Mavs big man Zaza Pachulia has high hopes for EuroBasket 2015

When Dirk Nowitzki and the German national basketball team take the floor in EuroBasket 2015 this weekend, he won’t be the only Maverick competing for his country with a trip to the Olympics on the line. In fact, Nowitzki won’t even be the biggest Maverick in Europe during the competition.

That honor belongs to new Maverick Zaza Pachulia, the 270-pound center Dallas acquired from Milwaukee via trade this summer. The 31-year-old Pachulia has played for his native Georgia in European competition since 1999, but his club has never reached the Olympics. So while Nowitzki is looking for one more hurrah with his countrymen, Pachulia will be seeking to clinch his nation’s first-ever berth in the men’s basketball competition. To a player known for his toughness and revered for his physicality, the opportunity must be exciting.

Pachulia’s most recent appearances for his country came earlier this summer, as he and Georgia sought to qualify for EuroBasket. During the second qualifying round, he averaged 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game as Georgia went 4-2 in the competition. He ranked third in offensive rebounds per game (3.3) and second in free throws made per game (6.2) during the qualifying round.

The new Maverick figures to play an important role at EuroBasket for a Georgian team looking to improve on past results. After finishing 11th at EuroBasket 2011 (the above YouTube video was made during that tournament), the club dropped to 17th in 2013. The two finalists at this summer’s tournament automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but teams finishing 3-7 in the competition will advance to one of three future qualifying tournaments where they will play against teams from other regions of the world, including Africa and the Americas.

Notable names joining Pachulia on the Georgian roster, which was officially announced Monday, include former Brooklyn Net and Chicago Bull Tornike Shengelia and Kansas State standout Jacob Pullen. Shengelia, 23, averaged 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds last season for Laboral Kutxa of the Spanish ACB League. Pullen, meanwhile, was an AP Third-Team All-American for the Wildcats in 2011. He’s currently under contract with Serbian club Cedevita Zagreb for the upcoming season.

Georgia will have a demanding qualifying schedule, with group matches against Greece, Croatia, and Slovenia among others. Four of the six teams in each of four groups advance to the 16-team elimination round. Georgia ranks 54th in the FIBA world rankings, and 23rd among European countries. Four of Georgia’s five group opponents are ranked higher. It will take both mental fortitude and plenty of grit to upset some of the best teams in Europe, but that’s Pachulia’s calling card.

Due to the way the bracket is set up, the earliest Pachulia could face off against his current teammate Nowitzki would be the quarterfinals. That, of course, isn’t the case for teammates Dwight Powell and J.J. Barea, who will square off tonight on the final day of group play at the FIBA Americas Championship.

It’s been a busy summer for international basketball as qualification for next summer’s Olympics heats up. Center Salah Mejri, signed by the Mavs this summer, just wrapped up his play with the Tunisian national team at AfroBasket, during which he averaged 10.2 points and 7.0 rebounds as his country placed third. There’s also the possibility that Mejri will get to face off against some of his new teammates in future Olympic qualifying events depending on the fates of Nowitzki’s Germany, Pachulia’s Georgia, Powell’s Canada, and Barea’s Puerto Rico.

For younger players in terms of experience like Powell and Mejri, getting as much playing time as possible, whatever the context, is certainly helpful to their development. On the other hand, veterans like Nowitzki and Pachulia can use the qualifying games not only as tune-ups for the regular season, but also as a reason to start hitting the gym earlier in the summer. Nowitzki, in particular, has said he usually takes some time off each June and July before ramping up his training as the season draws near. But with as much on the line as there is in Olympic qualification tournaments, vets work harder in the summer, earlier in the summer, to get ready to roll. So once training camp starts, the expectation is that Nowitzki, Pachulia, and the rest of the international gang will be in excellent playing shape so they can hit the ground running.

That’s exactly what Georgia must do at EuroBasket, as well. Its first game is against the Netherlands, the only club in the group ranked lower in the FIBA world rankings. It will be important for Pachulia and his teammates to grab that win early and use it as momentum later in the tournament. Its next game, for example, is against Slovenia, the 13th-ranked team in the world. However, with a motivated Pachulia and talent around him, perhaps this is the year Georgia can reach the Olympics and Pachulia can realize his dream.

Below is Georgia’s EuroBasket 2015 schedule. All games can be watched on ESPN3, and all times are Central.

