Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coaching ain't no picnic

Avery Johnson has a little advice for players, such as Clippers guard Sam Cassell, who want to get into coaching when their playing days are done.

“There’s no getting to the office at 10 o’clock for an 11 o’clock practice and then showering and going home,” Johnson said. “There’s no real turning it off. I was on vacation in Italy this summer drawing up plays on a napkin and my wife was asking me, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m getting ready for training camp.’ You don’t turn it off.”

It takes more than just knowing the game. The vast majority of league coaches are former players.

“Sometimes players that have played the game think it’s easy because they’ve played the game,” Johnson added, “but it’s not that easy because you have to know how to communicate and teach and manage.”

Streak in jeopardy?

The Mavs haven’t allowed 30 points in 14 consecutive quarters going into tonight. The Clippers could put that streak to the test.

“We’ve been pretty decent here at not giving up those big quarters,” Avery Johnson said, “and we’ve got to try to continue to do it because we’re playing against a very explosive team tonight that scored over 100 points in their last game against a pretty good Orlando team.”

Jet cleared to takeoff ... and start

Jason Terry moves back into the starting lineup tonight with Josh Howard out for personal reasons. Terry and Devin Harris open together in the backcourt for the 11th time this season, with Eddie Jones slipping down to Howard’s small forward slot.

Jerry Stackhouse figures to be the first guard off the bench. Look for either Devean George or Trenton Hassell to move into the rotation, as well.

Josh Howard out tonight

Josh Howard is not with the team today in Los Angeles and won’t play tonight against the Clippers. He was excused to attend to a personal matter and is scheduled to rejoin the squad tomorrow in Sacramento.

It will be the third missed game for Howard this season. He sat out the first two games serving a suspension. Howard scored 18 and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds in Friday’s win at Seattle.

Notables from 90-70 win vs. Sonics

• Dallas extended its winning streak against the Sonics to 11 games, including seven straight wins at KeyArena. That's the longest current win streak by the Mavericks against any opponent.
• Kevin Durant handed out a career-high six assists. Previously, Durant had handed out five assists twice, most recently Dec. 19 vs. New Orleans.
• Jeff Green tied his career high with three blocks (previously done Dec. 29 vs. Minnesota).
• Wally Szczerbiak (17 points) led the Sonics in scoring for the fifth time this season.
• Mavericks center Erick Dampier saw his franchise-record streak of consecutive field goals ended at 14 when he missed his first attempt of the game. Dampier's last miss had been on Dec. 27 vs. Cleveland.
• Josh Howard (18 points, 11 boards) recorded his seventh double-double.
• DeSagana Diop scored 10 points, tying his career high, most recently done Nov. 5 vs. Houston.
• The Sonics scored a season-low 70 points, their lowest total since 11/8/05 at Memphis, when they scored 69 points.
• The 70 points were also the fewest allowed by Dallas this season.
• The Mavericks grabbed at least 50 rebounds for the fourth time this season.
• The 13 Dallas assists were the fewest by a Sonics opponent this season and tied the season low for the Mavericks (previously at Portland 11/10).
• Seattle's 13 points were a low in the third quarter this season.
• The teams combined to shoot 15-for-48 (31.3%) in the first quarter.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mavs handle Sonics for sixth in a row

SEATTLE – Focused. No matter the opponent. No matter the situation. That’s what the Mavericks were looking for and that’s what they’re continuing to find.

The winning streak hit a season-high six, as Dallas picked Seattle apart in a 90-70 victory Friday night at KeyArena. The effort wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective in sending the reeling Sonics to their sixth consecutive loss.

“That’s the thing,” coach Avery Johnson said. “As long as we can come out and be focused, the uniforms change every night, but we’ve got to have consistent effort on defense and be focused.”

The Southwest Division-leading Mavs (25-11) struggled offensively at times. But they remained dogged at the other end, limiting Seattle to 35-percent shooting and putting the clamps on rookie sensation Kevin Durant.

Seattle’s leading scorer was blanketed all night by Josh Howard. Durant (15 points on 4-13 shooting) spent most of the game floating, and outside of six assists, had little impact on the proceedings.

Kitna in Jet's camp

Among the many in attendance here at KeyArena in Jason Terry’s corner is Detroit Lions quarterback John Kitna. Terry once served as a ball boy for Kitna, who starred at Lincoln High School in nearby Tacoma.

The two have remained friends. Maybe it’s their common passing bond. Point guards are hardwood quarterbacks after all.

