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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

Rapid Reaction: Mavericks 100, Bulls 98

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How it happened: Dirk Nowitzki dominated winning time, willing the Dallas Mavericks to a miraculous comeback win.

Nowitzki matched his season high with 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting, including 15 in the fourth quarter and eight in the final minute. He finished his clutch scoring flurry with the game-winning 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining.

The Mavs stormed back from a 12-point deficit in the final minutes, finishing the game with a 15-1 run over the last 3:32.

Nowitzki’s corner 3 with 53.5 seconds remaining made it a two-point game. After Chicago’s Carlos Boozer split a pair of free throws, Nowitzki hit a one-legged fadeaway on the baseline to trim the deficit to one. He hit the game-winner the next possession.

Nate Robinson was one of three Bulls to score 25 points, joining power forward Carlos Boozer and small forward Luol Deng, but the reserve point guard’s ridiculous scoring flurry early in the fourth quarter appeared to be the turning point of the game.

Robinson took over right after the Mavs closed the third quarter with a 12-1 run to tie the game. He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the right wing, starting a personal 11-2 run in the first 3:27 of the quarter to give the Bulls the lead for good.

Robinson finished his hot streak with one more 3, a ridiculous 32-footer with the shot clock ticking down midway through the quarter. He finished with 14 of his 25 points in the fourth. He was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range in the game, 5-of-8 and 4-of-4 in the fourth.

But Dirk wasn’t done.

Robinson had a chance to send it into overtime after Nowitzki’s heroics, but his jumper at the buzzer clanked off the iron.

What it means: The Mavs (36-37) pulled within a game of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers in the fight for the West’s final playoff berth, pending the results of Saturday night’s games. Dallas won four of six games during the homestand, capping it with a thrilling victory over the 39-32 Bulls, the East’s fifth-place team.

Play of the game: How could it not be Nowitzki’s game-winner with 2.9 seconds remaining? He drilled in in Luol Deng’s face after Vince Carter found Nowitzki on the left wing.

Stat of the day: Nowitzki has a season-high 35 points in two of the Mavs’ past three games, lighting it up in heart-pounding wins over the Clippers and Bulls.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695352/rapid-reaction-mavericks-100-bulls-98

Rick Carlisle’s best work? Nothing can top ’11 title run

DALLAS — There is a school of thought that this season represents Rick Carlisle’s best work during his five-year coaching tenure in Dallas.

PODCAST Rick Carlisle joins Galloway Company to discuss getting Dirk Nowitzki more involved in the Mavericks’ game plan and much more.

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No question Carlisle deserves credit for a job well done. After all, the Mavericks were essentially left for dead when they were 10 games under .500 in mid-January and many times since then.

The Mavs managed to pull themselves back into the playoff picture, thanks in large part to Carlisle pressing buttons to try to squeeze every bit of potential out of this patchwork roster.

“We’re under .500,” Carlisle said dismissively, “so we haven’t done that good of a job.”

That’s humility for the sake of staying in the moment. Carlisle has done a heck of a job to keep this flawed team fighting while constantly fidgeting with the lineup and rotation to give the Mavs the best possible chance of winning.

But a better job than the 2011 title run? C’mon, man.

“Winning a championship is always the best coaching job,” Mark Cuban said. “Period, end of story.”

Maybe that’s simplifying things too much, but that was a historically excellent coaching job that Carlisle and his staff did during the 2011 postseason, which started with nobody taking the Mavs seriously as contenders and ended with a championship parade in downtown Dallas.

Think about the gauntlet the Mavs had to get through to win that title. They beat Kobe Bryant’s two-time defending champion Lakers, sweeping arguably the best coach in pro sports history into retirement. They gave Kevin Durant’s Thunder a clutch clinic to delay what could be a decade of Western Conference dominance for OKC. And they beat LeBron James’ Heat, a feat that might not be accomplished in a playoff series for quite some time, if ever, depending on whether the NBA’s premier player opts to stay in Miami for the rest of his career.

That’s a miraculous run by a lone-star team that was a popular first-round upset pick.

There were plenty of examples of coaching genius by Carlisle and his staff – headlined by two assistants, defensive coordinator Dwane Casey and offensive coordinator Terry Stotts, who were hired away as head coaches.

Start with the psychological wisdom of owning the Mavs’ 23-point collapse after Game 4 in Portland. This wasn’t just an empty it’s-always-the-coach’s-fault declaration. Carlisle made a point to fall on the sword for failing to make adjustments to get the ball out of Brandon Roy’s hands during the Blazers guard’s spectacular fourth quarter, an admission that reinforced a tone of accountability in the Mavs’ locker room and prevented a potentially catastrophic meltdown from having a carryover effect.

