INDIANAPOLIS -- Can Chandler Parsons be a primary focal point of the offense?
You won’t hear anyone from the Dallas Mavericks front office or coaching staff wonder that aloud while leading scorer Monta Ellis recovers from a right-calf injury that caused his streak of 237 consecutive games played to be snapped Sunday. This certainly isn’t a scenario that any of the Dallas decision-makers wanted to see unfold at this point of the season.
Nevertheless, Ellis’ injury provides the Mavs’ brain trust the opportunity to see how Parsons handles the responsibilities of having the ball in his hands on a regular basis. How the Mavs’ $46 million man performs in that role could play a significant part in the decision this summer about whether it’s worth paying Parsons plus-kind of money to keep Ellis in Dallas.
The bottom-line results for the Mavs -- a 104-99 loss to the Indiana Pacers -- were bad on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But there was a lot to like about how Parsons performed (27 points, 11-of-20 shooting) while filling Ellis’ offensive role.
“I liked Parsons’ game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Other than a couple of tough turnovers in the fourth, I thought he played terrific. I thought he picked his spots well to attack and made some difficult shots.
“Look, he’s an important guy for us. Really, he’s playing the 2 position when he starts with [Richard Jefferson]. That’s an adjustment, but I thought he adjusted well.”
To be crystal clear, nobody in their right mind would claim that this season’s version of the Mavs would be better off without Ellis, who will be out an undetermined period of time. They have no chance to advance in the playoffs unless Ellis is healthy and hot. Period.
However, if we’re being brutally honest, the Mavs don’t have a good shot of doing much damage in the playoffs with Ellis, either. The Western Conference standings, which have the 45-29 Mavs seemingly stuck in the seventh spot, tell you that.
This discussion requires a big-picture view and a little bit of imagination. Could the Mavs be better moving forward with Parsons playing a leading role instead of being an highly paid complementary player?
If the Mavs do let Ellis leave in free agency, must they find a go-to guy to replace him? Or is that player already on the roster? If Parsons can be that guy, the Mavs could potentially use their cap space to sign a 3-and-D type of shooting guard (injury-discounted Wesley Matthews? Danny Green?) and a scoring sixth man (Jamal Crawford? Mo Williams? Lou Williams?).
(Point guard is another issue. The educated guess here continues to be that Rajon Rondo gets a much more lucrative offer than the Mavs are willing to match. It’s worth noting, though, that he also stepped up with one of his best statistical lines in a Dallas uniform -- 17 points, 8-of-14 shooting, 10 assists, seven rebounds and only two turnovers -- with Ellis out.)
It’s not Parsons’ job to look ahead to the summer. But he is determined to prove during Ellis’ absence that he can respond to the challenge of having the offense run through him on a regular basis.
“Like I said all year long, I’m very comfortable to have the ball in my hands, get to the basket and make shots and make plays,” said Parsons, who also grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss. “I just didn’t make enough of them tonight, but I’m really comfortable doing that every single night.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m going to average 27 and 10 and be MVP, but I believe in myself. I think I can have big games like that, and I think I can do it more consistently when I have the opportunity.
“But I’m all about the team. Whenever Monta comes back, he’s been the guy all year long. I’ll continue to stay aggressive, but while he’s out, I’ve just got to pick up the slack and make plays for everyone and get to the basket.”
It must be mentioned that Parsons failed to step up Friday night, when Ellis was initially injured in a lopsided loss to the Spurs. Parsons finished that game with only nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, going scoreless in the fourth quarter.
However, that stinker has been the exception for Parsons lately. He has averaged 17.2 points on 50.8 percent shooting since returning to the lineup after missing seven games due to a sprained left ankle and bone bruise.
The Mavs repeatedly put the ball in Parsons’ hands Sunday and asked him to create, a challenge he hasn’t been shy of mentioning that he wants. He answered by repeatedly getting into the heart of the Indiana defense, scoring eight of his 11 buckets inside the restricted area despite the presence of rim protector Roy Hibbert.