Durant: The Franchise

The future of the Sonics in Seattle isn’t on the shoulders of rookie sensation Kevin Durant, but most everything else is. The Texas-ex is the cornerstone of the franchise at the ripe old age of 19.

“I would say he has the potential,” Avery Johnson said when asked if Durant is a franchise player. “It’s kind of hard to give guys that label. That’s a pretty big responsibility, but I’m assuming that’s why they drafted him thinking he can be that type of player.

“He’s really raw right now, still defining his game, but he’s further ahead of a lot of people at that age when they first came into the league, even if they came into the league at 23.”

There’s been talk that Durant has been frustrated lately by all the losing. Johnson said that’s natural considering where Durant was last year.

“It’s just the season itself,” Johnson said. “Even if they were winning more, it’s a long season for somebody who’s never experienced it. Where he is right now, it’s a college season and he’s got to play two more college seasons before the end of the season.

“It could be a long season for a player that hadn’t experienced it before, travel and if the team is not playing as well as you would want it to, it can get pretty long.”

Devin’s confident stroke

Devin Harris probably won’t ever be invited to the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend. That doesn’t mean the penetrating point guard doesn’t have long-distance range.

In the five games going into Friday at Seattle, Harris knocked down 5 of 9 from downtown. That’s a success rate of 55.5 percent from downtown.

“It’s just reading the defense,” Harris said. “Some teams I can get to the basket a little easier, sometimes I’ve got to open up with a jump shot or two to make them come out a little bit more and then go to the basket. I’m getting wide-open 3s. That’s what it is.

“If I hit a couple, it opens up. It’s over.”

Keeping a straight face, Avery Johnson stoically said he hasn’t seen Harris take a 3-pointer.

“The more he gets to the basket and breaks the defense down and makes his little mid-range shot – I’ve been seeing him be aggressive and take what the defense is giving him,” Johnson said. “His main job is to break the defense down and get points in the paint or get easy shots for our guys on the perimeter.”

Damp won't catch Wilt

A friend sent Erick Dampier a text with a little trivia attached: Wilt Chamberlain owns the NBA record for consecutive field goals made at 35. That record was set in 1967.

“That’s more than I thought,” Dampier said.

Dampier set the Mavs franchise record at 14 straight Wednesday against Detroit. Dampier’s streak covered three games, but ended with his first attempt against the Sonics.

Focused in Seattle

The Sonics have lost five straight and are ahead of just Minnesota in the Western Conference. Taking struggling teams lightly has been an issue at times (see: Miami), but the Mavs did dispose of the Timberwolves pretty handily earlier this week.

“That’s the thing,” Avery Johnson said minutes ago. “As long as we can come out and be focused, the uniforms change every night, but we’ve got to have consistent effort on defense and be focused. I thought we were awfully focused the last couple games.”

Other signs of focus, Johnson added, include not getting into it with officials, communicating on the floor and sticking to the gameplan.

“Right now we just want to get better at closing out, get better at making contact and physicality, getting better at assists and reading defenses,” Johnson said. “That’s all we want to do, just keep getting better.”

Westphal: Sonics to need stay in Seattle

Before joining the Mavericks this season, the last NBA coaching job for assistant Paul Westphal was right here in Seattle. Westphal coached the Sonics to a 25-25 record during the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99 before leading the franchise to the playoffs the following season with a 45-37 mark.

The future of the Sonics appears bleak in Seattle. The push to build a new arena hasn’t panned out, leaving the real possibility of relocation. Oklahoma City, owner Clay Bennett’s hometown, is at the top of the list.

Westphal shakes his head at the thought.

“It would be a complete shame if Seattle didn’t have a team, some way, somehow,” he said after shootaround. “I know that there’s politics and money involved, and there’s more than meets the eye in anybody’s position. These are rational people trying to work it out, but if they end up with no team here that’s just inconceivable.

“This is a great city and they’ve always supported the team. Somehow when the smoke clears, they need to have a team here. It just wouldn’t seem right.”

The Sonics have 40 years of history and won an NBA title back in the 1970s.

“This is an NBA city,” Westphal added. “Somehow, some way, there needs to be a team here. Historically, there has always been a way to get something done where it needs to get done. It’s happened throughout the league.

“Every city has its own story. Dallas had its issues getting its place built. There’s always an issue, but it always gets done. Hopefully, that will happen here.”

Avery Johnson began living his NBA dream as a free-agent hopeful with Seattle.

