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Dirk Nowitzki: ‘That shave felt amazing’

NEW ORLEANS — It took the Dallas Mavericks 121 days to get back to .500.

It took Dirk Nowitzki maybe 90 seconds to get rid of the beard he has been growing for most of that time.

“That shave felt amazing,” Nowitzki said after a 107-89 victory over the New Orleans Hornets improved the Mavs’ record to 40-40. “There was some food caught in there from a few weeks ago.”

That’s a slight exaggeration, but Nowitzki’s forest of facial hair put the power of his electric razor to quite the test. Unlike the rest of the bearded Mavs, Nowitzki couldn’t wait for the morning to destroy the evidence from the pact they made in late January to not shave again until climbing back to .500.

After the final buzzer sounded, Nowitzki made a beeline for the Mavs’ locker room, picked up his razor and began bushwhacking. The beard was gone by the time coach Rick Carlisle addressed the team. After that meeting, Nowitzki and his trusty razor “cleaned up the rest on the neck and behind the ears and the nose hair a little bit.”

Said O.J. Mayo: “I need a barber to get mine. I’ve got to go see Omar the barber. I might get too trigger happy.”

Can you blame the Mavs’ 25,000-point man for being in such a hurry to get rid of the beard? Never mind that he claims that his wife, Jessica, has refused to kiss him for a couple of months. It has been a long, tough climb back to .500 for a franchise accustomed to 50-win seasons.

The Mavs hit rock bottom in mid-January, when they dipped 10 games below .500 for the first time in a dozen years after a stretch of 13 losses in 15 games, with Nowitzki making his surgery-delayed season debut midway through that miserable run. Mayo hatched the beard pact a couple of weeks later, with Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, Chris Kaman and the since-traded Dahntay Jones taking part.

The hope was that they’d shave off the beards before resembling the Duck Dynasty dudes — and en route to the franchise’s 13th consecutive playoff berth. Alas, that isn’t the way it went down.

The Mavs are a more-than-respectable 27-17 since the season’s low point, which projects to a 50-win pace over the course of 82 games. But they dug themselves such a huge hole that near perfection was needed to reach the playoffs.

The final win needed to get back to .500 proved to be especially pesky. After Mayo mentioned Omar the barber would be in the building, the Indiana Pacers blew out the Mavs by 25 points. The Los Angeles Lakers whipped the Mavs by 20 the next time Dallas had a shot to shave, essentially dooming the Mavs’ playoff hopes. And the sorry Phoenix Suns somehow managed to snap a 10-game losing streak with an 11-point win over the Mavs during Wednesday’s potential break-even game.

“We had a chance and laid an egg every single time,” Nowitzki said.

No wonder Nowitzki had no patience when it came to his postgame shave.

Hitting .500 isn’t exactly the kind of feat the Mavs have celebrated during Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career, but it is quite an accomplishment given the circumstances of this season. It was also a necessary step if they’re going to reach the new goal of finishing the season with a winning record, which would require beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and the Hornets on Wednesday.

“This means a lot to this franchise,” Nowitzki said. “This franchise has been a winning team for a long, long time and now the playoff streak is officially over, but we can still make it a winning season and feel good about ourselves going into the summer, feeling good [about] what we did with eight, nine new guys and me being out for so long. I think we can still feel good about ourselves, what we’ve done since the All-Star break. We have a decent record, I think, after the All-Star break, so it’s been fun the last couple of months.

“Before that, there was some rough patches.”

Amazingly, there weren’t any patches left of Nowitzki’s beard by the time he met the media Sunday night. If the Mavs’ superstar actually had an agent, he just might land an endorsement deal with the company that makes his little electric razor.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695677/dirk-doesnt-wait-to-say-farewell-to-500-beard

3-pointer: Can Dirk Nowitzki hit 30,000?

NEW ORLEANS – After arriving in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t know whether he could survive 25 games, much less score 25,000 points.

Here he is, 15 years later, one of 17 members of the league’s exclusive 25,000-point club.

“And as he showed tonight, he’s still got a lot left in the tank,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Nowitzki scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 27 minutes while surpassing a major milestone in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Enough left to reach 30,000 points, something accomplished by only five men in NBA history?

“That’s tough,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t know how much time it takes for me to get [5,000 points], but I’m going to be around.”

He certainly isn’t ruling out a run at 30K. Nowitzki has verbally committed to re-signing with the Mavs for two or three more years after his contract expires in the summer of 2014.

