Saturday, January 26, 2008

Avery Johnson is constant through change

Ask one of his players and he doesn’t notice much of a change. Avery Johnson remains Avery Johnson in this third full season on the job.

“Yeah, he’s still the General,” Jason Terry said when asked about the Mavericks coach.

Johnson, though, believes he’s pulled back some. He continues to demand every ounce of sweat and every second of focus from his group of 15 men. He’s just not dropping the hammer every one of those seconds.

“Just knowing when to push the buttons,” said Johnson, whose Mavs are 29-13 going into Sunday’s showdown against Denver at American Airlines Center.

He wants to push those buttons, and push them hard, every single day. He wouldn’t mind spending hours on end in the practice gym every day. That’s his nature. He freely admits it.

Not everyone is Avery Johnson. Not everyone has Dirk Nowitzki’s work ethic or Jerry Stackhouse’s toughness. Those 15 guys are 15 different people.

“It just doesn’t work like that. That’s what we learned in psychology,” Johnson said, referring to his college degree. “You’ve got a lot of different personalities and everybody needs to be pushed in different ways, even me. You can’t sleep in the office every night. You have to go home some times.

“You learn different things and you mature and you learn different things about coaching.”

Read the rest of this story and get a Nuggets’ preview at

Notables from 112-105 win vs. Lakers

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas led 56-55 at halftime. The Mavs then opened the 2nd half on an 11-0 run to go up 67-55. The Lakers didn’t score until Kobe Bryant hit a shot at the 8:34 mark of the 3rd quarter.

• Josh Howard recorded his fifth 20-point, 10-rebound game (and his 9th double-double) of the season with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
• Dirk Nowitzki also put up 26 points and 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season.
• Though limited to only 2 3rd quarter points (1-4 FGs, 0-1 3FGs, 0-2 FTs), Kobe Bryant finished the evening with 40 points and 10 rebounds.
• Bryant scored LA’s last 10 points (16 points in 4Q).
• The Mavs evened to 6-6 when allowing their opponent to shoot better than 50% from the field (LAL: 56.3%, 36-84 FGs)
• Devin Harris scored 5 of the Mavs’ last 8 points. He hit 2 layups and a free throw in the last 2:11 to help secure the victory.
• Dallas improved to 4-3 when both Howard and Nowitzki score 20+ points.
• Jerry Stackhouse was inactive for tonight’s game (strained right hamstring).
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,438 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 256 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 294 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.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dirk is inspiring in win over Lakers

Dirk Nowitzki has never considered himself a vocal leader. He’s the first to tell anyone so, but Friday night he stepped out of character and decided his voice would be heard above all others.

Challenging his teammates at halftime and throughout the second half, Nowitzki prodded the Mavericks past the Los Angeles Lakers 122-105. His 26 points and 10 rebounds were important. His words were the difference.

“Dirk really gave the team a big-time talk,” Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. “I was proud of what he said at halftime. The team really responded.”

There was actually some debate in the locker room whether Nowitzki actually delivered a pep talk. Nowitzki, slyly, said: ‘I gave the team a speech. I said, ‘Let’s win this game.’”

The Mavs did just that. When they broke away to start the second half and took 17-point lead into the fourth quarter, cruising to the finish line seemed reasonable. The Mavs, after all, were containing those Lakers not named Kobe Bryant, while their big guns were getting the job done.

It’s never that easy. Not that the Mavs expected it to be. Johnson has pointed out lately that a number of teams are better than seasons past, and Los Angeles’ glamour team would definitely fall in the improved category.

So when the Mavs walked out of a packed American Airlines Center with an intensely-contested victory, their feeling of accomplishment seemed fitting. Dallas never expected a stroll through the park.
”It had a playoff feel,” Devin Harris said. “They made their runs. We made our runs. It was a physical game.”

Greatness makes a difference

Lakers star Kobe Bryant is regarded in many circles as the best player in the league. Avery Johnson doesn’t have a problem with that argument. Johnson, however, was asked if teams can win without someone like Bryant.

“Every team needs a guy that can win games for them, no matter what type of defense is played,” Johnson said. “Every team needs a guy that can put a team on its back and split double teams and score. And maybe that can get you a steal or do something in the paint on offense or defense.”

Johnson want on to say that a certain championship coach – he made a point to add it wasn’t Gregg Popovich – has a theory on greatness that the General also shares.

“In the playoffs everybody knows your plays,” Johnson said. “So at the end of the day, you need great players to make great plays. That’s what it’s all about. We try to stay out of the way as coaches, facilitate and do what we do.”

