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Rockets-Mavericks Preview


Rockets-Mavericks Preview
The Houston Rockets' season-opener wasn't the championship blueprint they hope to follow this season, but it was a win.

Now they're hoping for another victory Thursday in Dallas, where the Mavericks kick off their season.

In the much-anticipated Houston debut of Ron Artest, the Rockets defeated Memphis 82-71 on Wednesday night. Yao Ming had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Artest and Tracy McGrady scored 16 points apiece and Luis Scola added a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Houston (1-0) won despite shooting 36.8 percent from the floor, getting outrebounded 49-44 and totaling more turnovers (12) than assists (10).

"I'm actually glad this game was pretty close, so we won't get ahead of ourselves and think we've arrived," McGrady said. "I'll take any win. But we've still got a long ways to go. We can see that we're not there yet."

While many expect the Rockets to contend for the Western Conference title, it's still uncertain how the Mavericks will respond to new coach Rick Carlisle.

Carlisle, who has a 281-211 career record in six seasons with Detroit and Indiana, took over after Avery Johnson was fired on April 30 following the Mavericks' first-round playoff loss to the New Orleans Hornets - the second straight season Dallas failed to reach the Western Conference semifinals.

"This is something that needed to happen," said Johnson, who had a 194-70 regular-season record in three-plus seasons with the Mavericks. "There's no animosity or bitterness. We all still really care about each other, but it was time to go in a different direction. ... We didn't win the championship, but if you look at the whole body of work that we put together over the last 3 1/2 years ... we'll put it up against anybody."

Johnson led the Mavericks to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2006, but failed to close out the Miami Heat after taking a 2-0 series lead. The Mavericks won a franchise-best 67 games the following season, but No. 8 seed Golden State knocked them out in six games in the opening round of the playoffs.

Although it was a summer of reflecting upon a 51-31 season and another early playoff exit, second-team All-NBA selection Dirk Nowitzki is primed for his 11th season in Dallas.

"Every coaching change brings fresh air," the forward said. "It's been fun so far. He wants us to still have the same attitude Avery had here - be a tough, physical team - we're just trying to run a little more."

Leading that push is Jason Kidd. After being acquired from New Jersey in February, the veteran point guard averaged 9.9 points and 9.5 assists in 29 regular-season games for Dallas. After getting thoroughly outplayed by Hornets counterpart Chris Paul in the playoffs, Kidd is thrilled at the chance of starting fresh with Carlisle's offense.

"I'm excited about it because there's so many different options and it puts guys in so many different places," said Kidd, who is in the final year of a six-year, $103.6 million deal. "Reggie (Miller, who played for Carlisle in Indiana) said that Coach is going to put you in a place to be successful and that's all you can ask for."

During his introductory news conference in May, Carlisle promised to let Kidd attack with the ball, but added, "Having said all that about the offensive end, we've got to be passionate and vigilant about preserving what Avery did here in establishing the defensive end. This team didn't get to the championship round until they really made a commitment defensively."

Dallas ranked sixth in the NBA last season with 95.9 points allowed per game, but gave up 102.8 per game in the playoffs.

Josh Howard will be a critical piece to Carlisle's defensive strategy, that is, if he can stay out of trouble. Howard, who begins his sixth season after posting career highs in points (19.9) and rebounds (7.0) in 2007-08, was arrested this summer for drag racing in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., then caused further controversy after being filmed during Allen Iverson's July charity football game saying, "The Star-Spangled Banner is going on. I don't celebrate this (expletive). I'm black."

"He's one of our really important guys, without question," Carlisle said. "He's a guy that's going to have a lot of motivation to play well, too."

Dallas signed DeSagana Diop to a five-year, $31 million deal after dealing him to New Jersey in the Kidd trade.

"We'll have to wait and see if (a coaching change) is what we needed or if it was the players," Nowitzki said. "It should be a fun, exciting year."

McGrady had 31 points in Houston's 113-98 road victory over the Mavericks on March 8, just the team's second in its last 12 games at Dallas.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 30, 2008

 

 
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