Friday , Nov , 14 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

Dangerous Mavs starting to mesh

(Sports Network) – The Dallas Mavericks finished 60-22 in 2002-03 and made it
to the Western Conference finals before losing in six games to the eventual
NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

Even after a successful run, the Mavs still were active in the offseason.

On August 18, the Mavs made their first blockbuster move. Dallas sent Nick Van
Exel along with Evan Eschmeyer, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones and Antoine
Rigaudeau to the Golden State Warriors for Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Danny
Fortson and Jiri Welsch.

The second trade came on October 20, as the Mavericks acquired Antoine Walker
and Tony Delk from the Boston Celtics for Raef LaFrentz, Welsch, Mills and
Dallas’ first round selection in the 2004 NBA Draft.

Nine games into the 2003-04 season, it looks like the new-look Mavericks have
learned how to play together.

On Thursday, Dallas defeated Western Conference rival Houston, 97-86, at
American Airlines Center for its third straight win and improved to a
respectable 6-3 on the young season.

The Mavs were led by two-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a
team-high 23 points and grabbed five rebounds.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said. “Nowitzki was also
ill. He looked about as white as I’ve ever seen him look.”

Walker scored 17 points, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and dished out seven
assists in 35 minutes against Houston, while Jamison came off the bench and
scored 13 points and pulled down eight boards in 23 minutes of action.

“As long as we continue to move the ball the way we do and find guys for easy
shots and make the game easier for all of us, the sky’s the limit on how good
we can be,” Walker told the Star-Telegram after Thursday’s game. “Obviously,
some nights every shot is not going to fall, but if we keep playing defense
the way we have been playing, we can be a very good basketball team.”

The 27-year-old Walker and Jamison, who is also 27, were the key additions
for the Mavs.

A three-time All-Star, Walker, who was selected out of Kentucky by the Celtics
in the first round (sixth pick overall) of the 1996 NBA Draft, is averaging
16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists so far for the Mavs. He is also
shooting a solid 46.3 percent from the field to go along with 32.4 percent
from beyond the arc.

Jamison, who started 311 of 336 games in five seasons for the Warriors, has
not made a start for Dallas this season. Nelson has used Jamison as the Mavs’
first man off the bench.

A North Carolina product, Jamison was selected after his junior season by the
Toronto Raptors in the first round (fourth pick overall) of 1998 NBA Draft.
His draft rights were traded by the Raptors to Golden State for the draft
rights to Vince Carter and cash.

Walker, who has a reputation of taking wild shots caused by selfish play, and
Jamison seem to be adjusting to their new surroundings. In Boston, Walker
teamed with Paul Pierce to form a lethal one-two punch on the offensive end of
the court, while Jamison was the go-to guy in Golden State.

Now, there is Nowitzki, high-flying Michael Finley and point guard Steve Nash
to share the ball with. Just like Nowitzki, Finley and Nash are both two-time
All-Stars.

Even though it is early, Jamison is averaging just 13.1 points, which is down
from the 22.2 he averaged last season for the Warriors, while Walker, who
averaged just under 18 shots per-night in Boston last season, is taking just
about 12 attempts per-contest.

The 25-year-old Nowitzki leads the Mavs in scoring (20.6 ppg), while Nash is
averaging 13.0 points and a team-best 7.8 assists. Finley is fifth on the team
at 12.1 points-per-game.

The Mavs kept their nucleus and were able to add two players to the roster
that could be the go-to guys on any team in the NBA.

Everyone is making sacrifices in Dallas, and it seems to be working. Look out
Western Conference!

DAL