Dallas Mavericks

Dirk, Mavericks relish more favorable schedule in January

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki sits on the bench during the second half against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. The Warriors won 108-99. Nowitzki played 23 minutes and scored 11 points in his fourth game played since returning from an Achilles injury.
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki sits on the bench during the second half against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. The Warriors won 108-99. Nowitzki played 23 minutes and scored 11 points in his fourth game played since returning from an Achilles injury. AP

The Dallas Mavericks had one of the league’s toughest schedules through the first two months of the season. Now they get a bit of a break and have a chance at making up some ground.

Dallas (10-24) opens 2017 with three straight games at American Airlines Center, starting with Washington (16-16) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“I think the schedule eased up for us tremendously. We have five two-day breaks in the month and really it never felt like that all season long,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said Monday. “I know we’ve had them, but games, road trips kept coming. Looking forward for some home cooking, getting some traction, getting healthy — hopefully get some wins and make up some ground.”

The Mavericks sit four games behind eighth-place Sacramento, with the final playoff spot, in the win column. They play at home in eight of their 14 games this month. Dallas played at home just 15 times through its first 34 games.

I think the schedule eased up for us tremendously.

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki

“In the big picture, we feel like there’s an opportunity to crawl back into it because of the way the West has shaped up so far,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But it’s a day-to-day, possession-by-possession mentality that’s going to get us there.”

Dallas also hosts Phoenix on Thursday and Atlanta on Saturday.

Bogut tells why he wanted to play for the Mavs

Veteran move

First-year Maverick Andrew Bogut has played in only 18 games this season because of injuries. But he is willing to sit some more.

“Andrew basically talked to me about his willingness to come off the bench if that’s the best thing for the team so we have that as an option,” Carlisle said. “We have a group of guys that have a very good spirit and all into winning.”

Nowitzki, who has played in just nine games, isn’t ready to throw in the towel on the 4-5 combo of playing alongside Bogut.

We obviously want to find a mixture of winning basketball for us and that’s a veteran move.

Dirk Nowitzki, on Andrew Bogut’s willingness to play off the bench.

“We obviously want to find a mixture of winning basketball for us and that’s a veteran move. He’s been around, won a lot, he’s a champion,” Nowitzki said of Bogut’s willingness to play off the bench.

“I haven’t been healthy all season, he’s been banged up, but we just have to keep working. I still think once I’m completely healthy and on my normal minutes, we have to somehow play together and make it work, find ways to make some good stops defensively, and offensively, get some good possessions.”

Barea out

Carlisle said that he doesn’t think Mavs point guard J.J. Barea will play this week. Barea (lower muscle strain, left leg) hasn’t played since Dec. 21 and has missed 22 of the past 24 games.

Lakewest administrator Celisse Rideaux welcomes the Mavs to the West Dallas facility on Tuesday as they spread some holiday cheer.

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