Second unit dubbed 'Mavericks Off the Bench'

Updated: April 27, 2006, 1:59 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks were at their best this season when coach Avery Johnson could look down his bench and have trouble deciding who to put in.

Need scoring? Then go with Jerry Stackhouse, who averages more than 20 points per game for his career.

"One or two guys are not going to get the job done. You've got to have five, six, seven guys playing at a high level for a long period of time. That's ultimately what we're working on, being solid in a lot of different ways. That gives us a shot every night."
Dirk Nowitzki

Want to up the tempo? Signal for Devin Harris, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft and the team's point guard of the future.

How about a big man? Send in Erick Dampier, whom Dallas thought so highly of last season that he received a $73 million contract.

Add swingman Marquis Daniels, who as a rookie two years ago was a playoff starter, and injured forward Keith Van Horn, who happens to be Dallas' highest-paid player, and it's little wonder why Johnson is the rare coach not tightening his rotation now that the playoffs are under way.

Johnson went to his bench early and often Sunday night in a 103-93 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of a first-round series. While Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 31 points, it was Dampier's energy and clutch, momentum-turning baskets by Daniels that made up for the team's otherwise shaky shooting.

"We all know that we've got to have a complete team effort to win the championship," Nowitzki said Monday. "If you look at the champions from the last few years, like Detroit and San Antonio, you've got to attack from all angles.

"One or two guys are not going to get the job done. You've got to have five, six, seven guys playing at a high level for a long period of time. That's ultimately what we're working on, being solid in a lot of different ways. That gives us a shot every night."

Because of injuries, Johnson has rarely had all his reserves available at the same time this season. Game 1 was one of those occasions -- and, of course, great timing.

As is his nature, Johnson focused more on how many of those players were still hobbling, such as Harris and starters Josh Howard and Adrian Griffin. Daniels missed time recently, too.

Still, having a second unit that starter Jason Terry has dubbed the "MOB" [Mavericks Off the Bench] is an offer Johnson can't refuse.

"That's a good luxury," he said. "We want them to play like they can be starters on other teams. We like that idea."

Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello knows the feeling. In 1988, his Atlanta Hawks went 10-deep, with a second unit that consisted of Spud Webb, John Battle, Cliff Levingston, Antoine Carr and Jon Koncak.

"They're a deep team, a very talented team," Fratello said of the Mavericks. "It's nice to have that kind of personnel."

While Stackhouse and Harris are capable of landing on highlight reels, Dampier could be the X factor.

The Mavs were undefeated when he hit double figures in points and rebounds this season. Problem was, it happened only seven times.

He did it again in Game 1, with 12 points and 12 rebounds. More important, he pumped up teammates and fans with his hustle -- diving out of bounds to save a loose ball, grabbing another out of a scrum and slamming it home then later turning a tough offensive rebound into a three-point play.

"You're not always going to get a double-double, but you want him to play with intensity and not get so many cheap fouls, showing some emotion," Johnson said after the game.

During last year's playoffs, Dampier was being outplayed so badly that Nowitzki criticized him on the court. He even became a punch line for Shaquille O'Neal, who said last April that a leg injury was causing him to play "like Erick Dampier."

When Dampier got off to a slow start this season, and DeSagana Diop was coming on strong, Johnson flopped their roles. Dallas won its next 13 games and Dampier has come off the bench since.

He's also never complained about it.

"The only difference between starting and coming off the bench is you get a chance to get the tip. Other than that, it's all the same," Dampier said, laughing. "I get a chance to sit over there and watch the game on the sideline and see how I want to attack on the offensive glass and when I want to score."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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