Saturday, January 5, 2008

Less practice doesn’t mean less work

The Mavericks left Dallas after having a basketball version of a football walk-through on the American Airlines Center practice court. The light Saturday afternoon session, which also included film study, is another example of the team’s evolving practice strategy.

There’s a time to go hard and a time to pull back. The Mavs (22-11) and their three-game winning streak head into a Sunday afternoon date at Minnesota, so Saturday was one of those pulling-back times.

“We’re a smart, veteran team,” said Jerry Stackhouse, who’s often on a limited practice schedule. “Even though we have practice and we’re in there, not the whole practice is about running and wearing guys’ legs out.

“Sometimes it’s just a mental day where we’re going over coverages and things that we’re looking to do in the next game. It’s not as taxing as pounding and pounding. Some days it’s just about focus.”

This version of the Mavs doesn’t respond well those grueling, three-hour workouts, coach Avery Johnson has learned. They once did, but with a nucleus and system in place for several years, it’s no longer necessary.

“Practice? We’re talking about practice,” Devin Harris quipped, summoning his inner Allen Iverson.

Read the rest of this note, get updated injury news, check in on Trenton Hassell and Dirk Nowitzki, plus a look at the Timberwolves in today’s notebook at

Damp stays in Dallas, Stack off to Minny

Erick Dampier (swollen left knee) isn’t making today’s trip to Minnesota, while Jerry Stackhouse (sprained right thumb) is on the plane. Stackhouse is wearing a brace, but reports the thumb feels better than it did last night when he jammed it in the first half.

Stack is in good spirits. The plate of Popeye’s fried chicken covered with hot sauce on his lap probably has something to do with that.

Notables from 94-89 win vs. Heat

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas trailed 76-79 with 8:59 to go in the 4th. The Mavs then used an 8-3 run lasting until the 5:28 mark to take an 85-82 lead.

• Jerry Stackhouse did not play in the 2nd half (sprained right thumb).
• Erick Dampier was inactive for tonight’s game (left knee effusion).
• With 24 points, Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks in scoring for the 8th consecutive game.
• Eddie Jones set season-highs in the following categories: points (17), FGM (5), FGA (9), 3FGM (5), 3FGA (7), FTM (2), FTA (2, tied), steals (2).
• Tonight’s starting lineup of Howard, Nowitzki, Diop, Jones, Harris improved to 2-0.
• The Mavs improved to 9-1 when holding their opponent under 90 points.
• For Miami, neither Shaquille O’Neal (left hip bursitis) nor Dwyane Wade (bruised shoulder) dressed tonight.
• Miami’s Daequan Cook made the 1st start of his career tonight – replacing Wade at the 2 spot. He played a season-high 36 minutes and finished with 10 points.
• Dallas improved to 1-2 when allowing all 5 opposing starters to finish in double figures.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,357 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 253 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 291 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 hold on to nip Heat

The Mavericks couldn’t have expected to be in that position, needing to make two stops in the final 15 seconds to hold off the injury-ravaged Miami Heat. But that’s exactly where they were Friday night before 20,357 anxious bodies at American Airlines Center.

The Mavs did summon up enough for a solid defensive stand and a steal, preserving an unexpectedly-tough 94-89 victory over the Eastern Conference’s last-place team. Dallas (22-11) has won three straight and eight of 10, while Miami (8-25) dropped its sixth in a row.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Josh Howard, a crucial part of the late stand. “They’re an NBA team. We had a tough three quarters and were able to bring it together in the fourth.”

Friday, January 4, 2008

Stack hurt and likely isn't back

Jerry Stackhouse likely won’t return after straining his right thumb in the first half. His absence could mean more second-half time for Devean George, who played three minutes in the first half. Actually, Trenton Hassell played his first significant minutes since mid-December with Stackhouse sidelined.

D-League update: Barea is Tulsa bound

Moe Ager and Nick Fazekas are both performing admirably at D-League Tulsa, according to Avery Johnson.

“Ager has been pretty good,” Johnson said. “He had one little game where he didn’t shoot the ball well, but he’s been very competitive, working really hard.”

As for Fazekas: “Not shooting the ball as well from 3 as we would like, but he’s rebounded pretty good and he’s passed the ball pretty good,” Johnson said.

Johnson plans to bring one of them back soon, likely Ager, and send JJ Barea to Tulsa. Barea may have been assigned already had Dampier not gotten hurt.

