Q: This is probably a touchy subject, but you once again came in low on how many wins the Mavs would have. Would you like a mulligan and predict the final record now and if they'll win the division and have the best record in the league?
SEFKO: Not a touchy subject at all. Paraphrasing Bluto in Animal House, "you messed up, you trusted me." And, technically at this writing, they still have 52 wins (before no doubt an obliteration of Houston in a few hours). That's exactly what I predicted.
There's always that off chance they go 0-15 the rest of the way.
But I'll concede that there's a few more wins out there. I do think there are a few more losses, too. I'm figuring on 61-21, which would put them two games behind the Spurs and three behind the Pistons.
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Q: I think the best play I've seen any Mav make this season was an offensive foul by Adrian Griffin. We were playing the Knicks, and Malik Rose was pushing Dirk around every time down the floor. Griffin set an illegal pick and dropped Rose to the ground. Rose was decidedly less aggressive after that. My question is why don't we do that more often? Specifically, why didn't we knock Ron Artest down a few times in the last meeting?
Jim C., Memphis, Tenn.
SEFKO: Have you been reading Avery Johnson's mind?
Hard fouls are supposed to be part of the Mavericks' defensive philosophy. But too often they are an afterthought. Griffin is one of the few players on the team who is comfortable delivering a tough foul just to send a message.
Jerry Stackhouse will do it, too. The one guy who should be doing it but doesn't is Erick Dampier
The 6-11 center is not as strong as his physique would suggest, and while he's been playing solid since settling in as the center off the bench, he still needs to be more physical, as do many of his teammates.
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Q: I'm concerned about the inability to close out fourth quarters. It leads me to question the Mavs' conditioning. If players have the energy to make plays, they'll keep pushing. Could the Mavs be lacking in this area?
SEFKO: Not likely. They are conditioned as well as any other NBA team. Unlike D-Moore and myself, they don't have any "wait" problems. That is, they don't have a bunch of guys who can't wait to eat.
I would point to the numerous games that the Mavericks have pulled out after falling behind by large margins (six times they have overcome deficits of 17 points or more). That seems to indicate their legs and wind are just fine when properly motivated.
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Q: I beg to differ about worst personnel loss by the Mavericks that you mentioned recently. I still think Sam Perkins had a bigger impact when he was lost. Sam could play defense, something still foreign in Dallas. My question is, what is Avery going to do to get Dirk open more in the fourth quarter? Dirk doesn't have the body strength to outmuscle a defender. He needs help getting the ball to be able to do anything.
SEFKO: Interestingly, we've gotten some good feedback on the worst personnel decision in Mavericks history. One fan said it was clearly drafting Detlef Schrempf rather than Karl Malone. And losing Perkins was a poor basketball decision.
But Perkins never won an MVP. And a dozen other teams passed on Malone, too, so the Mavericks weren't the only idiots.
As for your question, you're correct that Nowitzki is not a power player. But he finds ways to score when opponents try to guard him one-on-one. The key is that he needs to be a brilliant passer when the inevitable double-team comes. That would make him look a lot better in those pressure-cooker situations.
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Q: I am curious about Dirk's composure at the end of tough games. The team leader needs to step up in both his play and attitude, rally the team and instill confidence toward the end of close contests against top-notch opponents – that's what an MVP would do. But in the Suns game and in some of the playoff games last year, for example, Dirk seemed to fall apart – getting frustrated, barking at teammates, forcing reckless shots, etc. Is this a legitimate area of concern? Should Avery try to chill him out?
Jay in D.C.
SEFKO: Wow, we're getting into the Dirk-bashing a little early this season. Usually we have to wait until the playoffs for this stuff to start rolling in.
Listen, Nowitzki knows he shouldn't grumble on the court about teammates. But he can't change who he is. When mistakes are made, he shows his emotions. And when he's the one making the mistake, he yells at himself.
But it's not fair to label Dirk as a weak leader just because he goes off on a teammate. He leads by example (a very good example, usually) and it's only reasonable that he expects teammates to do the same.
I'll make a prediction now that he's going to be a dynamic leader in the playoffs this season. He learned from the Erick Dampier fiasco of last spring.
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Q: I really like Marquis Daniels' game, and I keep hearing that they are hoping he can be the shooting guard of the future. How can that be when shooting is probably the weakest part of his game?
Kevin P., Fort Worth, Texas
SEFKO: When you have a great-shooting power forward and a point guard who can throw it in consistently from the perimeter, you can get by with a slasher at shooting guard.
Jerry Stackhouse is not the best long-range shooter, either. But he's a very effective shooting guard.
Daniels still gets too casual with the basketball for Avery Johnson's taste. To be a 30-minute player, he's going to have to improve his ball-handling and his defense. But he's got a chance to be a very skilled player who can fill up a box score.
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Q: How do the Mavericks travel? By charter or public transportation? And how is Avery Johnson compensated, by bonuses or commission? And do Nellie and Avery have an ownership stake?
SEFKO: First, only Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner have any ownership stake in the Mavericks.
As for travel, they have a private plane, Maverick 1, that they use to get from city to city. Then they go by a charter bus company on the ground.
As for compensation, Johnson has a base salary of about $2.5 million per season. The fourth year of the contract becomes guaranteed if certain incentives are hit, like reaching the NBA Finals.
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Q: Here's a point I think goes overlooked: The Mavs have seven players who were drafted in the top 10. Has any other team in NBA history had that many top-10 players on its roster at the same time?
SEFKO: We were going to answer this question, but it took too much research.
Off the top of my head, I went to some of the great teams of all time and found out that those Lakers' team of the '80s had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott, Jamaal Wilkes (11th overall), giving them six players drafted 11th or higher.
It's probably happened before, but the research would be overwhelming, especially for two guys like D-Moore and myself who figure if we don't already know something, it's probably not worth knowing.
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