“For somebody who started their career off here I would hate to imagine the city without a team,” he said. “I don’t know all of the economics of what’s involved in votes for an arena, but it would be pretty disappointing for me, knowing I started here in 1988 and if they hadn’t of had a team here, who knows where I would have been.”

Jet homecoming

Seattle holds a place close to Jason Terry’s heart … literally. The Emerald City native has a “206” tattoo (Seattle’s area code) on his chest with the city’s skyline serving as a backdrop.

Terry has done extensive charity work here supporting athletic and academic programs, including the building of a computer center. Last season, his high school retired his number during a Mavs’ visit.

Terry’s current ticket count for tonight is about 50. He expected it to get to 80, but the count topped out at 73.

“It’s always special,” he said of coming home.

Blood Drive at Victory Park

WFAA-TV (Channel 8), the Dallas Mavericks and the American Red Cross have joined together to host a two-day community blood drive event on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12th and 13th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The blood drive will be held inside the WFAA-TV, Channel 8 Studios in Victory Park, as well as on the AT&T Plaza on the South side of American Airlines Center. This event is the first blood drive held in partnership with WFAA-TV, the Mavericks and the American Red Cross.

“Everyone that comes out to participate in this event will not only have a great time, but have the knowledge that their donation will help save lives,” said Rolando Blackman, Mavs director of basketball development. “In conjunction with the family of WFAA-TV, Channel 8 and the American Red Cross, we are proud to be a part of such a wonderful event and such a noble cause.”

The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) at Baylor University Medical Center is also participating to inform and recruit all willing donors to help save the lives of more than 6,000 men, women and children searching the NMDP registry on any given day. Patients not responding to treatment for life-threatening blood diseases can be given a second chance by local residents joining the NMDP registry.

Both days’ festivities will feature appearances by the Mavs Dancers, Mavs ManiAACs, Mavs Mascots and the Mavs Street Team. Additionally, former Mavs All-Star guard Ro Blackman will be on hand to sign autographs and donate blood Saturday at 12:00 p.m. Everyone in attendance will receive Mavs goodies, and everyone that donates blood will be entered into a drawing to win Mavs tickets and autographed merchandise.

To donate blood, a person must be in good health, be at least 17 years of age and weigh 110 pounds or more. For more information, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE or log on to, sponsor code RedBlueandYou. Volunteer blood donors must also show identification at registration. Please bring an American Red Cross donor card, a valid driver’s license or other form of official picture identification.

The general public is asked to park either in Lot A on the Southwest side of American Airlines Center or along the street throughout Victory Park.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Turning it on ... the road

The Mavericks hit the road knowing it’s time to right a wrong. Not that losing away from home is out of the ordinary – only eight of 30 teams having winning records in enemy gyms – but the Mavs have grown accustomed to success outside of the friendly confines.

Dallas posted just one losing record on the road (2003-04) in the previous seven seasons. In Avery Johnson’s two full regular seasons as head coach, the Mavs were 26-15 and 31-10 away from American Airlines Center.

“We know we can play well at home, but the great teams find ways to win on the road,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to see if we can get that [road killer instinct] back that we had last year. We just had that confidence walking into other arenas knowing that we can pretty much win anywhere. We got to get back to playing well on the road.”

Despite having the third-best record in the Western Conference and starting Thursday virtually tied with San Antonio atop the Southwest Division, the Mavs (24-11) are just 7-8 on the road. Beginning with Friday night’s visit to Seattle, five of the next six games are at NBA outposts beyond North Texas.

Read the rest of this note and more, plus get a look at the Sonics in today’s notebook at

Dirk still 3rd in All-Star voting

Dirk Nowitzki is still trailing Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony in voting for the two All-Star starters at forward in the Western Conference. The NBA released the latest voting returns today.

This is how it looks: Tim Duncan (SA) 1,246,125; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 1,218,106; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 946,421; Carlos Boozer (Utah) 402,917; Shawn Marion (Pho) 345,400; Shane Battier (Hou) 341,621; Josh Howard (Dal) 324,267; Luis Scola (Hou) 309,994; Kevin Durant (Sea) 299,481; Grant Hill (Pho) 248,273.

You can vote for Dirk, Josh, Erick Dampier, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse at with a chance to win daily prizes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Notables from 102-86 win vs. Pistons

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: The game was tied at 6 with 8:49 to go in the 1st quarter. The Mavs then used a 19-8 run to go up 25-14 with 3:04 to go in the quarter. The Mavs never relinquished their lead or allowed Detroit to tie from that point.

