Stoudemire gives Mavs reason to be excited

DALLAS -- The only disappointing aspect of Amar'e Stoudemire's first game with the Dallas Mavericks was his choice of footwear after the game. Leopard-print sneakers -- no matter how much they cost or who designed them -- are never a good look.

Although his shoe game was garish, Stoudemire’s floor game was stylish.

Frankly, the most difficult thing for any Mavs fan -- including owner Mark Cuban, the biggest fan of them all -- is to keep Stoudemire’s performance in perspective after a nearly flawless debut.

He can’t possibly play this well every night, can he? Well, even if he could, expecting it will only serve to leave you frustrated.

Stoudemire played only 11 minutes, but he scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds while looking like a perfect fit in coach Rick Carlisle’s offense. Stoudemire gave this team of slashers and 3-point shooters a consistent, low-post offense that we haven’t seen since Roy Tarpley and Mark Aguirre ruled the paint in the 1980s.

Dallas 92, Charlotte 81.

On a cold, gloomy night, the anticipation of Stoudemire’s Dallas debut had the crowd amped for what would’ve normally been a nondescript, regular-season game against a run-of-the-mill opponent.

Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star acquired Wednesday after the New York Knicks bought out his contract and he passed through waivers, didn’t disappoint.

Admittedly a tad anxious, Stoudemire missed his first two shots after he entered the game with 5:26 left in the first quarter. He was too concerned with getting to the free throw line and not enough with actually making the shot -- his thoughts, not mine.

The crowd gave Stoudemire a rousing ovation. The 13-year veteran figured the easiest way to get rid of the excitement pulsing through his body was to make a couple free throws and ease into the flow of the game.

“The fans were very joyful tonight, and they gave me a lot of energy,” he said. “I was ready to get going and set the tone from the start.”

Stoudemire finally powered in a layup. Then he threw down his first dunk, and a minute later, he slammed down a lob from J.J. Barea.

In the second half, Barea and Stoudemire worked the pick-and-roll for a couple of buckets. Once he rolled to the basket, and another time, he hit a short jumper. He finished with three dunks and made each of his four free throws.

Pretty good for a dude who still has quite a bit to learn about the Mavs’ free-flowing offense. And Stoudemire should only get better as he gets more acclimated.

After all, this team is built to play pick-and-roll and shoot 3-pointers. A player such as Stoudemire, who is capable of scoring in the low post with a variety of moves, gives the second unit a completely different look.

Oh, and he can still run the floor. A good offense just became more versatile, functional and efficient.

“It’s pretty clear the guy knows how to play the game. He has a lot of skill, and he has a lot of juice,” Carlisle said. “I see his minutes increasing, but for the first game with a new team, 14 points in 12 minutes was pretty strong."

With the Knicks, Stoudemire averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds in 24 minutes a game. The Mavs would like to keep him to about 20 minutes a game until the playoffs start, which should allow Tyson Chandler’s minutes to shrink from 31 to 29.

Yes, a couple minutes a game over the rest of the season does make a difference. Stoudemire, like a number of players on this team, is only interested in winning.

He has made a bunch of money and earned a litany of awards and accolades, but he doesn’t own a championship ring.

“Obviously, playing for a championship [team], you find the motivation in that,” he said. “Playing for a team that’s not going to make the playoffs, you find the motivation in competing against whoever you’re playing against.

“There are always ways to find challenges in the game of basketball. That’s what makes it such a beautiful game, but competing for a championship is the ultimate goal.”