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9 DALLAS MAVERICKS
Ian Thomsen
October 30, 2000
Will fancy chairs and stereo systems transform this club into a playoff team? Well, it's a start
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October 30, 2000

9 Dallas Mavericks

Will fancy chairs and stereo systems transform this club into a playoff team? Well, it's a start

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Projected Lineup

STARTERS

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

SF

Dirk Nowitzki

35

17.5 ppg

6.5 rpg

2.5 apg

46.1 FG%

37.9 3FG%

PF

Gary Trent

82

13.7 ppg

4.7 rpg

2.0 apg

49.3 FG%

52.4 FT%

C

Christian Laettner

75

12.2 ppg

6.7 rpg

2.3 apg

1.01 spg

47.3 FG%

SG

Michael Finley

8

22.6 ppg

6.3 rpg

5.3 apg

1.33 spg

40.1 3FG%

PG

Steve Nash

126

8.6 ppg

4.9 apg

2.2 rpg

47.7 FG%

40.3 3FG%

BENCH

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

G

Howard Eisley

169

8.6 ppg

4.2 apg

2.1 rpg

41.8 FG%

36.8 3FG%

G

Hubert Davis

175

7.4 ppg

1.7 rpg

1.8 apg

46.8 FG%

49.1 3FG%

C

Shawn Bradley

181

8.4 ppg

6.5 rpg

2.47 bpg

0.92 spg

47.9 FG%

G

Courtney Alexander (R)

204

24.8 ppg

4.7 rpg

3.5 apg

1.42 spg

44.7 FG%

F-C

Etan Thomas (R)

254

13.6 ppg

9.3 rpg

3.69 bpg

60.2 FG %

67.8 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

The new ERA begins in full: eight coaches, specially designed ergonomic chairs on the bench and a stereophonic sound system in every locker. No expense has been spared by new owner Mark Cuban to bring out the best in his Mavericks. The least they could do in return would be to end the league's longest postseason drought by making the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

"It's going to be hard, because a lot of teams have helped themselves," general manager and coach Don Nelson says of his rivals in the West. "But this franchise is finally starting to turn around, and I'm excited."

Nellie, as always, is refusing to go by the book. In Cuban, the 42-year-old Internet billionaire who spent $280 million to buy the Mavericks last January, Nelson has found the perfect unconventional ally. They stole power forward Christian Laettner out of the hands of the Lakers (offering a more palatable deal to Detroit just when Laettner appeared headed to Los Angeles as part of a four-team trade that included Patrick Ewing), then declared their intentions to start their new acquisition at center, which seems, at first glance, as if they'll be throwing Christian to the 7-foot lions in the low-post-heavy West.

"I'm going to use his skill to be an outside guy," says Nellie, who, apart from his brief appointment with Ewing's Knicks in the mid-'90s, has not had a dominant center since Bob Lanier retired from Milwaukee in 1984. "If somebody tries to play a small guy on Christian, I think we will punish that. If we can get centers to go out and play him, that's going to be an easy time offensively for him. We'll put the ball in his hands a lot, and I think he'll know how to use it."

Power forward Gary Trent, sidelined for all but 11 games last season with hamstring and groin injuries, spent his summer pumping lighter weights. "I like him the way he is now—lean and mean and not bulky," says Nelson. The coach has also moved 6'11" Dirk Nowitzki from power forward to small forward. Nowitzki will need some time to adjust to the more tenacious defense he'll face on the perimeter, but he has the offensive skills to be a force at the three spot.

In keeping with Cuban's plan to steal attention from the neighboring Cowboys of the NFL, the Mavs have their own quarterback controversy, between returning point guard Steve Nash and newcomer Howard Eisley. Eisley, who arrived in a trade from Utah, made up ground over the summer by spending three weeks working out with Mavs director of player development Kiki Vandeweghe. Nelson says that Nash can help his case by continuing to look for his own shot, as he did over the final weeks of last season, when Dallas won nine of its last 10 games. Nash followed up with a splendid performance at the Sydney Olympics, where he led Canada to the top of its preliminary group, ahead of more highly regarded teams from Yugoslavia, Russia and Australia.

Nelson wants both point guards to feel needed. "The starter may not even be the one who is best," he says. "It may come down to who I feel is best coming off the bench. They're both going to play."

The Mavs have upgraded their supporting cast at every position, prompting Nelson to go with a 10-man rotation rather than the usual eight. Dallas will keep 15 players, including three on the injured list. That's what all those extra coaches are for—to develop the four rookies acquired on Cuban's first draft day (most notably Fresno State guard Courtney Alexander and Syracuse power forward Etan Thomas) as well as those players who will get limited minutes.

That work won't pay off for another year or two. For the time being, aside from a return to the playoffs, the validity of the Mavs' resurgence will be judged according to what happens with free-agent-to-be Michael Finley, by far their best player. Finley has played more minutes than any other player over the last two years (despite a painful case of plantar fasciitis early last season). Based on last summer's market, Finley can expect to be signed by somebody for the maximum after this season. If he decides it's Dallas, that will serve as promising news that the Mavs are moving in the right direction.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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