All-Star push for Josh Howard

Asked about the fan’s All-Star selections for the Western Conference, Avery Johnson gave a rather lukewarm response. “Okay, okay,” he said. “Yeah, okay.”

Reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki is virtually assured a spot when coaches’ selections are announced Thursday. (Votes from coaches are due Tuesday.) Josh Howard, averaging a career-high 20.6 points and 7.5 rebounds going into Friday, made the West team last year as an injury replacement.

“Dirk’s going to make it,” Johnson said, “but I hope Josh gets in again because I think if Carmelo is the starting small forward, it’d be hard too argue with Josh and what he’s doing this year.”

Carmelo Anthony is averaging 25.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. The rest of the West starting five: Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Tim Duncan.

Bunched up atop the West

The way the Western Conference is currently set up, and there’s no reason to expect much of a change, 10 teams are fighting it out for eight playoff spots. Unlike years past when there was a clear division between the top seeds and the rest, a case can be made for any of the 10 earning home-court advantage at least in the first round.

Two of the best out West hooked up Friday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers invaded American Airlines Center. Both teams have held the top spot in the conference at some point this season. Both have also been out of the top four.

“The competition is stiff and I think that’s going to keep us on our toes for the rest of the season,” Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. “I don’t see anybody really getting away from each other with seven, eight, nine or 10 games [up] like it’s been in the last couple years.

“I think it’s going to go down to the end, which will be good for us. I kind of like where we were two years ago, where we basically had to play all the way down to the last game.”

The Mavs had the No. 1 seed locked up relatively early last season on the way to 67 wins. Since it doesn’t appear any team will run away with the West, they’ll be plenty of jockeying for position through mid-April.

“I don’t think we’ll be rested,” Devin Harris said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. At this point it really doesn’t matter who we play. We would like to have home-court advantage at some point.

“I don’t think guys are playing as many minutes as we were last year. [Johnson is] trying to keep those minutes down and rely on our bench as much as we can, so hopefully that will keep us fresher for the postseason stretch.”

Devin Harris turns ankle

Devin Harris turned his left ankle in the first quarter after Kobe Bryant blew by him for a dunk. The Mavs called timeout and Harris went to the locker room.

The ankle was re-taped and he returned before the quarter was done. The Mavs cannot afford to lose another guard with Jerry Stackhouse also out.

Bass back after one-game absence

Brandon Bass said before tonight’s game against the Lakers that he’s ready to go. He missed Wednesday’s win at Charlotte with a sore right Achilles.

“Hopefully at the end of the day he can get back to where he was before this injury,” Avery Johnson said.

Stack out with hamstring strain

Jerry Stackhouse had an MRI today that revealed a mild right hamstring strain. He will miss approximately one week of action.

In 38 games, including two starts, Stackhouse has averaged 9.9 points, 2.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 24.4 minutes. The 12-year pro suffered the injury at Charlotte on Wednesday.


Dirk Nowitzki, power forward: Picked up the pace after an uneven November, reestablishing himself as the team’s scoring and rebounding leader. Not putting up MVP numbers, but his all-around game is still improving despite being in his 10th season. Shoe-in for a spot on the West team next month in New Orleans.

A Josh Howard, small forward: The team’s most versatile piece at both ends is scoring more than 20 for the first time in his career. Often jumpstarts the offense with big first quarters. Jumper can be erratic. Should be an All-Star.

C Erick Dampier, center: Ineffective early coming back from shoulder surgery. Clogs up the middle and finishes with authority down low. When he produces solid numbers, the team almost always wins.

B Devin Harris, point guard: Career continues on upswing. When his jumper is falling, his penetration is nearly impossible to stop. Growing as a quarterback, but Avery Johnson has taken back most of the play-calling duties.

C Eddie Jones, shooting guard: The latest in the long line of options at shooting guard. The former All-Star built his reputation on solid perimeter defense and deadly outside shooting. Not that player anymore, but not asked to be.

Key Reserves
Jason Terry, guard: In his transition to sixth man, started the season on fire, but has cooled off some since. Outside shot remains is easily his greatest strength. Decision-making is sometimes suspect. Attitude is always positive.

C Jerry Stackhouse, guard: Averaging a career low in points, but opponents still respect his game. Has struggled beyond the arc, especially with his specialty of the last couple years, the corner 3. His intensity and fearlessness are his greatest assets.

B Brandon Bass, forward: Plays with ferocious energy at both ends, earning the nickname “Animal.” Size and athleticism come in handy against smaller teams, such as Phoenix and Golden State. Unsure at times on defense.

