Friday, February 15, 2008

Dirk: "Got to stay together"

After last night’s loss at Phoenix, Dirk Nowitzki was asked about the Jason Kidd trade fallout in the locker room.

“If it doesn’t happen, we’ve still got to stay together,” he said. “We’re still a team. If everybody starts pulling in different directions, we’ve got no chance.”

The topic picked up again in New Orleans.

“Yeah, it’s been definitely a weird couple of days,” he said. “Everything kind of hanging in the air, and nobody really knew what was going on. And when they basically said the deal was done, then all of a sudden it wasn’t, the team said okay. They didn’t know if they were going to dress or not, and then they ended up playing. So it was definitely a weird feeling.

“But we as a team made the best out of it. We tried to stay focused and tried to keep the group together. I mean, it’s really all you can do. Once everybody goes in their own direction, then the chemistry’s going to get messed up, and we won’t win anything. We want to make sure we keep everybody together. And whoever puts the uniform on will give it their best.”

Is he worried this may result in a split locker room?

“Well, I think that’s where the leaders of this team have to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said. “If the locker room gets separated, there’s no way we’re going to achieve our goal. So, you know, deal or no deal, we’ve got to make sure that the troops are ready to go. They’re fired up. They stay together.

“And we still want to have fun together, and share good times on the bus, because we spend so much time together you don’t want to have distractions in the locker room. We'll just see what happens here next week, and hopefully we can move forward with good locker room chemistry. We always had good chemistry since I got to Dallas. It’s always been fun to be around.”

All-Star Weekend on

Well, it’s finally here. All-Star Weekend kicks off tonight with the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. Dirk Nowitzki is the only Maverick involved in the festivities in New Orleans, taking part in the Saturday night’s Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout and, of course, Sunday’s featured attraction.
There’s a lot a great stuff going on and the best way to keep up with all of it is at’s All-Star 2008 central. Check it out.

George sets the record straight

After the game, Devean George explained his reasoning on not consenting to the Jason Kidd trade. After consulting with his agent throughout the day, he said the issue came down to two parts. The first: “I just want to play.” The second: “Would you want to leave if you could get minutes here? Absolutely not.”

“It made me want to stand firm,” he said after playing a game-high 43 minutes in the 109-97 loss to the Suns.

George is headed to Los Angeles over the All-Star break to collect his thoughts and clear his mind. He acknowledged speaking with Nets coach Lawrence Frank and team executive Kiki Vandeweghe.

“I’ve been in trade talks every year in my career almost, but nothing like yesterday,” George said.

He added that there does not appear to be any bad blood among his teammates or the coaching staff. It’s just business.

“It wasn’t anything personal,” he said. “It would be different if we were in here [the locker room] fighting.”

He also poked a little fun of his place in the events of the last two days.

“I never thought I’d be in position to throw the league into a frenzy,” he said with a smile.

Sun sets in the desert

PHOENIX – Think how much more fun Thursday night would have been with Shaquille O’Neal around.

The Big Nickname to be Named Later was among the spectators inside sold-out US Airway Arena for the NBA’s last game before the All-Star break. What a show it was.

The Mavericks and Suns aren’t at full strength, but those on the floor flexed their basketball brawn. Steve Nash and his cohorts out-dueled Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavs 109-97 before the league regroups in New Orleans.

After the events of the last couple days, the Mavs could use some regrouping as well. Rumors of players coming and going dominated the headlines, but focus never seemed to waver from the task at hand.

“We’ve shown the last two nights we find a way to play through that stuff,” Nowitzki said. “Even with the injuries and the distractions of yesterday and today, I thought we gave it our best shot.

“I don’t think in the locker room we had problems the last two days. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve still got to stay together.”

The Mavs (35-18) dropped to 1-1 against Phoenix this season and 23-7 against the Western Conference. The 35 wins are tied for the fourth-most in team history at the All-Star break.

Twice in the fourth quarter, the Suns took seven-point leads on momentum-turning plays. The first – a four-point possession aided by a foul and technical foul – gave Phoenix a 91-84 edge with 7:03 left.

The Mavs closed the gap before Amare Stoudemire responded with a dunk over Nowitzki and subsequent free throw for a 98-91 advantage with 3:39 remaining. Dallas could get no closer than seven from there.

“We just didn’t have enough gas at the end to get over the top,” Nowitzki said. “I think the focus, the intensity, the energy was there. I expect the same thing when we get back.”

