Hollinger: Mavs are 'ultimate lockout team'

ESPN.com's John Hollinger, a longtime favorite of Mavs fans, heaps praise on coach Rick Carlisle's handling of the deep Dallas squad during this bizarre, lockout-condensed season.

You have to be an ESPN Insider to read Hollinger's column, but here's a sample:

The Mavs have taken San Antonio's approach and shown everyone how much further one can take it. Dallas has only one player, Nowitzki, averaging more than 30 minutes a game, and he's at just 31.2. Of course, that includes only the games he played; Dallas also sent him home for a week to get in better shape.

Instead, 14 different Mavs have played at least 50 minutes this season, and a dozen have appeared in at least half the team's games.

What's more, these aren't just run-of-the-mill scrubs. The players Dallas keeps rotating in have, for the most part, been wildly productive. In fact, they're the main reason the Mavs are 14-8 despite horrific starts from Lamar Odom and Jason Kidd and a disappointing one from Dirk Nowitzki.

In doing so, the Mavs have become the ultimate lockout team. I thought the Nuggets would be that team, and they've certainly played well, but they've done it in a more traditional way than I expected -- Denver has mostly stuck to a nine-man rotation and has four starters averaging more than 31 minutes.

Instead, it's Dallas that has studiously avoided overtaxing its players, relied heavily on its depth and begun reaping the rewards as the season takes its toll on opponents. Perhaps we should have expected this from one of the league's best-managed teams -- regardless of how much they spent, they didn't win 50 every year for a decade by accident -- but I don't think anybody foresaw Dallas making it work to this extent.

And that's where we get to the real fascinating part. Using the bench is one thing; having bench players who are actually good is much more difficult. Dallas' secondary players have been so phenomenal that their performance has largely offset the fact that (a) their superstar has been ordinary, (b) their center left as a free agent, and (c) their alleged second- and third-best players (Kidd and Odom) have been replacement-level so far.