Saturday, November 24, 2007

Postgame quotes from 97-95 loss at Bucks

Avery Johnson
On what happened down the stretch after taking a 1 point fourth quarter lead: “They made a few shots and got a little cushion there. We had a couple of defensive breakdowns and missed a few shots. Our guys fought hard tonight and we just came up on the short end of the stick tonight.”

On the play of Jason Terry in the second half: “He came up big. I talked to him at halftime when he was hesitating a little bit and he came back and had a big second half. He made some big shots down the stretch and some big threes. He made some really terrific basketball plays for us.”

On the difficulty of losing games on consecutive nights: “We are a team that takes pride in being mentally tough. We don’t get rattled. We have been here before. You have to give Milwaukee credit because they deserved to win. We fought really hard and just had a couple of bad breaks. We had a missed free throw and let Yi get that big dunk on us. It was just a couple of bad breaks but that is the way it goes sometimes. We don’t make any excuses. We just didn’t get the stops in the fourth quarter. We just have to regroup and go back home.”

Josh Howard
On the game: “I don’t really know. We played hard but their guys just made shots. They were the better team tonight. They stepped up and made some big plays.”

On losing games on consecutive nights: “It’s still early and it’s still a learning process for us. This group of guys has been together for about three years now and we know what it takes to win. We just have to continue to focus on us and play our game.”

On the play of Jason Terry in the fourth quarter: “He’s known for making big shots for us and we continue to need him to do that. We want to get him to play like that during the rest of the game as well but they were double teaming him. He was big for us and kept us in the game.”

Devin Harris
On the play of Jason Terry in the fourth quarter: “Jason was huge for us. We were kind of struggling with our shots all night long and we didn’t shoot a high percentage, but he hit some big threes for us to help keep us in the game. I thought that last one he had to tie was going to go down but sometimes they just don’t fall.”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Talking diet with Stackhouse

Up from my second tryptophan-induced nap today, I started thinking about food and diet and a recent conversation with Jerry Stackhouse popped into my head. We had just boarded the team plane on the way to California and Stack and I were catching up.

Even though the plane has a nice catered spread, many players elect to bring their own grub on board. The meal of choice for many is the Popeye’s around the corner from Love Field.

Stack, though, carried on an impressive sushi combo. If I remember correctly, he had salmon and tuna sashimi and a California roll. (I should know, he insisted I have some. Delicious.) Anyway, he started telling me about this book he’s reading, Skinny Bitch, and how it’s changed his eating habits.

No more red meat. No more chicken. (Fried chicken was one of his favorites.) No dairy products. No more of the comfort foods he grew up with in North Carolina. When his mom was in Dallas earlier this month for his birthday, she fixed this pork dish that I had never heard of and when Stack explained what it was (I can’t remember what it’s called), I had no desire to try it. And I eat anything.

So the basis of his new diet is whole grains, fruits and vegetables. He’s basically calling himself a vegetarian, though there’s still room for fish. Reading the above-mentioned book has opened his eyes on what certain foods do to the body.

As an elite athlete, Stack is looking for any edge to stay on top. Diet and exercise are as much of part of his routine as practice. But it’s also lifestyle change. Stack, 33, isn’t planning on pulling a Charles Barkley after he retires and ballooning up.

His goal is to remain healthy and fit for life. It’s a noble effort, especially for someone heavily involved in diabetes charities.

So as we’re finishing up our food talk, Gana Diop sits down in the row across the aisle. What does the 25-year-old pull out of his bag? Three big pieces of fried chicken from Popeye’s.

I’m almost hungry again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mavs come back again at Houston

The Mavericks weren’t going to let Tracy McGrady beat them. He didn’t.

And neither did the Rockets.

One night after making up 24 points, the Mavs overcame a 17-point deficit and took down Houston 100-94 Wednesday night at the Toyota Center. Dallas (9-2) extended its winning streak to five games with its second victory over the Rockets this season. Houston (6-6) has dropped five straight.

“This team is not a quitting team,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “This is a mentally-tough team, especially this year. We’re so much tougher.”

