Standing in the quiet Dallas Mavericks locker room Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Shawn Marion, tugging on his designer jeans after a long day chasing Jeremy Lin, was reminded that in about 24 hours he'd be at the American Airlines Center warming up for tonight's game against the Boston Celtics.
"Whew," was about all Marion could muster with a shake of the head and a quick rise of the eyebrows.
After weeks of playing four, five and six games a week, to say the Mavs are looking forward to the All-Star break come Thursday is a vast understatement. Only Dirk Nowitzki will be headed to All-Star Weekend in Orlando as a participant, a reserve for the 11th consecutive time for the West squad. Jason Terry will be there doing work with Reebok.
Otherwise, this squad, the oldest in the league, will take a break on Thursday and won't return until Monday. They won't play again until Tuesday when a point guard named Deron Williams comes to town with Avery Johnson and the woebegone New Jersey Nets.
"That's how we like it, we like it tough," Terry said. "These are the type of games you love -- New York, Boston, L.A. What more can you ask for?"
Tonight: vs. Boston Celtics (15-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Celtics enter this one in desperation mode as losers of three in a row. They fell to .500 Sunday and 4-7 on the road with a 96-81 wipeout at the hands of the suddenly hot Detroit Pistons. The Celtics could be rather shorthanded as well with former Mavs forward Brandon Bass nursing a sore left knee, Kevin Garnett's status uncertain due to personal reasons and point guard Rajon Rondo awaiting word from the league on a possible suspension after being ejected against the Pistons. The Mavs will be looking to close out their nine-game run with bounce-back game after falling to the Knicks Sunday afternoon. They beat the Celtics in Boston, 90-85.
Wednesday: vs. Los Angeles Lakers (18-13), 8:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Lakers don't win much on the road, just five times in 16 games, including a 102-90 spanking at Phoenix on Sunday. L.A. will play Portland on Monday before traveling east for a back-to-back at Dallas and Oklahoma City. Last month, Dallas lost a tough, ugly one in L.A. on a Derek Fisher 3-pointer in the final seconds for a 73-70 win. Maybe Dallas can take advantage of a fatigued team. Where the Mavs have concentrated on keeping their stars' minutes, down, Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum rank near the top of the league in minutes played. Kobe is averaging more than 38 minutes and Gasol is at 37. A victory over the Lakers would send the Mavs into the All-Star break having to feel pretty good about the first half of the season and looking forward to a second half that becomes road-heavy entering March.