Saturday, December 22, 2007

What the Mavs had to say...

Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse
“We really tried to create our energy, our own enthusiasm and for the most part we did. We were pretty solid all the way around except we allowed some offensive rebounds and some were lucky bounces for them, but for the most part I thought we did some good things tonight.”

Talk about Devin Harris play at the point tonight?
“We just want Devin to be aggressive. Whenever he’s aggressive and getting into the lane it creates so much havoc for the defense and it creates opportunities for everybody. He sometimes gets in the mode in the NBA point guard and just gets assists and all that stuff. We like our chances when he gets to the basket and he gets 15 plus points and from that threat if he’s able to get some assists then great, but we don’t want him to be the prototypical point guard.”

Mavs guard Jason Terry
You really got it going scoring wise in the 4th?

“We just felt like we needed to try to put this team away. They had closed the margin somewhat, they got it down to five but we made some big shots. I knocked down a couple and Dirk hit a big three down the stretch. I thought for the most part we made good decisions and did a great job on the offensive end. Defensively we still had an area of concern and that was on the defensive boards, but we’re still a work in progress. We like where we’re at right now at this point.”

Talk about the adjustment for you coming off the bench?
“I been in the league now nine years and it’s just a matter of going out with the mind set of being aggressive when I’m out there. I just need to continue to do the things my teammates need me to do when I’m out there.”

Mavs Head Coach Avery Johnson
“I thought overall our energy and our competitive spirit was good. We had a few breakdowns that we need to take a look at, but again the men our wide eyed, really in tune to what we are doing and they are making a concerted effort to defend better and get back on defense. We got better except for a few funny bounces on some offensive rebounds and some other they beat us on. Again we’re not flying high and mighty right now, we know we still have our game to work on and that keeps us on our toes.”

Do you like the overall defense right now?
“Some parts of it yes, some parts of it are pretty good. We didn’t give up many points in transition which was good. We were really getting after it out there trying to extend there offense a little bit and we’re fighting, playing hard and having fun.”

What the Clippers had to say...

Head Coach Mike Dunleavy
“I thought we went through stretches where we just didn’t shoot the ball well, again. We made some good runs back but we could never get a crack. We were missing lay ups and free throws, things that could’ve given us a little more momentum. They [Dallas] hit a stretch there in the second half where Dirk [Nowitzki] made some tough and then he also created some buckets for Terry and they made big shots.”

Talk about your team’s hustle...
“Well, we played hard. I was pleased with the way we played. We got some guys into the mix who got some playing time – like Al [Thornton] and some of our younger guys got some playing time that we can keep building from. But in that fourth quarter we had a couple good three pointers that went in and out on us that were wide open looks and if we’d knocked them down all of a sudden we’re talking six or seven point game. It’s a lot different shooting the ball from the outside, free-stroking, when you’re up 14 versus six or seven.”

Center Chris Kaman
Talk about tonight’s game – the game you had in particular…
“It’s frustrating. A lot of things went on, people have good games but that doesn’t mean anything really if you can’t get the win. I thought on defense we did a pretty decent job, but the offense has been a problem for us this year. Some people are just flat – we don’t move well, we don’t execute well, something is wrong and we’ve got to figure it out on our own. It’s going to take every one of us in this room to figure it out. Now we’re shorthanded, again, and keep having all these injuries. It’s been a long season already with all these injuries, but what can you do? You can’t give up, you’ve got to keep playing, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Guard Brevin Knight
“They’re an explosive team, but I think we kept them in striking range the entire night. Made a couple runs, and against a team like this when you make a run that’s when you’ve really got to hunker down and get a little bit tougher. We got it to within three there in the third quarter and then we let them get three buckets in succession and you can’t do that against good teams. We didn’t put enough pressure on them to get [them] a little bit nervous. They stayed comfortable. So their jump shots stayed comfortable. With this team you’ve got to make them pressured a little bit.”

Friday, December 21, 2007

Notables from 102-89 win vs. Clippers

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas trailed 23-24 with 11:18 to go in the 2nd quarter. The Mavs then went on 14-2 run (ending with 7:04 remaining) to go up 37-26.