Date Opponent Tipoff (CT) Location
Sept. 5 vs. Netherlands 8 a.m. Zagreb, Croatia
Sept. 6 vs. Slovenia 11 a.m. Zagreb, Croatia
Sept. 8 vs. Greece 11 a.m. Zagreb, Croatia
Sept. 9 vs. MKD 11 a.m. Zagreb, Croatia
Sept. 10 vs. Croatia 11 a.m. Zagreb, Croatia

Mavs’ new additions share desire to bring title back to Dallas

DALLAS — Although they all join the Dallas Mavericks on different paths that led them to town, new additions Deron Williams, JaVale McGee and Wesley Matthews share a common goal of bringing the NBA title back to Big D.

Matthews was the first key domino to fall for the Mavericks this offseason, signing a reported four-year deal worth $70 million on July 9 to come to Dallas after spending the past five seasons with Portland. Williams, a three-time All-Star and the No. 3 overall pick of the Utah Jazz in the 2005 draft, then signed with the Mavericks as a free agent on July 14, inking a reported two-year deal worth $10 million that includes a player option for the second season. The Mavs later added McGee as a free agent on Aug. 13 with a reported two-year deal worth the league minimum that features a team option in Year 2.

The trio will now attempt to jell when training camp begins on Sept. 29 as the new-look Mavericks look to find themselves back in championship contention this upcoming season.

“A fresh start is what I’m most excited about,” Williams said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com while making an appearance at the organization’s fantasy camp. “You know, playing with this group of guys, I feel like we have a great group of guys here, and so (I’m looking forward to) just getting everybody healthy and getting on the court with them.”

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Williams produced his lowest-scoring output since his rookie campaign last season, averaging 13.0 points, 6.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 31.1 minutes an outing while appearing in 68 games for the Brooklyn Nets. He also shot just 38.7 percent from the field, leading to the eventual buyout talks with the Nets’ front office this summer.

The Colony native made the All-Rookie First Team during his initial season in Utah, joining Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson as only the third player in league history to have at least 1,500 points and 800 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field in a single season. Williams, 31, also captured gold medals with Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Olympic Games in London, in addition to garnering All-NBA Second Team honors in 2008 and 2010.

And after playing for four different coaches during the last 3 1/2 seasons in Brooklyn, Williams now has the fresh start he’s looking for in Dallas while joining forces with 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and championship-winning coach Rick Carlisle.

“I mean, I’m definitely excited about that. You know, there’s definitely a stability about this organization that’s definitely intriguing,” Williams explained. “You know, they have guys that have been here forever, so it’s just about plugging in the new pieces — myself included — and just trying to get to work. But, you know, I’m just excited about this opportunity, and I’m ready to get the season going.”

McGee shares that excitement after two injury-plagued seasons.

The 7-footer holds averages of 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 19.9 minutes per outing during his seven-year career, making 158 starts in 382 total games with Washington, Denver and Philadelphia. He’s also a career 54-percent shooter from the field, giving the Mavs a possible replacement inside for the departing Tyson Chandler.

However, McGee comes to town after playing in just 28 combined games over the last two seasons due to nagging injuries. Still, the 27-year-old says he’s looking forward to joining a winning culture in Dallas as the Mavs try to rekindle their championship form from the ’10-11 campaign.

“It’s definitely a great experience,” McGee said while addressing his addition to the team. “I’m extremely excited to be here, and it’s just a real positive experience. I’m glad to be here. … All I’m looking forward to is winning and winning a championship.”

Matthews has lofty aspirations as well while joining the locker room, experiencing first-hand how the Dallas front office has successfully built a team in the past after his Portland squad fell to the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs in 2011 en route to the title.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Matthews entered the league as an undrafted rookie teammate of Williams in Utah six years ago, holding career averages of 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 441 games since while making 381 starts during his time with the Jazz and the Trail Blazers. He now leaves Portland as the Trail Blazers’ career leader in three-point field goals with 826 makes from behind the arc, hoping to continue that personal success with the Mavs.

Matthews finished the ’14-15 campaign averaging 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals prior to suffering a torn left Achilles tendon against the Mavericks on March 5 that brought his season to an end after only 60 games. The 28-year-old now vows to be ready by Opening Night in Phoenix on Oct. 28 as the Mavs hope to begin another championship chase.