The pace was reminiscent of what this rivalry has seen over the years. While the Mavs worked for shots relatively quickly, Phoenix usually hit back before seven seconds elapsed on the shot clock.

Nash orchestrated the attack, scoring 24 and totaling 13 of the team’s 24 assists. The Mavs funneled the ball through Nowitzki and Terry. The lead swung back and forth, and other than a couple instances when the spread neared double figures, both sides were usually within a basket or two of each other.

The Mavs were once again without Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris. Phoenix hit the floor without Shaq, who has yet to play since the trade with Miami on Feb. 6. Nowitzki scored 36 after tallying a season-high 37 in Wednesday’s win over Portland.

“Hopefully, we can get everybody healthy and go from there,” Nowitzki said.

Terry, back in the state where he played his college ball, scored a season-high 29 after netting 24 the previous night. Realizing he wasn’t doing enough with the injuries mounting, a decisive Terry has shot it with confidence for the second game in a row.

Nowitzki and Terry were the only two Mavs in double figures. Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa each scored 26, while Boris Diaw added 19 for Phoenix.

The Mavs finished a stretch of four games in five days at 1-3. The season resumes Wednesday at New Orleans.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nash talking Trash

For those of you with HD TVs, check out Steve Nash’s sneakers tonight. The two-time MVP is debuting the “Trash Talk,” a new line from Nike made from manufacturing waste.

What’s that? Well, it’s the scraps of material that are left over from making other shoes. Basically it’s a recycled shoe. It’s a natural fit – pun intended – for the environmentally conscious star.

“Any opportunity to promote the environment and preserve our planet is a step in the right direction,” Nash said. “I’m very excited to be one of the first athletes to wear the Nike Trash Talk. I think people will love the shoe, and hopefully by wearing it I can inspire others to try it out as well.”

George nixes trade and Johnson moves on

The eye of the media storm remained focused on Devean George today, but the veteran swingman remained poised and professional. His part in the proposed Jason Kidd trade has been well-chronicled over the last 24 hours and today in Phoenix he confirmed that he’s not consenting to the multi-player deal with New Jersey.

Whether or not the trade gets resurrected in some form or fashion remains to be seen. The trading deadline is one week away. Avery Johnson was asked again today before the game if he’s addressed the trade rumors with the team.

“We’ve already done that,” he said. “I think I mentioned that yesterday in my pregame press conference. I probably have 100 different weaknesses that you guys print on a daily basis or talk about, communication is not one of them.”

Johnson’s long career survived several trades and releases, including the oft-told story of San Antonio cutting him on Christmas Eve. Situations such as these are just part of business in the NBA and Johnson relayed as much to his team.

“We’ve had that conversation,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been exactly in some of their situations, but I’ve been in similar [ones] before, so I can go back in the archives of some of my experiences and share certain things with them.

“But at the end of the day, 95 percent of these deals never really happen. This one hasn’t been perfectly drawn up, so we have to manage it. That’s my job. It’s not basketball coach. It’s managing injuries, managing playing time, managing highs, managing lows, managing hiccups, managing all sorts of stuff. That’s what I get paid to do. That’s why last night the game was fun.”

Johnson also addressed fans booing George last night at American Airlines Center.

“Some fans booed,” Johnson said. “Not all fans booed. Devean has been pretty instrumental in what we’ve done and he’s just got to keep his head up.

“Right now we’re looking forward to trying to get through this game and hopefully next Tuesday when we assemble for practice, I’m going to have a full team, which I haven’t had in a while. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Johnson expects to have Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris back at practice when the team reassembles after the All-Star break.

Nowitzki shooting the 3 in New Orleans

Asked why he wasn’t part of the Three-Point Shootout last week, Dirk Nowitzki quipped: “I’m shooting 25 percent.” Well, it’s up to 29.5 percent and Nowitzki is back in.

He’s replacing Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (dislocated pinkie finger,right hand) in the Shootout to be held on NBA All-Star Saturday Night at New Orleans Arena.

Nowitzki is a former champ, having won the Shootout in 2006 in Houston. He’s competing for the fifth time, having also done it in 2000, 2001, and 2007.

Though he won’t be in the Shootout, Bryant is still teaming up with Nowitzki on the Western Conference squad for Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Notables from 96-76 win vs. Portland

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: The Mavericks used a 15-5 run that started at the 7:11 mark of the 1st quarter when they led 6-4. When the run ended, at 3:12 mark of the period, Dallas led 21-11.

