Game 36: Mavs vs. Suns

Highlights: Mavs vs. Suns

Check out all the top plays from Thursday's game against the Suns.

Game 50: Mavs vs. Suns

Suns vs. Mavericks

Deron Williams scores 27 points and dishes 4 assists as the Dallas Mavericks surge past the Phoenix Suns, 91-78.

Game 25: Mavs vs. Suns

Suns vs. Mavericks

Raymond Felton scores 17 points to go along with four assists to lead the Mavericks past the Suns, 104-94.

Game 1: Mavs at Suns

Mavericks vs. Suns

Raymond Felton scores 18 points, Zaza Pachulia adds a double-double as the Mavericks defeat the Suns.

Mavs look forward to challenge at hand to start ’15-16 season

DALLAS — With a difficult three-game road trip to begin the regular season that starts with a back-to-back in Phoenix and Los Angeles, the Dallas Mavericks know they’ll face a daunting task as they try to get off to a fast start.

Beginning the 2015-16 campaign Wednesday night in Phoenix against former starting center Tyson Chandler and the Suns, the Mavericks will try to start the 82-game schedule on a high note. The Mavs then will quickly turn their attention to the L.A. Clippers in an early-season matchup against one of the Western Conference favorites. And before concluding their road trip against Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers, the Mavericks will try to rise to the occasion by putting their various injury concerns aside.

“We understand that it’s a long season with 82 games, but we’re not thinking about it. We’re going to do the best with what we have right now in whatever shape we are as a team right now and individually,” Mavs center Zaza Pachulia proclaimed following the team’s Monday practice. “We’re going to put our best on the court and see what’s going to happen. … That’s what a team is about. It’s all about helping each other. If somebody is down, then the next guy needs to help him to get up. And the bottom line is we’re going to try to win games, especially starting with three games on the road, so it’s important. We’re playing against good teams as well, so it’s good matchups. And we’re going to try to win as many games as possible.”

The Mavs will begin the season with key contributors limited, taking the court likely without starting small forward Chandler Parsons as he continues to rehab his way back from a hybrid microfracture surgery on May 1 to repair cartilage damage in his right knee. Meanwhile, the starting backcourt of three-time All-Star Deron Williams and swingman Wesley Matthews will likely be under a minutes restriction as they continue to work their way back from injuries as well.

Taking the court for the final preseason test Friday night against Chicago in Lincoln, Neb., Matthews debuted with seven points, three rebounds and two assists in his first game action since suffering a torn left Achilles tendon with Portland against the Mavericks on March 5. Meanwhile, Williams pitched in six points, two boards and four assists in just over 15 minutes of playing time, battling through a strained right calf.

Still, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is encouraged that both newcomers will be available when the team begins the season on the road against a Phoenix squad that finished the ’14-15 schedule with a 39-43 record.

“Everybody is practicing, everybody is doing well, and so we’ll see where we are in a couple of days,” Carlisle simply said when asked about the team’s injury situation.

Carlisle currently sits just two victories away from passing Don Nelson (339) for the most wins in the franchise’s coaching history. He will have an opportunity to tie Nelson on Wednesday night with a win over the Suns. With that said, Carlisle hopes his team can learn from a 99-87 preseason defeat at home to the Suns last Wednesday night.

Taking the court without 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki as the 7-footer rested, the Mavericks surrendered 21 points off 21 turnovers in that exhibition matchup. The Mavs were also outshot by the Suns in that game, 42.7 percent to 36.5 percent, negating a 51-47 rebounding advantage. For that reason Carlisle has preached to his players the importance of protecting the ball against the Suns’ high-octane lineup.

“Well, they’re very physical and they’re a very tenacious team,” Carlisle said with a great amount of respect for the Suns squad. “They’re very active, ripping at the ball defensively. They’re a great forcing-you-into-turnovers team, so we’re going to have to be aggressive, but we’re going to have to know where they are. We’re going to have to protect the ball, because they led the NBA in points off turnovers in preseason, and that’s not an accident. I mean, they just have about seven guys that really do a great job of pursuing it, ripping at it and deflecting. And then, when they get steals and get in transition, those are un-defendable opportunities, so we’ve got to do a good job there. And they can really score. You know, they can score. They’ve got (Eric) Bledsoe, who is a great player. You know, (Brandon) Knight’s a great shooter, and (Markieff) Morris has picked his game up to another level. You know, (Morris) is a post threat, he’s a three threat and he’s a two threat. You know, Tyson is going to give them a lot of activity at the rim, and he can shoot the ball, too. They’ve just got a lot of weapons.”

Note: The Mavericks will now begin the regular season Wednesday night in Phoenix against the Suns. The game will tip off at 9 p.m. CT, and it will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center for the home opener on Nov. 3, hosting the Toronto Raptors. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT and will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

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JaVale McGee (left tibial stress fracture) — out

Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery) — day-to-day

Preseason Game 6: Mavs vs. Suns

Dunk of the Night: Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson throws it down with authority on the fast break.

Mavs’ starting center position up for grabs as training camp draws near

DALLAS — For two separate one-year stints, Tyson Chandler was the unquestioned heart and soul of the Dallas Mavericks in the interior.

