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Retooled roster pushes Howard to Mavs' bench

Minutes will have to be earned behind Daniels, Finley, Stackhouse

11:52 PM CDT on Friday, October 8, 2004

By EDDIE SEFKO / The Dallas Morning News

It didn't take long for Josh Howard to get the news. He figured it out when the Mavericks got Jerry Stackhouse in a trade with Washington.

It was confirmed at the start of training camp. He's the odd man out, the fourth wheel on a tricycle of players who will share the bulk of playing time at small forward and shooting guard.

"Coach has already told me I'm going to have to get mop-up minutes," Howard said Friday. "I knew coming into this year I wasn't going to play that much. I guess it'll be another learning year for me."

Howard, the 29th pick of the 2003 draft, had a nice rookie season in which he averaged 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. But it was his good friend Marquis Daniels who came alive late in the season, got the big contract in the summer and now is penciled in as the starter at shooting guard.

With Michael Finley starting at small forward and Stackhouse as the primary backup, Don Nelson knows what that means.

"No, I can't keep all four of them happy," Nelson said. "For sure, they all deserve to play. But there will be a pecking order. It's a good problem to have.

"It'll work itself out, but there will be some moments when somebody is going to want to play more – probably all of them. I understand that."

But there's not much he can do about it. Nelson wants to keep Finley's minutes closer to 30 per game than 40. Daniels is going to play more than he sits, assuming his sprained left ankle heals as expected and he begins playing next week. Stackhouse has been anointed the sixth man. And Howard? He figures there's one sure-fire way to get on the court.

"I'm going to have to go out and do the dirty work like Eddie [Najera] did," he said.

Howard is not disgruntled. He loves being a Maverick, so he'll adapt to whatever role he gets.

"I'm going to have to," he said. "You have to get on the court first [to produce]. I'm not going to ever doubt myself. I know they can get rid of me if they want to."

No chance of that yet. Howard's future is too bright.

E-mail esefko@dallasnews.com

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