LAS VEGAS — The summer started with the Dallas Mavericks advancing to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 12 years. The summer continued with the Mavericks losing the Jalen Brunson free-agency sweepstakes to the New York Knicks.
That reality prompted Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison to offer both candor and humility on what to expect for the 2022-23 season.
“Are we going to do it again this year? I don’t know,” Harrison told NBA.com. “We’re going to put ourselves in a position to do it. But who knows what happens.”
Harrison talked to NBA.com about Brunson’s departure, signing JaVale McGee, Luka Doncic’s offseason, Tim Hardaway Jr’s recovery from midseason foot surgery and more.
Editor’s Note: The following 1-on-1 conversation has been condensed and edited.
NBA.com: How do you evaluate where you stand considering Brunson’s departure?
Nico Harrison: You lose a talent like Brunson, it’s definitely a blow. But we’ve been through it before. We knew it was a possibility that could happen. We did as good a job as you could do with anticipating something like this actually happening.
Did this surprise you?
That he went to New York? (laughs). Nah, you look at the relationship with who he has in New York. It’s not surprising. Not at all.
How do you see McGee fitting in with the group?
One of the things we needed was rim protection and shot blocking. I don’t know where we ranked on that, but we were low. He instantly gives us credibility in that spot. He shores that up. It makes life easier for us in general with having a defensive presence down there.
How is Tim’s recovery coming along?
Good. He’s working out. It’s almost like getting a new free agent since, down the stretch, we didn’t have him.
What do you expect he can give you next season given his long layoff?
You’re going to get a lot of scoring that we lost from JB. He’s a big-time 3-point shot maker. He can score the ball. And he can play defense, too. I call him an addition, even though he was with our team. But we didn’t have him [for most of last season], so it’s like a new addition.
How do you expect Jason Kidd will handle the new roster next season?
The thing is we don’t have a lot of changes. Our core is the same. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal. McGee had Jason with the Lakers, so he knows the defensive concepts. I don’t see it being a big deal at all.
I know you can’t say specifics. But how are you weighing whether to pursue a major deal or stand pat with what you have?
You’re always looking to upgrade your roster. But it depends what the big deal is.
How has the collaboration been with Luka in regards to front-office decisions?
It’s the same with Jason Kidd and Mark [Cuban]. You try to bring as many people in and share ideas. Ideas can come from anywhere.
What feedback has Luka offered?
Nothing specific. Just the types of players that he sees on what we need. But I’m not going to give you specifics.
What’s your gauge on how he feels you guys handled the roster this offseason?
Everybody feels good about the summer. It’s when the season starts. We all feel good about it. But until the season starts, it’s all just on paper.
Luka has obviously been a special player, but what’s he doing to grow even more next season?
He’s playing with the [Slovenian] national team right now. He’s got three sessions with them. I think that’s good for him. He really likes playing for the national team. That’s going to set him up so that he’s ready to roll for the start of the season.
He’s received criticism about his conditioning. How do you view that?
I don’t know. It depends. It’s a long season. He ended the season playing big-time minutes and meaningful minutes. He was clearly in shape at the end of the season. So, I think it’s a little overstated. There are different body types in basketball. He has a unique body type.
If things stand the way they are now, where do you guys fit in the Western Conference?
It’s tough to say. If you say, ‘If we don’t get to the Finals, that’s a bad season,’ that’s crazy. This is year one of our new regime with our new coach and new leadership. We exceeded expectations last year. Are you asking are we going to do it again this year? I don’t know. We’re going to put ourselves in a position to do it. But who knows what happens.
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