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News » Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2009-05-30

Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2009-05-30

Dallas Mavericks Getting Inside 2009-05-30
On March 3, the Mavericks hit rock bottom with an embarrassing loss at Oklahoma City. To make matters worse, the Thunder played without its two young stars, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban had seen enough of his team's season-long inconsistent play when he expected it to compete for a title. He uncharacteristically questioned his team's will to compete.

"Not only did it look like we had no idea what we were doing," Cuban said, "but we did it without effort."

The owner's words galvanized the team as it finished the final two months strong, including an inspiring April that seemed to have the Mavs peaking at the right time and as confident as they had been all season under the leadership of guard Jason Kidd and forward Dirk Nowitzki, and the hot shooting of guard Jason Terry.

Enthused players praised their ability to come together through a strange season that included a new coach and offensive philosophy, a dreadful 2-7 start and a slew of injuries, including Josh Howard, the one player many in the organization felt could have the biggest impact alongside Kidd.

"To make it to the playoffs when people doubted us," Kidd said after the Mavs were eliminated in Denver, "I think it just showed our character as a team that we never fragmented and we just stuck together and we fought and we got as far as we could."

However, as coach Rick Carlisle said after the Mavs exited the playoffs, this is Dallas, and in Dallas anything short of a return trip to the Finals with this core group is a disappointment.

When the dust settled on the five-game, second-round playoff loss to Denver, the truth about this team again rose to the surface. The Mavs are no longer an elite team in the Western Conference.

Holes abound.

The Mavs regressed defensively in Carlisle's first season. Plodding center Erick Dampier proved useless against the younger, more athletic big men for the Nuggets and with Terry struggling to score and Jerry Stackhouse out all season, the bench didn't have enough scorers or gritty defenders.

"We weren't very good defensively all year long," Nowitzki said. "That's where a lot of our ups and downs came from. Even (in Game 5), giving up 124 in an elimination game, it's tough to win. We scored 110, which should be enough to win the game. But we couldn't keep people in front of us."

Changes are sure to come, but the Mavs are so far over the salary cap that they are financially limited to what they can do. Dallas will have the midlevel exception (estimated to be about $5 million) and a bi-annual exception ($1.7) at its disposal to use on signing new players, plus the 22nd pick in the draft.

Otherwise, difficult sign-and-trades will have to be the focus and could be possible involving players like Howard, who is entering the final year of his contract, and even Kidd, who becomes a free agent on July 1.

"It'll be a long and busy summer and hopefully we can improve the team," said Nowitzki, an All-NBA first-team selection. "That's ultimately what it comes down to; we need to get better to be back up there because we don't want to play for the eighth spot to get in the playoffs."

SEASON HIGHLIGHT: The Mavs re-energized the fan base with a three-game home blitzing of Phoenix (140-116), Utah (130-101) and New Orleans (100-92) in April. The spurt, part of a 6-1 stretch, finally pushed Dallas out of the eighth playoff spot and a first-round meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. It instead helped to set up a first-round series against the depleted San Antonio Spurs, who the Mavs dispatched in five games to advance to the second round for the first time since 2006.

TURNING POINT: The Mavs had two. The first one came in the 10th game of the season at New York. With new coach Rick Carlisle attempting to mesh a new offense with Jason Kidd, Dallas opened 2-7 and was headed to 2-8 until a late rally sent the game into overtime and then Dirk Nowitzki dominated to get the Mavs the crucial win. It sparked a five-game winning streak to get back to .500, a spurt that likely avoided a total meltdown. The second came in a nationally televised blowout at Boston on Jan. 25. Players said they were so embarrassed that it ignited a renewed focus on defense and to details. The Mavs finished 25-13 from that point, continually pointing to that game as a definitive turning point.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 30, 2009


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