• The Mavericks have now won 5 consecutive games (dating to 12/14 vs. NO), matching their longest win streak of the season (between 11/13 vs. PHI and 11/21 @ HOU).
• Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 30 points (11-17 FGs, 1-3 3FGs, 7-7 FTs). Tonight’s was his 3rd straight game to score 30+ points. The last time he had 3 consecutive games of 30 points was between 1/12-1/16/06. He scored 43 @ IND (1/12), 38 @ TOR (1/14) and 30 vs. HOU (1/16).
• Devin Harris is averaging 19.0 points over the last 3 games. Tonight, he scored 21 points (8-13 FGs, 2-3 3FGs, 3-4 FTs) and the Mavs improved to 5-1 when he contributes 20 points or more.
• Clippers’ center Chris Kaman finished the 1st half with 16 points and 9 rebounds. His full game averages are 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds.
• Clippers’ center Paul Davis suffered a sprained right knee with 8:53 to go in the 2nd quarter. He did not return.
• The Mavericks are now 9-0 when shooting 50% or better from the field. Dallas went 55.1% tonight (38-69 FGs).
• The Mavs improved to 17-1 when they lead by at least 10 points in the game. Dallas led by as many as 16.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,246 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 249 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 287 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns 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.

Mavs streak to fifth straight win

It’s time to take a little holiday break.

Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris combined for 51 points, leading the Mavericks past the Los Angeles Clippers 102-89 Friday night before a sellout crowd of 20,246 at American Airlines Center. Dallas has beaten the Clippers in eight of the last 11 meetings.

The Mavs (19-9) enters their four-day break 10 games above .500 for the first time this season and with a five-game winning streak that is tied for their longest this season. Avery Johnson’s crew doesn’t resume action until Dec. 26 at Utah.

Coming off consecutive 30-point outings, Nowitzki picked right back up. He scored 14 in the first quarter on 4-of-6 shooting and a 6-for-6 effort at the line. The Clippers hung close behind 12 points from center Chris Kaman.

The Mavs began to get separation in the second quarter behind Harris, who scored 10 in the period. The lead grew as big as 13 before Dallas settled into halftime with a 54-42 edge.

The cloud is starting to lift

Avery Johnson pulled the team together after the 20-game mark for a “talk.” The pow-wow was meant to take some pressure off and refocus on the immediate future.

“I told them, let me worry about all the long-term stuff,” Johnson said Friday night. “This is a great time for our young men. They’re all young men, right? This is a great time in their lives.

“Have some fun, play some basketball and be competitive and play with a lot of energy and stay in the short term for right now. And we tried to give them some short-term goals and I think they responded to our little talk.”

Did he want to emphasize anything in particular?

“Let’s compete,” Johnson said. “Let’s have some energy and pick our heads up. I think they were tricked into thinking that last season was a disgrace. So I had to kind of lay out what other teams have done and lay out where this organization was 10 years ago and where we are now. So we had to lay out a few things and I think they got the message.”

Read the rest of this note in the Mavs-Clippers notebook at

Retired jerseys for Josh and Devin

Avery Johnson gets his NBA jersey retired tomorrow night (see below). Two guys in the locker room – Josh Howard (Wake Forest) and Devin Harris (Wisconsin) – had theirs retired in college.

Howard had this to say: “It’s something. Not too many people get that done. Getting your number up in the rafters lets you know you got some work done.”

Very true. As for Harris, “I forgot all about it.”

Busy stretch ends tonight

The stretch of 19 games in 32 days thankfully ends tonight. (Hey, I have to work these games, too.) There have been a few rough spots along the way, but the Mavs have won four straight going into the Clippers game.

Another win means a 12-7 record for the breakneck stretch. The team will have four days off before facing Utah the day after Christmas.

“It is something to look forward to if you take advantage of it,” Avery Johnson said. “Mix in a little practice, some weights and some games. This is the first time in a long time we’ve had a chance to look at our team.”

Johnson has a schedule in place for the break. It’ll encompass practice, rest, turkey and macaroni-and-cheese. Yes, that’s what he said.

D-League guys

Jose Barea, in his second year, is eligible for the D-League, but he’s remained with the big club. Avery Johnson doesn’t have any immediate plans to send Barea down even though he’s been on the inactive roster lately.

“Right now keep practicing with the team because he’s our third point guard and there are times in practice when we need him here, especially with us having two guys in the developmental league,” Johnson said. “It’s been more beneficial for him to be here now. That can change down the road.”

Nick Fazekas and Moe Ager are both with the Tulsa 66ers.

“[Fazekas] and Ager are down there together now,” Johnson said. “They’re working hard and it’s one game at a time, one practice at a time. We hope that this experience can help them get better when they come back to us.”

Both aren’t expected up anytime soon.

“Both of those guys need to play and once they get a chance to play, we can get them on film and have an evaluation on what they need to continue to work on,” Johnson added.

