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Jason Terry looks around the Mavericks' practice facility and surveys the abundant wall signage, which hews to a common theme. They read contain, contest and--a reference to the team's goal for opponents' field goal shooting--42%. "There's a couple of new ones up there," says Terry, taking note of the everybody rebound sign. "We love it. We know we have to get stops. That's why we watch films of the teams that win championships, Detroit and San Antonio, because they thrive on the defensive end."
Anyone who remembers Terry's five seasons in Atlanta, when he acted as a human turnstile for opposing point guards, might be surprised by his new appreciation of D, but such is the influence of coach Avery Johnson, who since taking over from Don Nelson last March has reprogrammed Dallas in his own feisty image. Every time Terry hand-checked in practice, Johnson whistled him for the illegal maneuver. Whenever Terry got beat in a game, he heard about it. "I used to put more hands on the body," says Terry. "Now there's a big emphasis on using my body to contain the man."
Johnson is also asking Terry to pick up his scoring. Two years ago Terry would have been the sixth option on the team. Now he's No. 2 on the bill, with only Nowitzki ahead of him. So instead of the 12.4 points Terry averaged last season, Johnson wants him to put up 17 to 20--as he did in the playoffs, when Terry averaged 17.5 points and shot 49.1% from three-point range. "We want him to provide more offense, but that doesn't give him the right to coast on defense," says Johnson. Or, in a sign of the times, Terry should take the defensive challenge! --C.B.
"They shouldn't worry about the loss of Michael Finley on the court because he had lost a step. But they should be concerned about the loss of his leadership.... Avery Johnson's going to try to make this more of a defensive team, which is going to be interesting because his only solid defenders are Josh Howard and Doug Christie.... The simplest way to improve defensively is to slow down tempo. But playing and scoring quickly is one of their big strengths, and as a coach you don't want to diminish what you do best.... Avery will probably want them to be a little more structured on offense, but can this team carry out disciplined orders? I don't see Jason Terry adapting well to structure because he's not a point guard at heart.... Dirk Nowitzki tries defensively, but he's just not very good. He gets strung out on the wing or overpowered in the post. I still feel he is one of the top five offensive players in the league, but I have no doubt that his confidence took a hit last year while playing without Steve Nash. In the playoffs he only had one game of 30 points or more.... Erick Dampier doesn't play hard every night. Avery won't stand for poor effort like that, but on the other hand he needs Dampier, who is one of the few guys who would benefit from a slower-paced game."
Projected Starting Lineup with 2004-05 statistics
Record: 58-24 (3rd in West)
Points scored: 102.5 (3rd in NBA)