Saturday, March 15, 2008

Howard's role continues to grow

Josh Howard’s evolution as a basketball player is obvious. Just look at the stats. Scoring and rebounding numbers for the fifth-year small forward have trended up each year.

Avery Johnson has a different measure for Howard. It’s one of responsibility. Those numbers are on the rise, too.

“Josh is going to have to play the primetime scorers and he’s been doing a good job of trying to deny them the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s been really physical. For years we didn’t want him doing that. He’s matured now and he can handle it physically and mentally.”

Recognized as the Mavericks’ best perimeter defender for the last few years, Johnson had a plan in place to “protect” Howard, at least early in games. He wouldn’t guard those big-time scoring swingmen – Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade and so on – at the start.

That responsibility went to guys such as Adrian Griffin and Devean George. That strategy also led to the signings of Doug Christie and Eddie Jones. Consider the experiment closed. Jerry Stackhouse’s move into the starting lineup further cements the change in philosophy.

Read the rest of this story and get a preview of the Heat in today's notebook at mavs.com.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Notables from 116-97 win vs. Pacers

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas led 11-8 before going on a 20-5 run starting at the 7:12 mark of the 1st quarter. When the run ended, at the 1:21 mark of the period, the Mavs had established a 31-13 lead.

QUICK HITS
• Malik Allen left the game in the 2nd quarter with a right hip strain and did not return.
• Dirk Nowitzki had converted 38 straight free throws dating back to the 4th quarter at LAL (3/2). The streak ended tonight as he went 4-5 from the free throw line.
• Jerry Stackhouse had a free throw streak of his own (36 straight dating back to vs. GS, 1/2) that also ended tonight. He went 2-3 FTs tonight.
• As a Maverick, Tyronn Lue is shooting 88.9% (8-9 FGs) from the field. Tonight, he contributed 13 points (5-5 FGs, 3-3 3FGs) in 16 minutes off the bench.
• Over the last 3 games, the Mavericks have nearly as many assists as their opposition has field goal makes. On Monday, vs. NY, the Mavericks had 32 assists to the Knicks’ 31 FG makes. On Wednesday, Dallas had 34 assists to Charlotte’s 35 FG makes. Tonight, Dallas had 31 assists to Indiana’s 34 makes. (over last 3 games, DAL: 97 assists, OPP: 100 FGM)
• The Mavericks have won their last 4 games by an average of 23.3 points per game. Tonight, they were 1 point short of setting franchise history – they had won their last 3 games by at least 20 points each (4th time in franchise history). They have never won 4 straight games by 20+ points.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,354 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 267 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 305 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 fall just short of franchise first

The Mavericks officially have 2,248 games in the books over nearly 28 seasons. Obviously, much has happened since the birth of the expansion team back in 1980.

But Friday night they fell a point shy of a franchise first. Dallas nearly ran off quartet of 20-point wins for the first time ever after dismantling Indiana 116-97 before 20,354 fans at American Airlines Center.

Though the 19-point win didn’t set a record, it had to feel good. The latest Eastern Conference rout comes on the heels of home blowouts over New Jersey, New York and Charlotte. The Mavs (43-23) finished off the five-game homestand at 4-1 going into Sunday’s date at Miami. Are the Heat next?

Once again, the Mavs were in command early by racing out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter. The ball was moving freely and the shots were coming in rhythm. At the other end, the Pacers struggled for good looks in the face of an aggressive defense.

“It is about making that extra pass,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “Once the defense starts to move you have to make that team pay for double-teaming. When we move the ball, swing the ball and do the things we are supposed to do, we are going to get good looks all night.”

Not much changed the rest of the night. The Pacers (25-40) never threatened, falling behind by as much as 23 in the second half. The Mavs avenged a four-point loss at Indiana back in November.

Allen leaves game after straining hip

Malik Allen left the game after straining his right hip in the first half. His status for the second half will be evaluated at halftime.

That’s been about the only thing not to go right for the Mavs in the first half. Jerry Stackhouse’s buzzer-beating jumper gave the home team a 62-46 lead heading into the break.

We just got word that Allen is done for the game. He will be checked out again before the team leaves for Miami.

Pregame notes: George and Jones update

Devean George, out the last two games with a sore lower back, could be back on the court Sunday at Miami. It depends on how he does tomorrow at practice before the team flies to Florida.

George tried to practice earlier this week, but his back stiffened up after about five minutes. Once he does return, look for George to get the minutes back that have lately gone to Antoine Wright.

Eddie Jones’ troublesome knee is improving, but he’s not ready for a full-scale practice. That may come soon. However, Avery Johnson doesn’t expect Jones to play “any time in the next week.”

