The Mavericks have plenty of reasons to be confident after the way they've played the last 17 games. But a championship swagger may be the key to their success, writes Earl K. Sneed.
Yes, the Mavericks have won four straight games and 16 of their last 17 outings. But do they have swagger?
The question was brought up in the Mavericks’ locker room after a 105-99 win in Orlando Tuesday night to complete a 2-0 road trip through the state of Florida. The responses were interesting.
It’s been said that defense wins championships. And in order to win, you also have to outscore the opposition, which places a premium on offense.
But the right amount of confidence can also go a long way towards building a championship contender. And while the Mavericks aren’t too confident, they do step on the court knowing what they’re capable of on a nightly basis.
“Everybody has confidence in each other,” shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “We’ve got great guys in the locker room starting with the captains and the guys that have been here. So, we’re just keeping things together and supporting everyone and we’re just working things out.
“I’m confident and I think everybody is,” Stevenson added. “When somebody gets up, you’re there to give him a handshake. And I think guys are just making plays.”
That confidence, or swagger, comes from the team’s togetherness and chemistry which stems back to training camp, according to sixth man Jason Terry.
“For us, it’s been like this the whole time,” Terry said. “I think our time in training camp together has paid off. You know, last year we wanted it to happen so fast, it just wasn’t realistic. You need training camp. You need the first half. You need tough ball games. I think for the most part we’ve had that.”
The team has been especially confident in other teams’ arenas, going 10-1 thus far on the road.
“We’re an experienced team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve been in a lot of battles in other buildings. So, our guys know what it’s about. And we don’t take anything for granted. We know that other people’s buildings are always gonna be a challenge.”
“Our core group is pretty much all veterans and we take pride in going in other people’s gym and kicking their butt,” Terry said. “And I think that’s the thing about us, it doesn’t matter where we’re at, we’re gonna rise to the challenge. And we feel like every time that we step on the road it’s a new challenge.”
And with that veteran core, the Mavericks have seemingly anointed different leaders for every aspect of the game.
While Terry has been the high-energy cheerleader on the sidelines and during timeouts, center Tyson Chandler has been the vocal leader on the court, barking in his teammates’ ears when he feels the time is right.
Meanwhile, point guard Jason Kidd has been the floor general, directing teammates to their spots on the court. And as with every season, forward Dirk Nowitzki has been the offensive juggernaut while leading by example with his scoring and work ethic.
That shared responsibility has carried over to the win column and the stat sheet, as the Mavericks have ascended to the season-best record in the Western Conference and third-best in the entire NBA with a balanced attack.
“It says a lot about us,” Chandler said. “On any given night anybody can lead us. Dirk is obviously gonna lead us majority of the time in scoring, but our second, third and fourth options can come from anybody.”
Chandler, the team’s prized off-season acquisition, felt that the squad lacked a vocal leader and the subsequent swagger that he says an outspoken teammate provides after watching the Mavericks from afar while with his prior organizations. And immediately once he arrived in Big D the 7-foot-1 big man says that was the first thing that he wanted to change.
His teammates have kindly obliged.
“It says more about the character of the team, to be honest with you. It’s such a good locker room, it’s such a good group of guys, that it’s not hard to come in here and fit in,” Chandler explained. “And they don’t mind somebody getting in their face and they don’t mind somebody telling them when they’re wrong. But it says a lot about the character here…And they just want to win.
“I’ve had situations in the past where it didn’t go all peaches and flowers, because everybody doesn’t want to hear your feelings and what you have to say. I’m an emotional guy and I play like it out there, and I voice my opinion in the locker room. Sometimes people don’t want to hear that, but this is a team that’s all about winning. And it’s been good.”
Now, Chandler says that the Mavericks have all the confidence in the world that they will walk away from the court victoriously no matter the opponent. And if that’s not swagger, what is?
Note: For a second time this season, the Mavericks will head into Oklahoma City to do battle with the Thunder. The Mavs went into Oklahoma City Arena and came out with a 111-103 win on Nov. 24 in the first game between the two squads. Next Monday night’s Mavericks-Thunder game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center for a date with the Toronto Raptors. That game will tip off at 7: 30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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