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Dirk, Carlisle weigh in on Brittney Griner

DENVER — Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn’t ready to offer a scouting report on Brittney Griner and isn’t willing to weigh in on the likelihood of the former Baylor star becoming the first woman to play in the NBA.

It’s a subject that has been the topic of much discussion after Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday that he’d consider drafting the 6-foot-8 Griner in the second round and essentially invited her to try out for Dallas’ summer league team.

“I haven’t watched a single game all year,” Carlisle said. “I know she’s a hell of a player. Beyond that, I don’t want to get into the polarizing discussion about it. …

“I think it’s important to have an owner who is open-minded and I think it’s important that the organization is open-minded. But ultimately, whether or not she can play is something I don’t want to get into.”

Dirk Nowitzki respectfully and reasonably expressed doubt about Griner’s ability to compete against NBA players, based simply on her size and skill set.

Griner, who dunked 18 times and set the NCAA record for blocked shots during her spectacular Baylor career, dominated the women’s game with her size and athleticism. However, she’d be extremely undersized as an NBA center.

“(Players that height are) kind of caught between a 3 and a 4,” Nowitzki said, referring to the forward positions. “It’s tough. You’ve got to be fast and athletic at that spot. You’ve got to be able to shoot. You’ve got to be able to go by people, guard people on the other end, chase people off of screen-and-rolls and post up.

“It’s tough, it’s tough.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695464/dirk-carlisle-weigh-in-on-brittney-griner

Mavs need a mile-high miracle

DENVER – This is the Dallas Mavericks’ last chance.

No, not their last chance to make a playoff push. That ship has probably already sailed. It’s certainly far out of the Mavs’ control after Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers dropped the Mavs 2 games behind the two teams they’re chasing for the West’s final playoff seed with only eight games to go.

This is the Mavs’ last chance to record a road win against a team above them in the West standings since Dirk Nowitzki’s return.

If that happens it’d be a mile-high miracle, considering that the Denver Nuggets have the NBA’s best home record at 33-3.

After Thursday night’s game in the Pepsi Center, the Mavs will have only three road games remaining on the schedule, all against sub-.500 teams.

The Mavs have a 14-23 road record, including a 2-13 mark when visiting the plus-.500 teams in the conference. Those two wins came against the Lakers and Houston Rockets early in the season, when Nowitzki was still rehabbing from his right knee scope.

Since Nowitzki’s return, the Mavs are 0-10 on the road against the West’s top nine teams, beginning with a 38-point blowout in San Antonio the night of his surprise debut.

There were also a few coulda, woulda, shoulda L’s in that mix: a three-point loss at Golden State when the Mavs cried foul, firmly believing that Brandan Wright should have gone to the line for the potential go-ahead free throws with seconds remaining; a one-point loss in San Antonio when Vince Carter missed a buzzer-beater; and an overtime loss in Oklahoma City.

But it’s a 100-94 loss in Utah on Jan. 7 and Tuesday night’s rout by the Lakers that stick out in Nowitzki’s mind.

“I actually think that playing Utah only three times this year, playing twice there, hurt us,” Nowitzki said, referring to the unbalanced schedule. “If we would have had two home games against them, we might have won those two, but they’re very good at home so we don’t have the tiebreaker. We needed this one to tie (the season series with the Lakers). We should have beaten them at home. We came up empty twice.

“Saying all that, it doesn’t look good, but we’re going to keep on fighting. This team has a lot of pride left.”

A lot of pride, but precious few chances. This is these Mavs’ last opportunity to pull off a road upset over a West team with Nowitzki on the floor.

If the Mavs manage to pull off the mile-high miracle, their slim playoff hopes will still be alive. If they lose this one, they might as well start booking their late April vacations.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695456/mavs-need-a-mile-high-miracle

3-pointer: Lakers exploit Mavs’ most glaring flaw

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LOS ANGELES – Coach Rick Carlisle cited “embracing our imperfections” as one of the keys to the Mavericks’ 11-5 March.

Perhaps their biggest flaw bit the Mavs hard as they opened April with a lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavs, who rank third to last in the league in rebounding differential, got absolutely dominated on the glass by the longer, more athletic Lakers. L.A. had a 57-37 rebounding edge and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.