Gearing up for the Clippers

Is it tough to get up for the 9-15 Clippers two nights after getting the best of Phoenix? What do you think Avery Johnson is going to say?

“We’ve been down enough this year and we haven’t played to our full capacity yet, so we don’t really have time to overlook anybody,” he said. “We’re just not that good. We just need to come out and play our style of basketball. Obviously, with some of the defensive breakdowns that we had the last game, we addressed those again in shootaround today and we will continue. We’re not that good to overlook anybody.”

Avery Johnson: More than just one shot

The image linked to Avery Johnson probably won’t ever change. Knocking down a baseline jumper – he wasn’t supposed to have one – to close out the New York Knicks in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals clinched San Antonio’s first championship.

I witnessed that shot in person at Madison Square Garden on June 25, 1999. I remember thinking at the time how important that title was for David Robinson, who endured a decade of criticism for being soft. We learned later that Sean Elliott somehow made it through the playoffs with a failing kidney. He would later need a transplant.

Robinson and Elliott were the first of the 1990s Spurs to have their jerseys retired. They were NBA bluebloods. Both picked up Play of the Year awards in college and both were picked at the top of the NBA Draft. They were supposed to be pillars in building a champion.

Johnson wasn’t. His story of perseverance is well-chronicled. He was cut once on Christmas Eve. Once the same day he was at the Robinson’s wedding. If it wasn’t for a 10-day contract in Houston, who knows if he would have made it. He had already played for four other teams before earning a foothold with the Spurs. By 1999, the Little General had earned a special place in the heart of San Antonio, a town that prides itself as an underdog.

“That’s where I really made my mark,” Johnson said. “The other teams were just pit stops. Playing there [10] years it means a lot, especially with the way my career started off. Hopefully, it serves as an inspiration for those young people out there that really aren’t the high-flyers or the dunkers or the 3-point shooters or the ones that aren’t big in stature.

“Here’s a guy that wasn’t drafted that was in obscurity, didn’t really go to a big college that had a chance to join the big boys in the rafters that went to the big schools that were bigger in stature that scored a ton of points and that made All-Star teams and Top 50. There’s an opportunity for them also.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Couple more thoughts on Phoenix

The Mavs didn’t have a problem getting up and down the floor with Phoenix, even Though the Suns held a 43-20 edge in fastbreak points.

“We like to get out and run and push the ball,” Jerry Stackhouse said today. “That’s one of the strong suits of Devin.”

One could argue that the Mavs actually won the point guard matchup based on what’s expected out of Devin Harris and Steve Nash. Harris finished with 21 points, six assists, three steals and one turnover. Nash had 21 points, 18 assists, one steal and five turnovers.

Harris wasn’t about to fret over the 17-point lead that Phoenix whittled away. People tend to forget the merits of just getting a 17-point lead. Teams make runs in the NBA, especially the good teams.

“We’re just going to take it however we can get it,” Harris said of the team’s fourth straight win.

The Mavs can match the longest winning streak of the season Friday night against the Clippers at American Airlines Center.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mavs take first bout vs. Phoenix

A pair of Western Conference heavyweights slugged it out Wednesday night at American Airlines Center. The thing about this rivalry, heavyweights don’t punch this fast.

The Mavericks and Suns went back-and-forth more times than Rocky and Apollo. The flurries came from all angles and it took a full 15 rounds to decide it before 20,316 frenzied fans.

At the end of the Dallas’ 108-105 victory you could almost picture Dirk Nowitzki saying, “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.” We know better.

The Mavs (18-9) moved within a game of San Antonio (18-7) atop the Southwest Division. Phoenix (18-8) still owns the second-best record in the West. Dallas is 2-1 this season against its two biggest rivals.

Notables from 108-105 win vs. Phoenix

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas led 80-77 with 27.3 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter. The Mavs then went on a 16-5 run lasting until the 7:10 mark of the 4th quarter to go up 96-83.

• The Mavericks scored a season-high tying 37 1st quarter points while the Suns scored a season-low tying 20 1st quarter points.
• Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with 31 points (10-20 FGs, 2-4 3FGs, 9-10 FTs). He is averaging 31.0 points over the last 2 games.
• The Mavs improved to 4-2 when Nowitzki contributes 30+.
• The Mavs improved to 3-2 when 3+ players score 20+ points.
Also scoring 20+ points were Josh Howard (23 points on 9-19 FGs, 1-1 3FGs, 4-5 FTs) and Devin Harris (21 on 8-16 FGs, 2-3 3FGs, 3-4 FTs).
• Phoenix’s Steve Nash finished the game with 21 points and 18 assists – 1 shy of his season high (19 @ WAS on 12/7).
• The Mavs came down with a season-high 19 offensive rebounds and outscored Phoenix 16-12 on the second chance. (Previous high was 16 OR vs. DEN on 12/6.)
• The Mavs improved to 16-1 when they lead by at least 10 points in the game. Dallas led by as many as 17.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,316 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 248 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 286 games including the postseason. Dallas currently owns 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.

