Saturday, December 29, 2007

Early to rise: Mavs clip Hawks

Waking up wasn’t an issue Saturday morning. Seizing the day and the game, the Mavericks shot down Atlanta 97-84 before a matinee crowd of 20,338 at American Airlines Center.

For a team ailing in several areas, the Mavs (20-11) helped themselves to brunch that Avery Johnson had to love. His team shot it, rebounded it, scored inside and defended.

“That team reminded me of a team that I coached here before,” Johnson said.

Erick Dampier set the tone with a two-handed dunk to open the game. Devin Harris followed with a driving layup, another sign that the Mavs were serious about getting to the basket.

The jumper was falling, too. Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki connected on consecutive 3-pointers on the next two possessions. The game was barely two minutes old and Dallas was up 12-0. The rout was on.

“I liked the focus early in the game,” Johnson said. “Our defense was really good early on. Sometimes it’s hard for me to give out compliments about our defense.”

Notables from 97-84 win vs. Hawks

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas opened on a 12-0 run over the first 2:17 of the game. The game was never tied. Atlanta got to within 6 points (76-82) with 4:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

• With 22 points, Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks in scoring for the 6th consecutive game.
• Erick Dampier was disqualified from the game after committing his 6th foul with 1:40 left, but not before earning his 1st double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Mavs improved to 52-9 all-time when Dampier scores 10+ points.
• Atlanta’s Acie Law, a Dallas native, scored a season-high 12 points (4-11 FGs, 4-5 FTs). (Previous high was 11 points, done twice)
• The Mavericks held Atlanta’s Joe Johnson to 17 points (6-18 FGs, 1-5 3FGs, 4-5 FTs) in today’s game. Into the game, he averaged 22.3 points per game.
• Hawks head coach Mike Woodson was hit with his 1st technical foul of the season (at the 7:17 mark of the 3rd quarter).
• Over the last 3 games, the Mavericks are shooting a combined 75.9% (66-87 FTs) from the free throw line.
• After going just 28.3% (13-46 3FGs) from beyond the arc over the last 2 games, Dallas hit 53.8% of its attempts today (7-13 3FGs). The Mavs were a perfect 5-5 3FG in the 1st quarter.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,338 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 251 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 289 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.

Johnson: “Aggression is always rewarded”

The Mavs haven’t fared too well in noon starts the last few years. But as Jerry Stackhouse pointed out, most of those games have been on the East Coast.

“Noon there is 11 for us,” he cracked in the locker room. “Noon is noon here.”

We’ll see if that one hour makes a difference today against Atlanta, which is looking for a season sweep. The streaking Hawks run out an impressive group of athletes led by Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Josh Smith.

“It’s an athletic team we’re playing so it’s important for us to maintain that energy,” Stackhouse continued. “But more than energy, the word for us is ‘aggressive.’”

Avery Johnson repeated as much during his pregame media session and it was also the theme of yesterday’s spirited film session. Whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end, Johnson wanted to stress one thing.

“Aggression is always rewarded,” Johnson said. “The teams that are aggressive, that foul hard, drive hard, rebound hard, play hard, teams that complain the least, to me, historically, I think they get rewarded.”

National anthem: Rockin’ with Roli

Those at American Airlines Center today are in store for a national anthem delivered Jimi Hendrix style by Dirk Nowitzki’s brother-in-law. Roli Mayer, married to Dirk’s sister Silke, is trotting out a borrowed guitar for his biggest gig to date.

Unless you’re Keith Richards – and Roli has done his share of Rolling Stones covers – it’s not often that you get to strut your stuff before 20,000. Roli is in town with many of Dirk’s relatives celebrating the holidays.

I listened to Roli warm up this morning and it should be a rockin’ good show. Dirk normally fidgets during the Star Spangled Banner. I’ve got a feeling he’ll be paying closer attention to this one, while trying to hide a smirk.

“Don’t remind me,” Dirk quipped minutes before the opening tip.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Notebook: Shooters keep shooting

Shooters shoot the ball. When they don’t make shots, what can shooters do?

