Karl, the Nuggets coach, told ESPN 103.3's Galloway & Company on Thursday that he'd prefer to face the Mavericks instead of the Thunder in the first round. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle responded on the radio show Friday by acknowledging that the comment should get under the Mavericks' collective skin.
"That should be great motivation for us," Carlisle said. "If anything, you should be happy that somebody is saying flammable things about your team. That should be great bulletin-board material."
Carlisle claimed that he wasn't aware of Karl's comments when asked about them after the Mavericks' morning shootaround. He said he didn't actually read the quote until after the subject came up again during his weekly appearance on Galloway & Company.
The Mavericks entered Friday night with a one-game lead over the Thunder for the Western Conference's third seed. As a division champion, Oklahoma City would own the tiebreaker despite losing the season series to Dallas.
"If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players," said Karl, whose team has all but locked up the fifth seed. "They have two All-Stars who are really in their prime and have never won on the playoff stage. I just think right now our speed might have more effect against Dallas than it will against Oklahoma City."
Carlisle smiled as he discussed Karl's opinion during his pregame session with the media Friday evening.
"To me, more than anything what this means is that George has completely beaten cancer and he is back to his old self," Carlisle said, referring to the throat cancer that sidelined Karl for much of last season. "For all of us, that is great news because he's meant an awful lot to coaching for a lot of years. To me, this feistiness means that he's feeling good and that's great.
"If we see those guys, we'll be ready and they'll be ready, too."
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn't offer much more than a shrug while working out on his StairMaster. Cuban said it didn't matter to him whether the Mavs were the third or fourth seed as long as they were healthy when the playoffs began.
"I don't know what to say, I'm shaking so much," Cuban said sarcastically. "Every team in the West is tough. There's no layups."
Cuban didn't agree with his coach's assessment that Karl might have provided motivational fodder for the Mavericks.
"I'm not a big believer in bulletin-board material," said Cuban, who has provided plenty during his 11-year ownership tenure. "If you need extra motivation to get up for the playoffs, just tell me and we'll find you a different team."
Jason Terry, the Mavs' most prolific trash-talker, isn't worried about Karl's preference of the Mavs as a playoff foe. His focus is on ending a four-game losing streak and trying to build some semblance of momentum entering the playoffs.
"That's cool, I guess, if that's what they want," Terry said. "Don't make me none at this point. Just bring somebody. We're just trying to get a win and get to these playoffs. This is getting a little old right now. Get in a win, get back to feeling good about ourselves and get to these playoffs."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.