In terms of his bench, Johnson hopes to “establish some kind of identity with the second unit.” The bench has started to assert itself this week, with Tyronn Lue the latest addition to the rotation.

Every game counts in large amounts

The Pacers finish off the stretch of four straight home games against teams with losing records. After going to Miami this weekend, three heavy hitters – Lakers, Celtics and Spurs – invade American Airlines Center.

Avery Johnson is trying to temper the sentiment that those games are more important than the ones against the struggling teams.

“Tonight is a big game for us,” he said. “Right now when you have only 16 or 18 games [left], every game is a big game. If we had lost these last three games and win the ones next week that wouldn’t have been good. We’re trying to win every one.”

And considering the depth around the league, there aren’t that many freebies anyway.

“The NBA has gotten better, players have gotten better,” Josh Howard said. “The games that we used to win are tougher games now.”

Guitar Hero Challenge

What: Mavs Host "Guitar Hero" Video Game Challenge
When: March 20th through April 10th
Where: AT&T Plaza

More Info: On Thursday, March 20th, the Mavs will launch the "Guitar Hero Challenge," presented by GameStop, where video game aficionados will have the chance to show off their skills and sign up to play under tournament conditions on the AT&T Plaza outside the South Entrance of American Airlines Center .

Starting two hours prior to each home game between March 20th and April 10th, fans can sign up to participate in the preliminaries, with the top five point-getters from each night having the opportunity to play on the main stage. The top five finalists will receive two tickets to that night's game.

The top score from each of the six main stage competitions will advance to the Championship round on April 16th. All six finalists will receive two tickets to the April 16th game versus New Orleans and will receive a $100 GameStop gift card.

The six finalists will compete for the chance to win the Dallas Mavericks "Guitar Hero Challenge" grand prize - the chance to play "Guitar Hero III: Legends of the Rock" during a quarter break at a First Round Playoff game, two-tickets to the game, a Guitar Hero Game pack and an autographed Mavs Authentic jersey.

The Dallas Mavericks "Guitar Hero Challenge" presented by GameStop will be powered by locally based Affinity Sports Marketing. Visit mavs.com for official rules.

Johnson sees improvement

A winning streak tends to brighten up the mood. The Mavs are working on a run of three consecutive blowouts going into tonight’s clash with Indiana at American Airlines Center.

One of the key points for Avery Johnson in the next few games is getting Tyronn Lue up to speed as Jason Kidd’s backup. Overall, Johnson sees improvement.

“We’ve been really focused,” he said earlier today. “Some areas of our game, no matter who we’re playing against, are slightly improving. We’re still not there yet. In practices and shootarounds and games, we’re still making some mistakes.

“Now we’re trying to get Lue up to speed. Lue is kind of where Kidd was when he first got here. Now Kidd obviously is much further along in what we’re trying to do. Now we’re trying to get Lue going. It’s taking some time.

“We watched some video this morning from our last game, some areas that we can improve in with pick-and-roll defense, transition defense, just trying to get everybody on the same page.”

What sticks out for Johnson on film?

“I like the way we’re passing the basketball,” he said. “I really see that our passing has really become contagious. We’re moving the ball. On the break, Josh is finding Damp and Damp is throwing it to Dirk, and the ball is really moving.

“Sometimes we tend to overpass, which is a good problem to have. I like the way we’re physical and big, and we have a lot of size in the backcourt now, and we can rebound from every position with our starters.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making use of time

The five-game stand at American Airlines Center ends Friday night with Indiana’s lone visit of the regular season. After a lethargic loss to sizzling Houston to open the stretch, the Mavericks responded with three resounding conquests of Eastern Conference also-rans.

The Pacers are also lumped in that out-of-contention group with New Jersey, New York and Charlotte. That’s not to imply the preceding routs are meaningless. The Mavs are in need to good vibes and good wins – NBA cellar-dweller Miami follows Indiana – and time.

“We still have areas of our offense and defense we’re working on,” Avery Johnson said. “We’re still playing against NBA teams. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get away from a few teams here recently, but we’re still working on areas that we know need significant improvement and some areas [need] small improvement.”

They need time for the newcomers to become more comfortable with the system. Time for the guys that have been in Dallas to feel comfortable with their new teammates. Time to bond. The regular season is down to 17 games and the Mavs continue to look up in the standings, rather than down, at their fellow Western Conference contenders.

So, those five minutes at the end of the 25-point blowout mean as much for Tyronn Lue, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright as the previous 43 meant for Jason Kidd. And while the stats for some suggest they’re assimilating well with the newcomers – Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse come to mind – every one of these last 17 games is important for everyone to build rapport.

“We feel we have all the pieces to compete,” Kidd said. “It’s just a matter of if we can all be on the same page.”