If Nowitzki can stay relatively healthy, 30,000 points seems well within his reach. Figure he averages 1,300 points per season for the rest of his career – around 17 per game, figuring he sits out a handful of nights each year – and he can join the 30K club if he sticks around four more seasons.

“Yeah, I mean, it would sound nice, but I don’t know that would be something that would keep me going on one leg at 41 if it’s not fun anymore,” Nowitzki said. “Just to drag it around to get to [30,000], I don’t think that’s what I’m about. If it comes in the next couple of years, that would be great. If not, that’s fine, too. I play to win.”

The way Nowitzki feels now, he’s confident he can contribute to a winning team for at least the next few years. He readily admits he was questioning that midway through the season, after he missed 27 games while recovering from a preseason scope of his right knee and struggled upon his return.

But Nowitzki believes his performance since the All-Star break (18.8 ppg, 50.9 FG%, 44.6 3%) is an indication of what’s to come over the next few years. He’ll have a precautionary MRI on his left knee next week, making sure he doesn’t need to get that one scoped, too, and is already thinking about conditioning during what will literally be the longest summer of his NBA career.

The plan: Put in the work to be in peak form at the beginning of next season.

If Nowitzki can maintain that kind of hunger, why not project him to hit 30,000 points?

“A lot of being successful like this is being true to each individual day,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think it’s very hard to look ahead and say, yeah, this guy can play for four or five or six more years. In this league, it’s so competitive and it’s so uncertain, you’ve got to go day to day with it. That’s what Dirk has done for 15 years.

“I think that’s the reason he was able to reach this milestone. That’s the reason he was able to become one of the best ever to play this game. I think it gives him a chance to play for an extended period of time, but he’ll never look ahead.”

A few more notes from the win that finally bumped the Mavs’ back to .500:

1. Carter climbing all-time scorers’ list: Vince Carter will most likely hit a scoring milestone of his own Monday night.

Carter has 22,192 career points after scoring 16 Sunday, putting him four behind Clyde Drexler for 27th in NBA history. Carter has already surpassed Hall of Famers Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Gary Payton this season.

2. Marion’s monster night: It was overshadowed by Nowitzki’s milestone night, but Shawn Marion led the Mavs with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

In a typical Mavs season, Marion would be peaking just in time for the playoffs. The 14-year veteran has been phenomenal in the last five games, averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 rebounds.

3. Stitches for Wright: Brandan Wright paid a price for his 16-point, 8-of-13 performance. He needed three stitches to close a cut on his left cheek, courtesy of an accidental elbow by New Orleans forward Al-Farouq Aminu.

Wright also caught an elbow from Aminu during a visit to New Orleans Arena last season, suffering a concussion in that case.

“I’ve got to watch out for him next time,” Wright kidded.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695682/3-pointer-can-dirk-nowitzki-hit-30000

Mavs’ fourth shot at shaving is ‘big, big game’

NEW ORLEANS – Maybe the fourth time will be the charm when it comes to breaking the Mavericks’ .500 failures.

Some call it the Curse of Omar the Barber, whom O.J. Mayo publicly welcomed to shave those scraggly .500 beards when the Mavs got their first shot at the break-even mark late last month. Believe what you want, but there’s no denying that the Mavs are 0-3 when they’ve had a chance to get to .500, and their performances in those games have been uglier than their facial hair.

The 39-40 Mavs have another shot to shave Sunday evening, when they’ll face the New Orleans Hornets in that franchise’s final home game before officially becoming the Pelicans.

“We’ve been chasing .500 for a long, long time,” said Dirk Nowitzki, the bearded face of the franchise and one of six Mavs participating in the pact. “Every time we’re right there, we take a big L. We have another chance Sunday and it’s a big, big game for us.”

The Mavs were 11-11 the last time they were .500, way back in mid-December when Nowitzki had yet to play a minute this season while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. They dipped as low as 10 games under .500 on Jan. 9, when they were 13-23 after a miserable stretch of 13 losses in 15 games. The .500 beards pact began at some point in late January.

For most of the last two and a half months, those beards have been a warm, fuzzy story. That ended March 28, when the Indiana Pacers blew out the Mavs by 25 points at the American Airlines Center and boasted about keeping Omar’s clippers from buzzing.

