Posts Tagged ‘Delonte West’

Mavs’ Carlisle Rolls With Plan B, Revolving Roster

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DALLAS –
 Rick Carlisle earned his reputation as one of the game’s top coaches by bending, flexing and adjusting all the way to a six-game championship take-down of the Miami Heat in 2011.

Recall 5-foot-10 point guard J.J. Barea as an NBA Finals starting shooting guard?

The Dallas Mavericks have since gone 77-72 and haven’t won another playoff game. And despite a roster that’s read like a well-worn Rolodex, Carlisle has seemed only to enhance his image as an elite tactician and motivator. Carlisle’s agility will be put to the test again this season in guiding a team that again barely resembles the one that preceded it.

From the 2010-11 championship team only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain. From the revamped squad insufficiently stocked to defend the title, add only Brandan Wright and Vince Carter as keepers. And from last season, add draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James. It’s doubtful any coach, especially one that won a ring with the same franchise just three Junes ago, has witnessed such roster upheaval in three consecutive offseasons, and particularly so in these back-to-back summers.

“Back-to-back, probably not,” Carlisle admitted. “But look, we’re living in a different time. We’re living in a time now where there’s going to be more one-year deals, there’s going to be more turnover, so everybody adjusts to the dynamics of the new CBA, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen for another year or two, at least. That said, if you’re going to be a head coach in this league you’ve got to be very open-minded, you’ve got to be open to change and adaptation. You always want continuity, but you’re not always going to have it.”

The Mavs suffered the indignity of a lockout and the ratification of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement on the heels of their championship parade. On the fly, owner Mark Cuban championed new roster-building strategies that entailed allowing key members of his title team to walk. Plan A, to create cap space and lure max-dollar free agents to crowbar Nowitzki’s championship window, hasn’t panned out and Dallas has instead scrambled the last two summers to produce competitive rosters.

That can be a disheartening road for a coach who is just one of four currently in the league with a ring. Carlisle, though, has consistently endorsed his boss’ decisions. Entering his sixth season in Dallas and the second year of his second four-year contract, Carlisle seems to embrace the challenges he inherits under Plan B. Of the four active championship coaches — including Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, now in charge of the Clippers – Carlisle’s task is by far fraught with the most uncertainties.

“I just made a conscious decision that I’m not going to be a coach that’s limited to a certain system,” Carlisle said. “I’m hanging my hat on my ability to adapt each year to potentially a roster that’s quite different, and with the new CBA we’re going to have more of that in this league. I’ve done a lot of it in my career leading up to now anyway, so it’s always challenging in those situations, but it’s also exciting.”

Just look at the players that have come through Dallas since the lockout ended: Kalenna Azubuike, Yi Jianlian, Lamar Odom, Delonte WestSean Williams, Eddy Curry, Troy Murphy, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Jared Cunningham, Derek Fisher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Anthony Morrow, Chris Wright, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Justin Dentmon and Josh Akognon.

And here’s the players new to Dallas for this season: Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, plus draft picks Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

Last week Cuban set the bar for this team: The playoffs, and capable of doing damage once there. Carlisle didn’t flinch.

“I think you have to view it that way,” Carlisle said. “And, you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to eliminate the external noise and the doubters and the naysayers and all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to have just a real positive enthusiasm and focus on your group, and you’ve got to see in your mind how they can get better. Then you’ve got to facilitate that.”

Among Dallas media, at least, Carlisle was hailed as a Coach of the Year candidate for guiding last season’s mismatched squad out of a 13-23 hole, one dug mostly without Nowitzki. Dallas finished 28-18 and was in the thick of the playoff chase almost until the end.

“Actually, I think Rick’s system is just very comprehensive and he lets the players pick up as much of it as they can and so I think rather than try to force-feed things that they might not be able to do, Rick, I think, is more accommodating,” Cuban said. “But I don’t think he really changes his system, per se, or changes what he does. I think he just recognizes the skill set of his players. Like, he went from calling plays to just playing ‘flow’ all the time [with Jason Kidd]. That’s his preference more than anything else, just let guys play basketball, and hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do a lot more of whereas last year we had to call plays every possession. This year I don’t think we’ll have to.”

Last season’s backcourt of Collison, who couldn’t hold down the starting job, and Mayo never clicked. Fisher ditched the team after a month and James was erratic. Cuban believes this team offers Carlisle more raw material with which to work.

