by Marcel Mutoni @marcel_mutoni

The defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks are 0-2 to start the season, losing in ugly fashion both nights (by a combined 33 points.) The defense and offense look out of sync, and it’s clear that the dramatically-altered Mavs roster has yet to build the necessary chemistry to ensure success.

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t mince words when talking about what his team looks like following last night’s loss to the Denver Nuggets, but he’s not ready to push the panic button just yet.

From the Dallas Morning News:

“We look old and slow and out of shape — a bad combination,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 20 points and sat out the entire fourth quarter for a second straight game, yet another indication of how bad things are going. “I still think this team has a lot of potential. But we have to turn the corner.” The Mavs trailed by 33 in the third quarter, a day after being down by 35 in the third quarter against Miami. Counting a pair of preseason games against Oklahoma City, Dallas has been behind by at least 23 points in every game since being crowned champs. There are plenty of reasons to choose from: an overhaul of their rotation, the shortened training camp and other teams being motivated to take them down.

“We’re not comfortable with each other on both ends of the floor,” Shawn Marion said. “We’re trying to get acclimated and you can tell it’s not flowing the way it should be and there’s going to be some bumps.” The challenge for coach Rick Carlisle is finding the right combination of players. He’s trying to squeeze in Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West to replace Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and others, all with little practice time. Carlisle already has seen a lack of trust on defense, and that throws everything else out of whack. “We’re going to recharge tomorrow, have a hell of a practice on Wednesday and then we’ve got to go up to Oklahoma City and we’re going to have to play a lot better,” Carlisle said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

In addition to players still learning head coach Rick Carlisle’s system, it doesn’t help matters that they have to figure it all out while playing a compressed schedule. Things could potentially remain ugly in Dallas for quite a bit of time.

And it doesn’t get any easier for the Mavs, as they travel to Oklahoma City for their next game on Thursday night, with the spectre of starting the season at 0-3 hanging over the team.