Dallas and Denver previews

We’re going to try to jumpstart this season preview. The Lakers will hold their media day Monday, followed by their first training camp practice Tuesday. It’s only a week after that to the first exhibition game Oct. 10 against Utah in Fresno.

Dallas Mavericks
Coach: Avery Johnson
Starting five: PG Devin Harris, SG Jason Terry, SF Josh Howard, PF Dirk Nowitzki, C DeSagana Diop
Off the bench: PG Anthony Johnson, SF Jerry Stackhouse, PF Austin Croshere, C Erick Dampier
Most underpaid: If not for the ankle and hamstring injuries that cost him 23 games, Josh Howard might have had an even more impressive third season. Howard was the Mavericks most undervalued player last season, averaging 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, despite being on the court for only 48.6 percent of the teams minutes last season. When Howard scored 20 points or more, the Mavericks were 19-0 last season. Howard also can defend three positions and draws the opposing teams top player most nights. Owner Mark Cuban will spend October negotiating a contract extension with Howard. He was an $8.61 million player making $900,000 on his rookie contract.
Most overpaid: The Mavericks gave up last season on finding the Erick Dampier who averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds with Golden State in 2003-04. Dampier lost his starting job to DeSagana Diop in January and came off the bench the rest of the season. At 6-foot-11, 265 pounds, Dampier can rebound and block shots but was a 40.8 percent shooter on anything other than dunks and tip-ins. He was a $3.11 million player who made $8.6 million last season. Dampier is owed another $50 million on his contract.
Outlook: None of the NBA heavyweights upgraded as much as the Mavericks, who added four quality bench players in Anthony Johnson, Austin Croshere, Devean George and Greg Buckner to a team that went 60-22 last season. If everything goes according to plan, David Stern should be handing Cuban the Larry OBrien Trophy in June. That would ease the sting of losing a series to Miami that the Mavericks could/should have swept. [ep

Denver Nuggets
Coach: George Karl
Starting five: PG Andre Miller, SG J.R. Smith, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Nene, C Marcus Camby
Off the bench: PG Earl Boykins, PF Joe Smith, PF Kenyon Martin
Most underpaid: Which player in the NBA would you want to take the last shot with a game on the line? The numbers say Carmelo Anthony, who has gone 10 for 15 in his career on shots to win or tie in the last 10 seconds. Anthony made huge strides last season, averaging 26.5 points and shooting 48.1 percent, up from 43.1 percent the season before. He also gets to the foul line like few others. Its hard to believe Anthony, possibly USA Basketballs best player this summer, has yet to be selected to an All-Star Game. That should change this February. He was a $13.04 million player who made $3.7 million on his rookie contract.
Most overpaid: Not only did Kenyon Martin miss 25 games last season due to injury, mostly related to his left knee, but the Nuggets went 19-6 without him. Then Martin was suspended for the rest of the playoffs after a halftime tirade with George Karl. If he wasnt owed another $70 million and his knee wasnt such a question mark, Martin would be playing for another team by now. One anonymous teammate speaking to the Denver Post questioned how Martin could miss games when he was seen out partying the night before. Martin, who had only seven double-doubles last season, was a $3.84 million player making $10.6 million.
Outlook: Even though he missed all last season after suffering a knee injury on opening night, Nene still got a $60 million extension from the Nuggets. The rest of the NBA will be watching to see if that was money well spent. As long as Denver can win the Northwest Division, it will be no worse than the No. 4 playoff seed.