• In tonight’s game, Erick Dampier set a franchise record for most consecutive field goal makes (14). Over the last 3 games played (6-6 FGs vs. ATL, 12/29; 5-5 FGs vs. GS, 1/2; 3-3 FGs vs. DET, 1/9), he has not missed a field goal. Dampier was Inactive (left knee effusion) for games vs. MIA (1/4) and @ MIN (1/6). He passed James Donaldson (last 2 FGs 4/15/87; 5-5 FGs, 4/17/87; first 6, 4/18/87) and Jay Vincent (13-13 @ NY, 2/16/82) who had previously made 13 consecutive shots.
• With 23 points, Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks in scoring for the 10th consecutive game.
• Jason Terry scored 15 points tonight (the most since he had 25 vs. NO, 12/14).
• Josh Howard scored a season-low 10 points. (previous low was 12 vs. MIN, 11/28)
• Dallas improved to 11-0 when shooting better than 50% from the field (56.8%, 42-74 FGs tonight).
• As a team, the Mavericks drained 10 3-pointers to tie their season-high. (also @ GS, 11/8) Further, the Mavs set a season-high in 3-point percentage by hitting 62.5% (10-16 3FGs) of their attempts from behind the line.
• The Mavs improved to 11-1 when holding their opponent under 90 points. Over the last 3 games, the Mavs are allowing just 84.3 points per game.
• Detroit rookie Rodney Stuckey tied his career-high with 10 points. (also vs. IND, 12/28)
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,362 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 254 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 292 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 cruise past Pistons

The struggles against the Eastern Conference were long forgotten Wednesday night, as the Mavericks dominated Detroit 102-86 before 20,362 fans at a sold out American Airlines Center.

Dirk Nowitzki’s 23 points led five in double figures in Dallas’ fifth straight win, tying the longest winning streak this season. The Mavs (24-11) also moved into a virtual tie with San Antonio (23-10) atop the Southwest Division.

Avery Johnson’s team has played its best basketball over the last month, winning 12 of 15. The victory over the Pistons is one of the best showings in that stretch. The Mavs dominated inside, held Detroit (26-9) under 41-percent shooting and turned the game into a rout early in the fourth quarter.

“We competed defensively,” the Mavs coach said. “This is a tough team to play against. You’ve got to bring your hard hat. You can’t bring your pacifier. This game is not for whiners.”

Damp still perfect in '08

Back in the starting lineup after missing two games, Erick Dampier grabbed an offensive rebound here in the first quarter and, upon orders from Avery Johnson, took it to Rasheed Wallace.

Dampier banked it in, his 12th consecutive made basket dating back to Dec. 29. In other words, he hasn’t missed this year. He would go on to make two more shots for 14 straight, breaking the franchise record set by Jay Vincent more than a quarter century ago.

Staying the course

The Mavs have run off seven consecutive 50-win seasons. The Pistons own a streak of five in row. Why? Coaching and player continuity have to rank as top of the top reasons.

“That’s why we wanted to make incremental changes, didn’t want to do anything sweeping, turn over the roster year-in and year-out,” Avery Johnson said. “I think that has something to do with it. Obviously, Flip [Sunders] has done a great job taking over there. We haven’t had as many coaching changes as some organizations in that short period. We’ve been able to have stability in both situations and the star players have been pretty consistent.”

That doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t there to making dramatic changes.

“It’s really a breath of fresh air because a lot of times you want to hit that home run,” Johnson continued. “I think that Boston had to do what they had to do because they hadn’t had any success and they had a lot of young guys, so they had to try to turn over their roster quite a bit and get two guys there that are battle-tested. But for the rest of us we think the best chance is keep the core and just add to it.”

Sizing up the Pistons

The Pistons are one of those teams that get everyone’s attention. The Mavs have split the last four meetings with Detroit.

“Great test,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league, they’ve played together for so long and really they’ve got all the areas covered. They’ve got good defenders, physical guards, they can make shots, they got a guy that can post up, so I think they can attack from a lot of angles like we can. It should be a good matchup.”

Josh Howard added: “It’s a big game. They’re a great team, especially in the East. They’re contending for a title, so they’re kind of like us. You’ve got to get ready for this one.”

Eastern time moan

Don’t ask Josh Howard to explain the Mavs’ relatively ordinary 8-6 record against the Eastern Conference this season, especially since they went 27-3 against that circuit last year.