Turkey Day plans

Though they may be on the road for Thanksgiving, the holiday isn’t going uncelebrated. A Turkey Day lunch is being prepared at the team hotel Thursday afternoon before the squad leaves for Indianapolis.

“We would have been a little worried if we would have had to eat room service for Thanksgiving,” Jason Terry quipped.

Some family members, such as Terry’s father and cousin, made it to Houston to take part in the holiday.

“Even though some family hadn’t made it down for the trip, we’re still family in a sense,” Terry said. “We’ve been together so long. We’re used to seeing each other and being together, so this holiday will be a special one.”

Any chance Avery Johnson breaks into an impromptu film session?

“Maybe be a couple coaching moments at the table, but for the most part he’s pretty good at dinners,” Terry said. “It’s more of a social gathering. We just enjoy the time together.”

Tennessee origins

Avery Johnson has referred to Trenton Hassell as “Tennessee” Hassell a few times in public recently. Hassell is a native of the Volunteer State and graduated from Austin Peay, which is in his hometown of Clarksville, Tenn. But that’s not the whole story. Hassell explained why in the locker room before the game, pointing to Brandon Bass, who was stretching on the floor, to help tell the story.

“His name is Bass, my name is T-Hass, so when [Johnson] would say Bass, I would think it was me. When he was saying T-Hass, he thought it was him,” Hassell said. “We didn’t know who he was calling, so we had to come up with something to verify who it was. That’s how it stuck.”

Now Hassell hopes to stick in the rotation. He’s got a shot with more performances like the one he had against Toronto. Hassell’s perimeter defense helped shut down the Raptors’ 3-point shooters, especially in the third quarter.

“He’s been in my lab a little bit, so I’ve been running him a little bit after practice,” Johnson said. “He’s been in the rehab program. We didn’t like the way he looked about 10 days ago, so we’ve been working on him a little bit here recently trying to get him in better shape, get his foot speed a little quicker and get his shot down.

“He helped us last night. Now it’s going to be a matter of getting a level of consistency.”

Hassell understands the situation on a roster that includes Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Eddie Jones and Devean George.

“This is a great team,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talent at the 3 position and I knew that coming in that some nights were going to be the night I play. You’ve just got to prepare yourself no matter what.”

So does he have an idea before games if he’s in the plans or not?

“You never know,” Hassell said. “You never know.”

Harris becomes the offense

Devin Harris and Avery Johnson have that point-guard bond. Each is in tune with what the other wants to do.

Well, most of the time.

“Sometimes he calls play calls and I have no idea what he wants,” Harris joked Wednesday night before the Mavericks faced Houston at the Toyota Center.

Harris had a good idea the previous night. After the Raptors opened up a 24-point lead midway through the second quarter, Johnson decided to turn it over to Harris. Harris already has the reins to the offense. Johnson, though, wanted Harris to be the offense.

“That’s a trust factor,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t ready to do that in the past. I think all teams that want to finish their season with a win have point guards that they can just put the ball in their hands and ask them to make a play just by themselves.

“We feel he’s gotten to that point now. I trust him more now. We had a stretch there where we were pretty lethargic and we asked him to go in there and penetrate and don’t even pass the ball. Just score or get to the free throw line and make something happen because we’ve got to get something going. And he did.”

It didn’t matter who stood in Harris’ way, even the lightning-quick T.J. Ford, Harris was getting to the rim. He scored 11 of the Mavs’ 13 points during his Superman stretch, helping Dallas cut the deficit to a manageable 14 at the half.

“I could tell by his play calling what he wanted me to do,” Harris said.

Harris followed Johnson’s orders to a tee.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I do what I’m told.”

Even when he has no idea.

Stack's latest mailbag up

Check out Jerry Stackhouse's first installment of his Ask Stack mailbag exclusively at These are questions from you guys out there and Stack took the time to answer all of these today.
Here are the first couple. Enjoy.
Hey Stack, I think you are very talented player and a great leader. If you weren’t a basketball what would you be?
– Oralia, Dallas
I may be a lawyer. I feel I’m good at getting my point across.
Stack, do you all get along as well off the court as you seem to on the court? I have never seen such a classy sports team as the Mavs. You guys seem to have it all together. Peace and love from Florida.
– Sue, Ft. Lauderdale
We are a close group. It’s common to see any combination of players having dinner on the road or even getting together when we’re in Dallas.

