Don't tell me you saw that one coming. After amassing only 24 points over the last two months, reserve Austin Croshere hops off Avery Johnson's bench and scores a career-high 34 last night to lead the Mavs' thrashing of Seattle. Croshere shimmied out of the moth balls and made seven 3-pointers, just another sign of how deep, how good this team has become. Don't be surprised if Croshere goes scoreless tonight in Memphis. But be shocked if the Mavs don't find another way to win.
Playing without Josh Howard, who tomorrow just might be the first player in NBA history to become a first-time father and first-time All-Star on the same day, the Mavs won for the 23rd time in 25 games since December 13. After an 0-4 start, they've gone a remarkable 37-5. How remarkable? The Phoenix Suns have slapped together recent winning streaks of 16 and 17, yet still trail Dallas for the NBA's best record.
I went to the Mavs' workout Monday and realized that part of the reason this team is so focused on the court is because they're so loose after practice. There was Avery, teaming with Devin Harris to make 20 of 20 free throws to win the daily contest. There was Avery, having an arm-in-arm, heart-to-heart talk with Josh about impending fatherhood.
There was Dirk Nowitzki, the last one off the court after a long post-practice shooting session with player development coach Popeye Jones. There was Dirk, taking only 10 -- I counted -- standing broad jumps to cover the full-court's 94 feet. (Trust me, it would take you and me at least 20, followed by a hip replacement.) And there was Dirk, with his gray sweat pants scrunched up around his knees, high white socks, scraggly sorta-beard and nerdy white headband, looking like a reject from Dodgeball.
"No," he said, "I'm trying to look like a caveman. Geico, here I come."
Here's hoping the Mavs are this good, this healthy and this loose when the calendar matriculates from February to June. --Richie Whitt