Veteran guard Raymond Felton hopes bounce-back season leads back to Dallas

DALLAS — After recapturing his elite form following a bounce-back 2015-16 season with the Dallas Mavericks, 11-year veteran guard Raymond Felton is set to hit the open market on July 1.

Joining the Mavericks after accompanying former center Tyson Chandler in a six-player trade with New York prior to last summer’s NBA Draft, Felton proved to be the forgotten man in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation while joining a crowded backcourt. The 31-year-old Felton was also limited by a high ankle sprain suffered in the second outing of exhibition play, sliding him down the depth chart as the Mavs fought for positioning in the Western Conference.

All told, Felton appeared in 29 games for the Mavericks during the ’14-15 schedule, averaging just 3.7 points and 1.4 assists an outing during his 9.7 minutes of work. But he quickly made up for lost time this season with a spike in those numbers across the board, posting averages of 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 27.4 minutes an outing during his 80 games. And although he’s still disappointed to see Dallas’ season come to an abrupt end with a third straight first-round exit in the playoffs, the proven floor general anticipates his services will be in high demand this summer during free agency.

“I think overall we had a good year. Maybe not quite the way we wanted it to end, and as an individual I think I did what I needed to do,” Felton said while making an appearance at the annual Heroes celebrity baseball game last week. “I did some things, but I wish we could’ve been still playing right now. But that’s not the case.”

Stepping into the starting lineup 31 times during the regular season and four games in the playoffs, Felton became a trusted and relied upon veteran in the backcourt. He also emerged as one of the top contributors for the banged-up Mavericks in the playoffs as they put up a valiant fight against a star-studded Oklahoma City team.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder increased his production in the postseason, averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 34.4 minutes of action an outing as the Mavs fell to the Thunder in five games. That said, Felton figures to be heavily sought after by plenty of suitors this summer as he looks for an opportunity to claim an elusive NBA title. But after rekindling his elite play, Felton admittedly hopes to return to Dallas as the Mavericks attempt to build on this season’s success.

“Of course, this is where I want to be. I would love to come back here, so hopefully we can make that happen,” Felton proclaimed. “It starts July 1, but you know how it goes. Free agency goes on and on. It’s a process and a back-and-forth thing. I’m out of it now. My agent and the organization, it’s their situation now. I’ll just sit back and wait.”

The best Mavs buzzer-beaters of 2015-16

We’ve already taken a look back at the best Mavs dunks and blocks of the 2015-16 season, so now all that’s left is checking out the buzzer-beaters.

For this list, we included attempts to beat the shot clock, for two reasons: 1. There’s a buzzer sound when the shot clock expires, and 2. These are just arbitrary rankings so we can make up the rules as we go! There’s a certain amount of freedom in bending conventional wisdom and mixing in a bit of improvisation when you do anything in life, and that includes both making rankings lists and free-styling toward the end of a quarter or possession. Once that clock gets below two seconds, as you’ll see in the video below, anything can happen. There are no rules and there are no limits. Zaza Pachulia can hit a fall-away 20-footer from “a Larry Bird angle,” to quote play-by-play voice Mark Followill, and Deron Williams can drain one practically from the opposing team’s bench. That’s what makes buzzer-beaters so exciting.

Enjoy! And, as always, if you think we missed one, let us know in the comments below which of your favorite buzzer-beaters were left out.

Top 10 Mavs Buzzer-Beaters of 2015-16

Take a look back at the best Mavs buzzer-beaters of the season!

10. D-Will to Dirk for 3

You won’t find many more meaningful wins in November than the one the Mavericks earned against the Clippers last November. It was the first time DeAndre Jordan’s team came to town since the dramatic twists and turns of last summer’s free agency period, the Mavs had lost three of their previous four games, and at the time a few of Dallas’ key players were still battling back from significant injuries. But the Mavs, sporting the skyline jerseys for the first time, came through with a huge victory against Los Angeles on national television, signaling to the NBA universe that this team would be just fine. Dirk Nowitzki’s buzzer-beating trey put Dallas up by 14 points in the third quarter in what turned out to be a 118-108 win. It might only have been November, but it was a big, big win for Dallas.

