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
But we have seen this from the Mavs before. Regular-season success in Dallas is nothing new. In 2006-07, the Mavs won an NBA-best 67 games, only to be wiped out in the first round by the eighth-seeded Warriors. They won 51 games the next season, but were once again blitzed out of the opening round, this time by New Orleans, which won in five games. Last season they managed to advance, but were then dumped by Denver in five games in the Western Conference semifinals.
So why should this season be any different?
It's simple: The massive pre-deadline trade didn't just make them a better team; it made them a tougher team, too. And toughness, in case you haven't been watching, is a necessary ingredient to any championship mix.
That's not to say the Mavs' teams of recent history were totally devoid of toughness.
But Dallas' newcomers have added a different dynamic. Take Butler, for example. At 6-foot-7 and 228 pounds, Butler doesn't have overwhelming size for a swingman. But with 6.3 rebounds per game, he ranks behind only
Stevenson, while not much of an offensive threat, shares several of the same qualities. The Mavs' crowded rotation hasn't left many minutes for the rough-and-tumble swingman, but ask
It's Haywood, though, who could eventually make the biggest difference. Stability has not often been associated with the Mavs' center position. Dampier has been a model of inconsistency, and for years the Mavs went with Gooden/
Haywood, however, is an even better alternative. He has been consistent, rarely having an off night. Haywood has played 24-plus minutes in 10 of 12 games with Dallas. His worst full game was a seven-point, six-rebound, one-block effort against Charlotte. His best was a 13-point, 20-rebound game against Indiana.
Defensively, Haywood has been a giant. He is tied for third in the league with 2.1 blocks, and his presence in the middle has been noticeable. With Haywood backstopping the defense against New Jersey on Wednesday, the Nets went 3-for-21 from the field at the start of the second half and were outscored 31-15 in the game-breaking quarter. The 1-2 punch of Haywood and Dampier in the middle ensures that Dallas will always have a 7-footer as its last line of defense.
"That's definitely a big plus for us," Marion
By "everyone," of course, Marion is implicitly referring to the Lakers. Every West contender views the defending champions as the the inevitable obstacle on its path to the Finals. With