He believes it will be collectively smarter and less turnover-pron with Calderon at the controls, Harris backing him up and the speedy Ellis being able to get to the hole with a frequency the Mavs just haven’t seen. All that, Cuban surmises, should play into the hands of a healthy and motivated Nowitzki.

“Each team is different, each team has different needs, each team develops differently and has to make different kinds of adjustments mid-stream,” Carlisle said. “All that stuff is one of the real intriguing things about coaching. It’s one of the reasons I love it. And one of the reasons I love working in this organization is we’ve got an owner with a fertile mind that likes the right kind of change.

“I’m down with that.”

Only Delonte West Can Change His Course

Texas Legends vs. Canton Charge

Delonte West, who last played for the Texas Legends in the D-League, believes he could be a key piece to a championship team that’s ‘one guard away’. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Will Delonte West ever play in the NBA again?

It’s a real question and a sad one because West, who turns 30 on Saturday, has all the talent to be a solid rotation player for any team. He’s a willing, snarling defender and a heady offensive threat. His 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks teammates instantly fell in love with him and coach Rick Carlisle backed him at every turn. A gruesome broken finger that required surgery wiped out a chunk of the season and likely prevented him from signing that multiyear deal he so badly desired for a little security after several seasons of playing on one-year, minimum contracts.

And then West went haywire during training camp last year, his insecurity sabotaging a second season with Dallas and now potentially a career that is stalled at eight seasons. West didn’t like the backcourt logjam in Dallas and felt threatened. He acted out. Suspended once for conduct detrimental to the team, a second suspension before the season even started earned him a one-way ticket off a team run by Mark Cuban, one of, if not the most forgiving, player-centric owners in the game.

The Mavs gave up on a player they really needed, but West needs basketball even more and he might never get it back. He is easily the least-talked-about free agent still on the market.

I had been trying for some time to reach West, who has refused to answer phone calls or respond to text messages. Last week, Slam Magazine‘s Tzvi Twerski did roust West from his long media silence. West continues to live in Dallas. He recently got married and the couple is expecting a baby very soon.

In the article, West comes across as self-loathing — not wanting to name the baby Delonte Jr., as family members have suggested, to prevent future harassment in school from his father’s past misdeeds — and he continues to point to his heavily chronicled 2009 arrest while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers as an unfortunate incident that teams refuse to let him escape.

“Before that, coaches and GMs, they said I was a tough, scrappy player,” West told Twerski. “They wanted to go to war with me on their side. Everything after that incident became, ‘did he take his medicine?’ Oh, ‘he’s bipolar.’”

In a sports world prevalent with DWI’s and other mischief, West said the media is also guilty of keeping him trapped under their thumb some four years after the arrest.

“Reporters can’t write a sentence — they can’t write a sentence about even a good game — without mentioning something from four years ago,” West said. “There are plenty of players arrested for DUIs, gun charges, this and that. [Meanwhile], they’ve made me into the Terminator.”

West, who has Bipolar Disorder, who is known for off-the-cuff, often unsavory rants on Twitter, who has financially supported a long list of extended family members for years and who secretly slept in the Mavs’ locker room when he signed in December 2011 because he said he was broke, must take control of his career, end the self-loathing and make smart decisions when opportunities arise.

Toward the end of last season when it was still possible for him to join a team for the stretch run and the playoffs, West signed a contract to play for the Mavs’ D-League affiliate. West hoped it would lead to a reunion with the Mavs, but when Cuban made it known that it would not, West opted not to report to the Texas Legends.

Other clubs wanted to see West back in uniform, but in the D-League first, to gauge his mood and behavior more than the state of his mid-range jumper, to determine the best they could if he was worth the risk of adding to their locker room.

As the Legends waited for him to show up, West was apparently firing his agent. However, differing stories surfaced with his representatives claiming that they were walking away from West because he refused to heed their advice — such as quickly joining the Legends to showcase himself for other NBA teams — and also withheld payment.

When West finally arrived to play for the Legends, it was a moot point. He played eight uninspired games and that was that.

“I had tears in my eyes watching games this past year — not because I’m bipolar, but because I’m sitting at home and miss the game,” West told Twersky. “When my agent calls, I’m going to be on the next flight. Not to be cocky, but some teams that are trying to win are one guard away, one guy that can make a couple great plays away from going to the Finals.

“Well, I’m right here. Y’all know it and I know it.”

