Nuggets-Mavericks Preview

The start of the Dallas Mavericks’ title defense couldn’t have
gone much worse.

The Mavericks won’t have to wait long to try to bounce back
Monday night at home in the Denver Nuggets’ season opener.

After Dallas raised a banner to celebrate its first NBA title
Sunday, the Mavericks fell behind by as many as 35 points in a
105-94 loss to Miami in a finals rematch that was not as close as
the final score.

Coach Rick Carlisle preached patience for his new-look squad,
which lost center Tyson Chandler and backup point guard J.J. Barea
and added forward Lamar Odom and guards Vince Carter and Delonte
West.

“We’re going to have to forge an identity with this team; it’s a
different team,” Carlisle said. “That’s work, and it’s going to
take honesty, and it’s not going to be easy.”

Odom had a terrible Mavericks debut with four points, four
rebounds and four fouls in 13 minutes. The reigning NBA Sixth Man
of the Year was 1 of 6 from the field before getting ejected in the
third quarter.

“We’ve got to get better and it will take a little time to get
better,” Odom said.

Jason Terry led Dallas with 23 points while star Dirk Nowitzki
added 21 on 6-of-15 shooting.

The Mavericks lost both home games against the Nuggets last
season, going 1-3 in the season series. Three of those meetings,
however, came when Carmelo Anthony was with Denver.

This will be Denver’s first full season without Anthony since
2002-03. The Nuggets went 18-7 after trading Anthony to New York to
finish with 50 wins last season, losing to Oklahoma City in five
games in the first round of the playoffs.

In a league in which teams like the Knicks and Heat are trying
for success by stockpiling superstars, Denver is without one.
Danilo Gallinari averaged 14.7 points in 14 games for Denver last
season after being acquired from New York.

“What we’re trying to do is start where we left off last year
and I think we feel now we can get there,” coach George Karl
said.

One reason for optimism is that Denver re-signed its top two
free agents, Nene and Arron Afflalo. Nene averaged 14.5 points last
season and Afflalo a career-best 12.6.

“These guys are very valuable to the organization, and they are
very skilled players,” general manager Masai Ujiri told the
Nuggets’ official website. “Rather than go out and find players
like them, I think you keep the ones you have.”

Point guard Andre Miller came over from Portland for a second
stint with the team while the Nuggets also acquired perimeter
players Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez from Dallas on Dec. 13.

“Maybe there will be some pieces that will be different and we
might not be as good in certain areas, but I think we can get to
the point where some of the success we had last season can be
repeated,” Karl said.

Afflalo missed the first two games of the playoff series against
the Thunder with a hamstring injury and struggled to average 11.3
points on 35.3 percent shooting in the next three contests. He’s
healthy now, and hopes to resemble the player who averaged 14.3
points on 53.3 percent shooting in three games against Dallas last
season.

“I’m excited to be more of a leader of the team,” said Afflalo,
whose jumper beat the buzzer and the Mavericks 121-120 on Feb.
10.