Saturday, March 22, 2008

Time to push, kick or hug?

Professional athletes are human, too. That’s not a news flash, even though their human side is sometimes taken for granted.

“Everybody has tough games from time to time, but the more you can encourage and try to pump guys up – we need it,” Jerry Stackhouse said Saturday afternoon. “It may not seem like it at 7:30 with some of the things that happen on the basketball court, but we’re human and sometimes we need a push and sometimes we need a kick and sometimes we need hug just like everybody else.”

These are push/kick/hug times for the Mavericks, but not necessarily desperate times. They realize the stakes and standings involved, especially with San Antonio coming up Easter Sunday at American Airlines Center, and relish the opportunity.

Backing down from a challenge isn’t in the vocabulary of Avery Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and the rest of a team fighting for its playoff life. The Mavs fully expect to be in the postseason tournament for the eighth consecutive season despite sitting seventh in the Western Conference.

That’s not to say disappointment and frustration are emotions absent from the scene. The record against winning teams with Kidd in town (0-7) has been repeated constantly, including heartbreaking losses to the Lakers and Celtics to open this homestand.

“It’s a big game Sunday,” Nowitzki said coming off a 22-point, 19-rebound effort in the 94-90 Boston loss. “That’s all you can say. We’ve got to bring it again and it’s not the time to let the frustration get the best of you. If you’re not frustrated right now then obviously you don’t care, so it’s good to be frustrated. Hopefully, we’ll take the anger out on Sunday.”

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