Will adding two more big-time scorers make this a dream team?
By Jack McCallum
Team Page | Conference ranking: 4 | Overall ranking: 5
Shortly before he arrived in Dallas for a season that -- unlike his previous five with the Warriors -- should include a playoff appearance, Antawn Jamison had a dream about his new teammates. Steve Nash, steaming downcourt with the ball, had Jamison on one wing, Michael Finley on the other and Dirk Nowitzki trailing. Jamison was coy about revealing the finish of that fast break (who tells every detail of a dream?) but hinted that the denouement had something to do with a ring.
That heady reverie took place even before the Mavericks' stunning acquisition of Antoine Walker in a trade with the Celtics on Monday, a deal that gives Dallas a ridiculously potent frontcourt. Who defers to whom on their way to the hoop will have to be worked out, but the player most likely to show deference is Jamison. Though he's a 20.2-points-a-game career scorer, he can't seem to shake a reputation for disappearing at crunch time (contrary to gutty guard Nick Van Exel, whom the Mavs gave up to get him). Jamison believes such criticism had a lot to do with his playing on a losing team. "I am not one of those guys trying to get rid of the ball with two minutes left in the game," he says.
Even if he were, Jamison won't be pressed into taking over in the clutch -- not with Finley, Nash and Nowitzki getting so much big-game experience last year in Dallas's run to the conference final. As for the revamped frontcourt, Jamison, Nowitzki and Walker can score by posting up or shooting from outside, and the Mavericks can always use another rebounder like Jamison, who has averaged 7.5 rebounds in his career.
Nonetheless, the Mavs will need some breaks just to crack the top four in the loaded West. And a championship? That's still somebody's dream for now.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Mavericks
"First, they robbed Golden State of Antawn Jamison, then they not only unloaded Raef LaFrentz's bad contract to Boston but also got one of the NBA's most versatile players, Antoine Walker, in return. Walker gives Dallas a leader who can fill various roles from night to night with his scoring, passing and rebounding.... Imagine a starting lineup of Jamison, Walker, Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash -- it's the ultimate experiment by mad professor Don Nelson. He's going all-out, pedal-to-the-metal on offense and daring opponents to keep up with them. Some nights they'll start Shawn Bradley or Danny Fortson at center; otherwise they'll make do with multiple zone and man-to-man defenses while concentrating on outscoring you.... As flashy as this team is, you can't win the title without an inside presence. That's why Nowitzki needs to have an MVP-type season for the Mavs to go to the Finals.... Nash is the guy who can help Nowitzki do that. They're getting to be like Stockton and Malone in the way they look for each other on the pick-and-roll. The difference is that you rarely see Nowitzki roll to the basket because he has so much confidence in his jump shot.... They'll also need Nowitzki to make up for some of the big baskets they lost in trading Nick Van Exel for Jamison. With Van Exel gone, it's more important than ever that Nelson manage the minutes for Nash, who plays so hard he exposes himself to injury.... Jamison gets his points in the flow of the offense, which is how you have to play in Dallas. To make himself really valuable, he needs to rebound for them.... This might be their last chance to win it all with this style of play. If they fail, I don't see Mark Cuban being patient."
Issue date: October 27, 2003