Deron Williams expects to be ‘full go’ for training camp

Eight weeks removed from sports hernia surgery, Mavs point guard Deron Williams said on Friday he expects to be ready for training camp, which starts in late September.

“I had my sports hernia repaired, so now I’m pretty much fully cleared, but I’m taking it slow and trying to get back in shape, and trying to get back to where I need to be,” Williams said. “But I should be a full go for training camp. That’s almost exactly a month away from now.”

Williams, 32, started 63 games last season in Dallas, averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was one of the league’s most clutch performers, as well: Of the 21 players who scored at least 100 points in the clutch last season (last five minutes of a game, score within five points) Williams was the only player to shoot above 50 percent from the field. He was also the lone shooter in the group to connect on more than half of his three-point attempts.

His campaign came to an awkward end, however, as a sports hernia injury sidelined him for eight games in March and April and, after scoring 13 early points in an inspired performance in Game 2 of the playoffs, Williams’ postseason came to an abrupt, early close.

But, as the 11-year veteran said last week, the hernia should not bother or limit him heading into training camp, which should certainly help his team. Both members of last season’s starting backcourt, Williams and Wesley Matthews, are returning for the 2016-17 campaign, which should help this team jell perhaps quicker than it did in 2015, when Williams, Matthews, and Chandler Parsons were all severely limited during the entire preseason. The Mavs have no real injury issues at the moment, as Williams, Devin Harris, and J.J. Barea all ought to be healthy in time for camp.

Speaking of his new teammates, there’s one in particular, Andrew Bogut, that Williams is happy to welcome to Dallas.

“I’ve always been a fan of Andrew. He’s definitely a player that a point guard like myself would love to play with,” Williams said. “He sets screens, he can pass, he’s a great pick-and-roll player. You know what he can do on the defensive end. I’m definitely excited to play with him.”

The Australian center’s presence on both ends of the floor will be something all his teammates will soon speak very highly of, if they haven’t already. And between Bogut and Dirk Nowitzki, Williams will have no shortage of pick-and-roll options when playing alongside the starters. Even Harrison Barnes played some screen-roll for the Golden State Warriors last season, so Williams will have plenty of help in that department this year.

All of that is still ahead of the team, however. Between now and then, he and some of his teammates will bond — and battle — in a dodgeball tournament open to the public, benefiting his Point of Hope Foundation. Williams said he’s got another couple small vacations planned in between now and late September, but with his kids having started school and the season approaching, it’s soon to be all business for the point guard.

And he should be ready to go when that time comes.

With his health nearing 100 percent, Devin Harris looks forward to seeing how Mavs’ backcourt looks in ’16-17

DALLAS — After undergoing surgery on both his left great toe and left thumb back on May 10, 12-year veteran guard Devin Harris says he’s expected to be ready when the Dallas Mavericks begin training camp on Sept. 27.

The 6-3, 185-pounder battled his fair share of nagging injuries and finished the 2015-16 season averaging 7.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals in 20.0 minutes per game, making 64 appearances during his 12th professional campaign. Harris, 33, upped his production in the playoffs, coming off the bench in all five games to average 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists as the Mavericks eventually fell to Oklahoma City in the first round. He now hopes that his health will allow him to bring even more to the table this upcoming season, looking to excel once again for the Mavs in a reserve role.

“Health is doing good,” Harris said last week during a live-streamed appearance on the team’s Facebook page. “The thumb is completely healed. With the foot, I’m starting some light running this week. And I’ll continue moving forward, so I’m excited about where I’m headed.”

With returning veterans in the backcourt and the additions of a few young contributors, the Mavericks will again be reliant on their guard play during the ’16-17 season.

Re-signing three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams this summer, the Mavs brought back the lead playmaker from a team that finished with the sixth seed in the Western Conference last season after concluding the 82-game schedule with a 42-40 record. The Mavs will also have returning starter Wesley Matthews and summer signee Harrison Barnes on the wings, solidifying the starting lineup. But with Harris, fellow veteran J.J. Barea and the inkings 26-year-old Seth Curry and summer-league standout Jonathan Gibson, the Mavericks will call upon their depth in the backcourt to help return to prominence this season.

