Mavericks try to dig out of deepening hole

WASHINGTON -- A day after threatening to suspend players for not doing their jobs, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was a bit subdued on Monday.

Carlisle is still upset his squad looked listless in losing consecutive home games Friday against Denver (106-85) and Sunday against San Antonio (111-86). But after Monday's practice, he was more reflective.

"There's a fox hole and we're in it right now," Carlisle said. "It's 15 players and however many coaches, and our GM (Donnie Nelson) and owner (Mark Cuban), and we're going to battle our [butts] off to get out.

"And it's not easy."

It's not easy because the Mavs have hurt themselves with careless turnovers, shoddy defense and a lack of aggressiveness in attacking the basket.

The Mavericks (12-19) take a six-game losing streak into the Verizon Center tonight against the Washington Wizards (4-24).

The Wizards are in last place in the Eastern Conference and are one of eight teams with a worse record than the Mavs.

"Washington's got a bad record, but they've been in virtually every game, and I can't say the same for us," Carlisle said. "That's a team we're going to have to respect.

"And we're playing on their home court, so we've got our work cut out for us."

The Mavs also have their work cut out for them in extending their streak of reaching the playoffs to 13 consecutive seasons. Dallas is 12th in the Western Conference, four games behind Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Many perceive that the hole might be too deep for the Mavericks, who are 0-5 in overtime games.

"I'm not concerned about perceptions," Carlisle said. "I'm concerned about the reality of doing everything possible to get the team better.

"It's a long season, there's a long way to go. We have an opportunity to get better as a basketball team and I think we can get better sooner than later, but we've got to continue to work hard and believe in each other."

The Mavs have lost nine of their last 10 games. But what's more disturbing is that eight of their 19 losses have been by 20 or more points.

And that doesn't count the 110-95 home loss to the Miami Heat, which led 91-55 with 1:21 remaining in the third period before emptying the bench.

But the Mavs aren't looking for a pity party.

"My biggest thing is that we can't get too low on the low, and we can't start thinking negative from here on out," point guard Darren Collison said. "We've got to have some type of positives going forward from here.

"...We can't feel sorry for ourselves."

Forward Shawn Marion said he is open to a players-only meeting even though it might not be the solution.

"I'm down for it. We do talk a lot with each other, so that's not even the issue," Marion said.

"We can sit here and do that. What is that going to solve? I'm optimistic about anything."

So, too, is Carlisle.

"We have good guys," he said. "I've never questioned that. "And we're all in it together. That's the bottom line."

Cunningham returns

Dallas recalled point guard Jared Cunningham from the D-League's Texas Legends.

In seven games with the Legends, Cunningham averaged 18.1 points and 3.0 assists in 37 minutes a game. The rookie from Oregon State averaged 2.3 points and 3.4 minutes per game in seven games for the Mavs earlier this season.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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