Carlisle Reveals Mavs 3 Biggest Challenges in NBA Bubble

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - “We don’t mind adjustments and challenges,'' Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says. "In my 12 years here so far, a lot of it’s been about trying to take adversities and turn them into positives.”

That will be the goal as the Mavs work through Training Camp 2.0 here in Dallas before playing eight regular-season games and the entire playoffs under the bubble in Orlando starting July 31. 

But on the path to that goal? Carlisle is speaking openly and honestly about what amounts to at least three bumps in the road that must be navigated. We'll place them in what we believe is reverse order in terms of concerns ...

3) "Quality of Play.'' "The quality of play in terms of the shot-making and those kinds of things, that may be a little challenging at the beginning,'' Carlisle concedes.

Of course, that's what this training camp is for, just as a normal training camp is utilized. And that's what the "preseason games'' - as many as three sessions against other teams in Orlando - is for.

In the end, teams that are capable of playing at a high level - especially ones made up of team members who didn't allow too much rust to build up during the hiatus since the COVID-19-forced postponement of the NBA season back on March 11 - will likely prevail. Luka Doncic and the Mavs, at 40-27, are capable of playing at a high level.

2) "Adjustments and Challenges.'' The Mavs have these things coming at them from a roster perspective. The Mavs are going to be playing without centers Dwight Powell (Achilles) and Willie Cauley-Stein (personal) and without guards Jalen Brunson (shoulder) and Courtney Lee (calf). Newcomer Trey Burke can help in the backcourt, but ...

“With Dwight out and Willie being unavailable, we’re going to be a little small, so we’re going to have to adjust that way,” Carlisle says. 

1) "The Great Unknown.'' Just one example of many: When should a team move from its present individual workouts (in Dallas' practices, it's two guys at a basket, along with coaches, but no one-on-one stuff yet) to going full-speed?

“Everyone’s going to have challenges with this, whether they’re logistical challenges or challenges due to certain limitations,” Carlisle says. “For example, right now the workouts are still individual workouts, so we’ve got to think through that very clearly as to when July 10 or 11 hits – whatever day is your first day of practice — what will those practices look like and how do you get into it.

“Do you jump into it hard, or do you ramp up a little bit? These are conversations that are wide-ranging. It’s me talking to our training staff and taking the temperature of those guys, and talking to our players and how they feel.”

"Taking the temperature'' - no pun intended on Carlisle's part, we think - is that top challenge. The coach doesn't seem to be concerned about the in-game environment or any issues of intensity - "All the teams involved are playing for something every single game,'' he notes, and that's essentially a first in sports - or about his team's mindset.

But the "temperature'' ... how to take it and when to take it and what to do about it ... The NBA coaching staff that best figures that one out may give its team a grand advantage.

Rick Carlisle might be that grand advantage. Consider his oddly-optimistic view of Bubble Life: “Imagine an NBA season where you don’t have to travel,” he says. “Whoever heard of something like that? If you can’t look at that as some kind of positive, I think there’s something wrong!''

A grand advantage. ...

“You can look at all the variables, all the procedural things, all the detail aspects of it, and look at it as a very daunting type of thing,” Carlisle says. “Or you can look at it as really a one-of-a-kind - hopefully -  once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go into a completely unique environment with a completely unique kind of opportunity.

"Some people may look at it with trepidation. I look at it with an excitement. This is really an amazing opportunity for us.”