“I don’t know why,” he said today at shootaround. “I just think we need to come out playing a little bit harder, which I think we’ve made a conscious effort on. Other than that, I think we’ll be all right.”

I then asked if perhaps they’re taking those teams a little too lightly.

“I agree with you on that, too,” he said. “Just playing to the level of our competition. I said after that last game that we can’t do that if we’re a championship team. We need to keep playing like we’re champions.”

Avery Johnson pointed out that Eastern teams have improved. Also, several of those teams – Atlanta, Indiana, Milwaukee and Washington, to name a few – caught the Mavs at the right time.

“We weren’t playing very good early in the year when we played a lot those teams and we paid the price for it,” Johnson said.

As for the suggestion of playing down to the competition, Johnson took it in another direction.

“I don’t want to say playing down to the competition as much as it the competition playing up to us,” he said. “I think it goes both ways. A lot of times if teams come in and they’re a severe underdog, they play a little bit more relaxed. Sometimes the ball goes in a little bit more when there’s not as much pressure.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mavs & Pistons: Contending underdogs

If you asked most coaches around the league, the two teams squaring off Wednesday night at American Airlines Center would be considered legitimate threats to end June on top of the NBA Mountain.

If you asked most critics, they’d likely dismiss the Mavericks and Pistons as true contenders. At the very least, those wouldn’t be sexy picks. It’s all about Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference right now. San Antonio and Phoenix, for different reasons, are the darlings out West.

“I don’t think we can control any of that,” Jerry Stackhouse said Tuesday after practice. “Those are teams that have gotten off to hot starts. San Antonio got off to a hot start. They cooled off a little bit. Phoenix was a team that made some moves in the offseason that everybody was kind of excited about. And obviously with Garnett going to Boston and them getting off to the start that they’ve gotten off to, I think some of the talk is due.

“But at the same time we still look at Detroit as the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference and I’m pretty sure they don’t look past us as being one of the top teams in the West.”

Does it all really matter who the favorite and underdogs are? Especially in January.

“We didn’t come here to be an underdog,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “But because of the way we’ve been positioned this year, we’re more in that role.”

Read more of this note and get a closer look at the Pistons in today’s notebook at

Avery Johnson all over LSU

Avery Johnson grew up in New Orleans and finished college in Baton Rouge. Sure, he went to Southern, but there was no doubt which team he was pulling for Monday night in the Big Easy. And he nearly aced predicting the final score.

“You guys remember my prediction? Do you listen to my radio shows?” he asked us media types today. “I was off by a little bit. I said LSU, 36-18. Disappointed. I was off.”

The Bayou Bengals downed Ohio State 38-24 for those of you under a rock.

Stack and Damp cleared for Detroit

Jerry Stackhouse (sprained right thumb) and Erick Dampier (swollen left knee) went through a full practice here at American Airlines Center and both are cleared for tomorrow night’s matchup with Detroit.

“I’m ready to go,” Stackhouse said. “I got a good practice in today.”

Stackhouse wore a heavier wrap on his hand at practice than he intends to wear tomorrow. Dampier returns after missing two games and should be back in the starting lineup.

“It’s feeling better,” he said. “The swelling is down. I had a good practice today.”

Monday, January 7, 2008

AJ: "Different Maverick ballclub"

In both games against the Timberwolves this season, the Mavs were outscored in the paint. At least the gap has shrunk.

Minnesota enjoyed a 58-46 edge scoring edge inside when Dallas won 109-103 back in late November. The margin was down to 34-32 in yesterday’s whitewash.

“It was embarrassing the way we defended the paint last time, but that was kind of a different Maverick ballclub,” Avery Johnson said after the game. “This ballclub that you see here now recently, very recently by the way, is trying to play a little better defense no matter who we are playing.

“They were pretty embarrassed with their first half of the last game (Miami), and we asked them to come out and do something about it. They did. This particular Maverick team is not really complaining, not having discussions with the referees. They are really locked in on what they are doing and it is pretty fun to watch.”

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Outcome never in doubt at Minny

MINNEAPOLIS – The Mavericks treated this last-place team like a last-place team. The outcome was never in doubt, as Dallas out-classed the rebuilding Timberwolves 101-78 Sunday afternoon at the Target Center.

The Mavs (23-11) completed this end of the two-game sweep of the worst teams in each conference with considerable ease. Unlike the two stops they needed in the closing seconds Friday to outlast injury-riddled Miami, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. dominated Minnesota from the opening tip.