Of course, the Mavs could have used Ellis’ offensive punch, particularly in closing time. But Parsons kept the Mavs in the game, scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter, including a spurt of three buckets in a four-possession span after the Pacers built a six-point lead with a little less than five minutes remaining.
“He’s shown over the season that he’s ready for it, that he can handle it,” Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) said of Parsons. “He makes smart decisions. He’s great at getting to the basket. He’s sneaky around the rim, getting stuff up on the glass.
“I think he was ready to step up and he made some big plays. There when we were down six, he made two layups and a step-back [jumper] to kind of push us back in this game. So I thought he did everything possible.”
Parsons will point out that he didn’t quite do everything possible. He was hacked off about a charge called against him with 32 seconds remaining and the Mavs trailing by three. He also missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with three seconds remaining, when he ended up stuck with the ball in his hands with no timeouts and needed to jack up the contested jumper.
So this was an unsatisfying 27-point, 10-rebound performance. But it could also be considered proof that Parsons can flourish as an offensive focal point.
“I’m comfortable doing that and capable of doing that,” Parsons said, “but obviously I want [Ellis’] health first and for him to get back as soon as possible.”
Everyone wants a healthy Ellis back in the lineup as soon as possible, certainly for the playoffs. Past that, Parsons’ performance in his absence might be a factor in the decision looming for the Mavs’ front office this summer.
The Pacers won for the second time in nine games to pull even with Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Chandler Parsons led Dallas with 27 points. The Mavericks have a comfortable lead over Oklahoma City for the No. 7 seed in the West.
Indiana trailed 68-61 early in the third quarter, but pulled to 79-78 heading into the fourth.
The Pacers used an 8-2 flurry midway through the fourth to take a 97-91 lead.
After Dallas rallied to tie it 97, Roy Hibbert broke the tie two free throws and Miles followed with the 3-pointer. Parsons' 3 to force overtime in the closing seconds came up short.
The Mavs’ leading scorer has been ruled out for Sunday night’s road game against the Indiana Pacers due to a right calf injury suffered during Friday night’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. It will end Ellis’ streak of 237 consecutive games played, which dates to the 2012-13 season opener.
Coach Rick Carlisle said the Mavs did not have a firm timetable for Ellis’ return, but they do not consider the injury serious.
“He’s off crutches, but he’s still very sore,” Carlisle said. “It’s not considered serious, but it is something that’s a great concern for us.”
Reserve guard J.J. Barea is also unavailable against the Pacers. He will miss his fourth consecutive game due to a sprained left ankle.
Swingman Richard Jefferson will replace Ellis, who averages 19.1 points per game, in the Mavs’ starting lineup Sunday night.
Ellis has played despite injuries on numerous occasions during his stint with the Mavs, most notably a hamstring strain last season and a left hip strain suffered just before the All-Star break that nagged him for weeks.
While Carlisle did not completely rule out Ellis playing Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavs will exercise caution in this case, wanting to have Ellis be as healthy as possible for the playoffs.
“He’s a guy that has bounced back quickly from aches and pains and being banged up, but this is a different situation,” Carlisle said. “Our goal is to get him as healthy as possible. Our goal is to get Barea as healthy as possible. When they’re healthy, we’ll have them back playing down the stretch of the regular season.”
Shooting guard Monta Ellis' streak of 237 consecutive games played appears to have ended, but the Dallas Mavericks do not believe the right calf injury their leading scorer suffered in Friday night’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs is serious.
The Mavs do not anticipate Ellis being available for Sunday’s road games against the Indiana Pacers.
“He’s on crutches, which is never good,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters Saturday morning in San Antonio. “So he appears to be very doubtful for tomorrow. We don’t think it’s serious. But we are concerned.”
Ellis has played in 237 consecutive games, a streak that dates to the 2012-13 season opener. He has played through several injuries during his two-year tenure in Dallas, including a strained left hip suffered two games before the All-Star break that bothered him for weeks.