That was the last time during those playoffs that Carlisle’s strategy was questioned. Heck, the Mavs lost only three more games during that run.

How about the decision to dust off Corey Brewer when Game 2 in Los Angeles seemed to be getting away from the Mavs? Brewer, a benchwarmer on that team, earned every penny Cuban paid him during his high-energy, high-impact eight minutes that turned around that game and changed that series against the Lakers.

One of the primary reasons the Mavs were able to sweep a team practically nobody gave them a chance of beating was because of their success with an unconventional lineup. With Brendan Haywood serving as the defensive backbone, Dirk Nowitzki and a few second-unit scoring threats (Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic) lit up the Lakers. Phil Jackson never figured out a way to slow down the Barea/Nowitzki high pick-and-pop with Terry and Stojakovic spacing the floor with scorching 3-point shooting.

The defensive game plan that turned James, the NBA’s most dominant force, into a confused, timid player in the Finals was just as genius. Part of that was the bold move of starting Barea at shooting guard after the Heat took a 2-1 series lead, a decision that ensured that DeShawn Stevenson could come off the bench with fresh legs and ferocity to spell Shawn Marion as head of the snake against James.

We could go on and on. Suffice to say it’s silly to think that a fight for .500 – no matter how flawed the team, no matter that a Coach of the Year case can be made for Carlisle if the Mavs make the playoffs – is more impressive than one of the greatest coaching jobs in NBA history.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695380/rick-carlisles-best-work-nothing-can-top-11-title-run

Playoff form? Dirk: ‘I’m just feeling good again’

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki declared recently that the playoffs have essentially already begun for the Dallas Mavericks.

The big German certainly has looked like postseason Dirk recently.

There were a couple of performances last week that were reminiscent of the 2011 title run, when Nowitzki was an efficient scoring machine and clutch executioner. First, he lit the Los Angeles Clippers up for 33 points, outscoring the West contender in overtime. He followed that up a few days later by dropping 35 on the Chicago Bulls, capping the Mavs’ miraculous comeback with eight points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winner.

Clearly, this is a case of fuel being poured on the competitive fire of a legend who is a member of the exclusive, four-man 25-point, 10-rebound career postseason club, right?

Actually, Dirk offers a much simpler explanation for his recent return to Hall of Fame form: He’s fully healthy and finally feels like himself again.

“Honestly, it’s just me starting to feel better again,” Nowitzki said. “I was struggling early. Honestly, on a normal season, I’d just be hitting my midseason form, but unfortunately this season I missed [29] games. So this season is already over.

“Instead of me playing good ball in January, February, March right now, the season is unfortunately over. I’m just feeling good again.”

This is one of the instances where the German-to-English translation isn’t entirely accurate. Nowitzki didn’t mean to suggest that Dallas is done fighting when he said the season is already over. He just meant that the regular season is nearly finished.

As Nowitzki said after the Mavs were humiliated in Houston in early March – and most of us considered the thought of Dallas extending its dozen-year postseason streak to be pure fantasy – he’s never given up on anything in his career. He’s darn sure not about to throw in the towel when the Mavs are a win away from shaving and a game and a half back of the West’s final playoff spot with a huge road game against the Los Angeles Lakers next on the schedule.

It’s far from ideal that the Mavs are in position to have to fight for a playoff berth. However, it’s a heck of a lot better than the way things looked for the Mavs after Nowitzki’s extended absence while recovering from preseason knee surgery and his miserable performance after his return.

“It’s obviously fun to always play for something,” Nowitzki said. “If we played for the 12th seed right now, it’d probably be a little different, but this way there’s still something to play for. We’re working every day for it. That’s obviously more fun. “

O.J. Mayo’s perspective from the neighboring locker: “You see him really champing at the bit to get to that eighth spot, doing everything in his will to keep us in striking distance. We’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do to give him some help.”

It’s not as if Nowitzki’s offensive explosions last week came out of nowhere. He’s one of the primary reasons the Mavs have a puncher’s chance of making the playoffs.

There were flashes of the old Dirk in February, such as his 30-point, 13-rebound showing in a losing effort against the Lakers.

March was by far Nowitzki’s best month of the season, as he averaged 20.0 points while making 53.3 percent of his shots from the floor, including 48.3 percent from 3-point range. Not coincidentally, the Mavs went 11-5 to climb back into the bottom of the West playoff picture.

It’s a far cry from Dirk’s dreadful December, when he rushed back despite his rehab not going well and scored a total of 30 points on 32.4 percent shooting in his first four games, all losses.