With that said, the sharpshooter knows the Mavericks will have a daunting road ahead in the Western Conference’s Southwest Division as they attempt to again reign supreme by season’s end.

“You know, I came to Dallas with one intention, and that’s to win. And I’m excited about it. … You know, the year they won it, they knocked us [the Trail Blazers] out. I want a ring, I want jewelry, I want hardware, and I feel like we can do that here,” Matthews confidently proclaimed.

He added: “You know, the West is a monster. I’m most excited about our division. I mean, this has got to be one of the most competitive and toughest divisions in all of sports. It wasn’t going to be easy regardless, and we don’t want it to be easy. Any kind of competitor doesn’t want it to be easy, but we know that we’re confident and we know that we’re going to do everything in our power to get to where we want to get to.”

Mavs put the fan back in Fantasy Camp

One-on-one with Deron Williams

Deron Williams dishes on his transition to Dallas, playing for Rick Carlisle, reuniting with Wes Matthews, the Mavs Fantasy Camp and much more.

Are you the go-to guy on your pick-up team? Are you a legend at your neighborhood YMCA? Ever wanted an NBA coach to draw up a last-second shot for you? Or maybe sign a contract with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle looking on?

If the answer to any of those questions was “yes” (or “duh”) then you’ve got to check out Mavs Fantasy Camp presented by Citi, which gives adult ballers ages 23 and up and from all backgrounds a chance to lace ’em up and take the floor with some of the top coaches in the game.

Thirty-five players attended yesterday’s camp, exclusively for Citi Cardmembers. The morning kicked off with a group breakfast before each player met Carlisle and the rest of the Mavs coaching staff. Then, each player inked a one-day contract with the Mavs and took the floor for warm-ups and skills training with the coaches.

Throughout the morning, attendees had the chance to meet with rookie Justin Anderson and new point guard Deron Williams for an open Q&A session. The two Mavs answered all sorts of questions, from what life is like in Dallas, to their thoughts on the roster, to what they think they can bring to the club this season. Williams made sure to remind the campers that Anderson is just a rookie so he doesn’t know the ways of the pros just yet, a small way of hazing the young wing. One camper later challenged Anderson to make a difficult fadeaway three-pointer from the corner, and Anderson simply couldn’t get the shot to fall. There was plenty of playful banter back and forth in between drills.

“I know the guys that participated really appreciated that,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got good guys, year in and year out. Our guys are high-character. They like to make the fan experience as special as possible.”

Chandler Parsons, Devin Harris, and new guard Wes Matthews also stopped by to offer words of encouragement — or just to show off. After putting some shots up himself, Parsons launched a couple three-pointers from the top of the Mavericks practice facility. He made his second attempt and then danced out of the gym. Earlier in the day, he let the campers in on some breaking news: At the beginning of this week he began some more intense drills, after taking the last two weeks or so to find his shooting rhythm. Mavs fans rarely get the opportunity to joke around with and learn from the pros, but this was one of those chances.

After a quick lunch break, the 35 players were split up into four teams for a single-elimination championship tournament. Each team was led by two Mavs coaches, including Kaleb Canales, new assistant Melvin Hunt, former Maverick Darrell Armstrong, and Mavs legend Brad Davis. Radio play-by-play voice Chuck Cooperstein even stopped by to announce the championship game, which featured teams coached by Canales, assisted by Mike Procopio, and Armstrong, who worked with Mike Shedd.

Canales’ team won an overtime thriller to reach the finals, while Armstrong’s recovered well in the semifinals after a slow start to clinch a spot in the championship game. Behind a strong scoring performance by Thomas Merritt, a 6-foot-2 wing from Cedar Park, and the smooth play of Trung Tran, a 5-foot-10 guard from Garland, Armstrong’s team took the trophy in convincing fashion. Merritt was named Finals MVP, at one point scoring 10 straight points for his club.

“Honestly it’s a dream come true,” Merritt said when reflecting on his performance and the event. “I’ve been a Mavs fan since Brad Davis was playing, so it’s great. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m really grateful to be able to be here, listen to Coach Carlisle, go behind the scenes, and see the locker room and some of the players. It’s been fantastic.”