While Ellis has insisted on playing through injuries in the past, Carlisle said the Mavs would make sure that he exercises caution in this instance with the playoffs a few weeks away.
“We’re not going to do anything foolish in terms of rushing him back until he’s absolutely ready,” Carlisle said. “I trust [athletic trainer] Casey Smith and I trust Monta too to be reasonable about this. He knows how important he is to us. We can’t take a foolish risk at this point.”
There is a possibility that guard J.J. Barea, a candidate to fill in for Ellis in the starting lineup, could play against the Pacers after missing the previous three games with a sprained left ankle. Barea is traveling with the team on this trip.
“J.J.’s doing better,” Carlisle said. “We’ll have a better idea where things are at after practice. But he’s been steadily improving. We’ll see where we are.”
Carlisle emphasized, however, that one player can’t replace Ellis, who averages 19.1 points per game and also leads the Mavs in minutes (33.7).
“We’re going to have to make up for his loss collectively,” Carlisle said. “You don’t lose your best offensive player and have one guy who can step up and make the difference. The whole group’s got to step forward. So, you know, we got our work cut out for us.
“We’re hoping Mother Nature will be kind to us.”
The Mavs aren't certain how severe of an injury Ellis suffered to his right calf that sidelined him for the final quarter and a half Friday night at the AT&T Center. But it was bad enough that Ellis needed crutches to leave the arena.
The Dallas offense didn't exactly look healthy without its leading scorer. The Mavs scored a grand total of 22 points in the final 18:43 without Ellis, finishing with their second-lowest point total of the season.
Of course, the Mavs didn't quite light it up in the first half with a healthy Ellis, either. Dallas scored only 41 points in the first half, shooting 38.6 percent from the floor. But the Mavs closed the first half with a 10-2 run, capped by Ellis speeding through the Spurs for a coast-to-coast layup, and opened the second half with a 13-4 spurt to slash the Spurs' lead to four.
Then Ellis limped off the floor with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter, a little bit after he got kneed in the calf while defending Manu Ginobili, and took the life out of the Mavs' offense with him. Dallas didn't score for the next 3:03 and managed only 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons failed to pick up the slack with Ellis out. They both failed to score in double figures, combining for only 16 points, none of which came in the fourth quarter.
Was that hot mess a preview of the Mavs' offense minus Ellis?
"We’ll find out," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said before correcting himself. "Hopefully, we won't have to find out."
The Mavs will know more about Ellis' status on Saturday, but his streak of playing in 237 consecutive games is certainly in jeopardy. The Mavs' next game is Sunday night in Indiana.
"We just have to wait and see what the doctors say and how he feels tomorrow," Nowitzki said. "Hopefully, he will be OK. We all know he plays injured and sick and he is always there for his team."
It could be painful to watch the Mavs without their best creator by far, but it also might be in everyone's best interest if Ellis misses some time. The Mavs have no hope of making a playoff run if Ellis isn't at his best.
Ellis' toughness can't be questioned. He has proven repeatedly that he'll fight through pain and play through injuries. That doesn't mean it's a good idea, particularly with the playoffs weeks away.
Ellis refused to even consider missing any games after straining his left hip two games before the All-Star break. The injury bothered Ellis for weeks, a major factor in an extended slump he finally busted out of with his 38-point performance in Tuesday's home win over the Spurs.
"Our trainers will evaluate the situation, and we'll communicate with him," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't see us putting him out there if he's not feeling good. You can't underestimate his ability to bounce back from things. He's a fighter, he loves to compete and he hates missing games. That said, we aren't going to put him in harm's way."
It'd be ideal to have Ellis the rest of the regular season as the Mavs fight for the best possible playoff seed. But it looks awfully likely they'll land in seventh, where they currently sit with a 45-28 record, 1½ games behind the Spurs.
It's much more important for Ellis to be as healthy as possible when the playoffs begin.
SAN ANTONIO -- After an inadvertent knee injured Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis in a 94-76 loss to the Spurs on Friday night, a frustrated Mark Cuban publicly complained about the lack of respect that Dallas' leading scorer receives from referees.
