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V2M
12-02-2006, 05:42 PM
Order restored
Marty Burns, SI.com

Marty Burns
SI.com

Need a reminder why it's silly to get worked up about the first month of the season? Try the Mavericks.

Three weeks ago they were 0-4, the worst start in franchise history. Three weeks later all is well again in Big D. Their defending Western Conference champs entered Friday's game against Sacramento with an 11-game winning streak, three off the franchise record. Just like that, the Mavs are back atop the West.

What happened?

Basically, the Mavs needed something fans and media don't want to give these days: time. With several new bench players on a team that was bound to be feeling some hangover effect from its Finals collapse, it's really no surprise the Mavs struggled a bit while coach Avery Johnson figured out his rotation. The real shocker might be that they turned it around so quickly.

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Will the Mavs be able to keep it going? There's no reason to believe they won't. They return most of the key players from the team that won 60 games a year ago. So far newcomers Devean George, Greg Buckner, Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson seem to be fitting in. The one caveat for the Mavs is that the schedule has been soft during the win streak, with the only real quality win coming against the Spurs (the Suns were struggling at the time of their meeting, while the Hornets were missing Peja Stojakovic and David West). Still, 11 wins is impressive -- and it sure beats what they were going through at the start.

What has gotten into Erick Dampier? He seems to be playing better than ever. Can the Mavs count on him to keep playing like this? -- Ed McDonough, Dallas

Dampier has been a major part of Dallas' resurgence. The 6-foot-11 center is leading the NBA in field goal percentage while defending and hitting the boards. He's a big reason the Mavs have given up more than 100 points just once in the last 10 games (after doing so once in the first four) and outrebounded foes by an average of 43.9 to 36.1 during their win streak. It's also no coincidence that the Mavs were 11-2 after Devin Harris replaced Buckner in the starting lineup. With the speedy Harris in the lineup, Jason Terry can slide over to his more natural shooting guard spot and the Mavs are a much more dangerous offensive team. Dallas has scored 30 or more points in the first quarter in each of the past four games, and has had a lead of at least 10 points in each of its last 12 games. Like we said, maybe Johnson just needed a little time.

Will the Clippers trade Corey Maggette? How about dealing him to the Nuggets for one of their extra big men? -- S. Scott, Merrillville, Ind.

It's no secret the Clippers are dangling Maggette, who has chafed at times about his bench role. The Nuggets, Heat and Bulls are among the teams mentioned as possible destinations. Denver could really use a scoring shooting guard (sorry, but JR Smith is still too young to rely on in the playoffs). But that raises the question of why the Clippers would help out a fellow Western Conference rival. The Heat, who could offer Antoine Walker or James Posey, seem like a more realistic fit. As for Maggette returning to his native Chicago, it isn't likely. The Bulls need a big man who can score in the low post more than they need another perimeter guy.

Is there any truth to the rumor about the Blazers trading Jamaal Magloire to the Raptors for Morris Peterson? Both players are unhappy about their reduced roles. It seems to make sense for both teams. -- Alex Elliott, Toronto

The deal makes sense for the Blazers, for sure. Portland has a logjam at center now with Raef LaFrentz and Joel Przybilla returning from injuries. Plus, the Blazers want to find playing time for rookie LaMarcus Aldridge. Mo Pete, meanwhile, would give them a much-needed veteran scorer and defender on the perimeter. But while Magloire is a Toronto guy, he doesn't seem to be a good fit for the Raptors. They want to spread the floor and play an up-tempo style. Magloire is more of a back-to-the-basket guy. Plus, he makes $8.4 million this season, compared to Peterson's $4.5 million, which means the Raptors would have to include at least one more player to make the salaries match up.

