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This was one of the ‘bullets.' One of those ‘soft-bullets,' you might say. Our Uncle Nellie used to tell us that an NBA coach gets six of these a year.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle just emptied one from his chamber.

TOP BILLING: Carlisle's assessment of his team as "soft'' was, it turns out, not about mental toughness or rebounding deficiencies in Wednesday's 93-92 loss in New Orleans, when the Mavs flailed about while getting outscored 8-0 in the final 73 seconds.

It was, instead, about three things:

1 It was a call for "retaliation'' in basketball excellence.

"I just see more and more teams that are taking physical liberties on our guys, and so much of this game to me is about disposition, both physically and mentally," Carlisle said before Thursday's tip. "We've been very good this year, but I always feel like we can be better and more consistent. That's really where it's at."

As we've noted, Rick wasn't calling for "Malice in Dallas.''

"I'm not talking about getting in fights or swinging at people or anything like that," Carlisle said, though he remains perturbed by the dastardly deeds of Hornets Marco Belinelli and David West. "I'm talking about getting together and making a stand on the court and manifesting those types of thing to consistent aggressive play. Those are things that we generally do, but I'm going to keep pushing guys to do it better. With what we're trying to do, you can't be mediocre at anything. That's a fact."

2 It was a psychological sledgehammer to the Mavs' collective ego – a purposely one.

Carlisle knows all about Dallas' "Soft White Boyz'' tradition (hello, NVE!) and hell, as a white boy himself, he knows what a loaded word "soft'' can be in the world of sports. It's used so much that it can be molded into meaning whatever the listener allows it to mean. …

And Carlisle said that knowingly.

The Mavs had a team meeting on Thursday before the game in which Carlisle expressed what he meant by "soft.'' Maybe that meeting was to pacify anyone whose feelings were too bruised.

But make no mistake: Rick MEANT to bruise ‘em a bit.

Remember, he said it twice. "Soft.'' … "Yeah, soft.'' … and then he went back to the issue in the same postgame presser in New Orleans, demanding more "toughness.''

So he kinda said it three times.

You don't say or insinuate "soft'' three times and have it be some careless slip of the tongue.

3 And the third thing the "soft'' remark was? It was NOT overblown by the media, despite Rick's "who-me?'' protestations following Thursday's monster 127-109 pounding of the lauded New York Knicks.

"Overblown,'' Carlisle said.

Nice try, Slick Rick. But let's track this softy course:

You said it three times late Thursday. Made it the theme of the pregame session with the players. Again made it the theme of the pregame meeting with the media. And addressed it one more time in the postgame.

Here. See for yourself.

And somebody wants to pretend that this is all some media conspiracy?

Nah, Rick knew what he was doing and saying. All dozen or so times he said it.

This was one big bullet. Nellie used to preach that a coach could use a dramatic ploy like this (or throwing a chair, or marching angrily out of practice, that sort of stunt) six times a year.

So, well-played, Rick Carlisle. Well-played.

SHAWN? NO SINKING, NO SULKING: Shawn Marion was at the wrong end of that Marco Belinelli shove against the Hornets that left ‘Trix' ribs sore and his status in question for Thursday. Rather than sink, or sulk, beneath the stinging words of his coach, he shed any connection to being "soft" and had one of his best games of the season.


Ignoring the pain in his ribs that sought to keep him on the bench, he played 30 minutes of All-Star level basketball by scoring 22 points (second on the Mavs to only Dirk's 23) on 10-of-15 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds, two steals and handing out two assists with zero turnovers.

"That just shows you some of his toughness,'' Jet said of Marion. "He wasn't able to finish the game (Wednesday), but for him to be able to heal up as quick as he did and come out there and have the performance he did on both ends of the floor, it was tremendous. But, he's that type of player. When you can't play, you don't think you can go and then still go out there and tough it out, it means a lot."

This was The Matrix reloaded and unleashed upon the once again hapless, at least for one night, Knicks.

"That was an emotional response, but coach spoke the way he felt at the same time," Marion said in reference to Carlisle's "soft" comments. "We got to go out there and respond, and I think at times we do play a little tentative. I wouldn't say soft, but tentative. And, at the same time, when we are aggressive at both ends of the floor, it shows and other times it doesn't show."

Marion was neither tentative nor anything resembling "soft." He gets credit for getting it done aggressively on the offensive end, and for helping make ‘Melo look as pedestrian as we've ever seen him.

Here's The Matrix' meeting with the media:

"I'm just trying to do what I can to help this team the best way I can,'' ‘Trix said. "It's in a variety of ways. That's all I can do."

Said Dirk: He was phenomenal. He gutted it out and really took the challenge on one of the best perimeter scorers we got in this game and he played him well. On the other end he finished around the basket, just played with a lot of energy. It was really fun to watch."

CUBAN'S KNACK: One week it's a feud with Buzz Bissinger.

