Mavs, military both win with 'Seats for Soldiers'

The Dallas Mavericks and American Airlines are entering the ninth year of their “Seats for Soldiers” partnership, an experience that allows fans to give back to the nation’s military. More than 100 wounded service members from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and other troops on reserve in the Metroplex will travel to Dallas to see the Mavericks take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.

In addition, the American Airlines flight crew and flight attendants will volunteer their time for the occasion, and American’s people are also arranging special send-off and arrival celebrations for the wounded service members at the departure and arrival airports. After the game, the soldiers will have the opportunity to meet and have their photos taken with the players and coaches from both teams.

Over the years, players and coaches have said that the unique nature of the game makes it one of the most memorable games of the year and that there is a special buzz in the arena with the troops in building. The Mavericks are 7-1 all-time in “Seats for Soldiers” games, most recently defeating the Detroit Pistons 92-77 on Dec. 1, 2012. The Mavs' only loss came against the Pistons on Dec. 7, 2006, a 92-82 defeat.

The first game in the partnership came on Dec. 18, 2004, and Dallas defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 90-68. The “Seats for Soldiers” concept came from Mavericks season ticket holder Neal Hawks. He and other front-row season-ticket holders have donated their courtside seats for the game, valued at more than $350,000. There was no game during the 2011-12 season because of the work stoppage.

Dirk, Carlisle ill: There seems to be a bug going around, as both Dirk Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle are sick and missed shootaround Saturday morning. Their availability for the game against the Bucks is uncertain.

The Mavericks would certainly like to have both of their leaders ready to go tonight. With the unique nature of the "Seats for Soldiers" game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nowitzki is one Maverick who consistently answers the call during these events.

According to Mavericks statistician Dave Keeny, Nowitzki has played in seven of the eight previous games, holding averages of 29.1 points and 9.3 rebounds with a .540 shooting percentage. The face of the franchise has had games two games 31-point games, as well as a 36- and 46-point effort. Nowitzki has been the leading scorer six times in “Seats for Soldiers” games. The only game he wasn’t the leading scorer came in a win against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 8, 2007. That game saw Josh Howard record a career-high 47 points.

Unique club: Nowitzki has a chance to further cement himself as one of the most unique players in NBA history. He is shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from 3-point range and 92.6 percent from the free throw line this season. With those percentages, he has the chance to join the exclusive 50-40-90 club -- again.

Nowitzki, who shot 50.2 percent from the field, 41.6 percent from 3-point range and 90.4 percent from the line during the 2006-07 season, would become just the third player in NBA history to achieve 50-40-90 in multiple seasons. Steve Nash (four times: 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10) and Larry Bird (twice: 1986-87 and 1987-88) are the only players to achieve 50-40-90 in multiple seasons. To date, there are only six players in NBA history to make it into the 50-40-90 club: Mark Price (1988-89), Reggie Miller (1993-94), Kevin Durant (2012-13), Bird, Nash and Nowitzki.