This is how thin the line between experience and age can become. Last year, the Mavericks' depth, experience and chemistry became a lethal combination and helped them out-class Oklahoma City in five games to capture the Western Conference title on their way to an NBA championship. But on Saturday, a Thunder team that was just a year older showed that it learned from the lessons of that bitter conference finals series with a 103-97 victory over Dallas to complete a sweep of their first-round series with the defending champions.
Considering their depth, their regular-season record and the presence of three serious scorers, one might have thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have burned right through their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, they've barely eked out two wins in their own building, the most recent a 102-99 escape Monday. Talent wills out, but the veteran Mavericks have given the Thunder all they can handle.
If the Dallas Mavericks ever had any hope of mounting a serious title defense, this was a game they had to have. They were playing in front of their own exorcised fans, having narrowly dropped two games at Oklahoma City that they probably should have won. They had put the screws to the league's scoring champ while their own superstar was starting to heat up. Everything seemed ripe. Instead, the Thunder exposed the Mavericks' age, swallowed up their offense and ran them out of their own building. One look at Mark Cuban grimly swearing to himself courtside told you all you need to know: Dallas' 95-79 Game 3 loss was a crusher.
In what should be a rare first-round treat, Oklahoma City gets its chance to avenge last year's Western Conference finals loss to the Mavericks, while the defending champs will decide whether their follow-up act will be defined by mediocrity or mettle. The Thunder, who were a lackluster 7-7 down the stretch, won three of the four regular-season matchups with Dallas, but two were by a combined six points. The Mavericks -- who haven't been the same since losing Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson to free agency last summer -- lost 10 of their last 19 games.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- As the Dallas Mavericks discussed their pressure-packed plight on Thursday night, it was tough to separate the reality from the rhetoric.
They used to play four games in a day, with the Dallas Mustangs and the Illinois Warriors, the Seattle Stars and the Wurzburg X-Rays, the Long Island Panthers and the Oakland Green Machine. They'd eat a muffin in the morning, play two games, a sandwich in the afternoon, play two more. "And then do it again the next day," Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd said.
DALLAS -- When you devote your career to winning the final game, what do you do after it's been won? At long last Dirk Nowitzki didn't know what he was in for.
NEW YORK -- Perhaps the turning point in the Knicks' 104-97 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday occurred with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter and New York trailing by five. Lamar Odom floated a careless backcourt pass in the direction of Jason Terry, and Jeremy Lin lunged in and stole it. Time seemed to stop momentarily, the building frozen in anticipation. Then Lin took a dribble, drifted to the basket and unfurled an emphatic dunk. A one-time 12-point Dallas lead was all but eradicated.
BOSTON -- A visit to the White House is supposed to commemorate the title that was. For a majority of the Dallas Mavericks, however, their meeting Monday with President Barack Obama inspired them to think of what may be -- and what has to be.
BOSTON -- As his Dallas Mavericks teammates celebrated a dramatic, 90-85 win (RECAP | BOX) over the Celtics inside a dimly lit visitors locker room on Wednesday night, Lamar Odom dressed quietly in the corner.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama saluted Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday as NBA champions who staged a season-ending charge to beat LeBron James and the vaunted Miami Heat and claim their first title with a "heart that's the size of Texas."
Dwane Casey was headed back to Dallas on Friday with a better winning percentage than the team he left behind. The surprise is that he left the champion Mavericks in order to become head coach of the cheerless Raptors.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It had been quite some time since Tyson Chandler avoided anyone in the lane, but this was different.
1. The NBA lockout goes on and on ... In July, as forecast, NBA owners locked out the players, and for two months the two sides barely negotiated at all. Once talks resumed on a new collective bargaining agreement, they were able to progress toward a deal while also giving the impression that irreconcilable differences were keeping them apart. The problem? The owners had trouble agreeing among themselves on the terms of a new deal, and the same was true of the players -- which in turn gave each side very little room from which to compromise.
