|Mavericks know they have critics, but they aren't listening to them|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 14 December 2007 11:25|
And just as they always have, Avery Johnson and his players will continue ignoring them.
``Last year we were winning 17 in a row and 16 (actually 13) in a row, and the loud voices said it's just the regular season. Now we've lost a few games, now the loud voices has another opinion,'' Johnson said. ``When you're a championship-caliber team, the voices are always going to be loud. The criticism is always going to be loud, but the rewards, the potential for the rewards, can be great.
``I would imagine Phoenix has some loud voices, San Antonio probably not as much because they're the four-time champion and that's what happens when you win championships. But for the rest of us, like the Clevelands and us and Phoenix and teams like that, voices are going to always be loud until you actually, you know, get over the hump. That's a part of this process.''
The problem for the Mavs is that process has included two straight playoff flameouts, giving plenty of ammunition to the critics who question their mental toughness. Dallas blew a 2-0 lead - and a big cushion late in Game 3 - while falling to Miami in six games in the 2006 NBA finals.
Dallas bounced back to win 67 games last season, then was eliminated by eighth-seeded Golden State in the first round, one of the biggest upsets in postseason history. That was enough for the skeptics who said the Mavs couldn't bring back the same core group for 2007-08.
``Some things are going to always come,'' Johnson said. ``When we took over as coach, the voices were, 'Well, we didn't know if the new guy could win with this team.' And then once we started winning, then, 'We don't know if Dirk (Nowitzki) is the MVP.' Then he was the MVP.
``Then, 'We don't know if Josh Howard is an All-Star.' Then he's an All-Star. 'We don't know if he can get 40 (points).' Now he's gotten 40. So there's always going to be some voice. That's a part of what we sign up for and I love it.''
To quiet those voices, the Mavs will have to play better. After a 92-76 loss Wednesday to Toronto, Dallas was only 5-5 in its last 10 games, 5-7 on the road, and had fallen into third place in the Southwest Division.
But for those who think that means Dallas should make a run at Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, or some other All-Star who could become available, the Mavs are paying no attention.
``It's nothing new to us,'' guard Jason Terry said. ``We know we're a championship team and through the course of a season you're going to go through ups and downs, and that's what it's all about. It's about the long journey and what makes you tough. And these times right now make you tough for the playoffs that are ahead.''
SUMMER SCHOOL: Like many draft picks, Kevin Durant prepared for the start of his NBA career by playing in the Las Vegas summer league.
The Seattle rookie later received even better training in Vegas.
Durant was in camp with the United States national team, competing against players on the roster that rolled through the FIBA Americas tournament to clinch a spot in the 2008 Olympics.
``They were all behind me a hundred percent. A lot of guys treated me like I was a younger brother, gave me tips and we're still friends to this day,'' Durant said. ``I think that's one of the biggest things, just getting to pick from them guys' heads, a player like Kobe or Michael Redd or Carmelo or LeBron. Just ask them how they're surviving in this league and what's the things they need to do to be successful.''
Besides learning from them, Durant quickly showed he could play with them.
He scored 22 points, helping his team rally for a 105-104 victory in the Americans' intrasquad exhibition - a game Jason Kidd said was better than the All-Star game. Durant ended up being one of the last two players cut for the Olympic qualifying roster, but coach Mike Krzyzewski said the No. 2 pick in the draft would be considered for the team next year.
``It helped me out a lot playing against guys like that in practice, going hard,'' Durant said. ``It was like an All-Star game, every practice, but more intense, more defense and more teaching. So it helped me out a lot. I was just blessed and fortunate to be in that position to play against the best players in the world.''
JAZZ IT UP: The Utah Jazz are getting an earful from their fans. Or, maybe it's an eyeful.
The Jazz have created an interactive Web site for fans who want more than player bios and statistics. And they can comment about the team, whether what they have to say is positive or negative.
``We just decided, 'Hey, it's in our best interest to let fans tell us what they're thinking,''' said Eric Shulz, Jazz vice president for marketing.
Jazzbots.com features blogs from 20 contest winners who applied over the summer, Jazz dancers and guest writers such as coaches and players. But fans who aren't among the designated bloggers can also chime in with comments on the blogs or the team itself.
The site started with the season and Shulz said so far no comments have been kept off the site. He said every contribution is screened for language, but not subject matter.
``I have no problem posting criticism,'' he said.
The Internet is full of forums for fans who want to vent on just about any topic, but sports franchises generally leave it to other sites rather than the team page. This one is officially sanctioned and there's a link to it on utahjazz.com.
The Jazz are prepared to take a shot or two if it keeps people buzzing about the team. Now, Salt Lake City isn't exactly known as a tough sports town. Teams such as the Knicks and 76ers may not want to try this approach until they start winning again.
READ ALL ABOUT THEM: The Boston Celtics are cleaning up on the court - and online.
Fans continue to show their interest in the Celtics, who won 18 of their first 20 games during the NBA's best start. The Celtics' page on NBA.com received the most visits during the first month of the season, helping the site record its best month ever.
NBA.com had more than 153 million visits in November, an 80 percent increase from the same month last year.
Celtics star Kevin Garnett, whose offseason trade to Boston was the key move in Boston's turnaround, was third among all players in visits to his page, behind Cleveland's LeBron James and Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
But Garnett is ahead of James in a more important category: All-Star votes.
Garnett was the leading vote-getter after the first returns were announced this week, with 735,664 votes. James, who received the most votes last season, was second among Eastern Conference forwards with 597,768 votes.
Orlando's Dwight Howard led East centers, with Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade the top guards.
Out West, Bryant and Tracy McGrady topped the voting among guards, while McGrady's Houston teammate, Yao Ming, had a huge lead at center. Carmelo Anthony of Denver and reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas had the top totals among forwards.
Paper balloting runs through Jan. 13, and fans can vote a week longer on NBA.com. The All-Star game is Feb. 17 in New Orleans.
NELLIE'S HUMOR: Don Nelson jokingly acted as if he were irked Tuesday night at Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a former assistant under Nelson during the coach's first stint at Golden State in the '90s.
``Is that the guy that hasn't even called me?'' Nellie said before the Warriors handed Popovich and the defending champion Spurs only their fourth defeat of the year, 96-84. ``The guy I was looking forward to having dinner with last night? Pop, is that his name? I had a nice expensive bottle of wine - not the ripple I usually have.''
Nelson was later asked about the Spurs' tendency to more frequently play his style of small ball, a guard-oriented lineup.
``If he could give me (Tim) Duncan, I wouldn't have to do it all the time,'' Nelson said with a smile.
AP Sports Writers Doug Alden in Salt Lake City and Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., contributed to this report.