The Mavs’ second shot at shaving didn’t go much better. They let the Los Angeles Lakers blow them out by 20 at the Staples Center on April 2, all but ensuring that Dallas’ dozen-year playoff streak would end, which it did when they were officially eliminated eight nights later.

The third strike might have been the biggest embarrassment for the Mavs. The Phoenix Suns snapped a 10-game losing streak with an 11-point win Wednesday at the AAC, causing Shawn Marion to question his team’s effort and Vince Carter to admit the Mavs took such a terrible opponent for granted.

Well, there’s no better place to break a curse than the Big Easy. (That’s a voodoo reference, not a dig at the 27-53 Hornets. With a different kind of curse, coach Rick Carlisle warned that only an “f—— idiot” would take a Mavs win for granted the morning before the stinker against the Suns. We’ll only make that mistake once this week.)

But the Mavs at least have recent history of breaking a possible curse here. They’d lost 11 in a row at New Orleans Arena, dating the Hornets’ quick dismissal of Dallas in the 2008 first round, before winning two of their last three in this building.

If the Mavs can win Sunday evening, they can get rid of their beards and remain focused on the post-elimination goal of finishing with a winning record.

Another loss, and Omar’s invitation will rank right behind the city of Dallas’ 2006 parade plans among the Mavs’ most regretful premature celebration plans.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695663/mavs-fourth-shot-at-shaving-is-big-big-game

3-pointer: Mavs ride O.J. Mayo’s clutch roller coaster in win

DALLAS – The O.J. Mayo clutch roller coaster can be one heck of a wild ride.

The Mavs survived the crazy twists and turns and highs and lows Friday night.

Start with Mayo drilling a tie-breaking 3-pointer from the right wing with 34.1 seconds remaining in regulation. If that leads holds up, Mayo is a relative hero.

Oh, but then that iffy basketball IQ owner Mark Cuban was discussing in team-wide terms popped up with less than 10 seconds on the clock. Mayo allowed Denver’s Andre Miller to strip the ball from behind, leading to an uncontested, game-tying layup by Corey Brewer with 3.9 seconds left.

Mayo had his chance to win it at the buzzer, driving down the lane for a finger roll … that rolled right off the rim.

“You’ve just got to understand that there’s still more game left,” Mayo said. “You can’t sit there and dwell on turning the ball over. Obviously, I didn’t mean to do it, but it happened, they got a layup and took the game into overtime.”

O.J. made it all good in OT.

Mayo scored the Mavs’ first two buckets of the extra frame, including a 3-pointer that gave them the lead for good with 2:40 to go. That put the finishing touches on his first 20-point performance in more than a month, prompting Dirk Nowitzki to declare that he was “proud” of Mayo.

“That’s what you look for with guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Mistakes are going to happen, but who can make a mistake and then bounce right back and hit two or three shots in overtime, get a key deflection and just stay in it?

“That’s one of the things he’s learned; he’s learned about how to stick with it and how to keep going. I was really happy for him because it was a rough 10 seconds there at the end.”

A few more notes from the feisty Mavs’ win:

1. Dirk’s 25K delayed: Nowitzki scored 22 points, giving him 24,990 for his career. That left him thinking about Sunday’s win in Portland, when he scored only six points and didn’t play in the fourth quarter due to a minor ankle injury.

“Tonight would have been the night,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously, it would have been nicer to do it at home, but it is what it is. I think it’s a great milestone and eventually I’m going to get it.

“It’ll be a fun milestone to get, but more important to me is to finish the season strong, get a couple of wins and hopefully finish the season above .500.”

2. Collison’s closing touch: How confident were the Mavs when Darren Collison stepped to the line with 1.9 seconds left in overtime? Probably 100 percent.

That’s Collison’s free throw percentage in the final 30 seconds of games when the margin is within three points. He’s 15-of-15 in those situations, including 13-of-13 in the final 10 seconds under similar circumstances.

3. Brand back: Off-the-bench big man Elton Brand returned after missing the previous four games with a sore right calf. He had two points, four rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695642/3-pointer-mavs-ride-o-j-mayos-clutch-roller-coaster-in-win

Mavs sign Josh Akognon for rest of season

The Mavericks on Saturday announced they’ve signed guard Josh Akognon to a rest-of-the-season contract after Akognon’s original 10-day deal expired Friday.

ESPNDallas.com has learned that Akognon’s deal includes a team option for the 2013-14 season that will, at the very least, ensure he’s a Maverick through the summer.

