Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) works in the post against Lakers… (Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire )
The Lakers will face a different set of obstacles when they encounter the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference playoffs.
Unlike the Lakers' first-round opponent, the undersized and undermanned New Orleans Hornets, the Mavericks bring what Los Angeles assistant coach Jim Cleamons called the "total package."
The Mavericks have an All-Star and onetime NBA most valuable player in Dirk Nowitzki. They have one of the NBA's all-time best point guards in Jason Kidd. They have a super sub in Jason Terry. They have size and depth.
And not to be forgotten — and perhaps just as entertaining — Dallas has an owner in Mark Cuban who is more than willing to exchange zings with the Zingmaster, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson.
The Mavericks present a challenge the Lakers know will be a test, starting with Game 1 Monday night at Staples Center.
"They've got plenty of personnel," said Cleamons, who will be in charge of putting together the Lakers' game plan for this best-of-seven series. "They are deep. It should be a very interesting series. I don't think anybody will pick us to sweep them."
Kidd runs the show, but Nowitzki is Dallas' go-to guy. He averaged 22 points on 46.3% shooting against the Lakers in three regular-season games.
He averaged 27.3 points per game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Dallas' first-round playoff series.
"Nowitzki is a coach's nightmare to match up against," Cleamons said. "He's so versatile and such a wonderful shooter. He keeps you off balance with his jump shot. Then he'll post you up a little bit more and they run almost everything through him."
At 7 feet and with the shooting skills of a guard, Nowitzki poses a threat from almost anywhere, including three-point range.
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will take turns defending him.
"He's able to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court," Odom said. "He's one of the best at posting up in the middle of the court, which most players don't do. You see most players post up on the block. Dirk loves the middle of the court. He's able to hit turnarounds and get to the basket."
Looking to start strong
The Lakers lost Game 1 against New Orleans at Staples Center, thus losing the home-court advantage.
They say that was a wake-up call, something they have discussed.
"We know how important Game 1s are in a series," Jackson said after practice Sunday. "They really set the tone."
The Lakers want to start this series the right way, which means beating the Mavericks in the first game.
"It's just important to always come out and play well in the playoffs no matter what game it is," Odom said.
Bynum plays his game
Andrew Bynum was the Lakers' second-leading scorer (15.2) and leading rebounder (10.2) in the first round. He also shot 55.6% from the field.
But none of that was foremost in the mind of the 7-foot center as he prepared to face the Mavericks.
"I'm not thinking about it in an individualist [sense]," Bynum said. "I'm just going out here understanding that anything I can do to help the team, and that's what is happening."
Bynum will face a taller foe this time in 7-1 Dallas center Tyson Chandler. Bynum said the two worked out together a few summers ago, so they have a history.
"I'm going to be studying my film, studying my tape, seeing where they want to attack and try to prepare myself," Bynum said.
Bryant injury update
Jackson said Kobe Bryant did "some training" at practice Sunday but didn't do "anything on the court" on his sprained left ankle.
Bryant will play.
"He'll be all right," Jackson said. "I just don't know how sharp he can be if he's had that many days off and has to play. But he'll find a way."