The idea going in, via new head coach Jason Kidd? The Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday were playing "just a preseason game'' ... but it was also the pivotal preseason game, as Kidd had deemed it a "dress rehearsal.''
And so superstar Luka Doncic and his top sidekicks, including Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., performed as they were asked, in a rather incredible 127-59 crushing of the Hornets in Charlotte.
A "dress rehearsal''? The Mavs wore figurative tuxedos, the Hornets, rags.
Doncic was good for 10 points, eight assists and four rebounds in his 26 minutes as any plans to see him perform under some regular-season level spotlight faded due to the outstanding performance of essentially everybody in a Dallas uniform. (He did have some fun, though ...)
He is an MVP candidate again, and that status is virtually certain to go unchanged. And that isn't his priority, and that won't change, either.
"I don't really care about MVP,'' he'll say. "What's important is championship, and obviously, that's our goal this season.''
But what if the Mavs not named "Luka'' can with some consistency be as dominant as they were in this second-to-last preseason game? Whether that improves or reduces Doncic's chances of winning an individual trophy, we do not know.
But depth and balance and intensity figures to help inch Dallas nearer that other, more important, trophy. Porzingis was a big part of that here, living up to Kidd's lofty All-Star-level prediction by scoring 17 points in 22 minutes, on 7-of-10 shooting, with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Hardaway was part of the fun as he was 6 of 12 for 20 points in 23 minutes.
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"A lot of people can say none of these games matter, but it does when you have a new coaching staff,'' said the vet Hardaway.
Oh, and defense was a part of this, too, as Charlotte's top two scores totaled 12 and 11 points, respectively. Dallas was comfortable going up by 70 late. And KP? He was comfortable throughout, and did not shy from saying so.
"I'm being put into situations I'm most comfortable,'' Porzingis said on the national telecast, "and I think you can see that."
The Mavs started their anticipated opening-day starting lineup of Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, Doncic, Porzingis and Hardaway (top reserve Reggie Bullock was absent for personal reasons) and ran Dallas' record to 3-0, with a final exhibition game slated for Friday at Milwaukee.
Over the course of the summer, for the 2021-22 season, what we called the way-too-early betting odds from DraftKings Sportsbook had Doncic slated as the favorite to take home the MVP honor. The odds are still good, and that woulds still be cool.
But playing at this level, in a "dress-for-success''? Also good. Also cool.