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What, you were expecting "Happy Halloween"? In the timeless words of Stuart Scott: Boo. Yah. It’s basketball season, damn it! The NBA actually tipped off last night, but Your Dallas Mavericks begin their 2007-'08 season tonight against the Cleveland LeBrons. I know, I know. Hard to get your basketball jones dribblin’ full-speed when the calendar says October and the Cowboys are 6-1. Besides, doesn’t it feel like just last night when the Mavs totally ruined a great six months with a horrible six games?

Ready or not, the road to redemption begins pronto. And with a lot of familiar faces. Dallas returns its top eight players from last year, including reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who now comes off the bench as the sixth man. Basically, the Mavs added Trenton Hassell and Brandon Bass and Eddie Jones in place of Austin Croshere and Greg Buckner and D.J. Mbenga.

While recognizing the Mavs will be easy -- and welcome back, Juwan Howard -- following them is a tad tricky, as the team’s radio and TV crews have swapped wives.

Longtime TV analyst Bob Ortegal moves alongside Chuck Cooperstein on ESPN-103.3 FM, and former radio analyst Brad Davis gets the TV gig beside Mark Followill on TXA 21 and Fox Sports Net. As for the flagship radio station, the new voice might sound familiar.

As Dave Shore and Mike Taylor have recently departed ESPN, manning the Mavs’ pre- and post-game shows will be longtime area voice Wally Lynn. After a long stint at KLIF-AM (570), where he hosted Mavs post-games, and a short one at ESPN Radio in Austin, Lynn is back to steer the hour-long shows before and after each game.

“It'll be a combination of X's and O's with a little more of an entertainment slant,” says Lynn, who will also drive the station’s Cowboys post-game after Sunday night’s Philadelphia game. “If I see Mike Modano in the house, I’ll pop him on. It’ll be more than just re-hash after re-hash of the game we all just watched.”

While the NBA opens with the spotlight on the referees, the season-ending injury to No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden and the liquid status of soon-not-to-be-a-Laker Kobe Bryant, the Mavs are pulling the impossible as a 67-win team flying under the radar.

“It’s a good role for us,” says Nowitzki, who will be TNT’s in-studio guest Thursday night. “There’s no pressure on us because this year nobody really expects us to win.” Actually I do. And so do you. And these guys, they expect the Mavs to win. Pressure or not. --Richie Whitt

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