Monday , Aug , 07 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Mavs have been busy

(Sports Network) – Even though the Dallas Mavericks are fresh off of their
first NBA Finals appearance in team history, they are not taking the summer
off to enjoy the success that they achieved during the 2005-06 campaign. They
have tweaked their roster this offseason in preparation for another serious
run at a Western Conference title.

Dallas fell short in its bid to win the championship, as the Mavericks lost
in six games to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. However, they had an
impressive run to make it to the finals, sweeping Memphis in round one,
eliminating San Antonio in seven in the conference semis and beating Phoenix
in six in the West finals.

All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had a strong showing in the postseason,
led the Mavericks in scoring (26.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg) during
the regular season, while guard Jason Terry had his best season as a pro and
registered 17.1 points and a team-best 3.8 assists per game in 80 contests.

Forward Josh Howard stepped up in his third year in the league, as the Wake
Forest product contributed a career-best 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 59
games. Howard has proved to Dallas management as well as the rest of the
league that he is a rising star.

Howard, Nowitzki and Terry are the building blocks for the Dallas franchise.
The 28-year-old Terry received a lucrative, multi-year contract extension in
late July that should keep him in a Mavericks’ uniform for a long time. The
team will most definitely try and do the same with Howard and Nowitzki.

Surrounding Howard, Nowitzki and Terry with players who can balance out the
roster in a more efficient way is what Dallas has attempted to do during the

The Mavericks made a pair of trades with Indiana. First they dealt swingman
Marquis Daniels to the Pacers in exchange for veteran forward Austin Croshere.
The second deal brought point guard Anthony Johnson to Dallas for 38-year-old
guard Darrell Armstrong, Josh Powell and Rawle Marshall.

Johnson, 31, was Indiana’s best player in the 2006 playoffs. The 6-3 Johnson,
who will be playing for his seventh different franchise, averaged 20.0 points,
5.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists during the Pacers first-round series versus New
Jersey, which was won by the Nets in six games. Johnson will compete with
Terry and Devin Harris for playing time.

Croshere will fill the void was created by the departure of forward Keith Van
Horn, who is an unrestricted free agent and is expected to ink a deal with a
new team.

Swingman Devean George and guard Greg Buckner signed with the Mavericks as
free agents. The 6-8 George, who won three championships as a member of the
Los Angeles Lakers, can play small forward or shooting guard and adds
athleticism to Dallas’ bench, while Buckner is known for his defense, which is
something that the Mavericks have decided to play under head coach Avery

Buckner, Croshere, George and Johnson are not stars, but they are solid role
players who will help the Mavericks. Unlike year’s past, Dallas is not trying
to simply put together the most impressive roster on paper, it is trying to
build the best basketball team.

Points and the big shot when the game is on the line will come from either
Howard, Nowitzki or Terry. Harris and 6-6 swingman Jerry Stackhouse will be
expected to contribute on both ends of the court. Center is not a strong
point, but Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop know what is expected of them.

Avery Johnson is coaching a basketball team that has its stars and role
players. The Mavericks didn’t need to make major moves in the offseason, but
they did make some smart deals that make them one of the preseason favorites
to represent the West in the 2007 finals.

It’s been a product offseason for the Mavericks.