Regarding your column on Bruce Bowen's defensive footwork, I did see the play involving Bowen and Steve Francis and I have to admit that I immediately thought he put his foot under Francis. At the same time, you can look at the incident involving Josh Howard. You could see that Bowen "tapped" Howard with his knee, which prompted his response. I don't begrudge a team having an enforcer, but when his tactics go in the direction of injuring another player just to "get in his head," I have to call foul. Keeping an offensive player on his toes with a hard foul can "theoretically" be considered part of the game, but doing something that threatens a player's career is clearly out of line --regardless of how "great a guy" someone is. -- Gabriel, New York City

A: The Bowen column generated tons of e-mails. Most came down against the Spurs' defender, which is hardly surprising since there are fans from 29 other teams who don't like him (but would no doubt have a different opinion if he were wearing their team's uniform). Predictably, there were also a lot of Spurs fans who had no problem with Bowen's play. The truth is probably somewhere in between. But as the column pointed out, NBA executives don't seem to have too much of a problem with it. And the league hasn't seen fit to take action against Bowen, other than to warn him to watch his feet more carefully. Clearly, it's very difficult to determine a player's intent on a matter such as this. But the NBA is full of people, many of them former players, who love the game and will do the right thing to police it.

Bruce Bowen may be the nicest guy off the court, but his plays are definitely dirty. For example, need I remind you of this one? -- Kamran, Montreal

Thanks, Kamran. I had forgotten about Bowen's "Bruce Lee" job on Wally Szczerbiak. But at least he didn't stick his foot under him while he was shooting.

Do you think Bucks GM Larry Harris needs to evaluate his coaching staff at this point? Terry Stotts has emphasized defense, but I don't see it on the court. I don't think he is doing the job. -- Sean Fox, Milwaukee

It's too early to give a fair evaluation of Stotts' performance. We're only a month into the season, and the Bucks have been without two injured starters (Bobby Simmons and Charlie Villanueva) for much of it. However, Milwaukee's defense has been atrocious for the most part -- and that goes back to the coach to some degree. For whatever reason Stotts has not been able yet to get them to play with the energy and effort they need on that end of the court.

But Harris doesn't want to do anything rash. For one, who else is out there who would do a better job? Also, the Bucks are not going anywhere this season anyway. They're pointing toward 2007, when they should have cap room to go after free agents. It means Harris can use the rest of the season to find out if Stotts is the right guy to guide this team in the future.

I'm calling it now. The winner of the 2006 Greg Oden sweepstakes will be the Grizzlies. Here's what I'm thinking: 1996, the Spurs' David Robinson is out for the year and what was a perennial playoff contender is relegated to the cellar. Now, in 2006: Pau Gasol is out with a leg fracture. The Grizzlies are without their "Robinson," a do-it-all 7-footer. And while he may come back before the season is done, unlike Robinson, I expect the Grizz to be out of the playoff picture long before. Then they get Oden in a move eerily similar to the Tim Duncan coup, and, suddenly, Memphis is looking at a twin-tower combo much like San Antonio's. -- Gus Scogan, Sacramento

How about Grizzlies president Jerry West (if he's still with the club) coming down out of the executive suite to coach the team, a la Gregg Popovich? Actually I would like to see the Grizzlies get the No. 1 pick -- and the chance to draft Oden -- if for no other reason than it would put to rest the inevitable conspiracy theories we're going to hear in the days ahead about the NBA fixing the draft lottery to make sure Oden goes to a big market.

What the heck does "scoring the ball" mean? It's a term I've been hearing more frequently. Does it mean something different than plain ol' scoring? -- Greg O'Brien, Hamilton

I just saw Isiah Thomas on TV the other night and he was referring to one of his players' "scoring the ball." What other item would one use to score a basket? A sneaker? A headband? A cell phone? It seems to be the hot new expression in NBA circles. I admit I have used it myself verbally on a couple occasions, before realizing it and immediately banging my head against the wall 10 times. It seems as if the word "scoring" would suffice. But why use one word when you can use three?

Updated on Friday, Dec 1, 2006 2:56 pm EST

Mavs Rule
12-02-2006, 06:11 PM
Isn't "scoring the ball" slang for "driving the lane"? There are "shooters" and "scorers", and from my understanding, they are not the same. ie: Terry is a shooter and Wade is a scorer.