Saturday, December 8, 2007

Josh Howard lights up Utah for 47

Josh Howard takes pride in jump-starting the Mavericks’ offense. He’s normally not the one finishing the job.

He never clocked out Saturday night. Howard slashed Utah for a career-high 47 points, as the Mavs pulled away late for a 125-117 shootout victory over Utah before 20,300 fans at American Airlines Center. Dallas (13-8) snapped a two-game losing streak before heading back out on the road.

“I stayed aggressive for four quarters. I had a lot of confidence tonight and my teammates were finding me in the right spots,” said Howard, whose previous high was 30. “I want to be a more complete player. A big part of helping this team out is doing a little bit of everything.

“I know if I can score a little bit more, it is going to take the pressure off Dirk [Nowitzki] and Jason [Terry], as well as [Jerry Stackhouse]. I want to keep doing the little things to help my team.”

Howard had it going early, scoring 12 points in the first quarter. That’s nothing new. Double-digit outputs in the opening period are old hat for the fifth-year small forward.

Continuing that torrid pace is something that hasn’t happened much. By design, Nowitzki and Terry are the usual shooting suspects down the stretch. On this night, however, the ball kept finding its way into Howard’s hands.

And from there, it found the bottom of the net.

Notables from 125-117 win over Utah

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Utah got to within 2 points, 112-110, with 3:41 remaining in the game. The Mavs then went on a 10-3 run between 3:30 and 1:17 to go up 123-113. Dallas led 9-7 with 9:31 to go in the 1st quarter and never relinquished the lead or allowed Utah to tie the game.

• Josh Howard scored a career-high 47 points (14-19 FGs, 4-5 3FGs, 15-17 FTs). Other career-highs set include: 3FGM (4, tied), FTM (15), FTA (17). (Previous career-high was 30 points (3 times).) Howard scored 22 1st half points. Over the last 4 games, he’s averaging 18.5 points per 1st half.
• Howard added 10 rebounds for his 4th double-double of the season.
• Howard also set a Mavs season-high. (Previous was 32 points done twice by Dirk Nowitzki.)
Devin Harris dished out a career-high 12 assists to go with 10 points for his 1st double-double of the season. (Previous career-high for assists was 10 @ CHI on 12/5/05.)
• Erick Dampier scored a season-high 21 points. Eleven of those points came in the 1st half (5-6 FGs, 1-1 FTs). Since his arrival in Dallas, the Mavs are 51-9 when Dampier scores in double figures. (Previous season-high was 8 vs. MIN on 11/28.)
• The Mavs scored a season-high 125 points. (Previous was 123 vs. SAC on 11/3/07.)
• Utah’s Deron Williams scored a season-high 41 points (13-20 FGs, 3-4 3FGs, 12-13 FTs). (Previous season-high was 35 vs. LAL on 11/30.)
• For the first time this season, all 5 Dallas starters scored in double figures. Last season, the Mavs were 6-0 when all starters scored 10+ points.
• Tonight, 125 members of the U.S. military – wounded soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Guardsmen from Fort Worth who have recently returned home from a year of active duty – enjoyed the game in front-row seats.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,300 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 245 consecutive regular season games at AAC.
• Tonight also marked the 283rd 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.

Notice a trend?

The following was on the board inside the Mavs locker room:

Earn It + Expect It = Energy
No Excuses (Complaining)
Eliminate Same Errors
Engage (Talk)
We (You) Start Tonight
-- Coach A.J.

Devean George pleased with debut

Devean George felt good about his first appearance of the season Thursday night. The veteran swingman returned to the lineup against Denver and played in short spurts totaling seven minutes.

“I was trying to be active, but at the same time knowing my timing was off and not really trying to do too much,” he said today. “Not try to force the issue and slowly get my way back in.”

He grabbed four rebounds, took one shot and committed three fouls in his debut. George estimates it’ll take somewhere around seven or eight games to get his rhythm and conditioning all the way back.

