Rick Carlisle on Leading Dallas Mavericks in Lockout Shortened NBA Season: “I find the season very interesting and I’ve enjoyed it”

February 27, 2012 – 7:30 am by Chris Fedor

The NBA season has reached the halfway point, and while it has been tough road for a lot of teams with the condensed schedule, the defending NBA Champs are right in the thick of things in the Western Conference. Despite changing the roster significantly this offseason and going through some shaky times to start the year, Rick Carlisle has his Dallas Mavericks squad in the top half of the Western Conference playoff standings.

The second half will be brutal for Dallas though. They are a team that relies on a lot of veterans to carry the scoring load, and they start the second half with nine games in 12 days. With their vets logging a lot of minutes it will be interesting to see what the Mavs have left in the tank once the playoffs roll around as they try to repeat as NBA champs.

Rick Carlisle joined ESPN Radio in Dallas with Galloway and Company to talk about how he feels about his Mavericks team midway through the season, what the identity of the team is, whether he expects offense and quality play to pick up during the second half of the year, the struggles of Lamar Odom, and if he feels the Western Conference is wide open this year.

How he feels about his team midway through the season:

“Based on where we started and how poorly it went at the beginning we’ve definitely made a lot of positive strides and so we’re sitting in a good position at this point. We’ve got 32 left so we’re 34 of the 66 of the way through this I guess if you’re going to do the math that way. This stretch right after the break is critical obviously. Nine games in 12 days. I don’t know if that kind of stretch has ever happened. It’s happened this year with teams and this will be the first for this franchise. It’s going to be tough but it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to because this has been an interesting year. With how crowded it has been with games I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the different the tenor to it.”

Is the identity of your team Dirk or defense?

“It’s both really and that’s not a cop out. When you think of the Mavs you think of Dirk Nowitzki. This year and I thought last year too we really established ourselves as a defensive team. It was probably a thing last year where I think people were probably skeptical as to whether we could sustain it coming into a different year because we didn’t have (Tyson) Chandler and (DeShawn) Stevenson and some of our other toughness guys but look it has carried over. It’s a vehicle for success for us, the defensive end that is, and we’re going to stay with it. As I said the other night after the game, someone asked about our offense and do we need to spend more time on offense and we probably do but we only have a certain amount of time and we’re going to spend at least 60 to 65 percent of it on defense because that is going to be more of an identifying factor in terms of winning than the offensive end.”

Whether he expects the offense and quality of play to pick up during the second half of the year:

“It’s hard to say because each team has its treacherous parts of the schedule and our is coming up after the break. I do believe on a top to bottom basis that the offense will be up. I don’t think teams will necessarily be putting a lot of new things in and tricking anybody that way but they will become more and more familiar with what they are doing and guys generally now are in very, very good condition and so more shots will start going in. This All-Star break comes at a good time for the whole league but it’s very hard to say. I felt like the stats wouldn’t be meaningful until at least five or six weeks into the season. Then you would have to start them at that point and go forward and then make an evaluation. It’s a dicey question and I’m not sure how legitimate it is or I guess how important it is.”

On the struggles of Lamar Odom:

“I can answer questions and that’s not that big of a deal. That’s a part of my job. The other part of my job is to take challenging situations and find solutions. I think we’re closer than we have ever been to him playing well, we just have to stay the course and stay positive about it. The guy is too good of a player and he has had a number of good games, now he has two bad games in a row and everybody is ready to jump again but I’m not going there. I’m looking forward to getting him back after the break and we’re going to go right back at it. These nine games in 12 days will completely immerse all of us and we won’t have time to think twice about anything so we’re just going to play.”

If the Western Conference is wide open:

“There’s opportunity. Oklahoma City has certainly distinguished themselves above everybody else and there’s been movement. There’s been teams that are supposedly surprise teams like Houston, Minnesota, Memphis is now quietly moving back up the ladder, and you’ve got a lot of teams that are jockeying for position there. Again you have to know everybody’s schedules before you make radical judgments on things because how you play when you hit your tough stretches is like playing a difficult golf course. You know you’re going to hit the ball into some hazards and it’s not that you’re not going to get into the hazards it’s managing those situations. We’ve got one of them coming up after the break and there’s some other teams that have some treacherous things coming up too but I find the season very interesting and I’ve enjoyed it and we’re going to keep having fun with it even though it is a lot of work and there’s a lot going on.”

Listen to Rick Carlisle on ESPN Radio Dallas here

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