That said, Harris admits that he’s excited to see how Mavs coach Rick Carlisle utilizes the guards as the team looks to build on last year’s success.

“I think we’ll be able to play with different speeds,” Harris explained. “You know, obviously, we’ll start the game off with a little bit of a slower pace. But I think the guys off the bench, especially with us getting younger, will be able to play with more speed and more of a motor. And I think that will definitely benefit a lot of the guards, especially myself and J.J.

“I think we always strive to be better defensively. We got younger and a little more athletic, and that should definitely help in all of those areas. But I think another year in the system that we had and better understanding of what we’re doing, another year of guys being here last year and more camaraderie will bring more understanding of how guys play. I think all those things kind of factor into it, so we should be better.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hopes to see Justin Anderson ‘keep building’ entering Year 2

DALLAS — After coming on strong to close his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks near the end of the 2015-16 schedule, much will be asked of versatile swingman Justin Anderson entering Year 2.

Selected with the 21st overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft, Anderson found it hard to immediately crack Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation early in the season while sliding behind veterans Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons on the depth chart. Anderson finished his rookie season having appeared in 55 games, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds during his 11.8 minutes per outing. However, after seeing Parsons go down with a season-ending right knee injury, Anderson was inserted into the starting lineup and quickly provided a spark on March 28 in Denver, scoring 11 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing two assists, grabbing a steal and registering two blocks in 24 minutes of action during a 97-88 victory. Carlisle now hopes Anderson continues to trend upward with his play, entering the upcoming season with high expectations for the promising young pro.

“Just to keep building,” Carlisle said in a recent interview with NBA TV when asked what his hopes for Anderson are entering the ’16-17 season. “You know, a young player needs experience to get better. When he first came here last summer, you know, he was a talented guy that was a good athlete and good defender, and he could make shots. But we were a flow-and-make-plays type of team, and not a big call-plays type of team. He had to learn our system, and he worked hard to keep things simple as the season went along. And towards the end, when we got banged up a little bit, he became a full-time starter. And he was one of the big reasons we got to the playoffs, so I like what he’s doing this summer. He’s a hard worker, he loves to play, he loves to be a part of a team, and so he’s another important guy as we look towards the future.”

Seeing little time on the court before having his minutes increased during the month of April to 26.3 an outing, the 22-year-old Anderson averaged 7.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks during the final seven games of the regular season. He then upped his scoring average during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, posting 9.4 points, 4.0 boards and 1.4 assists in 18.8 minutes an outing as his team eventually fell in five games. Anderson also showed his full potential in the series-clinching Game 5 loss to the Thunder by filling up the stat sheet with 14 points, four rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals. Still, Anderson says he’s not satisfied as he tries to make his mark in the league.

The former Virginia standout continued to impress by averaging 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists in five games during the Las Vegas Summer League back in July. But despite now finding himself once again behind veterans in Matthews and new addition Harrison Barnes on the depth chart heading into training camp, Anderson says he’ll attempt to build on that personal success. He now hopes to learn from valuable playing time in his first season, looking to become a trusted contributor that Carlisle can turn to on a nightly basis.

“The reality of it is, at the end of the day, you’re going to come back to training camp in September and you’re going to see Wesley Matthews on one wing, Harrison Barnes on another wing, and Dirk Nowitzki, a Hall of Famer, getting his shots in his spots,” Anderson admitted this summer. “I think the best thing for me is to kind of be mature about this process and figure out what this team needs me to do this year, and go out there and try to practice it and try to put some of these things into play. With that being said, also having a high level of aggressiveness. But at the same time, just doing it the right way. Just playing the game the right way is what I’m focused on.”

Mavericks announce 2016 preseason schedule

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks announced their 2016 preseason schedule today, which tips off on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7:00 pm in Shreveport, La., against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 2016 preseason schedule will see Dallas play three home games at American Airlines Center, two games at opposing NBA arenas and two neutral site games.

The Mavericks will open up their home preseason slate when they battle the Charlotte Hornets at American Airlines Center on Oct. 3 at 7:30 pm. The remaining two home games for Dallas will be against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 11 and the Houston Rockets on Oct. 19.