T-Mac expected back tonight

Before reaching Toyota Center for Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns, Tracy McGrady was convinced that he would be able to play after missing a game with a sprained right elbow.

He instead watched the action unfold from the Rockets’ bench.

“I wanted to play, but the doctors kept me out to get three days of rest,” McGrady said. “It was very frustrating to be sitting.”

He won’t be forced to watch the next game. Nearly a week after suffering his injury in an odd collision with Lakers forward Luke Walton, McGrady is expected to return to the starting lineup Wednesday night when the Rockets host the Dallas Mavericks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dirk and Mavs rally past Raptors

So what’s this about a Dirk Nowitzki slump?

The reigning MVP shot that theory down with the four 3-pointers he drilled to finish out the third quarter, as the Mavericks rallied from 24 down to upend Toronto 105-99 Tuesday night before 20,272 fans at American Airlines Center.

"We could have given up," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said.

The comeback ties the second largest in franchise history, coming up just one point shy of the team record. If the Raptors are feeling a case of déjà vu, it’s understandable. Toronto squandered a 24-point lead to Dallas in a 115-113 overtime loss on Feb. 25, 2005.

Nowitzki came into the game averaging 19.8 points on 45-percent shooting, numbers considered solid for most, but sub-par for Dallas’ franchise player. He scored 18 in the third quarter alone, hitting six out of eight, including four straight from downtown.

“I got a lot of good looks in the first half, but never really got it going, we were down 20 and energy wasn’t there,” Nowitzki said. “The third quarter was great. We moved the ball. We pushed the ball and we finally played some defense and got back in transition and forced them into tougher shots.

“The team is on me a little bit about shooting more, obviously they have a lot of confidence in me and my rhythm hasn’t been that great in the first couple of games. I know it’s early in the season, if the shots there, I’m going to take it. If not then I going to move it and give someone else a good shot. Once you get in a good rhythm and your confidence is up and shots fell for me in the third.”

Notables from 105-99 comeback over Toronto

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: The Mavericks trailed by a season-high 24 points, 25-49, with 5:58 remaining in the 2nd quarter. The Mavs then outscored the Raptors 57-23 between 5:58 in the 2nd and 11:47 remaining in the 4th when they secured a 10-point, 82-72 lead. Over the last 3:46 of the 3rd quarter, the Mavericks went on an 18-4 run in which Dirk Nowitzki scored 14 total points – and 12 straight Dallas points (on 4 consecutive 3-pointers) over the last 1:38 of the period.

• The Mavericks have won the last 8 vs. Toronto (and the last 8 at home).
• For the second time in franchise history, the Mavericks overcame a 24-point deficit (second largest to overcome in history). They also came back when trailing by 24 points vs. Toronto (2/25/06) and won 115-113 in OT.
• The Mavericks made five straight 3-pointers to end the 3rd quarter and start the 4th. Nowitzki hit 4 in the final 1:38 of the 3rd, while Jason Terry started 4th quarter scoring with a 3-pointer.
• Nowitzki scored a season-high 32 points on 12-19 FGs, 4-6 3FGs, 4-4 FTs (previous was 28 at ATL on 11/2). He scored 20 of the Mavs’ 57 points during the 57-23 run.
• Josh Howard came down with a season-high 9 rebounds (previous high was 7 rebounds done 4 times).
• Toronto forward Chris Bosh scored a season-high 31 points on 12-22 FGs, 7-10 FTs.
• Toronto guard TJ Ford left the game with an arm stinger and did not return.
• The Mavericks’ 38 3rd quarter points were their most of any quarter this season (previous high was 37 (1st) vs. SAC 11/3). V
• The Mavericks assigned rookie F Nick Fazekas to the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers today. He has appeared in two games for the Mavericks this season (1.0 ppg, 2.5 mpg).
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,272 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 240 regular season games at AAC.
• Today marked the 278th consecutive regular/postseason sellout. The Mavs currently have the longest running sellout streak in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings previously held the streak but failed to sellout their home opener this season. The Mavs are now ranked #10 on the all-time NBA sellout streak list.