“It’s just I feel night and day difference since I came back,” Nowitzki said. “I was dragging. Every step, it wasn’t fun running up and down, and that’s obviously a problem. But I like running again, I like moving, I like getting into the shot, bending my knees. It’s a matter of feeling good again and trying to help the team win.

“It’s sad when you’re out there and your mind wants to make moves in December and January and your body just doesn’t respond right. When you can’t do those moves, that’s just sad. I’m just happy that when my mind sees something now in a split-second … and my body’s able to respond and do that move.”

Nowitzki has been an efficient scorer since the All-Star break. However, he’s only recently gotten back to being the no-doubt closer who demands the ball during crunch time and delivers.

That’s proof that he’s broken free of the physical and mental burdens that slowed him for much of this season.

“He’s been battling injuries and people have been saying he’s not the same or whatever,” Brandan Wright said. “But he’s definitely back.”

Too late or just in time?

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695374/playoff-form-dirk-im-just-feeling-good-again

3-pointer: Coach praises off-target O.J. Mayo

DALLAS – Coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop raving about one of his starters after Saturday’s stunning comeback win over the Chicago Bulls.

No, it wasn’t Dirk Nowitzki, the dude who scored eight of his season-high-tying 35 points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning bucket.

Carlisle kept gushing about how proud he was of O.J. Mayo, the guy who finished the game with four points on 1-of-13 shooting.

“Here’s a guy who is banged up, and I just thought he was totally engaged in the game and did a lot of things even though he didn’t shoot the ball well,” Carlisle said. “If we’re going to get where we want to get in the next nine games, the example that he set out there today is really important.

“That’s just grit and guts – being totally in and totally committed.”

Mayo is playing through the pain of a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder, an injury suffered on a hustle play late in Tuesday’s win over the Clippers and diagnosed by an MRI on Friday. He’s the only Maverick who has played in every game this season.

Mayo played with a harness protecting the shoulder during Thursday’s loss to the Pacers but ditched the restrictive device after the first quarter Saturday afternoon.

“I just said, to heck with it, and just tried to play without it,” said Mayo, whose only bucket was a big one, a driving layup to trim the deficit to six with 1:44 remaining. “If your shot is broke, you at least want to shoot it comfortably. You want to be comfortable shooting a broke shot. You don’t want to be uncomfortable shooting a broke shot.

“But, hey, it was a great win, a win we needed. I’ll get in the gym tomorrow and try to fix that break in my shot and keep playing hard.”

Easter Sunday is officially a day off for the Mavs, but Mayo has work to do.

There’s not much Mayo or the Mavs’ medical staff can do to ease the pain in his shoulder before Tuesday’s critical game against the Lakers.

“It is what it is,” Mayo said. “You’ve got to deal with it. I can still walk, run and communicate out there, so whatever it takes to help us win.”

Mayo managed to help the Mavs win despite an awful shooting outing Saturday, which is why his coach kept praising him.

A few more notes from the Mavs’ thrilling comeback win:

1. Wright big off bench: Brandan Wright’s streak of starting ended after four games, with Elton Brand replacing him in the lineup. Wright responded with his first double-double in a Dallas uniform.

Wright scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed a career-high-tying 13 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Bulls.

“No matter who starts, when you get an opportunity to play your minutes, just play them to the best of your ability,” Wright said. “That’s what it’s been about the whole year. I know it’s been a revolving door at the center position. We know what to do when we get in the game.”

Wright’s last double-double came on April 1, 2011, when his New Jersey Nets lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. Wright noted that the lottery-bound Nets were simply playing out the string at that point.

“This one means much more,” Wright said. “We’re playing for something.”

Wright’s emergence is part of the reason the Mavs are playing in something. After being in and out of the rotation all season, Wright averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game in March, when the Mavs went 11-5.

2. ‘Like a video game’: It appeared early in the fourth quarter that Nate Robinson was going to hog the headlines after this game.

Chicago’s backup point guard caught fire, going on a personal 11-2 run after the Mavs and Bulls entered the fourth quarter tied. Then Robinson drilled a 32-footer, pulling up from near the midcourt logo after tracking down a loose ball with the shot clock ticking down, giving him 14 of his 25 points in span of six minutes.

“He was so on fire that it was almost like a video game,” Nowitzki said, who went into video-game mode down the stretch.

Robinson was 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-7 from 3-point range, but his last bucket was that 32-footer. He missed his last two shots, including a jumper at the buzzer that could have sent the game into overtime.

Give Mike James a lot of the credit for cooling off Robinson.

“My teammates looked at me and said, ‘Look, stop asking for help on that screen. Turn that water hose off,’” James said.

