The guy in the mohawk, that’s Devean George. The big dude dragging his injured shoulder, Erick Dampier. The two with longer hair since the last time you saw them, they’re Dirk Nowitzki and Avery Johnson. And the team that’s walking around and reacting to last spring’s colossal collapse with a collective shrug, ladies and gentlemen, your 2007-'08 Dallas Mavericks.
“Just keep working,” Nowitzki said on the first day of training camp earlier this week. “And hope it finally works out for us.”
Hardly a rallying cry. But when the team’s Web site is dominated not by the start of camp but rather the owner’s TV gig -- “The Dallas Dance Machine” -- it’s clear the Mavs are hoping to become the first team in NBA history to reach The NBA Finals, win 67 games and still somehow fly under the radar. “The pressure’s off us,” said veteran forward Jerry Stackhouse. “We’re underdogs now.”
As they're more like one of the NBA’s three best teams, along with the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. But tonight you can start judging for yourself when the Mavs hold their annual Fan Jam. The free event (parking is $5) tips off at 6:45 at the American Airlines Center and climaxes with a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage at 7:30.
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You’ll recognize Dirk and Jason Terry and Devin Harris and Josh Howard and DeSegana Diop. Gone is Greg Buckner, traded for Trenton Hassell. As for the new faces? The guy with the Herculean physique is free agent Brandon Bass. The wiry, wily veteran is Eddie Jones. And the white stiff getting shoved off the low blocks and having his shot swatted into the sixth row, that’s first-round draft pick Nick Fazekas. --Richie Whitt