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SCENE-SETTING: The Mavs are on a week-long bender.


Not necessarily an alcohol-driven bender. (Though the $108,000 tab Mark Cuban ran up at Club LIV at Miami -- which included a $90,000 bottle of Armand de Brignac and a $20,000 tip -- means it is a little alcohol-driven).

"Worth every penny," Cuban wrote in an e-mail to an inqusitive NY paper.

But no. Most of all, this is an emotional bender. The Dallas Mavericks are drunk on trophy.

JASON KIDD'S DNA: Rick Carlisle once again gave loads of credit to Kidd, painting him as the unofficial assistant coach he obviously is. "I wouldn't bet against greatness,'' Carlisle said. "His DNA is all over this thing.''

And please don't make me write this again: No, The King of BBIQ is not retiring.

In fact, nobody is retiring. Dirk made a joke about it and so did Brian Cardinal. But who wants to deplane from this ride now?

RICK CARLISLE'S PRAISE-FILLED PRESSER: With almost every word the man said, news was made and history was framed. Enjoy:

Carlisle said his Mavs players are now in "the pantheon'' of the great sports stars from Dallas, mentioning names like "Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith and Mike Modano.

"For all the doubters, they have now earned life-long bragging rights,'' Rick said, noting that when you win a title, for the rest of your life in the NBA "once you have the ring, you're a made man."

That's mafia code, by the way.

TY: IT'S 'SETTLING IN': "I'm so proud of my teammates,'' Tyson said. "It takes a special team ... takes special people ...''

He goes through the list and, typical of the core of this team, leaves himself off the list.

"I went through my whole career with exit meetings, and how we have to get better and this and that,'' TY said ... and this year gets to be different.

THE RING'S THE THING: Owner Mark Cuban's plan to present his team something "to the next level'' rather than traditional rings is not well-received by his tradition-minded club.

"As a player and a historian of the game, we want the ring,'' Jet said. "You look at the ‘Sports Illustrated' cover of Bill Russell holding those rings, you see Phil Jackson's rings. You want that ring. That means a lot. That's the thing that you can go to your grave with."

"It's got to be rings,'' Carlisle said, laughing."I don't know what he's thinking," Carlisle said, laughing. "You win an NBA championship, you've got to a have a ring. If he wants to give guys something else with a ring, that's great."

As I noted in this space before on this subject, Cuban isn't going to go rogue on the issue without the consultation of those around him. In short, he'll listen to Dirk, who said, "We got to talk to him about that. I don't think the last word has been spoken yet. You know he always wants to do something different, wants to do something bigger, but I mean, the ring is just so classic. I would vote for a ring.''

And so – wanna bet? – a ring, and whatever else, it will be.

DIRK IS HAPPY FOR YOU!: Nowitzki isn't just happy for himself. He's happy for YOU. ...

"Trying to enjoy every minute of it ... going to the club with Cuban ... that was a mess,'' Dirk said in this nine-minute visit ... among so many other wonderful things.

WHAT THAT SAYS ABOUT DIRK: Rick reserved his highest praise for Dirk Nowitzki, wanting to be so certain to properly frame the moment that he pulled from his pocket a list of "the 13 guys in NBA history who've been league MVP, Finals MVP and 10-time All-Star. ...

Rick continued: "Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson, Tim Duncan Shaquille O'Neal and Dirk Nowitzki.''


The accomplishments topped by the title, Rick said, "validates (Dirk) as one of the very, very best that's ever played this game."

But more, Rick added, "There's no better person in the history of this game than Dirk."

QUOTEBOARD: Something interesting we've noticed about Rick during this run.

"There's a big difference between 'success' and 'fulfillment,'' Rick said. "The things that's eluded them, and myself, is the fulfillment of achieving the ultimate dream.''

BIG WOOD IS AT PEACE: And why? He's a winner. A champion.

You will note: This marks virtually the only time all spring Rick was willing to discuss himself.

THE NUMBERS GAME: Count 'em ...

*In the last five years, counting all regular season and playoff games, the Mavs are 14-2 against Miami.

*Terry will no longer be known as a 38-percent playoff shooter. Now? He had a career playoff-high PER of 20.3 - second only to Dirk's 25.2 on the Mavs.

