Mavs get chance to regroup, prove themselves
Now that the Dallas Mavericks have gotten past that dreaded
stretch of nine games in 12 days, and it wasn’t pretty, they are
getting some relief.
The defending NBA champions, the league’s oldest team with all
its starters and two top reserves being at least 10-year veterans,
have a chance to regroup. They are now in a nearly two-week span
without having to play on consecutive nights, a rarity in this
brutal condensed season.
”Nine games in 12 nights, this team was not designed for
that,” owner Mark Cuban said. ”Especially, when you have
The Mavericks won only twice in that span before returning home
and getting back post players Brendan Haywood (sprained left ankle)
and Brandan Wright (concussion) in time for a desperately needed
victory over Washington on Tuesday night. They are still without
guard Delonte West, out nearly a month with a broken right ring
After beating the lowly Wizards, Dallas practiced for the second
time in three days. The Mavs play at home again Thursday night
against Charlotte, the only team in the league with fewer wins than
Washington’s nine, and host Southwest Division-leading San Antonio
on Saturday night.
The Mavericks (24-20) won’t have to play back-to-back games
again until March 23-24, and then won’t even have to leave Texas
then since those games are in San Antonio and Houston. The toughest
remaining stretch could be four games on the West Coast in five
nights in mid-April.
”Now’s our chance to prove ourselves,” Cuban said. ”It’s just
been a different year, and we’ve got the fewest games left. Now
hopefully that will play in our favor. Hopefully we’ll run into
some tired teams like they’ve run into us.”
After losing at home to the Los Angeles Lakers in their last
game before the All-Star break, the Mavericks went 2-7 over a dozen
days. That ended with five games in six nights, including their
only span this season of three games in three nights – all losses
on the road against teams with losing records.
”Losing is no fun. Everybody’s on edge, frustration comes
out,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. ”But we’re a veteran
team. All we can do is stick together.”
Dallas, which slipped to seventh place in the Western Conference
standings, was the first conference team to play its 44th game –
exactly two-thirds of the unbalanced 66-game regular-season
That leaves 22 games over the six weeks. There are even four
days off before the regular-season finale April 26 at Atlanta that
could be rendered meaningless if the Mavs take care of their
business before then.
But they have to win games and get some momentum going.
”It’s not like we have a cushion,” Cuban said.
”We’ve got to do it whistle to whistle, play to play,” coach
Rick Carlisle said. ”It’s not like all right, we’re just going to
get it back. … You’ve got to do it.”
Cuban said the recent slide didn’t change his thoughts going
into Thursday’s trading deadline. He has repeatedly said there are
no plans for Dallas to make any significant deals.
”We don’t have enough practice time to integrate the guys we
have,” Cuban said. ”So unless somebody just throws a gimme at me,
why would we.”
Because of the grind of playing so many games in short period of
time, Carlisle has done his best to limit minutes and provide
breaks for veteran players.
Jason Kidd, the point guard who turns 39 later this month, was
held out of Saturday night’s loss at Golden State to get some rest.
He missed 10 earlier games because of a lower back injury and then
a strained right calf.
In the fourth quarter Tuesday, Carlisle stuck with Rodrigue
Beaubouis the entire fourth quarter for Kidd, who that night became
only the 12th NBA player to appear in 1,300 regular-season
Nowitzki is playing 32.1 minutes per game, nearly 4 minutes
below his career average and his lowest total since becoming a
full-time starter n 1999-2000. He was held out of four games in
late January because of a sore right knee.
”It’s not like we were playing a full team full minutes,”
Cuban said, referring to the recent stretch. ”Because you had to
conserve minutes on guys and not even play J-Kidd a game. So it’s
only marginally reflective of anything. But hopefully now moving
forward, we’ll be able to play our starting lineup, a more