Cuban first raised the issue in a tweet after the game.
"He's off crutches, but he's still very sore," coach Rick Carlisle said after Sunday's shootaround in Indianapolis. "It's not considered serious, but it is something that's a great concern for us."
Ellis had played in 237 consecutive games, a streak that dates to the 2012-13 season opener. He has played through several injuries during his two-year tenure in Dallas, including a strained left hip suffered two games before the All-Star break that bothered him for weeks.
"We're not going to do anything foolish in terms of rushing him back until he's absolutely ready," Carlisle said. "I trust [athletic trainer] Casey Smith and I trust Monta too to be reasonable about this. He knows how important he is to us. We can't take a foolish risk at this point."
Cuban, who has calmly mentioned in the past that Ellis doesn't get as many calls as he should, said he was set off after seeing Spurs power forward Tim Duncan
Danny Green had 14 points, Tiago Splitter scored 13 and Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard added 12 each for San Antonio, which avoided another disappointing collapse against the Mavericks in less than a week and won at home against Dallas for the ninth straight time.
Ellis injured his right knee with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter and did not return. He was played 22 minutes after scoring 38 points in Dallas' win over San Antonio three days earlier.
San Antonio (46-26) extended its lead to 1 1/2 games over Dallas (45-28) for sixth place in the Western Conference and evened the teams' season series at 2-2.
The Mavs are not certain about the severity of the injury to Ellis, who has played in 237 consecutive games, a streak that dates to the 2012-13 season opener.
“It’s very sore, but we don’t know the extent of it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ll see how he feels in the morning and go from there.”
Ellis, the Mavs' leading scorer with 19.3 points per game, did not speak to reporters before leaving the AT&T Center on crutches.
Ellis injured the calf when he was inadvertently kneed while defending Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili during the third quarter. Ellis limped off the court with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter and initially received treatment on his right knee, as pain was shooting through his leg.
Ellis, the Mavs’ leading scorer who has not missed a game since the 2011-12 season finale, played hurt for week after he strained his left hip two games before the All-Star break. Ellis said after scoring a season-high-tying 38 points in Tuesday's home win over the Spurs that he finally felt healthy again.
Ellis has played through multiple injuries during his two-year tenure in Dallas, but owner Mark Cuban said the decision on his status for Sunday's game in Indiana would be determined by the Mavs' medical staff.
"Our trainers will evaluate the situation and communicate with him," Carlisle said. "I don't see us putting him out there if he doesn't feel good. You can't underestimate his ability to bounce back from things. He's a fighter, he loves to compete and he hates missing game. That said, we aren't going to put him in harm's way."
After all, Dallas owner Mark Cuban made a point this summer to boast about how his franchise understands and values chemistry so much more than the Mavs’ Interstate 45 rivals.
“They just have a different understanding and approach to chemistry than we do,” Cuban said on 105.3 The Fan in July, when he was trading public jabs with Morey. “Some teams, and that’s not just the Rockets, just put together talent and the talent takes care of itself. We think chemistry matters.”
Chemistry definitely matters, which is why Dallas coach Rick Carlisle recently resorted to publicly calling out his team for a failure to compete and advising reporters to ask the players what’s wrong with the “soul of the team.” This came less than two weeks after new addition Amar’e Stoudemire confronted his teammates and then complained to the media about the Mavs’ lack of professionalism.
The harsh truth is it’s awfully tough to maintain a culture and build great chemistry on an NBA team that has had as much roster turnover as the Mavs have had. They have suited up a grand total of 52 players in the four seasons since Cuban’s business decision to break up the 2010-11 championship team.
“Yeah, that’s not the easiest,” said face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki, the lone constant on the roster throughout the last four years.
The San Antonio Spurs, the basketball kings of the Lone Star State and five-time NBA champions, whom the Mavs face Friday night, are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are lifetime Spurs, having played together for 14 seasons. San Antonio’s entire rotation returned after last season’s title run, and Marco Belinelli is the only Spur who gets significant minutes who hasn’t been on the team since at least the 2011-12 season.
