DALLAS It was nearly seven weeks ago that the Mavericks players decided to start growing beards, promising not to shave until their wins equaled their losses.

It s not a new tradition among sports teams, but it s supposed to help bring players together in what some have called a brotherhood of facial hair.

It took a while, but something seems to be working.

"We're digging ourselves out of a big hole, but I believe we've still got a great opportunity to do something good," said Mavericks guard Mike James.

James, 37, was signed back in January, and in the 11 games he has started since then, the team has won 8 and lost only 3.

Now, with 12 games left, time is running out.

"I'd be lying to you if I didn't say they weren't all must-win games considering where we are at," said Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. "The urgency is there. The opponents that we are playing are very good, and so we're going to have to be really good and really right."

It wasn't that long ago that the Mavericks weren't concerned about the playoffs, but instead, it was the seeding that they were worried about.

These days, getting to .500 has become a huge task.

They haven't been this close since December 18, when they were one game below .500. And since they started growing beards, they're actually played five games above .500.

"I think that's really helped our locker room, believe it or not," said Mavericks guard Vince Carter. "Just the unity and getting everyone on board and involved, and believing that we can actually accomplish the goal."

"Hey I like the beards... but I want to see them go," Carlisle added.

Win the next two, and he'll get his wish.


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