C Gana Diop, center: Starter early in the season before replaced by Dampier. Game revolves around rebounding and blocking shots. Offensive game hasn’t progressed as much as hoped. Confidence is an issue at times.

C Devean George, forward: Slowed by foot injury early, and has been in and out of the rotation. Ability to play both swing spots and power forward when team goes small. Only one in the locker room with championship rings.

Low-Minute Reserves (no grades)
• Juwan Howard, forward: Valuable frontline insurance. Knows the game and his role.
• Trenton Hassell, guard: Remains ready to contribute whenever number is called.
• JJ Barea, guard: Promising point guard has played a key role in a few wins.
• Mo Ager, guard: Couple spot starts early. Stuck at the end of swingman logjam.
• Nick Fazekas, forward: Working on game in D-League and has put up numbers.

Head Coach
Avery Johnson: Inspirational leader who knows his X&O’s. Experimented with lineups early because of injuries and new personnel. Has kept the focus on building for the playoffs, but doesn’t just accept losing. Remains committed to his system and has tweaked his approach. Increased emphasis on strength-and-conditioning work in an effort to stay “stronger longer.” Team is once again battling for a top seed in the Western Conference.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Looking back at the season’s first half

To say the Mavericks are satisfied with their progress after completing half of an NBA regular season wouldn’t be fair. They understand their issues better than most, and aren’t about to excuse/rationalize/brush aside their bouts with inconsistency.

To say they’re underachieving because they’re not leading the Western Conference or challenging last season’s 67-win pace would be foolish. The sledding across the board has gotten icier. The always-stout West appears even deeper and certain teams out East are noticeably improved.

The Mavs (28-13) begin the second half Friday night knowing there’s still a long road ahead, but with plenty of room for improvement. What they do against the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center is only one part of the puzzle that needs at least 82 pieces.

“With us getting off to a 12-8 start, to be sitting here today where we are, is not a bad deal,” Avery Johnson said Thursday after a scaled-back practice. “We just need to keep moving forward.

“We’re battling through some injury situations now, but the guys are really attentive to what we’re doing and they’re excited. I think now they’re going to be even a little bit more excited because there are not 82 games in front of them. It’s only 41.”

Read the rest of this story and get a look at the Lakers at


G Dwyane Wade, Heat
G Jason Kidd, Nets
C Dwight Howard, Magic
F LeBron James, Cavs
F Kevin Garnett, Celtics

G Kobe Bryant, Lakers
G Allen Iverson, Nuggets
C Yao Ming, Rockets
F Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
F Tim Duncan, Spurs

All-Star starters announced tonight

Tune in for the announcement of the All-Star Game starters tonight on TNT before the San Antonio-Miami game at 7 pm CT. Reserves, chosen by the head coaches in each respective conference, will be unveiled next Thursday, Jan. 31, on TNT.

If you’re expecting to hear Dirk Nowitzki’s name, don’t hold your breath. The last time the league released voting returns, the reigning MVP was behind Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mavs hold off pesky Bobcats

CHARLOTTE – The first half of the season ended just the way it started for the Mavericks, with a victory. And the 102-95 victory Wednesday night over the Charlotte Bobcats, in many ways, encapsulated those first 41 games.

The Mavs were dominating at times, running out to a double-digit lead before five minutes were played. And then the lull followed. The athletic Bobcats, led by Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson, had a lot to do with it, but the Mavs admitted to losing some of their edge.

The periodic stretches of inconsistency weren’t enough to derail Dallas and, in the end, the Mavs found success. That’s pretty much been the recipe this season. For all the points that can be nitpicked, the team’s 28-13 record remains one of the NBA’s best.

On a team with two 20-point scoring All-Stars, it was Devin Harris emerging as the most consistent offensive threat. The lightning-quick point guard scored 23 on 8-of-12 shooting, including a pair of much-needed free throws giving the visitors a 92-87 lead in the final two minutes.

Harris’ foul shots followed two missed shots by Gerard Wallace – a jumper and reverse layup – with Charlotte trailing by three points. The Bobcats spent much of the evening in comeback mode, much as the Mavs did during Monday’s loss at Washington.

Each time the Mavs would threaten to pull away – they held leads of more than 10 on multiple occasions in all four quarters – Charlotte would mount a charge, usually by Wallace, Richardson or Emeka Okafor.

The Mavs finally put it away in the final two minutes to even their record at 10-10 on the road. As for the two All-Stars, Josh Howard scored 21 and Dirk Nowitzki added another 20. Jason Terry scored 16 off the bench.

Stack out with hamstring strain

Jerry Stackhouse left tonight’s game with a strained right hamstring and won’t return. Look for Trenton Hassell and/or Devean George to get those minutes.