“It's more difficult to have chemistry without continuity,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “You have to be a whole lot luckier to have team chemistry if you don't have continuity and the same guys for a while learning from each other.”
Despite the impeccable example of professionalism and unselfishness set by Nowitzki, Dallas has dealt with significant chemistry issues in three of the past four seasons.
The Lamar Odom saga sucked the soul out of the 2011-12 Mavs, who were deflated in December by Cuban’s decision not to make a long-term offer to center Tyson Chandler, the emotional leader of that title team. It didn’t help matters that sixth man Jason Terry, one of the most beloved players in team history, saw the writing on the wall with his contract expiring after the season and didn’t shy away from making his displeasure known.
The 2012-13 Mavs were pretty much a bunch of temps, as Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson opted to “keep the powder dry,” building the roster by signing a bunch of players to one-year deals. The ".500 beards" -- facial hair that several Mavs grew from December until they climbed back to .500 late in the season -- were a cute little team-bonding deal, but human nature makes it awfully hard to be all-in when most players know they’re out of Dallas after the season.
The Mavs’ roster could look a lot different next season, too. Assuming that Monta Ellis and Al-Farouq Aminu don’t exercise their player options, Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Devin Harris, Dwight Powell and Raymond Felton are the only Mavs under contract for next season.
The Mavs would like to re-sign Chandler after making a blockbuster trade last summer to bring him back from New York, but he knows better than anybody that there are no guarantees in the wild world of NBA free agency. Same with J.J. Barea.
Ellis has earned a handsome raise, but the Mavs aren’t sure they want to give it to him. Rajon Rondo, acquired in a December blockbuster deal, wants a rich contract but isn’t likely to get it from the Mavs. The Mavs would have interest in bringing several reserves back, but they won’t have much money to offer any of them by NBA standards.
It’s a major challenge to build and maintain chemistry with so much turnover and so many players who are the equivalent of NBA mercenaries on a roster. Money is never far from players’ minds when they’re pending free agents.
“I guess it plays a part, unfortunately,” Nowitzki said. “I think the way you look at it is, if you look at our 2010-2011 team, you execute, you play hard, you play for the team and you win and ultimately everybody gets paid. J.J. left and Tyson got a lot of money and Caron [Butler], everybody. If you have a good run and play together and fit in on something special, ultimately everybody gets taken care of.
“That’s how you look at it, but it’s easy for me to say. I’ve never been in that situation coming somewhere new on a one-year deal trying to impress to get another contract. I’m sure it’s a tough situation, but you’ve got to have the right mindset for it.”
Rick Carlisle, the second-longest tenured coach in the league, tried to put a positive spin on the situations days after launching a verbal grenade into the Mavs’ locker room.
“I really think the character of the guys we bring in transcends that,” Carlisle said. “I also believe that a fact of life in the world of the modern NBA CBA is there are going to be more guys on the last year of their contract on your team. It just appears to be going that way. For me, it’s an opportunity for guys to show a higher level of character and a higher level of professionalism in those instances.”
It might be sensationalism to say that the Mavs are facing a chemistry crisis, considering that they are 45-27. But there are unquestionably internal issues that manifest themselves in the Mavs’ maddeningly inconsistent effort.
Some within the organization suspect that Parsons’ three-year, $46 million contract is part of the problem. The theory is that it has bred bitterness -- from the moody Ellis, in particular -- stemming from the fact that the least accomplished, least experienced member of the Mavs’ starting five is paid much more than anyone on the roster other than Chandler.
The Mavs have also dealt with the challenge of incorporating two major new pieces into the rotation in midseason after trading for Rondo in December and signing Stoudemire after the All-Star break.
Cuban takes great pride in the Mavs’ “championship culture,” which begins with the presence of Nowitzki and Carlisle. The trade for Chandler also brought back one of the NBA’s best locker-room leaders, a firm voice of reason who isn’t afraid to confront teammates when necessary.