Devin Harris is done with the mic

Devin Harris said before the game he was wearing the ESPN mic for the first half only. He held true to his word. Assistant trainer Dionne Calhoun just dropped off the device, which was strapped to his lower back, with director of basketball communications Sarah Melton here at press row.

Kristy hooks up Oak Ridge Boys

Coaches assistant Kristy Cotten lined up the Oak Ridge Boys to sing tonight’s national anthem. It seems a good friend of Kristy is a high-powered big wig in country music and the Boys are in town on tour. They also happen to be big NBA fans.

A call was made to Kristy. She talked to the right people and in exchange for tickets, the world-famous quartet serenaded us with a first-rate version of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Pregame notes: Calling the shots

Not so long ago, Mavericks coach Avery Johnson took over many of the play-calling responsibilities. Devin Harris didn’t have a problem with it. He also doesn’t have a problem overruling Johnson when necessary.

Johnson mentioned two Harris audibles during Saturday’s win at Houston.

“I see things a little differently out there on the court than he does over there standing and pointing,” Harris said Wednesday before the Suns game. “Sometimes I have to remind him we scored on certain plays a couple times in a row.”

The point guard-coach relationship has grown to the point where even if Harris knows that Johnson may be upset with a certain call, he’ll call it anyway.

“I’ll just get yelled at after,” Harris said. “We really don’t have 24 seconds to argue about it.”

Harris added: “I wouldn’t have been able to do that last year.”

Read the rest of this note and plenty more in the Mavs-Suns notebook at

Ready for the fireworks

Mavericks-Suns is often referred to as the league’s most exciting rivalry. The reasons are well known – past playoff series, best friends turned MVPs and plenty of good ball.

“They’re doing more of the same that they’ve been doing over the years,” Dirk Nowitzki said of the Suns. “It’s going to be a fun game. It’s always a fun game playing them up and down. There are great competitors on their team, so it should be a fun game.”

Writer's cramp

Now please welcome guest blogger Paul Coro, my arch nemesis who covers the Suns for The Arizona Republic.

The aforementioned Suns-Mavs action was overshadowed by a beat writer smackdown that captured everyone’s attention on a neighboring basket. Garcia may know your Mavs, but he is the Minnesota Timberwolves of free throw shooting.

Despite the fact that I was wearing a dress shirt and tie, I took down Garcia with three wins, one loss (fluke) and a tie in five free-throw shooting contests. Now, he will go back to covering basketball rather than trying to shoot one.

Suns staffers get the best of the Mavs

For those of you who think Mavs-Suns tonight is the main event, you should have been at the AAC practice court this afternoon for the undercard. The Suns training/equipment staff took on a motley crew of Mavs staffers in the best-of-7 halfcourt 4-on-4 bonanza.

The Dallas boys were trainer Casey Smith, assistant trainer Dionne Calhoun, basketball communications stud Scott Tomlin and assistant video guy Mondrick James. Smith used to work in Phoenix, so the grudge match was personal.

I know I said it was a best-of-7, but these quickly aging has-beens and never-weres audibled to best-of-3 after the first game to 11 took more than 20 minutes. I’m sure their knees, ankles and lungs welcomed the change.

Phoenix dominated Game 1, 11-5. The Mavs stormed to take the second game 11-6. The Suns were down 6-0 in Game 3 before rallying for a series-clinched 11-8 win. I wish I had better stats, but I can only count so many missed shots and turnovers.

They did play a fourth game, but didn’t recognize it for purposes of declaring a winner. Besides, I was too bored to watch anymore.

It's all about 'O'

The Suns lead the league in scoring (109.2 ppg) – big surprise there – so defense is the key tonight, right? To borrow a line from Lee Corso: Not so fast my friend.

“It’s more important for us to be good offensively ourselves,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “They’re a great team that can score the ball. There are going to be a lot more possessions than there are in an average game, so we’ve got to take advantage of those possessions. When teams want to play up-and-down like that, they’re not exerting a lot of emphasis on the defensive end, so we’ve got to take advantage of that.”

