Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 1/31/12
Posting a 13-5 record during the month of January has the Dallas Mavericks atop the Southwest Division standings. Not bad for a team that has played well despite injuries to Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. "If you would have asked me at Christmas and the day after, I would have said we're in trouble," Nowitzki told The Dallas Morning News after Monday night's 122-99 victory in Phoenix. "But I think we've come a long way since the first couple of weeks of the season. "I think guys got in better shape. I think guys are learning to play off each other. And I've said this almost feels like last year. We've got a bunch of veterans who want to play and are not selfish, like Vince and Lamar Odom." Odom has struggled to find his game since being traded to the Mavericks in December. The 2011 Sixth Man of the Year is averaging career-lows in nearly every major statistical category, however, he did post a season-high 19 points on Friday. One of the biggest surprises has been the solid play turned in by starting center Brendan Haywood. Many believed the Mavs wouldn't be able to defend their title with Tyson Chandler joining the New York Knicks in the off-season. But Haywood has stepped up, averaging seven rebounds, five points and one block over his 22 starts. "I think we were really worried coming into the season, losing Tyson," Nowitzki said. "But the way (Brendan) Haywood has been playing is some of the same stuff Tyson was doing for us, protecting the paint, blocking shots." -- Follow Jon Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota
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