Rick Carlisle: 'We're not out of the playoff race'

DALLAS – It wasn’t quite as entertaining or inspirational as Bluto Blutarsky’s big speech in "Animal House," but coach Rick Carlisle made it clear that he doesn’t consider the Mavericks’ season over.

“What is there to play for?” Carlisle said, repeating a question presented to him Monday, a planned day off until the Mavericks were humiliated Sunday night in Houston. We’re professionals. We get paid to compete. We get paid to win games.

“The motivation is to compete, to win games and we’re not out of the playoff race, either. There’s time. And I understand, if you look at the standings right now, it doesn’t look good. But a lot can happen in a month and a half. We’ve got to make a stand. That’s where we are.”

If you look at the standings right now, it looks really bad for the Mavs.

They’re stuck in 11th place, seven games below .500 with only 23 games remaining on the schedule. They’re 5 ½ games out of eighth place. And the ninth-place Lakers are finally looking like a legitimate playoff team, if not the contender most predicted they’d be after their splashy summer.

The Mavs, on the other hand, have lost four of five games to fall to 26-33. They’d have to go 15-8 to shave by the end of the season and be significantly better than that to have a shot of stealing a playoff berth.

But Carlisle continues to talk about his “enthusiasm for this team.” He doesn’t deny that the Mavs have pretty much been a mess so far this season, but he clings to the faint hope that they can click and miraculously morph into an outstanding team.

“Look, this has been a season of great opportunity,” Carlisle said. “It’s been high on opportunity and low on people that have seized opportunity. But with 22 or 23 games left, there’s still time for that. In my mind, there’s plenty to play for.

“We’ve got to keep pushing as coaches. The players have to stay at it and keep fighting.”