Posted on: September 21, 2010 5:56 pm
It wouldn't be time for another NBA season without the Mavericks feeling like championship contenders. But this time, the feeling is different. This time, there's a palpable belief that the Mavs had better get it done this year or their window will be closed -- for a long time, if not for good.
That's a little drastic. They're still not better than the Lakers, and still might not be able to get past the Spurs in a best-of-7 playoff series. But the Mavs enter training camp as a much better team than the one that lost to San Antonio in the first round a few months ago. With no cap space -- cap space can't score or defend, after all -- Mark Cuban struck out on the major free-agent targets. But the addition of Tyson Chandler certainly will help. Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki know the window is closing, but maybe this is a good spot for them to be in. With all eyes on the Lakers, Celtics, Heat and Magic, maybe the Mavs can quietly be in the mix. If it's possible for Cuban's team to do anything quietly.
Training camp site: Southern Methodist University
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (trade), Alexis Ajinca (trade), Ian Mahinmi (free agent), Dominique Jones (draft).
Key subtractions: Erick Dampier (trade), Eduardo Najera (trade), Matt Carroll (trade).
Likely starting lineup: Jason Kidd, PG; Caron Butler, SG; Shawn Marion, SF; Dirk Nowitzki, PF; Tyson Chandler, C
Player to watch: Butler. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. And when he’s bad, he’s divisive.
Chemistry quiz: There shouldn’t be any chemistry issues on a team with so many veterans getting their last realistic shot at a championship. There shouldn’t be. But there could be, especially given that not everyone (Mark Cuban included) was on board with the rotations and substitution patterns Carlisle utilized during another underwhelming (and brief) playoff run. Teams like these, with established players vying for their spot in the pecking order, can come unglued if things don’t go well. (Did we mention Cuban’s recent comments that the Mavs have enough size and depth to beat the Lakers?)
Injury check: Speedster Rodrigue Beaubois is likely out until November following surgery on his broken left foot.
Camp battles: Ultimately, Carlisle faces only two starting lineup decisions. But they’re important ones: Whether to start Chandler or Brendan Haywood at center, and whether Butler starts at shooting guard with Marion at the three, or Butler at the three with Beaubois (once he’s healthy) starting in the backcourt with Kidd. Neither one of those decisions will be made in October. But all eyes will be on first-round pick (acquired from Memphis) Dominique Jones, a slasher who has a chance to crack Carlisle’s rotation and give the Mavs the dribble-penetration element they sorely lacked last season.
Biggest strength: Size and depth. If 6-11 Frenchman Ian Mahinmi stands on a croissant, the Mavs have five legitimate 7-footers: Mahinmi, Nowitzki, Chandler, Haywood and Alexis Ajinca. It can be argued – as Cuban did recently – that Dallas is the team best equipped to combat the Lakers’ twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. First, the Mavs should worry about getting past the Spurs.
Glaring weakness: Age and miles. The window is closing fast on Kidd, Dirk and Marion, and Jason Terry, all of a sudden, is 33.