3. Rally cry: The Mavs get a day off before leaving for a huge four-game road trip. That trip begins with a must-win game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers before a Thursday date in Denver against the Nuggets have a West-best 33-3 home record.

“Regardless of who the opponents are coming up, it’s just important that we continue to fight and battle and stick together,” Carlisle said. “That’s the rally cry.”

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695365/3-pointer-coach-praises-off-target-o-j-mayo

Nowitzki after clutch dominance: ‘We find a way’

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DALLAS — After almost 15 seasons, folks around these parts should have learned their lesson.

Don’t ever leave a game when Dirk Nowitzki is on the floor, no matter how low the Mavericks’ odds of winning seem. You might miss a legendary performance.

Hundreds of Mavs fans found that out the hard way Saturday afternoon, departing the American Airlines Center after the Chicago Bulls built a dozen-point lead in the fourth quarter. Those in the sellout crowd who stuck around were treated to vintage Dirk clutch dominance.

Nowitzki finished his season-high-matching 35-point performance with the kind of scoring flurry we’ll be talking about long after he’s been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The bearded face of the franchise scored eight points in the final 54 seconds, including the game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing with 2.9 ticks on the clock, to cap a 15-1 closing run.

Mavs 100, Bulls 98.

You had to see Nowitzki celebrate — arms raised, his thumb-and-two-fingers 3 symbol formed on both hands, screams coming the middle of all that facial hair — to believe it.

A dozen down with less than five minutes to go against an Eastern Conference playoff team that ranks third in the NBA in scoring defense? That’s not too much of a mountain for the Mavs to climb with their German in a groove.

“It’s kind of like the story of our season, honestly,” said Nowitzki, who was 14-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the game, 6-of-7 and 3-of-4 in the fourth. “Every time people write us out or say we’re done, for some reason, we find a way to hang around.

“The same happened today. I think everybody was thinking this thing was over, and we found a way to turn it around. The same with our season. Probably three weeks ago, nobody thought we could even make it a close race, and here we are.”

Presumed dead not too long ago, here the Mavs are, scrapping their way into the fight for the West’s final playoff seed despite being 10 games under .500 2½ months ago. Here they are, sitting at 36-37 after winning 11 of 16 games in March, preparing to head out on a huge four-game road trip that begins Tuesday with a must-win game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

And here Dirk is, peaking into playoff form just in time to have a chance to extend the Mavs’ postseason streak (12 years and counting) and make up for what had been the most miserable season of his career.

Dirk doubters have had a heck of a lot of ammo. After all, Nowitzki is 34 years old, missed the season’s first 27 games after getting his right knee scoped and admittedly stunk for several weeks after his return.

However, he’s returned to 2011 title form recently. Just look at his performances in the Mavs’ past two wins, heart-pounders over two playoff-bound teams. He had eight of his 35 points in overtime during Tuesday’s thriller over the Los Angeles Clippers. He one-upped that with eight points over the last three possessions in Saturday’s win over the Bulls.

“Whatever they say we can’t do as a team or he can’t do as a player, he finds a way,” Elton Brand said. “He works at it and finds a way to win. That’s the bottom line.”

Nowitzki found a way Saturday with a shooting showing that was epic even by his standards, making a jaw-dropping hot streak by Chicago’s Nate Robinson (14 of his 25 points early in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter) just a footnote.

“Really, there was no other chance,” Nowitzki said of his crunch-time takeover. “It’s not like somebody else was unbelievably hot. You kind of see how the game is going out there and kind of let it all hang out and see what happens.”

Nowitzki’s most impressive shot might have come a little before the midway point of the fourth quarter, when he banked in a high-arcing, one-legged fadeaway 12-footer with a defender draped all over him. That bucket looked like it’d be irrelevant after the Bulls drained 3s on their next three trips, but the Bulls didn’t score from the floor again, giving Nowitzki a chance to be the hero.

Nowitzki’s most important shots came in that final minute: a 3 from the right corner, a baseline one-legger and the game-winning 3 after a driving Vince Carter drew Luol Deng and dished to Dirk on the left wing.

“He hit some crazy shots, man, and just did what he does,” O.J. Mayo said. “He pulled us through. He’s a cold boy; got ice in his veins.”

It’s the sort of performance we’ve seen so many times from Nowitzki. He now has 12 winning buckets in the final 10 seconds of games during his career, not including the playoffs.

This was the kind of outing Nowitzki had over and over again during the Mavs’ remarkable title run. Two years later, the Mavs need him to keep ‘em coming to make the playoffs.

Doubt Dirk at your own risk.

Article source: http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/mavericks/post/_/id/4695359/dirk-nowitzki-after-clutch-dominance-we-find-a-way