The veteran has recovered from a high-ankle sprain suffered Oct. 10. Felton has served his four-game suspension stemming from his guilty plea to gun charges, a part of his nightmare campaign with the New York Knicks last season.
Now Felton, who looked forward to a fresh start after arriving in Dallas with center Tyson Chandler in a June trade, can finally focus on basketball again.
“It’s been a long time,” said Felton, who is available for Monday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers. “I’ve put everything behind me and now it’s time to get back on the court and start business now.”
However, it’s hard to say exactly when Felton will actually get back on the court. Or how Felton will fit in a crowded backcourt rotation.
Four veteran guards have played significant roles during Dallas’ 10-4 start. Monta Ellis leads the Mavs in scoring at 19.6 points per game and is tied for the team lead in assists (4.6), getting the vast majority of the minutes at shooting guard. Jameer Nelson, who is averaging 7.4 points and 4.6 assists, has started every game at point guard. Devin Harris (8.7 points, 4.4 assists) and J.J. Barea (8.4 points, 4.4 assists) have been dual spark plugs off the bench.
“We’ll just have to see,” coach Rick Carlisle said on Felton’s role. “There’s nothing definite at this point in time.
“We got a lot of point guards. We got to give them all a lot of love. It’s really a great situation for us. You look around the league, Indiana’s got two point guards out. We’re very fortunate. Are there enough minutes for all of them? No. But they’re all professionals and they’re all going to stay ready. I feel it’s a very good position to be in.”
Felton, who can play either guard position, has averages of 13.1 points and 6.5 assists per game in nine NBA seasons. He has started all but 55 of his 667 career appearances but understands he’ll have to adapt to a different role in Dallas.
At this point, Felton isn’t certain what that role will be. He hasn’t had any discussions with Carlisle about it.
“That’s not my decision to make,” Felton said. “I’ve worked hard through training camp and I’ve worked hard ever since I’ve been injured, so the biggest thing is whatever Coach and this staff needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”
To have been on the butt end of a back-to-back for all four meetings against a fierce rival? That strikes Nowitzki as strange, to say the least.
That’s the case for the Dallas Mavericks against the Houston Rockets this season. Without prompting, Nowitzki made a point to note it after Mavs’ 95-92 loss Saturday night.
“They’re catching a break this year,” Nowitzki said, replying to a question about whether the Mavs failed to take advantage of a break with Rockets center Dwight Howard missing the game due to a knee injury. “They’re catching us four times on back-to-backs. I’ve never even seen this in this league before, but it is what it is. You catch a break, you don’t catch a break, it doesn’t matter. You’ve still got to win a game.”
The Rockets hadn’t played since Wednesday night. They’ll be extraordinarily well rested for their next two meetings with the Mavs, too.
Houston is off the previous two days before hosting the Mavs on Jan. 25. Houston will have nine days off when they go to Dallas for their first game after the All-Star break on Feb. 20. In the final meeting between the teams of the regular season, the Rockets will also be on a back-to-back, hosting the Sacramento Kings the night before playing in Dallas on April 2.
“Hey, it kind of looks weird on paper,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in this league, that you play one team four times on a back-to-back, especially a good team that you’re trying to fight with. But it is what it is. And, like I said, back-to-back or not, you’re up four in the last minute, you’ve got to find a way to close it out.”
Mavs owner Mark Cuban shrugged off the strange scheduling quirk, joking about a conspiracy theory.
“It’s the scheduler -- he’s a Rockets fan. He showed me his ring from ’94,” Cuban said sarcastically. “I don’t know, it’s just the way it is.”
The booing by Houston Rockets fans every time he touched the ball didn’t bother Parsons too much, though he did make a point to remind them via the media that he was a restricted free agent and the franchise declined its right to match his three-year, $46 million contract. Parsons said he was actually touched by the “real classy” tribute video played on the Toyota Center big screens during a timeout, when he waved to acknowledge the crowd while receiving more cheers than jeers.
All in all, the Rockets fans and organization treated Parsons fine during his first trip here as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons’ problem was with his performance in the Mavs’ 95-92 loss Saturday night to the injury-depleted Rockets.
“Wish I would have played a little bit better,” said Parsons, who scored 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting and went 0-of-5 from 3-point range. “Never really got settled in. It’s part of it, but the most frustrating part is just to lose.”
Heck, Parsons was sizzling, compared to all-time great Dirk Nowitzki, who knocked down only four of his 18 shots from the floor and none of his eight 3-point attempts. That was a shocker for a future Hall of Famer who is putting up the most efficient numbers of his career. Shooting guard Monta Ellis, the Mavs’ scoring leader, wasn’t much better and scored 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting.
