Jason Terry: "I know this team is locked in. We're ready."

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Marion_dunk.jpgThere’s some swagger in the Dallas Mavericks locker room right now. Not over-the-top, Sam Cassell “big balls dance” swagger, but a real, palpable confidence.

A blowout win can help with that confidence (even if it is against the Clippers, who have folded the tents on the season). But this is more than that, it is confidence of a veteran group that feels it has a real chance.

“I know this team is locked in. We’re ready,” Jason Terry said.

There was consistent talk of a veteran team that knows what is ahead of it.

“Our core nucleus of guys have been through all the battles and we feel it is our time,” Terry said.

Shawn Marion put the veteran thing more bluntly.

“We’re an old team,” he said. “We got a lot of guys who have been at different depths deep into the playoffs…. That experience will help us. With the depth we’ve got on this team we should be able to make a real good run.”

That attitude — confident and ready to go to work — was evident throughout the locker room. They were having some fun on the road. It was a contrast from the other big Western Conference power, the Lakers, where lately their locker room — just down the hall at Staples Center — has seen questions of confidence and execution. It has not seemed so sure of itself. Dallas does.

“This year our struggles have been when we didn’t bring it consistently on both ends of the floor,” Terry said, “We’d get big leads then we’d lose them. Now this is the time of year where you get a big lead you need to put them away. You get a lead in the playoffs you got to take advantage of it. I think our mind is right and we are ready to go forward.”

Pretty much everyone on the Mavericks sounded confident to a man… well, except coach Rick Carlisle. He’s paid to worry.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said after the game. “We need to continue to work at playing better. Defense and rebounding is always going to be the starting point for us playing great basketball… We’ve taken some positive steps but we are by no means there.”

Even Carlisle had to admit that his team has looked good and been in a comfortable groove lately. Which of course for a coach is reason to worry.

“I don’t like being comfortable,” Carlisle said.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.