Dallas Mavs NBA Re-Opening Donuts: Your Need-To-Know Bubble Primer
DONUT 1: THE GOAL The Dallas Mavericks are not in the "Happy to Be Here Club.''
That much was made clear in our recent 1-on-1 visit with coach Rick Carlisle, in which he was specific enough regarding the goals of the 40-27 Mavs as they begin the re-boot in the No. 7 slot in the NBA West.
A playoff berth is secure. A move-up is in play, as Dallas is just 1.5 games back of Houston (the Game 1 opponent) and just 2.5 games back of a chance to jump Utah and OKC for an even higher vault up.
"In terms of seeding,'' Carlisle told us, "our goal is going to be to move up in the standings. It's always better to be a high seed because it means you're playing good and doing things to get better every day and that's how we're going to approach it.''
DONUT 2: THE MVP Dallas' young star point guard, Luka Doncic, is going to finish in the top four in the MVP voting. (So says us.) The numbers are magnificent. So is the court presence. And with his teenage history of "clutch''?
We may be about to see history.
“He’s the on-court leader of this team, there’s no two ways about it,'' Carlisle said of Doncic, 21. “He has the ball and he’s going to be the central focus of a lot of things. It’s a job that he wants to have.”
DONUT 3: THE ROSTER The Mavericks' roster is good enough that the other day, TNT's Kenny "The Jet'' Smith laughed at us when we begged Fate for the some-day acquisition of a "third star.'' ... reminding us that given the presence of Luka and KP, we're being selfish.
Luka Doncic (starter)
Tim Hardaway Jr. (starter)
Dorian Finney-Smith (starter)
Kristaps Porzingis (starter)
DONUT 4: THE INJURIES Dallas has experienced "Training Camp 2.0'' life in the Bubble in Orlando without a few significant pieces. Dwight Powell is there, still rehabbing from a torn achilles, but performing like a blossoming team (and NBPA) leader. Courtney Lee (calf) is there but injured and out.
Jalen Brunson underwent shoulder surgery in March and he's here in Dallas rehabbing. The Mavs are without center Willie Cauley-Stein (who opted out of the season while expecting the birth of a child) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Trey Burke came late.
However, despite those absences, the Mavericks still have a quality roster to make some noise at Disney World. If Doncic continues his superstar play, and Porzingis can build on the success he had in March, Dallas could make life difficult for some of the top teams in the Western Conference.
DONUT 5: THE SCHEDULE All games analyzed? We've got that here. All games for a quick reference? We've got that below ....
'My God, The Refs Are Bad!' Luka Responds to Kidd Scolding
“It’s a lot of things, you know,” Doncic says. “I think J-Kidd, he’s got a point and I’ve got to stop doing that.''
Dragic Prefers Move to Mavs over Heat: Report
"The sense is Goran works his way toward his preferred (and most viable) option of the Mavericks''
'No Luka, No Chance?': Mavs Drop to .500 in 97-90 Loss to Grizzlies
On the second night of a back-to-back, and while not having Luka Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks lost their second consecutive game and fell to .500 on the season in a 97-90 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
July 31: vs. Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Aug. 2: vs. Phoenix Suns at 7 p.m. CT
Aug. 4: vs. Sacramento Kings at 12:30 p.m. CT
Aug. 6: vs. Los Angeles Clippers at 4:30 p.m. CT (TNT)
Aug. 8: vs. Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Aug. 10: vs. Utah Jazz at 1 p.m. CT (NBATV)
Aug. 11: vs. Portland Trail Blazers at 3 p.m. CT
Aug. 13: vs. Phoenix Suns (TBD)
One back-to-back. Two meetings with an inferior (no offense!) Suns team. A meeting with a wobbly Kings team. And head-to-head chances to move up against Houston and Utah.
DONUT 6: THE CHEMISTRY Doncic and Porzingis have already rediscovered their on-court chemistry; this was dual All-Star-level stuff just before the hiatus and threatens to be again starting this week.
“I think it was just a matter of time with me finding the rhythm with these guys, with a new group, with a new coach and a new system,” Porzingis said. “And obviously in my mind I thought I was going to just jump right into it and just get going right away, so my expectations were (high).''
Those high expectations are about to be met.
And off the court and in the bubble? While players on other teams have bitched and moaned about everything from the hotel rooms to the food, your Dallas Mavericks are in "The Happiest Place On Earth'' and are clearly "The Happiest Team on Earth.''
Does that help them win games? You don't have to be Dr. Don Kalkstein to guess that the answer is "yes.''
“Our guys have a great attitude about being here,'' Carlisle said. (The NBA is) bending over backwards to make things comfortable for us, to make things as much like home as they can be.”
DONUT 7: THE WILDCARD Tim Hardaway is that "third star.'' He's experiencing a career year after having been a weighty throw-in from the Knicks in the KP trade, shooting a career-high 40.7 from 3-point range while becoming a premier catch-and-shoot guy (a great thing to be when you're Luka's running mate) and a giving effort on defense as well.
“You got to have your trigger ready,'' Hardaway said. "Be ready to get back on defense. You got to be ready for anything.”
Hardaway has a player option at the end of this season. DBcom broke the story of the player and the franchise's mutual wish to create a long-term solution here. ... so even with the player option, Tim is playing for money here.
DONUT 8: THE KRYPTONITE Moving up the standings is imperative, we think, if Doncic and the Mavs truly wish to execute a first-round upset in the postseason. Yes, Dallas is a "dangerous'' team, right now, no matter the foe. But it would be a great help for the Mavs to avoid playing either Los Angeles team in the first round. The LeBron Lakers are, well, the Lakers. And Kawhi Leonard's Clippers represent Kryptonite to the Dallas roster in terms of matchups.
At the same time ...
DONUT 9: QUOTABLE "I feel like we can beat anybody, especially if we’re healthy and we come out with an us-against-the-world mentality.'' - Dorian Finney-Smith
DONUT 10: BY THE NUMBERS The Mavs are an offensive powerhouse, a juggernaut of volume and production all at the same time.
Carlisle is not the boastful type, but he doesn't shy away here.
"We’re a historically good offensive team,'' he said earlier this year.
Yes, once the season gets tighter, and the postseason gets tighter still, there are traditional changes in the way teams use their rotation and "value the ball.'' And yet, it seems to us, in this department, the confident Carlisle needn't change a thing.
DONUT 11: WHAT'S ON TAP We must give a hat-tip to the media work of a couple of our friendly colleagues, Brad Townsend and Marc Stein - who, we'd like to note, have long been generous with their praise of DallasBasketball.com over the course of our 20-plus years. We also urge MFFLs to follow us on Twitter: Matt Galatzan, Bri Amaranthus, Dalton Trigg, Matthew Postins, Richie Whitt and Mike Fisher.
And one more: The Mavs PR department and social-media people have been absolutely brilliant in creating access to us and to Mavs Nation.
Said Carlisle: “Under normal circumstances over the years, I’d be pretty vigilant about keeping practice closed, and stuff like that,” Carlisle said. “But we’re in a different time. We’ve got to open this up, give our fans not only a glimpse, but a real strong view of what’s going on.
“We have a young team and it’s important that we’re having fun. It’s also important that we’re giving as much access as we can to our fan base.”
We look forward to more of the same from Scott Tomlin, Renee Felton, Alan Rakowski, Dave Maurer and company - oh, and from Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle and Mavs players, too.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD “This is a historic situation. It’s extraordinary ... We realize this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This will go down in history as one of the really unique events in sports history. And we're excited to be a part of it.'' - Coach Rick Carlisle.