Avery Johnson agreed. The Mavs, by the way, are ninth in scoring at 101.8.

“We’re going to have to make sure we play solid offense first so we can have balance going back on defense,” he said.

Devin Harris steps up to the mic

The boys are being mic’ed up again tonight with ESPN in town. Head coaches Avery Johnson and Mike D’Antoni are required by the league to wear the sound-gathering devices in an effort to “enhance” the broadcast.

“We’re 0-for-1 with that doggone microphone,” Johnson quipped.

The players don’t have to wear it, but so far the Mavs have been good sports. Jerry Stackhouse wore a mic in the Denver loss earlier this month. ESPN asked Devin Harris yesterday and he agreed, so perhaps you’ll hear a little quarterbacking tonight.

J-Ho good to go

Josh Howard tweaked his left ankle stepping on Dirk Nowitzki’s foot Monday against Orlando. (For once, he landed on a teammate’s foot.) Howard took it easy at practice yesterday, but he won’t tonight with Phoenix in town.

“You know me,” he said. “It ain’t going to slow me down for this game tonight.”

He can’t afford to be a step slow with Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Grant Hill and the rest running the floor.

Dear Santa: I want a title -- Avery

What would Avery Johnson want for Christmas?

“I would love to have a championship.”

Johnson should know – he preaches it enough and I did remind him – that titles aren’t handed out in December.

“You can leave it in December and open it in June.”

Got me there.

“It’s like a suit,” he continued. “Some suits you buy, you don’t want to wear it right now. You may save it. They’re not in season yet.”

As an owner of one suit that comes out of the closet about once a year, I really can’t relate. Back to the immediate Santa wish list.

“If we can do a better job of guarding penetration, I’ll take that as a gift, and do a better job of rebounding,” Johnson said. “Really getting those dirty rebounds. That’s something that we’ve haven’t really talked a lot about. We need to get those dirty, physical rebounds. Those two things kind of stand out for me right now.”

Dirk & Devin Visit Scottish Rite Hospital

Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris were feeling the holiday spirit and wanted to spread the cheer and do something special for kids that unfortunately will be in the hospital over the holidays. So on Sunday, Dec. 16 Dirk and Devin made a surprise visit to some patients at Scottish Rite Hospital.

“It was great. Anytime you get a chance to see kids and families in a situation like that it makes you realize there are way more important things than basketball in life,” said Nowizki. “With the world we live in and all the hype and glamour, once in a while that’s good for us to see. It brings us back down to the real world and to real life. There are some tough things to see. The best thing for us is to bring a smile to these kids’ faces. We brought them some gifts and just visited for a while. It was definitely a good thing for all of us involved.”

The two purchased $10,000 worth of toys that they donated to the hospital.The guys made about 20 room visits where they handed out toys they purchased and visited with the kids and their families.

“It’s all about the kids. They have a great reputation of what they’re doing with kids and their therapy. Some of the ones that weren’t fortunate enough to go home for Christmas or may not receive Christmas presents, hopefully we can help them have a Merry Christmas,” said Harris. “We got to meet some cool kids. They were very cheerful and happy to meet us. We got to meet their parents. We got to talk to them a little bit and surprise them with a toy. It was fun and a good feeling.”

Looking like the old Grant Hill

Is Phoenix reclamation project Grant Hill all the way back after essentially seven wasted years in Orlando? It sure looks that way. The former (future?) All-Star is off to a promising start in the Valley of the Sun.

“Grant Hill is definitely a nice acquisition for them,” Avery Johnson said yesterday. “He can handle the ball and make plays off the dribble, and they’re still one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Especially any time a team shows up with Steve Nash and [Amaré] Stoudemire and [Shawn] Marion, and has a host of role players.”

To read more on Hill and his new team, check out my man Paul Coro’s ditty, Hill of an investment for Suns, in the Arizona Republic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stackhouse finding his old groove

Jerry Stackhouse appears to be coming around about the same time as the Mavericks. Coincidence?

Perhaps. No one man makes a team, and everyone knows this team is built around an MVP. But there’s also no question that Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Co. could use Stackhouse by their side.

They know it. So does Stackhouse.

“When I’m playing aggressive,” he said, “we’re different.”

That aggression/swagger seems to be back. Stackhouse is averaging 18 points on 50-percent shooting (17-34) during the three-game winning streak. Dallas (17-9) aims for four in Wednesday night’s expected track meet with Phoenix (18-7) at American Airlines Center.

