DALLAS -- After playing 21 sets of back-to-back games in this shortened 66-game season, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves with four days off between games before they end the regular season Thursday in Atlanta.
So what will the Mavs do with all that free time? Shop until they drop? Vacation on some tropical island?
"We're going to mix in some rest and we're going to mix in some work," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've got to have a plan going forward as to how we want to proceed for the last game and on into the playoffs, and we'll do that.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics of it, because right now that's not the appropriate thing to do. But it's something we've got a long time to think about, and in conjunction with my trainer and my coaches we'll figure out the best thing."
After losing Saturday in Chicago, the Mavs (36-29) took Sunday off and return to the practice court today. From there, the rest of the week will likely consist of rest and work before they leave Wednesday afternoon for Atlanta.
Once the Mavs finish playing the Hawks, they'll play Game 1 of a best-of-seven playoff series on the road beginning Saturday or Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers. Before then, the four-day could prove valuable.
"It's a much-needed break for this team," center Brendan Haywood said. "We've got to just retool and get ready for our last game against Atlanta, and basically after that it's time to get ready for the playoffs."
Forward Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn't like to take games off, said the four-day break will be beneficial to point guard Jason Kidd, who turned 39 last month.
"What we saw last year with a week off [for Kidd] before the playoffs [started], for J-Kidd, he was on fire the first two games against Portland and really probably saved us those two games," Nowitzki said. "So I like it for him."
Apparently, being the defending NBA champs has its privileges.
Of the Western Conference teams in the playoffs -- including the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz and the ninth-seeded Phoenix Suns, who are vying for the final postseason spot -- the Mavs are the only team that plays just one game over the season's final five days that began Sunday.
The Spurs, for instance, will have played four games in the last five days of the season. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets, Thunder and Clippers play three games in five days, and the Memphis Grizzlies, Lakers, Jazz and Suns play two games in five days.
"The good thing is it's not like we've got four days off and then we've got to go into the playoffs," guard Delonte West said. "We've got a nice break and then we've got a game against a tough Atlanta team, which will be a good game to get revved back up going into the playoffs."
The extra time off will also be advantageous if the Mavs have to start the playoffs on Saturday. That could put them in a unique situation in which they may have to fly straight from Atlanta to the site of Game 1 of the playoffs.
"This gives us time to prepare, it gives us time for rest, but more than anything I just want us to come ready to go," forward Vince Carter said. "It's playoff time -- it's for all the marbles.
"So that's the most important part. Just for us to be ready to play for whatever it is, and wherever it is."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760