Every executive in the NBA knows West can play the game. They just don’t know if they’ll get a stable and productive combo guard for the duration of the season. That’s the real and sad truth.

Could Delonte West, Knicks Make Match?

HANG TIME, Texas — How far around the bend do you have to go before you’ve come full circle back to the NBA?

How far do you have to fall before you get desperate enough for any kind of a soft landing?

Delonte West, meet the Knicks.

Marc Berman of the New York Post notes there will be more than a couple of teams watching as West makes his debut in the NBA D-League tonight when the Texas Legends face the Santa Cruz Warriors, but the Knicks may certainly be the most interesting of the lot.

As the playoffs draw near and the team that started out the season like a house on fire continues to look like a burned-out wreckage, would the Knicks be ready to take a real gamble on the 29-year-old point guard with a history of trouble?

Nobody questions his talent as a capable backup quarterback. He’s been part of playoff teams in six of his eight NBA seasons. But West’s career has also been marked by off-court problems that hardly make him dependable. He was said to be ready to make his comeback with the Legends earlier this season, but backed out at the last minute. Now he probably sees that the D-League is his only chance at a return.

The Knicks could be equally as desperate at the point as Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni all have not measured up of late. After opening the season 18-5 back on Dec. 15, the Knicks are a thoroughly mediocre 20-20. They have lost three straight, four of five and 10 of their last 17 heading into Sunday’s game in L.A. against the Clippers. Having spent the first month-and-a-half titillating New Yorkers as the No. 1 seed, they are now far closer in the standings to the No. 8 seed and a first-round playoff matchup against Miami than to actually catching up to the streaking Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Knicks would have to make a roster cut, probably the injured Rasheed Wallace, to make room for West and they’re most likely not there yet.

But keep an eye on how the current five-game road trip ends — with a back-to-back in L.A. and Utah — and how West performs in the D-League. Desperation makes strange bedfellows.

D-League Diary: Justin Dentmon’s Long Wait

FRISCO, Texas — Sometimes Justin Dentmon wants to strangle his cell phone. But like the rest of us, he can’t live without it. It’s just that so few of us experience the stomach-wrenching anxiety he does with each ring of an incoming call or beep of a text.

“I feel like I’m on call every day, I’m waiting every day,” Dentmon said. “Every time Bill [Neff, his agent] calls and leaves a message, I’m thinking that it’s somebody calling for a contract. I’m really just trying to be patient.”

But time is running short, on the the NBA season, on that elusive call-up and ultimately on the 6-foot point guard’s NBA dream.

“I’m just hoping for that call-up, man,” Dentmon said. “Just the chance, the opportunity.”

Dentmon, 27, plays for the Texas Legends. It is his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks’ D-League affiliate in the last three years, and he leads the league in scoring at 21.5 ppg. He’s averaging 25.9 ppg in 15 games with the Legends since being traded mid-season from the Austin Toros, the San Antonio Spurs’ affiliate he won the league MVP with and led to the D-League title a year ago.

That season, while averaging 22.8 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting lights out from beyond the arc, it took until March 24 for Dentmon to get the call for his first 10-day contract with the Spurs. A few days after San Antonio released him, the Toronto Raptors quickly scooped him up with another 10-day contract. But they decided to hold onto Ben Uzoh, a D-League staple this season with the Springfield Armor.

But Dentmon felt like he had finally got himself on the map and closer than ever before to realizing his dream. Last summer he was set to play for Dallas’ summer league team and Dentmon and his agent believed that the Mavs, whose president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, co-owns the Legends, were ready to sign him to a partially guaranteed NBA contract. That would get him to training camp in October where he could compete for a roster spot.

But disappointment followed. He didn’t play as much as he would have liked in the five summer league games and then four days later his desired contract fell through because Dallas re-signed veteran, but troubled guard Delonte West. Without an NBA contract, Dentmon returned to the D-League Toros this season to begin the fight all over again.

And now with just 13 games left in the Legends’ season, West’s shadow looms again. The Mavs waived West prior to the season for detrimental behavior and he’s been out of the league since. Five weeks ago he failed to report to the Legends after signing a contract, however he is apparently ready to join the team now in a late attempt to salvage his derailed career.

It’s a difficult pill to swallow for Dentmon. He essentially plays the same position and could lose essential playing time. It seems like that’s been a constant threat since the Legends traded for him on Jan. 22. West signed his original Legends deal on Jan. 25 and days later a report revealed the team was making a play for former NBA MVP Allen Iverson, who declined the invite.