The next week it's a partnership with Charlie Sheen.

While we anxiously await Mark Cuban's next stunt-entanglement (a romance with LaToya Jackson, perhaps?), Tony Cubes' free-flowing use of the word "pussy'' will have to do. …

No, hold up! Cuban said something outrageous about Carmelo Anthony!

So the outrageous "pussy'' remarks will have to wait!


"Denver might be better now (without Anthony)," Cuban asserted. "The Knicks probably are better, but Denver is much better now."

The Mavs, of course, took a swing at acquiring Anthony from Denver before he landed with the Knicks. So the rather negative view on ‘Melo rings untrue … except to ‘Melo, who took the bait.

"I'm pretty sure Cuban's happy that I'm out of the West,'' ‘Melo said. "I'm pretty sure if I had come here (to Dallas) that he would have gotten the better end of the deal. So that's cool."

CUBAN'S OTHER THING: OK, now to the other thing:

"I don't think we're soft at all," Cuban said. "But (Carlisle) wanted to send a message and the message got through. … Throwing a punch is what a pussy does. That's what pussies do. Right? There's 1,001 ways to respond to things. Particularly basketball players. That's what a pussy does, is throw a punch when you know 50 people are going to be there to break it up."

We don't know if that's what a p---- does. We do agree that there are 1,001 ways to respond to things, and that if we didn't eventually turn off our tape recorder, Mark Cuban's 1,001 ways to respond to things was going to end up being to hear him say the word "pussy'' 1,001 times.

P.S.: You do understand, don't you, that Mark Cuban is just getting warmed up? That the Lakers are coming to town on Saturday? That this sort of wit and wisdom – directed at Kobe, Phil JackZen, Gasol, all of them -- is about to dominate NBA headlines?

THE NUMBERS: Let's crunch:

* Dallas set new season highs for scoring in a quarter (41 in the second), scoring in a half (72 before intermission) and scoring in a game (127), all while holding New York to 42.5 percent shooting, including a combined 17-of-42 (40.4 percent) from Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

*New York made it to the line 37 times, making 35 of them. Dallas would make their way to the charity stripe 24 times, making 20 of them. Both teams combined to shoot 90.2 percent from the free-throw line.

*After being a minus-13 on the boards against New Orleans, Dallas outrebounded the Knicks 47-to-37 for a margin of plus-10 (including 17-to-11 on the offensive glass, thanks largely to a combined 11 from Haywood and Marion).

*The Mavs bench outscored New York's 53-to-16.

*New York has now lost 17 of its last 19 meetings with the Mavs,

*Dallas' 72-51 halftime lead marked a season-high in scoring for a half for the Mavs. The 127 is also a season-high.

The Mavs are now done with the East. 22-8. Just like last year.


QUOTEBOARD: "I don't think anyone in this locker room questions our toughness. It's not about being tougher than anybody else. No one is fighting out there. This is the NBA; none of us are really fighters." – Big Wood.

Stay tuned for more Quoteboard coming up!

MAVSELLANEOUS: It was miserable fun for a day, to contemplate all these nasty things everyone had to say about a club that enters the weekend at 47-18, with the second-best record in the Western Conference, better even than the Lakers – who nobody is saying nasty things about. Heck, Kobe Bryant stayed in the gym for some post-game shooting work and we hear he's getting a Nobel Prize for it. … Dallas, despite the self-analysis, has won 20 of its last 23 games … Viva Los Mavs. ... This was a back-to-back for both teams. Oddly enough, it was also the fourth game in five nights for both teams. … Dallas fell behind by two, but used a 35-14 run spanning the first and second quarter to build a 19-point advantage. … NY was missing Chauncey Billups for the sixth straight game due to injury, but the Knicks are 4-2 without him … Jason Terry bounced back from a subpar performance against the Hornets, and emerged from the shroud of the "soft" comments to score 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. … The Knicks are now 34-30 and working to hang onto sixth place in the Eastern Conference. … Peja missed a second straight game with back problems … We bumped into TCU-ex LaDainian Tomlinson at the game, and an orange-clad Walt Frazier, but had the misfortune of not bumping into Jessica Simpson …

TY TALK: "I think we all understood what he meant,'' Tyson Chandler said of Rick's "soft'' talk. "We understand that we've got to close out tough games. The last games that we've lost we've competed and the last three (losses) have been by one point. Those are all tough losses and when you have losses like that you're gonna have frustration."

Here's where points the camera up and gives TY the stage:

AMARE'S T: We're rather accustomed to Amar'e doing his thing. Amar'e had averaged 29.5 points on 59.7 percent shooting in his last eight trips to Dallas. So 36 points is no shock.

Knicks fans are also used to seeing Stoudemire get t'ed up. He was called for his 16th technical foul in the first half … and unless the ruling is rescinded by the NBA, he will have to serve a one-game suspension.

He's already pleading his case.