9. D-Will with the rainbow

Deron Williams’ first appearance in this top-10 list isn’t quite as unbelievable as his final one — more on that later — but this shot was still pretty nice: a Dirk-esque rainbow jumper from the wing on a pass from an off-balance J.J. Barea. The Mavs beat the Grizzlies that night, Dec. 18, 97-88. This Williams 3-pointer put Dallas ahead for the first time all night, 38-35, and the club wouldn’t trail again for the rest of the game.

8. Felton from wayyyy back

Raymond Felton hit so many big shots for the Mavericks this season that you might have forgotten about this one. On Jan. 6, the night after a double-overtime win against Sacramento — more on that later — Dallas was severely shorthanded in New Orleans as most of the starters were resting. That meant more playing time for Felton, who delivered 22 points and six assists in one of his best games of the year. Three of those points came on this play, with 42 seconds left in the game and Dallas clinging to a six-point lead. The impossible shot gave the Mavs a nine-point lead, which would ultimately be the final difference.

7. Matthews from the corner

Just one week later, on Jan. 12, the Mavs and Cavaliers would duke it out in a highly entertaining and tightly contested game at American Airlines Center. With just over two minutes left and the shot clock winding down, Chandler Parsons found a spotted-up Wesley Matthews in the corner for three, which put Dallas ahead 91-89. Unfortunately Cleveland would tie it up and ultimately win in overtime, 110-107, but Matthews’ big shot was a highlight in what was a thrilling contest.

6. Felton over LeBron

Felton’s only made field goal of that night came at a great time, as he beat the first-half buzzer even while taking contact from LeBron James, putting the Mavericks ahead 52-47. Again, how many big shots did Felton hit this season??

5. Zaza from the impossible angle

It might only have been preseason, but Zaza Pachulia’s turnaround fall-away miracle shot was still one of his most impressive highlights of his first season as a Maverick. At the time, it was no guarantee that Pachulia would be the starting center on opening night, as Samuel Dalembert was still on the roster at that point. But Pachulia’s play in the preseason earned him the starting rights, and the Georgian big man never looked back, putting together a fine campaign.

4. Felton with a crossover and step-back

What do you know, another big-time shot from Felton! Mark Followill even called this one, as we watched him whip and then proceeded to watch him Ray-Ray and drain a 21-footer as time expired in the Mavs’ 91-79 win against Brooklyn on Jan. 29. The story of that two-game homestand, featuring wins over the Nets and Suns, had more to do with defense, however, as Dallas kept both opponents below 80 points. Defense and tempo control would save the Mavs’ season down the stretch, so there was a bit of foreshadowing here.

3. Dirk from the wing

Watching Nowitzki 3s never gets old. This one, though, meant a bit more than your usual trey, as the Mavs needed every point they could muster to win a tight one against the Knicks on March 30, taking the contest 91-89. This was the second of six straight victories Dallas would piece together down the stretch to earn its 15th playoff berth in 16 seasons. Barea grabbed the headlines, scoring 26 points off the bench, while Nowitzki shot just 5 of 23 from the field. But, hey: Every point counts, and Dirk’s long-range bomb to beat the halftime buzzer meant a lot at the end of the day.

2. Felton does it just like they drew it up

Here’s the way the Mavs designed this play:

1. Beat your man off the dribble into the middle of the lane.

2. Spin and look to pass.

3. Pass it off the opposing center’s stomach.

4. Catch your own pass.

5. Fade away and shoot it over the backboard. Two points, easy.

1. D-Will wins the game, chaos ensues

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This bucket instantly became an iconic moment, as not only did the shot win the game, and not only did it end a disappointing two-game losing streak, but that moment showed us how close together the players on this team were this season. The dogpile on the sideline gave us an image that sums up this club well. These guys all liked each other, they all rooted for one another, and they celebrated with each other as brothers, not just teammates. That was as tight-knit a locker room as you could find in the league this season, and there’s no measuring what that chemistry did for the Mavericks this season.

Also, what a shot.

The best Mavs blocks of 2015-16

When you think of the Mavs’ defense, blocks might not be the first thing to come to mind. Only Detroit blocked fewer shots than Dallas this season, as the Mavericks instead turned their attention to overloading the paint in an effort to limit opponents’ shots at the rim, encouraging 3-balls instead. The Mavs allowed only 35.0 field goal attempts per game from less than 10 feet this season, per NBA.com, which ties for second-fewest in the NBA. So there weren’t very many opportunities to block shots, anyway.

