Trade has brought new attitude, and a winning streak, to Dallas Mavericks

Mar 16 2010 - 8:46pm

DALLAS -- The Mavericks have reached the point after 13 consecutive wins where they can consider everything that took place before the All-Star break to be insignificant.

It happened. The record book will always be there.

But it doesn't mean a thing. This team was reborn when it traded for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. The ultimate judgment, as it does every year, will come in the playoffs. But there can be no debate about them being better now than then.

Much has been made of the way the trade was like getting out of jail for the newcomers. That much is true.

"I went from a losing, bad situation, being in courts every day, media frenzy, to a long winning streak and probably the hottest team in the league besides Cleveland," Stevenson said. "This team just has so much of a good feeling. It's easy to pull together. It doesn't even feel like we got traded. It's like we've been here the whole year."

But just as the trio has been rejuvenated, so have the holdover Mavericks, most of whom have seen a jump in production.

"The new guys are 13-1," said Jason Kidd, entering Saturday night's game against the Knicks. "So that's pretty good. They brought some energy to the guys who have been here."

The Mavericks are averaging more points, giving up fewer and shooting and passing the ball better since the trade.

The best thing, however, is the attitude that has come with the winning streak. The Mavericks are swaggering rather than staggering, as they were before the deal. But it's a controlled swagger. No swilling of champagne just because they've ticked off 13 wins in a row.

"Our guys aren't getting giddy or smitten with themselves about this at all," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We all understand we're on a journey to get from point A to point Z, and Z being right there to have a chance to win it."

They have at least put themselves into the conversation. Most people still list the Los Angeles Lakers as heavy favorites in the Western Conference. But maybe not quite as heavy as before.

The Mavericks have put together this streak by winning in different ways. They have piled up points, but in Wednesday's 96-87 win against New Jersey, they used a strong defensive push in the second half to salt away win No. 13.

"The fact we've had to stretch ourselves out and do some different things is good," Carlisle said. "But I don't like giving up 115 points a game. I don't think that's a good habit to get into.

"So we want it both ways. We want to be able to run and score points, but I still want to hold teams in the 80s. That's tough. There's a certain commitment that goes with that. To get where we want to go, which is to the very top, we're going to have to do all that stuff and do it well."

As New Jersey coach Kiki Vandeweghe said: "The trade brought another scoring option in Caron Butler. But more importantly, I think they will find in the playoffs their defense has significantly improved. And Haywood's length really is going to be really big.

"I know Mark (Cuban) very well, and his goal is to go all the way. And if you're going to go there, you got to go probably through the Lakers and either Orlando or Cleveland. You need the length."

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