In addition to opening up the preseason against the Pelicans in Shreveport on Oct. 1, the Mavericks will also take on the Milwaukee Bucks (Oct. 8) on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. This second neutral site game will be played at Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

The Mavericks’ final two preseason road tests will be at Phoenix on Oct. 14 before they conclude the exhibition season at Denver on Oct. 21.

Four of the seven exhibition games will be locally televised. FOXSports Southwest will air the Oklahoma City (Oct. 11) and Denver (Oct. 21) games while TXA-21 will televise the Charlotte (Oct. 3) and Houston (Oct. 19) contests. All of the preseason games can be heard on ESPN 103.3 FM and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes (1540 AM).

Following preseason play, Dallas tips off the 2016-17 regular season on the road against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Oct. 26. The Mavericks home opener is slated for Friday, Oct. 28 when the Houston Rockets travel to Dallas.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS.

Here are some ways Harrison Barnes can score and facilitate within the Mavs’ offense

One of the biggest questions on Mavs fans’ minds heading into this season is just how Dallas plans on expanding Harrison Barnes’ role within the offense as he begins the process of becoming a focal point.

The hope is Barnes can eventually become a cornerstone-type player for the franchise, after inking a deal with the Mavericks reported to be worth $94 million over four years. But that will be a process. Barnes averaged a career-high 11.7 points per game last season for the Warriors, so there’s reason to believe and expect his scoring numbers to steadily climb with a bigger role, but it might take a year or two to reach the apex. The Mavs will work the 24-year-old Barnes into the mix with patience, especially while Dirk Nowitzki is still playing at a high level, and eventually the small forward could potentially take the reins.

But how will that process begin? It’s best to start with what Barnes can already do well, and what he’s already demonstrated he’s capable of during his four years in the NBA. In order to identify just what exactly that is and, more importantly, how that can translate over to the Mavs, it’s almost necessary to ignore most of what the Warriors do on offense. Due to roster makeup, Golden State plays such an unconventional style of offense that no other team in the league even comes close to replicating. In other words, no other team has sharpshooters like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and no other team has a point forward like Draymond Green.

That means there’s potentially a lot of noise when it comes to classifying Barnes’ game. He was used primarily as a spot-up shooter for the Warriors, especially when playing with the starting lineup. That has led some to believe that he simply cannot do anything else, which is a pretty outrageous conclusion to draw. Barnes has shown throughout his career — including and especially last season — that he can do much more than just catch and shoot. And despite how much of the Warriors’ offense is impossible for the Mavs to copy, Barnes showed signs playing alongside certain players last season that he will blend in comfortably right away in Dallas.

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Here’s a comparison that might make you scratch your head at first, but bear with me: Golden State’s “Dirk Nowitzki” last season — aka a jump-shooting big man — was Marreese Speights. Barnes and Speights shared the floor for 405 minutes last season, per nbawowy.com, and that’s when Barnes was used as more of an initiator within the offense.

Without Speights on the floor last season, more than 67 percent of Barnes’ 2-point field goals were assisted, per NBA.com. But with Speights on the floor, only 46.3 percent Barnes’ 2-point field goals were assisted, plus his assist rate climbed more than 2 percent. And despite playing less off of others, Barnes maintained a 51.3 effective field goal percentage and scored 1.11 points per possession, per nbawowy. Those are nice numbers.

But it’s Speights’ numbers that drive the Nowitzki comparisons home. When Barnes and Speights played together, the Warriors’ big man had a usage rate of 32.4 percent, meaning he used nearly one-third of the possessions for himself. Nearly all of the time they shared together came with Barnes at 4 and Speights at 5. When Nowitzki played center last season, he had a sky-high 26.9 usage rate, comparable to Speights’. And why not? Dirk can take advantage of centers, many of whom play like a fish out of water 25 feet from the basket.

Barnes and Nowitzki could (and will) see plenty of work together at the 3 and 4, respectively, but bumping them up a spot in the lineup could propel the offense a step forward. If the Mavs see a Barnes/Dirk 4/5 combo as something worth considering, they could hand Barnes the reins to make plays like this one — it’s simple offense, but difficult to defend.