Read the rest of the story and get a Indiana preview in today’s notebook at mavs.com.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Notables from 118-93 win vs. Bobcats

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Using a 15-5 run between the 11:14 and 6:54 marks of the 2nd quarter, Dallas established a 51-33 lead over Charlotte. In that span, Brandon Bass scored 10 of the Mavs’ 15 points.

QUICK HITS
• Tyronn Lue made his Mavericks debut at the 9:37 mark of the 2nd quarter. He signed as a free agent (3/4) but had missed four games with a left calf strain. He finished the game with 7 points (3-4 FGs, 1-2 3FGs), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 15 minutes.
• For the fifth time this season, Josh Howard scored 20 points in a half. In the 1st half, he poured in 20 points (8-12 FGs, 2-2 3FGs, 2-3 FTs).
• Howard matched his career-high with 6 assists (done 4 times).
• Dallas improved to 6-0 when scoring 60+ 1st half points (67 tonight).
• Dirk Nowitzki has not missed a FT in 4 games (31-31 FTs in that span, 8-8 FTs tonight).
• Jerry Stackhouse matched his season-high with 6 assists (also @ GS, 11/8).
• Over the last 2 games, the Mavericks have as many assists as their opposition has field goal makes. On Monday, vs. NY, the Mavericks had 32 assists to the Knicks’ 31 FG makes. Tonight, Dallas had 34 assists to Charlotte’s 35 FG makes.
• Tonight’s 34 assists marked a season-high for the Mavericks (previous high was 32, done 2 times).
• The Bobcats remain winless against Dallas. The only other team they’ve not defeated since joining the league is Phoenix.
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,279 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 266 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 304 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.

No trouble with Bobcats

Avery Johnson wasn’t feeling too well in the first quarter, but it had nothing to do with what he was watching. If the coach’s wellbeing was strictly based on the play of his team, Johnson would have been the picture of health.

The Mavericks thoroughly dominated streaking Charlotte in every phase of the game Wednesday night before 20,279 fans at American Airlines Center. The performance was so impressive in the 118-93 runaway, Johnson almost forgot the minor stomach issues that led to his exit for almost eight minutes.

“I’m fine,” he said simply.

The Mavs (42-23) appear to be all right, having reeled off three consecutive victories by an average of nearly 25 points heading into the Friday’s finale of the five-game homestand against Indiana. The latest victory was the most stirring, considering the Bobcats were lugging a franchise-record five game winning streak, but were never in the game.

“We’re just out there having fun,” Erick Dampier said. “It’s amazing when we’re out there having fun the things that we can do as a team. We just have got to go out there each and every night with a consistent effort and do the things that we work on in practice. When we’re moving the ball, running up and down the floor and having fun, we can play with anyone in this league.”

Read the rest of this game story at mavs.com.

Basketball IQ improves

For all the issues the newcomers, especially those who were part of the Jason Kidd trade, are having picking up the Mavericks’ system, they collectively are ahead of the game in one area.

Basketball smarts.

You’d expect a healthy level of veteran guile from Kidd and Malik Allen. Antoine Wright, despite his youth, has also been praised for his know-how.

“I really feel we are a much smarter team,” Avery Johnson said Wednesday prior to taking on the Bobcats. “We communicate better, even through the losses. I was telling my coaches, this had been after some tough losses on the road, if nothing else, we definitely improved with passing and we improved with our basketball knowledge.

“Even Wright for a young player, he’s been making some plays in practice and in games that are just instinctive, that are high basketball IQ plays. Malik is bright and Kidd, it’s well-documented what he is.”

The other two veteran newcomers, Tyronn Lue and Jamaal Magloire, can also get lumped into the “smart” group. Lue made his Mavs’ debut in the second quarter. Though he made a few mistakes picking up defensive nuances during the morning shootaround, no one is worried about the new backup point guard getting it straight.

That goes for all the new faces.

“The basketball IQ is very high and guys can make adjustments like that when they see a situation,” Allen said. “Guys do a good job of reading situations and noticing mismatches. Knowledge is not the problem. A lot of times you can’t teach that.”

Stack: Better suited for the playoffs

The Mavs (41-23) are seventh in the Western Conference, but it’s a misleading seventh. They’re only four games back of the first-place Lakers. (Yes, they’re also 2 ½ up on ninth-place Denver.)

It’s not as if the Mavs are four games under .500 and seventh in the East. So when Jerry Stackhouse was asked today why the team is struggling to be a “powerhouse,” he was understandably taken aback a bit.

“If you look around the conference there’s a lot of parity,” he said. “I don’t think it’s mediocre parity. I just there are a lot of good teams in this league and we have to play each other. With the record that we have, I don’t think we’re struggling so much. We’ve had some in-season changes. We got off to a little bit of an up-and-down start of the season.

