Slim Jim?

Like most of us used-car salesmen, I promise to stand behind what I sell. So I took the Mavericks for a test drive last Thursday and wound up buying one right on the spot. That night they lost the game but won a customer.

In their first two games the Mavs were, as advertised, a little cranky off the start line. Against Houston, Kidd eventually pushed the pace and Nowitzki played like an MVP candidate and Howard played with an urgency that made fans forgive, if not forget, his vulgar dissing of the national anthem last summer.

The Mavs' new driver, Rick Carlisle, brings the best of the last two drivers: Avery Johnson's discipline and defense, and Don Nelson's up-tempo freelancing.
BRIAN SNYDER
The Mavs' new driver, Rick Carlisle, brings the best of the last two drivers: Avery Johnson's discipline and defense, and Don Nelson's up-tempo freelancing.

AAC was energized. The fat, gross ManiAACs performed a perfectly choreographed "Thriller" routine that somehow felt neither fat nor gross. The Platinum Club was at its frenzied best, a meet 'n' greet mini-Pavilion obsessed with the game while also oblivious to the lower-bowl snoots.

In the end, the Mavericks sputtered into their horrible habit of settling for jump shots in a 10-point loss. With 3:01 remaining fans staged a mass exodus, proving Dallas' consumers aren't yet ready to trust the Mavericks as their primary mode of transportation. Las Vegas oddsmakers agree, establishing Dallas' middle-of-the-pack win total at 46 1/2.

But for the first time in a long time, there were flashes of fun. And two nights later in a 10-point victory at Minnesota, there was more consistency. Slowly, the bells and whistles—Gerald Green creating off the dribble here, Kidd no-look passing the open court there—are starting to function.

I wouldn't offer you this deal if the Mavericks had deteriorated from Lamborghini to Lexus to lemon. Trust me, they're still closer to jubilation than junkyard.

Air freshener?

Says Nowitzki, "I think there's a lot left in the tank. We're going to surprise some people."

So, what's it going to take to get you into the Mavericks today?

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