Still, with flirtations with West and Iverson, the prospect Dentmon was left wondering what it all meant for him.

“I talked to Bill [his agent] and I’m like, ‘Bill what’s going on? They’re bringing in all these guys and they just traded for me,’” Dentmon said. “He just told me to continue to be me.”

So Dentmon does. He’s scored 30 or more points in five of the last 10 games and has averaged 27.9 points during that stretch to get the Legends on the cusp of playoff contention. He arrived to the team during a 12-game losing streak and has since helped them win six of their last nine. Still, he waits for the call he has yet to receive.

“I’m still hoping that he will,” said first-year Legends coach and former NBA forward Eduardo Najera. “I’ve been working with him in terms of mentoring what he needs to be doing. I think scoring takes you a long way, but you’ve still got to be able to play defense and be in great shape. I’ve been pounding on that because I really believe this kid, in top shape and he when plays individual defense — and we’ve been working on it every single day in practice — he can make it to the NBA and also stay there because he’s that talented.”

Dentmon, who went undrafted out of Washington in 2009, has played overseas in stints, in Israel and Italy and even the Dominican Republic. At home, he’s fought the constant battle of being labeled undersized and the perception that he’s a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. He keeps coming back to the lower wages of the D-League, he said, because he deems it the second-best league in the world and the best way to make it to the No. 1 league.

I just really want to stay here, but playing here it seems like it keeps pushing me away,” Dentmon said. “I’m trying my hardest. Last year, I did a great job of playing the point and this year I’m playing a little bit of both, but it’s just tough, it’s tough.”

So he plays, practices and practices some more as he waits for the phone to ring. If it doesn’t ring soon, Dentmon said it will be time for him to make his own call whether to stay or go make a better livelihood playing overseas.

It all depends on if I’m getting any looks or if get called up this year,” he said. “If I don’t get any call-ups this year, maybe it’s telling me I need to go overseas for a little bit.”

Delonte West Does D-League U-Turn

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Delonte West has pulled an Allen Iverson and decided that the D-League isn’t for him.

Iverson, though, never actually signed a contract. He simply turned down an offer earlier this week to play for the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, as a means to help attract the attention of NBA teams. West did indeed sign a contract last week to play for the Legends, who are co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

According to a source with knowledge of West’s thinking, the troubled combo guard has decided not to play in the D-League against the advisement of his representation. West is represented by agent Dan Fegan. The source said that NBA teams have been reluctant to bring in West, even on a 10-day contract, until he gets back on the court and they see him play. The Memphis Grizzlies recently kicked around the idea of offering West a 10-day contract, but no offer materialized.

Earlier on Friday, a league source said that West is in the process of changing agents, which could be delaying his arrival in Texas. That is, if it happens at all. As of Friday night, West’s name was on the Legends’ roster on the team website, although no number had been issued. Legends officials did not immediately answer messages Friday night.

While Iverson’s return to the NBA certainly appears as though it might never happen, he is 37 and had an All-Star career. West, 29, needs to get back in the league if he hopes to salvage a career that veered off course with his arrest in 2009 when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He has since had a brief second stint with the Boston Celtics and played the 2011-12 season with the Mavs on a veteran minimum, one-year contract. West, who is bipolar and has struggled with money issues, signed another one-year deal to return to Dallas this season.

But twice during training camp the team suspended him for conduct it deemed detrimental to the team and they waived him just days before the start of the season.

West had been upset with his contract situation and with what he saw as an overcrowded backcourt after the team brought in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Dahntay Jones to go with holdovers Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, plus first-round pick Jared Cunningham.

West reportedly wanted to join the Legends with hopes that he could show the Mavs he was ready to be a part of their team again. However, last Friday night Mavs owner Mark Cuban made it clear that he had no intention of bringing back West. Dallas signed veteran guard Mike James last Sunday for the remainder of the season after he exhausted two 10-day contracts.

Now, by opting not to play in the D-League, West could be throwing away his career.

Iverson Turns Down D-League Route

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Donnie Nelson offered Allen Iverson a potential lifeline back to the NBA. The Answer has answered: No thanks.

As first reported Monday by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Nelson, co-owner of the D-League Texas Legends and president of basketball operations for the Legends’ NBA affiliate Dallas Mavericks, offered Iverson a chance to get back in the game.

