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News » Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2008-10-24

Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2008-10-24

Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2008-10-24
When the bold trade-deadline acquisition of Jason Kidd amounted to more playoff misery instead of championship contention, fingers of blame pointed in three directions: Avery Johnson's suffocating grip, a lack of adjustment time for Kidd and his new teammates and Josh Howard's on-court drop-off and off-court lunacy.

Six months later, a re-cast Rick Carlisle has replaced Johnson. Gone is the grinding, isolation offense and in is Carlisle's attempt at a refreshing up-tempo scheme that features something of a moratorium on set plays -- at least initially. Kidd has gone through the much-ballyhooed training camp to teach his teammates how to keep their heads on a swivel and he commands full reign of the offense.

As for Howard, he apologized for disrespecting the national anthem and has pledged to resuscitate his game one dribble-drive at a time and his image one fan at a time.

With Kidd turning 36 in March, the Mavs' championship window seems smaller than ever. Yet, Dirk Nowitzki, now 30, sounds as giddy as a rookie at the prospect of starting off the season with Kidd at the controls.

"I love playing with him, to be honest," Nowitzki said. "I think my stats, my fun, everything definitely went up after he got here in February. I started to play well again. I started to get better shots."

Nowitzki, who earned unconditional leadership stripes by willing the Mavs into the playoffs on a badly sprained ankle last season, said he, Kidd and Howard should form a power trio.

"I still see us right up there with everybody else," he said. "I don't think anything we saw last year in the playoffs scares us. Obviously we lost in the first round and we know we have some work to do. But, if we play well together, I think anything's possible."

Carlisle inherited virtually the same core roster that went up in smoke in the first round to New Orleans. Owner Mark Cuban refused to entertain low-ball offers for Howard and a bloated payroll handcuffed general manager Donnie Nelson from making significant moves.

The return of center DeSagana Diop will help fortify the defensive paint. His shot blocking and rebounding should also help fuel the fast break. Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and a healthy Devean George add veteran depth and the Mavs took fliers -- hoping for the next Brandon Bass -- on athletically-gifted swingman Gerald Green and troubled swingman Shawne Williams.

Still, too much proven talent remains to completely drop the Mavs off the contenders list, even if Kidd is a step slower. If Carlisle wins over his players -- and he did initially at Detroit and Indiana -- and rallies them around an entertaining transition game and disciplined defensive, the Mavs could be a scary first-round opponent.

"It's a fine line, though," Nowitzki said. "I think every team wants to be solid defensively and have fun and move the ball offensively. It's not going to be an easy task. It's going to be fun to see how we're going to approach it."

If expectations outside the team are low, a new coach, a new system and a Hall of Fame-bound point guard have only heightened them internally.

"Everybody from top to bottom, we don't want to go out like we did the last two years," Nelson said. "Making the playoffs in the West is tough, it's a flat-out dogfight out here. That being said, we are used to more success than that around here. That's our expectation is that if everyone plays up to the level that they should play, we're right in the thick of it."

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- Rick Carlisle, 8th year overall, 1st with Mavericks (281-211). Assistants -- Terry Stotts, Dwane Casey, Mario Elie.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 51-31 (4th in Southwest), lost in five games in the first round to New Orleans.

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 50-32 (4th in Southwest), first round.

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: If this group struggles, big changes could occur at the February trade deadline starting with Jason Kidd, in the final year of his contract, being dealt to a contender -- and the search for the team's next point guard will be on. Veterans Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George and Erick Dampier all have contracts that are moveable. If the team is winning, it could deal for a slashing-type forward or backup point guard to solidify the rotation for a playoff run.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 24, 2008


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