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

playoff-like rotation.”