SI's 2008-09 NBA Scouting Reports
Dallas Mavericks
Projected Finish: 6th in Western Conference
The 30-year-old Dirk Nowitzki remains the primary half-court scorer on a team that will try to run more.
Greg Nelson/SI
Fast Fact
Last Season

The players welcome a coaching change, but now they have to find a new way to play

Though the season has yet to tip off and every team is talkingrainbows and butterflies, it's not a stretch to say that the Mavericks' RickCarlisle era is already a success. According to The Dallas Morning News,several players became so frustrated last season under coach Avery Johnson thatthey asked to be traded. Owner Mark Cuban fired Johnson in April and broughtCarlisle aboard 10 days later. "I thought [the hiring] was a great thing," saysAll-Star point guard Jason Kidd, who became a weakside jump shooter underJohnson. "The big thing is, Rick has won everywhere he has gone."

For Carlisle, who compiled a 492-281 (.636) record over six seasons with thePistons and the Pacers, the Mavs may be his toughest challenge to date. Theyhave bombed out in the first round in the past two seasons, they aresignificantly over the salary cap and they have seemingly been passed in thealready tough Western Conference by the Hornets and the Rockets, amongothers.

Carlisle's main problem will be the same one that plagued Johnson: how tointegrate an up-tempo point guard with a roster -- led by 2007 MVP DirkNowitzki -- that is better suited to the half-court. "What we would like to be is abit of a hybrid-type team," Carlisle says, "one that can be a very good defenseand rebounding team on one hand and on the other hand be able to get the ball upthe court quickly for easy baskets."

Can he make that happen? "My experience has been that if you have a veteranteam with pride and motivation," Carlisle says, "they shouldn't be written off." -- Gene Menez


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