The reigning MVP scored a game-high 30 points, working mostly against smaller defenders such as Craig Smith and Mark Madsen. The Mavs’ other All-Star forward, Josh Howard, hit 20 points for the first time since Dec. 19 with 22. He added eight rebounds.

Even with Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse out, Avery Johnson was able to rest several of his main guys. None of the five starters played more than the 32 minutes logged by Nowitzki and Howard. Eddie Jones, Devin Harris and Jason Terry played between 22-24 minutes. All 12 on the active roster saw action in the Mavs’ fourth straight win.

The extra rest likely isn’t much of an issue since the team is off until Wednesday’s showdown with Detroit. The Pistons, in contrast to Miami and Minnesota, are positioned to make a title run this season.

Eddie Jones jams knee

Eddie Jones left the game after jamming his left knee in the third quarter, but he’s fine and is available to return. He probably won’t have to with the Mavs leading by more than 20. Jones went back to the locker room area to loosen up and has returned to the bench.

Mavs in control at half 58-35

After going down to the wire against injury-riddled Miami, Dallas is firmly in control against Minnesota with a 58-35 lead at the half.

Dirk Nowitzki leads the way with 17 points in 19 minutes. Don’t count on much more time out of the MVP in the second half. Josh Howard added another 13 and Jason Terry scored 11 off the bench.

The Wolves shot 39.4 percent and were led by Al Jefferson’s 11 points.

Moe Ager: Planes, trains and automobiles

Moe Ager experienced two of those three just this morning in getting from Utah to Minnesota after the Mavs recalled him from D-League Tulsa. The second-year shooting guard had a 5:30 a.m. flight out of Salt Lake City after playing last night in Provo.

Ager rode back to SLC after the game and managed to get about an hour of sleep. He boarded an airport shuttle in the wee morning hours to make the flight. He arrived in Minneapolis a few hours ago and was obviously tired.

Ager had a solid stint with the 66ers, averaging 16.3 points and 32.7 minutes in seven games (four starts). Avery Johnson had a checklist for Ager while in Tulsa.

“Watching him on film I thought he was trying to do some of the things we talked about in terms of being aggressive, decisive, playing defense without cheap fouls,” Johnson said. “I thought he was pretty solid down there. With Damp and Stack not being healthy, we needed to get him back.”

Ager thought he got more out of the assignment than his stint with the Fort Worth Flyers during his rookie season.

“I did a lot better than I did last year,” he said. “It was good to go down there and work on my game.”

His thoughts on the city of Tulsa, however, likely won’t be used by the visitor’s bureau. Asked if he liked Tulsa, Ager responded: “Nah, man. There are a lot of restaurants down there. Plenty of places to eat, I tell you that much.”

What about all the trees and rolling hills? “All the trees got knocked down in the ice storm, pretty much,” he replied. I hadn’t heard that.

Injury updates: Damp and Stack

It’s too soon to say when Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse are coming back, but Avery Johnson appeared more concerned with Dampier’s injury during his pregame media session here in Minneapolis. Both are out against the Timberwolves.

Dampier’s swollen left knee hasn’t responded to treatment as well as hoped. He didn’t move well during yesterday’s walk-through and will be reevaluated tomorrow in Dallas, where he remained. The next step could include an MRI exam.

“Swelling was there,” Johnson said. “He was limping pretty badly. Yesterday he couldn’t do hardly anything. We tried to get him on the court and see if he could move around and he just really couldn’t move at all.

“Again, we just wanted to keep him home and get him some more treatment and if he doesn’t respond well tomorrow then we’re going to have to take a further look.”

Stackhouse is wearing a soft cast to protect his sprained right thumb. He suffered the injury Friday against Miami.

“It was a freak thing,” Stackhouse said. “I was going up for a layup, a guy blocked my shot and the ball wasn’t out of my hand yet. When he blocked the ball, my thumb went back with it.”

The palm of his right hand is swollen, which is affecting his grip on the ball. The swelling has begun to subside.

“It’s getting better, though,” Stackhouse said. “I think it happened at a good time. We have three days off before we play again.”

Stackhouse expects to be back in the lineup Wednesday when his former team Detroit visits American Airlines Center.

Avery Johnson is back in that familiar juggling role having two major parts of the rotation out. Gana Diop is starting for Dampier again. Johnson said former Wolves guard Trenton Hassell would have played today even if Stackhouse had been healthy.

The team also recalled Moe Ager from Tulsa, the Mavs’ D-League affiliate, to have 12 healthy bodies on the bench.