DALLAS -- The defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks won more games than their boss anticipated before the All-Star break.
Yet the 21-13 Mavs are nowhere near as good as Mark Cuban expects them to be.
"We've got a better record than I thought we would, but we haven't played great basketball yet," Cuban said.
"We've shown that we have the pieces, but we haven't done it yet. A lot to like, a lot to look forward to."
Cuban thought that the Mavs, the league's oldest team and one that relies much more on precision than athleticism, would sputter out of the gates after a lockout-shortened training camp. That's why he didn't sweat their 0-3 start or the early-season struggles of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom. (And they still aren't sounding panic alarms because of Odom's subpar play.)
The Mavs have two primary goals for the regular season: qualify for the playoffs and be healthy when they start. They're in position to have home-court advantage in the first round -- which would be a bonus -- despite dealing with a myriad of medical issues.
The team has responded to coach Rick Carlisle's demands to be great defensively and considers its mediocre offense a work in progress. All in all, the Mavs are pleased with their first half but far from satisfied.
"We've made some progress," Carlisle said, "but we're nowhere near where we need to be."
We'll monitor that progress with midterm grades for each player, as well as Carlisle. We graded on a curve, based on preseason expectations for each individual.
Tim MacMahon and Jeff Caplan cover the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.