“They keep shooting,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said Friday after practice. “They spend a little bit more time just trying to simplify things. They try to get to a spot or two and say, ‘Hey, just let me make it from this spot.’

“But more than that, they talk to their teammates about setting better picks to bring them up a little more. They just try to work themselves out of it. But a shooter never goes to sleep thinking he can’t shoot.”

Sleep probably hasn’t been easy for come by for Jason Terry the last couple of nights. The Jet nearly went seven scoreless quarters before finally getting a shot to fall late in the third quarter of Thursday’s 88-81 home loss to Cleveland.

Terry’s struggles during the two-game losing streak – 3 of 22 (13.7 percent) from the floor – mirror an overall issue going into Saturday’s noon start against Atlanta at American Airlines Center. The Mavs (19-11) can’t buy a basket right now, shooting just 39.3 percent in the back-to-back setbacks to Utah and Cleveland.

Read the rest of this note, a couple more and get a glimpse of the Hawks (tomorrow’s foe) in today’s notebook at

Notables from 88-81 loss to Cleveland

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas trailed 72-73 with 8:44 to go in regulation. Cleveland then ended the game on a 15-8 run through the end of the 4th quarter.

• Dirk Nowitzki finished with a season-high 20 rebounds (season-highs 16 DR, 4 OR). Tonight’s was his 6th game with 20+ rebounds. His last 20-rebounds game was vs. LAL on 4/3/03 when he came down with 22 boards. (Previous season-highs were 14 rebounds @ HOU on 11/21, 12 DR 2 times, 3 OR vs. PHO on 12/19)
• Nowitzki also had 19 points in the game for his team-leading 8th double-double.
• Cleveland’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas recorded his 15th double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
• The Mavericks fell to 0-4 when failing to shoot at least 40% from the field. Dallas shot just 36.5% FG (27-64 FGs). They also fell to 4-1 when holding an opponent below 40% shooting. Cleveland shot 36.4% FG (32-88 FGs).
• Over the last 2 games (0-2), the Mavs are producing just 85.5 points per game. They are allowing 93.5 points in that span.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,462 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 250 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 288 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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mavs can't find the range in Cavs loss

Much has been made of the improvement of the last three weeks and rightfully so. The Mavericks appeared to turn a corner from an uneven 20-game start with a consistent stretch of basketball since the first week of December.

Other than the last two nights.

Cleveland put the finishing touches on a back-to-back nightmare by handling Dallas 88-81 Thursday night at American Airlines Center. The Mavs (19-11) had a five-game winning streak snapped the previous night at Utah.

“All hell hadn’t broken loose because we lost two games in a row and we hadn’t played our best,” coach Avery Johnson cautioned.

But the two losses were particularly alarming considering how the Mavs lost. Cleveland’s domination inside eclipsed what the Jazz did. The Cavaliers enjoyed a 42-20 points-in-the-paint advantage less than 24 hours after Utah held a 16-point edge in the same category.

“That’s not our game and something that we’re consistently addressing,” said Johnson, who picked up a technical 22 seconds into the game.

Gana working to stay positive

Gana Diop hasn’t played much lately. In fact, he’s failed to break 10 minutes in the last four games. Sure, he’s frustrated, but he’s continuing to work and trying not to get too down.

“I’ve been through a lot worse in Cleveland,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready and be a pro about it. You can’t worry about what the coach is trying to do. This is a great team. You can’t beat this.”

Diop admits that at night it does get to him. He started the first 14 games of the season and averaged 7.6 rebounds through November. Instead of sulk, he’s decided to work harder. Beginning at Utah last night, Diop has done extra work – cardio and drills with strength coach Robert Hackett – before the game.

“Anybody who didn’t play, it would be upsetting,” Diop said. “I can’t control that. That’s up to coach. I just have to keep working.”

LeBron: Passing since birth

As a former point guard, Avery Johnson can appreciate a good passer. LeBron James rates far above “good” in Johnson’s book.