• Head Coach Avery Johnson won his 100th regular season home game tonight.
• Dirk Nowitzki had his 11th 30-point outing of the season (8-3 record), as well as his 17th double-double. He finished with a season-high 37 points (13-26 FGs, 2-4 3FGs, 9-10 FTs) and 12 rebounds (9 DR). His previous season-high was 36 points at NY (12/10/07).
• Erick Dampier recorded his 3rd double-double of the season with 10 points (4-4 FGs, 2-3 FTs) and 11 rebounds (season-high 7 OR). His previous high was 6 OR at SAC (1/14/08).
• The Mavericks improved to 3-0 when Dampier has a double-double.
• Jason Terry scored 20+ points for the 13th time this season (8-5 record). In his 16th start, Terry finished with 24 points (10-19 FGs, 1-4 3FGs, 3-3 FTs) and 4 assists.
• Dallas improved to 23-7 when 2 players score 20+ points each.
• The Mavericks have now won 10 consecutive home games.
• Tonight’s is also the Mavs’ 10th consecutive home victory over the Blazers.
In 3 games this season, the Mavs are holding Portland to 82.3 points per game.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,159 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 260 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 298 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.

Surreal day ends with rout of Portland

Wednesday was strange on many counts. The Internet and airwaves were jammed with speculation of deals on the table and off. Avery Johnson addressed the matter with Dallas-area media and within the locker room before facing Portland.

It all led to a surreal vibe in American Airlines Center. Luckily, the Mavericks had a game to return to some level of normalcy. Beating the Trailblazers 96-76 to snap a two-game skid capped a day of an awful lot of talk and no action.

“It was definitely a weird day,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Nobody really knows what is going on, so I think what we had to do was try to focus on the game as much as we can.”

Nowitzki and Jason Terry, the Mavs’ top two healthy scorers, were aggressive from the start against the young and athletic Blazers. Dallas needed the boost with Josh Howard, Devin Harris and Jerry Stackhouse in street clothes.

Nowitzki scored a season-high 37, with 20 coming in the first half, and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 17th double-double. He cooled off a bit in the third quarter, but his shot was falling in the first half as the Mavs built a 17-point lead at one point. Terry, in a slump recently, responded with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting.

Erick Dampier’s return from an ankle injury was also a positive. He tallied his third double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and teamed with Gana Diop (four points, six boards and two blocks) to patrol the middle. JJ Barea, the starting point guard the previous five games, scored 11 off the bench.

The Mavs clicked at a much higher rate offensively after two frustrating nights on the East Coast earlier this week. They shot nearly 50 percent in the first half, never trailed and piled up 21 fastbreak points.

“I am really proud of the guys how they responded to this weird day and we don’t know what is going on forward here, but we have a big game tomorrow and we have to do more of the same tomorrow,” Nowitzki said. “We are all professionals here. We have a job to do and we understand that. We just said no matter what’s going to happen, whoever dresses out for this organization is going to give it their all and play hard.”

The majority of Johnson’s pregame media session was dominated by reports of a possible trade with New Jersey for Jason Kidd. News of the proposed multi-player deal had reporters scrambling to get comments from owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of stuff for a while now,” Johnson said. “Mark hasn’t informed me or Donnie that a trade has been completed.”

Devean George responded to reports after the game that he blocked the trade by utilizing a league rule requiring his consent. George spent most of the day discussing the matter with his agent.

“It was a distraction all day,” George said. “I was on the phone from 11 a.m. until tip-off and I don’t know what I am doing. Whether I am coming, going, staying, trying to pack stuff up at home, but nothing has happened yet. It is all coming down on me and my little salary.”

George understands that many are portraying him as the deal breaker. He reiterated, though, that he just wants time to study the situation before deciding his future. George has signed free-agent deals with Dallas the last two offseasons.

“If I am the bad guy, people who know me know that I am not like that, but it is what it is,” he said. “I just want to look over things and have it explained to me.”

The trade deadline is Feb. 21. The Mavs break for All-Star weekend after Thursday night’s game at Phoenix. Johnson discussed the swirling rumors with his team before the game.

“We talked and I told them we need to go out and play no matter what you’re hearing,” he said.

Johnson responds to rumors

Avery Johnson addressed – sort of – the reports surrounding the possible trade for Jason Kidd.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of stuff for a while now,” Johnson said. “Mark hasn’t informed me or Donnie that a trade has been completed.”