Wasn't this what last year was supposed to look like for Miami? You know, when they were supposed to cruise through the season without experiencing a losing streak, set the single-season record for victories and leave a path of devastation along their route to an NBA title? The form Miami showed for most of Sunday's 105-94 rout of defending champion Dallas in Sunday's opener came about a year later than expected, but it was nevertheless chilling to see how much better the Heat looked compared to the retooling defending champs in a rematch of their Finals matchup.
Showbiz Tonight talks to the stars about the Kardashians! Has reality TV's most famous family worn out their welcome?
Is Dallas ready for the Kardashians?
The Mavericks are exploring a sign-and-trade for free agent center Samuel Dalembert, a source close to the situation confirmed.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 5. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
You know this is an inverted time for basketball when a 6-foot-4 point guard is expected to go No. 1 in the NBA draft, held June 23 in Newark, N.J. If the Cavs indeed select Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, it will be the third time in four years that the top pick was spent on a point guard of Irving's height or smaller.
It's never too soon to start thinking about next season (assuming there is one, of course), and the online gambling site Bodog has the early lines on the favorites. Miami (5-to-2) leads the field, while Toronto (150-1) is the longest of the long shots. Here's a look at the top six contenders on the board and our view of their chances of winning the championship in 2012, with the caveat that the effect of the new collective bargaining agreement on roster decisions is obviously a huge unknown.
Dallas Mavericks fans greet the NBA champions as they arrive at the airport.
MIAMI -- The NBA has seen behind the curtain, removed the mask. For all of their nine-figure contracts, for all of their All-Star appearances, MVP trophies and off-the-wall athleticism, the Heat are beatable. Not by a collection of stars or a group of gifted me-first players. But by a team.
MIAMI -- One was arriving. The other was leaving. In each case, their clothes described the man.
Fans in Dallas, Texas, celebrate the Mavericks' NBA championship victory.
The Mavericks are returning to the arena where they surrendered a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals, and that's not a bad thing. Without those events, Dirk Nowitzki may not be in the position he is in today.
DALLAS -- The question raised to LeBron James on the morning of Game 5 was whether the evening's performance would define him. Hours later comes the answer, following a 112-103 loss in which James contributed two points in the fourth quarter. The answer is no -- not yet.
DALLAS -- Can Pat Riley get 1984 out of his head? We're not talking about the novel. We're talking about an enduring series that seems to be renewing itself now that the Mavericks have evened the NBA Finals with their 86-83 comeback victory against Miami in Game 4.
DALLAS -- It should go without saying that the Mavericks need to make a stand Tuesday in Game 4. They've yet to play a strong game overall in the NBA Finals, and they've still had chances to steal all three games.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks will take this matchup every time. A one-eyed Chris Bosh gets a single shot to win Game 3, after which Dirk Nowitzki is given two chances to reply. That Miami won 88-86 to take a 2-1 lead in the Finals is why this series has a chance to become one of the best in modern times. Little is predictable, and nothing is without drama.
After their stunning comeback victory in Game 2 of the Finals, the Mavericks look to maintain their momentum as the series shifts to Dallas for Game 3. SI.com's five NBA writers analyze the top storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
The two opening games of the Finals have confirmed what we knew already. We knew Miami was more athletic and superior defensively, and we knew the Dallas was the more cohesive team based on its years together and its refusal to give in this season as it has so many seasons before.
MIAMI -- They have come so far, this Heat team. It cut through the adversity of a South Beach sized bullseye on their backs and solved the problem of having three superstars willing to sacrifice their games but not having the slightest clue how to do it. The maturation of the Miami Heat has been slow, steady and complete. Well, almost.
MIAMI -- I will bet you all of the money in my pocket -- not much, I admit, but it's all I've got -- that Pat Riley felt the same acidic, clammy, bass-drum-beating-in-his-skull feelings that he felt in 1984. This is something he would rather not recall, but here it was in front of him Thursday.
