Carlisle wants to play up-tempo game with Mavs next season

DALLAS -- Rick Carlisle is off to a great start as coach of the Dallas Mavericks. He's already won over Dirk Nowitzki and he's saying exactly what Jason Kidd wants to hear.

At his formal introduction as Avery Johnson's replacement, Carlisle repeatedly stressed Wednesday he intends to let Kidd run, run and run some more, going so far as to emphasize that players better spend all summer getting into shape to handle all the running they'll be doing next season.

Then came the disclaimer.

"Having said all that about the offensive end, we've got to be passionate and vigilant about preserving what Avery did here in establishing the defensive end," Carlisle said. "This team didn't get to the championship round until they really made a commitment defensively."

Sitting near the back of the room, Nowitzki loved what he was hearing.

"That's cool," he whispered.

Truth is, Carlisle and Nowitzki hit it off the first time they met, a few days into the coaching search. Carlisle was the first and only candidate interviewed and within days he was going through a second round of meetings with team owner Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson, the team's president of basketball operations. After getting together in Indianapolis, they met in Dallas and invited Nowitzki to join them at Cuban's house.

Nowitzki figured he'd be there an hour. He stayed more than four, starving because he'd skipped lunch, but thrilled with everything he heard.

"He was great, just a great guy. Somebody you can talk to that's easygoing," Nowitzki said. "What I liked about it the most was he asked me, `What do I like? What do I want to improve on going forward?"

Carlisle even gave Nowitzki some pointers, tips he'd gleaned from his days playing and coaching with Larry Bird.

"We got up in the living room and he already started teaching me some stuff that Larry used to do to get easier looks and get himself going if there where nights when his jumper wasn't going," Nowitzki said.

Nowitzki seemed surprised when he was told Carlisle didn't exactly have a reputation for being a player's coach. He noted that Carlisle sent him several text messages during the week lawyers spent wrangling over the contract and called him the night it was done. Carlisle also is planning on going to Germany for a few days this summer to continue bonding with his best player.

"So I'm looking forward to communicating a lot," Nowitzki said. "I think that's what Avery was missing a little bit, the communication with the players individually. I think that's the way to go -- not only find your way as a coach, but find out what the players like, where they like to catch the ball, what sets they like. Because it's still a player's league, it's not a league of coaches. You've got to find the way to get the best out of players."

Carlisle is certainly trying. He had dinner plans Wednesday night with Josh Howard and was hoping to visit Howard's offseason home in North Carolina, perhaps hooking up with Jerry Stackhouse while he's out there. Stackhouse is the one player on the roster he's coached before, in Detroit.

As for Kidd, the two have only exchanged text messages so far, but Carlisle knows all about him from coaching against Kidd during six seasons running Detroit and Indiana.

"I'm going to get face-to-face with him shortly, I hope. Maybe play some golf with him, because I hear he's a fanatical golfer," Carlisle said. "We need to make sure we're going to put Jason in the best position to help our team and vice versa. Part of that is listening to what he has to say and his views of the game."

Johnson got the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006 and a franchise-record 67 wins in '07, but wore out his welcome with consecutive first-round playoff flops and problems with Cuban, such as how he handled Kidd.

Carlisle's willingness to run seems out of character based on his body of work thus far, having gone 281-211 with teams that averaged in the low to mid 90s per game. The Mavericks have been 100 or more points nearly every year in their stretch of winning at least 50 games and making the playoffs eight seasons in a row.

Yet Carlisle brought up his ready-to-run mentality during his opening statement at the news conference.

"One of the things that drew me to this opportunity was the chance to work with a different type of team in terms of personnel," he said. "When you play with Jason Kidd, I think you got to open up the floor and you got to allow him to push it. ... I think the thing is you've got to play to your strengths and you've got to adjust. For me, this isn't about me coming in with my style. This is about me coming in here and figuring out what the roster is going to be and fitting the style to the personnel."

That roster, by the way, has seven openings, yet Dallas already is over the salary cap. Those expensive players are old, too, with Howard the only incumbent starter who will be under 30 (he's 28) and reserve Brandon Bass the only other 20-something under contract. Kidd is 35.

The Mavs also are without a first-round pick, having sent it to New Jersey in the Kidd deal.

"We've got a lot of challenges," Carlisle said. "But I'd rather be in this position than be with a lottery team hoping to get a few more wins."

Carlisle added that he hopes to sign several young players, perhaps some from overseas. He'd also like more 3-point shooters, saying those guys help cover up other weaknesses. He also expects to hire former NBA head coaches Dwane Casey and Terry Stotts as assistants.