“That’s really the game,” Carlisle said. “I know they’re big, but our persistence has to make up for our lack of size.”

That definitely wasn’t the case in Tuesday night’s critical loss. NBA rebounding leader Dwight Howard grabbed a dozen boards in addition to his game-high 24 points, and he was one of four Lakers to post double-doubles. Actually, Kobe Bryant (24-11-11) had a triple-double, with Earl Clark (17-12) and Pau Gasol (14-10) contributing to the Lakers’ paint domination.

“Ain’t no excuses” said Shawn Marion, who led the Mavs with seven rebounds. “If you really want it, you’re going to get it done. All the loose balls went to them. All the 50/50 balls went to them. It’s frustrating, man.”

Added Vince Carter, who grabbed just a lone rebound in 27 minutes: “We had our moments where we just let them take advantage of us.”

A few more notes from the Mavs’ crushing loss:

1. Dirk’s dud: Coming off his best week of the season, Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t keep it going against the Lakers.

The Mavs’ superstar was held to 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He even looked like Dwight Howard from the free throw line, making only 2-of-6 attempts.

The Lakers simply never let Nowitzki, who had 33- and 35-point performances last week and scored 30 in the Mavs’ last meeting with L.A., establish a rhythm. He was more effective as a distributor (six assists) than a scorer.

“They had long bodies on him. They were physical with him,” Carlisle said. “When we got him a lot of touches, a lot of times he was forced to pass. Unfortunately, we were unable to hit a lot of the shots where he kicked out. Getting him quality shots is always going to be tougher against better teams and experienced teams.”

Added Nowitzki: “I didn’t have a lot of easy ones tonight. I had to work for it. The ones I did have, I’ve just got to knock down.”

2. Kaman’s contributions: Chris Kaman, the 7-footer with the $8 million salary, led the Mavs in scoring with 14 points after making his first start since March 20.

Kaman, who refused to speak to reporters after the game, made 7-of-10 shots from the floor and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes. That came on the heels of playing a total of 12 minutes in the Mavs’ previous four games, including two DNP-CDs.

“I think Kaman is a good player and he’s a guy we need,” Carlisle said. “I thought coming into tonight, our best chance to get something out of him was to start him because he can get open looks, he’s a big body, he can use some of his fouls on Howard early. I thought he did a really solid job out there.”

The Mavs didn’t get much out of their two big men who had been playing the vast majority of the minutes. Brandan Wright and Elton Brand combined for only six points and six rebounds in 30 minutes.

3. Love for Shaq: The Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number at halftime, giving Mark Cuban an opportunity to reminisce about his days as verbal sparring partner with the legendary big man.

“He was a beast,” Cuban said. “But forget the player. Everybody knows who he was as a player. He’s just a great guy. He brought so much fun and attitude and energy to the game. That’s what makes Shaq special then and now.

“Plus he was a nice foil. He would come at me and I think when he realized I wouldn’t back down from him, that I’d come right back at him, then it got fun for both of us. And we’ve stayed friends. We’re good friends now.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695432/3-pointer-lakers-exploit-mavs-most-glaring-flaw

Mavs never could get over the hump

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LOS ANGELES — Full of optimism after Saturday’s phenomenal comeback win, Dirk Nowitzki compared that stunning rally against the Chicago Bulls to the story of the Mavericks’ season.

Just when you think you can count them out …

Unfortunately, Nowitzki’s comparison was probably a few days premature. Their 101-81 loss in Tuesday night’s critical game against the Los Angeles Lakers truly sums up the Mavs this season:

They manage to beat the odds by making things interesting, but this patchwork roster is just not good enough to get the job done.

Maybe you can’t count the Mavs out quite yet, but the math sure as heck looks hellacious as far as their playoff hopes go. They now trail the Lakers and Utah Jazz by 2 games and don’t have tiebreakers against either of their competitors in a three-team fight for the West’s final playoff seed.

“We knew we were behind the eight ball all season,” said Nowitzki, whose bushy beard will keep growing after the 36-38 Mavs failed to seize an opportunity to hit .500 again. “We were battling, battling back. To think we were going to win them all down the stretch is tough, but this is a game we needed to have if we really wanted to make it interesting.”