“I’m going to still take shots if they’re open,” he said. “I’m going to still take shots and be a threat while I’m out there, but at the same time I’m not going to be overly aggressive knowing that it’s going to take a few times up-and-down [the court], a few contact [situations], a few rebounds to feel comfortable.”

The General remaining "very patient"

You’d think the recent downturn would elicit one of those paint-peeling-butt-to-the-fire speeches that Avery Johnson is quite capable of delivering. Not so much.

“He’s been very understanding,” Devean George said, choosing his words carefully this morning. “Very patient. Very patient. Just understanding we’ve got some new guys.

“Funks happen throughout the season. It happens. We have one good one going on right now where we’re not communicating a lot and we’re just at a bad point in the season right now.”

It’s still only a week into December. It’s not as if Johnson doesn’t care about losing games now. He does. But he also preaches the virtues of accountability and internal leadership.

That’s where the fire should be coming from. Johnson appears to be leaving it up to the players for now. Maybe they’re getting the message.

Mavs and Jazz know the feeling

The two teams squaring off at American Airlines Center tonight know a thing or two about what the other is going through. Both the Mavs and Jazz have lost to the Spurs without Tim Duncan in San Antonio this week. Dallas had their setback back Wednesday night and Utah fell last night.

Both had a chance to pull it out in the fourth quarter. Both experienced a healthy dose of Manu Ginobili. Very healthy. The Argentine torched Dallas for a season-high 37 points. He matched that against Utah.

The Jazz are 13-7 and leading the Northwest Division. The Mavs sit 12-8 and trail those Spurs and New Orleans in the Southwest.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Seats for Soldiers tomorrow night

Perhaps the league’s most heartfelt tribute, Seats for Soldiers, is taking place at tomorrow night’s Mavs-Jazz game at American Airlines Center. The event to honor the U.S. military was started by season-ticket holder Neal Hawks and includes those seated on the front row.

Hawks will host approximately 125 wounded soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Guardsmen from Fort Worth who have recently returned home from a year of active duty. They will enjoy the experience of sitting in front-row seats valued at more $200,000.

American Airlines is providing transportation to Dallas from BAMC. The AA flight crew and flight attendants are donating their time, and American Airlines Food & Beverage is donating refreshments for the charter.

After arriving at DFW International Airport, the group will enjoy dinner at Abacus prior to the game. The soldiers will get to meet and have their pictures taken with the players and coaches from both teams, along with Mavs Dancers and Mavs ManiAACs.

“These men and women have all sacrificed a part of their lives for our well-being,” Hawks said. “While we are here enjoying all that life in our country has to offer, they are overseas, apart from their families and loved ones, serving in the military and risking their lives on a daily basis. I don't believe it is possible to acknowledge all of their sacrifices, but my hope is that Seats for Soldiers provides at least a small measure of the recognition they deserve.”

Time to refocus and reenergize

In an effort to get “refocused and reenergized,” Avery Johnson isn’t putting the team through a practice today. The only team function was a film session scheduled for this morning.

The Mavs are in funk, dropping six of the last nine. Remember how dominant they were on the second half of back-to-backs last season going 15-1? They’re 2-2 this season, which sounds fine, but they’ve also been swept twice (first and second night) in less than two weeks.

“This has been a tough stretch for us right now, during this part of the schedule, like every NBA team has,” Johnson said last night. “We haven’t done a good job of fighting any sort of perceived fatigue. So we just have to stick with it.

“We haven’t been here before. I’ve been here before and I know what it feels like and we have the men to work our way out of it. We just have to fight through it and take time and refocus and reenergize and get back after it the next game. The men are up for the challenge.”

The Mavs have four losses to teams currently with losing records. The 12-8 start is the slowest after 20 games since having the same mark to open up the 2001-02 season.

“Not the way you want to start a season and we lost some games we should have won,” Dirk Nowitzki said last night. “We’re looking forward to the rest of the season because it can only get better on both ends of the floor.”

The list of issues starts with defense. Thursday’s loss to Denver at home may have been the low point. The 122 points scored by the Nuggets are the most allowed by Dallas this season. It doesn’t get easier with Utah coming to town tomorrow night.

