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Mavericks eyeing repeat as NBA practices start

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DALLAS (AP)

The Dallas Mavericks are thinking about a repeat -- even after losing some key players from their championship run.

''We're world champions,'' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ''We're excited about that.''

Beginning with Tyson Chandler, the team's defensive and leader, the Mavericks have significant holes to fill before the season starts Dec. 25.

Chandler agreed to the deal Friday with the New York Knicks as training camps opened. Jose Barea, a part-time starter and postseason star, is resigned to the fact he's not coming back to Dallas.

Caron Butler, injured much of last season but a key contributor before going down, has already signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavs also don't appear to have much interest in bringing back DeShawn Stevenson.

''The makeup of the team is probably going to be a little different, but that's just the business of basketball,'' Jason Kidd said. ''That happens, but we still believe we can win. We're going to work extremely hard and take pride in being a champion and trying to protect our championship.''

The Mavericks still have Dirk Nowitzki, the reigning Finals MVP who remains one of the league's elite players despite being 33. Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion round out Carlisle's veteran nucleus.

''A championship is the goal,'' Terry said. ''In every training camp you want to set your goals high. Ours are very high, obviously for the reasons of myself, Dirk, J-Kidd, Marion. We've been around a long time. We know what it takes to win.''

The Mavs had only 10 players for the first workout, including Brandan Wright who was signed Friday. Rudy Fernandez is expected to clear up visa issues and be in camp Monday. League rules stipulate that teams carry at least 13 players.

''Our roster isn't complete,'' Carlisle said. ''There are still possibilities that exist outside of who is here.''

The decision not to sign any of the team's key free agents is a result of the new collective bargaining agreement, owner Mark Cuban has said in various interviews. The CBA, ratified Thursday by the owners and players, has made cap room a more valuable than ever before, Cuban added.

Since buying the franchise, Cuban was simply able to outspend competitors to build a contender. The Mavericks have been over the luxury tax threshold for virtually his entire 11-year tenure.

By not signing Chandler and Barea, in particular, the team is projected to be under the salary cap next season. Kidd and Terry are also entering the last year of their contracts, which would take millions more off the books.

Cuban said that cap room will not only aid in signing players -- Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are among the possible big-name free agents available next summer -- but make trades easier to execute in the coming years.

Cuban's goal is to restock talent while the Mavericks are at or near the top.

''I'm anxious to see what our roster is going to look like,'' Carlisle said.

Wright adds to add frontcourt depth behind Nowitzki. Brendan Haywood steps into Chandler's starting center role with Ian Mahinmi as the backup.

''Just knowing you're going to get more minutes is definitely an added plus, but you have to go out there and do something with your minutes,'' Haywood said.

Dallas also needs to get something out of young guards Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones, who weren't factors last season due of injuries. The Mavericks are grooming Beaubois be the heir apparent to Kidd at point guard.

The Mavericks expect to have a team ready to compete for their second title when Miami rolls into town Christmas Day for a Finals rematch.

''It's great to be back to defend our title and play the game that we love,'' Kidd said

Tagged: Mavericks, Nets, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion

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