For a few moments in the third quarter, it appeared that the Mavs might pull off another comeback, kind of like Game 1 in the 2011 West semifinals, a shocker that set the tone for that Dallas team of destiny’s sweep of the two-time defending champion Lakers and title run.

Alas, fate doesn’t smile on a team this flawed.

It took one possession for the Mavs’ momentum to disintegrate after they went on an 11-0 run to trim L.A.’s lead to five. Lakers reserve forward Earl Clark scored five points in the possession after a timeout, making a layup despite being fouled, missing the free throw and canning a corner 3 after Pau Gasol pulled down one of the Lakers’ 19 offensive rebounds.

“We never could get back over the hump,” said Shawn Marion, who joins Nowitzki as the lone Mavs on the active roster who remain from the title team.

We never could get back over the hump. That sentence seems destined to sum up this disappointing Dallas season, which will snap a dozen-year postseason streak for the Mavs, barring a miracle.

The Mavs, a team comprised primarily of temporary pieces, surprised a lot of people just by having hope as the calendar flipped to April. After all, it’s been 16 years since a team battled back from 10 games below .500 to punch their postseason ticket.

It’ll be at least one more year before that happens again, barring a miracle.

The Mavs landed in L.A. with legitimate hope. They boarded their flight to Denver, the toughest place in the West for NBA visitors, with the baggage of harsh reality after being thoroughly dominated on the boards (57-37 Lakers edge), struggling to get good shots (42.0 field goal percentage) and allowing Kobe Bryant to post a triple-double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) and three other Lakers to record double-doubles.

“We have to win out,” Vince Carter said, “and hope that it’s good enough.”

The Mavs will keep hoping to get over the hump, but it’s looks more like a mountain after losing to the Lakers.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695426/12-13-mavs-never-could-get-over-the-hump

‘Tough season’: Stakes high for Mavs, Lakers

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A preseason guarantee that the Dallas Mavericks would be only a game and a half behind the Los Angeles Lakers when they left for this late-season trip to L.A. would have certainly pleased Dirk Nowitzki.

The Mavs’ superstar just didn’t imagine that scenario would play out like this.

PODCAST Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons Durrett to discuss the Mavericks-Lakers game Tuesday night. If the Mavs lose, are their playoff hopes over?

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“I was hoping it would be for a number two or three seed, not for nine,” Nowitzki said with a sheepish grin. “Yeah, it’s been, I guess, a tough season for both teams.”

That’s an understatement. As Nowitzki noted, the Lakers’ cluster of stars (Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol), have all dealt with significant injuries this season, with Kobe currently bothered by a bone spur in his foot and Nash doubtful to play against Dallas due to hamstring and hip issues. It’s also been a season-long soap opera in L.A., with the Kobe-Dwight dynamic as the main storyline with subplots such as firing the head coach after five games and snubbing the brother-in-law with 11 championship rings.

For the Mavs, it’s been more like a long series of Survivor, except the guys who get voted off the island keep getting replaced. Dallas has used 22 players – remember Eddy Curry playing a significant role in the season-opening win over the Lakers?! – and 22 starting lineups.

Oh, and Nowitzki missed three times as many games as he did in any of the previous 14 seasons of his Hall of Fame career and struggled mightily upon his return, the primary reason the Mavs are in the position of “trying to be the greatest comeback since Lazarus,” as coach Rick Carlisle says. (Or at least since the 1996-97 Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, the last two teams to make the playoffs after digging out of a 10-games-under-.500 hole.)

Call them excuses if you want, but there are legitimate reasons that two of the league’s proudest franchises have been reduced to fighting with the Utah Jazz for the West’s final playoff spot. Not that the rest of the NBA feels any sympathy for teams that have combined to win three of the last four titles.

The playoffs will go on without at least one of these teams. Maybe both.

If the Lakers miss the playoffs, they’d go down as one of the biggest disappointments in pro sports history. It’d be stunning to see such a star-studded roster flop for a franchise that has failed to qualify for the playoffs only twice since 1976, winning 10 titles in that span.

If the Mavs miss the playoffs, the league’s second longest postseason streak would be snapped at a dozen seasons. It’d mean the Mavs went from a championship parade to a lottery pick in a span of only two years.

