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NBA Notebook

Associated Press
The NBA notebook …
DALLAS ó Rick Carlisle is ready to let Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks run. And run.
And run some more.
“When you play with Jason Kidd, you have to open it up,” Carlisle said Wednesday. “Our wing guys are going to have to get conditioned to really run. The thing Jason Kidd does better than probably any point guard in the league is push the ball ahead.”
Carlisle was hired over the weekend to replace Avery Johnson, who got the Mavericks to the NBA finals in 2006 and a franchise-record 67 wins in ’07 but wore out his welcome with consecutive first-round playoff flops and problems with team owner Mark Cuban.
Johnson was fired two weeks ago Wednesday, the morning after Dallas was ousted by New Orleans. Carlisle quickly moved to the top of the candidate list compiled by Cuban and Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball operations, despite having no connection to the organization. He wound up being the only candidate interviewed.
“I think he embodies all the good things the Mavs are looking to accomplish ó hard work, ingenuity, creativity,” Cuban said. “We’re really proud and excited to have him here.”
SPURS IN TROUBLE?
SAN ANTONIO ó Just as Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be hitting their stride and gaining momentum for a berth in the Western Conference finals, they are down again, their march toward consecutive NBA titles very much in doubt.
The defending champions face elimination at the hands of the upstart New Orleans Hornets, who have a 3-2 lead in the conference semifinals, when they play Game 6 on Thursday.
“The best opportunity for us is really tomorrow (Thursday). We’ve got to look at it that way,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “We’ve got a chance to close out the defending champions. Obviously we know it’s going to be a very, very tough game to do that, especially in San Antonio.”
After starting the series in an 0-2 hole against Chris Paul and the Hornets, the Spurs stormed back with home wins in Games 3 and 4. In Game 4 in particular, they were difficult to counter on either end of the court. Duncan had his best game of the series and the Hornets struggled throughout.
YAO SADDENED
HOUSTON ó Houston Rockets center Yao Ming said he was “saddened” by news of Monday’s massive earthquake in China, calling it a “dark and emotional” time for his country.
The epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 quake was in the central Sichuan province. Officials said Tuesday the death toll was about 15,000 and expected to climb. The quake triggered landslides, leveled buildings and cracked dams.
Yao was born in Shanghai, on China’s eastern coast.
AINGE WINS
BOSTON ó Danny Ainge, who engineered the trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that helped the Boston Celtics post the biggest turnaround in league history, was given the Sporting News NBA Executive of the Year award before Wednesday night’s playoff game.

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