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Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks hope to repeat as NBA champs in the 2011-12 season.
Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images

Change is king as Mavs aim to extend their reign as champs

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
Posted Dec 23 2011 9:32AM

Change is the one constant in the NBA.

Nobody knows that better than the Dallas Mavericks, who went into the 2011 playoffs in April as everybody's favorite whipping boys and finished up in June having whipped everybody.

Change was putting all of the post-season doubts from the past behind them and metamorphosing into an unstoppable force throughout the playoff march.

"It seemed like every step in the process we became more confident in what we could do," said their MVP Dirk Nowitzki.

Change was having the joyous first-ever franchise championship celebration still ringing in their ears when the realization hit that the Mavs would not be returning as the same close-knit unit. Center Tyson Chandler moved on to the Knicks. Forward Caron Butler signed with the Clippers. Guard J.J. Barea relocated to Minnesota.

"That's part of the circle of life in the NBA," said coach Rick Carlisle.

Change was the Mavs' title defense hopes going from flickering on life-support to feeling alive again with the shocking training camp deal that brought Lamar Odom to Dallas.

"It's surreal. It's definitely surreal," Odom said at the Mavs' media day. "It happened, you know, like that."

Change. Just days after many Mavs fans were bemoaning the loss of contender's status before last season's championship contender was even unfurled, the Mavs are right back in the Western Conference mix along with the Lakers, Thunder, Spurs and Grizzlies.

"There's enough firepower here,'' Odom said. "It's all about at the (defensive) end, who can play the best defense, too.

"Obviously, they're one of the best offensive teams, but they do a great job of stopping people and disguising what they want to do (on defense) -- dropping back in that zone a lot -- and change things up.''

There's that word again. What Odom knows from personal experience in 2010 and 2011 are the difficult and unique challenges that come in trying to defend a title.

"It's hard, it's hard, it's hard,'' he said. "If they thought winning the championship was hard, defending it is going to be tougher. Everybody's coming for you rather than you doing the hunting, which changes the mindsets of (other) teams and your team. But, if a team can do it, this one can.''

That is due in large part to Odom, the versatile 6-foot-10 forward who was often an unheralded and unappreciated part of the Lakers' back-to-back titles. Just the fact that he was slated to be part of the three-team deal that would have landed him in New Orleans and Chris Paul with the Lakers was enough to shake Odom to his core and immediately demand a trade that put him in Dallas.

"Yeah, um, I can't cuss," Odom said. "But that's not where I wanted to be. No disrespect to anybody on that team or the city or the ownership. But it's not a place that I wanted to be after playing for the Lakers, a team that contends for a championship. That's what you expect to be around. It was hard for me to picture myself there starting over."

Odom says it was the Lakers' handling of the deal -- not telling him in advance -- that bothered him the most.

"It wasn't (even) about going to New Orleans," he said. "It was just about how they did it. I felt a little disrespected. After being (in L.A.) for so long and going through so many things, I felt like they could have just told me and I probably would have accepted it.

"If someone is telling you that you can't be here or there's no more room for you, you've got to understand that. I think because it's just how they did it is the reason why I took it so personal.

"After I realized that I most likely wasn't going to be there, Dallas was the one place where I thought I would be a great fit.''

Now Odom fits into a Dallas lineup that suddenly went from having many holes to being among the deepest in the league with the additions of Vince Carter and Delonte West, too. Now the Mavs have a jam-packed backcourt with Carter, Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois at shooting guard and the pairing of Kidd and West at point. They have perhaps the best forward threesome in the league in Nowitzki, Odom and Shawn Marion and two of the last three Sixth Man Award winners in Terry and Odom.

Perhaps most important, what the Mavs have is someone who is ready to appreciate and take advantage of change.

"They gave it to us (last season) and hopefully we (can) keep that going," Odom said. "I have a lot of pride being on this team and playing with the defending champions to try and help them defend their title."

The three-step plan:

1. With defending champions, it's never about having enough ability or talent, just remembering to stay focused and hungry.

2. Keep Dirk Nowitzki healthy. He's been playing like an MVP for a decade and no reason to think that will change.

3. Dirk is the engine and Jason Terry the spark plug, but it's following the lead of veteran Jason Kidd that keeps Mavs on the right road.

Three points:

1. Few smiles, fewer histrionics on the sidelines for Rick Carlisle, but it's past time that somebody gave him Coach of the Year love.

2. Brendan Haywood was supposed to be the answer in middle two seasons ago. With Tyson Chandler gone, now the Mavs find out.

3. Sure, he's a headline-grabbing hotdog, but when the game is on the line you want all of the mustard that Jason Terry brings.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. 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.

AT A GLANCE

LAST YEAR: 57-25, 2nd in Southwest

FINISH: Won NBA Championship

2010-11 Regular Season Standings

2010-11 TEAM LEADERS

Dirk Nowitzki

23.0 PPG

Tyson Chandler

9.4 RPG

Jason Kidd

8.2 APG

2010-11 STATISTICS

  OFFENSE DEFENSE
PPG 100.2 96.0
RPG 41.4 40.7
APG 23.8 20.6
FG % 0.475 0.450
3PT % 0.365 0.343
FT % 0.777 0.750
  Complete 2010-11 Stats 
STARTING FIVE

JASON KIDD, POINT GUARD

7.9 PPG | 4.4 RPG | 8.2 APG

The veteran point guard helped the Mavs to the 2010-11 title with some timely shooting and deft passing. In his 18th season, can he do it again?

VINCE CARTER, SHOOTING GUARD

14 PPG | 3.8 RPG | 36 3P%

Veteran rejoins Jason Kidd, who set up his most productive seasons.

BRENDAN HAYWOOD, CENTER

4.4 PPG | 5.2 RPG | 1.0 BPG

The new starter was productive last time he had the job for the Mavs in 2009-10 (8.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 19 starts in 28 games). He's a good shotblocker who can plug the middle.

DIRK NOWITZKI, POWER FORWARD

23 PPG | 7.0 RPG | APG 2.6

The Finals MVP and the No. 1 reason the Mavericks won their first NBA title. His fadeaway jumper is the most unstoppable shot in the game today (as Miami knows).

SHAWN MARION, SMALL FORWARD

12.5 PPG | 6.9 RPG | 1.4 APG

"The Matrix" proved to be a key cog to the Mavs' title plan. He was solid in his second season with Dallas and stepped up in the conference finals against OKC.

RESERVES
NAMEHTWTPOSCOMMENT
Jason Terry6-280GThe sparkplug when the Mavs need some scoring.
Lamar Odom6-10230FThe do-it-all big man gives Mavs best forward combo in the league.
Rodrigues Beaubois6-2185GMissed most of championship season with broken left foot.
 Complete Roster 
OFFSEASON MOVES

ADDED: F Brandan Wright, G Drew Neitzel, G Vince Carter, F Lamar Odom, G Delonte West

LOST:  F Caron Butler, G-F DeShawn Stevenson, G J.J. Barea, C Tyson Chandler, G Rudy Fernandez, F Corey Brewer, F Targuy Ngombo, F Peja Stojakovic (retired), G Andy Rautins

MAN ON THE SPOT

JASON KIDD, GUARD

At 38, he can no longer dominate a game with his athletic ability and physical skills, but he's still a vital cog in the machine that allows the Mavs to function smoothly. The Mavs need him to squeeze out one more year of leadership, smarts and making clutch shots.

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