Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki

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Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki

From Comcast SportsNet
DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are slowly starting to perform a little more like the defending NBA champs. Nowitzki scored 20 points in his 1,000th NBA game to lead the Mavericks to a 98-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. Jason Terry contributed 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to help the Mavs (3-4) string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. "We said at the beginning, we're going to be a piece of work and everybody is going to come along and I think this team is more set up to peak down the stretch and not now," Nowitzki said. "Everybody's got to work themselves back into shape, get the legs strong and play with each other more and I think we're going to be a good team down the stretch." Lamar Odom added 15 points and five rebounds in his best game since joining the Mavericks in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 11. But Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Odom can do better in just about every area. "He had good stats, but there are areas where he needs to improve." Carlisle said. Steve Nash had 15 points and 12 assists for the Suns (2-4), while Marcin Gortat had 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Mavericks lost their first three games while trying to introduce five new faces into the lineup after the departures of five key players from the team that won its first title last season. Now the Mavericks are playing with more cohesion and energy, winning three of four. "These are steps in the right direction," said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who had 13 points despite being listed as questionable before the game due to illness. "Things are starting to click on both ends of the floor." Nowitzki is the team's career leader in most categories, including points. He already had the record for games played and was appearing in his 975th game as a starter. "I'm still working to get back to where I was," said Nowitzki, MVP of the NBA Finals last season. "It's definitely good to get to 1,000 games, that's a lot of games and means I was healthy a lot and I was able to help my team and this franchise a lot. It's great and now we're looking for another 1,000, we'll see how far we can take it." The Mavs broke the game open with a 13-4 third-quarter run capped by five straight points from Nowitzki, including a three-point play for a 62-49 lead. Terry hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to make it 77-66. "It was a 3-point momentum play at the end of the quarter, a huge play," Carlisle said. Terry connected on three more from behind the arc early in the fourth, the final one pushing the Mavs' advantage to 92-71 with 7:46 remaining. The Suns kept hustling and trimmed the deficit to 96-87 on Nash's 3-pointer with 2:50 to play, but the Phoenix couldn't get any closer. The Mavericks were up at halftime, 49-41 behind Nowitzki's 13 points. For the game, the Suns were outrebounded 53-42, 19-11 on the offensive glass. "I think we gave up tons of offensive rebounds," Nash said. "We held them to 41 percent shooting which is more than acceptable, but we missed a lot of shots. We're OK offensively, but you can't give up so many offensive rebounds like we did tonight." Terry and Odom led Dallas to a 51-21 advantage in bench scoring. "That's where the separation came, with the second units," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's where the lead came and it was hard for us to overcome." NOTES: Nowitzki is the 98th player in NBA history with at least 1,000 games. ... The teams met for the first time this season. Dallas swept all four games last season. ... Recently-signed Phoenix G Michael Redd has begun working back into basketball shape but Gentry said Redd won't be ready to be activated for 10-14 days. ... Football players from Arkansas and Kansas State were in attendance. The teams meet Friday in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. ... Dallas' Jason Kidd appeared in his 1,274th regular-season game, tying Terry Porter for 16th on the NBA's career list. Kidd is the league's active leader in games played.

Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

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Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

FOXBORO -- The Patriots, as expected, have been given a roster exemption for safety Nate Ebner. Therefore, while Ebner is playing for the USA Rugby Men's Sevens team in the Rio Olympics, his spot will not count against New England's 90-man roster. 

"I’ve talked to Nate several times," coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. "Wish him well in his endeavor. It’s a great opportunity for him to follow his passion, participate in the Olympic Games. We’re pulling for him to bring back something around his neck."

With the roster exemption, the Patriots found themselves at 88 players on their roster. In order to fill their last two openings, they signed offensive lineman Jon Halapio and tight end Bear Pascoe, Belichick announced. 

Halapio, a product of the University of Florida, was a sixth-round selection by the Patriots in 2014. He was released at the end of training camp that year, and he later landed on the Broncos practice squad in December of 2014. Before the start of last season, Halapio signed with the Cardinals. He was released on Sept. 5. 

In between NFL gigs, Halapio has spent time with the Boston Brawlers and the Brooklyn Bolts, both of the Fall Experimental Football League. 

Pascoe, 30, is in his eighth NFL season. He has spent time with the Giants, Falcons and Lions, primarily as a blocking tight end. In his career, the 6-foot-5, 257-pounder has caught 40 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns in 85 career games. 

Ebner will participate in the Olympic rugby competition with Team USA beginning on Aug. 6, and fellow Patriots special teams ace Mathew Slater will be paying attention.

"I’m just so happy for him," Slater said. "And I know why rugby means so much to him, and many of us are familiar with the situation with his father, and his father obviously introduced him to the game of [rugby]. So, that connection with father and son is bigger than sport itself.

"I know this means a great deal to him and we’re all excited for him. I’m just trying to figure out where I can get my Ebner rugby jersey. I’ll be supporting him and watching him along the way."

McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

FOXBORO -- As the Patriots move forward with their process of preparing Jimmy Garoppolo for Week 1 of the regular season, there's plenty of refining the third-year quarterback needs to make to his game. 

But that's what training camp is for, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained on Wednesday.

"We're a long way from where we want to be in terms of the finished product in terms with he and a lot of guys on our team," McDaniels said. "There's nobody that's as good as we can make them. We're excited to have the opportunity to work with all of those guys and try to improve everything we can."

Garoppolo seen plenty of work as Tom Brady's backup over the last two years, both within the Patriots offense and as the "look team" quarterback, impersonating the likes of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Now, as Bill Belichick explained on Wednesday, Garoppolo's development as the team's starter is a priority.

How far Garoppolo has to go before he's ready remains to be seen. But McDaniels seemed to indicate that if Garoppolo can continue on the track he's been on in terms of his desire to improve, he'll be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. 

"He's worked extremely hard," McDaniels said. "He's gotten a lot of opportunities in his first two-plus years here, in practice and in spring football. This will be his third opportunity at training camp. He's got a great work ethic. He's got a great approach. He tries to get better and improve every day, and he's made progress." 

He's made so much progress that Belichick didn't even venture to get into the details of the road the Eastern Illinois product has traveled since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014.  

"Experience, everything," Belichick said. "It’s everything. All of the things that go into playing football: preparation, execution, knowing the opponent. We could sit here and talk about it for a day. Everything."

Garoppolo's teammates have noticed his progress, too. While both safety Devin McCourty and special teams ace Matthew Slater were careful not to compare Garoppolo to Brady, they praised the work they've seen behind the scenes from the backup-turned-starter. 

"The cool thing seeing Jimmy, I was a veteran when he was coming in," McCourty said. "You see a rookie, he's just been developing. Each time he steps on the field, he gets better and better so I think it's probably very exciting for him knowing the work he's put in. 

"And I think for other guys on the team, you know he's a hard worker so I don't think it's worries or anything like that. He's a confident kid, and he's been out here practicing hard. We see him a lot all throughout the year when he's on the look squad and being different quarterbacks . . . It's tough for me to really break him down and compare him. I think Jimmy's just a guy who's come in here and learned everything he could under Tom and just keeps getting better."

"I know that he's been working hard, just like the rest of us have," Slater said. "He's prepared himself for a moment to play since he got in this league. He's worked hard for it. We believe in his talent and his abilities, and we know he's going to go out and give us everything he has."