Wade & Shaq out

Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal won’t be in the starting lineup, much to the dismay of ESPN and many of those packing AAC tonight. Miami is trotting out Ricky Davis, Udonis Haslem, Mark Blount, Chris Quinn and Daequan Cook as its starting 5. That looks like an 8-24 team.

Wade and Shaq are on the active roster, so at least they’ll be sitting on the bench in warm-ups. Scratch that. Both are wearing suits.

Damp out, Gana to start

Erick Dampier’s sore left knee (officially called an effusion) will sideline the center tonight. Gana Diop will start in his place.

Dampier bumped knees with another player, he wasn’t sure which one, Wednesday against Golden State. Avery Johnson said previously that he thought Dampier was fine, even teasing him at practice yesterday.

“I thought he was,” Johnson quipped. “That shows you I’m not a trainer.”

Dampier was coming off his first back-to-back double-figure scoring games this season. He’s officially listed as day-to-day. X-rays were taken, which came back negative. He isn’t experiencing any pain, just the swelling.

“It should be OK,” said Dampier, who expects to play Sunday at Minnesota. “Nothing serious.”

Diop is starting for the first time since Nov. 26. He’s been doing extra work before games lately – shooting drills with Popeye Jones and strength/cardio drills with Robert Hackett.

“I needed to stay in shape for situations like this,” Diop said.

Ask Art Garcia is operational

We’ve been working on some technical glitches, but my first mailbag is up. Thanks to everyone out there who sent in questions and I promise that the next batch will be up a lot sooner. Here’s a sample of a couple of the questions.

I would like to know what happened to Del Harris? We don’t see him on the bench this year. Did he retire? Change teams? I’m sure we’ve been told already on a broadcast, but somehow I missed it. Would love to know.
– Naheed, Fort Worth
Good ole Del is still a part of the Mavericks family. He’s a team consultant and still comes to a number of games. Basically, if Mark Cuban or Donnie Nelson or any of the coaches need another viewpoint on anything, Del is around to offer his insight and experience. Though he decided to take the year off from coaching, he hasn’t retired.

What has happened to DeSagana Diop? During the summer he played to improve on offense. In the preseason and during November he was the starter. Now he only plays garbage time. What happened besides Dampier getting healthy?
– Alan, Dallas
Erick Dampier getting healthy is a big part of that. Avery Johnson has always said the Mavs are a better team with Damp in the starting lineup if Damp is playing to his strengths (rebounding, shot-blocking and the ability to finish). Lately, we’ve seen some of that. As for Gana, he did start the season strong before fading a bit. The ability of Brandon Bass playing center, especially against smaller teams like Phoenix and Golden State , has also cut into Gana’s time. The Mavs will need Gana at some point this season to be productive, regardless of how long he’s on the court.

Going for two in a row

Winning seven of the last nine games doesn’t interest Avery Johnson too much. Putting together a complete effort at both ends of the court in Wednesday’s win over Golden State and getting some carryover against Miami is top of mind right now.

“I’m just interested to see how we’re going to play tonight,” he said. “Are we going to get back on defense with the same urgency? Are we going to rebound with the same urgency? Are we going to move the ball and swing the ball at the same rate? I’m looking to see if we can put together two games.”

Redemption Week continues

Golden State left AAC a couple nights back with a loss, bringing us to Miami. I don’t have to remind anyone, but I will anyway, that those are the last two teams to bounce the Mavs from the postseason. The Heat, limping into town at 8-24, hardly resembles that championship squad of 2006.

“They’ve gotten off to a little bit of a tough start this season,” Jerry Stackhouse said this morning. “We’re starting to play the type of basketball that we’re accustomed to playing, but I think they’re rounding into shape. Obviously, with this being the Finals matchup of a couple years ago, it always has a little bit more excitement than a normal regular-season game.

“We’re just going to approach it with the mind set that it’s a new season, we’re 1-0 to start the New Year and we’re just trying to build from that. I don’t we’re going to feed into all of the subplots. If you look at their record, they’re struggling, but we know they’re a very dangerous team, and very well can come in here and play a great game and force us to be on our ‘A’ game.”

Dwyane Wade is enough to get anyone’s attention.

“Whenever you have a guy who demands double coverage, you’re at the mercy of the other guys on the floor,” Stackhouse added. “You’ve got to try to rotate to guys that are more dangerous than others and try to force the ball to go into areas that you want it to go to, where guys are not used to taking and making shots.”

Avery Johnson’s take on Wade: “He milks the free-throw line.” We remember.

