Inside Report: 2010-11 regular season preview
Earl K. Sneed previews the Mavericks' 2010-11 regular season, as the squad prepares to see how it stacks up with the NBA's top-tier teams.
Depth. Defense. Rebounding. Home-court dominance. Champions.
These are just five attributes that the Dallas Mavericks hope will describe their team in the 2010-11 season. The Mavericks believe that with one of the NBA's deepest squads, which could also become one of the league's top defensive, rebound-oriented and home-court dominant teams, eventually they could also become champions.
"We know we have a good team here, and what we want to be is a special team," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "For that to happen, we’ve got some improvement to make in some specific areas. Defensively is a big part of it. We improved last year from about 17th to I think 11th in the league. Now, we’ve got to get up to the top 10 on a consistent basis.
"We’ve got to be better at home. We won 28 games at home. And if you want to be in that top stratosphere of teams, you’ve got to take care of that home court. And the third thing is going to be our depth. Our depth has got to be one of the things that really defines us as a quality team. And last year, we went eight or nine-deep on a consistent basis. This year, we’ve got to make that nine or 10-deep. And an emphasis on more consistent defense is key. Those things will help play into our overall strength as a team."
Carlisle is confident that those improvements will take place, as the team sets out to prove that it is far more than just nine-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd.
The aforementioned depth starts with former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry. It continues with the additions of veteran center Tyson Chandler and rookie Dominique Jones. Add to the equation a full training camp for center Brendan Haywood and swingmen Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson, after the trio joined the Mavericks at last year's All-Star Break. Along with four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, budding second-year star Roddy Beaubois and role players like Brian Cardinal and Steve Novak, the Mavericks will have plenty of quality players to throw at the opposition.
"I think we can adjust to a lot of situations," Nowitzki said. "We have a lot of options out there. So I think we can match up with anybody in this league."
Also, with Haywood and Chandler sharing the center responsibilities, plus a little help from fellow 7-footers Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca, the Mavericks may be the only team in the league that can rival the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers in terms of size and length.
"I thought we matched up with (the Lakers) well last year, but we are longer," Kidd said. "They're a team that kind of has the blueprint that you have to be big and long, and they're both big and long. So I think (Mark) Cuban has gone out to match their length, when you have Tyson, Haywood and Dirk. Those are three 7-footers, but they're all long and talented and they do something well."
"Obviously, we know what we’re up against – the defending champs. And everybody looks at their lineup and sees their size. And now, you look at the Mavs’ lineup, you look at our size. We’ve got an opportunity to compete," Chandler added.
That size and a mixture of physicality and athleticism are expected to make the Mavericks one of the best squads, if not the very best, when it comes to cleaning the glass and swiping down rebounds.
"Any time you have legitimate 7-footers that have throughout their careers been good rebounders, and now with the addition of our wings and our guards that rebound the ball well, we shouldn’t have any issue with that," Chandler explained. "The one thing that we have to concentrate on is getting it and getting out and moving."
But if the Mavericks are going to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning a championship, they admit that it will take more than just building off of what the team didn't do well last season.
In the 2009-10 campaign, the Mavs captured their 10th consecutive 50-win season, finishing with 55 regular-season wins, the Southwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The team then ran into what Nowitzki has described as a "buzz saw," the division rival San Antonio Spurs who handed the Mavericks a 4-2 first-round series defeat. According to Nowitzki, it's the bitter taste of that early playoff exit that is motivating the Mavericks this season.
"We had a good run there, finished second in the West and then happened to run into a team that's very experienced, that was healthy at the right time. I think we’d all agree that if (the Spurs) had stayed healthy the whole year that they wouldn’t have been in seventh. We happened to run into them and they played very smart. And when two teams are very close, sometimes just a couple of possessions we weren’t smart enough, made some mistakes defensively and that hurt us."
But with the Mavericks' improved defense, added explosiveness and an ability to play-make for their teammates, Nowitzki is ready to go to battle with plenty of help.
In Beaubois, the Mavericks have both an explosive scorer, an elite playmaker, a lightening-quick penetrator and a sharpshooter from behind the 3-point line. The addition of the rookie, Jones, also gives the Mavericks a 6-foot-5 two-guard capable of getting in the lane at will. And in Chandler, the Mavs have a 7-foot-1 big man capable of producing multiple above-the-rim finishes on a nightly basis. All three players are still 20-somethings, adding youth to a talented veteran core.
"Athleticism. Youth. Energy," Carlisle simply said when discussing what's new about these Mavericks.
Now the Mavs try to collectively come together, after a 4-4 preseason, to begin what they hope will be a championship run into the month of June. Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Mavericks tip off the regular season and what could be just the beginning of a special year. If that is to be the case, Butler says the season needs to be filled with day-to-day progression.
"We just got to continue to get better every practice, every game, every film session, days off -- bonding, building that team comradery and moving forward towards our goal," Butler concluded.
The Mavericks' regular-season opener against the Bobcats at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of preseason and regular season home games.