Sun turning blue

Dirk Nowitzki missed his first four free throws against Memphis on Saturday.

“That’s like the sun turning blue,” Avery Johnson said. “That would be weird, wouldn’t it? That’s like me all of the sudden becoming a 3-point shooter.”

The Mavs shook up their free-throw routine at practice, shooting them after doing some extensive running. Even if he couldn’t replicate the 20,000 fans in the building, Johnson wanted to simulate game fatigue.

As for Nowitzki, he’s not worried about his early-season shooting woes. He shot 50 percent from the floor and 90 percent at the line last year. This year he’s at 45 percent and 78 percent, respectively.

The MVP is just worried about results, and the Mavs currently own the third-best record in the Western Conference.

“That’s great for the team,” Nowitzki said. “We’re 7-2 and I really haven’t felt comfortable with my shot. That’s pretty good.”

George to practice next week

Devean George, out all season with a stress reaction in his left foot, should be ready to practice next Tuesday. The upcoming schedule with four games in five nights, plus the Thanksgiving holiday, made practicing this week impracticable.

“He’s running really good now,” Avery Johnson said. “Hopefully we won’t have another setback.”

Once George gets back to practice, the evaluation process begins to clear him for game action. There’s some question whether Johnson can incorporate George back into a rotation that’s fairly stacked. Well, it’s not a question for Johnson.

“He fits,” Johnson said. “He can play 2, 3 or 4. We’ve had him in our system. He knows what we’re doing.”

Eddie Jones, out with a sore right leg, could begin some on-court running later this week. Johnson plans to revisit Jones’ situation on Friday.

“We’ve got to get him in better shape before he comes back,” Johnson said.

Bosh is the key

Jerry Stackhouse’s key for tonight’s Toronto game is pretty clear-cut.

“Bosh,” he said. “Obviously, he’s a huge part of what they do. They also have a lot of guys who shoot the 3.”

Chris Bosh (16.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) may be off to an uneven start, but the Mavs are selling the Dallas native short.

“I just think some of that is early season,” Avery Johnson said. “Whatever is going on now, we’ve got to prepare like he’s going to have a big game against us. He won’t be in that type of situation probably in December.”

Stackhouse did add that rebounding, especially by the guards, is crucial against a 3-point shooting team like Toronto. Missed 3s often lead to long rebounds.

“If we’re able to rebound the ball, we can have some success,” he said.

Fazekas sent to D-League

Second-round pick Nick Fazekas has been assigned to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League. Mavs coach Avery Johnson is a staunch supporter of the D-League and its mission.

Current players Moe Ager and JJ Barea spent tome with the now-defunct Fort Worth Flyers last season. Johnson also plucked former assistant Sam Vincent from the Flyers. Vincent is now the coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Mavs selected Fazekas 34th overall out of the Nevada. He saw action in two games this season and scored his first points as a professional Nov. 10 at Portland.

The 66ers open the season Nov. 23 against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The Mavs have used the D-League extensively the last few years.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No pain, no gain for J-Ho

Josh Howard doesn’t show up on the team’s official injury report. That doesn’t mean he’s not playing with pain.

The list of sprains and strains currently includes wrist, thigh, ankle and his side. It might be easier to list what doesn’t hurt on the All-Star small forward.

“I am not healthy, but I am able to fight through these injuries,” he said. “You have to be tough mentally to get through a long season. I am a tough guy. I’ll get through it.”

Howard has yet to miss a game to injury this season. (He sat out the first two suspended.) He sure has put the hurt on the opposition, averaging a team-high 22.9 points to go along with 5.9 rebounds.