“We might be better suited to go into the playoffs this year than we were last year. I think we had so many highs and somewhat of an easy road during the regular season last year, when we got to the playoffs and saw a little bit of adversity, we didn’t handle it well. Obviously, we’ve dealt with some adversity through the course of the regular season, so maybe that will help us this time around.”

Quick roster notes

As mentioned several times, backup point guard Tyronn Lue will see action tonight. Devean George and Eddie Jones will not. Jerry Stackhouse remains the starting shooting guard.

George is nursing a sore lower back and is listed as day-to-day. Jones, dealing with knee tendonitis, should be practicing again this week, according to Avery Johnson.

George, Jones and JJ Barea are inactive tonight.

Here come the Bobcats

The Rockets came rolling into town last week with a winning streak that’s become the longest in their history. Make room for the Bobcats.

OK, Charlotte isn’t likely to push 20 (Houston is at 19), but Sam Vincent’s bunch has peeled off five straight wins, setting the longest streak in the modest annals of the 4-year-old franchise.

Golden State-ex Jason Richardson is the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week. Raymond Felton is averaging 18.7 points and 9.5 assists over his last six games. Matt Carroll is 3-point fiend, and Emeka Okafor and Nazr Mohammed are getting the job done inside.

“They’re playing really good basketball right now, very dangerous team,” Avery Johnson said after shootaround today. “Felton and Richardson, with what they’re doing, the points that they’re putting up, Matt Carroll is shooting the ball awfully well, Okafor and Mohammed are playing really good inside, they’re rebounding the ball well, they’re running.

“They seemed to have just clicked at the right time in the season, so this is a very dangerous team, dangerous game, we’re going to have to play well, really play well to win this game.”

The Mavs hope they’ve begun the clicking process after a pair of routs at American Airlines Center.

“We feel good about playing at home and what we’ve been able to do over the last couple games,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “I think we’re starting to gain a little bit of momentum. Obviously, we’re playing a team that has some momentum also. They’ve won five in a row and have been playing pretty good basketball, so it’s not going to be easy, but we feel confident.”

Stackhouse added that there’s plenty of motivation to run their winning streak to three.

“We don’t want Sam to come in here to get a win,” he said. “There are always motivational things you can look for during the course of the game – obviously, Jason Richardson being with Golden State last year.

“You’re always trying to create your own enthusiasm and create your own motivation, and we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that here recently and hopefully it will continue tonight.”

Kidd and Jet on NBA.com's Pac-10 team

As we put together these NBA All-Conference teams, we usually come up with some pretty stacked squads. And Team Pac-10 is no exception, except that the stacking is going on in the backcourt only.

At the point guard, shooting guard, and small forward positions, you would have a hard time finding a conference that goes deeper than the Pac-10.

We start off at point with a future Hall of Famer in Jason Kidd (California). Then we have Baron Davis (UCLA), who we are shifting to shooting guard to get as much firepower in the starting lineup as possible, and Gilbert Arenas (Arizona), who is currently inactive. Finally, we have Mike Bibby (Arizona), another veteran leader who can shoot the rock.

At the two, backing up Davis, we have All-Star Brandon Roy (Washington) and veteran Jason Terry (Arizona). That makes six guys who we can just give the ball and say, "Go to work." And at the three, we have Arizona athletes Andre Iguodala and Richard Jefferson, along with the best shooter in the league, Jason Kapono (UCLA).

For a look at the rest of the team, hit NBA.com's Conference Challenge: Pac-10 in the NBA.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stating the Wright case

Antoine Wright doesn’t have much time to make a good impression, so the free-agent-to-be is making the most of what little time he has.

“You’d be dumb not to look at that, but you can’t really play for the future,” Wright said Tuesday after practice. “Really, you have to play for now, especially in my case.”

Wright making a case for more playing time, now or in seasons to come, isn’t the priority with the Mavericks fighting for playoff positioning in the rugged Western Conference. Wright, though, has caught Avery Johnson’s eye lately with his work ethic and in-game spark.

The third-year swingman has logged 45 minutes in the last three games, including 40 during the two-game winning streak the Mavs take into Wednesday night against Charlotte at American Airlines Center. In those 45 minutes – an NBA game is 48 – Wright has 20 points (8-of-15 shooting), nine rebounds, three assists and three turnovers.

“I have to continue to work,” Wright said. “I think I have to take advantage of practice days. Those are the days when a lot of guys are banged up [and] bruised up. I’m able to come out there and play hard and also see what I can do. I have to take advantage of each opportunity and I view practice as an opportunity, too.”

Read the rest of the report and a Bobcats’ preview at today’s notebook at mavs.com.