Iverson, 37, has been seeking a path back to the NBA, but through his Twitter account on Tuesday, he made it known that he doesn’t want that path to go through the NBA Development League as some other veteran players have done successfully.

Iverson doesn’t say which route he would prefer to get back in the NBA. He’s had opportunities to make good money in China but has passed. A direct route seems preferred, but it’s one that has not materialized.

He last played in the league in 2009-10 for the Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. After making his intentions clear not to join the Legends — they play in Frisco, located about 30 minutes north of Dallas — Iverson offered a series of tweets:

The Legends just helped veteran guard Mike James get back to the NBA. After signing a pair of 10-day contracts with the Mavericks, the club opted to sign him for the remainder of the season. The D-League team is also on the verge of suiting up Delonte West as he hopes to play his way back into the league after being released by Dallas for poor behavior prior to the season.

Iverson sits at No. 19 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, having just been passed at No. 18 by Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. A.I. has 24,368 points over 14 seasons. He spent his first 10-plus seasons with Philadelphia before being traded to Denver during the 2006-07 season.

He averaged 26.4 points for the Nuggets in 2007-08 and was moved to Detroit the following season.

If Iverson truly hopes to add to his career point total, he’s going to have to swallow his pride and take whichever circuitous rout is offered, even it means being a marketing tool for a D-League operation.

Otherwise, he seems out of options.

Adding Fisher Illustrates Mavs’ Deep Flaws At Point Guard

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Mavericks officials were quick to pump up Darren Collison‘s confidence upon trading for him in July, saying they had him “penciled” in as the the starting point guard after he lost his Indiana starting job late last season.

Well, they’ve picked up the eraser, so to speak, with coach Rick Carlisle’s announcement Wednesday night that the club is turning to the steadying hand of 38-year-old and previously out-of-work Derek Fisher. Dallas made it official Thursday afternoon.

After a fast start, Collison’s building demise – shrinking shooting percentages (43.8 overall, 31.6 on 3s), rising turnover rate (2.53/game) and turnstile defense — convinced Carlisle he’d seen enough to bench him Friday at Philadelphia after just 14 games — all without the benefit of playing with Dirk Nowitzki – and to do so without a more reliable replacement option than two-year bench-warmer Dominique Jones.

A sprained right middle finger sustained in the Philly loss kept Collison out of Wednesday’s ugly defeat at Chicago, Dallas’ eighth in the last 11 games to fall to 7-9. Afterward, Carlisle announced the agreement with Fisher by saying: “We need help at the point-guard position. It’s challenging for us. I don’t see (Fisher) as a cure-all, but he can help.”

Carlisle certainly seemed to suggest that the five-time champ with the Lakers will hop off the street and into the starting lineup:

“I loved the way he played in Philly,” Carlisle was quoted in the Dallas Morning News, noting Collison’s high-energy performance off the bench. “I think that’s a great role for him right now. I think Fisher can help us as a starter. This is a great opportunity for Darren to develop into a true starting point guard in this league.

“I really like Darren Collison as a player, and I like him even better as a person. But putting him in a position to be the starter on this team right now isn’t fair to him. With Derek coming in, it’s a great opportunity for Darren to learn from one of the greatest winners in the history of the game.”

The pending Fisher addition not only illustrates Collison’s frustrating inconsistency this first month, but the Mavs’ overall dire situation at the position, one turned down by Deron Williams and then stunningly vacated by Jason Kidd.

Dallas waived its best on-court talent Delonte West before the season because of recurring issues off the court deemed detrimental to the team. Rodrigue Beaubois has been so disappointing that he’s out of the rotation and 24th-overall pick Jared Cunningham hasn’t seen the light of day.

To add Fisher, the Mavs waived forward Troy Murphy, who signed a non-guaranteed deal on Nov. 2. Murphy is the third player the transitioning Mavs have cut in the last month, including West and center Eddy Curry.

Dallas not been as many as two games under .500 this deep into a season since Carlisle’s first campaign in 2008-09. In a congested and competitive Western Conference, they’re desperately seeking stability in Nowitzki’s absence and as a road-heavy schedule stiffens.

Point Guard Problem In Dallas?

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday face old pal Jason Kidd and the New York Knicks for the second time in less than two weeks. In the time between, the drastic decline witnessed at point guard must be unnerving for Dallas.