Stackhouse isn’t just settling for jumpers during his personal spurt. His 17 foul shots (made all 17) lead the team over those three games. Nowitzki racked up 16 free throws in 112 minutes, while Howard added another 15 in 114 minutes. Stackhouse did his damage in just 79 minutes.

Read more on Stackhouse and the rest of today’s notebook at

Dirk and Steve float the same boat

The Mavs and Suns may be at the top of the list of 29 teams chasing San Antonio. Best buds Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash may be at the top of the list of superstars chasing a title.

“We’re still trying to reach the same goals, I guess,” Nowitzki said today after practice. “We both won MVPs, but I think if we could trade the MVP trophy in for a championship, we would do it. That’s what this league is all about.

“I think we both have a couple good years left. We’ll see who reaches that goal, but we understand there are a lot of great players in this league that have never won a championship, so it might not happen for either one of us. But as long as we still can walk, we’re going to give it our best shot, play hard and see what the outcome is.”

Asked if the road to the Western Conference title still goes through San Antonio and Phoenix, Avery Johnson nixed the second part of the equation.

“San Antonio is the champion,” he said. “They are the champion. Everybody else, all of the other 29 teams, are chasing San Antonio and we’re all lumped together. I don’t necessarily think anybody is ahead of another team right now.

“We just have to come out and play this team [Phoenix], which is a difficult team to play, but we can be a difficult team to play, also, when we play Mavs basketball.”

Johnson and Harris get last laugh

Avery Johnson can spin a cliché as good as anyone. He also knows when to dish it straight. Last night he was asked if, as a player, he was aware of being called out by a fellow player.

“Oh, absolutely,” Johnson said. “I’m not even going to give you coaches’ talk and say no – circled, put an X, put a star by it, got extra sleep, shot at night.”

Those that know Johnson remember former Portland point guard Damon Stoudemire famously saying San Antonio will never win a title with Johnson running the show. You guys know how that ended up.

Back to the Mavs. Orlando’s Jameer Nelson recently said he’s better and more valuable to his team than Devin Harris. Harris, of course, outplayed Nelson in last night’s win at ACC. After the game, Nelson was ready to move on.

“There’s no hard feelings,” he said. “I hope he doesn’t take it as hard feelings. If I disrespected him, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean any harm. I had to compare myself to somebody.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dirk scores 31 as Mavs hold off Magic

Basketball isn’t often referred to as a game of inches. Monday night it was a game of toes, specifically those belonging to Magic guard Keith Bogans.

What at first appeared to be a game-tying 3-point in the closing seconds was not to be, and the Mavericks were able to hold on to a 111-108 victory before a sellout crowd of 20,114 at American Airlines Center.

“It was close,” Josh Howard said simply.

It was. And this was the kind of game the Mavericks were losing not so long ago, facing a potent Eastern Conference squad with a budding superstar/MVP candidate in Dwight Howard. This is also exactly the kind of game they won more often than not the last couple seasons.

It’s too soon to say whether if those Mavs are back, but Dallas (17-9) has won three straight and five of six, and 10 in a row against the Magic at home.

“Obviously, the month of November wasn’t really great,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Our big goal was to take it month-to-month. I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.”

Notables from 111-108 win vs. Orlando

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Leading 62-61 with 9:27 remaining in the 3rd quarter, DAL went on a 10-2 run (lasting until 6:29) to take a 72-63 lead.

• The Mavericks improved to 8-0 when shooting 50.0% from the field or better. Tonight, Dallas finished the game by going 52.5% FG (42-80 FGs).
• Dallas also improved to 3-4 when allowing their opponent to shoot better than 50.0%. Orlando finished the game shooting 52.4% from the field (44-84 FGs).
• Over the last 3 games, Jerry Stackhouse averages 18.0 points, including 21 points tonight (5-10 FGs, 1-5 3FGs, 10-10 FTs). Into tonight, he averaged 10.0 points per game. Stackhouse hit two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation to push Dallas’ lead to 3 points entering Orlando’s final possession.
• Eddie Jones returned to the starting lineup tonight, replacing Jason Terry at the two-guard. Tonight’s starting lineup of Howard, Nowitzki, Dampier, Jones and Harris was the Mavs’ 10th of the season.
• Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 31 points (12-24 FGs, 1-4 3FGs, 6-6 FTs). Tonight’s was his 5th game with 30+ points. The Mavs improved to 3-2 when Nowitzki scores above 30.
• Orlando remains winless at American Airlines Center (0-7). In addition, the Mavericks have won the last 10 in Dallas.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,114 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 247 consecutive regular season games at AAC.
• Tonight also marked the 285th 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.

