Mavericks have the power to play like champs

DALLAS – On Monday, Mavs team psychologist Dr. Don Kalkstein tweeted, “I, not events, have the power to decide my attitude and efforts. I can choose which it shall be.’ Kalkstein’s hashtag? #Stopblaming.”
Prescient words for Dallas’ 100-87 win over Oklahoma City Monday night, and three areas of brainpower.

1. The Ianimal/Big Wood Tag Team

I think it’s fair to say that Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood does not like to be pushed in a way that makes him feel disrespected. But it is not fair to characterize him as a non-competitor. He competes at chess and at Fantasy Football. So certainly the 7-0, 266-pounder competes at the thing he does for a living, right?

My theory: The early-season lethargy of Haywood saw its end when it got its end kicked – by the energy of Ian Mahinmi. Then there was a lull in this early season when Mahinmi looked like he’d fall into foul-prone-dom, and along comes Chocolate Covered Almonds and his kiss-the-rim electricity. Sean Williams inspired The Ianimal and The Ianinal then inspired Big Wood and then Big Wood inspired.

Well, you get the idea. Around and around it goes. The three centers pushing each other in a good way, with Haywood the big brother (rather than the black sheep he was with Dallas during last year’s regular season, when Tyson Chandler became The Favorite Son).

Right, Big Wood?

Well, no. He refused to agree with my brilliant theory. But I think he’s just being stubborn.

Against Oklahoma City, Haywood started and record six points and six rebounds in the first half. He was on the floor at the end, too, totaling 6/8 and two blocks for the game in 26 minutes. Mahinmi created a different set of problems for the Thunder as a mid-range-jumper threat and a springy body. He was 5-of-8 shooting for 10 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes. Mahinmi is averaging 11.7 points and six rebounds over the last three games.

Jason Kidd wants them to get their due, and when it comes to basketball IQ, he knows how to push those buttons.

On his brilliant downcourt pass to Haywood, who caught and dunked: “He’s the big tight end! I trust him so that’s why I threw it.”

On Mahinmi s personality: “Mahinmi has probably been the best player in this locker room, and he’s going to keep getting better.”

On the tag-team tandem: “They’re probably the only two consistent guys for us.”

2. The Bones Thrown Odom and Carter

This piece of sports psychology comes to me from my FOX Sports Southwest telecast partner Bob Ortegel, who at halftime whispered the following sweet something into my ear:

“Look what [Rick] Carlisle is doing with Odom and Vince: He’s calling plays for them, he’s giving them the ball in one-on-one situations, he’s letting them create.”

Why, Coach O?

“Because,” Ortegel told me, “he’s trying to remind them of who they are. Of what they’ve been in this league. Some of what they need to be here.”

Carter played 24 minutes and Odom 20. Both of them not only got their one-on-one chances early but remained on the floor to the five-minute mark, allowing them to combine on a big and opportunistic basket.

With 5:40 left and Dallas hoping to stretch a double-digit lead, Carter snagged a defensive rebound (one of his nine overall) and delivered a quick down-court outlet to a leaking Odom, who spun in the lefty layup while getting fouled. Odom completed the 3-point play that was good for Dallas’ 89-75 lead, and the psychological bone that was thrown was caught by Vince and Lamar.

Carter had 12 points by midway through the second quarter and ended with 14 points and three assists to go with those 9 boards as he was an interior threat. Odom still hasn’t broken out, but with eight points (on 2-of-4 shooting), five rebounds and two assists, he qualifies as a contributor.

And was made by coach Carlisle and vets like Dirk Nowitzki to feel like one.

Said Nowitzki of Carter: “Vince is a very good post player for his size and when he plays at the 2 he’s going to have a lot of mismatches and we want to get him down there when that happens. He has a good fade away and he can go in the middle and get fouled and he does a good job of ripping through, getting to the basket or getting to the foul line and that will be big for us.”

Said Nowitzki of Odom: “Lamar is so versatile that he can attack in a lot of ways. He can post up or he can drive either way so if those guys attack for us it will make it a lot easier for me and Jet to score.”

Both Carter and Odom did that, in part thanks to Carlisle reminding them that they are Vince Carter and Lamar Odom.

3. ‘Trix Under Durant’s Skin

Kevin Durant scored a game-high 27 points (10-of-21 from the floor, 3-of-6 from the arc) and based solely on the numbers, it appears he was effective.

He wasn’t.

Shawn Marion missed a breakaway layup in the early going, a gaffe that I thought at the time suggested the very lack of “urgency” that Carlisle has been begging for from his team.

But Marion’s urgency would come in the second half – in the form of the mano-a-mano challenge. Durant was guilty of three turnovers, needed a circus shot to break from a 3-of-9 shooting start and in the late-going got caught flat-footed by Marion after he forced him into a turnover and then, from an inbounds pass, out-raced Durant to the other end for a bucket.

If Durant is going to score 27 but Marion is going to answer with 17 of his own, that’s a win. A statistical win and a psychological one.

Dallas is just 2-4, and this single success “doesn’t really make the world great,” as Nowitzki said the other day. But the defending champs have something going against the previously unbeaten Thunder, having lost to them on a last-second miracle five days ago, having downed them last spring in the Western Conference Finals, having handled themselves beautifully against the club assumed to be this year’s best in the West.

Nowitzki scoring 26 (including his 8,000th career field goal), Kidd with nine assists, Dallas tying in the rebound department, Terry making 3-of-5 threes on the way to 15 points, the defense allowing just 18 points in a critical third quarter, bench dominance to the tune of 47 to 25 in points. It all meant a return to some level of normalcy for a Mavs team that is now 2-4 and maybe getting its head screwed on straight.

“I don’t think we’re as far off,” Carlisle said, “as it may appear.”

Maybe the Mavs, not events, have the power to decide their attitudes and efforts.