By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
If I had to make the call, I'd go with Johnson. He's probably better, even at his advanced age and arrested talent, than what's rotting on the open market. And better to run him more than saddle Nash and Friends with any more baggage. So I'd cast my lot with Johnson, but I wouldn't sleep well. It would be a lot like that nightmare they just passed off as the Texas elections--I wouldn't be voting for someone so much as I'd be voting against everything, and everyone, else.
"Nellie knows how to use me," Johnson assures. "He won't play me how he plays Nick. But there are situations that he'll put me in where I can be successful to help the team.
"One of the things I always try to do is get to the areas where I operate best. I operate best from 18 feet on in. Nick operates from the 3-point line on in. You won't see me out there shooting the 3. I'll just get to my spots, and when I get to my spots, I feel pretty good."
Let's quickly recap. Johnson is a good guy. Johnson likes his spots. And...and...well, I guess that's all the intel we have at the moment. That kind of positive reinforcement warms the spirit, doesn't it?
"We have great depth," Nash says faintly. "That's why we are where we are, because of our depth. [Johnson] can step in for us, with Nick out, and we'll be OK."
Depth, that would help. Instead, Van Exel, one of their best bench players--and a personification of depth--is laid up for a while. What the Mavs do from here until his return will go a long way toward telling us where they are as a team and, more important, where they might end up. This is a significant stretch, then. It won't break them, but it might not make them, either.
What does that so-so-clever practice banner say again? Ah, yes: "Every game counts." How true.