"Me and Brendan (Haywood) weren't involved in any type of altercation," Stoudemire said of their tangle-up. "We were laughing about it and the official pretty much agreed with us that it wasn't bad. Hopefully I'll get that rescinded."

BIG WOOD TURNING A BIG CORNER?: Brendan Haywood was forced into big minutes with Tyson Chandler caught in foul trouble almost from the opening tip, including fouls four and five in a total of 49 seconds (37 into the third, and after 12 when initially checking back in for the fourth).


When in the game, Chandler was a force. Despite only playing 16:42 he scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds, three blocks and a steal … and took Amar'e completely out of his offensive flow.

With Chandler forced to the bench, it was Haywood who stepped into his minutes and once again performed well. There was the third quarter that saw Stoudemire score 18 points on 6-of-7 field-goal attempts, an undeniable blemish, but there was also the rest of the game, where he would hit only six of his 20 shots.

Amar'e got his 36 points, but did so on 12-of-27 shooting … though he did sink 12-of-13 free throws.

Again, we saw an engaged Haywood, which is gradually becoming the norm since the trade deadline passed. He would finish with 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

New York isn't flush with big men. They don't have a dominant center. Considering this, the Mavs center duo patrolled the paint and dressed it in Mavs blue.

"We are a big team," Haywood said. "Myself, Tyson, Dirk is tall, Ian Mahinmi, Shawn (Marion) plays tall at 6-7. So, we are definitely good at getting on the glass and we tried to impose our will tonight because they don't have a lot of true bigs on their team."

Impose their will they did, to the tune of 21 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks between Chandler and Haywood.

THE UBERMAN: SHADOWS: For much of the night, it felt like Dirk wandered the shadows of the game, never truly being needed to assert himself. Yet, when you look at the final boxscore, you find he led the Mavs in scoring with 23 and rebounding, with nine.

The UberMan's shot wasn't particularly locked in, he hit seven of his 19 tries (36.8 percent), but he was there when his team needed him, and let others take the reins when they were able.

Here, let's allow Dirk to mumble an explanation:

Nowitzki apparently dinged his right ankle late in the game but seems unconcerned about his readiness for Saturday and the Lakers.

FREE RODDY B AND FREE COREY B: Beyond the stir around Carlisle's postgame words from the previous night, were the questions over Roddy Beaubois' limited minutes, and Corey Brewer's complete absence of them.

Roddy would play just over 11 minutes in the first quarter, only two short of his total against the Hornets, and showed once again that he is worthy of whatever minutes come his way.

For the night, he would total 20:43, after seven games that saw his time climb no higher than 17:31 (which would also be the only time he would get more than 15 minutes in those seven games). With those minutes, he totaled 14 points, six assists and a steal.

Rick explained his thinking on Roddy B before the game, in words that hinted that he is coming around.

"He'' meaning Rick. Roddy B has already "come around,'' as far as we're concerned.

"(Roddy B) is playing himself to exhaustion when he starts halves," Carlisle said. "When he gets to a point where his physical level isn't going to be there, we get him out. I've been able to get him back in a few times and I'm going to get him in more in those second rotations in halves when I can."

Rick said CoachSpeak stuff about "matchups'' and such. asked Carlisle if there are "rookie mistakes'' involved in the decision to limit Roddy B's minutes and the coach said no.

Well … good. Maybe this marks the end of Roddy B often being limited to 15 minutes or so … even as he seems like a threat to often produce a point a minute.

Rick continued his rosy review of Roddy B.

"He tends to look over at the bench," Carlisle said, smiling. "When he starts to get tired, he knows. To maintain that kind of physical level that he can do, it's substantial. He's been great about it, he really has. It's good."

We caught up with Roddy B after the game for this Exclusive Video Visit:

Roddy B doesn't know the term "working up a sweat.'' But he certainly knows how to do it.

Now to Corey Brewer.

After a DNP against the Hornets, Brewer played 16:50 here, and continually impacted the game with his hustle … not to mention a couple of high-flying dunks.


Brewer totaled seven points (3-of-4 from the floor), four rebounds, four assists and two steals, reminding us all of why we wanted him on the court for at least a few minutes the night before … while lifting us from our seat on this one.

"I liked (Brewer's) energy," Carlisle said. "He has a nose for the ball, and he's a great runner. His activity makes you notice him out there, and he's been good for us."

We like Roddy B AND Corey B's energy.

Carlisle used keywords like "posture," "disposition" and "consistency." You know who has that as a defender? Corey Brewer, who'd gotten just 22 minutes of burn in the previous four games. That smile that's always on his face? Not in this game it wasn't. He repeatedly provided the Mavs with second-chances on the offensive end, forced the pace on both ends and at the end?

THEN he smiled.

THE FINAL WORD: "To try to downplay it wouldn't be honest. It's an important game.'' -- Rick Carlisle on Saturday's visit from the Lakers.

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