For Barnes, this is a pretty easy read: The defense blitzes Barnes coming off the screen, doubling and pushing him toward the sideline, so he flips a pass over to Speights for three. The Celtics’ defense would have worked were Speights a traditional rolling big man, because Barnes would have had no passing option and would instead be facing a hard double-team moving toward the corner. That’s likely a turnover. But, like Nowitzki, Speights will happily fire an open 3-ball if he has the chance.

Now, if the defense would have switched, Barnes would have had a quickness advantage against his opponent. If Barnes’ man went under the screen, he could pull up for a jumper. And if he fights through well, Barnes could either take him into the post, pass out to Speights (Nowitzki) for a reset, or the Mavericks could incorporate another option like this one:

Or they could run a pin-down for either a big man or another jump-shooter.

Each of these three plays involved Barnes as the facilitator and Speights as the beneficiary. They can also be easily translated over to the Mavericks, who commonly ran post-ups for Shawn Marion back in the day, and as recently as last season ran flare screens for shooters (usually Wesley Matthews) while a player (usually Deron Williams) posted up. Even if Barnes doesn’t run a ton of pick-and-rolls, he can still be a focal point of the offense, just in a different way.

Barnes scored a career-high .905 points per possession in the post last season, per Synergy, which ranked in the 70th percentile league-wide. He was frequently able to take advantage of size mismatches when defended by a smaller player, and that could again be the case this season if the Mavericks want it so, especially when playing against switch-heavy defenses. He can score for himself and he can create points for his teammates.

If he has a four- or five-inch height advantage against his opponent, that could eventually prompt teams to try double-teaming him. Last season, Barnes demonstrated the ability to pass out of hard doubles, though he didn’t face many: He turned it over just once in nine chances, and his passes generated seven points.

The Mavericks have plenty of capable off-ball cutters on this roster, including Deron Williams, Devin Harris, and Seth Curry. Rick Carlisle has a versatile roster this season and can get pretty creative when it comes to designing plays, or his Mavs can stay within the flow offense if that’s what he prefers, too. Either way, Barnes can facilitate out of the post, and especially in combination with Nowitzki.

There are complications, of course, with playing Dirk at center for too many minutes. It limits the Mavs’ interior presence on the defensive end and could inhibit the team’s collective rebounding ability, as players like Andrew Bogut and Dwight Powell are proven on the glass.

But the positives are difficult to ignore. Nowitzki at the 5 would draw the center far from the rim, creating maximum space underneath for players like Barnes to take advantage of. And a Mavs perimeter combination of Barnes/Matthews/Justin Anderson could potentially protect the paint from the outside-in. Anderson, too, has Al-Farouq Aminu capabilities when it comes to protecting the rim like a center while playing as a small forward. It can be done.

That lineup is pure speculation, of course, but Barnes’ performance as a facilitator in combination with Speights and in the post provides some evidence to suggest that his growth as a facilitator this season could be steady and fruitful. Barnes showed signs, even in Golden State’s thoroughly unconventional offense, that he can be a productive player in a slightly more conventional system.

Another year in Rick Carlisle’s system should bode well for Deron Williams

DALLAS — Despite seeing his 2015-16 season derailed by injuries, three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams returned to playing at an elite level during his first campaign with the Dallas Mavericks.

Starting 63 of his 65 appearances last season, Williams ranked second on the team in scoring while averaging 14.1 points an outing. The Colony native also pulled down 2.9 rebounds and dished out 5.8 assists a game, connecting on 41.4 percent shooting and 34.4 percent from three-point range for his hometown team. However, Williams would eventually be hampered by injuries near the close of the regular season, missing eight of the final 11 games as the Mavs battled for a playoff position. And after a left abdominal strain and sports hernia forced the veteran floor general out of the lineup for the final four games during the team’s first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson says that he’s eager to see what a healthy Williams will do this upcoming season after he reportedly re-signed with the team to a one-year deal worth $10 million.

“You just can’t say enough about a guy like D-Will,” Nelson said while praising Williams’ play last season. “With him coming back, he had fun. He had fun for the first time in a long time, and I think he really had an opportunity to express himself. I think [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] used him very well.”

Returning to the lineup after an eight-game hiatus, Williams played through his late-season injury concerns to score 15 points in 29 minutes during a 98-91 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on April 10. He then boosted the Mavs into the playoffs the following night by scoring 23 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing six assists in a 101-92 road win against Utah.

