Carlisle: 'Positivity' On Mavs Chances, But 'Respect' For NBA Challenges

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - On Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks will be allowed to gather as a group, at team headquarters, and participate in full-squad workouts in preparation for their July 8 transfer to Orlando and the NBA "bubble.'' 

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is offering up an understandable host of buzzwords to describe the opportunity, the mood and the challenges ahead.

Words like "respect'' and "caution'' for basketball in a COVID-19 time.

Words like "hopeful'' and "optimistic'' - which sound like descriptions of what the Mavs might achieve in what will become their first plunge into the NBA Playoffs in almost half a decade ... but no, Rick is also talking about basketball in a COVID-19 time there, as well.

"We're all hopeful and optimistic,'' Carlisle said via ESPN 103.3. "We know the NBA in terms of research, they've gone to the wall as much as they can. If they found out there's things that haven't been covered, they'll get em covered.''

That's about another pair of words - "hope'' and "trust'' - that are not universal here. Yes, some of this will feel familiar, like a second training camp; some roster shuffling (Trey Burke officially in for Willie Cauley-Stein on Wednesday), some conditioning check-ups (no, Luka Doncic isn't fat) and then the practice-court ramp-up to the eight "seeding games,'' for Dallas beginning with Game 1 against the Houston Rockets on the second day of play in Orlando, on July 31. (Full schedule analysis here.)

But this will be unique in many ways as well. No home-court edge. No fans energy. No smoothness to the players' "body clocks'' when it comes to the rhythm of a season.

And, always, some health concerns.

"We all have to ... on a day-to-day basis,'' Carlisle said, "stay out of harm's way. ... To make sure we wear masks, all those kinds of things. And we'll hope for the best. ...''

By mid-August, the 16-team playoffs will be formed and will begin, and there might be a sense of semi-normalcy there, as at least the familiar 1-vs.-8, best-of-seven format will be used. The Mavs are presently in the No. 7 spot in the West, with a chance to rise.

That part of this process will be about basketball. But Carlisle is keenly aware that there is another overshadowing part of the process as well.

"Our guys are working hard,'' he said. "Given the circumstances I feel very positive about where things are at the moment but we're very respectful and cautious of what we're living in right now."