“We just got to get everyone on the same page,” Devin Harris explained. “A lot of guys making a lot of different mistakes, me included and we’ve got to make sure everyone knows their responsibilities.”

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Iverson and Nuggets zoom past Mavs

When judging performance, wins and losses usually aren’t at the top of the list. Rebounding, transition defense, energy, focus and the like hold a much higher value on Avery Johnson’s report card.

The Mavericks aren’t looking good in too many categories right now.

Allen Iverson scored 35 as Denver departed American Airlines Center with a 122-109 victory Thursday night, continuing a tailspin that’s seen Dallas drop six of its last nine games. Coupled with the loss the previous night in San Antonio, the Mavs dropped a back-to-back for the second time in less than two weeks.

“We’ve got to fight through it,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to take a little time to refocus and reenergize.”

The Nuggets exploited Dallas (12-8) in several areas that can’t sit too well with Johnson. Denver enjoyed scoring advantages of 64-36 in the paint and 24-14 in transition. Led by Allen Iverson’s 12-of-19 showing from the floor, the Nuggets shot 50.5 percent. They scored at least 34 in the first and third quarters.

The Mavs went into the fourth in striking distance, down just 98-92, but Denver began to pull away quickly. Johnson tried to stem the tide with a timeout after Nuggets forward Eduardo Najera drilled a 3-pointer for a 105-94 lead. From there, though, the Mavs would never get close enough to challenge.

“They’re disappointed,” Johnson said of his team. “We’re all disappointed. We don’t want to play this way.”

Notables from 122-109 loss to Denver

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: The game was tied for the last time, at 86, with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter. The Nuggets finished the quarter on a 6-1 run over 1:16 to go up 98-92 at the end of the third. The Mavs then scored the first basket of the fourth quarter before allowing Denver to go on a 9-0 run between 11:01 and 9:03 to open their lead to 13, 107-94.

• Dirk Nowitzki has now made 58 of his last 60 free throw attempts (96.7%) dating back to the fourth quarter at MIL (11/24).
• Nowitzki tied his season-high with 32 points on 10-20 FGs, 2-5 3FGs, 10-10 FTs (also done vs. TOR on 11/20). He finished with a team-high 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
• Josh Howard scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half. He was forced to sit most of the third quarter after committing his fourth personal foul with 11:34 to go in the period.
• Jerry Stackhouse scored a season-high 23 points (8-14 FGs, 2-4 3FGs, 5-5 FTs). His previous hi was 18 at NO (12/1).
• Devean George saw his first action of the season after missing the first 19 games with a left foot stress reaction. He played 7:03 and finished with 4 rebounds.
• Denver’s Linas Kleiza scored a season-high 23 points (8-14 FGs, 3-5 3FGs, 4-4 FTs). His previous best was 21 at IND (11/1).
• The Nuggets scored an opponent season-high 120 points. (Previous opponent high was 115 @ GS on 11/8.)
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,155 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 244 consecutive regular season games at AAC.
• Tonight also marked the 282nd 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.

Pregame Notes from Mavs-Nuggets

Devean George is active tonight and expected to play a few minutes. The veteran swingman missed training camp and the first 19 games recovering from a stress reaction in his left foot. Moe Ager will be on the inactive list.

Avery Johnson and Jerry Stackhouse are wearing microphones for the TNT broadcast. George Karl and Eduardo Najera are wearing mics for Denver. Johnson will also do an in-game interview between the third and fourth quarters. Johnson admitted there was resistance to the idea, but added he will adjust.

“I wouldn’t say I’m ready, but the company I work for said it’s mandatory,” he quipped.

TNT also had a camera focused on the locker room. As for watching his language, Johnson said with a smile: “I don’t say anything that needs to be censored.”

The opposition from the coaches and players isn’t shared by Mark Cuban. The Mavs owner likes any idea that brings fans closer to the game. Plus there’s an added bonus.