Bouncing back from a lackluster ’14-15 campaign with the Brooklyn Nets that led to eventual buyout talks, Williams made the most of his new opportunity in Dallas last season. Williams averaged 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists during his last season with the Nets, appearing in 68 games and making 55 starts. He also connected on just 38.7 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from three-point range. But after a fun-filled season with the Mavs that featured a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to cap off a 117-116 double-overtime thriller against Sacramento on Jan. 5, the 11-year veteran could be set for more success following surgery this summer to repair his sports hernia injury.

Williams entered free agency after declining a player option for $5.6 million to test the open market. He’s now expected to pick up where he left off at, hoping to continue to thrive under Carlisle’s direction. And after Williams played for four different coaches during his 3 1/2 seasons in Brooklyn, Carlisle expects for the veteran lead guard to feel more comfortable with another year in the system.

“Well, he was one of our best players, and I enjoyed working with him,” Carlisle said while praising Williams’ 15-16 season during a recent interview with NBA TV. “He’s going to be back with us next year, and we’ve just got to get him through a couple of the injury things that happened. He had a sports hernia in the playoffs that really kind of screwed up our chances in that series. But the one game that we won, he had 11 points in the first half and kind of got us going. So, he’s still a tremendous player. And he’s from Dallas, so I know he likes being back home. We love having him there.”

Unlike ’15-16, Mavs should have benefit of health entering training camp

DALLAS — Slowed by injuries to two of their top contributors before the 2015-16 schedule even began and again during the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks now expect to hit the ground running when training camp gets underway in late September.

Seeing new addition Wesley Matthews battle back from a torn Achilles that ended his ’14-15 season, the Mavericks weren’t at full strength when they first came together for training camp last year. They also closely monitored the health of versatile small forward Chandler Parsons, who gradually worked his way back from a hybrid microfracture surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Matthews eventually made his preseason debut in the team’s final exhibition game, fulfilling his vow to be ready by Opening Night. However, Parsons wouldn’t make his long-awaited return until Nov. 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, leading to a minute restriction for the early stage of the season as the Mavs attempted to build chemistry on the fly. And despite seeing the injury bug again bite his team in the playoffs after rallying together to finish with a 42-40 record and the sixth seed in the Western Conference, Mavs owner Mark Cuban says he’s looking forward to seeing what a heathy Dallas squad looks like entering training camp.

“I mean, look, we had two guys we knew would be hurt last year. To be honest, we outperformed my expectations going into the season. And you know, they both came back a lot sooner than I expected,” Cuban admitted in a recent interview with 103.3 FM ESPN.

He added: “If you look at last year, if you look at New Orleans, if you look at Houston, you just don’t know. Last year, I think I did say that we were about eight sprained ankles from being a top contender. Now, we’re probably only three, or maybe four. You just don’t know, but I do think we’re a better team. I know we’re far better defensively. I know we’re far more athletic. And I think we’ve got more athletic depth.”

With Parsons’ free-agent departure to Memphis, the Mavs will quickly try to work budding star Harrison Barnes into the fold following his gold-medal win in the Rio Olympics for Team USA. The Mavericks will also look to integrate newly-acquired center Andrew Bogut, who averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists to lead Australia to a fourth-place finish in Rio while showing no ill effects of a severely bruised knee that forced him out of the lineup for Golden State during the NBA Finals back in June.

Returning veterans Deron Williams (sports hernia), J.J. Barea (right knee) and Devin Harris (left great toe, left thumb) expect to be ready to go as well when training camp begins after undergoing offseason surgeries. Meanwhile, after being hampered by the Achilles injury much of last season, Matthews says he’s back to 100 percent to give the team a boost entering training camp. The Mavericks now expect to benefit from having a healthy roster going into this upcoming season while integrating several new faces.

“You know, I see it fitting. I see it working,” Matthews said of the new-look team last week while surprising 60 kids from Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas with a back-to-school shopping spree. “God willing everybody stays healthy as they continue to work out this offseason. You know, Bogut is playing in the Olympics and Harrison is playing in the Olympics. If they come back and are healthy, the biggest part of the NBA season is developing and bonding through training camp and through workouts before any preseason ever starts. We didn’t get a chance to do that last year.”