Nowitzki and Ellis, in particular, have been the focal points of a Dallas offense that has gotten off to a historically hot start and is averaging more points per possession than any NBA team on record. The Mavs were fresh off matching the scoring record at the American Airlines Center while lighting up the Los Angeles Lakers for 140 points in Friday's blowout win.
Dallas’ Run DMC trio -- Dirk, Monta, Chandler -- each scored more than 20 points in that rout, despite sitting out the fourth quarter. They combined to miss only 10 of 33 shots against the Lakers, the league’s worst defensive team.
That makes the trio’s 14-of-48 shooting night against the 10-3 Rockets all the more startling. Sure, Houston has the best defensive efficiency in the NBA, but the Rockets were without defensive anchor Dwight Howard, who wore a bow tie and watched from the bench while nursing a strained right knee.
“We didn’t have a good shooting night, which is going to happen, and on those nights, your defense has got to hold you in there,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Clearly, from start to finish, our defense wasn’t good enough.”
Dallas’ defense was dreadful in the first half, when Houston moved the ball like the Mavs have most of the season and sizzled from long range. The Rockets’ 13-of-25 shooting from 3-point range fueled their 60-point first half.
The Mavs managed to rally from an 18-point deficit in the second half, but they failed to finish the deal after building a five-point lead with 1:22 remaining. Rockets star James Harden had five of his 32 points in the final minutes, including the go-ahead, old-school 3-point play that left Nowitzki wondering why a charge wasn’t called.
In the final seconds, Ellis missed a 3 that would have sent the game into overtime. The Mavs couldn't believe it came down to that, as badly as their best scorers shot the ball.
“Still should have won the game,” said Nowitzki, whose 11 points were a season low. “I don’t care, I missed a lot of shots, but up four with fifty-something seconds to go, you’ve got to find a way against a division rival to pull that game out.”
The Mavs won't find a way to win many when their best scorers struggle so badly.
Harden scored 32 points, including five down the stretch, to help the Rockets rally for a 95-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. And, more importantly to Harden, he had a key steal late to help in the win.
"I was missing shots," he said. "Defensively I just tried to lock in. I think everybody did a good job of locking down no matter if we were making shots or not."
Houston, playing without Dwight Howard (knee injury), ended its two-game skid and snapped the Mavericks' six-game winning streak.
Dallas led by four with less than a minute remaining before Harden made two free throws. Monta Ellis missed on the other end and Harden put Houston on top 93-92 when he made a jump shot and the ensuing free throw with 28 seconds left.
Harden stole the ball from Ellis and Trevor Ariza made two more free throws to seal the victory.
Dallas had a chance to tie it but Dirk Nowitzki and Ellis each missed 3-pointers in the final seconds.
"Everyone's going to focus on the last play, but the game was lost in the first half when they were clearly more aggressive," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
Ellis led the Mavericks with 17 points and Brandan Wright had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Player of the game: Rockets shooting guard James Harden, one of only two healthy Houston starters by the end of the game, scored a game-high 32 points, including the go-ahead bucket and free throw in the final minute. Harden also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists.
Play of the game: Harden gave the Rockets the lead for good on an and-1 drive in transition with 28.2 seconds remaining. Former Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons tried to draw the charge but was whistled for a blocking foul.
Greeting of the game: The Toyota Center crowd, which included a surprising number of empty seats for a game between rivals who are Western Conference contenders, welcomed Parsons with loud boos during pregame introductions. Houston fans booed every time Parsons touched the ball. A lot of Rockets fans did show some love midway through the third quarter, when a Parsons video tribute played on the big screens during a timeout, thanking him for “three great seasons in Houston.” Parsons had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds.
Stat of the night: The Rockets, who were sizzling from 3-point range in the first half, made only two of 21 attempts beyond the arc in the second half. Houston finished 15-of-46 from long distance, just three attempts shy of the record set by the Mavs in a March 5, 1996 win over the New Jersey Nets.
HOUSTON -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban strongly agreed with NBA commissioner Adam Silver's opinion that sports betting should be legalized throughout the United States, predicting it would happen within three to five years.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times earlier this month, Silver lobbied for the federal government to allow states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.
"I agree 100 percent," Cuban said Saturday night before the Mavericks lost 95-92 to the Houston Rockets. "I think we're the world's biggest hypocrites when we say, 'Oh, we don't want you betting on our games,' and then we get all excited about the sports betting line and people go to Vegas on trips won from the NBA or NFL. I mean, it's hugely hypocritical.
