DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks have talked a lot about how ready they are for this 2020-21 NBA season to begin. And media and fans have talked bout how great the Mavs are going to be in 2021.
So is this excitement I'm feeling? Or nervousness? What am I going to do all day (and week) with these Stomach Butterflies?
Mavs NBA-Opener Donuts ...
DONUT 1: 'NERVOUS' OR 'EXCITED'?
Let's ponder a question about anticipation. "What are you most excited about?'' ... regarding tonight's season-opener at Phoenix.
Me? I'm a believer in building on last year's 43-32 record, good for seventh in the Western Conference. I'm a believer that Dallas was one close loss away from being a top-four team in the West.
I'm a believer, but ...
DONUT 2: YEAH - 'NERVOUS'
Now I suddenly wonder if Luka Doncic and company can live up to the hype.
I mean, just that quickly, Doncic is not just an MVP candidate, but the favorite? Just that quickly, Josh Richardson and Doncic are "two peas in a pod,'' and Boban and Doncic are "Dumb and Dumber'' and Jalen and Doncic are making Dallas Cowboys bets that garner national headlines and Kristaps Porzingis is running on a treadmill, and ...
Are we in Basketball Heaven? Feels like it. But it also feels too good to be true. Therefore ...
DONUT 3: WE ARE ALL WITNESSES
Remember that Nike campaign? That's what I want from the 9 p.m. tip tonight at the Suns: I want to witness it - "it'' being a win.
I want to see Richardson and James Johnson and rookie Josh Green as "Dawgs.''
READ MORE: Mavs Camp: Doncic Meets 'The Dawgs'
I want to see an effective defense that matches the efficient offense.
I want to see a winning decision made when it comes to center minutes.
I want to see that Luka doesn't have to do too much by himself.
DONUT 4: LUKA FOR MVP?
I keep writing that it's a mistake to put a ceiling on Luka, because every times that's been done he simply exploded through it.
Yeah, I guess here really is another level for Luka Doncic to reach.
Rookie of the Year his first season. First-team All-NBA his second. And now, after averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, Doncic is Everybody's Darling.
I guess I'm nervous because I think back to his playoff debut, when he went for 42 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. ... and then a couple of games later in that series against the Clippers, Doncic was even better as he went for a triple-double of 43 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, capped off by a thrilling buzzer-beater that adds to his do-everything reputation.
And now all we want is ... more.
Coach Rick Carlisle talks of Luka being "like Bird, Magic and Jordan and all those great players ...'' And he compares him to "Dirk and Kidd'' in other ways.
Sidebar: We should add a name to that list: Dirk.
All rolled into one? All rolled into Doncic?
I'm not skeptical. Just nervous.
DONUT 5: KP'S TREADMILL
There will be even more confidence, justified confidence, when Kristaps Porzingis - still rehabbing from the surgery to repair the torn meniscus he sustained in the 2020 NBA Playoffs while trying valiantly to play on it - runs off the treadmill and into the lineup.
In a couple of weeks, get KP back to averaging 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, as the 25-year-old did last season, and now you will have two uniquely gifted young fellas.
It's encouraging that the plan entering this week was that KP would travel with the team. The next step, though, will be infinitely more encouraging.
DONUT 6: QUOTABLE
“This is a season where you’re going to have to be very nimble, you’re going to have to be able to adjust and pivot very quickly because there are going to be unexpected things going on. For instance, (with no) power in the practice facility, within 10 minutes, we had to change the whole logistics of our day.”
This was on Monday, so the Mavs moved across the street to the AAC to work.
“It’s a microcosm,” Rick said, “of the kinds of things that are going to have to happen.”
DONUT 7: THE OVERLOOKER?
The 72-game regular season is here and it comes in two parts ... and most of the buzz is about Dec. 25. Oh, man, it's going to be something, a Christmas night christening of Luka on national TV against one of his idols, LeBron James.
But ... two things ...
DONUT 8: MAYBE I'M SPOILED, BUT ...
First thing is, I don't just want Dallas to "be competitive'' with the Lakers. I want Richardson or Dorian Finney-Smith or somebody to put a lid on LeBron. I want somebody else (I don't know who, Maxi Kleber?) to put a lid on Anthony Davis.
And with all due respect to J-Rich, Finney-Smith remains pivotal to that cause.
I want Dallas to win.
DONUT 9: AND THE SECOND THING
Look what I just did there: I'm not only planning my Christmas day around the Mavs; I've already planned by Wednesday around thinking about Friday.
Phoenix, tonight at 9:30, is a threat; aren't the Suns always that against Dallas?
Indeed, Dallas has lost 11 of the last 15 meetings in this series.
Losing to them is no disaster. But overlooking them - because the Mavs are getting fat (no, that's not a Luka reference) on their press clippings, especially - would be a shame.
The Suns finished last season 8-0 in the bubble, if you'll recall. Two of their wins were over Dallas. And now? They've added Chris Paul.
“I think Phoenix made a really smart move to acquire him,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “What he brings is a competitive constant. He has a level of efficiency where turnovers are always very low or non-existent. The shooting percentage is always super-high. There was a stat last year where he was the most productive/influential player in the fourth quarter of the entire season, which is an amazing accomplishment.''
Paul feeding Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton?
DONUT 10: BENCH MOB
Here's another product of the Mavs-as-media-darlings hype machine: The idea that this bench is "elite.'' The truth is that there is no way to know that until this group plays together (though the preseason stay in Milwaukee was a start). And there's another truth: We tend to think of a team as "good and deep'' when its 15th guy is almost as good as its ninth guy.
In reality, "depth'' in the form of a fifth guy is infinitely more important than "depth'' in the form of a 15th guy.
Do the Mavs, relative to other contenders, have an "elite'' fifth guy?
DONUT 11: 'THE THIRD STAR' TO COME
And I'm guilty of one more "anticipatory'' error: I'm very, very hungry for another "star.'' OK, so it's not going to be Giannis. But when our Dalton Trigg writes about, say, a trade idea with the Pacers that would net Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner?
I'm all over it. (And based on our DBcom MFFL readership, so are you.)
This isn't to discourage Trigg and Matt Galatzan and the rest of The 75-Member Staff from taking on such projects; they are smart and fun and hopeful.
READ MORE: Mavs Roster Strategy - Not Confusing
But I probably owe it to the Mavs, and to myself, to enjoy the moment, enjoy the growth ... and yeah, enjoy the weird nervous/excited butterflies that will fill my stomach for the entirety of the Mavs' NBA opening night.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
“My goal at the start of every season is to win a championship. There is no other goal, so that is going to be mine." - Luka Doncic - who seems way more "excited'' than "nervous.''