30 Teams, 30 Days
Dallas Mavericks Season Preview.
The Dallas Mavericks kick-off our Southwest Division previews. You can read past previews here.
by Nima Zarrabi
The longhair is back to full length, folks. This time, a headband is necessary.
When Dirk Nowitzki showed up at Mavs training camp this year, owner Mark Cuban raved about his tan and “summer beach look”, featuring bleach blonde hair strewn all across his dome and down to his shoulders. Dirk being Dirk, he proudly described it.
And when it comes to the Mavs, it starts and ends with Dirk.
Much has been written about Dirk’s off-court drama at the end of last season, but looking back, how much did any of those distractions really impact his play? Dallas beat San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs and while coming up short against the Nuggets in round two, Nowitzki dropped 36 points and 16 rebounds per game during the series.
What became clear was the fact that the Mavs needed some retooling. Cuban and team president Donnie Nelson didn’t waste any time, adding several players this off-season in order to help improve the Mavs athleticism and depth.
Newcomers Quinton Ross, Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas and Shawn Marion join a veteran core of players with a good amount of playoff experience. Dallas’ starting five will likely consist of Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Erick Dampier, Nowitzki and Marion. Sixth man of the year Jason Terry leads the bench corps, along with Gooden, Ross, J.J. Barea, Kris Humphries, James Singleton, Thomas (status uncertain after knee surgery in late September) and Matt Carroll.
The Mavs depth allows coach Rick Carlisle some unique lineups should he choose to get freaky. He can slide Dirk to center and insert Terry for Dampier for the true gunner lineup. Carlisle may prefer to interchange Gooden for Dampier for rebounding purposes or even play them together. Several unique options will be available should the Mavs stay healthy. Dallas is hoping Howard is back to full health after missing 30 games last season with wrist and ankle ailments. Carlisle dubbed Howard’s off-season surgery as a minor ankle reconstruction and believes he is a critical component to their success, meaning he will likely hold him out of the entire exhibition season as a precaution. The Mavs plan to interchange Howard and Marion at the two and three positions, likely making things a bit easier on the offensive end for Dirk. Nowitzki spent the summer away from the German National basketball team for the first time in his career, reportedly going nine weeks this off-season away from the game. The Mavs are hoping the rest will pay dividends when the playoffs roll around. Early reports indicate that the 36-year-old Kidd is in great shape and it will be interesting to see him reconnect with Marion, his former teammate in Phoenix. Marion is hoping to get back to his high flying days in Phoenix, after disappointing stops in Miami and Toronto. Kidd has a very capable backup in Barea, who appears to be recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. Terry, who had a life changing visit to china this off-season, is coming off one of his best statistical seasons, dropping 19.6 points per game. As always, he will be counted on for his instant offense off the bench.
After finishing 50-32 in his first year as Mavs coach, Carlisle is hoping the Mavs can improve their defense, rebounding and three-point shooting. He has made defense a focal part of the Mavs training camp, convinced the team cannot depend on its high octane offense to win consistently in the west.
Much will be made of the Mavs aging veterans this season, but I expect the off-season additions and a rejuvenated Nowitzki and Kidd to improve on last season’s record. I predict the Mavs will win over 50 games and be in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in the west behind the favorite, the Los Angeles Lakers.