MIAMI -- The opening statement goes to the Heat. Now we wait for the rebuttal from Dallas, in spite of owner Mark Cuban's refusal to speak.
MIAMI -- The Heat struck first in the 2011 NBA Finals, muscling out an ugly, 92-84 Game 1 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks and Heat return to the Finals for a rematch of 2006 but under much different circumstances. Miami, replete with its stars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, garnered as many fans as enemies when the three joined forces last summer and went on to plow through the East this postseason. Dallas, with Dirk Nowitzki and a revamped supporting cast, surprised with a sweep of the Lakers and an all-out dominant run in the West. So what can we expect in this Finals sequel? Five SI.com NBA writers analyze how each team got this far and what lies ahead in the Finals.
I have a feeling about these Dallas Mavericks. I think it's finally their time. I know that's not the prevailing sentiment. The general consensus seems to be that the Miami Heat have finally figured out how to play together, how to finish close games properly, how to handle animosity they brought upon themselves with LeBron James' decision-with-a-capital-D and the absurdly premature, over-the-top welcoming celebration they threw for themselves that featured smoke and lasers and platforms rising up out of the stage and pretty much everything except Cirque du Soleil acrobats.
The Mavericks and Heat are set to meet in a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. Game 1 is Tuesday in Miami, where the Heat are 8-0 in the postseason. Dallas, meanwhile, has won five consecutive road playoff games.
One of the best things about this rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals between the Heat and Mavericks is the credible arguments on behalf of each team. Who is the more valuable player, LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki? Does Miami have the edge because of the star power among James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, or does Dallas hold an advantage based on depth of talent across the rotation? Will the Heat defense dominate the series, or will Nowitzki prove impossible to guard?
DALLAS -- Before the celebration got started, before they joined the city in a party destined to go all night, there was one thing the Mavericks needed to do: Find Kevin Durant. One by one, players hurried in his direction. First Dirk Nowitzki. Then Jason Kidd, followed by Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler. Each pulled a dazed Durant into an embrace, each whispered words of encouragement into his ear.
DALLAS -- A chance at redemption is at hand for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks: They are one win away from the team's first trip to the Finals since 2006. Here are five things to watch for in Wednesday night's Game 5:
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant sank to the Ford Center floor, arms down, head dangling between his legs. There are losses and then there are losses, and the Thunder's 112-105 overtime defeat to Dallas in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Monday was clearly one of the latter. All the energy, all the emotion Durant and his baby-faced teammates had opened with was gone, erased by a stunning late surge by a Mavericks team that was too tough, too savvy, too complete for the Thunder to close out.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Here's a thought: Let's pretend Game 3 of the Western Conference finals never happened. It just never came to pass, kind of like the Rapture. We can all reconvene on Monday night at the Oklahoma City Arena and start fresh. The OKC Thunder would no doubt agree to that proposition, after an awful shooting performance Saturday night doomed them to a 93-87 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs obviously were satisfied with the result, which gave them a 2-1 series lead, but even they couldn't have been thrilled with another wobbly fourth quarter in which what had been a 23-point lead was whittled to four. That had to have brought back nightmarish memories of the 18-point lead they blew in a first-round playoff loss to Portland.
Years of playoff misery have given rise to Dirk Nowitzki as we see him today. As recently as one year ago he was being bottled up by a Spurs defense that forced the ball out of his hands while clamping off the deep shooting of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. That opening-round loss was Nowitzki's third in four years, as his Mavs had gone 10-21 in the playoffs since taking a flimsy 2-0 lead over Miami in the 2006 NBA Finals.
DALLAS -- These games are a reminder, a warning to the rest of the league from Dirk Nowitzki: I'm still here. Yes, Derrick Rose is the MVP and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have followings that span the miles between Laguna Beach and Biscayne Bay. They have Nike, Adidas, even State Farm in their back pockets. Nowitzki? There's a German bank that shows him the love, but that's about it. "Jump shots," said a Mavericks staffer, "don't sell sneakers."