“He’s a fantastic passer,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the best passers in the league. His court vision, to have it at this age, he’s head and shoulders above a lot of players the way he can pass the ball.

“That’s really a lost art in our game these days, just being able to make good quality on-time, on-target passes. That’s what I see in his game.”

I asked Johnson if that kind of passing ability can be taught or is it instinctual (Side note: A fellow media member chided me after about using “instinctual.” “Try spell checking it,” he quipped. Well, it got through.)

Anyway, Johnson said that court vision/improved passing can be taught, but different players pick it up at different rates. Dirk Nowitzki is a good example of one working on his passing skills. Johnson also pointed out that LeBron has grown up recognizing the value of sharing the ball.

“He’s been double-teamed probably since he was a baby, right?” Johnson said, drawing laughs from the media. “And then there’ve been other players that couldn’t shoot that tried to make it as a passer, if you know what I mean.”

Yes, we know. You did pretty good for yourself, Coach.

Eddie keeps his spot, George next option

Avery Johnson has no plans to replace Eddie Jones in the starting lineup with Devean George or anyone else … for now. Jones started last night’s loss in Utah, but played only four minutes, while George had his best game of the season with 13 points in 24 minutes off the bench.

“I’m pretty consistent with what I’ve been saying,” Johnson said during his pregame media session. “Right now I just want to give Eddie a look and see how it works. He hasn’t been in there for too long. He didn’t play too much last night, so hopefully he’ll have a lot of energy tonight. We want George to continue what he’s been doing.”

Johnson did admit that if he made a change that George “would be my next option.” George was effective in the starting lineup last season before getting injured.

Jones, George and Co. won’t have it easy tonight with Cleveland in town. The Mavs did limit LeBron James to 10 points in the 92-74 victory to open the season. Jones and Trenton Hassell chased James around most of that night.

“They tried to make it as difficult as they could,” Johnson said. “He missed some open shots. More than anything, we were trying to attack on the offensive end which got him in some foul trouble, which helped us.”

Dirk slips to third in All-Star voting

Tim Duncan’s move from center back to forward on the All-Star ballot has dropped Dirk Nowitzki to third among forwards in the Western Conference. Nowitzki is only about 35,000 votes behind Duncan, who trails leader Carmelo Anthony.

Here’s the complete look at the current results at There’s still plenty of time to vote for Dirk and the rest of the Mavs (Josh, Jet, Stack and Damp) on the ballot. For those of you interested in cool stuff, you can win daily prizes, including autographed jerseys, basketballs and tickets, by punching the ballot at You can vote every day through Jan. 20.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Utah snaps five-game streak by going inside

SALT LAKE CITY – Layups on one end, jumpers at the other. That’s the easy explanation for the Mavericks’ 99-90 loss at Utah and it isn’t that far off.

“You can definitely say that,” Devin Harris said. “The first quarter they were getting layups and dunks, and we didn’t score until the 6-minute mark taking jump shots. It took us too long to figure that out.”

The Jazz ran Jerry Sloan’s time-tested system for easy baskets time and time again Wednesday night inside EnergySolutions Arena, snapping the five-game winning streak of the jumper-happy Mavs.

Dallas (19-10) stayed within striking distance because of the outside shot, namely the 3-pointer. Dirk Nowitzki hoisted a season-high 10 from beyond the arc (made three) and the Mavs would make nine in all.

But the Jazz, losers earlier this month at Dallas, pounded their way to 44 points in the paint. Whether it was Carlos Boozer (21 points and nine rebounds) dunking or Deron Williams (17 points and 12 assists) flying through the lane, Utah made its living in close proximity to the rim.

“Too many,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said Utah’s layups. “That’s been an area of concern.”

Mavs-Jazz notes: Bigs and smalls

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s not difficult to figure out what happens when the point guards and centers bring it in the same game.

“We have a stat around here, when both of those plays well, we’re undefeated,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. “When one or the other plays well, we’re still capable of winning games.”

If it seems like an obvious observation, it is.

