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Friday Morning Links

Mavs have their final preseason game of the year tonight in San Antonio. Sefko reports that Erick Dampier will sit out his fifth game in a row but that Josh Howard is ready to go after missing the game in Pittsburgh. And apparently you can forget all of that talk about this game tonight being a game of chess before the Spurs and Mavs meet to open the regular season.

"We got to come out and play," Johnson said. "We're still trying to get our team together. And how many new tricks can you actually give away? You're playing a team seven games in the playoffs, four times in the regular season, and the guy who's coaching is always one step ahead of me."
Another reason Johnson plans on taking the game seriously is to get the starters more minutes on the floor together.
Since the heavy lifters haven't seen much game time together, Johnson views tonight as significant.

The Mavs did take their third consecutive preseason victory Thursday, 83-81 over Cleveland. The game included 30-minute stints by Nowitzki (17 points) and DeSagana Diop (seven rebounds), and other than the absences of Josh Howard and Dampier, the division of minutes closely resembled a regular-season rotation.

Johnson found a silver lining in the extra minutes logged by newcomers Devean George, Greg Buckner, Austin Croshere, Anthony Johnson and rookie Maurice Ager, saying it helped with their adjustment process.
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It's sounding like Jose Barea has officially made the team. From Art Garcia:
Johnson wants to make the rookie sweat a bit. He said Barea was on the "hot seat" after practice and joked that he had four hours to make a decision on whether to keep the former Northeastern player.

Rosters are due Monday.

"I feel pretty good about my chances," Barea said. "I had a good practice today, too. I feel more comfortable every time I get on the floor now."
And Eddie Sefko just came out and declared it:
The move [waiving Ebi] means rookie point guard Jose Barea has a spot on the roster.
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Eddie Sefko continues to write about everything besides basketball for the DMN blog. Today he thrills us with a story about Brad Davis and sandwiches.

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Charley Rosen has a breakdown on the Southwest division and made some really interesting comments about the Mavs.
Overall, the Mavs' point guards all have profound weaknesses, which can (and have been) exploited.
The Mavs have the best trio of PG's in the NBA, but whatever.
Under Avery Johnson's guidance, Dirk Nowitzki has become more aggressive on offense. Too bad he's still a woeful defender
Dirk will never win defensive player of the year or even come close to making an all-nba all defensive team, but this tired complaint of Dirk being one of the worst defenders in the league is outdated and untrue.
Erick Dampier's hustle and orneriness nearly compensate for his sub-par athleticism
For all their gaudy numbers, both Terry and Nowitzki simply must deliver the goods in the clutch if this goal is to be reached. Is this possible? Yes. Is this probable? No.
And he's not that way just for the Mavs - his preview of every team seems to be just as bad. For example, in his Central division preview he said that Howard Eisley was still with the Bulls. Combine this with him saying that the Mavs got rid of Nash because he was against the Iraq war and you have to wonder if he's even trying anymore.

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In the most recent GM survey, seven answered that Avery Johnson was the best manager/motivator in the NBA, and there were a couple of things in the Dallas Morning News today that made it abundantly clear why. First there is this article by Sefko about Jason Terry.
Breakfast in Boston had Jason Terry petrified in the spring of 2005.

He was going through a tough time late in his first season with the Mavericks. He'd already been through a coaching change. Then one morning on the road in Beantown, the phone rang. It was Avery Johnson, who had recently taken over for Don Nelson.

"He thought he was getting traded," Johnson said.

Over coffee and eggs, Johnson quickly put his point guard at ease. While Terry was trying to figure out how to replace a local legend after Steve Nash left, Johnson saw all the potential in the world. The only thing Terry needed was to be himself and play the game his way.

"That was a good heart-to-heart," Terry recalled. "He told me what he thought I needed to do to be successful with this team."
And then there was this, also noted by Sefko about the waiving of Ndudi Ebi.
Johnson said he delivered the news personally.

"I really liked him and we gave him some things to work on," Johnson said. "And he appreciated the way we handled it. If you want to be a first-class organization, it's not just with winning games. You have to do it all the way 'round. I've had coaches that didn't cut me, that sent other people. So I wanted to tell him myself."
It's this kind of personal attention that allows Johnson to be tough on his players while having their respect and earning their friendship. People have always said they want Mark Cuban to buy the Rangers, but what they really need is a manager like Avery Johnson.