DALLAS - In 16 days, the Dallas Mavericks have played 10 games. They have lost eight of them. During the skid, the Mavs have lost three straight games twice, have lost five straight, have slipped to 13th place in the West and have dropped to a record of 8-12.
“We’re bleeding,'' said center Willie Cauley-Stein after yet another failure, a 111-105 Saturday home loss to Phoenix, "and we’re trying to stop the bleeding.''
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To Mavs owner Mark Cuban, though, Dallas' most powerful foe hasn't been teams like the Jazz (who won back-to-back games over the Mavs this week) or the Suns (who play again Monday at the AAC and come in with a notable 7-3 record vs. Luka Doncic's Mavs).
The unbeatable opponent has been COVID.
"We are going to grind,'' Cuban said on Twitter in response to a Mavs fan's concerns. "We will get through this. We have a good team. But reality is more than half the teams have not had a COVID outbreak and things are going to look way out of balance for a while.
"Come crunch time, we will be there.''
"There,'' of course, is "contention'' - though at season's start, "contention'' to the Mavs meant "contention for an NBA title'' and now, realistically, means "contention for the NBA Playoffs.''
There is time. But we are also almost one-third of the way through the season. The Mavs - who will enter Monday having lost four straight at home - need recovery and health from their COVID victims (Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell are back playing, with Maxi Kleber due to return Monday).
Said Cuban: "Let me give you some facts. From the time of catching COVID till playing is three weeks - first two weeks sitting in a room doing nothing. Then two days of individual evaluation to see if there are other health issues. Then they can start basketball activities and conditioning.
"And even then we have to be careful. This isn't like an injury where you can shoot or do cardio or lift while you rehab, nor can you be around the team. You are stuck in a room. And it's not like there are practices that you can get a feel for the gm with and get in shape.
"So we try to get more than half our rotation back in a groove during games against teams that didn't have a COVID outbreak and have continuity.
"Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, there are a lot of things we aren't doing well. But this thing isn't a 'cold-and-get-back-to-work.' It's brutal.
"So what's next ? We are going to grind. We will get through this. We have a good team. ... Come crunch time, we will be there.''
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