He injured the same hamstring during the last road trip at the LA Clippers and missed the loss at Sacramento. He returned in time for the next game, but that was after a four-day break. Stackhouse does not expect to be back for Friday’s date with the Lakers.

"If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on it," he said in the locker room.

He did call the injury a "little strain" and added an MRI exam could be coming. He tried to stay in the game after it happened, but it tightened up.

"It wasn’t right," he said. "It was a little worse than what I did in LA."

Couple notables from pregame

• Sam Vincent, an assistant on Avery Johnson’s staff last season, is in his first year as Bobcats head coach. “We keep in contact,” Johnson said. “It’s been pretty big a transition year for them. That’s where they are right now. He’s a new coach and they’re trying to learn his system, and there are a lot of growing pains with that.”

• The ticket amounts for North Carolina natives: Josh Howard (82) and Jerry Stackhouse (65). Gana Diop, a graduate of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, needed 27.

Second-half road surge

The season is halfway done and the Mavs remain one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The road mark, 9-10 going into tonight, continues to be a source of bewilderment.

“It’s amazing what’s happening on the road this year, but mark my words, the second half of the season, I think you’ll see a dramatic improvement on the road with this team,” Jason Terry said. “I will be surprised if we continue to play bad on the road.”

Josh Howard Foundation hosting kids clinic

The Josh Howard Foundation will host its first basketball clinic this Saturday, Jan. 26th. The clinic is open to boys and girls ages 7-18 at 24 Hour Fitness (5100 Beltline Rd., Ste. 600). The clinic will focus on fundamentals such as shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, along with a station for strength and agility.

The cost for the clinic is $60 and includes lunch. All proceeds will benefit The Josh Howard Foundation. Howard, along with local high school coaches and former players, will be instructing the attendees on the fundamentals of basketball. Prizes will be given out throughout the day, including autographed memorabilia.

For more information or to sign up, please contact Oliver Hill at or call 303.944.5634.

Craig Counsell filling in for injured Bass

Brandon Bass is back in Dallas resting his sore right Achilles. Though he’s out tonight, he’s officially listed as day-to-day, leaving the possibility of his return Friday against the Lakers.

“We have something there that we have to manage,” Avery Johnson said of Bass’ injury.

Bass had been dealing with pain in his right foot for some time and it progressed Monday at Washington. Attempting to block a shot, he fell hard under the basket, triggering the injury.

Johnson said veteran Juwan Howard needs to dust off the “cobwebs” and fill in for the 22-year-old Bass.

“We’re going to need his physicality, leadership and toughness,” Johnson said.

Even though he’s been on the inactive list lately, Howard said he’s ready to go. He prides himself on staying prepared and mentally sharp.

“I’m like a utility man,” Howard said. “You know a guy by the name of Craig Counsell? He played baseball. The guy played for the Brewers, he played the Diamondbacks, he played for the Florida Marlins. I’m Craig Counsell.

“I’m sitting around, I’m working hard in practice, just staying ready, waiting for the name to be called. You’ve got to have a utility man on any ballclub just like that. I’m Craig Counsell. That’s a guy I respect a lot.”

Counsell did win a World Series title in Arizona. Winning it all is a big reason Howard came back to Dallas.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just like Tom Brady

Eddie Jones practiced with his right hand bandaged and had it wrapped in ice after the workout. Asked if it was an injury opened the door for strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett.

“It’s just like Tom Brady,” Hackett deadpanned. “Just because you see someone walking in a boot doesn’t mean he’s hurt.”

For the record: Jones is fine.

Doing some searching at halfway point

CHARLOTTE – Sometimes you don’t need us media types to tell you what’s going on. Eddie Jones summed up the last 10 games for the Mavericks in a much tidier fashion.

“The way the season has been going lately, it seems we’re consistent for seven or eight games in what we do and then we have this one game totally throw us off,” he said Tuesday after practice from the bleachers of Brayboy Gym. “And we’ll get it back for a night and then we’ll lose another game. You noticed that?”

The musty old gym on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte served as a fitting backdrop for a team looking to get back to the basics. The Mavs (27-13) are three games removed from their season-high seven-game winning streak.

Since, they’ve sandwiched two disappointed road losses (Sacramento and Washington) around a home victory over Seattle. Dallas’ season hits the halfway point Wednesday night against the Bobcats in the conclusion of a two-game trek.

Read the rest of this note and get a look at the Bobcats in today’s notebook at

Bass sent home with injured foot

Brandon Bass was sent back to Dallas today from Charlotte to have his sore right foot examined. Avery Johnson said the situation has progressed from pain in the foot to an injury.