But the blocks they did have were pretty vicious. Whether it was Justin Anderson, Salah Mejri, or someone else, the Dallas blocks highlight reel is just nasty. We’ve already seen the best Mavs dunks of the season, but today is all about swats. Check out the video below and let us know if we missed any of your favorite blocks.

Top 10 Mavs Blocks of 2015-16

Check out the Mavs' biggest blocks of the 2015-16 season.

10. Anderson introduces himself

This was one of the first of many significant highlight plays Justin Anderson would make in his rookie season. Late in a Feb. 3 game against Miami, Heat rookie Justise Winslow came away with the ball and went up for a reverse layup. Anderson was having none of that. Consider it justice served after the two players had a bit of an altercation last season in a Virginia-Duke showdown almost exactly one year earlier, when Winslow received a flagrant foul for grabbing Anderson’s leg and very nearly unleashing the beast. The best part of Anderson’s block (and ensuing roar) against the Heat was he compounded that good play into two of them, draining a corner three at the other end and sending the AAC crowd into a frenzy. That was when the rookie won this city over.

9. The rookie does it again

In a play very similar to his rejection of Winslow, Anderson did virtually the same thing to center Gorgui Dieng two months later, on April 3 in Minnesota. Dieng has a significant height and wingspan advantage over the 6-foot-6 Anderson, but the Mavs rookie has more hangtime than a 60-yard punt. If he has time to gather himself and jump as high as he can, he’ll be waiting for you at the rim, and in this instance he swatted it with authority.

8. Felton blocks the KAT

Poor Karl-Anthony Towns. The unanimous Rookie of the Year and star-in-the-making also found himself on the wrong end of the season’s dunk highlights list, but that obviously isn’t any indictment of him as a player. In this case, though, Raymond Felton got the better of him, as the 6-foot-1 combo guard swiped the ball right out of the center’s hands as he went up for what looked like an easy dunk. But not much comes easy when Felton is protecting the rim: He blocked 15 shots this season, the most of any of the Mavs’ four small guards.

7. Mejri chases down Roberson

Salah Mejri proved time and time again this season that he doesn’t give up on a play, no matter how far away from the ball he is. In this case, after a Mavs turnover, the 7-foot-2 center sprinted to the other end of the floor to chase down OKC’s Andre Roberson and erase his dunk attempt from this universe. He then held court for a quick second with his home fans before running to the offensive end. Mejri might lead the team in swag exhibited per 100 possessions, and that’s OK. Dallas could use more players like him.

6. Mejri adds a name to the list

We all know about Mejri’s infamous list, and he added another name to it with this impressive chase-down block of Houston’s superstar James Harden. Mejri begins the play off-screen; you can’t see him because he sprinted literally the entire length of the floor on this play to reject Harden. This Jan. 24 play came at an important time for Mejri, who hadn’t even truly cracked the Mavs’ rotation at this point. He’d scored his first career points less than two weeks earlier, but it wouldn’t take another two weeks for him to prove to everyone why he deserved more minutes.

5. Dirk doin’ work

Dirk Nowitzki has scored more than 29,000 points and has made a billion All-Star and All-NBA teams. You know that. But what you probably didn’t know is the German led his team in total blocks this season for the first time since 2009-10, and for the fifth time in his career. This one, bar none, was his best. It came in the second half of the Mavs’ playoff-clinching win in Utah on April 11. After sending Jeff Withey’s layup attempt into the next dimension, Nowitzki capped off the highlight by staring down his own bench as all of his teammates leaped to their feet in a combination of excitement and perhaps even a bit of disbelief. What a play.

4. Evans sends Davis’s shot soaring

Jeremy Evans’s season was unfortunately cut short due to injury, but early in the campaign he made an incredible block on the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Credit to Wesley Matthews as well on this play for racing to the other end of the floor and slowing Davis’s progress. But, I mean, what else can you say about Evans’s block? It was masterful, a combination of completely rude and absolutely wonderful. The forward’s vertical leap has been measured at 43.5 inches in the past. He makes plays like this one look routine.

3. Anderson chases down Ariza

With the Mavericks clinging to a one-point lead with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter against the Rockets, Harden advanced the ball downcourt to Trevor Ariza, streaking for a layup. A loss would have put the Mavs in a difficult position as they battled for a playoff spot, while a win would have put Houston in great shape. Everyone knew what was at stake. That included Justin Anderson. The wing flew through the air to slap Ariza’s layup off the backboard and launch a Mavs break the other way, and Dallas would go on to win the game. That was perhaps the rookie’s biggest play of the season, and it’s one of many he’ll make as a Maverick.