Planning for the complete Heat

The injury report for Miami reads like this: Shaquille O’Neal (left hip bursitis), Alonzo Mourning (torn right patella & quadriceps tendon), Jason Williams (left knee inflammation) and Dorell Wright (sprained left ankle).

So do the Mavs gameplan any differently knowing the Heat aren’t at full strength?

“We always plan on everybody being in,” Avery Johnson said this morning. “I got tricked on that my first year of coaching about a guy not being in. So we’re planning for Wade, Shaq, Jason Williams. We’re planning for Dorell Wright and he didn’t even make the trip. That’s how we do it.”

Who was the culprit in that first-year lesson? Tracy McGrady.

“Then he all of the sudden played and had 30,” Johnson said.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Eddie Jones looks to pass first

Don’t judge Eddie Jones strictly by raw stats. If you do, you won’t get much to work with.

“My priority is to get something easy for guys,” Jones said Thursday after practice. “I know the importance of easy baskets in order to attain success.”

That’s how Mavericks coach Avery Johnson is rating the performance of his starting shooting guard. Jones may not be filling up the boxscore on a nightly basis, but he’s contributing. Even if you don’t notice it.

“Eddie has been one of good facilitators right now,” Johnson said. “He’s one of our better passers. He’s been initiating plays for us. That’s really been a delight.”

Read the rest of his note and more in today’s notebook at

The General wasn't too sore to practice

Avery Johnson poked a little fun at Erick Dampier, who didn’t participate fully in today’s practice. Dampier experienced some swelling in his knee after last night’s win.

“I’m disappointed with Damp today because he didn’t practice because he had a little soreness in his leg area,” Johnson cracked. “I went to the dentist this morning and I have soreness, but I still practiced. So no comment about Damp.”

Dampier expects to play tomorrow night against Miami.

“I’m sure it’s going to be better as I rest overnight,” he said.

As for the dental visit, Johnson was told to stop screaming and grinding his teeth. You know, the latter is usually a sign of stress.

“Turnovers will do that to you,” Johnson shot back without missing a beat.

AJ: Mavs don't get enough credit

Less than two years removed from its NBA title, Miami is scraping the bottom of the Eastern Conference barrel. How does a team sink so far so fast? Injuries, change and apathy are probably the leading reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum are teams such as the Mavs, who haven’t had a serious drop in performance since returning to the playoffs at the start of the century. Avery Johnson compared his team’s lack of recognition to Dirk Nowitzki, who was crucified for his performance against Golden State in the playoffs.

“We seem to not get enough credit for a lot of stuff that we’ve done,” Johnson said. “The tendency is to point to the negative. Dirk, obviously, we had some issues last year, but I don’t know if enough was being made of what he did last night. If he hadn’t played well, I guarantee you we would have heard more about that.

“Even with what we’ve been able to do after losing in the Finals, which is disappointing, but we’ve still be able to survive and keep this thing intact. To follow up that season with 67 wins, that’s nothing to be ashamed about and we’re still above water now. That’s a testimony to these guys working hard.”

All-Star voting: Dirk sits 3rd

Reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki is still third in All-Star voting among Western Conference forwards, trailing leader Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony. The top two get starting the nods.

Nowitzki has made the last seven All-Star teams, but has yet to be voted in as a starter. He did start last year as an injury replacement.

“There should be a great sense of appreciation for what he does,” Avery Johnson said recently. “He’s been really consistent. He’s been one of the most criticized star players in a long time. There are a lot of other star players that haven’t achieved nearly what this young man has achieved individually and their teams.

“But for some reason or another they’ve been able to get a pass. People that really know the game, coaches and fans, they have a sense of appreciation for what he does night-in and night-out, and what he’s done so far over his career.”

You can vote for Nowitzki and the other Mavs on the ballot (Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry and Erick Dampier) at, where you can win daily prizes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nowitzki scores 29 as Mavs outrun Warriors

The schmoes were back and they were up to their old tricks. It’s just the Mavericks have learned a few of their own since last summer.

A multi-pronged attack led by Dirk Nowitzki’s 29 points trumped Golden State, as Dallas outran the Warriors 121-99 Wednesday night before 20,176 fans at a sold out American Airlines Center. The Mavs (21-11) have beaten last year’s playoff nemesis twice in two meetings this season.

“If we play like that all the time, we’re going to be tough to beat,” Devin Harris said.

Anytime the Mavs and Warriors lock horns, there’s a little extra something in the air. Just like when San Antonio, Phoenix or any of the other contenders come calling.

