Category Archives: Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Chris Kaman returns to starting lineup

MEMPHIS — No wonder Chris Kaman has “zero idea” what his role is.

One night after being a DNP-CD, Kaman is in the starting lineup. It’s his first start since Jan. 20.

Kaman was demoted for two games before suffering a concussion that sidelined him for 10 games. He played eight quality minutes in his return Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers but never got off the bench for Tuesday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bernard James, who had been starting at center, is healthy and available to come off the bench.

The starting lineup of Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison is 5-4.

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Dirk Nowitzki: ‘I’ve got to be perfect’

DALLAS — Only fools are talking about Father Time after watching Dirk Nowitzki’s dominant performances over the past few days.

The face of the Mavericks’ franchise is finally performing like a Hall of Famer again. And it’s still not enough for this flawed team to feel like it has a legitimate shot to make the playoffs.

For much of this season, there was hope in the locker room that the Mavs could get on a roll if Dirk could just get right. Well, that’s apparently wrong.

Just look at the past two games. The Mavs failed to finish off the Los Angeles Lakers despite Dirk’s 30 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The Mavs folded down the stretch again Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, falling despite Nowitzki’s 21-point, 20-rebound night.

“We all know that stats don’t really mean anything in a loss,” Nowitzki said after his first 20-20 game in a decade. “I’ve got to find a way to pull this one out to make this game count.”

PODCAST Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons Durrett to talk about the possibility of Brandon Jennings joining the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki’s future, a potential backup plan if the Mavs don’t land Dwight Howard and how the organization feels about Derek Fisher.

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O.J. Mayo summed up the rest of the Mavs’ viewpoint: “Dirk is doing his job. Obviously, we’ve got to give him some help.”

Coach Rick Carlisle and veteran Elton Brand, whose grown-man game of 12 points and 14 rebounds was likewise wasted, also talked about needing other players to take pressure off Nowitzki by knocking down clutch shots and making plays down the stretch.

Nowitzki, however, wasn’t looking to point fingers after the Mavs fell six games below .500 with their second consecutive soul-crushing loss in continuing their season-long trend of finding ways to lose close games. He accepts that he must be spectacular for the Mavs to have any sort of success with this patchwork supporting cast.

After missing 27 games and playing miserably for weeks following his return from a right knee scope, Nowitzki has worked his way back to being a superstar who wants the ball down the stretch and the burden that goes along with it. Never mind the 21 points and 20 rebounds he put up against the Bucks. His focus was on the two turnovers and two missed shots he had during the Mavs’ surrender of a five-point lead in the final 3:12.

“Honestly, I wasn’t very good today at the end,” Nowitzki said. “I expect better. I’ve got to be better. The last two or three minutes is usually where I hang my hat on. For us to win that game, I’ve got to be perfect, and I wasn’t down the stretch.”

After the loss to the Lakers, Nowitzki made a similar comment about needing to be perfect with the game on the line. Forget about his two buckets in the final minute of that showdown with fellow future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. He pointed out that he missed a critical free throw after an and-1 drive.

In this case, give some credit to Bucks coach Jim Boylan and defensive player of the year candidate Larry Sanders. After Dirk dominated power forward Ersan Ilyasova most of the night, Milwaukee switched the freakishly athletic 6-foot-11 Sanders on him for the final few minutes.

That disrupted Dirk’s rhythm and had him second-guessing himself as he got dressed after the game, especially about the two drives that resulted in critical turnovers.

“Sanders used his length,” Nowitzki said. “I should have shot it a couple of more times. The two that I drove, I should have quick-shot it. I wish I could take the last couple of minutes back.”

Frankly, the Mavs wish they could have this miserable season back. Not even a spectacular version of Nowitzki can save it. He put it best: Near-perfection will be needed from Nowitzki for the Mavs to pull off a miracle of a push into the playoffs.

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Sarcasm drips as Mark Cuban discusses Derek Fisher

DALLAS – Sweat wasn’t the only thing dripping from Mark Cuban during his customary pregame workout on the stairstepper Tuesday night.

The sarcasm poured when the subject turned to Derek Fisher signing with the Thunder a little more than two months after requesting his release from the Mavericks for family reasons.

Cuban, who said there was “no side deal” regarding family issues when Fisher signed with the Mavs, sarcastically claimed he understood Fisher’s decision to resume his career with a contender.

“His kids are older,” Cuban said. “It’s easier to fly in and out of Oklahoma City than Dallas. I understand that. It’s a decision a parent has to make. Every parent has difficult decisions to make.”

Moments later, Cuban added: “A lot can happen in 65 days.”

This marks the second consecutive season that a former Laker quit on the Mavs. Unlike Lamar Odom, Fisher at least had the decency to stop cashing paychecks signed by Cuban.

Asked if he planned to stay away from ex-Lakers, Cuban said, “In protection of my (Twitter) timeline, I’m not going to say anything.”

