By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Oct 14 2010 12:37AM
The Mavericks know what they're going to get out of Dirk Nowitzki. Mark the perennial All-Star down for about 25 points and eight rebounds per night, and every ounce of effort out of his 7-foot frame.
The same holds true for Jason Kidd. After 16 years in the league, the future Hall of Famer is going to quarterback just as he always has. Whatever skills have been eroded by time, Kidd still commandeers a team as well as anyone in sneakers.
Nowitzki and Kidd are two unwavering pillars that Dallas coach Rick Carlisle can count on no matter the time and circumstance. If it's a Tuesday night in January in Minneapolis, these two vets are going to show with their 'A' games.
Well, unless it's the second night of a back-to-back for Kidd, but more on that later.
Having the comfort and reassurance of Nowitzki and Kidd is only a beginning. If the Mavericks expect to contend for a title -- and that's the definite expectation in Big D -- they're going to need much more in an age where three superstars is almost considered the bare minimum needed to compete at the highest level.
Surveying the roster, Kidd points to the two candidates the Mavericks need to come through if that's going to happen.
"Shawn and Caron are the two guys that I would circle," he said. "We need them to have big years."
Getting that out of them is a function of both understanding the system and each other. Shawn Marion is just one year into his Dallas career. Caron Butler arrived in February. The two former All-Stars are still transitioning to Carlisle's system.
There's been a lot said and written about which of the two will start this season, since both are natural small forwards. They started together last season, with Butler sharing backcourt space next to Kidd. The starting point guard dismissed any notion that playing time or starting status is going to be an issue.
"They're going to be on the court together," Kidd assured. "It just goes back to being comfortable. When you're comfortable and understand each other's tendencies, the game becomes that much easier."
They're both proven commodities with a history of being major contributors on successful teams. The Mavericks are going to rely on Butler and Marion.
And it's not just about what they can do with the ball. Dwyane Wade recently said that sparring with LeBron James in practice reminds him of the old days with Butler in Miami. Kobe Bryant can relate, since Butler also had a stint with the Lakers. Marion's history of tangling with the league's best scorers is just as long.
"We can get physical with Marion and Butler at the 2 and 3," Nowitzki said. "That's about as physical as it gets at the wings."
While the Mavericks don't have the star power to match the likes of the Lakers or Heat or Celtics, they do possess depth. Carlisle said the rotation could easily go 10-deep, with managing minutes a necessity for Nowitzki and Kidd. It's possible Kidd even takes off one night of a back-to-back to rest.
If that depth isn't getting the job done, this is a franchise with a penchant of pulling the trigger if the powers that be (Mark Cuban) believe a shakeup is in order. For now, the feeling in Dallas is the right pieces are in place.
"We know we have a good team here," Carlisle said. "And what we want to be is a special team. For that to happen, we've got some improvement to make in some specific areas."
He'd like to see the Mavericks move into the top 10 in defense. (Dallas was 15th in points allowed and opponent's shooting percentage, and 12th in defensive efficiency last season.) Carlisle also wants his team to protect American Airlines Center. The No. 2 seed in the Western Conference was just 28-13 on its court last season, tied for just the 10th-best home record in the league.
The Mavericks have enjoyed a historic run of regular-season success, only to have those highs doused by monumental playoff failure. Only three teams in NBA history have strung together more consecutive 50-win seasons than Dallas' current 10-year postseason run.
The Mavericks have also been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round four of the last five years, twice as a higher seed. No one has to remind this team about opportunities lost. Or of which team they have to catch.
"The Lakers are the heavy favorites, back-to-back champs," Nowitzki said. "And everything starts with them. After that, I think there's a big pile a lot of teams are in. We're right there along with Oklahoma City and a bunch of other teams are right there."
There's a question how long the Mavericks stay in that pile. Kidd is 37. Nowitzki, Butler, Marion, Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood are all in their early 30s. There are promising youngsters to bridge the gap into the future -- namely Roddy Beaubois and rookie Dominique Jones -- but they're not ready to do any heavy lifting just yet.
"There's always a window, but we've got to think about right now," Kidd said. "Our window is the one we're looking out right now. We can't look down the line. Now is what we've got to focus on."
FIGURE OUT SWING SPOTS
Shawn Marion and Caron Butler can't carry the 2 and 3 spots alone. Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois and rookie Dominique Jones figure into the mix.
REST THE VETS
Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can't log 40 minutes. Is using Marion enough behind Dirk? Do you trust Beaubois and J.J. Barea to run offense?
PROTECT THIS HOUSE
One of the league's best road teams last season stunk at home. What good is the home-court edge if it gets squandered come postseason?
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LAST YEAR: 55-27, 1st in Southwest
FINISH: Lost in first round of playoffs
2009-10 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2009-10 Stats|
DIRK NOWITZKI, FORWARD
25.0 PPG | 7.7 RPG | 2.7 APG
More than a decade-long constant, the 2007 MVP remains an elite talent and focal point of Dallas' attack. This is his team.
SHAWN MARION, FORWARD
12.0 PPG | 6.4 RPG | 1.4 APG
Still trying to blend after a year in Dallas. At his best on the run. Still looking for his 3-point stroke, but still mans up on perimeter.
BRENDAN HAYWOOD, CENTER
9.1 PPG | 9.3 RPG | 2.1 BPG
Is he the big man this franchise has lacked for decades or another overpaid stiff? Has all the tools to be what the Mavs need.
JASON KIDD, GUARD
10.3 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 9.1 APG
Showing signs on age on the court, having lost a step or two. Mind and instincts sharp as ever. One of the all-time great playmakers.
CARON BUTLER, GUARD
16.3 PPG | 6.2 RPG | 1.6 SPG
Somewhat out of position in the backcourt, but arrived for the season slimmer to make the transition. Also a contract year.
|Tyson Chandler||7-1||235||C||USA Basketball center is finally healthy and could push Haywood for starting gig.|
|Roddy Beaubois||6-0||170||G||Recovering from broken foot. Expected to take on a major scoring role once he's back.|
|Jason Terry||6-2||180||G||Former Sixth Man of the Year out to regain his title. Team's designated shooter.|
ADDED: Dominique Jones, Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi, Steve Novak, Tyson Chandler, Alexis Ajinca
LOST: Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll
RODDY BEAUBOIS, GUARD
They weren't sure what to expect out of the rookie from the French-speaking isle of Guadeloupe last season. Is he Jason Kidd's eventual replacement or best suited to play alongside Kidd? Probably both. For all his gifts -- explosive first step, 3-point range, ability to finish -- cutting down on the mental mistakes that often tied the 22-year-old talent to Carlisle's bench is key.
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