"I just think that Adam did the exact right thing. I think by focusing on the federal regulations and making the changes there, that it will change. It's just a question of when.
"I think over the next three to five years, it will change. And it'll be interesting to see how the NFL reacts as well, because they've still so far said that they're adamant against it because I guess they have data that says the NFL doesn't benefit from gambling."
Sports betting is currently illegal in most of the United States outside of Nevada. Silver wrote that England's sports betting laws could be an example for the American government.
The Rockets are likely to welcome Parsons with a tribute video on the big screens at some point during the game, as they did for guard Jeremy Lin when he visited with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week. But the audio might be drowned out by fans who are disgruntled that Parsons departed for Dallas, of all places. Those hard feelings are fueled by the bitter public exchanges Parsons had via the media this summer with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and star shooting guard James Harden.
“I don’t know, I have a feeling a couple of girls will boo,” Parsons said with a smile that probably doesn’t seem as charming to the Rockets’ female fans as it did the past few years.
You can bank on Parsons hearing how overpaid he is a few hundred times. The three-year, $46 million contract he signed with the Dallas Mavericks as a restricted free agent, deemed by Morey to be too rich for the Rockets to match, is part of Parsons’ identity at this point.
But there is one sure way Parsons can shut up any bitter Rockets fans: Ball like he did during Friday night’s 140-106 rout of the Lakers, when he was worth every penny and then some.
Parsons scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting against the Lakers before joining the rest of the Mavs’ starters on the bench for the fourth quarter. He scored several of his buckets after making smart cuts to the basket, looking as comfortable in the Mavs’ offense as he has all season.
However, Parsons’ most impressive work came on the other end of the floor. He was the primary defender on 32,000-point scorer Kobe Bryant, who struggled to get 17 points on 6-of-22 shooting.
“When you play a team that’s so dominant by one player, I want to take the challenge,” Parsons said. “I wanted to guard him and I wanted to do whatever it took for our team to win. You stop him, you stop them. I just wanted to make it difficult for him. He’s one of the best scorers to ever play the game, so I just tried to use my size and stayed down on his fakes and make him shoot over a taller defender.”
So does Parsons want the challenge of covering his old buddy Harden?
“Yep,” Parsons said. “For sure.”
Parsons tried to downplay the matchup with the Rockets as “just one game out of 82,” but this is no doubt different. He admitted his return to Houston would be an emotional experience for him. His parents -- “My party buddies!” Cuban greeted them, referring to the night Parsons signed his offer sheet at an Orlando club -- are visiting and will make the trip.
“These things are never easy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “They always are emotional. He just needs to approach the game the same way he did tonight and it’ll be good.
“He was so locked into everything from the most minute defensive coverage detail, and he was moving the ball great and moving great. When you’re doing that, you just react and play. That’s what he’s got to do and that’s what we’ve all got to do tomorrow.”
Parsons won’t win any popularity contests in Houston, but he can help the Mavs win a game.
DALLAS -- On one side: a title contender whose star took less money.
On the other: a rebuilding crew, starring the NBA's highest-paid player.
For the traits that Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki share as 36-year-olds among the league's top-10 all-time leading scorers, that stark difference stood out most Friday during the Dallas Mavericks' 140-106 demolition of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Of course, it's not so simple to say that the 3-10 Lakers are struggling just because Bryant accepted a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension last season, a deal that eats a huge chunk of the Lakers' salary cap space.
Other factors are many: deals that never were (Chris Paul, thanks to "basketball reasons") and those that never panned out (Steve Nash, thanks to injuries); players that didn't stay (Dwight Howard) and free agents who never came (Carmelo Anthony).
Indeed, not all has gone the Lakers' way, though they haven't done too shabby historically when you consider the 16 banners hanging in Staples Center.
But in the end, they're bound for the lottery, under construction until further notice, and Bryant and his huge deal are targeted as a key reason for their plight.
"Did I take a discount? Yeah," Bryant said after a morning shootaround here, when he discussed his contract more than at any point since signing it.
"Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No.
"Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.
"So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually."
Bryant almost certainly didn't mean to use the phrase "championship predicament." But if it was a Freudian slip, well, it sure was fitting.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated the obvious about his squad: Nowitzki's deal made a huge impact in helping shape the roster, giving them the financial flexibility to add the high-profile and, more important, promising young free agent in Chandler Parsons that they had been chasing for so long.
"To me, it's not about money, it's about winning," Cuban said. "Different players have different attitudes."
Could a player make $24 million in the NBA's current punitive financial climate (as Bryant does this season) and legitimately say they’re interested in winning?