2. Mejri blows the roof off the AAC

If his chase-down block of Harden was enough to earn Salah Mejri minutes moving forward, his performance against OKC on Jan. 22 earned him the right to chase down Harden. The Mavs were down 15 points in the fourth quarter when Rick Carlisle inserted Mejri into the game and, in just eight minutes, the Mavs found themselves in position to shoot for the tie at the buzzer. Mejri had a lot to do with that, rejecting both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the latter of which was one of the best blocks by any Maverick this season. The Tunisian met the superstar at the rim and won.

1. Anderson breaks the game

This is just an incredible athletic play, and it’s the best block of the season.

Raymond Felton always got the job done this season, no matter the role

Raymond Felton Season Highlights

Watch some of the best highlights from Raymond Felton's 2015-16 season with the Mavs.

Point guard, shooting guard, starter, reserve: No matter how he was used this season, Raymond Felton always produced.

Felton’s season sort of came full circle in the playoffs. After leading the team in scoring as a shooting guard on opening night in October, Felton once again found himself at the helm of the Mavs’ offense in the final game of the season, but this time as a point guard. Injuries limited the club early in the season and late as well, yet Felton was there not only to fill the cracks, but also guide Dallas down Rick Carlisle’s offensive superhighway.

Chandler Parsons missed the entire postseason as he recovered from knee surgery, Deron Williams essentially missed the final three games of the playoffs, and J.J. Barea was severely physically limited in his four appearances. That meant a ton of responsibility was heaped onto Felton’s sturdy shoulders, but he was clearly up for the challenge. He averaged 15.0 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game against the Thunder, and became just the third Maverick ever to record both a points-assists and points-rebounds double-double in the same postseason, joining Michael Finley (2001) and Mark Aguirre (1986), per Basketball-Reference.

His ability to drive the ball was the contribution his team most sorely needed. With no Parsons and Williams and with a limited Barea, the perimeter wasn’t chock full of guys who could attack off the bounce. Felton certainly did his best to fill that void, averaging a team-high 8.6 drives per game in the playoffs, well above his season average of 5.3, per SportVU. Felton scored 5.2 points per game himself from those rim attacks, in addition to drawing three fouls across the team’s five playoff games.

His performance in Game 2 was perhaps his finest of the season, scoring a team-high 21 points as the Mavericks secured an 85-84 road win in Oklahoma City. After the game Felton said he was “sick” to miss two free throws which could have given the Mavs a bigger lead with less than 10 seconds to play, but a Thunder bucket on the ensuing possession came after the buzzer and, despite Felton’s frustration, Dallas won the game anyway.

This season’s Mavericks team could be characterized by its resiliency and sense of pride. On the heels of a disappointing performance in Game 1, the Mavs became just the fourth team in 14 tries in NBA history to win Game 2 following a loss in the series opener by 35 or more points, per Basketball-Reference. Plenty of players typified that mentality, but Wesley Matthews and Felton were perhaps chief among them. After the Mavs’ Game 2 win, Felton said his team’s Game 1 performance was simply below the standard.

“We all knew that that wasn’t acceptable,” he said. “That’s not Dallas Mavericks basketball. That was just a disgrace to the city of Dallas, to the fans of Dallas, and to ourselves and our families. It was just an embarrassment on national television to get beat like that. We were coming in for a dog fight no matter what. Even if we didn’t come out with the win, we were gonna come out and give them a fight.”

So what did he do as a response? He led his team in scoring, recorded a double-double, and Dallas got the win. That’s Raymond Felton for you.

It’s hard not to admire the various levels of swag Felton is capable of reaching on any given night. More than any other player on this team, you know when he gets cooking. Whether it’s some high-dribbling or a few between-the-legs crossovers, Felton has a tendency to let everyone know when he’s feeling confident.

And that led to one of the better Mavs videos of the season. (There’s a lot going on in here, so take your time going through it. Rewind if you have to.)

Watch them whip!

Watch the Mavs whip and Ray Ray!

As is the case with many others in the locker room, though, Felton’s attention is now turned toward free agency. The guard said during his exit interview that he’d love to be back in Dallas and plans on buying a home here whether or not he returns to the Mavs, but his basketball fate will not ultimately be determined for another two months. Felton played well enough from October through April to earn a new contract with the Mavericks, but plenty of other teams will surely have interest in the combo guard, especially after witnessing his play in the postseason. Felton stepped up to the plate when his team needed him most, and that’s a quality all 30 general managers in this league crave. It’s one the Mavericks were certainly lucky to have this season.

