SALT LAKE CITY -- The Mavericks can almost smell the playoffs.
“It’s just fun to be a part of,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who wasn’t a postseason participant for the first time in 12 years last season. “The preparation and adjustments from day to day in the playoffs is a blast. It’s actually very taxing mentally and physically, but it’s also the most fun.
“Hopefully we can get back there.”
The Mavericks’ magic number is three. Any combination of three Mavs’ wins or Memphis Grizzlies’ losses clinches them a playoff spot.
Dallas has the tiebreaker over Memphis because the Mavs won the first three meetings of the season. There’s a decent chance that the Mavs’ trip to Memphis for the regular-season finale will either be meaningless for the visitors or Dallas will have only seeding at stake, not a playoff ticket.
That will likely depend in large part on the outcome of the Suns’ April 12 visit to the American Airlines Center. The Dallas-Phoenix tiebreaker will be at stake in that game after the Mavs and Suns split the previous two meetings this season.
That covers several of the questions in this week’s mailbag. On to some others ...
Is Vince Carter Hall of Fame to you, Tim? -- EricHorneOK on Twitter
Absolutely. It’s not a hard decision. As Rick Carlisle pointed out, eight-time All-Stars are always Hall of Famers. Carter is 26th on the all-time scoring list, and every single eligible player above him has been honored in Springfield, Mass.
There are plenty of fans and media members who feel that Carter didn’t maximize his immense potential, but that’s not a good enough reason to consider not inducting him into the Hall of Fame. He’s also helped his case -- and maybe changed the perception of him in some minds -- by unselfishly embracing the sixth man role and excelling in it the last couple of seasons in Dallas.
I’ll offer two different rankings. From lowest to highest risk: Deng, Stephenson, Sanders. From highest to lowest potential reward: Sanders, Stephenson, Deng.
We discussed Stephenson in last week’s mailbag. Some pretty thorough homework needs to be done regarding his role in the Pacers’ crumbling before making a big bid on him. You know what you’re getting with Deng, but he’s probably hit his ceiling. Sanders is a huge wild card with a four-year, $44 million contract extension that kicks in next season.
Maybe the Bucks can be talked into dumping that contract in a deal that offers minimal basketball value in return. If that’s the case, the Mavs would have to consider it, but it’d be foolish for the front office to believe the culture in Dallas can magically cure Sanders’ off-court issues. That didn’t work with Lamar Odom.
If Sanders’ career goes up in smoke, so to speak, that’s a terrible contract. But if the Mavs could somehow get his head screwed on straight, they’d have a heck of a shot-blocking, rebound-grabbing, floor-running big man to complement Dirk during his golden years.
Do you think the Mavs' main concern this offseason is to shop for a prominent, Tyson Chandler-esque big man? -- @DCowboys4life on Twitter
I think addressing the center position is a priority, but I’m not sure it ranks above finding a starting small forward. It might be difficult to acquire an upgrade over Samuel Dalembert this summer. Marcin Gortat is the only center in free agency who I see as a significant upgrade, and it’ll likely be tough to talk him into leaving a Washington team that’s on the rise. Could Sanders be the solution?
Why do you think so few superstar caliber players have shown such little interest in teaming up with Dirk in Dallas throughout his career? -- Jake (Philadelphia)
I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of the situation. Deron Williams and Dwight Howard showed significant interest in joining Dirk in Dallas. They just opted for situations they thought were better. Chris Paul had long let it be known that playing with Dirk was intriguing to him, but once the Clippers hired Doc Rivers, he wasn’t going anywhere.
There’s no prize for finishing as a runner-up in free agency, but it’s not proof that stars don’t want to play with Dirk.
What does Holger do in his downtime? Does he have downtime? -- @DrunkenThursday
I have no idea. I’ll ask Dirk and tweet his answer.