“That would be the case with any team,” point guard Devin Harris said. “If we knew why we don’t [always play well], we probably wouldn’t have lost a game yet.”

Johnson’s formula for “playing well” isn’t strictly based on numbers. He called it a combination of factors taking into account offensive and defensive play. A couple categories for Harris include scoring and breaking the defense down. Erick Dampier is partly graded on rebounding, blocking shots and being a threat inside.

No telling how back the undefeated stretch goes, but Harris and Dampier are both playing well lately. Harris went into Wednesday against Utah averaging 19 points in previous three games. Dampier pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked 4.0 shots in the previous two.

Read the rest of this note and more at

Making the climb

Dirk Nowitzki summed up the team’s slow start and recent improvement.

“The month of November was not ideal for us,” he said. “We lost a lot of games we feel we should have won. We even lost some games at home to Eastern Conference teams that we usually win, so I think that month of November left a lot of room for improvement.

“The month of December is a lot better so far. We’re a little sharper defensively, we’re moving the ball pretty good offensively and making shot. I think we’re slowly getting there where we want to be.”

The Mavs are 19-9 after winning seven of their last eight. Dallas will have its longest winning streak of the season (six) if it beats Utah tonight. Avery Johnson called the upswing part of the continual building process. Sort of like climbing that ladder or mountain.

“We’re right where I envisioned,” said the coach/prophet. “We actually got off to a little bit better start early in the season than what I anticipated. We’re right where we need to be and we still have some big areas of concern, some minor areas of concern and things we have to address on a daily basis. And we hope that day-by-day, month-by-month, week-by-week we can knock off an area and improve, and be playing our best ball at the right time.”

Dirk beating the double team

Dirk Nowitzki has run off three straight 30-point games going into tonight against Utah. The MVP is going to get double-teamed by the Jazz. Avery Johnson knows it. Nowitzki knows it. All those who brave the snow to pack the Tox Box (EnergySolutions Arena) know it, too.

Double teams aren’t necessarily passing situations for Nowitzki. As we’ve seen the last three games, Nowitzki can still make things happen when teams can send multiple defenders his way.

“Sometimes I’ve still got to find a way to get my shots off,” he said today after shootaround. “Usually by just waiting once I catch the ball and let the other team double-team me, sometimes I’ve got to quick shoot it, quick drive it and make something happen.”

Johnson said it’s a matter of being more aggressive. Split the double team, if possible. If he has to pass the ball out, call for it back.

“He’s not as easily double-teamed as he was earlier in the season,” Johnson said. “He trusts his teammates, but there are times we want him to go and make plays if there is a weak double team.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Wishes

Just a sampling of the Holiday sentiments from the Mavs to their fans:

Avery Johnson
“I just wish everyone in the family life can experience a lot of joy.”
“When you talk about celebrating the birth of Christ, for our family this is it.”
“Give more than you receive.”

Dirk Nowitzki
“Just stay positive with us. I hope we’ll get it done this year.”

Jerry Stackhouse
“My Christmas wish for Mavs fans is just to get to games a little earlier and get a little loud. I know we had a good run last year, but don’t get too spoiled.”

Stack sure isn’t. All he wants, and it doesn’t change from year to year, is socks and underwear. He also bought his mom a new washer and dryer. The simple things in life make a difference.

From everyone at Mavs Courtside View (me) and the Mavs family, have the happiest of Holidays.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reading the practice situation

Avery Johnson made an admission that one might not expect, but it isn’t too surprising. Now in his third full season as Mavericks coach, Johnson has learned that each team has its own personality.

Take the approach to practice for this particular version.

“We tried practicing this team a lot and they don’t respond well,” said Johnson, who had his jersey retired Saturday night in San Antontio. “When we first took over, that particular team, you could practice them morning, noon and night, and they would respond.

“This team is a little bit different. We’ve had to balance, maybe watch a little more film, maybe a little less practice, lift some weights, keep some guys fresh. That’s what managing is all about. I don’t even know if we are coaches. We’re managers.”

Read the rest of this story at