Bond is coming between Kidd & Josh

The connection between Jason Kidd and Josh Howard on the court has been slow to develop. Kidd predicts it’s only a matter of time.

“It’s not fair because a lot of times Josh has had the opportunities and they’re going to fall for him,” Kidd said. “We’re not going to go away from him because he’s a big part of this team.

“When he goes good for us, it makes the game so much easier. He’s going always to be an option for me and I’m always going to give him the ball, and we know those shots will start falling for him.”

Howard has only 20 points in the last two games, though both have been routs and he’s taken only 14 shots. His work at the other end of the court isn’t being ignored.

“I’ve never seen him play defense the way he’s been playing here recently,” Avery Johnson said.

Vote for the Mavs Dancers at NBA.com


It’s not too late to vote in the NBA’s annual Dance Team Bracket. Help the Mavs Dancers down Utah in this first-round matchup at NBA.com. Every vote counts.
Our journey to the Finals doesn’t begin until April, but we’re not waiting to get in on the tournament action. We need your help to fill in our 30-team Dance Team Bracket — a single-elimination tournament to crown the fans' favorite dance team.
Last year, you selected the Heat as your favorite team, but who will it be this year? Click on any of the team logos below to view the matchups, then come back on the date listed below to cast your vote for your favorites. The final round of voting takes place April 2-3, with the winner being announced April 4.

Lue ready vs. Bobcats, George hurting

Tyronn Lue will be in uniform tomorrow night when the Mavs host Charlotte. The backup point guard, who’s been out with a strained left calf, didn’t have any setbacks during today’s brisk practice.

The plan is for Lue to join the rotation in relief of Jason Kidd, somewhere in the 10-18 minute range depending on the situation. Lue will wear No. 10.

Avery Johnson’s marching orders for Lue: “Don’t turn the ball over, run the team for those minutes that he’s in the game and make open shots.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers called Johnson after the Mavs picked up Lue. Boston was also recruiting the 10-year vet.

“He told me that he had him in Orlando and I’m going to be really pleased with him,” Johnson said. “High basketball IQ. He’s a pro.”

Johnson said Lue has been given a “new life” in the basketball sense with the Mavs. Lue has certainly lived a charmed one at times, picking up a pair of championship rings during his stint with the Lakers.

He’s played with a number of stars, including Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Though he’s only been in Dallas a week, Lue has added Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki to that list.

“I can tell my kids, if I ever have any, that I’ve played with a lot of great players,” Lue said with a smile.

Devean George (back soreness) tried to practice, but it didn’t work out. Officially, he remains day-to-day.

“He looked a little tender,” Johnson said. “He’s not quite right yet – sore with that back. He tried to come out and give it a go, and it got sore on him and a little tight. He’s somebody we’ve got to rehab and try to get him back 100 percent. We’ll see how he recovers.”

Monday, March 10, 2008

Notables from 108-79 win vs. Knicks

TONIGHT’S KEY RUN: Dallas led 10-5 at the 7:22 mark of the 1st quarter. Using a 15-4 run, the Mavericks extended their lead to 16 points, 25-9, at the 2:25 mark of the period.

QUICK HITS
• With 10 points (2-6 FGs, 6-6 FTs) tonight, Malik Allen produced his highest scoring output since 14 points at SAC (1/22) when he was a member of the Nets.
• Dallas improved to 16-2 and when shooting at least 50% from the field. Tonight, the Mavericks shot 52.6% (41-78 FGs, 2-6 3FGs) from the field.
• New York’s Renaldo Balkman left the bench with 7:30 to go in the 4th quarter (back spasms) and did not return.
• The Mavericks dished out a season-high tying 32 assists (led by Jason Kidd’s 9).
• The Knicks scored only 31 1st half points – an opponent season low for the 1st half – on 26.1 percent field goal shooting (12-46 FGs, 2-7 3FGs).
• The 26.1 percent set an opponent low for FG shooting in a half.
• Over the last 2 games, the Mavs are holding their opponents to just 32.5 points in the 1st half. (NJ shot a then-season-low 37.9% FG)
• Tonight’s attendance was 20,203 fans (19,200 capacity). The Mavs have sold out 265 consecutive regular season games at AAC and 303 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 overpower Knicks by 29

The Mavericks completed a home sweep of the Big Apple’s area teams by handling New York 108-79 Monday night before 20,203 fans at American Airlines Center. Coupled with the 20-point beating of New Jersey two nights prior, Dallas outran the two Eastern Conference lightweights by 49 points.

“Right now, we’re just looking to get into a good rhythm,” Avery Johnson said. “We need to play well and try to win as many of these games as we can. Everybody plays the same schedule, everybody plays the same teams. Right now, this would be a good time for us to lay some sort of foundation with this basketball team as we move forward.”

