Work is underway for the Dallas Mavericks as the team hits the court for practice with the 2017-18 season right around the corner.
Last season was a tough one in Dallas. The Mavs got off to a slow with a 3-14 record after the first two months and never really recovered after that. They finished 33-49, which was fifth in the Pacific Division and 11th overall in the Western Conference. Vegas odds have them around 35 wins this season.
The Mavs first preseason game is Oct. 2 against the Milwaukee Bucks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. They will play three of the six preseason games in downtown Dallas. The Mavs will also open the season on their home court on Oct. 18 against the Atlanta Hawks.
JOINING THE TEAM: Despite the rough patches, the Mavs did have some bright spots with the emergence of three new players on the roster last season. The addition of forward Harrison Barnes added more scoring punch, with Barnes at times being the “go-to guy” late in games. Guard Yogi Ferrell impressed the front office enough during his two 10-day contracts to earn a multi-year deal. The Mavs also added some help on the inside, acquiring forward/center Nerlens Noel from the Philadelphia 76ers before the trade deadline.
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WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE, ROOKIE: Getting point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is considered a steal for the Mavs. Smith put on a show during the Las Vegas Summer League and is considered the trendy pick for Rookie of the Year.
“I just take everything in stride,” Smith said. “I know what I’m capable of and I’ve got expectations for myself so I’m hoping to fulfill them. I have a simple mindset and that is to come in and play the best basketball I can play. I’m really locked in on having a great year.”
Head coach Rick Carlisle said he felt Smith would be his starter at the position when they took the 19-year old from North Carolina State. Needless to say, expectations are high being a Top 10 draft pick in the league.
“Don’t worry, I’ll manage expectations,” Carlisle replied with a smile. “I understand the level of excitement. People should be excited. This kid is going to show some really amazing things that we haven’t seen at the point guard position for this franchise. That said; this is a learning process. That’s a lot of responsibility but he needs to learn quickly and the best way for a guy like him to learn quickly is to be thrown out there and be put in a position to have to do it.”
FACE OF THE FRANCHISE: Dirk Nowitzki is entering his 20th season in the NBA, all with the Mavs. The 39-year old has also left the door open to return after this season.
The Big German was selected ninth overall in the 1998 NBA draft by the Bucks before being acquired by the Mavs in a draft day trade. Since then he’s become a future Hall of Famer, currently ranking sixth on the NBA all-time scoring list.
So when entering the 20th year in the league, is the game still as fun as before?
“As a rookie, I didn’t have that much fun,” Nowitzki said. “It was tough, everything was new. I was more anxious and nervous. I didn’t know if I was going to make it at the time in this league. So fun-wise, I’m definitely having more fun in my 20th season. Looking forward to getting it going again and not taking it for granted.”
TEACHING BASKETBALL TO THE WORLD: During the Mavericks Media Day on Monday, Carlisle announced that the National Basketball Coaches Association is partnering with eCoach, a digital platform where NBA coaches provide video content incorporating basketball skills instruction.
“This is a great opportunity for us to help grow the game in virtually any country all over the world,” Carlisle said. “Today is our official launch day so we are really excited about that.”