The promising start Darren Collison rode into the Big Apple on Nov. 9 is swerving amid a mess of poor decision making, poor shooting and perplexing turnovers. After Monday’s 105-101 overtime home loss to the Golden State Warriors in which Collison was terrible offensively (seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, five assists and five turnovers) and torched defensively by Stephen Curry (31 points, nine assists), his quickest move was exiting the locker room before the media was granted entrance for post game interviews.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle addressed his point guard’s spotty play by saying he must help Collison snap out of it.

“Right now, he’s our starting point guard,” Carlisle said. “I know he can play better. I know he’s frustrated with how things are going. Right now, I’ve just got to help him get better. When players struggle, it’s on the coach. I don’t dodge that responsibility.”

Even if Carlisle wanted to make a switch, he has no realistic option. Dallas waived the disgruntled Delonte West before the start of the season. Roddy Beaubois continues to be disappointingly ineffective and third-year guard Dominique Jones, while flashing potential in his recently increased role, is reckless handling the basketball and unreliable shooting it.

This isn’t to suggest the Mavs would be better off with Kidd, who is off to a strong start with the Knicks in his 19th season. Dallas wanted the 39 year old back, but he spurned its offer to join New York, the right move for him and the Mavs, regardless if Collison ultimately becomes Dallas’ long-term (not to mention the short-term) solution or not.

The Mavs were 4-1 when they headed to Madison Square Garden and gamely competed against the then-undefeated Knicks before falling late. The loss started this current 2-5 stretch that has Dallas, still without star Dirk Nowitzki, at .500 (6-6) and backed into a corner with the revenge-minded Los Angeles Lakers following the Knicks into town Saturday night.

It was in L.A. on opening night that the speedy Collison carved up Steve Nash and Dallas’ new cast surprisingly revved up an uncertain offense. In the first five games, Collison averaged 16.2 points on highly efficient shooting at close range, and 7.2 assists, while committing just six total turnovers.

In the last seven games, he’s averaged 11.2 points and 5.9 assists with 21 turnovers. In just the last four games, he’s shooting 30.8 percent while averaging 10.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.3 turnovers.

At the other end, it’s been a scorched trail of point-guard destruction: Kemba Walker, Luke Ridnour, former Pacers teammate George Hill, Kyrie Irving and finally Curry’s explosion for a season high in points and assists. The Mavs have yet to see All-Star point guards the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook.

“Stephen Curry just didn’t outplay one player,” Mavs shooting guard O.J. Mayo said. “He outplayed the Dallas Mavericks.”

Maybe so, but Collison was on the floor for 38 of Curry’s 43 minutes and served as his primary defender. Offensively, Collison was ineffective, at best. He did hit the game-tying jumper with 36 seconds to play to force overtime after Curry’s fourth-quarter blitz, but even that was a broken play in which he failed to get the ball into center Chris Kaman on a mismatch.

If not for Mayo’s late scoring takeover — hero ball, as they like to say nowadays, at its essence — the Mavs might not have even reached overtime. Mayo had 18 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and accounted for all 11 of Dallas’ points in OT on just one assist.

“I had the opportunity to have the ball in my hands,” Mayo said. “I didn’t have to depend on someone creating a shot for me.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for your point guard. And that’s a problem.

Elton Brand Looking To Get His Minutes Back Up, Shot To Go Down

DALLAS – As if the ignominy of being an amnesty casualty out of Philly wasn’t hurtful enough, Elton Brand‘s new coach in Dallas dealt him the injustice of benching him during crunch time at Charlotte while the five Mavericks on the floor keystone-copped their way out of a certain victory.

Two nights later at home against the injury-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves, Brand played just 17 minutes total and not one measly tick of the fourth quarter of an ugly 90-82 loss, the Mavs’ third in a row. After the game, Brand was visibly miffed by Rick Carlisle‘s rotation choice to stick with Troy Murphy instead, but Brand played it cool.

The next day at the end of practice, Brand was running end-to-end sprints with the low-minute guys, a ritual most vets, saying nothing of one with an All-Star pedigree, would avoid like jock itch.

“It’s been crazy, it’s been different,” Brand said of his first nine games in Dallas. “Like I say, coach is still evaluating. We’re still learning about each other. Coach is still learning about us.”

So it hasn’t been a seamless transition for Brand and the Mavs, who are paying just $2.1 million of his $18 million salary thanks to the CBA-instituted amnesty program.