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Chris Kaman on his role: ‘I have zero idea’

DALLAS – Chris Kaman, the man the Mavs gave an $8 million salary to be the starting center, is healthy again.

So how does Kaman fit into the Mavs’ rotation?

PODCAST After battling it out against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki said he doesn’t like the idea of consecutive seasons where the Mavericks have to scratch and claw for the No. 8 seed and also addressed his future. Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss.

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“I have zero idea,” Kaman said after playing eight quality minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers, his return after missing 10 games due to a concussion.

That’s not a complaint from Kaman. It’s just an honest answer.

His role could change on a game-to-game basis. It’s up to Kaman, who played two-on-two after Sunday’s game, to be ready.

“There’s no set formula,” coach Rick Carlisle said before Sunday’s game.

This much is certain: Kaman isn’t the starter. He lost that job before suffering the concussion during the Mavs’ Jan. 28 practice, coming off the bench and playing what had been season lows of 12 and 11 minutes in the previous two games.

Carlisle wants to stick with rookie Bernard James as a low-minute, high-energy starter, although the Lakers game seemed a little too big for the second-round rookie, who got bullied by Dwight Howard for the first 3:06 and sat on the bench the rest of the afternoon. Elton Brand, the Mavs’ best all-around big man despite being generously listed at 6-foot-9, gets the bulk of the center minutes.

That leaves Kaman, the 7-footer labeled the best offensive big man in Mavs’ history when he signed his one-year deal, and 6-foot-10 pogo stick Brandan Wright with uncertain roles.

Kaman understands the reasoning for the center rotation changing so much. He gets that he’s struggled defensively for much of the season, and he sees that starting James makes it easier for the Mavs to get Dirk Nowitzki going earlier, with Kaman or Brand not on the floor to get shots.

That doesn’t make it easy for a 10-year veteran who is accustomed to starting and will be a free agent again this summer.

“It’s tough,” said Kaman, who is averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. “I’m not going to lie to anybody, there’s pressure. When you’re in a one-year situation, if people don’t tell you there’s pressure, they’re lying to you. It’s not easy. We’re human, just like everybody else. And we’re trying to go out there and play perfect basketball. Obviously, that’s not how it goes, ever. So for us, candidly, it’s not easy.

“When your playing time goes down, you’re questioning all the stuff in your head. The best thing to do is to not think about it and keep working out, keep working hard and get in there and try to play hard. I can’t control how much I get played or don’t get played. That’s out of my hands.”

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How much of a bargain will Dirk Nowitzki give Mavs on next deal?

DALLAS – Now that Dirk Nowitzki has decided with absolute certainty that he’ll sign another contract with the Mavs, let’s talk money.

How much will Dirk want?

PODCAST After battling it out against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki said he doesn’t like the idea of consecutive seasons where the Mavericks have to scratch and claw for the No. 8 seed and also addressed his future. Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss.

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Really, the question is, how much of a paycut is Nowitzki willing to take to help Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson try to construct a contender-quality roster?

“Well, I think it’s a little too early to look, honestly,” Nowitzki said. “Basically the last couple of times, there was not much negotiating going on. It was, ‘Give me money and I’ll stay,’ right? I gave him a little discount last time.

“The CBA’s changed. We’ll talk about that when it gets to that point. I’ve still got this year and the full next year. We’ll see what happens and where this franchise is. It all depends on a big summer. This is a big summer.”

Nowitzki took $16 million less than he could have gotten on the open market with his current contract, settling for a four-year, $80 million deal. (He somehow still manages to make ends meet, even after getting married.)

That contract was worth every penny after the priceless, Dirk-led championship run in the first season of the deal, but it has become problematic for the Mavs. Based purely on his production this season, Nowitzki is arguably one of the NBA’s most overpaid players at $20.9 million and is due another $22.7 million in the final year of his deal next season.

It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild a championship-caliber roster with one player accounting for more than a third of the payroll.

Nowitzki knows that as well as anyone. As the face of the Mavs’ franchise, he’s probably as well versed in the CBA as any NBA superstar.

Nowitzki also knows it might be a stretch to still call him a superstar – and he’ll certainly slip from that status at some point during his next deal.

For the Mavs to win during Dirk’s golden years, he needs to be a complementary piece. He cited Sam Perkins, a floor-spacing stretch four on Finals teams for the Sonics and Pacers late in his career, as an example. That comparison is taking Nowitzki’s humility too far – he’s not going to be a reserve role player – but he can’t be a focal point for a contender in his late 30s.

That means the Mavs must acquire at least two or three franchise pillars for Dirk to complement. Never mind who at the moment. Just assume those guys will cost good money, although it’d sure help if the Mavs hit big on a draft pick or two.

It’d be bad business to keep paying Dirk big bucks.

Nowitzki has made it clear over and over again that having a chance to bring another championship is his goal for his golden years. Bank on that being reflected in his next deal. It wouldn’t be surprising if he settles for seven-figure salaries in his next contract after making eight figures for 12 straight seasons.

