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Art Garcia

Tyrus Thomas (left) and Antawn Jamison (center) have lifted expectations in Charlotte and Cleveland.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Right roster change can give new perspective on season

Posted Mar 2 2010 11:24AM

Did the Mavericks suddenly become tougher after a blockbuster trade deadline deal reshaped their starting lineup, sparking a season-high winning streak? A definite personality shift seems to be afoot in Dallas.

"The entire personality has not changed," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle countered. "We still have four of the veterans that have been here for several years and been deep into the playoffs several times."

Carlisle was referring to Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Erick Dampier. They're the major influences on the team's personality. That doesn't change overnight.

But the additions of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, coming from a miserable situation in Washington, coupled with the subtractions of Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and others have been felt in Dallas.

League observers, as well as those that have played the Mavericks since the All-Star break, have noticed the difference. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Dallas is bigger and more physical.

Others have commented on the increased cohesion. As much as an infusion of size and talent can impact a roster, new blood brings another intangible into play.

"Coming from their situations, they have new life and that new life brings energy," Hornets forward James Posey said of the new Dallas trio. "That opportunity and better chance of winning it all, that energy right there is something the guys that have been there can feed off."

Just ask the Bobcats. Dealing for explosive/impulsive Stephen Jackson in November, plus making the trade-deadline moves for Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff, have accelerated their rebuilding.

"Our defense is a lot better with them now," Jackson said recently of Thomas and Ratliff. "They make us better all around. It's just amazing what one move can do for us."

Larry Brown's team now is in the playoff chase. That was hardly the case during the franchise's first five years in the league.

"Sometimes the energy levels can change when you have new people," New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said. "I think excitement and energy is sometimes contagious. When you have guys excited to be somewhere or play for something that tends to spread."

The Bucks didn't deal for a "difference-maker," but something has clicked since the arrival of John Salmons and Co. Milwaukee had its six-game winning streak snapped on Sunday in Atlanta, but has moved up to seventh in the East.

Not all trades are about turnarounds. A deep playoff run is expected in Cleveland, so the acquisition of Antawn Jamison wasn't about nailing down a few extra wins in the regular season. Jamison also wasn't going to alter the Cavaliers' personality; LeBron James is perhaps the strongest individual presence in the league.

Jamison, though, is starting to find his groove after a rough start, which is critical with Shaquille O'Neal out for the rest of the regular season. The Cavaliers have won four straight, the league's second-longest current winning streak behind Dallas' eight-game run. Much like the new Mavs' crew, Jamison escaped a hopeless situation with the Wizards.

"For their style of play, he's a perfect fit for them," Posey said. "He has new life now, new energy. He's on a new team that's playing the right way. It's going to take some time, but he doesn't have to do it himself. He can work his way into things."

The lucky few who improved their NBA lot via trade now have a new outlook. The same might be said for a lucky few new teammates.

"Now, can the attitude change some? Yeah, sure it can change," Carlisle said. "Trades can help that. The key for us is just to keep it going in a positive-curve type direction with everything. It's challenging because the more you win, the more teams are gunning for you. The more your record improves, the more they feel like it's a big deal to beat you.

"But that's part of the challenge you've got to love."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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