Mavs head into Houston for 1st battle against Dwight Howard, Rockets

HOUSTON — It’s a storyline that figures to repeat itself Nov. 1 when the Dallas Mavericks return to the Toyota Center for their first road game of the regular season against the Houston Rockets.

Monday night, however, the Mavericks (3-2) will get their first look at a Rockets team that they will face off against four times when the games begin to count in the standings. The Dallas team will also match up against All-Star center Dwight Howard for the first time since the big man spurned the Mavs in free agency to sign with their cross-state rival while teaming with perimeter scoring threat James Harden.

Still, with a report that the Rockets (3-1) will opt to use Monday night’s exhibition showing to debut a front line with the twin towers of Howard and 7-footer Omer Asik, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn’t changing his approach at all as his team tries to build off Saturday night’s 89-83 road victory over Charlotte.

“Size is a big problem in this league to deal with, but at this point I’m really more concerned about where we are in our training camp more so than strategy for (Monday night),” Carlisle said following his squad’s Sunday practice. “Whatever they put out there is going to be good for them and hard to guard, because they have a (heck) of a team and they’ll be one of the favorites to go all the way. We respect their roster and the guys they’ve got there, and we’re going to start the guys we need to start and see what happens.

“I think [Howard] is great,” the coach added. “You know, right now, he’s the most dominant big man we have in the game and there’s some good guys. Look, we know all too well how good he is, and that’s why we were trying to get him.”

Coming up short of wooing Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers to Dallas this summer, the Mavs then pulled off a bevy of free-agent moves to surround 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki with a playoff-contending supporting cast. One of those new additions is center Samuel Dalembert, who will try to make Mavs fans forget about the failed attempt at landing the coveted big man.

Through the Mavs’ first five preseason contests, Dalembert has shown glimpses of being a force in the middle of the paint while averaging 6.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just 18.8 minutes an outing. However, against the likes of Howard inside, the 6-foot-11 Dalembert admits that he will have to step his game up another level if the visiting Mavericks are going to take down their Southwest Division rival.

“I mean, there’s going to be a lot of pick-and-roll,” Dalembert foreshadowed. “[Howard] is going to try to get deep post position, and you’ve just got to be physical and stay on the ground. I’ve been pretty good against him in the past. … It’s just that kind of guy in the pick-and-roll dive. A lot of times what’s happened to me in the pick-and-roll is the big man is staying up on top and protecting the paint for the guard, so when he rolls the small guys usually get him. So in this situation you’ve got to hurry up and try to come back and try to help, so he doesn’t get the small on him.”

“We need Sam to play Sam’s game,” Carlisle added. “We need his length and we need him to be able to play without early foul trouble. He understands that and we’ll keep reenforcing it.”

Note: The Mavericks return to action Monday night on the road in Houston for a matchup against the Southwest Division rival Rockets. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21.

The team returns to American Airlines Center Oct. 23 against the Atlanta Hawks. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting