DeShawn Stevenson: Mavs the best team I’ve played with

The Dallas Morning News

DeShawn Stevenson has been on some good NBA teams. And been around some terrific players.

He played four seasons with Karl Malone and John Stockton in Utah and found out what it’s like to be around playoff-hardened veterans.

When he was with Washington, the Wizards were a playoff team, too. In Orlando, he got to know a young stud named Dwight Howard. Now he’s enjoying the benefits of working alongside Dirk Nowitzki  and Jason Kidd.

So Stevenson knows good basketball when he sees it. And he sees it with the Mavericks.

“Oh, by far,” he said when asked if this is the best team he’s been on in his 11-year career. “I mean, the Utah days with John and Karl, they’re Hall of Famers. But over here, being with these guys and the way they carry themselves and their energy … it’s just a different attitude and, I think, more talented.”

Certainly the Mavericks are deeper. And Stevenson is part of the reason.

He has started the last two games and has responded with solid play, particularly on defense. He also made three of five 3-pointers Wednesday at Memphis, two of which helped fuel the Mavericks’ third-quarter getaway.

The Mavericks are 2-0 with Stevenson starting. His starts came after three games in which he never budged off the bench and another when he played 70 seconds.

Stevenson has stopped counting how many tattoos he has and now just says he has one big one all over his body. But don’t confuse his style with any kind of rebellious nature.

When the younger players who don’t get a lot of playing time would come in before practice for sprints and extra drills, Stevenson was there with them. That’s not common among 11-year veterans.

“In this league, anything can happen, as you can see,” Stevenson said. “With the players we have, if you work hard and stay focused, good things can happen.”

Case in point: Against Memphis, Kidd found Stevenson with a pass in the corner for a 3-point shot. The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley had to close too fast on Stevenson and fouled him, giving the Mavericks three free throws.

That was the beginning of the end for Memphis.

“DeShawn’s a real pro,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s just playing real solid basketball and his presence has settled our starting lineup a little.”

In praise of Dirk: Nowitzki was 2-of-9 in the second half when he returned from his sprained right ankle. But the Mavericks know the numbers lie about his value.

“Not many guys would come back and even try to play after rolling an ankle like that,” Carlisle said. “And it really helped us because his presence on the floor changes the geometry of the game even if he’s not touching the ball.”

J.J. Barea added: “Even on one leg, he can spot up and shoot and the defense has to know that.”

Briefly: Caron Butler (back spasms) is recovering after missing Wednesday’s game and is listed as day-to-day. … Nowitzki moved around well Thursday after he rolled his ankle in Memphis. He is not listed on the injury report.