Before the games began, all players took part in a free throw and three-point shooting competition. Winners of each, along with the MVP Merritt, received an autographed picture of Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. The day wrapped up with a trophy presentation and a happy hour in the Old No. 7 Club.

It was hard not to be inspired by Armstrong’s enthusiasm from the sideline. He frequently stormed the court to high-five his players after a nice sequence, or even to help up guys who dove on the floor after loose balls. He may or may not have argued a call here or there, as well, pleading to the referee to award free throws after loose-ball fouls. His enthusiasm was contagious.

“You can’t not get energized,” Merritt joked when assessing his coach’s influence. “It’s just amazing how he gets you going. I’d like to use him as an alarm clock in the morning.”

What the camp attendees might not realize is that Armstrong is that energetic all the time. At Mavs practices, for example, he’s notorious for boisterously ringing a bell after a player makes a certain number of buckets in shooting drills. He even occasionally takes the floor for 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 drills with younger players. The campers were getting the real deal at the American Airlines Center — pro drills led by pro minds working hard to coach their guys up.

“We’re simulating a day in the life of being a Maverick,” Carlisle said. “We’re putting them through as much of the stuff as we can. It’s not gonna be exact, but it’s pretty darn close. This has been a great experience for us, putting this on.

“It’s something we look forward to every year,” he added. “This group did an outstanding job.”

The next Mavs Fantasy Camp will take place next year. If you’ve ever wanted a crack at catching Carlisle’s attention, earning praise from an NBA coach, or driving the lane for a finish at the rim on the AAC hardwood, you won’t want to miss out.

JaVale McGee says his athleticism sets him apart at Mavs’ center position

One-on-one with JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee comments on the skillset he brings to the Mavs, his health, how excited he is for the opportunity to play in Dallas and more.

DALLAS — After playing in just 28 combined games over the last two NBA seasons due to nagging injuries, new Dallas Mavericks center JaVale McGee says he was led to the team this offseason by its exceptional training staff.

However, with a goal of taking the court at 100 percent this upcoming season, McGee also acknowledges that he has something to offer the Mavericks as they attempt to fill the void at center following the free-agent departure of Tyson Chandler to Phoenix.

McGee holds career averages of 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 19.9 minutes per outing during his seven-year career, making 158 starts in 382 total games with Washington, Denver and Philadelphia. He’s also a career 54-percent shooter from the field, showcasing an ability to finish above the rim with flair.

Suiting up in only five games for the Nuggets during the 2013-14 season, McGee comes to Dallas with concerns about his health following only 23 appearances for Denver and Philadelphia during the ’14-15 schedule. He now hopes to have a bounce-back season with the Mavs, looking to challenge for the starting center spot during training camp before attempting to capture the NBA title with his new team.

“It’s definitely a great experience,” McGee said while addressing his addition to the team Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Mavs.com.

He added: “I’m extremely excited to be here, and it’s just a real positive experience. I’m glad to be here. … All I’m looking forward to is winning and winning a championship.”

Playing in 17 games with the Nuggets and six with the 76ers, McGee averaged 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 11.1 minutes per contest last season before being waived by Philadelphia in March. He then signed with the Mavericks as a free agent on Aug. 13, inking a reported two-year deal worth the league minimum with a team option in Year 2.

McGee now plans to lean on the expertise of Mavs head athletic trainer Casey Smith to get back on the court, vowing to showcase the athleticism that made him an attractive prospect for the Dallas front office in free agency.

“That was one of the major things about (signing with the Mavericks),” McGee confessed. “With how good the training staff is and all the training materials that they have and other teams don’t have, it’s definitely a good thing.

“I’m definitely getting back to that elite level. The injuries really slowed me down, so I’m definitely going to get 100 percent healthy and come out and give it my all.”

The 7-foot, 270-pound McGee comes from an NBA pedigree with his father, George Montgomery, being selected in the second round of the 1985 draft by Portland and his mother, Pamela McGee, playing in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Sparks and Sacramento Monarchs. He also possesses a 7-6 wingspan, which could be beneficial to the Mavericks at both ends of the floor.

McGee played two colligate seasons at Nevada, averaging 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore campaign before being taken with the 18th overall selection by Washington in the 2008 draft. The 27-year-old is now expected to compete with fellow new additions ZaZa Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert and Salah Mejri in training camp as the Mavs look to fill the void of Chandler inside with a collection of big bodies.