The man will have made $200 million in his NBA career by the end of this deal, so it not like Dirk is desperate to squeeze every dollar he can out of Cuban’s wallet. He’d much rather have another ring.

The Mavs’ books are basically blank for 2014-15 at the moment. Even if they’re successful in free agency this summer, they’ll have ample financial flexibility after Dirk’s deal expires. Ideally, Cuban wouldn’t have to sacrifice much of that cap space to re-sign Nowitzki, giving the Mavs a chance to acquire a star or two and a solid supporting cast.

Here’s betting Nowitzki’s next contract will be a huge bargain for the Mavs. He has to be to give the Mavs realistic hope of hanging another championship banner.

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3-pointer: Mavs’ guards come up small on big stage

DALLAS – Mark Cuban has insisted since their arrival this summer that he’s looking for reasons to commit to Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo as the backcourt of the Mavericks’ future.

The film from Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers certainly won’t help make a case for locking up the 25-year-old guards to long-term deals this offseason.

Frankly, Mayo and Collison got dominated by a pair of future Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant was brilliant, lighting up the Mavs for 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Steve Nash made the Mavs pay when they did double Bryant, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers during a 20-point performance.

Mayo and Collison, on the other hand, combined for only 15 points on 5-of-20 shooting and six assists.

“It was a tough one for our backcourt today in a big game like that on a big stage,” said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 30 points and 13 rebounds were wasted by the Mavs.

Mayo, the Mavs’ leading scorer this season, had more turnovers (three) than buckets (2-of-9 from the floor) and allowed his frustration to get the best of him when he picked up a critical technical foul with 3:04 remaining. Mayo, who missed a contested 3 that could have tied the game with 4.9 seconds remaining, uncharacteristically avoided the media after the loss.

Collison, whose improvement has been a major reason the Mavs won 12 of 18 games entering Sunday, was only 3-of-11 from the floor. He sat all but 2:04 of the fourth quarter, when coach Rick Carlisle opted to play 37-year-old journeyman Mike James at point guard.

“You wish all our games could be perfect and we all play well,” Collison said. “But this (wasn’t) one of those games. We understand that. We’re taking it hard right now. We just got to continue to get better.”

The message from veterans such as Nowitzki and Vince Carter: The young guards have to learn from this loss and get over it immediately.

“Stay with it,” Carter said. “You’re going to have ups and downs. That’s just the way it goes.

“They know and understand their importance to this team. They’ve done great things for us. Of course, you want everybody to have a great game each and every night. That’s just not going to happen. That’s not the way it goes. We’ve just got to fight through it.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ frustrating loss:

1. Kobe schools Crowder: Matchups don’t get much more lopsided than a second-round rookie defending the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history. Kobe Bryant vs. Jae Crowder went about as anticipated.

And that was despite smothering defense by Crowder.

Bryant’s 38-point performance was highlighted by hitting high degree-of-difficulty jumpers over Crowder on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. That spree featured with a 26-foot 3-pointer, a midrange jumper after several moves and a heat-check turnaround 20-footer.

“What could I have done to make him not hit that shot?” Crowder recalled thinking. “I’m giving him all I’ve got. He’s giving you multiple moves and hitting tough fadeaway shots, and it’s hard to guard that. At the same time, I’m trying to make it difficult before the shot goes up. I felt like I did, but he had it going.”

2. T’d off: Two technical fouls in the final 5:48 played a critical role in the four-point loss.

Nowitzki got hit with a technical after angrily punching the air in protest of a no-call with 5:48 remaining. He had missed a jumper on a possession that featured a lot of contact from Metta World Peace, whom Nowitzki accused of “having me in a bear hug” for much of the fourth quarter.

“I got fouled and on top of it they hit me with a T,” Nowitzki said, “so that was a tough sequence there.”

Mayo was called for a technical after expressing his displeasure with a foul called on him with 3:04 remaining. He felt he successfully challenged Bryant’s missed fast-break layup without fouling.

Coach Rick Carlisle understands his players’ frustration, but he doesn’t excuse their technical.

“We’ve got to avoid them. Simple as that,” Carlisle said. “Our guys know it. But those are things we’ll continue to talk about because we’re going to be in those positions again.”

3. Kaman contributes: Center Chris Kaman gave the Mavs eight quality minutes in his return after missing the previous 10 games with a concussion. He scored four points and grabbed four rebounds, and the Mavs outscored the Lakers by eight with Kaman on the floor.

“I just felt a little out of sorts in there,” said Kaman, who played most of his minutes matched up against Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter. “I felt like, what am I doing? I haven’t played in so long. It was kind of weird. But as it went on a little, I started feeling a little more comfortable.

“Just trying to get back in the flow is difficult. Guys almost forget about who you are and what you can do. I just feel like I was out there trying to get back through the motions in the swing of things and get more comfortable on the floor.”

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