Notables from 121-99 win vs. Warriors

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas outscored Golden State 11-0 to start the 4th quarter after the Warriors had to within 4 points (89-85) to end the 3rd quarter. Between the 12:00 and 9:37 marks of the 4th quarter, the Mavericks used the run to go up 100-85.

• The Mavs improved to 2-0 vs. Golden State on the season. The Mavs hadn’t won 2 games in the same season since 2004-05 when they won the season series 3-1.
• With 29 points (9-16 FGs, 3-4 3FGs, 8-8 FTs), Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks in scoring for the 7th consecutive game.
• Erick Dampier scored 13 points after contributing 12 points in the win over ATL (12/29). The last time he had consecutive games of 10+ points was in Mar., 2007 (10 @ NY on 3/20; 13 @ CLE on 3/21).
• Josh Howard recorded his 6th double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds (12 DR). The Mavs improved to 5-1 when he has a 10/10 game.
• Brandon Bass recorded the 2nd double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 rebounds. His 1st double-double was @ GS (11/8/07) when he had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
• Bass had not scored in double figures since recording 18 points @ SA (12/5). In fact, over the last 8 games in which he’s appeared, he was averaging just 3.2 points per game.
• Golden State forward Al Harrington scored 14 1st quarter points, meeting his season average of 14.4 points per game. He scored 20 of his 21 points in the 1st half.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,172 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 252 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 290 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.

Bass and rotation in flux

By all accounts, Brandon Bass has had a breakout season. He’s already played more minutes, scored more points and grabbed more rebounds than during his two seasons with the Hornets combined.

But has the bruising big man hit a wall? Not so much a physical one. The expectations of being a contributor on a contending team, plus the increased attention from the opposition, could be wearing on Bass a bit.

He won’t admit it, of course.

“I don’t really know,” Bass said. “I’m just trying to take care of what I can take care of. That’s just getting better at what I need to improve on the court. I watch myself on film. I see the things I can improve to help this team. That’s what I’ve got to do.”

He registered his first DNP-Coach’s Decision in Saturday’s win over Atlanta. In the previous 11 games, his highest-scoring game was six points (twice). Before that he reached double figures in eight of nine games.

Read the rest of this note and more in tonight’s Mavs-Warriors notebook at

Baron Davis: Mavs are "soft"

Warriors guard Baron Davis called the Mavs “soft” back in November. That label was common during the Nellie years. You don’t hear it much these days, but you can count on guys like Charles Barkley throwing it out from time-to-time.

Davis’ words were brought up this morning by TV’s Gina Miller, giving the Mavs a chance, as Jules once said, to retort.

“I know, as myself, that I’m not,” Josh Howard said. “I know as a team, we’re not. It’s just something that he said. By us getting a win tonight, it’s going to help all of that even more so. I see through that. I’m a bigger person and I’m just going to keep playing my game.”

Jason Terry: “Say what he’s going to say. It’s all going to be proven on the court tonight.”

More New Year’s Resolution thoughts

The General was asked if he had any personal changes in store for ’08. He compared the situation to the NBA’s practice of sending out those points-of-emphasis emails on rule changes.

“I just want them to enforce the ones they have,” he said. “So I’m not going to try to give you any new Avery Johnson Rules, I’m just going to enforce the ones I already have. Like I need to work out more, I need to eat fried shrimp and oysters less. I just want to enforce the ones I already have.”

Josh Howard chimed in with: “Stay healthy, stay out of trouble and win a championship.”

Come on down: G-State and Miami

Speaking of TV shows (previous post), the rest of the week at home sets up as This is Your Life. The two visitors this week – Golden State tonight and Miami on Friday – knocked Dallas out of the playoffs the last two summers.

“That’s something that we have to deal with, but right now we’re in 2008,” Avery Johnson said this morning. “Any of that stuff that happened was in ’07 or ’06, and we’re a different team in a lot of ways and we’re the same team in some ways with some of the guys that we have here.

“We just have to go out and defend and rebound and play good transition defense and move the ball on offense and play our game. When we play at the top of our game, we’re pretty hard to beat.”

As far as the Warriors go, is it just another game?

“It is because we’re playing Golden State,” Josh Howard said. “It’s a game. All that stuff that happened last year in the playoffs, it’s still there, but you have to grow and move on. I’m taking this as a challenge.”

So it’s more than a game?