"Yeah, of course, as long as you can convince everybody else that you need to come play for the minimum," Cuban said with a laugh.
Cuban has long been poking fun at the Lakers on this topic, once calling them Shaq, Kobe and the "band of merry minimum [-salaried players]" in 2000 during Cuban's first season as an owner.
Nowitzki echoed Cuban's point that his deal was about winning, not money.
"I wanted to be on a good team," Nowitzki said. "I wanted to compete my last couple of years at the highest level. Ever since after the championship, we had a couple of rough years. We missed the playoffs one year, were the eighth seed twice I think, so that was really the main decision. I wanted to play at a high level my last couple years, and it kind of worked out with getting Parsons, with getting Tyson [Chandler] back here. We feel like we've got a good group, and hopefully we can make it work."
Bryant argued that Nowitzki's deal meant the German forward "wasn't playing in Los Angeles," and that difference matters.
After all, the Lakers have a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner Cable that hinges on ratings. They need Bryant, not only for that, but to justify ticket prices, to keep interest high during lost seasons. His value goes far beyond the court.
Yet the high cost of paying their cash cow what he legitimately might be worth ultimately hurts the Lakers' efforts to build around him, to be a contender.
Nowitzki will spend his golden years chasing another ring, while Bryant, for now, is only chasing personal records. Other factors are many, of course, but that stark difference is what rose above all else Friday, as two legends headed in opposite directions, their teams following suit.
ESPNDallas.com reporter Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.
Player of the game: This was perhaps the best all-around performance in a Dallas Mavericks uniform by Chandler Parsons. He scored 21 points in 29 minutes, going 8-of-13 from the floor with several of his buckets coming off smart cuts to the basket. He also did an excellent job as the primary defender on Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who needed 22 shots to score 17 points. Honorable mentions go to Dirk Nowitzki (23 points on 8-of-10 shooting in 21 minutes) and Monta Ellis (20 points, 7-of-10 shooting, 10 assists).
Spurt of the game: The Mavs managed to score seven points in the final 5.9 seconds of the first quarter to stretch their lead to 11 points. After Nowitzki knocked down two free throws, Jae Crowder picked off a comically poor inbounds pass by Lakers center Robert Sacre, who made matters worse by fouling Crowder on a layup. Crowder missed the and-1 free throw, but Richard Jefferson batted the rebound out to J.J. Barea, who drilled a double-pump 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Stat of the night: The Mavs’ Run DMC trio -- Dirk, Monta, Chandler -- each had at least 20 points. None of them played a second in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the night, part 2: The Mavs had at least seven players score in double figures for the third time in 13 games this season. Dallas did that only three times all last season. It's the second time this season the Mavs have had eight players score in double figures -- something that didn't happen at all the last three seasons.
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points in yet another efficient shooting effort and the Dallas Mavericks used the NBA's highest-scoring offense to roll to a 140-106 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
The Mavericks won their sixth straight game overall and fourth in a row against the Lakers, who were swept by Dallas in the regular season for the first time in 2013-14.
Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons were a combined 23 of 33 from the field as the Mavericks had season highs in points, shooting percentage (62 percent) and assists (37). Parsons had 21 points and Ellis scored 20.
Turning point: The Lakers had been allowing 110 points per game, and they gave up that in three quarters. It all went away from them in that third frame, when they were outscored 42-24, and it was all downhill from there, with the fourth quarter turning into lopsided garbage time during which many fans filed out to find a better way to spend their Friday night.
Stat of the game: 140. The Mavericks’ final point total tied for their most ever at the American Airlines Center. They also scored that much April 5, 2009 against Phoenix.
More fun with numbers: The Mavericks hit 18 3-pointers, the Lakers hit 5. The Mavericks had three players score 20 or more points, the Lakers had none.
Kobe Bryant update: He scored 17 points on 22 shots in 31 minutes. Not his finest outing. On the other side, Dirk Nowitzki had a tidy 23 points on 10 shots in 21 minutes.
HOUSTON -- Most of the Houston Rockets’ headliners watched their words carefully this week regarding the replacing of Chandler Parsons, who will return to town this weekend with the rival Dallas Mavericks.
Center Dwight Howard danced around the subject, saying he didn’t want to compare Parsons and Trevor Ariza, who filled the Rockets’ void at small forward with a much more cap-friendly contract than the three-year, $46 million deal Parsons signed with Dallas.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who offended Parsons with his July explanation of the Rockets’ decision not to exercise their right to match the Mavs’ offer to the restricted free agent, simply declined an interview request via Houston’s media relations office.
