Friday, February 8, 2008

Gana focused from start

Gana Diop wasn’t in the locker room during the 45-minute media availability prior to hosting the Grizzlies. Asked why on his way out to the court minutes before tip, he just pointed to his head and mouthed one word.


The subject of dwindling minutes and inconsistent play in the eyes of his coach, Diop was pressed back into the starting lineup with Erick Dampier hurt. The starter center for the last two months had to sit with sprained right ankle.

Mavericks coach Avery Johnson took Diop aside Friday morning before the team’s shootaround to deliver a pep talk. Or at least Johnson’s version of a pep talk.

“He’s going to have to be ready to play and when he gets out there he’s going to have to make his presence felt, especially with blocking shots,” Johnson explained. “We can’t afford to have teams come down the middle on us, especially when he’s in the game.

“He has to hard foul, he has to block the shot, really contest the shot, hopefully they’ll miss it, and rebound for us. That’s his primary job. I think sometimes he puts a little too much pressure on himself finishing offensively inside rather than defending the paint.”

Diop started the first 14 games of the season, as Dampier recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. He averaged 7.8 rebounds and 3.9 points before Dampier rejoined the first team. Diop started another couple of games in early January with Dampier out.

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