And with his prior injuries now in his rearview mirror, McGee says his athleticism will quickly set him apart from the rest of the players at his position on the Mavs’ roster.

“Well, I definitely feel like we’re different players, the centers that we have, so it’s definitely going to be good competition,” McGee explained. “But that’s what basketball is for, competition, so it’s definitely going to make us all better.

“It’s definitely a positive thing, being a leaper as I am and a shot blocker and a dunker, so that’s definitely what teams need. I’m just somebody who keeps it simple, who dunks the ball, blocks shots and is just a presence in the paint. … [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] just wants me to keep it simple, and just play as hard as I can and be a presence in the paint.”

Deron Williams looks forward to ‘fresh start’ with Mavs

One-on-one with Deron Williams

Deron Williams dishes on his transition to Dallas, playing for Rick Carlisle, reuniting with Wes Matthews, the Mavs Fantasy Camp and much more.

DALLAS — After seeing his production take a slight dip last season with the Brooklyn Nets before eventually negotiating a buyout this summer, three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams says he’s looking forward to beginning the 2015-16 campaign with a clean slate.

Last season, Williams produced his lowest-scoring output since his rookie campaign, averaging 13.0 points, 6.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 31.1 minutes an outing while appearing in 68 games for the Nets. He also shot just 38.7 percent from the field, leading to the eventual buyout talks with the Nets’ front office this summer.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound floor general then promptly signed with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent on July 14, inking a reported two-year deal worth $10 million that includes a player option for the second season. Now, Williams says he’s excited to regain his All-Star form while trying to engineer the Mavericks back to the postseason.

“Just getting started, man. A fresh start is what I’m most excited about,” Williams said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com while making an appearance at the organization’s fantasy camp. “You know, playing with this group of guys, I feel like we have a great group of guys here, and so (I’m looking forward to) just getting everybody healthy and getting on the court with them.”

He added: “It’s been a great transition for me. You know, it’s tough to pick up and move that quick and find schools for your kids and all that. But, as far as what’s going on here, these guys have been great and helping. The transition has been really smooth, and I’m excited about this season.”

Williams, the No. 3 overall pick of the Utah Jazz in the 2005 NBA Draft, made the All-Rookie First Team. He also joined Magic Johnson and Kevin Johnson his rookie year as only the third player in league history to have at least 1,500 points and 800 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field in a single season. Teaming with fellow newcomer Wesley Matthews during the ’09-10 season while with Utah, Williams now expects for his transition to be made easier as the two reunite in the Dallas backcourt.

Entering the NBA as an undrafted rookie with the Jazz, Matthews suited up in all 82 games and made 48 starts in what proved to be Williams’ last full season in Utah. Assisting Williams in leading the 53-win Jazz to the second round before being swept by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, Matthews averaged 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.7 minutes per game as a rookie. Matthews also connected on a career-best 48.3 percent from the field in the process and 38.2 percent from behind the arc.

Matthews then went on to average 13.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 37.1 minutes per outing while starting all 10 of Utah’s playoff games that season. And after seeing Matthews come of age during his five seasons in Portland prior to signing a reported four-year deal worth $70 million this summer to come to Dallas, Williams now expects for the two to quickly rekindle their chemistry on the court.

“It’s going to be different (playing with Matthews),” Williams jokingly admitted. “You know, he was my rook then, so I was treating him a little different than I have to treat him now. But we’ve been friends and we’ve stayed in contact throughout the years, so I’m definitely excited about playing with him again.”

Capturing gold medals with Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Williams also garnered All-NBA Second Team honors in 2008 and 2010. However, after playing for four different coaches in the last 3 1/2 seasons in Brooklyn, the 31-year-old Williams says it’s the stability of the Dallas locker room that has him eager for the upcoming campaign as he slides into Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s starting lineup.

The Colony native also expects to thrive while playing alongside 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, looking to recreate the pick-and-roll continuity that he shared with former teammate Carlos Boozer earlier in his career. And while hoping to quickly jell with Nowitzki on the court, Williams will look to lighten the burden on the 37-year-old as he enters Year 18.

“It’s going to be great. I mean, Dirk could play until he’s 50, man, the way he shoots the ball,” Williams explained. “He’s always going to be able to shoot the ball, and he does so much more. I’ve always had a lot of respect for his game and what he does and brings to the court, and so I’m definitely excited as a point guard to be able to play with someone of his caliber.