Raymond Felton proved his worth to Mavs during ’15-16 season

DALLAS — Bouncing back from an injury-riddled 2014-15 campaign that caused a slip in his production after joining the Dallas Mavericks via a trade last summer, 11-year veteran guard Raymond Felton lifted the team when it needed him most this season.

Accompanying former center Tyson Chandler in a six-player trade from New York prior to last summer’s NBA Draft, Felton quickly found himself in a crowded backcourt during his first season in Dallas. The former North Carolina standout and No. 5 pick in the ’05 draft was also slowed after suffering a high ankle sprain in the second outing of exhibition play, limiting his effectiveness during the season.

Appearing in 29 games for the Mavericks during the ’14-15 schedule, Felton averaged just 3.7 points and 1.4 assists an outing in his 9.7 minutes of work. He then made up for lost time this season by raising those numbers across the board, averaging 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 27.4 minutes an outing while making 80 appearances. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder also increased his production in the postseason, averaging 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 34.4 minutes of action an outing as the Mavs fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games during the first round of the playoffs. But after producing a bounce-back season to emerge as a key contributor for the Mavericks, Felton certainly may have raised his value as he enters free agency on July 1.

“Overall, I feel like I had a pretty good season,” Felton said last week during his exit interview with the Dallas media. “It didn’t quite end up the way that we wanted. You know, we wish we were still playing right now, but we’re not. But as an individual, I feel like I had a good season and did what I needed to do. You know, I proved a lot of things that I needed to prove, but I’m not an individual guy. I’m a team guy, so I’ve got to give thanks to my teammates for the belief they had in me. You know, the coaching staff and just this organization period for the confidence and the belief they gave me this year.”

Stepping into the starting lineup 31 times during the regular season and four games in the playoffs, Felton proved to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle his value to the team. He also willing accepted a reserve role during his two seasons in Dallas after making 611 starts during his previous 667 total games during stints with Charlotte, New York, Denver and Portland.

That willingness to sacrifice minutes and stardom made a strong impression in the locker room, according to Carlisle. And after seeing Felton step up his play this season, the coach says it was gratifying to watch.

“Ray Felton had a great year for us,” Carlisle said while praising the 31-year-old floor general. “You know, he’s a veteran, he’s a smart player and he’s a winner. You know, if you look at our whole team, he’s been one of our most productive guys, really, from the beginning of the year to now. … I mean, he’s a fearless competitor, and he’s earned the respect of the guys in our locker room.”

However, Felton could now find himself in a different locker room should potential suitors lure him away in free agency this summer.

Hoping to play for a championship contender next season, Felton will admittedly search for the best place where he can add an elusive title. That said, Felton will also look for financial security with a long-term deal. Still, the veteran guard says he hopes his search leads to a return to Dallas as the Mavericks try to build on this season’s success.

“I’m pretty sure I put myself in a good situation. I will say that. But hopefully that situation is back here again next year, and we can make that happen,” Felton explained. “I love Dallas, I love this city, and I’m actually going to buy a house here and move here regardless of the situation. You know, it would be great to move into that new house and sign back here, so we’ll see what happens.

“I mean, it’s a little bit of everything. At this point in my career, you know, I want to be able to play with a team that’s going to have a chance to win a championship and have a chance to (go deep) into the playoffs. I mean, everything is a factor. And at the end of the day, you still want to get what you’re worth.”

Rick Carlisle, Mavs teammates reflect on Dirk Nowitzki’s 18th season

2016 Exit Interview: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.

DALLAS — He led the Dallas Mavericks in scoring during the 2015-16 season, becoming the oldest player in the NBA this year to accomplish that feat at the end of the grueling 82-game schedule.

He continued to cement his place in league lore as well, passing Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) to move into sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He also lifted the Mavericks into the playoffs for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons, finishing with the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings and a 42-40 record before eventually falling in the first round to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But it’s the impact 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki made in the locker room that Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and his veteran teammates will remember most following the 7-footer’s 18th season.

