Updated: Jan. 10, 2007, 5:14 PM ET

Mavs show rebounding skills

The Dallas Mavericks responded to the end of their 13-game winning streak with an intense effort in Utah on Tuesday, a 108-105 win led by Dirk Nowitzki's season-high 38 points.

A few questions after the clash of two of the West's leaders...

Dallas guard Jerry Stackhouse gets two flagrant fouls, has words for Utah coach Jerry Sloan and after the game characterizes the Jazz approach as that of a "fake physical team." Let's get ready to rumble, anyone?

Stackhouse's role on the Mavs is no longer as the star player he once was in Detroit and Philly, but he brings toughness that they've been missing. He's aggressive. He'll challenge you. He's ultracompetitive. He's what they need.

The Jazz are now 24-11, but you don't rank them among the West's top 5 (Nuggets, Lakers, Suns, Spurs and Mavs are your picks). Why?

When you have some success in the playoffs, that's where you gather your respect. Look at Dallas. We weren't talking about them as being among the best until they finally got by the Spurs last year.

As the Jazz go around the league another time, they're not going to catch people by surprise, which is basically what I think the Orlando Magic have done. I think the Nuggets are flying under the radar now, but when they have everybody back, they're going to be very hard to match up with.

Is Carlos Boozer on your MVP radar?

Without him, I think Utah would be well below .500. Boozer gives them an inside presence and he can finish the break. With Boozer, they have a toughness that they once had plenty of with Karl Malone.

But I think he's on the second tier of MVP candidates along with Gilbert Arenas. Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash are on the first tier.

Is Josh Howard deserving All-Star selection?

Yes. I think one sign of how well he's playing is that he drew Andrei Kirilenko, who once would have guarded Nowitzki. Howard (21 points, nine rebounds) does so many things well. Along with guys like Caron Butler, he's stepped his game to a whole other level.

Mavs center Erick Dampier's 30 minutes on the floor Tuesday doesn't register much in the box score. Did he have a bigger effect?

Much bigger. Dampier reminds me of Alonzo Mourning in that I remember playing with 'Zo and telling him that he doesn't have to score to be a factor. Dampier isn't in the 'Zo mold, but he can be a presence in the middle. The game has changed where centers are role players, and Dampier can be a very good one.

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Stackhouse Not Beloved In Beehive State
Jerry Stackhouse
Douglas C. Pizac/AP Photo
After earning a flagrant foul for flooring Matt Harpring, Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse gets a T for confronting Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. He was later ejected following a second flagrant foul.

Thorpe Speed: King Tops Kings

BRON WAS ON: Watching LeBron James drain three consecutive 3s in a two-minute span to blow the game open in the fourth was impressive, but seeing him tell his coach to call the play "thumbs down" -- a flat ball screen at the top -- knowing the Kings couldn't defend it was even more eye-opening. Few 22-year-olds have the perspicacity LBJ does. Those who do are engineers or doctors, not highly skilled athletes.

WHIZ GRIZZ: The conventional wisdom suggests that the NBA is a players' league. But the Memphis Grizzlies are the latest proof that coaches still rule the roost. It's not that coach Tony Barone wants them to run as much as he is just letting them play to their natural tendencies. And he is giving them the freedom to "push and fail" without looking over their shoulders. The result is a stress free and confident group, and a dangerous team for anyone with playoff aspirations.

PUPIL'S PROGRESS: Andrew Bynum's ability to score with his back to the basket is something that Kareem is very proud of -- he is greatly improved in that area of his game. But the next thing Coach Abdul-Jabbar has to teach his pupil is to be less methodical down low. Bynum's patient approach makes him vulnerable to weakside blocks from the opposite big who can measure up Bynum's shot.

-- David Thorpe

How Banks Ranks: Poorly
Kobe Bryant

John Hollinger ranks the Phoenix signing of Marcus Banks as the top bad offseason move:

To be No. 1, you have to do something really special. In this case, it's not just that Banks has played worse than anyone expected -- but that the deal has had so many ancillary negative impacts. The Suns signed Banks because they thought he could help them get more rest for Steve Nash and keep him fresh for the postseason, but because Banks hasn't been able to get the job done, Nash is averaging a career-high 36.0 minutes per game.

They signed him instead of using their first-round pick to get a developing point guard (say, Rajon Rondo or Marcus Williams or Kyle Lowry) because they wanted somebody who could provide immediate help. But Banks is out of the rotation and has slim prospects of returning anytime soon, and I'm guessing Rondo could do pregame drills and cheer from the bench just as well as Banks does.