“Very high,” is how Devin Harris described Howard’s pain threshold. “It’s known that guys undercut him on his jump shot, come under his ankles. I know for a fact when you go to the basket as you do, you get banged up. He plays through it.”

Speaking of the schedule…

Since the win Saturday over Memphis, the Mavs took Sunday completely off before getting in a good workout Monday. Managing the next month or so figures to be a challenge, especially with four games in five nights.

“It’s eight in the next 12 days if you want to be exact,” Devin Harris pointed out. “We know we have a tough stretch coming up all the way to Christmas. We’ve got to be mentally prepared and take care of our bodies.”

The Mavs don’t have at least two consecutive days off until after facing the Clippers on Dec. 21. Picking up where Harris left off, it’s 19 games in 32 days, including five sets of back-to-backs.

“That’s about as tough of a stretch as I’ve seen in my career,” said Dirk Nowitzki, a 10-year veteran.

Getting rest within games will be a focal point. Though only four Mavs have played in all nine games, 13 are currently averaging at least 11 minutes.

“We feel we’ve got one of the deepest teams in the league, which should help us,” Nowitzki said.

Not looking past Toronto

Facing the Raptors tomorrow night at American Airlines Center concludes the four-game homestand and starts a run of four games in five days. Avery Johnson was asked after practice today how he prepares for such a stretch.

As you might expect, Johnson wasn’t looking past one of the more talented teams in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors may be off to only a 5-5 start, but they suit up one the league’s more dynamic power forwards in Chris Bosh, have a solid point guard tandem in T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon, and Andrea Bargnani has been called a Dirk Nowitzki starter kit.

“I’m just thinking about Toronto,” Johnson said. “That’s about it. Toronto is a terrific young team. Lots of shooters spread the floor. They didn’t finish well against Golden State last night. They had a tough fourth quarter. Otherwise they would have scored a lot of points.

“Chris Bosh is awfully good. Calderon and Ford are a terrific point guard combination. Bargnani can shoot it from Ft. Worth. We’ve just got to be ready for Toronto and stay focused on that and go from there.”

Toronto scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 106-100 loss to Golden State.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Killer crew

Take this group: Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier, Brandon Bass, Trenton Hassell, Juwan Howard and JJ Barea. How’s that for a bench?

“It’s killer,” Devin Harris said. “Are you kidding me?”

That doesn’t count Eddie Jones or Devean George, who could begin full practices in the next few days. Getting a consistent play from the second unit has been a priority this season. Through nine games, Dallas reserves have outscored the opposition seven times.

“I’m trying to establish the bench,” Avery Johnson said. “That’s one of the things I really want to do this year. When a guy goes down, if we can pull somebody from that 11th or 12th man situation and start them and make it work, that’s something that we like to do. I want to keep Jet and Stack and Bass and Damp and Juwan Howard and Tennessee Hassell coming off the bench.”

Terry and Stackhouse have set the tone in establishing an attack mentality.

“We take pride in what we do and that’s being able to come in the game and not having a drop off,” Terry said. “If anything make the intensity go up to another level. We just take pride in it.”

Avery earns 150th win in squeaker

Avery Johnson wasn’t about to disparage the 150th win of his career Saturday night.

Memphis may be sitting last in the Southwest Division and without Darko Milicic, but there’s an old adage among coaches that any win is a good win. Johnson wasn’t about to argue after watching two wide-open 3-pointers from the Grizzlies come up short in the final seconds of the Mavericks’ 108-105 victory at American Airlines Center.

“Some good, some bad tonight,” Johnson said. “We’re glad to get out of here with a win.”

Dallas (7-2) ran its winning streak to three, with each coming on homestand that ends Tuesday against Toronto. The hard-luck Grizzlies, who took New Orleans down to the wire Friday, fell to 2-7.

Johnson became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 150 wins. He needed just 191 games, shattering Phil Jackson’s record of 203. Mavs assistant Paul Westphal, incidentally, sits third on the list at 204.

Such records are becoming old hat for the General. Johnson was also the fastest to 50 and 100 wins, and holds the record for best 82-game start. The Mavs have also won at least 60 in each of his two full seasons.