Need a reason to get fired up as the Mavericks prepare to defend their NBA championship? How about 10?
At the same time, no one ever said that jumping out of the gym was a prerequisite to winning a championship. The Mavs might fly under the rim more than most teams, but check the videotape — these old-school ballers create highlight-reel moments in different ways: swift, crisp passing, 3-point bombing and one-legged fadeaways.
For good measure, the defending champs did add a couple of guys to this season’s roster who can throw it down with the best of them, and they’ll be counted on to deliver as the Mavs’ title defense begins this weekend.
So let’s get to it. Here are the 10 most exciting reasons to watch the Mavs in the postseason:
10. They’re the defending champs!
This should provide intrigue enough. It took 31 seasons for the Mavs to bring home a championship. The team might have different parts, but you don’t believe Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion are going down without a fight? The Western Conference is wide open, and the Mavs, despite their low seeding, believe they’re in the thick of it.
9. Speaking of dunking, meet Brandan Wright
The sight of Brandan Wright soaring in for a dunk has been common this year.
This guy is neither old nor slow and he certainly can leap out of the gym — he’s got the highlights to prove it, too. The Mavs have transformed the slender 6-foot-10 forward into a member of their center-by-committee unit and he will often, off the bench, log the most minutes of the three centers. His hallmark has become the two-handed, sailing, swooping dunk with outstretched arms. He and Terry have become brilliant alley-oop partners with Wright snaring any Terry lob, no matter how errant, and throwing it down. Wright leads the lead-footed Mavs this season with 57 dunks, 25th-most in the NBA. “I told him we got to get one a game,” Terry said of the alley-oop. “That’s the goal, at least one attempt.”
8. What will Roddy B do?
The image of Rodrigue Beaubois lighting up the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of a 2010 first-round series tantalizes and teases Mavs fans to this day. It’s the Roddy that fans want to see again yet must wonder if they ever will. Every breakthrough since his two foot surgeries the last two summers seems to be followed by a setback, and there’s no telling what type of role he might assume in the playoffs. With Kidd, Terry, Delonte West and Vince Carter entrenched ahead of him at both guard positions, he’s going to have to earn his spots with aggressive, hard-driving play. Can he do it?
7. Delonte West and the unknown
Delonte West provides toughness, versatility and the potential for the unexpected.
The Mavs love this guy. No one works harder and he’s been a valuable addition at both guard spots after Dallas bid farewell to Jose Juan Barea and DeShawn Stevenson. The other side of West is that you never know what you’re going to get. Take his unprecedented finger poke to the ear of Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward that earned West a technical, a $25,000 fine and a stern talking-to from coach Rick Carlisle. He’s gritty, raw and determined, all the ingredients the Mavs need with their title on the line. And if you’re into Twitter, @CharleeRedz13 makes for an interesting follow.
6. Mark Cuban’s mouth
The owner has provided plenty of money to the league’s charitable arm through stiff fines for the words that come out of his mouth. Of course, that all changed last year when Cuban took a vow of silence that lasted from early in the second round all the through to the hoisting of the Larry O’Brien Trophy in Miami. He can be as entertaining as he can be petulant, but Cuban is never boring — unless he decides to hit the mute button again. “It just depends on where my superstition takes me,” Cuban said. “That’s the only reason I shut up before.”
5. ‘Vinsanity’ still revs up
For those who thought Carter was over the hill, you haven’t been paying attention. No, Carter isn’t exactly the high flier he once was, but at 35 he still has hops and he’s completed a number of vintage Vince dunks followed by the motorcycle handlebar rev-up celebration. Carter has been the Mavs’ most consistent attacker this season, and they’ll need him to continue to post up smaller shooting guards and take his man off the dribble. If defenders aren’t wary of ending up on the wrong side of a Vinsanity poster, well, they haven’t been paying attention either.
4. Shawn Marion defends the stars
The 6-foot-7 forward wasn’t dubbed the Matrix for nothing. This guy is one of the game’s most versatile players, capable of switching from small forward to power forward on the offensive end while defending any position other than center, and he says he could probably do that, too. During the championship run, Marion defended Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook,LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His stopper ability on everybody from Chris Paul to LaMarcus Aldridge this season has resulted in his name surfacing as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He likely won’t get that honor, but that’s OK, he’ll take a second title any day.
3. Jason Terry’s braggadocio
Jason Terry walked the walk after talking the talk during the NBA Finals last year.
You never know what will come out of Terry’s mouth. Of course, everyone will remember the Jet calling out LeBron when the NBA Finals were in Dallas for Games 3, 4 and 5. James shut down Terry in the first two games in Miami, and Terry puffed out his chest and said no way LeBron bottles him up for seven games. Turns out the Mavs only needed six games, in large part because Terry backed up his bold words. The capper was his 27 points in the Game 6 clincher on 11-of-16 shooting while LeBron shrunk from the game’s biggest stage. Now Terry has new motivation to fuel him: It’s the final year of his contract and he knows these might be the final games of his wild eight-year run in Dallas.
2. After all these years …
At 39, Kidd still gets it done and he might be the singularly most important player if the Mavs are going to make a deep run. His statistics this season might suggest retirement is around the corner, but Kidd’s job has nothing to do with stats. He still orchestrates the offense better than anyone else and his knack for making the game easier for those around him, and in particular Nowitzki, remains as strong as ever. He can still delight and amaze with his quick-trigger, no-look passes and his uncanny ability to read a play before it happens and nab a steal. The Mavs need him at his best again this postseason and a week of rest will at least guarantee that he’ll be as fresh as he’s been all season, just as the team planned.
1. The one-legged, fallaway jumper
The reigning NBA Finals MVP owns the deadliest shot in the game, so lethal that Kobe and Durant both have mimicked it to some degree this season. Nowitzki’s one-legged, leaning fallaway is devastating, straight-on or off-glass, from 12 feet or 18, it just doesn’t matter. Dirk earned a world of respect after last season’s amazing postseason run in which he carried the Mavs with unwavering will, through sickness (Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Dallas) and injury (torn tendon in his finger in Game 1 in Miami). This season’s squad, not as deep or as offensively dangerous as the championship club, will heavily rely on the sweet-shooting 7-footer to lead the way.
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