And because the Suns gave Banks a five-year, $21 million deal rather than inking a younger player to a rookie contract, they're looking at some tricky financial sledding. When extensions for Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa kick in next year, the Suns will be way over the luxury tax threshold unless they can work out a trade for one of their big men (Diaw, Kurt Thomas, Amare Stoudemire or Shawn Marion). Thus, the signing of Banks may indirectly cost the Suns the services of a vastly superior player next season.

Adding insult to injury, it turns out the backup point guard solution was in-house the entire time. Barbosa has taken to the spot much better than in the past and established himself as Nash's primary backup. So the Suns spent all that money for a player they didn't even need. It's a credit to the other moves they've made in recent years that they might win the title anyway.

Full John Hollinger story Insider

Records At A Glance

Mavs Avenge Last SLC Thrashing

Jazz suffer home loss against Mavs

Memphis Swell
Mike Miller
Joe Murphy Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Grizzlies forward Mike Miller avoided Ronny Turiaf and Vladimir Radmanovic of the Lakers enough to post 25 points in a 128-118 win in Memphis.

Extreme Behavior
Nick Collison

Tuesday's Best
Sonics forward Nick Collison: Goes for 29 points and 21 rebounds, both career bests, in losing cause against Suns. Not bad for a guy who hasn't reached double figures in his last eight games. Sonics lose fifth straight anyway.

TJ Ford

Tuesday's Worst
Raptors guard T.J. Ford: During an otherwise stellar season, a clunker. Bricks 0-for-8 in 17 minutes in a 101-86 loss to their rival for Atlantic "supremacy", the Nets.

Quote of the Day
"It's just another team that I can be passionate against. They're going to hold and grab [and] try to play a fake physical game."
-- Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse after getting two flagrant fouls in Salt Lake City.

See how all 164 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Arenas Chats On The High Road

Lance (Chicago): Been wondering why Kobe Bryant made that statement against you when in fact he also shoots more shots with the average the same or much worst than you. Any thoughts?

Gilbert Arenas: No, I just took the higher road on it. I didn't pay attention to the comment. You can't get distracted by it. From then, I've been playing well. So I have no complaints about what he said.

Full Gilbert Arenas chat Insider

As Time Passes, This Wiz Deal Looks Better

Daniel (Los Angeles): For the love of all that is holy and sacred, please answer my question and settle an argument for me. How bad does the Lakers' trade of Caron Butler for Kwame Brown look now? I hated it at the time. And now when I sleep, all I dream of is Kobe Bryant, Caron and Lamar Odom running the triangle. What a horrific trade!

Marc Stein: When the trade went down, I actually didn't hate it for the Lakers, for the same reason I liked them gambling on Andrew Bynum in the draft as opposed to going for someone safer like Sean May. To me, L.A. needed to swing for home runs after trading Shaq away. That's obviously risky, but I felt they were worthy gambles because of Bynum's size and potential and the idea that Phil Jackson would reach Kwame somehow. With Kwame on a short contract, it seemed to make even more sense. HOWEVER...

Caron has taken such a huge step with his game that the Lakers have to regret this now. Especially in an era where you don't have to have two 7-footers on the floor, thanks to the rule changes that favor bigs who can really move. It's also easy to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that Bynum is developing quickly enough to make trading Butler for a bigger Kwame less of a necessity. Without the trade, L.A. would be building around Kobe, Caron, Lamar and Bynum ... quite a promising foursome on paper. Kudos to the Wiz for recognizing Caron's potential and replacing Larry Hughes with Butler at a much friendlier price. Ernie Grunfeld is good.

Full Marc Stein chat Insider

Curses! Talented Lefty Sidelined

The cynic would say that Milwaukee star Michael Redd was jinxed by the ESPN guy who picked him as the best player in the Eastern Conference through the season's opening third.

Yet not even I, Redd's unofficial publicist, would have left our favorite lefty in the game with the Bucks down 11 and only 14 seconds left, which proved just long enough for Redd to suffer a knee strain that will keep him out at least a month.

I'm sure Terry Stotts wishes now that he had pulled Redd out before the final seconds of Saturday's 95-86 home loss to Cleveland, instead of leaving him in for a garbage-time dunk that appears to have firmly stuffed Milwaukee's season in the dumpster.

Full Marc Stein blog Insider


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