As the second round nears its conclusion, four SI.com NBA writers take stock of some of the biggest playoff storylines.
DALLAS -- At least the book on Phil Jackson's final season finally has a title now: The Unflattering Farewell.
Nearly three hours before the end of this Lakers era would draw near, one of the last Phil Jackson prodigies sat at his locker in a moment of self-reflection.
The Lakers have been my default choice to reach the NBA Finals. I'd been assuming we'd see them meet either the Celtics or Heat in June, a dreamy matchup that would build on the tremendous following the league has been creating all season.
LOS ANGELES -- It was all so funny at the time.
LOS ANGELES -- Forget about Matt Barnes, Mavericks fans.
LOS ANGELES -- In the recent NBA playoff annals, two of the most commonly raised questions about two of the league's more prolific franchises have almost always had the same answer.
Dallas fans can breathe a sigh of relief: The curse that saw the Mavericks lose in the first round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons will not add another disappointment. Dallas thoroughly outplayed Portland for the second straight game in a 103-96 victory in Game 6 on Thursday to win the series 4-2 and send the Mavericks to a Western Conference Semifinal matchup against the Lakers.
If we've learned one thing from the first round, it's that perceptions can change quickly in the postseason. When the regular season ended, Portland was expected to hand Dallas another letdown, and Los Angeles seemed to be losing its edge. Now the winner of this series will likely be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals. Dirk Nowitzki played like an MVP against Portland, and the Mavericks showed the depth, resilience and confidence to be a tough out this year. And after a rocky opener against New Orleans, the Lakers rounded into playoff form and shoved the Hornets aside with some impressive defensive performances.
After giving up a historic rally and watching its series momentum get wiped away with two losses in Portland, Dallas pushed back in impressive fashion Monday night. The Mavs re-established themselves as the series favorites with a 93-82 win over the Trail Blazers to take a 3-2 lead. Tyson Chandler had one of the best playoff games of his career with 14 points and a career-playoff-high 20 rebounds, Dirk Nowitzki added 25 points and Dallas' zone defense never let Portland find its rhythm.
There was a time when Brandon Roy routinely carried the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter and made opponents understand that no lead was safe. Way back in, oh, last season. But the hobbled 26-year-old, who struggled through the first three quarters against Dallas in Game 4 on Saturday, looked like a spry 25-year-old again while leading the most remarkable comeback story -- for a player and a team -- of the NBA playoffs up to this point as Portland rallied from a 23-point deficit to top the Mavericks, 84-82, and even the series.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks have been in a playoff funk for four years. That's why they've been classified as first-round underdogs despite their home court advantage. It's also why Jason Kidd reached out to Dirk Nowitzki for help on his three-point shooting, which turned out to be so successful that it enabled Nowitzki to survive six turnovers and 13 missed field goals of his own Saturday.
This might be the most intriguing series of the first round. The Blazers won their last two regular-season meetings with Dallas, and their new versatility gives them the ability to match up with the Mavericks in several different ways. Portland's big guards, especially Brandon Roy, can thrive against the Mavs' smaller and, in Jason Kidd's case, slower backcourt, and the Blazers can throw three guys at Dirk Nowitzki -- LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace.
When Tyson Chandler played for the Hornets in 2008 and they met the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs, he saw an obvious mismatch.
LOS ANGELES -- Five players, three fans and one jersey were all tossed Thursday night at Staples Center, evidence that April in the NBA has finally arrived.
Several playoff matchups appear to be in place, but there is much to be decided over the final four weeks of the season.
This is a terrible admission, but it's fun to write about losers. While covering a bad team over the course of a season is a drag -- kind of like having a lingering sore throat and raspy cough -- stopping in to sample relentless, mind-numbing, appalling atrociousness on a temporary basis is a pleasant diversion.