“We have every reason to look at every game as not just a regular season game,” Johnson said. “There’s always something at stake against some team, but obviously when you play against a team that you didn’t play well against regular season or playoffs, it’s definitely something that you have in the back of your mind.”

Confused? You shouldn’t be. It all makes sense somehow.

Birth of a broadcasting career?

Though you won’t see Austin Croshere on the floor tonight when the Warriors visit AAC, you can hear the former Mavs forward on Golden State’s radio broadcast. Well, if you have satellite radio.

Anyway, Croshere is making his debut as a color commentator for the Mavs-Warriors tilt. He was asked yesterday if he wanted to do it and initially said no. They kept asking and he finally submitted.

“I’m doing it for a quarter,” he told me. “After that I’ll decide if I want to keep going or they’ll decide for me.”

Cro is currently out with a lower back strain. For those who don’t know him, he’s one of the best guys in the league. Though we talked plenty of basketball during his one season in Dallas, we must have spent as much time discussing our theories on Lost and 24. I’m sure I’ll sneak over to his courtside perch tonight for a listen.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions

A week back or so, we brought you a few Christmas wishes from the Mavs. So how about those New Year’s resolutions? I need to work out more, but don’t most of us? Here’s what a few guys had to say today:

Avery Johnson: “We just want to come out and play hard and fight, and just be mentally and physically tough, and forget about the past and at the same time there’s some lessons we can learn from the past that we don’t want to duplicate.”

Jerry Stackhouse: “I want to try to be a better dad and husband.”
“And try to cut down on the technicals.”

Dirk Nowitzki: “Just more of the same. We’ve got all of the pieces we need. We just need to be a little tougher.”

Uncommon link: Nowitzki and Jackson

Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t need to be reminded of the defensive job Stephen Jackson and the rest of the Golden State Warriors did against him in the playoffs.

Nowitzki is well aware of Jackson’s impact.

“He’s great,” Nowitzki said of the 6-foot-8 swingman who guarded him throughout the first-round playoff series.

“I think they started the season 0-6 or 0-7 and he comes back, he’s like the glue to their team. He’s good defensively, he spreads the floor for them and he does a lot of little things for them. He’s found a perfect fit there for him in Golden State.”

Golden State did start the season 0-6, mostly because Jackson was serving a league-mandated suspension. His return sparked a resurgence, helping the Warriors win 18 of 25 heading into a New Year’s Eve date at Houston.

Golden State visits American Airlines Center on Wednesday, as the Mavericks get back to work following a three-day layoff. Dallas (20-11) practiced the first two days – “Two of the better practices that we’ve had in a long time,” coach Avery Johnson said Monday – before having New Year’s Day off.

Read the rest of Uncommon link: Nowitzki and Jackson at

Nellie: Same song, different verse

The storyline may seem tired to some, but it inevitably comes up whenever the Mavs face one of their old compatriots. First it was Steve Nash and then Michael Finley. Now, of course, it’s Don Nelson, who brings his Warriors to town Wednesday.

“You saw the same thing with Steve and Mike now in San Antonio,” Dirk Nowitzki said today. “After a while you just get over it. The first couple matchups are always weird and different to see your friends and people you worked with in another uniform, but after a while it gets older and you understand this league is a business too.

“Things change and people change, and you just have to go through it. It’s always good to see Nellie. I owe him a lot, obviously. I had a great time while he was here, but now he’s on a different team and we’re trying to win the game.”

Avery Johnson compared facing Nellie to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

“It’s some of the same feelings,” Johnson said. “I was Nellie’s assistant head coach here. He gave me an awful lot of string and room to grow. We spent a lot of time talking a lot about the game behind the scenes. He’s coached me twice. It’s some of the same feelings. He’s been awfully good to a lot of coaches and I’m one of them.”

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Finding the right mix from downtown

Too much of anything usually isn’t a good thing. While that may serve as a valuable holiday reminder, the purposes of this discussion revolve around life outside the arc.

The 3-point shot has long been a favorite weapon for the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry have been among the league’s best shooters from that distance. Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse have the green light from downtown. Eddie Jones, in his first season in Dallas, has made more than 1,500 3-pointers in his career.

But letting them fly without regard is akin to drinking a gallon of eggnog at one sitting. It’s typically not pretty.

“There’s a fine line,” coach Avery Johnson said Sunday afternoon after practice. “Even with our good 3-point shooters, I want them to first think about getting to the basket. My whole thing is and our whole system is how do we get points in the paint? Especially being a team that’s not a big-time post-up team, we have to get points at the basket with penetration.”