Eddie Jones returns to starting 5

Eddie Jones returned to the starting lineup after a 17-game absence tonight. Should things go well, expect to see Jones, Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki and Erick Dampier together for some time.

It was obvious this morning Jason Terry knew he was headed back to sixth man.

“You never know when it could happen, but I’m ready,” he said slyly. “I’m ready for whatever role they put me in. I embrace it. You have to do out there with a passion and love for the game, especially where we’re at now as a team. Everyone is healthy now. We really want to put this thing together and get a good rhythm.”

Terry thrived off the bench, averaging 17.4 points through the first 14 games. He averaged a bucket less (15.4) in 11 games as a starter.

“Definitely successful,” he said of his duties as sixth man. “I wouldn’t see it being a problem if I had to go back there and do it again. I’ll be ready.”

Ager headed to D-League Tulsa

There’s one less body in the Mavs’ locker room tonight, while the roster of the Tulsa 66ers gained an NBA-experienced shooting guard. Moe Ager was assigned to Dallas’ NBDL affiliate in Oklahoma today.

Ager will be joining rookie forward Nick Fazekas in Tulsa. Ager, in his second year, needs to get some playing time. He’s played just 61 minutes this season.

“I don’t have any minutes for him,” Avery Johnson said. “There are a lot of guys ahead of him.”

The swingman list includes Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Eddie Jones and Devean George. It also doesn’t help that Jason Terry is currently playing alongside Devin Harris.

Fazekas, by the way, appears to be gaining valuable experience with the 66ers, averaging 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Johnson gives Southern commencement

Any chance he gets, Avery Johnson speaks warmly of his alma mater Southern University. Earlier this month, he had the distinct honor and privilege to speak to Southern University.

The experience proved moving for all those involved.

“It was a thrill being invited to be part of the commencement ceremony,” Johnson said. “I’ve never done that type of deal before. I’ve done a lot of other motivation speeches for small groups and big groups, but this was special.

“I just wanted to give the graduates an encouraging and challenging message for this next stage of where they’re going. This is the next level. The next step on the ladder.”

Johnson has climbed many. The New Orleans native made quite an impact on the Southern’s basketball program before graduating in 1988. In two seasons with the Jaguars, Johnson was named Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year and MVP of the conference tournament. He led the NCAA in assists twice, with his 13.3 assists average as a senior still standing as a Division I record.

Southern has asked Johnson to speak to its graduating class since retiring from the NBA in 2004 after 16 seasons, but his schedule with the Mavericks didn’t work out until this season. Johnson happily returned to the Felton G. Clark Activity Center, the same building he starred in two decades ago, on Dec. 7 to deliver the commencement address to 535 graduates and more than 4,000 attendees.

“I wanted to talk from the heart,” he said. “I don’t like really giving speeches, per se. I like to just talk from experience. I mixed in some stories from my time at Southern and even mixed in one NBA story. I wanted to talk to them about something that’s simple yet powerful that they can understand.”

As someone well versed in excelling in the face of long odds, Johnson’s speech had a direct message.

“I talked to them about how to help the ‘inner me’ – i-n-n-e-r-m-e – defeat the ‘enemy’ – e-n-e-m-y,” said Johnson, spelling out both phrases for full effect. “The enemy that’s waiting for them post-graduation, they’re going to need some tools to try to help defeat that enemy. But they’ve got to deal with themselves first. They’ve got to work on themselves first.

“I talked to them about doing what they’ve already done by educating themselves and having high expectations and eliminating some people in their circle that don’t need to be there, and just enjoying the ride.”

Johnson’s ride back to Baton Rouge campus home wasn’t too bad, either. In addition to donning the cap-and-gown for the first time since his own graduation – “That was pretty strange,” he said. “I felt like I was a professor,” – he received an honorary doctorate in Humane Studies. Just call him Dr. General.

“It was just an overall great day,” Johnson said. “To see so many kids that watched me when I played, because I retired so recently, they still wanted to talk about my playing days. They wanted to know about Dirk. They wanted to know about Mark Cuban. How’s the Jet doing? It’s nice that they really follow our team.”

Johnson has never stopped following Southern.

Getting closer to Mavs basketball

Jason Terry was asked if the Mavs view the three-game homestand starting tonight as the light at the end of the tunnel. It does, after all, complete an exhausting stretch of 19 games in 32 days that featured five back-to-backs and never more than one day off at a time.

Terry, though, sees it as another beginning.

“It’s another five-game stretch that we’re trying to put together,” he said. “The last one was decent, but it wasn’t quite up to our expectations. So we start one off tonight and we know what we have to do.

