DALLAS — Although it was just their first official day of training camp, there was a business-as-usual vibe for the Dallas Mavericks as they convened Tuesday on the practice court at the American Airlines Center.
Dedicating their entire initial practice to defense before returning to the hardwood Tuesday evening, the Mavericks didn’t look like a team that was gathering for the first time. That’s because several players have already been training together since early September, hoping to quicken the jelling process before the regular season tips off Oct. 30 at home against Atlanta.
“There were a lot of guys here through the month of September, which helps. In a way the reason there weren’t really any surprises today is that we’ve been able to see most of these guys working for three weeks, so that really helps,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said as reporters gathered to check out the new-look team.
“We’ve already played some five-on-five together,” new addition and projected starting center Samuel Dalembert added. “We’ve trained together in the morning and we’ve trained together here in the afternoon. … I mean, we’re still going to take a little while to get everything down pat, but we’ll just get a feel for it. When you’re a vet and you’ve been playing for so long with other guys that know how to play, you start to pick up on things like, ‘OK, they taught me that earlier. Oh, I’ve got it. I’ve got it. I’ve got it.’ We communicate with each other. It’s the first practice and I’m very happy with what I saw. We’re going to continue working hard.”
Dalembert, who has averaged 8.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his 11 professional seasons, is expected to anchor the Dallas defense this season. That suits the big man and his coach just fine as the Mavs try to improve a defense that ranked 27th in the league last season after allowing 101.7 points an outing.
And with the first practice geared towards establishing a defensive mentality, Carlisle and his crew are already looking to build a team capable of contending for a playoff spot by containing opposing teams’ offensive sets.
“One down, a bunch more to go and we’ve got another one this afternoon late. This was totally a defensive practice this morning — all defense,” Carlisle explained. “There was no offensive stuff other than just simple drive-and-kick stuff to help set up defensive situations. They’ll come fast and furious.”
He added: “I just look at the roster and I just know (defense) has got to be our emphasis. You know, defense and working on late-game situations. We’re going to work hard on offense, but our major emphasis has got to be at the defensive end.”