DALLAS -- From the moment Delonte West signed with the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 13, it didn't take Dirk Nowitzki long to figure out that the Mavs had found their coveted backup point guard.
"I was really pleased from the beginning," Nowitzki said. "I thought right away at training camp that Delonte was a good pickup, and he's been great.
"Defensively, he's as tough or tougher of a defender as I've seen in this league, or played with, in my 13 years. He can guard [point guards] and [shooting guards], and he's tough on the post."
West also is tough on the perimeter. The Phoenix Suns found that out Monday night when he came off the bench to make 9 of 12 shots, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range.
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In all, West tallied a season-high 25 points as the Mavs racked up their highest point total of the year in spanking the Suns, 122-99. With Kidd sidelined due to a strained right calf, West knew he and his teammates had to pick up the slack.
"He's normally the facilitator, so he finds the right guys at the right time," West said. "He normally sees the plays developing two or three steps ahead of everyone else.
"Everyone's got to step up and do a little bit more. Guys are swinging the ball a little bit more, facilitating for each other."
West's breakout game against the Suns was his second game back after missing Friday's contest against Utah with a strained right hamstring. He hopes he can continue his solid play at 7 tonight when the Mavs host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And West is confident that his game is back on track now that his body is healthy.
"I can feel my right leg a little bit," said West, who also collected six assists and two steals against the Suns. "Since I'm a strong dominant left-handed player, my [sore] right leg took a lot away from what I was doing early on in the season.
"But with the help of the training staff and the massage therapist, we got that thing back a little bit more and I was able to do a few more things."
Nowitzki sees even better days ahead for West.
"Offensively, he's got kind of a herky-jerky game," Nowitzki said. "He's a tough, tough kid, and I really think it's a great addition."
Tyson Chandler who?
When Dallas refused to offer center Tyson Chandler a long-term free agent contract over the off-season -- and he eventually signed with the New York Knicks -- it was generally assumed that the Mavs would take a big hit on the defensive end of the floor.
However, Brendan Haywood, who was Chandler's backup last season, has fared much better than anyone anticipated.
"I think we were really worried coming into the season losing Tyson," Dirk Nowitzki said. "But the way Haywood has been playing is just phenomenal to see."
"Really, he's doing some of the same stuff Tyson did for us -- protecting the paint, blocking shots, battling. He gets a lot of that credit."
A look to the future
Tonight's Mavs-Thunder game could have serious playoff implications.
Dallas leads the Southwest Division, while the Thunder leads the Northwest Division with an NBA-best record of 16-4. Dirk Nowitzki, however, isn't ready to acknowledge that this game is some sort of measuring stick.
"I usually hate saying that this early in the season, because you don't know what's going to happen in the playoffs," Nowitzki said. "But they're obviously a younger team and they came out of the gates on fire.
"They're a great team. We usually play them well."
Kidd, Carter honored
Jason Kidd and Vince Carter were selected Tuesday to the list of the 35 greatest all-time McDonald's All-Americans.
The list, which also includes former Mavs players Sam Perkins (1980), Jerry Stackhouse (1993), coincides with the 35th anniversary of the McDonald's All-American high school game.
Kidd played in the 1992 game, and Carter participated in the 1995 contest.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760