Dallas Mavericks Enter Critical Stretch in Pursuit of Title Defense

January 9, 2012 – 10:10 am by Eric Schmoldt

The concerns with the Dallas Mavericks came about instantly. The defending NBA champions opened up the season with three consecutive losses. They’ve won four of six since then, but still have a losing record and head-scratching blowouts like the one against San Antonio last week don’t help.

Now they enter a critical stretch of road games where they could perhaps quell some of those concerns or watch them grow. The Mavericks play six of their next eight games away from home, including four in a row beginning next Monday in Los Angeles.

Rick Carlisle joined ESPN Dallas with Galloway and Company to discuss making excuses about the schedule, the injury of Jason Kidd, the progression of Lamar Odom, what he’s getting out of his centers, the conditioning of the team and an upcoming trip to the White House.

On his players seemingly making some excuses for their early struggles due to the tough schedule:

“It’s going to be like this all year and my comments after the game, none of it was geared around any excuses around the schedule. So let’s move on. … A lot of the writers are asking questions with the sort of basis of the question being the schedule. A lot of the guys will try to answer the question. And in answering the question, the topic comes up and may come across as an excuse. But we’re a veteran team; our guys know what’s what.”

How do things change without Jason Kidd on the floor?:

“We’re going to have to be a very good execution team. Our flow game is going to change considerably, too. … We’re still going to look to run and get flow opportunities, but the character of the team changes.”

On the progression of Lamar Odom:

“He’s doing better. Things are going the right way, we’ve just got to keep working with him. My feeling is he’s going to get better and better as the season goes along.”

On the play of his centers, particularly Brendan Haywood:

“I like the way Haywood’s playing. You can nitpick any player on any team if you look hard enough. Haywood’s an important guy for us. I think good evidence of that is our starting unit has done a very formidable job of plus-minus and that kind of stuff. … Haywood’s got to keep bringing his best effort and Mahinmi’s been giving us good things off the bench and giving us energy. The center position is extremely important to us even though it’s changed this year.”

Where’s the conditioning of this team stand?:

“We’ve got to be geared in toward winning games now. I believe our conditioning is improving. I believe the conditioning of everybody in the league is improving. The urgency is there for us. Each game is critical.”

Are you excited about the trip to the White House?:

“I haven’t been in the Oval Office, no, and I haven’t gotten to meet the president, although I did have a phone conversation last year after we won it. That was great. We’re looking forward to that, but we’ve got business to take care of.”

Listen to Rick Carlisle on ESPN Dallas here

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