“He hasn’t been well,” Johnson said. “He’s been hot and cold. It used to be just pain, now he’s injured, so we sent him home to be reevaluated. We’ll know more later on tonight.”

Bass played 10 minutes in Monday’s loss at Washington. He won’t rejoin the team for tomorrow’s game against the Bobcats.

Johnson said someone will have to step up in Bass’ absence and mentioned Juwan Howard.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mavs can’t get over the hump in DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Mavericks take pride in their balance. They take pride in their defense. There wasn’t much to be proud of Monday afternoon.

The Mavs (27-13) never really gave themselves a chance in their 102-84 loss to Washington before a sold-out Verizon Center. Dallas was careless with the ball and didn’t get much out of anyone not named Josh Howard or Dirk Nowitzki.

The Wizards were at the other end of the basketball spectrum, playing loose and confident. One only needed to watch DeShawn Stevenson flick 3-pointers as the shot-clock expired to know it wasn’t the Mavs’ day.

“That just about sums it up,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “The game was there, but we were never able to take control of the game. Every time we cut the lead to one, we would have a bad possession on a chance to take the lead. I don’t think we led the whole game.”

Etan Thomas' heartfelt return

Wizards center Etan Thomas spoke publicly before the game for the first time since undergoing heart surgery Oct. 11 to repair a leaky valve. Thomas, originally drafted by the Mavs, hopes to play again this season.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “It was a long process, but it feels great to be back with my teammates and to be back on the road playing the game that I love.

“I have known that I had a heart murmur since I was young. I found out when I was in middle school. I always knew that eventually I’d need to have something done about it. I thought it was going to be when I was 50 or 60.”

Dallas selected Thomas with the 12th pick of the 2000 Draft. He spent his rookie season with the Mavs on the injured list before being traded to Washington in an eight-player deal on Feb. 22, 2001. The key pieces coming to Dallas were Juwan Howard and Calvin Booth.

Celebrating MLK Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The NBA celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in each of the 13 cities that hosted games Monday.

“He means a lot, not just to Black people, but this society as a whole because he is someone who stood up to fight for equal opportunity, peace, love and harmony,” Juwan Howard said before the Mavericks-Wizards game at the Verizon Center. “I’m just happy that the government acknowledged what he’s done for this country and gave him the respect that he truly deserves.”

Dr. King’s ties to the Capital City resonated with Howard. The “I have a dream” speech took place during the Civil Rights March on Washington 45 years ago.

“You talk about timing, this is a nice place to be,” Howard said. “Here and Memphis always stick out in your mind.”

Added Mavs coach Avery Johnson: “It’s good that we were chosen to play in D.C. on this day.”

Johnson said that Dr. King’s legacy is especially poignant for players that grew up in the South. Johnson also noted that Dr. King’s message and impact extends globally to all players.

“He created a lot of the opportunities they have right now in 2008,” Johnson said.

The Wiz minus Agent Zero

The Wizards have done a more than admirable job of staying afloat without Gilbert Arenas.

“They’ve had some guys step up in their individual performances, their team defense has seemed to get pretty good and they’re getting after it on both ends,” Avery Johnson said this morning.

It doesn’t hurt to have Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

“They are All-Star players,” Johnson added. “They’re not schmucks. They’re pretty good. It’s good to have those guys to fall back on.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hard work pays off for Hassell

Trenton Hassell was praised for having possibly his best game of the season Saturday night. The stat line wasn’t gaudy – six points (3-of-5 shooting), four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes – but his impact isn’t only measured in numbers.

“He has been practicing awfully hard and he has been getting after it,” coach Avery Johnson said following the 111-96 victory over Seattle. “He has been having good positive body language and good energy. I really haven’t given him what you would call a legitimate chance.

“We have tried not playing him. We tried playing [Devean] George a little bit and now we are playing Hassell and we want to see how it is going to go. If he played his worst game of the year, he was going to play again the next game. I just need to stick with him a few games here and give him a shot.”

Hassell more than understands the numbers game. The even-keeled veteran shares the swingman position with Josh Howard, Eddie Jones, Jerry Stackhouse and George. If that’s not enough, Jason Terry slips into the 2-spot for stretches.

“It feels good to be out there, but I know the situation,” said Hassell, traded from Minnesota during training camp. “I know that sometimes I’m not going to play. Sometimes I may play two minutes, three minutes, so it’s just part of being a professional. I’ve got to keep myself ready for when the minutes do come and don’t make myself look too bad.”

Read the rest of this story and get a look at the Wizards at