That’s obviously Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson. The game has started and all the Mavs that were with the team this morning are with the team now. Johnson added talks continue with other teams and the Mavs will act if there if a deal is out there that makes sense.

“We’ve been pretty constant there,” Johnson said. “I haven’t wavered in my stance.”

The trade deadline is right around the corner on Feb. 21.

Fazekas recalled from Tulsa

Nick Fazekas from the D-League was recalled from the D-League and will suit up tonight against Portland. The rookie power forward was slated to play in the D-League All-Star Game this weekend in New Orleans, but he’s ineligible now because he’s back in the NBA.

Fazekas (7-0, 235) was originally assigned to Tulsa on November 20. He played in 28 games for the 66ers starting 24 times and averaged 19.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 55.3% from the field in 30.6 minutes per game. He was selected to represent the 66ers at the D-League All-Star Game in New Orleans on February 16.

Fazekas, the 34th pick out of Nevada, played in two games for Dallas this season and averaged 1.0 points in 2.5 minutes per game.

Dampier may play vs. Blazers tonight

Super screener Erick Dampier could be back tonight with Portland in town. The big fella has missed two of the last three games with a sprained ankle.

“We hope to have big Damp back,” Avery Johnson said today.

Johnson added that the problems on offense, at different points throughout the season, can be traced back to Dampier not being in the lineup.

“Our guys tend to get open when Damp is on the floor,” Johnson said.

Now the bad news. Guys that won’t be in uniform: Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris.

Johnson was asked if he’s bewildered, angry and confused by the play of late. The banged-up Mavs have dropped two straight and four of the last seven.

“If we were totally healthy and going through this same type of inconsistency, I would probably sit in all those chairs that you just named,” he said. “But I know where we are and it’s not the time to get too negative.

“Now I get a little irate with our effort. No matter who’s in uniform, we should hit people, we should get back on defense and on offense we shouldn’t still settle for jumps shots no matter who’s in uniform. We understand we’re fighting an uphill battle right now, that’s a fact, but we still can do something about it. I’m more irate about effort more than anything.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Injuries and questions mount

It wasn’t so long ago when the Mavericks felt they saw a true glimpse of their team. The rotation was intact, the team was essentially healthy and the wins were piling up.

Some things don’t last.

Consecutive losses on the East Coast to a pair of teams with losing records exposed just how fragile the Mavs can be without a full deck. Offensive catalyst Devin Harris has been shelved since late January. Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and now Josh Howard have joined the ranks of the walking wounded.

The Mavs (34-17) have two games left before the All-Star break, including Wednesday night against Portland at American Airlines Center. The weeklong rest for everyone, save Dirk Nowitzki, couldn’t come at a better time.

But excuses, especially when it comes to injuries, aren’t part of the team culture. They may be a fact of NBA life, but the Mavs still suit up the reigning MVP and a supporting cast many consider deep.

“That’s something we visited about,” coach Avery Johnson said. “We don’t care who is in uniform. We have a high standard of excellence that we want to play to, how we want to play and what we want to do.

“We are clear on our system and try to make the necessary adjustments. Mentally and physically, we just haven’t been able to sustain throughout the whole game, and that’s what we need to do.”

Read the rest of this story and get a preview of the Blazers in today’s notebook at

Josh Howard questionable with contusion

The injuries continue to mount. Josh Howard had an MRI today and it confirmed a lower back contusion, leaving him questionable for tomorrow night against Portland.

Help could be on the way with Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse, who are both game-time decisions. Devin Harris remains out.

Howard took a hard fall in the second half of the loss Monday night at Philadelphia. He remained in the game for a time, but left for good in the fourth quarter.

In 48 games this season, Howard is averaging career-highs of 20.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 36.5 minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mavs fall flat in second half at Philly

PHILADELPHIA – There are no free lunches in the NBA, regardless of the “level” of competition. The Mavericks ventured east to face a pair of teams on the fringe of the playoff picture and paid a pretty hefty price.

Philadelphia and New Jersey, squads with nearly identical records, gave Dallas two losses in less than 28 hours. The Mavs (34-17) returned home after Monday night’s 84-76 setback to the 76ers at the Wachovia Center in need of a change.

“We still haven’t proven ourselves,” said Josh Howard, who left the game with a bruised lower back in the fourth quarter. “We’ve had two great seasons before this season, but for the most part we’re still flying under the radar. We haven’t achieved anything. We’re still trying to get our identity back. It’s getting close to playoff time and we’ve got to find that quick.”