But, really how could it have been?

Brand came to a team with initially eight new players. Before training camp ended, Delonte West had been suspended twice and waived, Dirk Nowitzki went under the knife, former Clippers teammate Chris Kaman dealt with a back injury and was nursing a calf injury into the regular season, Eddy Curry became the ninth new player before he was cut to make way for a 10th newbie in Murphy, who, for at least those two games, took over Brand’s position in the fourth quarter.

And during it all, Brand’s wife was in the final stages of pregnancy and delivered their second child, a daughter, between a Wednesday game in Dallas that he missed to fly home, and a Friday night game at New York against the Knicks, which he played.

None of the above is an excuse or necessarily even a reason as to why the 33-year-old power forward is struggling to hone his shooting range. Brand’s 36.8 field-goal percentage is well off his 50 percent career average, and although the career 18.2-point-a-game scorer has seen his scoring average dip in each of the last five seasons, he’s averaging a remarkably low 7.0 points.

His mid-range shooting has gone haywire, down to 32 percent, according to NBA.com with his hallmark free-throw line jumper more often spinning out than splashing down. And from inside the lane, it gets worse. Brand is 4-for-14 (29 percent) in the paint.

“I feel good, body feels good, still learning the offense,” said Brand, who quickly learned that Carlisle isn’t afraid to yank anyone not producing. “Like I said, I think I can produce whenever I get the minutes. You get three or four shots in 16 minutes you can’t do much — at all.”

So maybe Wednesday’s breathless victory over Washington, a game Dallas nearly blew a 22-point third-quarter lead, is the start of better things for Brand, who has been a bit breathless himself, granted permission by Carlisle to sneak a quick trip back home on the East Coast to visit wife and baby before the homestand.

Brand responded with his first double-double of the season (11 points, 12 rebounds) in 30 minutes, his high minute mark since the season opener. He was just 4-of-10 from the floor, but grabbed four offensive rebounds in more then eight minutes of crucial fourth-quarter time.

“I’m just glad coach had the confidence to have me out there late in the game,” Brand said. “I didn’t get to play at the end of that Charlotte game and only 17 minutes last game, so I wanted to be out there and help the team win, do whatever I could.”

Former All-Star Josh Howard Stays Positive As He Waits For Work

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Two former Dallas Mavericks, Josh Howard and Delonte West, are among a notable group of players that are out of a job as the 2012-13 season begins, but hope they’re not out of luck.

Howard, a one-time All-Star in Dallas and once thought to be the rising star that would play alongside Dirk Nowitzki for years to come, is residing in Dallas, healthy, working out and waiting for the phone to ring. At 32, Howard refuses to believe that his career will end prematurely.

“I’m just waiting for the opportunity to get on a team,” Howard, a 6-foot-7 small forward with nine seasons under his belt, told NBA.com on Tuesday. “My agent has been staying in contact with teams and continues to communicate with those teams. It’s a waiting game.”

For now, 15-man rosters are set. Until an injury creates a need or a team waives a player, Howard, who had interest from a handful of teams over the summer and made several visits with no offers forthcoming, waits, even as former Mavs teammate Jerry Stackhouse, 37, owns a roster spot with the Brooklyn Nets despite playing in just 37 games the last two seasons.

“I look at it as motivating,” Howard said of not being signed. “It’s never a disappointment. I look at my career and if it were to end today I can say honestly that I was one of the best players in the league for a while. I made it to the Finals, but you know my goal is to win the Finals and I want another opportunity. That’s my drive in me still and my competitiveness. I’m not ready to stop playing. I’m staying aggressive and hoping a team picks me up.”

Unlike newly unemployed combo guard West, Howard is taking the traditional approach to job hunting, allowing his agent to converse with league general managers. West, 29, had a job on a veteran minimum deal with the Mavs at the start of training camp, but Dallas waived him on Monday after twice suspending the quirky guard for behavioral issues deemed detrimental to the team.

On Wednesday, West put his search on his fingertips and began a campaign on Twitter (@CharleeRedz13) — in his unique 140-character stylings — to find work with a fifth franchise in what would be his ninth NBA season. Since his unfortunate 2009 arrest when he was stopped for speeding on his motorcycle and carrying firearms, West, who suffers from bipolar disorder, has been relegated to a string of one-year contracts and unable, he believes, to shed the perception that he’s a malcontent. His eviction from the Mavs didn’t help his cause.

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