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry led a balanced attack with 18 points each, as the Mavs (41-23) improved to 2-1 on this five-game homestand. Josh Howard (14) and Malik Allen (10) joined Nowitzki in double figures, and 10 Mavs logged at least 15 minutes in the blowout.

The Mavs took control right from the opening tip, running off 10 straight points before New York broke into the scoring column. Jason Kidd had six assists on 12 baskets in the first quarter, with the lead hitting 19 in the final minute of the period.

Nowitzki and Howard combined for 16 points in the first quarter. The Knicks had 15. Not much changed in the second quarter, as the lead reached 28 at one point before halftime. The Mavs ran at every opportunity and racked up 21 fastbreak points in the half.

“The only way you can run and get easy baskets is if you get stops on the defensive end and we were able to get stops,” Terry said. “Get J-Kidd the ball and he was able to outlet the ball quickly, like he always does, and it allowed us to get easy baskets.”

The woeful Knicks (18-46) started both the first and second quarters by missing 12 of 13 shots. New York was down 54-31 at the break, marking the fewest points the Mavs have allowed in any half this season. The previous low was 33. New Jersey managed 34 in the first half Saturday.

Read the rest of this game story at mavs.com.

Josh and Kidd need to bond

Dirk Nowitzki is thriving with Jason Kidd. The Kidd connection looks pretty strong with Erick Dampier, too, and lately with Jerry Stackhouse. Overall, the Mavericks seem to be catching on to their new quarterback.

Josh Howard, though, is the notable exception. The team’s second-leading leading scorer is in somewhat of a funk since Kidd hit town.

“If I could really say I don’t want to talk about this I would,” Howard said Monday night prior to facing New York. “It’s just about us playing together. We’ve been playing together, but we really haven’t been playing together that long, so it’s hard to say.”

Howard was averaging 20.3 points before Kidd debuted on Feb. 20. In the first 10 games with Kidd, leading up to the Knicks, Howard’s averaged 15.7 points and shot 38.4 percent.

There are, of course, other reasons for his struggles, both physical and emotional. Howard was dealing with a sore lower back around the time of the trade. He also dealt with a couple of deaths in the family.

“I don’t want to overanalyze it,” Avery Johnson said Howard and Kidd not connecting. “It hadn’t happened the way we wanted it to, but it will. We’ve seen some stuff on film that we think can help.

“Everybody in the world should be happy to play with Kidd. He wants to get you the ball. The more that Josh runs with vision, and keeps his eyes on Kidd at all times, I think it will happen because Kidd’s skill set is tailor made, in my opinion, for an athlete like Josh.”

Howard hopes the bond is growing with Kidd. He realizes it has to if the Mavs are going to maximize their scoring potential.

“Kidd’s the head of the snake running the offense,” Howard said. “We’ve got our MVP scoring points and that’s a good thing. We’ve got people around us, with Stack being able to come through for us.

“Guys are willing to come in and sacrifice, that’s what we need. It’s kind of like the same situation two or three years ago. We had guys that knew their roles. I think everybody is figuring out their roles.”

Lue to debut vs. Charlotte

Tyronn Lue is slated to make his debut Wednesday against Charlotte if the next couple days go as expected. Jason Kidd’s new backup has been nursing a calf injury since signing with the Mavs, but has made steady improvement the last few days.

“He’ll have his first action on Wednesday,” Avery Johnson said of Lue.

Lue reiterated as much in the locker room before tonight’s game. He’ll be on the inactive list with Devean George and Eddie Jones.

Johnson: “Get on the same page”

One 20-point win does not mean all is well. Whether it’s a positive start remains to be see. The Mavs do have a chance to build some momentum, with New York being the second of five consecutive opponents with losing records.

The first 10 games with Jason Kidd are in the books, and Avery Johnson addressed the progress earlier today.

“We’ve really had to take a hard look at our defense, first of all,” he said. “We can’t give up 100-and-something points a game and be a good team.

“I thought we were slightly improved in some areas the last game looking at our technique and just getting everybody on the same page. Because if two men are thinking something different on defense, it confuses our whole defense.”

The Mavs gave up 99.5 points on 44.9 percent shooting during those 10 games. Points allowed are up 3.5 from regular-season averages, while the shooting percentage is exactly the same.

Johnson didn’t expect the transition process with Kidd, and also Malik Allen and Antoine Wright, would take this long. But that’s also become a tired excuse.

“The trade is over now,” Johnson said. “No more excuses about the trade. Now we’re all Mavericks and at some point you have to get some stuff out of your system. That’s what we’ve told Kidd and Malik Allen and even Wright, who is playing a little bit now.