“For fans, it’ll give them insight and into things they’ve never heard before,” Cuban said. “And if it focuses less on Stephen A. Smith and Kenny Smith and those guys, the better.”

In other words, Cuban said, “More reality and less fantasy from commentators.”

The Mavs can only hope Allen Iverson’s right arm is tired after scoring 51 last night against the Lakers. “He’s capable of having another one,” Johnson said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dirk's 3 at buzzer comes up short vs. Spurs

SAN ANTONIO – Dirk Nowitzki set his feet in the corner directly in front of the Spurs bench and let it fly.

“I was running back to the locker room,” Jason Terry said. “I thought it was good. Nine times out of 10, he’s going to make it.”

It must have been that one other time. Nowitzki’s open 3-pointer at the buzzer caught iron and backboard, but never felt the net and the Mavericks fell to the Spurs 97-95 Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.

The Mavs missed out on a golden opportunity to go up 2-0 on the defending champs. San Antonio played their first game of the season without Tim Duncan, who was injured Sunday. The Mavs (12-7) return home after a 1-2 road trip that included an overtime loss at New Orleans.

The Mavs don’t have time to dwell on the loss with Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Denver Nuggets visiting American Airlines Center on Thursday. The two-game homestand ends Saturday with Utah.

“Tough loss for us,” Terry said, “but the good thing is we get to go home and play tomorrow.”

Pregame notes from Mavs-Spurs

The Spurs are notorious about keeping info about the team under wraps as much as possible. Take the situation with Tim Duncan, who’s out tonight. The list of probable starters released by the team had “To be announced” in the small forward slot.

When asked how he planned to attack the Spurs minus Duncan less than 90 minutes before the game, Mavs coach Avery Johnson quipped: “I haven’t gotten an official starting lineup yet. Until we confirm he’s out, so be it.” Manu Ginobili, by the way, will play.

Asked about the Mavs’ 105-92 victory over San Antonio on Nov. 15 in Dallas, Johnson said: “That was a game we pretty much put it together from start to finish. We haven’t had that many games like that this year.”

Devean George said he could return to the lineup tomorrow night against Denver or Saturday against Utah. He would like to get a practice under his belt Friday, but isn’t opposed to suiting up in 24 hours.

Last but not least, be on ejection alert tonight. Bennett Salvatore is in the building.

AJ making two visits to SA this month

Avery Johnson’s visit to the AT&T Center tonight is all business. In 17 days, it’ll be completely personal. The Little General’s No. 6 will officially be the sixth retired number by the Spurs on Dec. 22.

Johnson joins Spurs legends Johnny Moore (00), James Silas (13), Sean Elliott (32), George Gervin (44) and David Robinson (50). The obligatory question for Johnson this morning: Have you thought about your number hanging from the rafters?

Obligatory answer: “Haven’t even thought about it. Only thinking about tonight’s game.”

Johnson, of course, had more to say. The ceremony will be before the Spurs-Clippers game. Johnson requested that the retirement not take place before a Mavs game. Instead of an awkward situation of honoring a coach who’s trying to beat their team, the Spurs are celebrating the career of one of the most popular players in franchise history.

“It’s going to be a great time for my family,” he said. “Everybody’s called in trying to get tickets for the game and trying to be part of the ceremony. It will be pretty special, but tonight it’s hard to think about it right now because we’re so focused on the game plan and getting our team ready.”

Johnson was asked about his jersey hanging next to Robinson, a close friend who he famously used to call “5-0.”

“You know what,” Johnson said, “it’ll be nice to be anywhere in the building. They could put it in the bathroom, I don’t care. It’ll be a thrill. Anytime something like that happens, you’ve had a lot of coaches, individuals, family and friends that help you get to that point. It will be special not just for me, but for all of my friends.”

And his many fans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mavs prepare for Spurs without Duncan

SAN ANTONIO – News flash from the Obvious Times: “Tim Duncan remains the center of the Spurs universe.”

“How long did it take you to come up with that one?” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson cracked Tuesday after being asked if the Spurs still revolve around the Big Fundamental.