The scrappy 76ers, the second opponent in a stretch of four in five nights in four different cities, pulled away in the fourth behind lightning-quick sixth man Lou Williams and explosive small forward Andre Iguodala.

Howard and Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs’ two 20-point scorers, combined for 32 points. Nowitzki (15 points) was never able to get going, missing 11 of 15 shots in 40 minutes. Jason Terry, the team’s third-leading scorer, had just seven.

Dirk checks out to stretch

It’s not easy to get warm here tonight. It’s in the low teens outside and thanks to problems with a loading dock door here at the Wachovia Center, it’s quite chilly inside.

Maybe that’s why Dirk Nowitzki checked out in the first quarter. He’s back in the locker room stretching his back.

Howard hosting celebrity bowling tourney

Josh Howard and The Josh Howard Foundation will host its first annual celebrity bowling event on Wednesday, March 5th from 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at 300 Dallas Bowling Center in Addison (3805 Beltline Rd., Addison, TX 75001).

"I am very excited to be hosting my first bowling tournament in Dallas," Howard said. "Bowling is one of my favorite things to do and it's great to be able to combine one of my hobbies with an opportunity to raise money to make a difference in my community."

Team entry fees are $3,000 and consist of 5 players. There will be a VIP draft party to bid on Howard and his celebrity friends to be the 6th member of the bowling team. All bowlers will receive a bowling shirt, goodie bag and team photo, along with food and drinks. Anyone interested in purchasing a team can contact Wayne Watts at 972-872-1751 or

George starting, Damp is out

Devean George moves into the starting lineup tonight, along with Gana Diop here at Philadelphia. Erick Dampier (ankle) and Jerry Stackhouse (hamstring) are both on the inactive list.

The offense has struggled at times with JJ Barea filling in for Devin Harris. Tonight’s lineup is longer and more athletic with George, making his first start, and Josh Howard together. Eddie Jones, a starter in 30 of his 33 games this season, moves to the bench.

Dampier didn’t re-injure his ankle last night at New Jersey. He said it just didn’t feel right and he didn’t play in the second half. He’s not sure if he’ll play before the All-Star break, but Avery Johnson is hopeful.

“When he played yesterday, I just didn’t like the way he looked,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can get him back ready to go Wednesday against Portland. If not Wednesday, Thursday against Phoenix.”

In other injury news, Devin Harris’ left ankle continues to improve. He’s graduated to standstill-shooting drills on the court and hopes to begin light jogging in the next few days.

Tonight’s lineup:
G – JJ Barea
G – Josh Howard
F – Dirk Nowitzki
F – Devean George
C – Gana Diop

Teacher Recognition Program

The Mavericks and The UPS Store have announced the continuation of the Teacher Recognition Program, created to recognize Metroplex educators for their work in the classroom. Students in grades K-12 are asked to nominate their teachers by visiting the info page at or any Metroplex UPS location to obtain an application and explain why their teacher deserves to be recognized. Ten winning teachers will each receive $1,000 for themselves and $1,000 for their school, as well as tickets to a Mavs game and recognition during halftime.

“Teachers and educators have the most important jobs in America-preparing our kids for the future,” owner Mark Cuban said. “The Mavs are proud to again team up with The UPS Store to recognize some of these outstanding individuals who often don't get the credit they deserve.”

To qualify, all nomination forms must be legible and filled out in their entirety, including an essay of 150 words or less about why the teacher should be recognized. All entries must be received by Friday, March 14, 2008.

The Teacher Recognition Program is an extension of the NBA Cares initiative. A special thanks to KRLD News Radio 1080 and 98.7 K-LUV for supporting the Teacher Recognition Program.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Nets get up off canvas

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Vince Carter was down for the count. Clocked in the chin by Brandon Bass’ elbow, Carter was left for dead at one end of court while play continued at the other.

The Nets didn’t look much better.

Carter finally got up and by the time he was ready to come back, the Nets began theirs. New Jersey seized control with a 21-4 run to finish out the first half and carried that momentum into the second to stun the Mavericks 101-82 Sunday night at the IZOD Center.

“This is not normally what we do,” Dallas coach Avery Johnson said.

The Mavs (34-16) surrendered an 11-point lead and had their three-game wining streak snapped. Their two-day, back-to-back road trip ends Monday at Philadelphia.