Last season, after the Dallas front office worked out a six-player trade with New York in June of 2014, Chandler returned with unfinished business to accomplish while hoping to lead the Mavericks to another NBA title. Now, following Chandler’s free-agent departure to Phoenix this summer, the Mavs find themselves looking to fill the 7-footer’s void inside for a second time.

And with new additions Zaza Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert, Salah Mejri and JaVale McGee all looking to contend for a spot in the first unit when they enter the start of training camp, the center position figures to be one to watch this upcoming season.

“Well, I definitely feel like we’re different players, the centers that we have, so it’s definitely going to be good competition. But that’s what basketball is for — competition. So, it’s definitely going to make us all better,” McGee said in regard to the position battle that the four big bodies will find themselves in when training camp begins on Sept. 29.

Batting through nagging injuries during his 14th season, Chandler still recorded 31 double-doubles while averaging 10.3 points and 11.5 rebounds an outing in 75 appearances. He also held his own during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets and perennial All-Star big man Dwight Howard, averaging 10.2 points and 10.8 rebounds as the Mavs fell in five games.

The Mavericks will now attempt to replace that production inside after seeing Chandler ink a reported four-year deal worth $52 million with the Suns. But as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has said in the past, the starting position may not come down to whichever player is the most talented.

“You know, ultimately, who’s better may not be the one that starts,” Carlisle said when addressing position battles last season. “I mean, we’ve done things a little different way than some teams the last several years. … The thing that’s exciting is the possibility of having another roster full of capable players and guys that are good and guys that are experienced. And at this point in their careers, they’re aiming more towards winning and getting back into the conversation of getting a ring than just trying to get some stats and get their next deal.”

McGee certainly fits that description after two injury-plagued seasons.

The 27-year-old flashed plenty of athleticism during his first seven seasons in the league, averaging 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 19.9 minutes per outing previously in his career during stops in Washington, Denver and Philadelphia. He’s also a career 54-percent shooter from the field, making 158 starts in 382 total games.

However, prior to signing a reported two-year deal worth the league minimum that features a team option in Year 2, McGee played in just 28 combined games over the last two seasons due to nagging injuries. He’ll now look to get his career back on track while helping the Mavericks recapture the title.

“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.”

The health of McGee figures to go a long way towards getting the Mavs back in championship contention. However, it’s unclear if the athletic big man will emerge as the starter in Dallas.

Working out at trade with the Milwaukee Bucks on July 9, the Mavericks acquired Pachulia first this summer in exchange for a future second-round pick. The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists for the Bucks last season, making 45 starts and clocking 23.7 minutes an outing in 73 games.

The 12-year veteran was originally drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 42nd overall selection in the 2003 draft and has played 815 total games, holding career averages of 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists during stints with Orlando, Milwaukee and Atlanta. And after leading his home country of Georgia to the round of 16 of EuroBasket 2015 by averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists, Pachulia may enter training camp as the leading candidate for the starting position along the Dallas front line.

“We’re thrilled to have Zaza,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban proclaimed in July after the trade for the 31-year-old big man was made official.

He added: “Zaza is a good pick-and-pop guy, and I think we need to get somebody who’s a rim defender. Zaza can play, don’t get me wrong. The guy can shoot and he can rebound, but it would be nice to have somebody who can play above the rim. So, we’re looking at some of our options there.”

That said, the door may be open for Dalembert as he returns for a second stint with the franchise this season.

In his lone season with the Mavericks during the ’13-14 campaign, the 6-11 big man averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a contest, starting 68 of his 80 appearances. Dalembert now figures to play with a chip on his shoulders after being shipped to New York in the deal that sent back Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton last summer.

The 13-year veteran has played a total of 886 games during stints with Philadelphia, Sacramento, Houston, Milwaukee, Dallas and New York, holding career averages of 7.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 24.4 minutes per outing. However, he played in just 32 games for the Knicks last season, averaging only 4.0 points and 5.3 rebounds while making 21 starts prior to being waived on Jan. 6.

Dalembert now sets out to be the Mavs’ defensive anchor, hoping to improve a team that ranked just 25th in the league by allowing 102.3 points per game last season.

“Defensively, you know, that’s what I’ve built my career upon,” Dalembert said after joining the Mavs two years ago. “You know, since I started playing professionally and also in college, I’ve always been a defensive player, even when I used to play soccer. I’m ready to take charge of that defensively.”

Mejri, 29, may also take on that defensive challenge after an impressive showing in AfroBasket 2015 earlier this summer. And after becoming the first player of Tunisian decent to sign with an NBA team by inking a reported partially-guaranteed deal for three years, Mejri will certainly contend for a spot in Carlisle’s rotation at center.

The 7-foot-2 Mejri played in 34 games with Real Madrid last season, averaging 4.3 points and 2.1 rebounds as his team sprinted to the Spanish League title. He increased his production to averages of 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in eight games as Real Madrid also captured the Euroleague championship.

Mejri averaged 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in six games of the the African championships this summer, putting the Tunisian team on his back as it earned a third-place finish. Still, he fell just short in his bid to lead the Tunisian national team to a spot in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, settling instead for an opportunity to compete in next year’s Olympic qualifying tournaments.

Mejri now turns his attention to carrying over his strong play this summer as he joins a heated competition at center for the Mavericks. Still, the center position figures to be one to watch when training camp opens. And with four players vying for the starting spot, Carlisle and the Mavs will call upon the center position to fill a big void following Chandler’s departure.