In fairness to the reporter who offered it up, the question was posed with the bigger picture in mind. Duncan is San Antonio’s third leading scorer, falling behind Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but his impact remains second to no one.

He may have been scoring 17.6 points and grabbing 8.9 rebounds, both are easily career lows, before hurting his right ankle and knee Sunday. Somehow, though, the numbers lie.

“Even if he’s not averaging the numbers,” Johnson explained, “it still feels like he’s getting 27 and 15 every night because he draws so much attention.”

Read more of “Mavs prepare for Spurs without Duncan” at

Devin Harris to play vs. Spurs

Devin Harris will play tomorrow against San Antonio despite getting elbowed in the neck last night in Chicago.

“Stiff or not, I will play,” he said today after practice at the AT&T Center.

Harris would like to get some sleep tonight. Soreness kept him up most of last night after the team got to the hotel at about 3:30 a.m.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mavs outlast Bulls 103-98

CHICAGO – The Mavericks started strong, their two All-Stars shot the ball well and the entire team defended with purpose. That hasn’t been a recipe often during their early-season bouts with inconsistency.

Whether it becomes a habit remains to be seen. For one game, at least, the Mavs reminded folks what a 67-win team looks like by outlasting the Bulls 103-98 Monday night at the United Center.

“Right now we’re trying to get all the wins we can and get some consistency on the road,” Jason Terry said.

Dallas (12-6) bounced back from Saturday’s overtime loss in New Orleans to even its record on the three-game road trip that ends Wednesday at San Antonio. The latest showdown with the defending champions lost some of its luster when Spurs star Tim Duncan went down with an ankle/knee injury.

Still, the Mavs have an opportunity to end the trip 2-1, gain ground in the Southwest Division and go up 2-0 in the season series with San Antonio. Duncan's absence can't change the Mavs' mind set, Avery Johnson warned.

"We can't afford to have that subtle letdown," he said. "They're still the world champs and we're going to have to play awfully well to have a chance to win on their home court."

Devin Harris injures neck

The Mavs suffered a blow when Devin Harris went down in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the neck from Bulls forward Joakim Noah.

“It’s a little stiff right now,” Harris said after the game. “I’ll get it worked on when we get to San Antonio.”

Harriss status for the Spurs game is debatable, even though X-rays taken at the arena were negative. He said he’ll know more on Tuesday. Avery Johnson said: “He’ll be ready to go.”

Timmy out Wednesday and Pop talk

Tim Duncan won’t be in the lineup Wednesday when the Mavs visit San Antonio for the first time this season. Duncan injured his right knee and ankle Sunday. MRI results Monday came back negative, though the Spurs won’t have an estimate on his absence for at least another day or two.

“You just never know what’s going to happen in that situation with injuries from night-in to night-out,” said Johnson, a former teammate of Duncan’s. “It’s a part of the game.”

Speaking of the Spurs, a Chicago-area reporter asked Johnson about being referred to as a son by Gregg Popovich.

“I’m like his son, all right,” Johnson said with a broad grin. “I’ll deal with him tomorrow.”

So does Pop feel like a father … or grandfather?

“That’s a trick question,” Johnson answered. “How about if I just think about Scott Skiles tonight and what an awfully good coach he is and what an awfully good team they have, and if we don’t play with energy and rebound and run, we’re going to be in trouble.”

George could return this week

Devean George could be back on the court later this week, while Eddie Jones’ return could come next week. The schedule for the next few days is San Antonio (Wednesday), Denver (Thursday) and Utah (Saturday).

George will participate fully in Tuesday’s practice in San Antonio. He won’t be under any restriction. Jones will take part in limited contact drills, but that’s still a step forward.

Once he does get back, George won’t be an immediate candidate to replace Jason Terry in the starting lineup. George started 17 games last season at shooting guard, and Avery Johnson has often said that he performed well in that role.

“The guy hasn’t been in training camp or anything,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to let him come off the bench and play in a few games first. Right now Jones is our 1A.”

Jones is still the preferred option in the backcourt, but Johnson plans to stick with Terry for the time being.

