Mavericks eyeing repeat as NBA practices start

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