“This is the way we like to do it and everybody has to get on the same page, because we can’t have the Mavericks that’s been here and some our new guys thinking two different things. That’s unacceptable now.”

Kidd agreed, especially regarding the mistakes being made without the ball.

“Coach’s principles are a lot different than New Jersey, so that’s probably the side that I’m a little bit behind on and trying to catch up,” Kidd said. “But 10 games in now, I have no excuses for making mistakes on the defensive end.”

Kidd and Mavs can start streak vs. NY

The Big Apple Tour continues for Jason Kidd and the Mavs tonight with the Knicks visiting. Kidd enjoyed a firsthand look at all the craziness surrounding Isiah Thomas’ bunch from across Lincoln Tunnel during his days with New Jersey.

Though the nicked-up Knicks are sloshing through another miserable season, Kidd isn’t taking them lightly. The Mavs can ill afford to take anyone lightly lately, even coming off a 20-point pasting of Kidd’s former team.

“New York is a very talented team,” Kidd said. “They have a good coach in Isiah. They’ve been through a lot, [with] me being there, seeing the stuff they’ve gone through, but they’re still professional.

“They still come to work every day and they can beat anybody on any given night. So for us it’s to protect home and come out with the same type of energy that we did the last time we played the Nets.”

A win tonight gives the Mavs a winning record again with Kidd in the lineup, and the start of a streak.

“We’ve played 10 games and we are 5-5,” Kidd continued. “We’ve had some tough losses on the road, but we’re not new anymore, so it’s just a matter of us being able to put a nice win streak together and move forward and prepare ourselves for the playoffs. We only have, I think, 19 games left, so we have to go out there and try to win all of them.”

Bass launches “Slams for Students”

What better way for an NBA athlete to give back to the community than by utilizing his job on the basketball court. Dallas Mavericks forward Brandon Bass, along with Hawk Electronics and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth, have joined forces to launch the “Slams for Students” campaign in support of the Brandon Bass Reach Back Foundation.

The purpose of the campaign is to raise funds for the 2008 Brandon Bass Youth Basketball Summer Camp that will allow selected under-privileged students within the Dallas/Fort Worth communities the opportunity to be educated, challenged and inspired through the art of basketball.

Hawk Electronics is donating $50 to the Reach Back Foundation for every shot that Brandon makes through the end of the regular season. These funds will be applied to costs related to the camp. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Fort Worth has donated their location to host the 2008 Brandon Bass Youth Basketball Summer Camp.

For information on donating to the Brandon Bass Reach Back Foundation, please email: donations@brandonbass32.com.

George is out & Stack still in

Devean George is suffering from back stiffness and won’t play tonight against New York at American Airlines Center. George met with the team doctors this morning and didn’t attend shootaround.

Avery Johnson appears to be sticking with the Jason Kidd-Jerry Stackhouse guard combo after a successful debut Saturday. Stackhouse scored 20 in only his third start, while Kidd dished out 13 assists in the easy win over New Jersey.

Jason Terry had started the previous eight games with Kidd before returning to the bench. (George started Kidd’s first game back.) Stackhouse adds size to the backcourt, which alleviates some of the defensive pressure on Kidd and Terry.

“We like the look because it’s hard when Kidd has to guard those Kobe Bryants and McGradys when Jet is in the lineup,” Johnson said. “We may have gained some stuff on offense, but we thought we suffered severely on defense.

“Now Kidd can play the point guards like he’s used to. We wanted to give Stack a try because we also feel that other guy who’s in the lineup has to be a guy that can score, which is tailor made for Kidd’s skill level.”

Congratulations Dirk on scoring record

video

Congratulations to Dirk Nowitzki for becoming the Mavericks’ all-time leading scorer. The reigning MVP broke Rolando Blackman’s record with his jumper late in Saturday’s win over New Jersey.

Here’s the video at mavs.com commemorating the achievement and just a few quotes from Dirk and others I’ve collected over the years.

Dirk on breaking the record: “It’s a great honor to be the all-time leading scorer for this franchise. There have been so many great players along the way. Ro Blackman is a friend of mine and he coached the German National team one year, so I’m really, really close to him, so I hate to break that record and take it from him, but it’s definitely a great honor for me.”

Dirk on being able to appreciate this accomplishment now: “It’s a little too early. Hopefully, I’ve got a lot of good basketball, a lot of points left in me for this franchise. All of those records are going to look really nice in 20, 30 years when you look back and you can tell your grandchildren about them.”