Eat more chicken: Dirk’s routine shot

Dirk Nowitzki’s game-day routine is meticulously scripted once he gets to the arena at least 90 minutes before tip-off. (The locker room clock begins to count down from 90 minutes.)

It takes 5-10 minutes to get changed into warm-ups and he’s out on the floor taking shots. Back to the locker room somewhere between 55-60 minutes to stretch with strength-and-conditioning coach Robert Hackett. Ankles get taped in the 48-50 range.

“It’s always the same,” he said, “except when my pregame meal doesn’t show up.”

That happened Saturday night. Nowitzki skipped his shooting routine entirely because of a room-service screw-up at the team hotel. His pregame meal was never delivered.

He didn’t wait for it. So he ordered a grilled chicken sandwich at New Orleans Arena. The next problem led to Nowitzki skipping his shooting session. That’s never happened before as far as he or anyone else can remember.

“I just wanted to eat something before the game,” Nowitzki said. “I had a sandwich. They didn’t have anything grilled, only fried stuff, so I had to wait.

“Is this for the blog? You see everything. You’re good at what you do … not.”

Let me report that the routine is back to normal here in Chicago.

Why go small with Jet?

The move to switch back to a tried-and-true starting lineup isn’t without its concessions. The plan coming into the season was to turn Jason Terry into the sixth man and start Eddie Jones with Devin Harris in the backcourt.

The move to bolster the bench weakened the starting five too much, in Avery Johnson’s view. The slow starts support that theory. Jones hasn’t been healthy or in shape this season. Johnson auditioned Trenton Hassell and Moe Ager at shooting guard and neither panned out.

Jerry Stackhouse seemingly has the size and experience Johnson is looking for, and has worked well with Harris in the past, but he’s remained on the bench. So Johnson’s only other alternative, at least until Jones and Devean George return, is going back the Terry-Harris mini-backcourt.

The decision also has one eye on the upcoming schedule.

“I’ve looked at the schedule in terms of when I think I can get George and Jones back,” Johnson said. “And during that stretch until they can get back, we’re not really playing against those big 2-guards like [Kobe] Bryant and [Tracy] McGrady that we’ve had problems with when we had to start our point guards. So we think we can get by for this next week to 10 days because nothing else was working.”

The first look at one of those big 2-guards will not be until Dec. 15 at Houston. George and Jones, who is practicing tomorrow in San Antonio for the first time since getting injured, should both be back before then.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Waiting on the plane in the Big Easy

Sitting here on the plane for two hours it just struck me: Why don’t I blog? OK, it wasn’t really my idea. Our lovely media relations director Sarah Melton suggested it. At the time I was watching videos on Dionne Calhoun’s computer with Dirk and Gana.

Weather in Chicago has us stuck on the tarmac here in New Orleans. Apparently it’s not ice or snow holding us back. Wind gusts have shut down quite a few runways at O’Hare. They do call it the Windy City.

So during our delay, I had lunch (chicken jambalaya, sweet potato mash and steamed vegetables), tooled around on the internet (check out Brad Townsend’s excellent Mike Sherman read at, let Fingers (team massage therapist) know his arm was bleeding, talked ball and Bourbon Street with Gana, and basically wandered from row to row.

Though waiting around isn’t ideal, it wasn’t bad. Normally when we board, people take their usual seats (kinda like the cafeteria in school) and everyone does their thing. A lot of headphones come on. Coaches break down film. Brad Davis and Keith Grant break out the cards. The rest of us in the traveling party usually have work to do.

But with so much time to kill, guys were up and about mingling. Well everyone but a hibernating Jerry Stackhouse. Paul Westphal just got some new tunes on his iPod from trainer Casey Smith. (Westphal digs Radiohead, even if he can’t understand the lyrics.) Dirk pondered entering the All-Star dunk contest. (He’s got a shot at winning … if no one else enters.)

So as I sat down to write this, we’re finally starting up the engines. Chicago, here we come. (Did I get a little too parenthetic?)