Opening Tip: 'We've got guys that are tough'

DALLAS – As Russell Westbrook raced full speed toward the basket in transition, Jose Calderon scrambled to position himself in front of the restricted area and braced for a collision.

Westbrook went through Calderon for a layup attempt before the point guards for the Thunder and Mavericks ended up in a heap on the baseline. The whistle blew.


That’s a smart, gritty play by Calderon under any circumstances. It’s especially impressive considering that he’s playing with a painful chipped bone just below his nose.

“I think people don’t give this team enough credit for toughness,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “We’ve got guys that are tough. They play to win.”

The coaching staff makes sure that taking a charge is considered a major badge of honor by the Mavs. Coach Rick Carlisle calls it one of the most impactful plays in the game, noting that it’s a turnover and foul for the opponent and often a momentum swing in the Mavs’ favor.

It also epitomizes the sacrifice and toughness required for the admittedly flawed Mavs to challenge contenders such as the Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, who visit the American Airlines Center on Thursday night.

“It’s got to be a collective mindset, a collective mentality,” Carlisle said after stating that he believes the Mavs have the necessary toughness. “This team’s success in the last 10 games can’t be built around a few guys making great individual plays. That’s just not how we’re built. Our basketball karma is just not going to work that way. It’s got to be an all-together type thing.”

Monta Ellis leads the Mavs with 26 charges taken, according to totals kept by the coaches. He ranks third in the league in offensive fouls drawn with 44, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s behind only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher, a couple of veteran guards known for toughness and high basketball IQ.

The rest of the Mavs’ charges leaderboard: Vince Carter 7, Devin Harris 7, Calderon 6, Jae Crowder 5, DeJuan Blair 5.

The fact that Ellis and Carter are the Mavs’ leaders in a dirty-work department speaks volumes for their desire to win. After all, they both arrived in Dallas as volume scorers with reputations as divas who didn’t care much for defense.

“It’s crazy to think that Vince Carter, all the s--- that he’s taken over the years, is probably the first one to step in to take a charge, the first one to go in and battle for a rebound,” Cuban said. “I mean, who woulda thunk that about Monta? That’s the grit we have on this team, and it shows.”