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As civic-pride-restoration projects go, it would be tough to top
what the Dallas Mavericks pulled off last year. In one season
they transformed Reunion Arena from a place where defeat,
dissension and despair got together on a regular basis to a
place where fans and players alike can proudly wear Maverick
jerseys. Dallas won 36 games last season, 23 more than in
1993-94. "The turnaround has been miraculous," says Maverick
coach Dick Motta (page 184). "Anybody who said a year ago this
team would win 36 games would've been led away in a
straitjacket. We've got light-years to go, but we've made a lot
of progress."

Progress should continue this year, but even the straitjacket
set shouldn't bet on another 23-game improvement. This year's
team won't experience the same life-affirming personnel changes
of last year, such as the replacement of unpopular coach Quinn
Buckner with Motta, the same man who raised Dallas from the
depths a decade ago and then abruptly quit after the 1986-87

The 64-year-old Motta has clearly had the right touch with a
young team that wilted under the often harsh and robotic
Buckner. Forward Jamal Mashburn, 23, and shooting guard Jim
Jackson, 25, have both blossomed under Motta's tutelage.
Mashburn's 24.1 points a game last year was fifth best in the
league, and Jackson's 25.7 would have placed him fifth had he
not missed 31 games with a sprained left ankle and fallen 91
points short of the 1,400 minimum required to qualify for the
final season rankings. The 6'6" Jackson, who has a sweet shot
from the outside and is strong enough to post up defenders, is a
stud, according to Motta. "There are some great shooting guards
in the league, but considering Jim's age, strength, height,
attitude, I don't think I'd trade him for any 2-guard in the

Both Jackson and Mashburn have benefited greatly from the
addition of point guard Jason Kidd, the No. 2 overall draft pick
in '94, who shared NBA Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill
of the Pistons. "Jason's as good a player as there is in this
league," says Pacer coach Larry Brown. "Unfortunately, the
things he does for his team aren't really measured in the stats."

Some of Kidd's best qualities, like extraordinary court vision
and presence of mind, didn't make it into a box score, but he
ranked seventh in the NBA in steals (1.91 per game) and 10th in
assists (7.7), the only rookie in the top 10 in two statistical
categories last year. And Kidd's impact on certain team stats
can't be overestimated. Dallas had 27 home sellouts last year,
20 more than the previous two years combined, and Maverick
merchandise sales have increased 280% since Kidd arrived.

The only apparent downside to the $6 million Kidd is that he may
have spoiled the now proud denizens of Reunion. The 7,500 fans
who gathered at the arena to watch last summer's draft on
big-screen TVs greeted the announcement of this year's
selections ungraciously. When Dallas took Duke's 6'10" Cherokee
Parks with the 12th overall pick, the place filled with lusty
booing. The moaning got louder when the Mavericks chose 6'10"
Loren Meyer of Iowa State 12 picks later. But Motta, who had
offered the Vancouver Grizzlies two first-round picks in an
attempt to move up and grab Oklahoma State's Bryant Reeves at
No. 6, was thrilled--as the crowd should have been. Two promising
big bodies are better than what the Mavericks have had in the
post. Lorenzo Williams, a 6'9", 213-pound veteran of the USBL
and the CBA who was waived five times in the NBA before joining
Dallas last year, is a good rebounder (8.4 a game), but he
doesn't offer much else.

A better rebounder is power forward Popeye Jones, whom Mashburn
calls "our Dennis Rodman, without all the other stuff." Last
year the 6'8", 250-pound Jones led the league in offensive
boards with 329, and his total rebound average (10.6) ranked
10th. Backup Roy Tarpley won the NBA Sixth Man Award for 1987-88
but has apparently tired of that role. Last year he provided
some firepower off the bench, but he also squabbled with Motta
because he didn't start. Though Dallas tried to deal him,
Tarpley is back, and his unhappiness could be the biggest threat
to what Motta calls "a sort of magic developing here."

But even a contentious Tarpley won't ruin the giddy mood in Big
D. "We've got something going that every coach in sports would
be envious of," says Motta. "We've got kids who hustle like
crazy and want to get better. It's really exciting."


COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS A precocious pair, Jackson (left) and Kidd are vital to the Mavs' ascension. [Jim Jackson and Jason Kidd surrounding opponent]


PPG (Rank) FG% (Rank)

OFFENSE 103.2 (9) .440 (26)
DEFENSE 106.1 (24) .488 (25)


The Mavericks made a dramatic 23-game improvement and found
themselves in the playoff hunt until the final week of last
season on the strength of an impressive group of young players
acquired through the draft; Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn, Jason
Kidd and Popeye Jones were all under age 25 last season. Jackson
and Mashburn carried the scoring burden for Dallas and also
accomplished a rare feat: They became only the 13th set of
teammates, and the second-youngest pair in NBA history, to
average 24 or more points per game while playing in at least 50

Youngest Teammates to Average 24 or More Points in a Season


'62-63 Zephyrs Walt Bellamy 23 27.9
Terry Dischinger 22 25.5

'94-95 Mavericks Jim Jackson 24 25.7
Jamal Mashburn 22 24.1

'60-61 Royals Jack Twyman 26 25.3
Oscar Robertson 22 30.5

'77-78 Suns Paul Westphal 27 25.2
Walter Davis 23 24.2

'62-63 Lakers Elgin Baylor 28 34.0
Jerry West 24 27.1

'72-73 Hawks Lou Hudson 28 27.1
Pete Maravich 25 26.1


Rookie Loren Meyer shouldn't be fazed by the rude reception he
got in Dallas on draft day. The 6'10", 257-pound center has
already survived much worse. In the midst of his junior season,
in which he was leading Iowa State in scoring (22.3 ppg) and
rebounding (9.5) and was second in the Big Eight in both
categories, Meyer broke his collarbone when the truck in which
he was riding was hit by a train. He missed the rest of the
season, but as he said at the time, he was "lucky to be alive."
Meyer returned for his senior season to average 15.7 points per
game and notch career highs in rebounds (304) and assists (50).
Some scouts have called him the sleeper of the draft. "He's not
a household name," says Mav director of player personnel Keith
Grant, "but I would hope the fans give him a chance to show what
he can do."



SF Jamal Mashburn 24.1 ppg 4.1 rpg 3.7 apg
PF Popeye Jones 10.3 ppg 10.6 rpg 2.0 apg
C Lorenzo Williams 4.0 ppg 8.4 rpg 1.80 bpg
PG Jason Kidd 11.7 ppg 5.4 rpg 7.7 apg
SG Jim Jackson 25.7 ppg 5.1 rpg 3.7 apg


F-C Cherokee Parks Rookie; 12th overall pick, from Duke
F-C Roy Tarpley 12.6 ppg 8.2 rpg 83.6 FT%
G Lucious Harris 9.5 ppg 2.8 rpg 38.7 3FG%