HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With the trade winds blowing in Los Angeles and attention focused seemingly everywhere else, the Dallas Mavericks have quietly gotten back to the business of mowing down the competition.
Winners of 10 straight games, the Mavs have clearly recovered from that little mini-tailspin last month (they lost six in a row and seven of eight) when both Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki went down with knee injuries.
They have won 11 of their last 12 games, the only blemish during that stretch being an 82-77 setback in Chicago Jan. 20. Included in that march are wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Hawks, Knicks and Celtics. So it’s not like they’ve been fattening up on just losing teams.
The Mavs have regained that early season swagger they showed when they rolled to a 24-5 start right after Christmas and announced themselves as a legitimate challenger to the Lakers’ three-year stranglehold on the Western Conference title.
Of course, they’re still chasing their Southwest Division rivals in San Antonio.
The Spurs became just the seventh team to start a season 43-8, and still haven’t won over their own coach. “There’s still some teams playing better than we are,” Gregg Popovich told reporters after the game. “We’re not the best team in the league. Just because we have the best record doesn’t mean we have the best team. To be the best team, we have to get better defensively.”
There is no confidence crisis in Dallas. The Mavericks know they are good. They know they have as good a chance as anyone, provided they remain healthy enough, to challenge for the top spot in the West.
Dirk is playing ridiculously well, even on a knee that isn’t 100 percent, and they have the legitimate inside presence they’ve lacked in the past in Tyson Chandler. With the prospect of Roddy Beaubois returning in the coming weeks, they’ll actually get a perimeter scoring boost to go along with quality play from veteran guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry.
Depth is obviously not going to be an issue, even with the injuries the Mavs have suffered this season. Shawn Marion‘s shined his role as the utility man, whether he’s coming off the bench or filling in for someone in the starting lineup. And you could do a lot worse than Brendan Haywood for your backup center.
We discussed it here before and we’ll bring it up again now: this Mavericks team is on to something. They’ve got everything in the potential champion’s notebook — talent, seasoning, depth, star power, quality coaching, top-flight organization and some intimate knowledge of what it takes to reach the top spot.