Avery Johnson on sharing a hug with Dirk after breaking the record: “That was a pretty strong moment for us. And I know it was for me during my coaching tenure. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dirk as a player and now as a coach. It’s been a great ride. He allows me to push him. I think I’m probably on him more than anybody. I know sometimes there’s some disappointment about some of his performances, but nobody’s on him probably as hard as I am. He’s allowed me to try to bring the best of him. He’s had a triple-double this year, he’s been MVP. He defends the paint better, he has a better post-up game, he’s a better passer. He’s really just been a joy to work with.”

Mark Cuban: “You don’t have to encourage him to get into the gym, he’s the guy you have to lock out. He’s not the guy who you wonder if he cares, he’s the guy who hurts so much when things don’t go the way you want. That’s what makes him an MVP.”

Jason Kidd: “He’s the best. He’s the MVP. He’s the best big man I’ve played with. He’d be one of the best small guys I’ve played with, too.”

Former record-holder Rolando Blackman: “We all know him as a fantastic person and a great guy, and it’s been a privilege to see his rise to get to this point. He’ll blow this whole thing away and be the first Maverick to 20,000.”

Two-time MVP and former teammate Steve Nash: “He’s the unquestioned leader [of the Mavs] in many ways, and he’s extremely committed and focused. To be the best player and be that committed and focused and a leader and win that many games, he’s the MVP.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: “If you want to look for holes in a game, Dirk is not the guy to look to. He is about as perfect as you can get.”

Former TNT analyst and Suns executive Steve Kerr: “I just like the way that he’s now a complete player, just does whatever is necessary, plays any style, adapts to what the defense is doing, and I think he’s just an amazing player who’s taken the next step.”

Heat coach Pat Riley: “He is so unique. First of all, he can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball, he drives it. He is a very, very tough guy to guard.’’

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Bill Walton: “Dirk is representative of the dream of David Stern. Fourteen years ago, it was incomprehensible that any player outside of the United States would be able to crack the top 15 in the world. I would say Dirk is top 10 of all the players in the world right now.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant: “He’s a phenomenal player.’’

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Trying times aren’t an excuse anymore

Before the Mavericks stepped onto the court to face Houston, Avery Johnson acknowledged his team had been through more mentally than most.

“If you look at the timing of our trade and all that went on before, it was pretty draining in a lot of different ways,” he said then. “We had that one practice before New Orleans and, ‘Boom, off we go.’”

Before facing New Jersey, he said it was time to spit out the pacifier, stop making the same mistakes and, for the new guys, quit reverting to old habits.

“Some things are going to have to start clicking, especially the A, B and Cs of what we’re all about,” he said.

Did the General undergo a change of heart/loss of patience in two days? Probably not. Both statements explain the concerns as the regular season nears its last month. The Mavs (40-23) hit the third game of a five-game stand at American Airlines Center with New York’s visit Monday night.

Read the rest of this story with a Knicks’ preview at mavs.com.

Bass rebounds in more ways than one

Brandon Bass erupted for a career-high 19 points off the bench last night, quite a rebound for the bruising power forward after a seven-point effort Thursday in his first start with Dallas. Bass apparently wasn’t as calm as he claimed to be before the Houston game.

Avery Johnson alluded to Bass’ nervousness, saying the rugged power forward was late getting off the bench during pregame introductions. The team kidded Bass about it again yesterday morning.

“He was back in his normal role,” Johnson said. “He made some shots, he was decisive, he didn’t fool around with the ball. Because of it, he got some shots to fall and he made some strong dunks inside. We need him to play around the rim for us in there and we’re glad that he did.”

Bass scored 11 in the first quarter, as the rest of the starters struggled. He also threw down several ferocious dunks during the 29-minute outing that also included seven boards.

“I just try to bring the same intensity off the bench every night,” Bass said. “I just need to go out there and be aggressive and not think so much about trying to do the right things, and I just need to go out there and play hard.”

Stack the new 2?

Jerry Stackhouse’s inclusion as the starting shooting guard last night could end up being permanent depending on the results. Stackhouse was in attack mode, scoring 20 in just his third start of the season.

He knocked down 5-of-11 shots from floor, including all three of his 3-pointers. He also got to the free throw line seven times, second on the team to Dirk Nowitzki’s 12.

The only issue with Stackhouse starting may be minutes. He played 30 last night or about six more than Avery Johnson ideally wants the 33-year-old to play.

Johnson added, though, minutes shouldn’t matter at this point of the season. There is plenty of time to rest in July, August and September.

“This is make or break time,” Johnson said.

Johnson has tried Eddie Jones, Devean George and Jason Terry at the ‘2’ spot. Johnson is looking for someone to get to the basket and the line.

“Something we’re thinking about,” Johnson said of Stackhouse starting. “We’ve had some other issues with starting both of our point guards [Kidd and Jason Terry] together. We’ll give it a chance to see what happens.”