Armstrong
You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in NBA Playoffs 2006? NBA.com has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes.

Dallas' Darrell Armstrong averaged 2.1 points in 10.1 minutes off the bench for the Mavs this season.

FINALS MAILBOX

Q: Hello Mr. Armstrong, whats is it like to finally make it to the Finals? Although you have had many great moments in your career, was beating Phoenix in game six the best?
-- Weston, AZ

Armstrong: This is my second finals and it is more fun. I didn't dress my first year because I came from overseason and was not on the active roster. This year I have been with the team and am able to appreciate it a lot more. It is definitely more of a grind. Beating Phoenix was definitely a great moment because of the way we did it. We beat them the way we did last year, on their home floor.

Q: Which team did you dream to play for when you were a kid? How important is the sixth man to a team?
-- Prabhu, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Armstrong: I dreamed of playing for the Washington Redskins. I started playing basketball when I was a senior in high school and didn't play again until my junior year in college. The sixth man is very important to the team and can change the game. I liked being the sixth man so I could bring energy and help get back and win games.

Q: How does it feel to be a Western Conference Champion?
-- Tni, Dallas, TX

Armstrong: It feels good, but I have an Eastern Conference Championship too, but didn't win the big one. This is gratifying, but we still have work to do - four more games.

Q: What do you to stop to Shaq?
-- Marc, Girona, Spain

Armstrong: That's top secret - we'll play him tough.

Q: When the day comes that you retire, will you go into coaching like AJ and even possibly become an assistant to the Mavs coaching staff?
-- DJ, Edgewood, TX

Armstrong: Possibly, but I will definitely be a coach. I have been doing this grind for 12 years and am not sure about when I will retire. When I do retire it will be nice to get away from the grind then bounce back in a year or two.

Q: Congratulations on beating the Suns. How did you guys shut down the Suns' second half performances in the last two games? I was at Game 1 of the Suns-Clippers series and they scored 74 points in the second half. What did you guys do different to stop them?
-- Andy, Phoenix, AZ

Armstrong: We stuck with our principles on defense. We tried to get the ball out of Nash's hands and rotate to the shooters when they pass so they would have to put the ball on the floor and not shoot threes.

Q: Are the Miami Heat a team that you guys are going to try and force out on the perimeter, or do you want them to have to penetrate more? The Heat are a team that can do either, so which do you think will give you a better shot at winning?
-- Scot

Armstrong: Make them play our style and make them do either when we need them to. Name : Scott City : Saskatoon State : Province : Sakatchewan Country : Canada

Q: The question surrounding the Mavs coming into the playoffs was leadership. How much has Dirk stepped into the leadership role?
-- Scott, Saskatchewan, Canada

Armstrong: He's stepping into it. Right now it is just with his play. We have a lot of veteran leaders on this team, but he is learning and having him lead by example is just as important as being vocal.

Q: Here in the Philippines, every one of us here is a huge fan of yours and of course, Dirk. My question is, what would the Mavs' edge against the Heat be?
-- Drannel, Batangas, Philippines

Armstrong: I think we are a running team so we need to get out and get easy baskets. They are also a running team, so we have to be careful. We are also a halfcourt team, but don't play like a halfcourt team. We need to penetrate and get into the gaps and get guys wide open shots with no hands in their face.

Q: Who is the funniest guy on the team?
-- Jackson, Bountiful, Utah

Armstrong: The whole team, everybody has jokes....AJ too.

CONFERENCE FINALS MAILBOX

Q: Who do you think will win the series in the East?
-- Billie, Tallahassee, FL

Armstrong: I really can’t say. At this point, it looks like Miami, but you can’t forget that Detroit is a championship team. They showed their toughness last year winning a game 7 in Miami. Don’t count them out just yet.

