New-look Mavs hope to stack up to 2011 title team

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks’ nine new faces may not be household names coming into the upcoming season, but they do have the same collective goal in mind as the 2010-11 squad that captured the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Like that title team, the Mavericks once again believe they possess the perfect combination of championship-hungry veterans and skilled young contributors. However, unlike last year’s squad that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2000 following a 41-41 season, the new-look Mavs know that it will take much more than hunger and skill to return the team to the peak of the basketball mountaintop.

This team will have to rely on its veteran experience in order to become a contender in the championship chase.

“I think the biggest similarity to 2011 was that team was a very experienced team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while sizing this year’s ballclub up against that historic unit. “We still have youth on this roster. We’ve got three young guys that are rookies, but I like the mixture that we have here. And the other thing I like is I think that everybody sitting at this table feels like they have something to prove and they want to be a part of an organization that gets back to winning in the playoffs. And right now, that’s our mission.”

“It’s another opportunity and chance to play with a team full of veterans, guys who know how to play, and then young guys who listen and can play also and have experience,” newly-acquired center Samuel Dalembert added while assessing the Mavs’ roster. “So, you know, it’s going to be a very good opportunity and it’s going to be good things for sure. I’m just anxious to see the outcome of the season.”

The similarities to that title team are aplenty when stacking the two rosters up against each other.

Although he doesn’t come accompanied by the accolades and resume of future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, point guard Jose Calderon does provide a veteran presence in the backcourt. Dalembert, meanwhile, will try to provide the same impact as Tyson Chandler, who assumed the defensive duties in the middle of the lineup after Carlisle inserted the 7-footer into the first unit ahead of projected starter Brendan Haywood.

This year’s team should also feature a scoring sidekick for 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki on the offensive end of the floor, as Monta Ellis tries to master the two-man game a la Jason Terry. But, after also adding veterans Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington and DeJuan Blair to the bench, it’s the Mavs’ depth that could most resemble that championship team. And if the Mavs can jell over the course of the 82-game season, like the championship squad, owner Mark Cuban may have to make room on the mantel for a second Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“We feel we’ve put together a great complement of players around Dirk that fill up specific needs and that together with Coach [Carlisle] as a team we’re going to be really effective and good,” Cuban explained. “I mean, people are picking us to be ninth (in the Western Conference standings). People are picking us to not have as good a record as last year. That’s OK, because everybody every year says we’re not going to be very good, and I think we’ve got a great squad that knows how to play together. … You know, we’ve got a great nucleus of guys that I’m super excited about. It’s going to be a fun year.”