However, shooting guard James Harden responded to a question about how Ariza has changed the dynamic in Houston with the ruthlessness of one of his basket attacks, certainly not shying away from contact, perhaps even seeking it.
“His leadership, his defensive abilities, his shot-making -- all three of those things are something that we were lacking last year,” said Harden, who ruffled Parsons’ feathers this summer when he downplayed the impact of the small forward’s departure, describing himself and Howard as Houston’s cornerstones and the rest of the roster as role players. “[Ariza] brings that ability to the table this year.”
The Mavs, who are 10-3 and have the NBA’s best offense entering Saturday night's game against the Rockets, unquestionably became a better team because of Parsons’ move up Interstate 45. Can the 9-3 Rockets make the same claim? The early results suggest that's the case.
Parsons, for the record, says he hopes Houston does well but doesn't concern himself with how Ariza fares filling his shoes.
"I don't pay any attention to him," Parsons said recently. "Listen, many people replace many people every year in this league. He's a good, proven player in this league. He's supposed to play good for them."
Ariza’s intangibles, by definition, can’t be measured against Parsons’. Ariza, who is averaging 14.5 points and 2.6 assists while shooting 41.9 percent from the floor and 39.2 percent from 3-point range, hasn’t matched Parsons’ offensive production from last season other than slightly better 3-point shooting. But there’s no denying the defensive impact the 6-foot-8 Ariza has made for the Rockets.
Houston has gone from decent to dominant defensively. The Rockets, with Ariza joining Howard and point guard Patrick Beverley as proven stoppers in the starting lineup, have the league’s stingiest defense so far this season.
Houston ranked 12th in the NBA in defensive rating last season, allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions. That number has plummeted to a league-low 94.3 after 11 games -- 92.5 with Ariza on the floor.
“I’ve been able to instill some of the beliefs that I’ve had throughout my career here as well as understand what they already do and try to build on that,” said Ariza, a 10-year veteran who has no issue with being characterized as a role player. “I think that’s something that our staff has always believed in but this year we’re focusing on more.
“Me being a player that throughout my career I’ve been known to be a defensive player or presence or whatever the case may be, it just helps out a lot. And it’s been a great fit so far.”
It certainly isn’t how Morey hoped to piece together the Rockets’ starting lineup this summer. The plan was to add a proven All-Star in free agency and then exceed the salary cap to keep Parsons.
Houston had to go to Plan B when Chris Bosh surprised the team by re-signing with the Miami Heat and the Mavs gave Parsons a much more lucrative offer than the Rockets anticipated the restricted free agent receiving.
At that point, Morey made the call to prioritize cap flexibility over continuity, essentially declaring that he didn’t believe Parsons would blossom into the third star the Rockets need to maximize their championship chances. By signing Ariza to a four-year, $32 million deal, Houston replaced Parsons without sacrificing its chance to pursue an All-Star again next summer.
(Get ready for the Rockets-Mavs rivalry to heat up again over the offseason, when they’re both positioned to be at the front of the line for free-agent-to-be point guard Rajon Rondo, among others.)
“It came down to a bet of Harden, Howard and Parsons being the final piece, because we would have had no ability to do anything after that,” Morey said on Sports Talk 790 AM in Houston the day that Parsons’ deal with Dallas became official. “And Harden, Howard, Parsons could have been good enough. I think Parsons is a tremendous player and is going to keep getting better.
“The question is, is it better with that core or is it better with Ariza plus the hundreds of moves that might be able to upgrade us in the other scenario?”
Perhaps at some point the Rockets will miss Parsons’ offensive versatility, which the Mavs valued so much. Maybe that time has already come.
The Rockets, who also dumped guard Jeremy Lin and his double-digit scoring average this summer to create cap room for Bosh, have averaged only 85.5 points over the past four games, a span in which Houston is 2-2 with close, low-scoring wins over the 0-11 Philadelphia 76ers and 3-10 Oklahoma City Thunder.
Of course, Parsons didn't exactly explode out of the gates in Dallas, fighting through the worst shooting slump of his career. His numbers -- 14.5 points, 41.9 field goal percentage, 34.7 3-point percentage, 2.4 assists -- are significantly down from last season and lower almost across the board than Ariza’s this season.
Not that the Mavs, who had the luxury of bidding high because Dirk Nowitzki gave them a historically steep hometown discount, have any buyer’s remorse. They still view the 26-year-old Parsons, who has been a key cog in the league’s most efficient offense by far, as a terrific fit with huge upside.
“They’re both top-shelf small forwards,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “You could sit here and compare apples and oranges, but they both put their own unique stamp on the position.
“We both came away with probably our best-case scenario at the small forward spot.”