DALLAS — Coming up just short of claiming their preseason opener before falling to a 94-92 defeat to New Orleans last Monday on their home floor, the Dallas Mavericks quickly bounced back to even their record thanks to a 95-90 exhibition win in Memphis two nights later.
Monday night, with the Orlando Magic visiting the unfriendly confines of American Airlines Center, the Mavericks (1-1) hope to continue trending in the right direction while treating their hometown fans to a victory.
“You know, I just want to see us continue to get better in the efficiency area, in the rebounding area and with our understanding of philosophically what we’re doing,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said as his new-look team preps for its third preseason test. “With nine new guys, you know, one of the challenges is to make sure you don’t go too fast and don’t throw too much stuff at them at once. So that’s where we’re at.”
“I think we’ve got a chance to be a really solid team this year,” four-time All-Star forward Shawn Marion added. “As much emphasis we put on offense we’ve got to put on defense and we’re going to be solid. We’ve got the tools to do it and we’ve got to collectively do it together as a team.”
One of those nine new faces Carlisle referenced that seemingly has caught on quickly is Monta Ellis, who has thrived in his starting shooting guard role while also sliding down to play the point with fellow newcomers Jose Calderon (strained left hamstring), Devin Harris (toe surgery) and rookie Shane Larkin (ankle surgery) all sidelined early in preseason play.
Through two exhibition contests, Ellis is averaging 12.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting, dishing out 7.5 assists an outing to boot in his 25.5 minutes of work. That’s just a small sample size of how effective the cat-quick guard figures to be, according to Carlisle, as Ellis continues to learn how to play off 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
But it’s Ellis’ defensive play that has impressed Carlisle and Marion most as the Mavs try to form a high-octane identity at both ends of the floor.
“He’s just been very consistent really at both ends of the floor,” Carlisle said of Ellis’ play early in the preseason. “He’s got a good feel for scoring and playmaking and which is needed at which time, and so as we keep going he’s got to get used to playing with our guys — with Dirk and Shawn and [Samuel] Dalembert. So, you know, he’s going to be a really, really important guy. He’s going to be one of our top three players.”
“I’ve watched him over his career and I’ve seen him get better and better. Now he’s on my team and his instincts are just very good and his anticipation,” Marion said Ellis’ addition. “Even if he gets beat or caught he has a knack of recovering in a way that he can get a steal or get a deflection, which is really good. So his second and third reactions are definitely going to make us that much better on the perimeter.”
Monday night, Ellis figures to see some time trying to slow down No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Oladipo, who Carlisle sees becoming a contender for Rookie of the Year honors. And with stopping the former Indiana standout at the top of the coach’s to-do list, the Mavericks will look to treat the Magic (0-2) to a little southern hospitality while trying to move to 2-1 in exhibition play.
“[Oladipo] is a good overall player. He’s a high-motor, high-energy guy that’s gotten better each year, and he’s going to get a lot of minutes there. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s one of the guys that’s going to be in the hunt for Rookie of the Year, and we’re looking forward to playing against him, because we need to play against good players. That’s how we get better,” Carlisle concluded.
Note: The Mavericks return to action Monday night at American Airlines Center, hosting the Orlando Magic. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.