Last season, Nowitzki played in 77 games for the Mavericks, averaging 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in 29.6 minutes an outing. He also connected on 45.9 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range while making his 13th All-Star appearance. He followed that up with another strong season during the ’15-16 campaign, posting a team-high 18.3 points and pulling down 6.5 rebounds an outing in 75 appearances while connecting on 44.8 percent shooting and 36.8 percent from three. And after seeing the 37-year-old Nowitzki take on a heavier workload while increasing his minutes to 31.5 per game this year, Carlisle reflected on his superstar’s ability to put the team on his broad shoulders.

“Remarkable. You know, I saw very little drop-off this year, and he was phenomenal in the playoffs,” Carlisle said while assessing Nowitzki’s season. “Again, I just think we’re seeing one of the truly unusual athletes in sports history, proving that it can be done with great longevity, with a great love and respect for the game and a great commitment to excellence. You know, I marvel at his career and everything he does on a day-to-day basis every day.”

2016 Exit Interview: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.

“It’s pretty remarkable what he does night in and night out,” swingman Wesley Matthews added, “especially if you were to see him walking into film sessions after games. … And then he goes out and goes for 32 and 11, and you’re like, ‘You couldn’t walk this morning.’ That’s just a testament to him and the time that he puts into this game, himself and his body. You know, it’s one of the last dinosaurs left, and it’s still remarkable.”

Passing O’Neal on the all-time scoring list with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting during a 119-118 road win in Brooklyn on Dec. 23, Nowitzki continued adding to his Hall of Fame resume. Averaging 20.4 points in five games against Oklahoma City, Nowitzki also passed three more all-time greats on the league’s postseason scoring list by moving in front of Wilt Chamberlain (3,607), Elgin Baylor (3,623) and Scottie Pippen (3,642) to ascend to the 14th spot in playoff history. With that said, it’s Nowitzki’s commitment to excellence that stuck with his teammates.

“It’s been great. It’s probably been one of the best experiences ever to play with a guy of that level and stature. And he works just as hard as the next guy,” veteran guard Raymond Felton said after two seasons playing alongside Nowitzki. “It’s been great, man. Dirk is by far one of the best superstars, All-Stars and Hall of Famers that I’ve ever played with, and it’s been an amazing experience. It’s one I will always cherish and remember.”

2016 Exit Interview: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.

“The best thing to happen to me this year was to play with this guy No. 41, and I mean that. That was an amazing experience,” center Zaza Pachulia added following his first season with the Mavs. “I’ve learned so much, seeing his work ethic, his professionalism and jokes. It was priceless. This is something that’s going to stay in me, in my mind and in my heart forever. You know, basketball is temporary, but friendship is going to last forever. I’m really glad to call him my friend, and our relationship is going to continue no matter what next year, because he’s a great person and a great guy with a beautiful family. And I’m just very honored to be in a locker room with this guy, on and off the court.”

Turning 38 years old on June 19, Nowitzki vows to return for a 19th season to conclude his current contract with the team. However, while possessing a player option for his final year, it’s not assured that No. 41 will be in the lineup during the ’16-17 schedule should he have a change of heart.

Sitting just 1,928 points behind Chamberlain for the fifth position on the league’s all-time scoring list, Nowitzki could reach that mark next season. Nowitzki is also just 509 points away from becoming the sixth player in NBA history to amass 30,000 for his career. And after seeing Nowitzki rekindle his elite form this season, Carlisle says he’s ready to do whatever it takes to make sure that both of those feats happen with the Big German in a Dallas uniform.

“I don’t think we can just assume that Dirk’s going to be back,” Carlisle confessed. “I think we’ve got to respect his career here and what it’s been about. You know, we just can’t go in with the assumption that we can take this guy for granted. I don’t. He’s too great. He’s too great a person, he’s been too great for too long, and I’m ready to recruit him.”

Mavs showed plenty of pride, fight in gritty Game 2 win

DALLAS — Rallying together in response to one of the franchise’s most disappointing displays in the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks scratched and clawed their way to an 85-84 win Monday night in Game 2 to return home with their first-round series knotted at 1-1.

Falling to a 108-70 Game 1 loss Saturday night to the No. 3-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the lowest-scoring postseason game in franchise history, the sixth-seeded Mavericks (1-1) didn’t wallow in their own self-pity. Instead, the Mavs turned their attention to the pivotal second showdown, hoping to atone for their lackluster performance with a better effort two nights later. The Mavericks then overcame their fair share of injuries and adversity to edge out the Thunder (1-1) on its home floor, benefitting from an overturned call in the final seconds to negate Steven Adams’ tip-in at the buzzer while securing the win.

