Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Johnson: “Renewed energy and emotion”

Jason Kidd not only brings a different look to the team, there’s a different energy. You can see it in Dirk Nowitzki’s fist-pumping enthusiasm, Erick Dampier’s focus at both ends and, without being too corny, this undercurrent of joy each time the Mavericks step onto the hardwood.

“Our team has a lot of renewed energy and emotion,” Avery Johnson said recently. “And again, I saw it in our losses. Not just in the wins.”

The Mavs are a veteran group, with 11 players at least 29-years-old, so this isn’t exactly that youthful we’ve-never-been-here-before enthusiasm that’s enveloped teams such as New Orleans. It’s more of a what-we-can-become vibe.

“We’re a totally different team than we were a couple weeks ago when we made the trade,” Dampier said. “We’re a lot better now. The guys are more settled in. The guys are out there having fun.”

The Mavs also realize the opportunity that lies ahead. A sprint to the finish line – only 15 games remain – and it’s possible a top seed, if not the top seed, is there for the taking going into the playoffs.

Yes, the Mavs have to jump six teams, but they’re only 2 ½ games back of red-hot Rockets going into tonight.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We still have some adjusting to do to Jason and some of the new guys. [Tyronn] Lue is pretty new.

“So we feel if we can fly under the radar and get better from game to game, from practice to practice, that’s fine. Talk about everybody else and hopefully we can be a great team once the playoffs start.”

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