After Mark Aguirre won all five games he played against the Jazz this season, Adrian Dantley will take his turn tonight.
Dantley, traded from Detroit to Dallas for Aguirre in late February, will make his first Salt Palace appearance of the year. Aguirre won three games against the Jazz with Dallas - skipping one loss, leaving the court after warmups with sore ankles - and two with Detroit.While working Dantley and Herb Williams into the lineup, the Mavericks have played without Roy Tarpley for most of the year and also lost center James Donaldson for the season with a knee injury.
"There's been turmoil on the team from Day One," noted Dantley.
Amid all the injuries and other troubles, the most devastating was the loss of Tarpley to drug rehabilitation. Tarpley played in just 13 games; he's back in Dallas now, but there's no news on when he will be activated.
"I like to think if he had played a full year, we would have won 10 more games," Coach John MacLeod noted Monday before the Mavs' practice at Westminster College. "That puts us right up there."
Instead of chasing the Jazz for the Midwest Division title, the Mavs (33-39) are battling with Portland for the last Western Conference playoff spot. Even after a 12-game losing streak, they're only one-half game behind Portland.
The Mavs have to figure the worst is behind them. "(March) was a bear, a rough month," MacLeod said. "It's only natural that when you bring in two guys with 30 games to go, there's going to be an adjustment. It took us a while, but everybody's familiar with each other."
Dantley, who reported to the Mavs only after his request for a contract extension was denied, averaged a team-high 20.9 points during the losing streak and has scored 20 or more points in 14 of 17 games. "I'm just learning the plays and doing the best I can," Dantley said. "It's a lot different."
For Dantley, his homecoming game was last week in Detroit - not tonight in the Salt Palace, where he played seven seasons before being traded in August 1986. "Two years ago," he explains.
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After Monday's practice, Sloan was encouraged, discovering that the effects of last week's double-overtime loss to Detroit had finally worn off. Of Saturday's 20-point loss at Sacramento, he said, "We were in a down time; we just couldn't get ourselves back up."
As the Jazz continue to struggle against trapping defenses, Sloan noted, "I would suspect (opponents) will do it even more in the future . . . that doesn't scare me."