“I mean, I’m definitely excited about that. You know, there’s definitely a stability about this organization that’s definitely intriguing. You know, they have guys that have been here forever, so it’s just about plugging in the new pieces — myself included — and just trying to get to work. But, you know, I’m just excited about this opportunity, and I’m ready to get the season going.”

SI ranks Dirk No. 28 player in the NBA

Sports Illustrated has been unveiling its annual Top 100 NBA Players list throughout the week. Three Mavs have already appeared on the list: Wes Matthews (99), Deron Williams (83), and Chandler Parsons (66).

Today was the day Dirk Nowitzki made his appearance, this season earning the No. 28 spot on the list. He’s been a mainstay on the list since its inception, as has been the case with practically every other player ranking in the NBA. After all, last season he averaged 17.3 points per game and made his 13th All-Star team. Here’s what SI’s Rob Mahoney had to say about the Big German:

“Nowitzki’s revised role strikes a compromise between go-to scorer and irresistible decoy that makes perfect sense in pacing out a long season,” Mahoney wrote. “Defenders still trip over themselves in fear of leaving Nowitzki open. They still lunge desperately to contest his jumper to no avail.”

Here’s today’s list, which revealed players 30-11. And while you’re there, be sure to check out the players Nowitzki is ranked above.

Mavs aim to be better rebounding team in ’15-16

DALLAS — It was viewed as their Achilles’ heel throughout the 2014-15 season. Now, the Dallas Mavericks hope to make rebounding one of their areas of strength during the upcoming campaign.

Last season, the Mavericks finished ranked 23rd in the NBA while collecting 42.3 rebounds an outing as a team and sat last in the league with a rebounding percentage of 47.8 percent. The Mavs also ranked second to last in the league with a defensive rebounding percentage of only 72.2 percent.

Losing starting center Tyson Chandler, who averaged a team-best 11.5 boards a game last season, certainly won’t help the Mavericks in their attempt to improve in the rebounding department. However, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, improving the rebounding numbers will take top billing for the new-look team as it tries to turn a weakness into a strength.

“We’ve got to get some monsters that push and shove, throw people out of the way and go get the ball,” Carlisle confessed when addressing the rebounding concerns last season. “We’ve got to get more of those guys. We’ve got to block out and we’ve got to have five guys going (for the rebound) all the time. And when it matters, we’ve got to get the rebounds.”

Pursuing Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan in free agency, the Mavericks believed that they had acquired the league’s leading rebounder from a season ago before his sudden change of heart and decision to return to L.A. The Mavs then saw their top rebounder, Chandler, also depart for Phoenix, leaving a void in the middle of the lineup.

The Dallas front office then made a series of moves to bring in big bodies capable of giving the team a lift this season. Still, as Carlisle points out, it will take a team effort for the Mavs to overcome the rebounding deficiencies from last season.

“Well, rebounding is a big challenge. It’s been a big challenge for us all year, so we’re going to have to do a better job than we’ve done, from top to bottom. We’re going to get our perimeter guys as involved as possible,” the coach explained.

He added: “We’ve got to do a better job with it. It’s as simple as that. Everybody has got to get more involved. We’ve got to get our perimeter guys more involved. Our point guards and our wings, those guys have got to get into it. … Whoever is out there has got to be tuned in to pursuing the ball — check somebody out and go pursue the ball. Sometimes you’ve just got to turn and go get the ball. You don’t have time to go check somebody out. But pursuit of the ball is one of the big keys, because that’s possession of the ball.”

One player that understood the need to up his commitment to rebounding during the Mavericks’ first-playoff series against Houston was 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki ranked second on the team behind Chandler during the regular season, pulling down 5.9 boards an outing. He attempted to shoulder more of the rebounding responsibility in the playoffs, pulling down 10.4 boards a contest as the Mavs eventually fell to the Rockets in five games. The 7-footer now says it will take a collective effort on the glass for the Mavericks to compete against the upper-echelon teams this season.

“I mean, there’s a lot of good teams,” Nowitzki said. “The top teams are pretty loaded, so we’ll just keep working and hopefully get better as a team. On the defensive end, rebounding is going to be a challenge for this team every night. And if we do those two things, we feel like we can compete at the highest level with any team.”