Rick Carlisle has pushed right buttons

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As long as MVP candidates are discussed barely one-third into the season, why not coach of the year candidates?

In that regard, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has to be high on the list. Throw in Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Mike D'Antonio and Tom Thibodeau.

Carlisle has hit all the right chords since the team convened for training camp in late September. He's massaged a roster of veteran players, has had them buy into roles they're not accustomed to all while getting them to pull for one another.

After the disarray of last season's first-round playoff ending in San Antonio, a 23-5 start was anything but guaranteed or expected -- especially with supposed offensive savior Roddy Beaubois still sidelined with a long-recovering broken foot.

Through this past offseason, Carlisle has seen 17 players come and go. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea remain from the squad he took over prior to the 2008-09 season.

This roster, he said, is easily his most stable, and most complete.

"Oh for sure. Look, I love our group, I love our depth. All that should go without saying," Carlisle said. "This is a terrific collection of guys and our depth is quality at every position. So, it's all about staying healthy, staying focused and understand that we're going to have different guys finishing at different times. We're going to have different guys needed to step up and make big shots, but collectively it's all about one thing and that is becoming the best team that we can become."