But Chandler finds himself searching for answers on why the Mavs too frequently fail to play hard enough or play together. Frustrating as it is, he can’t make his teammates meet what should be basic expectations.
“No, because I don’t control playing time and I don’t control play calls,” Chandler said after a long pause in the locker room after Sunday’s loss in Phoenix. “Do not take this the wrong way. I’m not putting anything on the coach, by any means. But I’m saying that I don’t control play calls and I don’t control playing time, so I can’t control how hard a guy plays while he’s on the court.
“I can push him. I can bark at him. I can motivate myself. I can do all of those things, but I don’t control that. At the end of the day, a guy’s going to do what he’s going to do.”
Chemistry matters a lot to the Mavs. That doesn’t make creating it easy for a franchise with such a fluid roster.
Our front-office rankings conclude with a look at the NBA's 30 owners.
We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every team's ownership group. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team's ownership in terms of their performance in guiding the franchise to overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.
Here's how the 30 owners rank, according to our panel:
ESPNDallas.com columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor and MavsOutsider.com editor-in-chief Bryan Gutierrez join Tim MacMahon each week to run a three-man weave on a few questions on the minds of Mavericks fans.
1. What is your ideal backcourt next summer after free agency concludes?
Gutierrez: Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Wes Matthews was an ideal fit, but his Achilles injury hinders going after him. San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green could be a nice 3-and-D option. Green has killed the Mavs over time, and Dallas likes to go after players that have haunted them. Pairing Green with Rajon Rondo gives you a solid defensive base in the backcourt. The next move would be to find a microwave-like guard coming off the bench.
Taylor: Monta Ellis may be occasionally petulant, but he plays hard and he plays hurt. The Mavs don't have anyone else lined up to score 20 points a game because they're one of the worst player development teams in the league, so I'd pay Monta whatever he needs to be happy. Otherwise, he's going to put everyone else in a funk. Then I'd either pair him with Patrick Beverley or Danny Green. I like the defense and 3-point shooting Green provides, plus he understands the value of winning having played with the Spurs.
MacMahon: I think Rondo will leave because the Lakers or Knicks will end up offering a lot more than the Mavs are willing to pay for a point guard, who is far from a perfect fit. Ellis can state his case to stay, but the Mavs understand that to keep him happy, he has to be paid at least as much as Chandler Parsons (three years, $46 million). Patrick Beverley is an intriguing option to replace Rondo, especially if Ellis stays, but the Rockets can match any offer for the restricted free agent. If the Mavs let Ellis leave, it makes finding a scorer/creator a priority. Sign a Jet-like vet sixth man (Jamal Crawford or Louis Williams) along with Matthews at an injury discount and Mo Williams, who has long wanted to commute to work from his Southlake home. But the best case, at least for next season, would probably be Beverley and Ellis.
2. Can the Mavs truly succeed if they continue to rotate key players in and out each season?
Gutierrez: According to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, you have to get incredibly lucky to succeed and build chemistry without continuity. The proof is certainly in the results of the teams that are thriving in the West. Dallas has been rearranging pieces since the title team. They're eventually going to have to lock in on key components in order to see what they have as a unit, especially with Dirk Nowitzki's window closing more and more as the days pass by.
Taylor: The problem isn't necessarily changing out role players, but the Mavs' inability to draft will eventually create problems. You can't consistently rely on free agency to fill out the roster. Homegrown players help with payroll, so you're not always overpaying for guys like Chandler Parsons.
MacMahon: It’s not reasonable to expect a championship run when you turn over the majority of the roster on a regular basis. But committing to a core that isn’t capable of doing any damage in the playoffs is a pretty bad plan, too. That’s the rock and hard place the Mavs have found themselves between since breaking up the title team. They’d like to commit to a core but haven’t been able to acquire the right combination of players.
