DALLAS — He’s one of just 11 people in NBA history to capture a championship as both a player and a head coach, but not even Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle could overcome the inexperience of last season’s team.
Forced to play the first 27 games of the 2012-13 schedule without 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki after his preseason arthroscopic knee surgery, Carlisle would work tirelessly to get the young Mavericks out of a season-worst hole of 10 games below .500 to finish by breaking even with a 41-41 record. However, after the Mavs’ front office addressed several areas with key off-season additions, Carlisle doesn’t see experience becoming a problem for the team in the ’13-14 season.
“Well, the thing that I like about this group is that we have more experience than the group that we had last year,” Carlisle confessed earlier this month while the team introduced its summer signees. “Our nemesis last year was close losses. At one point I think we lost seven or eight overtime games in a row, which just hasn’t been the history here, and a lot of that had to do with inexperience.
“We’re much more experienced at the guard positions with Jose [Calderon] and Monta [Ellis] this year. You know, Sam [Dalembert] has been around this league a long time. … He’s going to give us rim protection and rebounding, and he’s going to sure up our defense. You know, Brandan [Wright] fits in. He’s been great the last couple of years, and these other guys all fit into the picture. DeJuan [Blair] was a really important acquisition for us, because Elton Brand did not return, and we need that physical [tail-kicker] to put out there and be an enforcer for us, so that was really key. You know, Wayne [Ellington] is important because knock-down shooting has become such a major part of this league, and you’ve got to have guys that have to be guarded on the perimeter. If they’re not guarded, they’re going to make (shots), so he’s really big. And Devin Harris is a very good all-around player and a two-position player. He’s got an issue with his toe, and he had to have surgery, but in two or three months he’ll be getting back into the fold, and by December or January he’s going to be a multi-position player who’s going to bring a lot of speed to our team. So, all these guys have experience and that really helps.”
During the 2010-11 campaign, experience was a strength of the Mavericks while bringing together aging veterans to seize the first championship in franchise history. But, unlike that title team, Carlisle is quick to add that this year’s squad also has an assortment of young talent, as rookies Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo all hope to crack the coach’s rotation.
And with a healthy Nowitzki to team with eight-time All-Star Vince Carter, four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and a bevy of new additions, Carlisle is once again focused on bringing together a team with high aspirations.
“I think the biggest similarity to 2011 was that team was a very experienced team,” the coach explained. “We still have youth on this roster. We’ve got three young guys that are rookies, but I like the mixture that we have here. And the other thing I like is I think that everybody sitting at this table feels like they have something to prove and they want to be a part of an organization that gets back to winning in the playoffs. And right now, that’s our mission.”