Q: So do u think Dirk is the best player in the NBA right now, along the lines of being the most versatile?
-- Matt, Fullerton, CA

Armstrong: One of the best for sure. It’s hard to say with all of the athletes there are in the league, a lot of who can do so much on both ends of the court. I will say that Dirk is definitely one of the top 5 players in the league, no doubt about that.

Q: How do you practice in order to be accurate in shooting?
-- We, Sibu, Malaysia

Armstrong: You’ve got to get into the gym and get up 100-200 shots everyday. You don’t ever want to overdo it, but repetition is the key. Free throws are also important because a free throw is the most basic shot in basketball—something that needs to be mastered before anything else.

Q: Who is tougher to guard LeBron James or T-Mac?
-- Colton, Battleground, WA

Armstrong: Both. Hahahah. Lucky for me I don’t ever have the responsibility of guarding either one of them.

Q: Mr. Armstrong, during all of the years of your career, what´s the most important lesson that you could share, having such nice story getting to the NBA?
-- Ed, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Armstrong: I would say learning the importance of playing hard every night. Realizing that not only do you need to have some amount of talent to make it in the NBA, but you must also have the hard work it takes to succeed.

Q: What's your favorite movie?
-- David, Santa Ana, CA

Armstrong: Life starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

Q: Hey Mr.Armstrong, I've been a huge fan of yours since your rookie season and I was just wondering if this team your apart of now is the most special to you so far?
-- Duke, Orlando, FL

Armstrong: It definitely is in terms of success and going deep into the playoffs. Also special to me was the 99-00 season in Orlando. Everybody wrote us off as a team that could only win 10 or 11 games and we shocked them all by winning 41.

Q: When you play, you seem to have endless energy and confidence how did you develop that?
-- Julian, Sligo, Ireland

Armstrong: Let me just say that my energy can be attributed to 3 things—practicing hard everyday, the Lord above, and coffee!

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS MAILBOX

Q: Is Devin Harris the key to stopping Tony Parker when you play the Spurs next round?
-- Jeff, Ft. Worth, TX

Armstrong: He's the key, JT is key, and myself and the rest of the team is the keybecause we all need to be ready to help when he penetrates the lane.

Q: Out of all your years in the NBA as a point guard, which player has been your favorite to be on the floor with?
-- Mark, Ontario, Canada

Armstrong: Playing against - AI, Nash and Sam Cassell. Playing with - Everybody on the Mavs because they play so hard. Actually, all the teams I've been on have played the game the way it is supposed to be played. Some of the big names I've played with are Shaq, Penny, Dirk, Tracy McGrady and Baron Davis.

Q: What's it like to play with Dirk Nowitzki? He is one of my favorite players and I was curious to what he is really like.
-- Travis, Hawarden, IA

Armstrong: He's a crazy guy, we all know that. He is a fun guy in the locker room and on the floor. He is fun to play with because he brings so much attention to the game.

Q: How important do you think it is to have a decent amount of fast break points?
-- Steven, Plano, TX

Armstrong: It is VERY important because they are easy points. They are easy shots because the defense can't get back and set up, even if it is a fast break jumper, it is still uncontested.

Q: Which player on the team would you say stays the most positive after a loss?
-- Surayya, Houston, TX

Armstrong: Avery Johnson. As a coach, he has to stay positive. The players are already thinking about what went wrong, so he keeps it positive. The veterans like myself and Stack also help with keeping things positive.

Q: I know that you are a very good point guard. Can you tell me how balance making assists and scoring by yourself?
-- Stat, Hong Kong

Armstrong: With this team we have so many good players, so when I am on the floor I try to get guys open for easy scores. For me I just pick and choose. If they are double-teaming Dirk, Josh or others on the team, I am ready to knock down shots.

Q: Are you thinking of retiring next year?
-- Kyler, Layton, UT

Armstrong: No, but you always have to weigh your options. I'm older, so I need to talk things over with my wife. We have a 14 yr old daughter that plays basketball and is about to start high school next year, so it is very important to sacrifice for my family.