Those would be miserable fates for two franchises that frankly have grown so accustomed to qualifying for the postseason that it feels more like a prerequisite than an accomplishment.

The ruthless competitors who serve as faces of their respective franchises aren’t going to go down without a fight. That makes Tuesday night’s matchups must-watch TV, must like their nationally televised duel the last time these teams met, when Kobe’s “Amnesty THAT” performance one-upped Dirk’s 30-point, 13-rebound outing.

“Hey, both [teams] have a lot of pride, a lot of fight in them,” said Nowitzki, who has led the Mavs to a 23-14 record since the season’s low point, including an 11-5 March. “It should be a fun matchup [Tuesday] night. It’s national TV. Staples Center. Jack Nicholson courtside. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Well, it’s been better. But it doesn’t get much more pressure packed.

The eighth-place Utah Jazz own the tiebreaker over both the Mavs and Lakers, so the loser of Tuesday night’s late TNT game is in huge trouble. That’s especially true if it’s the Mavs, who would need the Lakers and Jazz to choke down the stretch to have a chance.

“We’ve had must-win games since January,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “so this is nothing new for us.”

Missing the playoffs would be something new. The Mavs – and the Lakers, for that matter – are fighting to keep their flames from being extinguished.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695397/near-end-of-tough-season-stakes-high-for-mavs-vs-lakers

Mike James hopes to play two more years for Mavs

A combination of Bikram yoga, early morning track workouts and the copious amounts of drilling in the gym with longtime NBA guard John Lucas has helped keep the Mavericks’ Mike James far fitter than most 37-year-olds.

And playing his way into the starting lineup for a team in a full-fledged playoff race has convinced James that he can play at the highest level for another season or two.

“My plan is to play two more years and my hope is to be able to finish my career here in Dallas playing for Rick, Donnie and Mark and with Dirk,” James said, referring to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, team president Donnie Nelson, owner Mark Cuban and star forward Dirk Nowitzki.

“If there’s one thing my career has taught me, it’s (that) what I hope and what happens are sometimes two different things. But this experience since I’ve been here has made everything I’ve gone through extremely worth it. Now we just got to make these playoffs.”

The Mavericks became James’ 11th NBA stop in early January when he was called up from Dallas’ D-League affiliate in nearby Frisco and signed to the first of two 10-day contracts. Well aware of the Mavs’ seasonlong struggles finding consistency from their point guards, James joined the Texas Legends with the intent of convincing Dallas that he could still contribute. One game with the Legends did the trick, with James gradually working his way into the starting lineup by early March.

The move partly stems from Carlisle’s belief that projected starter Darren Collison is more effective coming off the bench, but there’s no denying the impact of the switch: Dallas is 10-4 with James starting.

Despite appearing in a mere 15 NBA games over the previous three seasons, James averaged 9.2 points and 4.7 assists in 26.4 minutes per game in March and shot 45.6 percent on 3-pointers.

“I said to my agent (Bernie Lee) the other day, if everything that happened to this point in my career happened to bring me to play for Rick at this stage of my life to prepare me for this, then it’s been worth it,” James said.

“I’m in the middle of this right now and all that matters to me is making the playoffs. I want this so bad, I can’t express it. But in the summer when I take a step back and look at it, I think I’ll be able to appreciate it more, the fact that I fought really hard to be a part of this team.”

James has a natural bond with fellow vets Elton Brand and Vince Carter — referring to Carter as his welcoming committee when he first got to town — but likewise has a lot to say about playing with Nowitzki, who didn’t do too badly in March, either.

Dirk’s numbers for the month: 20.0 points per game on .548 shooting from the floor and .468 shooting on 3s.

“Being that I’ve been so many places and played with so many quote-unquote superstars, I think I have a pretty good handle on (that description),” James said. “And Dirk is the best I’ve ever played with or been around.

“He’s hard-working, humble, intelligent and doesn’t miss anything. On off days, he’s in the weight room or in the pool. He’s so intelligent and driven to know his body and what he needs to do to get ready. I wasn’t here when he was hurt and I know it’s been a challenge for him, but over the last few weeks, day by day, you can see his work paying off.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695392/mike-james-plans-to-play-two-more-years-hopefully-for-mavs