While the rest of us are contriving our unlikely resolutions for the New Year, the league's players, coaches and teams are already two months into their season. Therefore, we can applaud those who have begun to fulfill their own noble intentions since last season ...
1. There will be a work stoppage on July 1 ... and it won't be over by Dec. 31. The fundamental difference between the two sides -- owners complaining the league is hemorrhaging cash, players thinking it is raking it in -- has made a lockout inevitable. The owners aren't looking for subtle changes, either. They are going for the jugular, targeting max salaries and guaranteed contracts and looking to cut deeper into the players' piece of the revenue pie. Talks will break down at the February All-Star break and both sides will dig in. After the 1997-98 season, a lockout lasted nearly seven months, until Jan 20, 1999; it will be at least that long this time around.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When the Dallas Mavericks walked into their locker room at halftime Monday night, Dirk Nowitzki asked them the score. Jason Terry told him it was tied. "Oh, then you got 'em," Nowitzki said. "I'll just take the night off."
In this holiday season let us show respect for a most important and underrated dynamic in the NBA season thus far. I'm talking about family.
Now that commissioner David Stern essentially owns the Hornets after the NBA purchased the team Monday from majority stakeholder George Shinn, what is the likelihood the team will remain in New Orleans? Small odds they stay put, I say.
When he heard the accusation that notorious trash-talker Kevin Garnett had called Charlie Villanueva "a cancer survivor" during a game earlier this month, Tyson Chandler felt nothing but empathy -- for both players.
DALLAS -- The fan in the blue T-shirt couldn't have been older than 18, his enthusiasm bubbling over like a pot of boiling water. With the Mavericks and Celtics tied and the clock winding down in the fourth quarter Monday night, Dirk Nowitzki isolated on Boston's Glen Davis. With a hard jab step, Nowitzki created the slimmest of space between himself and Davis, just to elevate and knock down a 16-foot jumper that gave Dallas a two-point edge with 16.4 seconds left.
The Mavericks have reached an agreement with free-agent center Brendan Haywood, who will receive as much as $55 million in a six-year contract. Multiple league sources told SI.com on Thursday that the last year of the deal is not guaranteed.
There will be no parade down Causeway Street in Boston or rally in front of the American Airlines Center in Dallas. There will be no self-aggrandizing announcements on still-under-construction Web sites, nor will the mayors of those two cities be tapped to deliver any moving speeches.
Part II of my lengthy invterview with the Mavericks' owner:
For the third time in four years the Mavericks were knocked out in the first round, this time at the expense of a volatile 97-87 Game 6 loss Thursday at San Antonio to the underdog Spurs.
Mark Cuban's back was hurting him last weekend as badly as the Spurs were punishing his Mavericks. A two-hour workout followed by a kickboxing class had left him in pain -- "like I got shot between my hip and my back" -- as he sat behind the Mavs' bench watching Dallas lose Games 3 and 4 at San Antonio.
Facing elimination, the Mavericks got excellent production from an unlikely source, shooting guard Caron Butler, whose 35 points helped drive them to a 103-81 victory over the Spurs. The Spurs still lead the series 3-2, meaning Dallas needs more games like Tuesday's to avoid a first-round upset.
SAN ANTONIO -- Guess who has emerged as the new favorite to win the West? It isn't the No. 2 Mavericks, who lost Game 4 here Sunday 92-89 to fall behind 3-1 in their first-round series.
SAN ANTONIO -- Their Big Three drove the Spurs to a bloodied 94-90 win Friday over Dallas to stake the No. 7 seed to a surprising 2-1 lead in the series.
DALLAS -- The Spurs claimed home-court advantage with an inspired 102-88 win in Game 2 Wednesday over the second-seeded Mavericks.
Now that the six-month "preseason" is out of the way we can move on to the real games. Let's start with the five teams most likely to win the final game in June.
