.

David (Dallas)

Do the Mavs coach still trust Barea, considering his recent poor play? Have teams figure out how to guard Barea as the team's offense seems to have bogged down recently with Barea on the floor?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:37 PM)

yeah, i think the trust him. He can run into problems, but he's done a pretty nice job this year, and obviously really after Jan. 1.

John (Germany)

How big are your concerns about Chandler? I mean he didn?t have a convincing game against a good team since the All-Star break. Does Dallas really have a chance, if he doesn?t step up again?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:39 PM)

John,I am a concerned because he's the guy that makes this team different from past Mavs teams. His athleticism and energy and defensive prowess can make a huge difference. But, you are right, he has not played well against good teams, particularly lately in losses to L.A., Portland and S.A. he says his ankle is fine, so I have to believe him. He has to be a difference-maker for Mavs to be a factor.

Sarbjot (Dallas, Texas)

Do you think Jason Kidds 3-pointers will make a big difference in the playoffs.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:40 PM)

They have to. He's really gone in waves of shooting them well and shooting them horribly. Last playoffs, he was way off. He has to hit that shot consistently and make defenses guard him out there.

Shane (Valdosta, GA)

Before the season, there was some talk of Chandler being able to take minutes behind Dirk. As much as Carlisle tinkers with different lineups, why do you think he hasn't tried Haywood, Chandler, and Dirk up front against certain teams? After the Dirk with 4 guard set against the Spurs, do you think he'd look to this at some point?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:42 PM)

Shane, we've talked about that. I just think that if you have Chandler and Haywood on the floor at the same time and also J-Kidd, then you really have limited your scoring options. Then defensively, is Dirk going to guard the opposing 3? That's probably not going to work in many cases. I don't think they'll look at that. Now, they have looked at Ian Mahinmi at the 4 some, but that's not an option I think is viable heading into the playoffs.

eddie (College Station, Tx)

Heres a crazy idea....why hasnt carlisle tried starting the players that are going to play the most minutes? Maybe a starting lineup of kidd terry marion dirk and tyson. I get the whole punch of the bench but why not get a knockout from the start? having peja roddy and JJ coming of the bench wouldnt be a bad thing

Jeff Caplan
  (2:43 PM)

Well, that's all part of this deep team thing. They like Jet's offense coming off the bench and that makes sense. You want instant offense off the bench, no problem. I like Marion as a starter, but Carlisle grew attached to the Terry-Marion combo off the bench, which is a tough guard for most opposing benches.

EJ (Denton)

Do you think it is possible that we sign all our main FAs (Berea, Chandler, Butler, Peja)

Jeff Caplan
  (2:44 PM)

Not really. Barea, to me, would see headed elsewhere because of Roddy. Terry will still be on the team unless they're able to trade him in the offseason heading into his expiring contract year. Money is going to be much tighter under a new CBA, so signing Caron and Tyson, while possible, might be unlikely. Tyson will be a top priority, but he will have plenty of suitors.

DC (MO)

I still have faith the Mavs can win the West this year. They are CAPABLE of great offense and a solid defense. Whether or not they can put both together in the playoffs is really yet to be seen. Am I drinking the Kool-Aid or is there hope beyond SA and LA suffering season ending injuries?

Jeff Caplan
  (2:45 PM)

Anything is possible.

Jeff Caplan
  (2:46 PM)

OK,folks, thanks for joining me again. That was a solid 45 minutes. I hope I was able to pass along some good info. Remember to get your Mavs news at espndallas.com, the most comprehensive coverage going and it's all FREE.See you next week.