“We know what we have to do on defense. We know the rating we have to achieve to be successful. We know offensive we have to play with movement, swing ball and get out in transition, so the goals are there. Everybody is on the same page and now we can really see what we’re capable of doing as a team.”

Inconsistency was the catchword for the first 20 games. The Mavs set goals for the last five games, Nos. 21-25 on the schedule, and emerged 4-1. There appears to be progress, especially in the last two games.

The Mavs held New Orleans and Houston to an average of 81.5 points. Offensively, Avery Johnson pointed to better ball movement, spacing and scoring balance.

“It’s fun to watch the way the ball has been moving,” he said. “It seems like it’s energized us more, even on the defensive end.”

So are they finally playing Maverick basketball?

“It’s closer,” Johnson said. “We’d still like to score 100, but when teams have been getting in the low 80s, we’ll take that any day. We’ve been having energy, too. We’ve been really alert.”

Dwight Howard leads Magic into AAC

The Celtics are stealing all the headlines, especially in the Eastern Conference, and rightfully so. But the team invading American Airlines Center tonight ain’t looking too shabby.

The Orlando Magic (17-8) currently leads the Southeast Division by a healthy three games. Dwight Howard has to be part of the MVP discussion. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu are filling it up from downtown, and Jameer Nelson is running the point effectively when he’s not running his mouth.

You’d think the Magic would have the Mavs’ undivided attention.

“I haven’t watched any film on that team, so I don’t know how those guys are playing,” Erick Dampier deadpanned this morning. “I’m sure they’re a pretty good team, so we just have to go out and play the way we’ve been playing and hopefully we’ll come out victorious.”

Seriously, Dampier and Co. know what they’re up against, particularly inside. Saturday it was Houston’s Yao Ming, the best center in the West, and now it’s Howard, the top dog out East. Howard is averaging 23.7 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

“It’s a different challenge,” Dampier said. “He’s a little bit more athletic than Yao. They throw a lot of lobs to him. He’s able to go up there and finish. He’s not as big as Yao, so he’s a little easier to try and push out of the paint.”

It can’t be that easy. Howard is a taller Amare Stoudamire pre-knee surgery.

“He’s playing on an MVP-type level this year, scoring inside, making his short shots, really a big presence on the defensive end clogging up the paint [and] running the floor,” Avery Johnson said. “Looks like he’s having a lot of fun.”

What the Mavs had to say in Houston

(on his team's play against Houston)
"We've won a few games and made a few more shots against a very good basketball team. Our players have taken a defensive challenge the last two games. The Rockets are a very good defensive team and when Yao sits in the lane he makes it tough for us to score."

(on the key to his team's success)
"We need 4, 5 and 6 guys that can consistently get double figures for us. We thought Dampier battled Yao all game. We feel we want to be more physical and our guys are getting it. They know what we do well when we win and we have a plan of attack that we need to stick to. Stackhouse played with emotion on both ends of the court and has lit a fire for our team."

(on Dallas' improved play)
"It's about time. It's December now and there has to be a sense of urgency and the last two games there has been some progress. We're pressing too much and we don't need to worry but to just go out and have fun. You can't get too high or too low because it is a long season."

(on the Rockets and Dallas' recent advantage over them)
"They are a good team and bring out the best in us. It is a fun match-up. All the teams in Texas are good. It seems like every game can go any way and the bounces have gone our way more often.

(on the key to the game)
"Devin Harris was really a key making those 3's for us in the third quarter."

(on the difference in Dallas' play)
"We are bringing more of a swagger on defense and we're taking pride on both ends of the court. Coach pointed it out to us. He let us play for 20 games our way and then he took over. More than anything, we're just attacking for 48 minutes."

(on his 2nd half shooting)
"I made some shots. They started Tracy on me and I came out and hit my shots and it was down hill from there."

(on Dallas' play)
"It's so much easier when you have 4 or 5 guys who can get the job done. We are taking one thing at a time and we have to get better each game.Then we can take it to the next level. The energy is the most important thing."

(on the team's recent play)
"It's all about energy and having fun. We put too much pressure on ourselves. We need to create our own enthusiasm and our guys need to be talking to each other and we are responding."

(on his play)
"I'm making a conscious effort to bring more energy and to get our team going. We still have room to grow and we are getting better."

(on the difference when the game was tied at 51)
"We got aggressive and started putting more pressure on them. Then it was a matter of closing out the game. We set our defensive strategy better and we were more aggressive."