The Spurs-Mavericks series was expected to be one of the most hotly contested first-round matchups; and on Sunday, it didn't disappoint. Paced by a Herculean effort from Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas took Game 1, 100-94.
Before 16 teams prepare for the start of the postseason Saturday, nine teams have to figure out their seedings on the last day of the regular season. Here's what to watch for during Wednesday's key games. (All stats and records are through April 13; all times Eastern.)
Every coach preaches the vital importance of every game, whether it is played in the first week of the season or the last. And while players typically nod in collective assent, most fail to understand that a loss in November is just as costly as one a week before the playoffs.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week.
Yes, after winning their 13th consecutive game on Wednesday, the Mavericks are the hottest team in the NBA. Since the one-sided deal that sent Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross to Washington for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, Dallas has tasted defeat just once, a road loss to Oklahoma City coming out of the All-Star break.
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 15.)
The Dallas Mavericks have acquired Caron Butler in a seven-player trade with the Washington Wizards, SI.com has learned.
Dirk Nowitzki isn't a team cheerleader. He never has been, never will be and has never even pretended to be. So why are fans and media alike waiting for the 12-year veteran to become one?
In some ways, last Saturday's game seemed like the vintage days of yore for the Mavericks, the days of Nash and Nellie and lots of offense. With swingman Josh Howard back from injury and appearing for the first time this season, a Mavs team that had uncharacteristically ranked in the bottom half of the league in most offensive categories was flying around the court, slinging the ball from the post to the perimeter and wing to wing while racing up and down the floor en route to 62.4 percent shooting and a 129-101 thrashing of the Raptors.
Shawn Marion may be one of the most versatile players in the NBA, but as he sits in a hotel suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he's showing off a different kind of versatility: He watches Scooby-Doo on TV, listens to Michael Jackson on the radio, updates his Twitter page from his computer and talks on the phone all at the same time.
The Lakers and Spurs are on course for a titanic Western Conference finals matchup, with great coaches, deep rosters and superstar leadership. No fewer than four others -- Dallas, Portland, Denver and Utah -- are formidable second-tier contenders. At the other extreme is dysfunction in Memphis and Golden State, rookie point guards and lousy interior defense in Minnesota and Sacramento, and wishful thinking in Phoenix. And in the middle are the cursed Clippers, who would have been (still could be?) a playoff team with a healthy Blake Griffin.
You hear it so often you just assume it must be true: Point guard is the toughest position to learn in the NBA. Well, it certainly is the most cerebral position, with the most information to absorb and the most responsibility for setting the pace and tone of an offense.
DALLAS - Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Thomas is out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery.
September is by far the dullest month on the NBA calendar. It's the time of year when most contracts have been signed, most trades have been made and every team, from the Lakers to the Nets, is expressing optimism about the upcoming season. But when I survey the landscape, I see several teams with serious issues going into training camp. In no particular order, here are my top three:
LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Mavericks have agreed to terms with free agent forward Drew Gooden, a league source told SI.com on Saturday. Gooden, who had narrowed his choices to Dallas, Charlotte and Cleveland before the weekend, accepted a one-year deal worth approximately $4.5 million that includes achievable incentives.
His heart and on-court courage have been praised for so long now that, in an odd twist, we don't actually know whether Jason Kidd has real heart and courage.
Claiming to know the greatest draft pick of all time in each of the top 30 slots is a good way to start an argument. In this case, I leaned toward draft picks who helped create team success. While going through the lists year by year, I was reminded just how difficult it is to find impact players -- even when dealing with a top-three pick. To go through the draft lists over the last six decades is to realize that the likes of Bill Russell and Michael Jordan are rarely discovered.
Five playoff observations from a stunning upset and a spectacular last second finish.
Five playoff thoughts while wondering how it is that Chauncey Billups could benefit from a clock that didn't start in last year's second round (Orlando-Detroit, Game 2) and from a foul that wasn't called in this year's ...