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Mavs bond over title chase

Dallas stars Dirk Nowitzki, left, and Jason Kidd are complemented by a supporting cast of stellar role players.

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Dallas stars Dirk Nowitzki, left, and Jason Kidd are complemented by a supporting cast of stellar role players.

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd are at the point where they only care about winning a championship.

Luckily for them, their teammates feel the same way.

From Shawn Marion to Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler to Brendan Haywood, Peja Stojakovic to DeShawn Stevenson, the Mavericks are a collection of guys who have played at least 10 seasons without winning a title. Their willingness to accept whatever playing time and stats they pile up is a big reason Dallas is in the Finals.

"This is a bunch of veterans who want to play and are unselfish," Nowitzki said. " … Everybody sacrificing for each other."

The Finals are an interesting clash in team-building formulas.

The Heat has stars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh plus the best role players it could afford with the remaining room under the salary cap.

Dallas was built to be deep and versatile. The Mavs knew Nowitzki would be the main option every night, with Kidd guiding the offense, but the No. 2 scorer and other roles would depend on matchups or who had the hot hand.

A team that struggled to make it work at times last season has bought into the concept.

Haywood signed last summer to be the starter, lost his job to Chandler and was so uncomfortable as a backup that he was suspended for a game in November. But in the playoffs, he has done everything a backup big man should.

Stevenson also has been in and out of the lineup.

Marion is a four-time All-Star who became a backup for the first time when he joined Dallas last season. He became a starter for good in March. "There's a point in everybody's career where you've got to make certain sacrifices if you really want to get to that ultimate goal," he said.

LeBron: MJ's better

MIAMI — Scottie Pippen said LeBron James may be basketball's greatest player ever.

Among those who disagree: LeBron James.

The Heat forward provided his reaction to Pippen's comparison between James and Michael Jordan on Saturday, saying he was flattered by the sentiment but doesn't believe he's done enough to merit mention among the game's elite.

"I'm not better than Jordan," James said.

Pippen — who won six championships alongside Jordan in Chicago with the Bulls in the 1990s — said Friday that while Jordan is "probably the greatest scorer to play the game," James "may be the greatest player to ever play the game."

"Michael's an unbelievable player," James said Saturday. "I've got a long way — long way — to be mentioned as far as one of the all-time greats. Not even just Jordan. There's a lot of great players. … Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, all these guys who are floating around with multiple rings. Bill Russell, all these guys who have pioneered this game.

NBA Finals

Heat vs. Mavericks

Tuesday: at Miami, 9, Ch. 28

Thursday: at Miami, 9, Ch. 28

June 5: at Dallas, 8, Ch. 28

June 7: at Dallas, 9, Ch. 28

June 9: at Dallas, 9, Ch. 28 *

June 12: at Miami, 8, Ch. 28 *

June 14: at Miami, 9, Ch. 28 *

* If necessary

Mavs bond over title chase 05/28/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 28, 2011 9:35pm]
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