Q: Hey Darrell, What do you think is the biggest key to beating the Spurs in the second round?
-- Adam, Eugene, OR

Armstrong: The things we did in Game 2 - running, pushing the ball back, inserting Devin into the starting lineup. Most importantly, playing defense and getting stops. We want to play in the high 90s, not the 70s and 80s.

Q: Hey Darrell! I'm a huge fan and I'm at every home game. In fact I was on TV holding my "ARMSTRONG IS MY HERO" sign when you fell in a game against the Clippers. I was wondering if you were considering coaching after your tenure as a player? GO MAVS!!!
-- Jared, Irving, TX

Armstrong: Yes, but I'm not sure when. I want to play 1-2 more years. The NBA season of 82 games is a grind, and to go through that as a coach is a lot more work - and a lot of film. When the time comes, I hope to be ready and a good coach. Thanks for the sign!

FIRST ROUND MAILBOX

Q: How many charges are you going to draw this postseason?
-- Ben

Armstrong: That depends on how many minutes I get. If I play 50 minutes I think somewhere around 10-12 charges.

Q: Hey Armstrong! I am so glad that you are a Maverick. You are one of the most fun players to watch; I love your energy so much that I refer to you as "Caffeine." What drills would you recommend for young point guards?
Good luck in the Playoffs!
-- Kelsi

Armstrong: Visualize yourself dribbling the ball up the floor with defenders coming at you, work on your ballhandling, shoot 25-50 free throws every day, and shoot lots of jumpers. A mix of two's and three's, but mostly two's because you need to get good at shooting closer to the basket first.

Q: How do you have so much energy for being 37?
-- Sara

Armstrong: The man above - God, and caffeine.

Q: I LOVE the intensity and leadership you bring to team...on AND off the floor. How important is this type of momentum in carrying the Mavs through to the finals?

Armstrong: It is very important to keep up the intensity and energy, even in practice. It shows your teammates what you play with all the time.
-- Greg

Q: What do you yourself do differently to get ready for a playoff game compared to a regular season game?
-- Jo

Armstrong: I do the same routine, I don't think you should switch up the routine just because it is the playoffs. I think you should stay with the same routine, just at a higher level of concentration.

Q: Could you beat Avery in a game of one on one? Straight up.
-- Beck

Armstrong: Yes, he is out of shape. But he's also a competitor, so it wouldn't be easy.

Q: This is the year. I can feel it. I know you drink coffee before every game...Thank you NBA Inside Stuff. How else do you prepare or get hyped before the game?
-- Phillip

Armstrong: I prepare the day before. I play the game in my mind a lot, even before we go out on the court, I watch the game in my mind and know what my team needs.

Q: How do you stay so positive during games, even when you are loosing the game? Are you ever going to be a coach because I think you would make a good one!
-- Jennifer

Armstrong: You have to be optimistic about knowing you can. The NBA game is fastand with the shot clock, you can come back really quick. You saw it a few times this season, and I've seen it happening in the NBA since I was a little kid.

Q: Are you guys for real? Will Big D be let down like all the other years in the past, or are you guys gonna man up and play some D in the playoffs? I am tired of being known as the "Allas Mavs" (NO D IN ArmstrongLLAS).
P.S. How 'bout them Cowboys?
-- Steve

Armstrong: I think everybody should be tired of that. We are trying to play much better defense. Throughout the season we focused on defense and you really saw it during our 13-game winning streak. I hope we can get back to that level because it shows that defense wins games. How about those Redskins?

Q: In the last 10 games of pre-season, Opp.team killed Mavs by three points esp SUNS and Spurs(spur survived in that match just because of three point shooting). How are you going to tackle this problem ?
-- Pandy

Armstrong: The really good three-point shooting teams play with one of two styles. The Suns work the three in transition, and the Spurs work it in the halfcourt. We have to get guys off the three-point line or get a hand in their face.