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The Mavericks Remain Focused Despite Seeing Familiar Faces

The Mavericks (17-4) had practice today and a lengthy film session recapping what happened against Golden State, a victory leading to their 10th consecutive victory.  The Mavericks continue their six-game home-stand on Thursday Night against the New Jersey Nets who are in the midst of a 5-game losing streak with an overall record of 6-16. 

It's the second game where the Mavericks will be facing a team with a losing record, but the Mavericks understand they are the hunted.  "Right now, with a winning streak, we know everybody is going to be coming after us trying to break it," said coach Rick Carlisle.  "We've broken three winning streaks ourselves, so we know about that motivation.  It's about improving, being focused and concentrating.  (The game against Golden State) was a good win, but there were areas where we lost focus and concentration and we just can't allow that to happen."

The Mavericks did have moments where they lacked concentration, allowing 26 points in the first quarter and 7 turnovers in the third quarter.  "We've taken great pride in our first quarter defense this season," said Carlisle.  "The last two games, the first six minutes, we've been very poor and we've got to pick that up.  I just think over the long haul of the season with the way our rotation is, we should always have fresh guys in the game and we should always be able to do things at a high level."

With the Mavericks now comfortable with their home cooking and riding a winning streak, Carlisle understands that, despite the results, coaching is still incredibly important.  "This is a very coach-able team," said the head coach.  "We have a bunch of professionals and guys that have made sacrifices so that we can establish a rotation that has given us some success so that we can keep fresh bodies on the court and still maintain a spirit that's high and directed the right way," he continued.  "I think the thing we've got to make sure we're doing, as a coaching staff, is coaching them hard when we're winning as well as when we're losing.  We can't accept in victory what we wouldn't accept in defeat."

A day after the impressive results of Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca, Carlisle continued to praise them and kept an open mind with results going forward, "They've shown that they're ready and that's great for us.  We'll see how it goes, I like rewarding guys that deserve rewarding."  Tyson Chandler was a participant in practice today.  He had missed the previous two days, including the Golden State game, due to a stomach illness.  Carlisle mentioned the big man is not at 100%, but they are hopeful that Chandler will be available for Thursday.

There is another side to the match-up on Thursday: returning faces from the past.  The Mavericks will get to see Devin Harris, the same Devin Harris they traded to get Jason Kidd in February of 2008.  The more intriguing return though is the return of Avery Johnson, former Mavericks Head Coach.  Johnson coached the Mavericks for three and a half seasons, with a 194-70 record and one visit to the NBA Finals in 2006.  Avery fondly remembers the day he became the head coach.  Don Nelson informed him at 9 am that he would become the new coach and at the 11am shootaround, Nelson gave Johnson a whistle and the transition was made.

"The coaches that have told you it doesn't mean anything and it's just a regular game, that's a complete lie," said Avery Johnson.  "This is not just another game."  Avery doesn't mean that to spite the Mavericks- he still has great relationships with the members of the team that still remain during his coaching stint.  He just knows Thursday will be special, coaching against the Mavericks, the team with whom he got his first coaching opportunity.

Coach Johnson said that there will be a change in the rotation and starting line-up, likely coinciding with the return of Terrence Williams coming back to the team after his stint in the D-League.  Williams was assigned to the Springfield Armor in Massachusetts on Nov. 26 after being deactivated for two games for disciplinary reasons after being late to multiple practices, shootarounds and meetings. The Nets, though, insisted Williams' demotion was about playing time, which he got plenty of in Springfield. He averaged 41.7 minutes in three games, and averaged 28 points, 11.3 rebounds and 10.7 assists there.

Jason Terry attributes a lot of his success as a player towards Avery, who coached him and showed him how to be a leader.  "(Avery) coming back here is going to be a little emotional, but once we jump that ball up, (we will) put emotion behind us and get it on."  Carlisle understands the moment, but understands the task at hand, "We've got to play a basketball game against their basketball team and that's the thing we've got to focus on."

The Mavericks hope to extend their winning streak to 11 games on Thursday Night, the game will be at 7:30 CST.

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