And after seeing his cast of veterans come together, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised the grittiness his players displayed to come back and even the series.

“I’m very proud of our guys for the way they responded after one of the most disappointing games in franchise history,” Carlisle confessed after the win. “It’s a group with a lot of pride and obviously a lot of resilience. … It’s a great opponent and we’re a very humble team, so we’re very resilient and very proud. We’re very proud to win this game, but we know that now it’s on.”

Led by veteran guard Raymond Felton’s 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 11 rebounds to record a double-double in the second showdown, the Mavericks eventually outlasted the Thunder in a back-and-forth affair. The Mavs also sprinted to an early advantage after playing from behind most of the night in Game 1.

Connecting on just 5-of-24 shooting during the opening period of Game 1, the Mavericks found themselves in a 26-11 hole after 12 minutes of play. The Mavs then fell behind 59-33 to finish the first half, shooting only 26.2 percent from the field through two quarters before trailing by as many as 44 late. That wasn’t the case two nights later as the Mavericks turned a 24-20 edge after the first period into a 45-43 lead entering the halftime intermission. The strong start then paced the Mavs into the second half, according to 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, as the Dallas team held together for a hard-fought road win.

“We addressed the start,” Nowitzki said. “I think they’re a very good first-quarter team. We mentioned it after Game 1. And for us to be there and even have a lead after the first quarter kind of set us up to be in the game for the rest of the night.

“We let them know we’re here to fight. Obviously, with their talent, with their team and with their roster, they’re still the heavy favorites. But we let them know this is not going to be an easy walkover.”

The Mavericks had dropped five previous matchups against the Thunder during the 2015-16 campaign, falling in all four regular-season meetings before also sliding to the loss in Game 1. However, one reason for the change of fortune was the increased commitment to the defensive end in Game 2.

The Dallas defense forced former MVP Kevin Durant into a tie with Michael Jordan for the most misses in a postseason game since 1997, limiting the perennial All-Star to 21 points on just 7-of-33 shooting from the field. The defensive effort didn’t stop there, holding the Thunder to 33.7 percent shooting as a team and overcoming a 54-45 rebounding disadvantage with 17 points off Oklahoma City’s 15 turnovers. And while using Saturday’s disappointment as motivation to redeem themselves, the Mavericks became the first team to win Game 2 after losing the previous outing by 35 or more points since the Boston Celtics did so against the Orlando Magic in 1995.

“It was an embarrassment, man. It was really nothing to say,” Felton said while recalling the feeling in the locker room following Game 1. “We all knew that wasn’t acceptable. That’s not Dallas Mavericks basketball. You know, that was just a disgrace to the city of Dallas, to the fans of Dallas and to ourselves and our families. It was just an embarrassment on national television to get beat like that, so we were coming in here for a dogfight no matter what. Even if we didn’t come out with the win, we were going to come out and we were going to give them a fight.”

Note: The sixth-seeded Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Thursday, hosting the No. 3-seeded Thunder in Game 3. The series is tied at 1-1. Game 3 will air nationally on TNT. It will also air locally on TXA 21, 103.3 FM ESPN and in Spanish on 1540 AM ESPN Deportes at 6 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

The Mavericks’ first-round playoff schedule is as follows:

Game 3 – Thursday,  April 21

Oklahoma City at Dallas at 6 p.m. CT  on TNT/TXA 21

Game 4 – Saturday,  April 23

Oklahoma City at Dallas at 7 p.m. CT  on ESPN/TXA 21

*Game 5 — Monday,  April 25

Dallas at Oklahoma City  7 p.m. CT on TNT/TXA 21

*Game 6 — Thursday,  April 28

Oklahoma City at Dallas TBD on TBD/TXA21

*Game 7 — Saturday,  April 30

Dallas at Oklahoma City  TBD on TNT/TXA21

*If necessary

All games, except those televised on ABC, are available to be televised locally.

baylor

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

J.J. Barea (right groin strain) — day-to-day

David Lee (right plantar fascia injury) — day-to-day

Deron Williams (left abdominal strain) — day-to-day

Dirk Nowitzki (bruised right knee) — day-to-day

Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery) — out for the remainder of the season

Jeremy Evans (right shoulder surgery) — out for the remainder of the season