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Storms Brewing In Dallas?

The good news first.

That O.J. Mayo acquisition is looking pretty good so far for the Dallas Mavericks. The dynamic Mayo (above) is showing off the talent and skills that made him a difference-maker the past three seasons in Memphis. If you don’t believe it, just take a good look at the work he put in against the Rockets last night.

Now that we’ve gotten the good stuff out of the way, we need to turn our attention to a few issues the Mavericks are dealing with, the first of which involving the face of the franchise, Dirk Nowitzki.

He’s got a sore knee that could very well require surgery, which would cause the Mavericks’ 11-time All-Star to miss the start of the regular season. He’s already had the knee drained twice in the past month. Without any improvement, surgery is an option (per The Associated Press):

“I guess that it’s obvious that I don’t want (surgery) done,” Nowitzki said. “If it’s going to keep swelling up on me, that’s not a way to go through an 82-game season and hopefully a long playoff run.”


Billups Helped Mavs Land Mayo?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The true measure of a leader can be measured in both words and actions. And in Chauncey Billups, the Los Angeles Clippers have a leader who influences younger players on his own team as well as others.

In fact, words from Billups appear to have had significant influence on strengthening the case for one the Clippers’ Western Conference rivals where a certain free agent was concerned earlier this summer.

O.J. Mayo relied on advice from Billups when making his decision about signing with the Dallas Mavericks, a move that helped the Mavericks complete one of the better offseasons in the league.

Tim MacMahon of provides the details, which include a rousing endorsement from Billups of his former coach in Detroit and current Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle:

“He said (Carlisle) is a great coach for me to help expand my game,” Mayo said.

Billups, like Mayo now, was a No. 3 overall pick in his mid-20s who hadn’t lived up high-lottery expectations when he signed with the Carlisle-coached Pistons in the summer of 2002. Detroit was Billups’ fifth NBA team, and while he showed promise as a part-time starter the previous season in Minnesota, he had yet to prove he could be a premier point guard.

Carlisle gave Billups that opportunity in 2002-03, when he started for a 50-win team that advanced to the conference finals. That was the only season Carlisle coached Billups, but Billups gives Carlisle credit for helping him become a five-time All-Star and NBA champion who is now known as Mr. Big Shot.


Nash And Terry Could Heat Up Summer

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The free agent class of 2012 took a major hit when Dwight Howard decided to stick around in Orlando for at least another year.

That doesn’t mean things won’t get interesting in July, though. In fact, things could get heat up considerably if a couple of the veteran guards that will be available market themselves to a certain outfit in Miami that is seeking some scoring and backcourt firepower to aid their championship cause.

Both Steve Nash and Jason Terry spoke on it Thursday, making it clear that all of their options will remain open in free agency. Nash was on the “Dan Patrick Show” and didn’t rule out anything, a return to Phoenix, being reunited with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas or taking a call from the LeBron James and the Heat, if they are interested:

“I would listen,” Nash said. “He’s phenomenal. I love what they’re doing there. A lot of people don’t like them because they put all that talent there. But they’re professional, they play hard, they play together. Their coaching staff has done a great job, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.

“I would definitely listen.”

Nash talking Miami in free agency isn’t that surprising. He’s going to be on most every title contender’s call list this summer. But Terry talking about Miami, after the way he went after the Heat (on and off the court) in The Finals last season, is a bit of a surprise.

He told Fox Sports Florida that the Heat would have to a consideration for obvious reasons:

“(Team president) Pat Riley is a great guy and what he’s done with the organization is tremendous. “No question, they need a veteran shooter, a guy who can score besides LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), and they know they can count on. I’m a guy that’s been in this league 13 years, (averaging) 15 points a night, easy. Off the bench or the starting lineup, it doesn’t matter. So I think I’d be an asset to them.”

Without a contract extension and no guarantee that he’ll get a chance to finish his career in Dallas, Terry has to play the game as well. But while Nash’s remarks won’t cause much of a ripple in Phoenix, Terry’s comments will certainly raise a few eyebrows in Dallas.


Magic Making Moves To Keep Howard?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If Dwight Howard is indeed planning on leaving Orlando for greener pastures, the Orlando Magic don’t plan on making it easy for him to leave.

The Magic, with just a couple of weeks left to make a trade that might convince the free-agent-to-be Howard to stay, are reportedly making the moves necessary to convince the league’s best big man that he can reach all of his goals in a Magic uniform.

Instead of pursuing deals for Howard, ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard is reporting that they are pursuing deals to surround Howard with the sort of talent (Golden State’s Monta Ellis) to compete with the Heat and Bulls for the top spot in the Eastern Conference:

Howard has long mentioned Ellis, who is the seventh leading scorer in the league with a 22.2 points average, as someone he would love to play with.