*Team over individuals: Mavs had six players with a PER above 15 (Dirk, Terry, Barea, Kidd, Chandler, Marion). Miami had three.

MAVSELLANEOUS: Word is the Mavs are doing "Letterman'' on Wednesday to read off his "Top 10 List'' ... Said Rick: "Peja Stojakovic saved our season because as needed another player." ... The Mavs are also on the cover of this week's "Sports Illustrated'' ... I think CBS11's Steve Dennis, a lovable chap but rather loud and forceful in group settings, finally got to Carlisle. The coach decided to ignore some of Dennis' persistent queries ... Can Dallas repeat? "I know we can," Chandler said. "If we all come back, and we're healthy, and we're all together, the sky is the limit.'' ... A rejuvenated rep? Carlisle called Shawn Marion "our best athlete.'' ... Finals MVP Nowitzki wants to grab the Larry O'Brien Trophy and give it a tour of Germany – but maybe only after Barea does the same with it in his native Puerto Rico. It seems JJB got first dibs on the idea. ... Kidd stood up for his pal LeBron: "It's like Dirk," Kidd said. "Dirk took his licks for losing in '06. It's just that now LeBron is in the same shoes as Dirk." ... Marion said Mark Cuban promised Thursday's celebratory parade would be "the biggest ever.'' ... Our David Lord will have more on this later, but many Mavs cited Caron Butler as an inspiration. Said Carlisle: ""He was a whisker away from playing in the NBA Finals. Had we played 10 more days ... he was that close."

SPEAKING OF BEING A 'MADE MAN': Jet was in the robe. And sunglasses. Smoking a cigar.


"I got my ticket to the ESPY's,'' said Jet, holding the enveloped invitation to the ESPN Awards ceremony, which he says will include all the Mavs as the team will be up for an "Outstanding Team'' trophy. "I'm going to be all over. I'm going to be everywhere now, baby."

Terry spoke with the media while wearing a boxing-style championship robe – one he says was given to him by Carlisle (to replace the one the coach confiscated when he thought Jet was losing focus), one the Mavs' sixth man and spokesmodel says he'll don again for Thursday's victory parade in downtown Dallas.

"I can only imagine getting on that float and just hoisting up that trophy, cigar in my mouth,'' Jet said, "and I'm going to have this same outfit on. So get used to it."

'TRIX TALK: Shawn Marion is no longer hungry for wins. Now he craves attention and fun.

"I'm full now,'' he said. "Oooh-eee, my stomach is full, but I've got a different appetite now."

How to feed that hunger? He's going to hang out in his other home in Chicago. ("Sorry,'' he told me, "but it's too hot here.'') He's still working that reality TV show idea of his featuring the "ladies in my life'' and starring his colorful mama. "But she's not the boss, I'm the boss,'' Marion said … before backing down. "Naw, she's the boss.'' And he's going (dye) my hair yellow.''

More 'Trix:

JJ HAS BB: Don't believe the mischaracterizations of what you may have read; Barea has every intent of returning to Dallas.

Does he wish to be a starter someday? De nada. But he also expressed great satisfaction with his role "as somebody who brings energy off the bench.''

And if you are wondering what Carlisle might say when it's time for contract negotiations?

He might say J.J. Barea "is a fighter … with incredibly big balls.''

SO WHO IS LEAVING?: As of this glorious moment, nobody.

"No, I'm cool,'' said Big Wood, understanding that he'll be TY's backup if all goes right.

"They believed in me when a lot of people wondered why they traded for me," said Chandler, planning on all going right.

Peja? The Custodian? DeShawn? JJB? Anybody want out? Anybody on the outs? Nah.


High above the pressers, our little buddy Roddy B hovered on the staircase. He wore a neat Jordan t-shirt (a North Carolina license plate that said, "First To Fly'') and he had no idea he was being talked about down below.

"I believe in him,''Rick said. "He's a terrific all-around talent, a terrific kid. He can do things that nobody on our roster can do. ... He's definitely a building block for the future of this franchise."

Yes, everybody is fine. Everything is cool.
THE FINAL WORD: From the coach. About his team. And history:

"This team will be referenced,'' Rick Carlisle said. "A lot of people will look back at the 2001 Mavs as 'The Team that Could.'''

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