Carter (game-high 29 points) had only four points in 12 minutes before the leaving the game at the 8:23 mark of the second quarter with what at first appeared to be a possible concussion. Humming along behind Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, the Mavs would take a 36-25 less than two minutes later.

New Jersey (22-29) shaved three points off the lead by the time Carter returned. He stayed on the court for the last 5:21 of the first half, as the Nets finished with a fast-breaking flurry that left the home team up 46-40 at the break.

“He’s one of their leaders,” Howard said of Carter. “I’m sure if that had happened to Dirk and he came back, it would have motivated us.”

Johnson quipped of Carter: “I was hoping he’d go back to North Carolina.”

Diop regains confidence

A change in attitude is sometimes only eight minutes away.

That’s the length of time Avery Johnson and Gana Diop spent together Friday morning hashing a few issues out. Chief among them: Diop’s noticeable unhappiness with his lack of playing time.

“I just told him how I felt,” Diop said Sunday before facing New Jersey. “It was just a man-to-man talk, coach and player, and he told me to keep working and do what I do. I was trying to do that the last game.

“I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t like to go up to people and talk, especially coaches. I hold a lot of stuff inside me and just keep working, but it came to that point where we needed a talk and I felt great afterward.”

Filling in for the injured Erick Dampier, Diop delivered his strongest effort since possibly November with 12 rebounds, eight points and two blocks in Friday night’s 92-81 win over Memphis. The showing came two days after Johnson didn’t play Diop at Orlando.

Not getting off the bench was especially hard on Diop’s psyche. Johnson wasn’t happy with the center’s body language, so he called for the private session before the morning shootaround.

Johnson wasn’t the only one to pull Diop aside. Dirk Nowitzki, a regular one-on-one partner with Diop before games, sensed his teammate needed a pick-me-up.

“You try to talk to him as much as you can, you try to help him out, but ultimately it comes down to him and whatever he wants to do,” Nowitzki said. “He’s going to be fine as long as he keeps working and stays fit.

“There are always going to be opportunities, especially with the West getting bigger, we definitely need him. I like his game. I like his energy. He’s a great guy in the locker room, a chemistry guy, so you definitely don’t want to lose him.”

Diop seemed especially moved by Nowitzki’s support. This is their third season as teammates.

“We’ve always been close, but I think this year with what I’m going through, after what he went through early in the season when he was struggling, too, got us closer,” Diop said. “People care about you when you’re down, people who love you, are going to be around. He did that a lot this year.

“We’ve talked a lot over the last week. He told me to keep working, that I’m on a good team and something is going to happen. Almost everybody on the team has talked to me about that.”

Carter floored by Bass

Vince Carter was knocked out, literally, by Brandon Bass’ elbow early in the second quarter. He remained on the court for several minutes – he nearly fell after initially getting up – and was helped to the locker room.

Bass had just secured a rebound before being surrounded by Carter and Malik Allen. Bass swung his arms to protect the ball and avoided getting tied up, and clocked Carter in the process. Carter left with four points.

Dampier returns and Stackhouse out

Erick Dampier is back in the starting lineup after a sprained ankle knocked him out for one game. Jerry Stackhouse takes his place on the inactive list, having tweaked his hamstring on Friday. He had missed the previous seven games.

“He’s not where we want him to be right now,” Avery Johnson said of Stackhouse. “We’re going to continue to rehab him and hopefully get him strong, and get that leg strong, and hopefully get him back sometime soon. He’s day-to-day. He’s not ready to play in this game tonight.”

Stackhouse said he felt a twinge early in his 11-minute stint, but remained in the game against Memphis. He actually dunked once after the setback.

“If the recovery is not good, and we feel there is some danger, then we’ll sit him down,” Johnson said.

Ager headed back to D-League

The Mavericks announced today that they have re-assigned guard Maurice Ager to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League.

Ager (6-5, 202) has seen action in 12 games this season, starting three. He averaged 1.3 points and 0.3 rebounds in 6.5 minutes per game. His best game came vs. San Antonio (11/5), when he finished with a season-high 5 points, 2 rebounds and a career-high 3 assists.

Ager, drafted by Dallas with the 28th pick of the 2006 draft, was assigned to the D-League on Dec. 17. In eight games with the 66ers, he averaged 17.4 points and 2.3 assists in 33.4 minutes per game before being recalled on Jan. 6.

The 66ers host Los Angeles on Feb. 14 before breaking for All-Star Weekend.