Akognon made his NBA debut in Wednesday’s home loss to Phoenix and made his only shot in totaling two points and an assist in four minutes.

He’s the third in a series of young guards that the Mavericks have auditioned on 10-day deals during the second half of the season, following Chris Wright and Justin Dentmon out of the D-League.

The 5-foot-11 combo guard was the Mavericks’ final cut in training camp and spent the bulk of the season in China, leading the Chinese Basketball Association in scoring. The former Big West Conference Player of the Year went undrafted out of Cal State Fullerton in 2009 but led the Titans to their first NCAA Tournament berth in 30 years in 2008.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695657/mavs-sign-josh-akognon-for-rest-of-season

Vince Carter shows why Mark Cuban wants to keep him

DALLAS — All due respect to Dirk Nowitzki, but he’s not the Mavericks veteran owner Mark Cuban is most sympathetic toward after the team failed to qualify for the playoffs.

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Vince CarterMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsVince Carter had a commanding performance Friday against the Nuggets. It’s that type of effort that has Mavs owner Mark Cuban convinced he’ll remain with the team after his contract expires.

Cuban feels worse for Vince Carter, who signed a three-year deal worth a little more than $9 million with the then-defending champions because he desperately wanted a chance to compete for a championship near the end of his potential Hall of Fame career. The 36-year-old Carter has been a tremendous bargain for the Mavs, although he’ll enter the last season of his contract with a grand total of zero playoff wins in Dallas.

“Vince is a warrior,” Cuban said before Friday’s game. “All these things I’ve heard in the past about him being soft and not playing hard, f— that. That dude comes out to deliver every f—ing night.”

Case in point: Carter’s spectacular outing in Dallas’ 108-105 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets. In the Mavs’ first game after being eliminated from playoff contention, Carter put up 22 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, two blocked shots and a steal in 34 max-effort minutes.

It was a performance that epitomized the pride and professionalism that Carter, an eight-time All-Star who had a bad rap for being a bit of a prima donna before signing with the Mavs, has consistently displayed during his time in Dallas.

It’s the kind of performance that has Cuban convinced that Carter, whose .500 beard has several gray strands, is a keeper even after his contract expires next summer.

“He’s just a first-class guy who busts his ass every f—ing game,” Cuban said. “You never look at Vince and say he’s taking a play off. He’s taking charges. … You guys talk about doing it for Dirk; doing it for Vince is just as important.

“He just wants to compete and win, period, end of story. All the s— I heard from the past, I don’t know where that came from. I’m proud that he’s on the Mavericks. The guy lays it out every time. I can’t put it any other way. He’s one of those guys I want to retire here.”

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Carter, who is averaging 13.3 points per game and playing outstanding defense in his first season as a sixth man, broke into a big smile after being informed of Cuban’s comments, particularly the part about signing him to another contract.

“That’s why he’s my guy,” Carter said, laughing. “That’s why he’s my guy. I worked my butt off this summer for a lot of reasons, just to prove that I’m still capable at this tender age, and I think he appreciates that. He’s a fiery guy, very passionate about the game, as we all know. That’s what he looks for.

“Just coming in and seeing what he’s all about, he’s a great owner to work for, just for the simple fact that he just wants to win. That’s kind of how I approach the game. I just want to win. For the people who don’t know me or didn’t know me before, I think now they’re starting to understand.

“Yeah, I can put the ball in the basket or whatever, but I just want to win and see my team succeed. It’s just great that it’s appreciated by the top dog.”

When he came to Dallas, fresh off playing for three teams in three seasons, Carter had a lot to prove. He wanted to show he still had a lot of game at his advanced age, and he wanted to eliminate any doubt that winning was his top priority.

Carter promised to do whatever the Mavs needed him to do to help them win, regardless of position or role. He’s done that, accepting the sixth-man job and playing the majority of his minutes at small forward.

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He promised to play as hard as possible every minute he was on the floor. He’s done that, as evidenced by his leading the team in charges drawn by a wide margin.

“I’ve prided myself on being one of the older guys that wanted to play every game possible and go harder than everybody out there,” Carter said. “They do go hard, but for me, I just want to compete at the same level as the younger guys and set the example. We want that to be the way of life around here.”

Carter has more than held up his end of the bargain for the past two seasons, disappointing as they’ve been from a team standpoint.

As far as Cuban is concerned, Carter has a bright future around here.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695639/vince-carter-shows-why-mark-cuban-wants-to-keep-him