3. What is the biggest sign of hope in relation to Dallas being able to make some noise in the playoffs?
Gutierrez: That there's still time left in the regular season. The 2006-07 Mavs lost their first four games and went on to lose just 11 for the rest of the season. The 2010-11 Mavs lost four games in a row before winning their last four of the regular season. The moral of the story is that things can change in a hurry. Consistency, not talent, is the issue with this group. While there's only 10 games, there's actually three weeks left for a veteran team and brilliant coach to try to turn things around.
Taylor: Sadly, all you have to go on is hope because the Mavs have been so consistently inconsistent. If they would play as hard as they played Tuesday against the Spurs then I'd feel a lot better about their chances, but they don't. They sleepwalk through way too many quarters and halves. Let's see if we get a maximum effort performance from the Mavs on Friday against the Spurs or if they are fat and happy from the big win Tuesday.
MacMahon: Never completely rule out a team coached by Rick Carlisle. We learned that lesson in 2011, when Dallas defeated more talented teams in the final three rounds of the title run. Somehow pushing the Spurs to seven games last season, when the great Pop had the much more talented team and totally dominated the regular-season series, was another strong reminder of Carlisle’s coaching brilliance.
Our front-office rankings continue with a look at the NBA's 30 current head coaches -- the league's on-court decision-makers.
We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every team's coach. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each coach on his guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.
Here's how the 30 coaches rank, according to our panel:
DALLAS -- One by one, the All-Stars from the Phoenix Suns’ "Seven Seconds or Less" era are riding off into the sunset.
First, Shawn Marion announced that he’d retire at this season's end, the Matrix’s 16th in the league. Then Steve Nash officially called it a career, his 41-year-old body failing to allow him to play his 19th season.
But Amar'e Stoudemire, the 13-year veteran whose best seasons came when he was running and gunning with Nash and Marion in Phoenix, isn’t remotely close to being ready to consider hanging up his Nikes.
“I’m the last man standing,” Stoudemire said with a smile while stretched out on the floor of the visitors locker room with a pair of compression boots during the Dallas Mavericks’ recent trip to Phoenix. “I plan on standing for a while, by the way.
“No, no, there’s no way. There’s a lot of youth in these legs. I have a lot of competitive juices still flowing in me. There’s no way I’m ready to be the next man."
At 32 with chronic knee issues, Stoudemire is no longer the athletic freak he was during his high-flying Phoenix days, when he routinely soared high above the rim to catch lobs from Nash and finish in highlight fashion. But Stoudemire remains plenty capable of providing scoring punch off a playoff team’s bench and plans to continue doing so for a long time to come, speculating that he could play five or six years with the proper maintenance.
The Mavs -- who signed Stoudemire for the veterans minimum after he received an All-Star break buyout from the final season of his five-year, $99.7 million contract with the New York Knicks -- will be among the teams expressing interest in him this summer. He’s been productive as the Mavs’ backup center, averaging an efficient 9.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.
Owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that he’d like Stoudemire to stay in Dallas, comparing him to Vince Carter, another former perennial All-Star who contributed in a reserve role for the Mavs.
“I love Amar’e -- love, love, love the guy,” Cuban said. “There’s not enough superlatives. He’s just a great guy on the court and off. I just love his physicality. He just wants to win and is a great guy.”
Stoudemire chose the Mavs over several other suitors last month, so clearly there’s mutual interest. Money, minutes and maximizing the chances of winning his first championship -- not necessarily in that order -- will likely be the biggest factors in Stoudemire’s decision this summer.
The Mavs will probably offer Stoudemire a significant piece of their midlevel exception. Stoudemire, who says he can “compete at a high level for years to come,” will likely request a multiyear deal.
But there will be plenty of time this summer to have those kinds of conversations. And, as much urgency as he feels to contend for a title now, Stoudemire is certain he has plenty of time left in his career.
“This isn’t it for me, for sure,” Stoudemire said. “There’s a lot of basketball left. There’s a lot of high-level basketball left in me. I feel competitive. I have faith in my body, what I can do on a basketball court on a consistent basis.
“The next step should be the best step, because I want to make sure I leave the game on a high note. That’s the ultimate goal.”