Dampier backs off "first foul" statement

After chatting with league officials, Mavericks center Erick Dampier is toning down his plans to thwart San Antonio’s Tony Parker.

The big guy is still going to get physical with the speedy point guard in Game 3, but he’s no long guaranteeing that “my first foul Thursday night is going to put him on his back.”

“I probably shouldn’t have said it like that,” Dampier said Wednesday. “Maybe the way it came out, it sounded bad. … I’m just going to go out there and play the way I’ve been playing.”

Dampier vowed to pop Parker on Monday night, after he turned Game 2 of this first-round series into a personal layup drill. Parker scored 38 points in 33 minutes, leading San Antonio to a 105-84 victory that tied the series at one game apiece.

The quote appeared in Tuesday’s editions of The Dallas Morning News. Once it reached the league office, a “review” began, which essentially meant Dampier having to explain himself. He did so again Wednesday with reporters.

“It’s just the game of basketball,” he said. “It wasn’t said intentionally to go out and hurt anyone. I mean, fouls happen in the game of basketball. It’s just that we want to shut down the paint and not give up any easy layups.”

No punishment was announced by the league. However, there will be repercussions in the form of more scrutiny from the refs.

“Probably magnified 100,000 times,” Dampier said, laughing. “I’m just waiting to see how it’s going to happen. But, like I said, I’m not going to go out there and do anything stupid. I just want to go out there and play the best I can.”

Mavericks players and coaches stood up for Dampier, essentially calling his threat a heat of the moment, slip of the tongue. They also agreed with his message.

“We can’t just give up layup after layup, and Parker is one of the best at scoring in the paint,” Dallas point guard Jason Kidd said. “We just have to be a little more physical—not in the sense of hurting anybody, but protecting the paint. I think that’s what Damp was trying to say.”

Dampier and coach Rick Carlisle both noted that the burly center has only two flagrant fouls over five seasons in Dallas, which hardly brands him as a dirty player.

“They’ve got one—we don’t,” Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said, clearly referring to Bruce Bowen, the Spurs’ defensive ace who has long been a thorn to Dallas players.

Parker pretty much brushed off Dampier’s threat.

“I can’t focus on that,” he said. “It’s San Antonio and Dallas. We know they’re going to come back strong. They’re going to play very physical. They have a lot of character in that team, and just like we reacted in Game 2, they’re going to react as well. … I’ll be ready.”

Parker scored 24 points in the opener, but made only two field goals in the second half. He scored as many points in the first quarter of Game 2 as the Mavericks did, then in the second quarter absorbed a flagrant foul from Jason Terry. The league said Terry would not be penalized any further.

“For me, the main thing is to make sure that we do stuff that made us win Game 2,” Parker said. “That’s my main focus, for me to be aggressive and make sure I help my team win.”

“I don’t pay attention, honestly, to anybody’s comments. Not even my family’s comments or my friends’. All that matters is what the teams do on the court,” Popovich said. “Comments are just that, they’re absolutely meaningless. So it doesn’t affect anything.”

But what if the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Dampier gets rough with the 6-2, 180-pound Parker?

“He’s a tough kid,” Popovich said.

While this series lacks the gravitas of the Spurs-Mavs second-round feud in 2006, it’s off to a juicy start.

San Antonio made 11 3-pointers and held Nowitzki and Terry well below their averages in Game 1, but Dallas won thanks to great play from other members of the supporting cast. Parker’s dominance was the story line in Game 2, and now Dampier’s line is helping build buzz for Game 3.

“It kind of fires me up,” said Spurs reserve Drew Gooden, a newcomer to this Interstate 35 rivalry. “If somebody has that much courage to put themselves on the line, so be it. But I don’t think anybody on our team has been the ones to talk. I think we can show better than we can tell. It will be interesting to see what happens. I think Tony is going to stay aggressive, so we’ll see how Dallas handles that.”

The Mavericks have some good trends in their favor, like a 15-1 record at home since the All-Star break and going 6-1 in games following losses by at least 20 points.

Then there’s the Nowitzki factor. He scored at least 20 points in the final 25 games of the regular season, but San Antonio has limited him to 19 and 14 over the first two games. He’s 0-for-6 on 3-point tries.

Is he due to break out? Or have the Spurs figured out a way to stifle him?

“For a 7-footer who is not athletic, it’s pretty hard to beat a double team, especially against smaller guys,” Nowitzki said. “I just have to take what’s there. I think I had some good shots in the second half. Obviously I forced a couple of 3s when we were down 20, but I think I’m going to have a few opportunities. If I have them, I have to make sure I make the best out of them.”

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