Golden State is willing to listen to the Magic about a potential trade for its shooting guard, but there is little on Orlando’s roster that appeals to the Warriors, according to sources.

Thus, the sides are not close to having the parameters of a deal in place. Instead, Orlando will begin looking for other clubs to get involved in a three-or four-team deal that would satisfy the Warriors and bring Ellis to Orlando.


Trade Rumors Flying Ahead Of Deadline

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We don’t have to wait until the March 15 trade deadline for the fur to fly. Things are already plenty interesting.

Dwight Howard‘s name is hot in the streets of Orlando, Newark, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Dallas and beyond. Deron Williams should know the feeling. His name is all over the place as well.

Where they go, no one knows for sure. Not yet at least.

But in the absence of substantial facts, let the games begin …


The Champs Are (Still) Here!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — “This is how we do it!”

If you walk into the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room anytime soon and hear that old Montell Jordan song playing in the background, it’s with good reason.

Because once again the Mavericks, despite all the critics and naysayers (yours truly included) that assumed they were sacrificing this season by allowing a championship team to break apart, are right in the thick of the race as the Western Conference standings start to take shape.

Things looked shaky early on. Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler — all guys that played a role in the Mavericks’ championship season a year ago — all hit the door when free agency cranked up. It takes bold leadership to buck conventional wisdom to go in a different direction so soon after snagging basketball’s Holy Grail.

But the Mavericks under owner Mark Cuban have always been run by anything but conventional wisdom. With Rick Carlisle steering them through their early season struggles, they lost both of their preseason games, their first three regular season games and five of their first eight which cranked up the chatter about a championship hangover.

Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t himself, wasn’t in championship shape and the Mavericks championship luster was lost in the shadow of bigger stories in Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers) and Denver, to start the season.

I fired off an email to my main man and’s writer Earl K. Sneed asking him if he had any idea what the plan was this season. He responded instantly, making it clear to me that were was indeed a plan and that he was more than willing to place his faith in Cuban and Carlisle in the days and weeks ahead, especially after what we witnessed covering the Mavericks’ title run last season.

He was right. They’ve gotten back to normal here lately, though, winning four straight games and 18 of their last 24. And now that Nowitzki is back to  normal, the champs can entertain thoughts of mounting a serious defense of their title in a season that was supposed to be about rebuilding.


Ring Night In Dallas

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The wait is finally over.

It’s jewelry time in Dallas.

Exactly one month after they raised their 2011 championship banner to the rafters, the Mavericks are getting their championship rings tonight (LIVE, 8 ET on And if there is any truth to the rumors, you better wear sunglasses if you’re going to be at American Airlines Center for the Mavericks-Timberwolves game.

As Jeff Caplan of reports, “The Time is Now” for ring night:

Jason Terry said the thrill of this final championship celebration probably won’t hit until he holds the estimated $40,000 piece of jewelry in his hands.

“We’ve only seen a brief design of it,” Terry said. “Once you get it and see and hold it and touch it, it’s probably like a baby — you know I got four of those — so that’s probably what it’s like.”

Mavs owner Mark Cuban said he paid a total of $1.4 million for the rings for the 15 players and the entire coaching staff. The design is similar to the one chosen by the 2009-10 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

One side of the ring will include the player’s name engraved above the team logo with the player’s jersey number. Terry said he also believes the team’s postseason motto, “The Time is Now,” is engraved on the ring.

Having witnessed the Mavericks’ run to The Finals from start to finish last season, it’ll be an interesting night to see how the players and fans react to the rings being passed out.

It should be interesting …

Middle Men Will Swing WC Finals

DALLAS — Kendrick Perkins is coming home, so to speak, for the Western Conference finals.

A Beaumont, Texas, native, his first dip in this Red River NBA Rivalry should be an interesting one for another reason, considering he’ll be facing the man that almost had his job as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starting center.

Before Tyson Chandler showed up here and helped turn the Dallas Mavericks into a defensive-minded force, he was on his way to the Thunder. Chandler was on his way to the Thunder, at the time he was traded from the New Orleans Hornets for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, in a deal in February 2009 that was later rescinded when Chandler failed his physical (injured toe) with the Thunder’s medical staff.

Instead of manning the middle the for the upstart Thunder, Chandler is doing so for the Mavericks and is facing a player just as anxious to mix it up in the post as he is. That’s why we fully expect the play of these two big men to swing the momentum from night to night in this series.

“There’s no doubt about it,” a scout friend told me via text this morning when I raised the same point to him. “Whoever controls the middle of the lane controls this series. Even with all the explosive offensive talent that will be on display in that series, it’s going to come down to who can guard the rim the best.”