A year ago Thursday, the NBA season unceremoniously went on hiatus after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
The hiatus turned into a suspension, and the suspension turned into the season eventually re-starting in late July in the bubble in Orlando. While all of this was transpiring, the world was dealing with a coronavirus pandemic that nearly brought it to its knees.
“It’s a profound thought to think that it was a year ago,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Somehow or another, time has flown by incredibly fast.
“There’s been a myriad of world events that have shaped everything for our society. Everything from the pandemic to social justice to a lot of other dynamic things going on in the world – new president – you name it.”
The Mavs were in the midst of playing a home game against the Denver Nuggets when word got to Carlisle that the NBA was going on a 30-day hiatus after that contest.
“My memories are of having (assistant coach) Mike Weinar come up to me with five minutes to go in the third quarter of our game against Denver and say that the season is going to be put on hold after this game, so if you have any reservations about playing guys due to extended minutes for future games, take that into consideration,” Carlisle said. “We had a real competitive game going with Denver—we were down a bunch of guys.
“Boban (Marjanovic) had a career game, Luka (Doncic) was great, Courtney Lee was starting. We had a lot of guys step up in the absence of a lot of our top players, and then from there we were off into the unknown.”
The “unknown” wound up having the 2019-’20 season suspended until the Mavs starting back up with a July 31 game against the Houston Rockets. In between then and now, the world has been through a roller coaster with over 500,000 folks in the United States losing their life to COVID-19 so far.
“We certainly learned a lot about a lot of things,” Carlisle said before Thursday’s 116-108 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “The vaccination numbers are going up and up and up all the time.
“It appears that we’re gradually phasing out of the pandemic, so there’s a great deal of hope.”
Daigneault not offended: Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said he’s not offended when teams do not suit up their best players when they get ready to play the Thunder.
Such was the case Thursday night when the Mavs sat their two best players – Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis – in their game against Oklahoma City.
“I think with a condensed season, everybody is kind of running their own race and one of the things that I think is a responsibility of organizations and of as a result the coaching staffs and even the players who have collaborated in this process, the responsibility is to pace the team through the season,” Daigneault said. “It’s a really unique year, it’s a really condensed schedule and I don’t think anybody, when they get to the end of the regular season – whether they’re a playoff team or not – wants to be limping out of the regular season.”
Doncic played 39 minutes and collected his eighth triple-double of the season – 22 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists – during Wednesday’s 115-104 triumph over the San Antonio Spurs. And Porzingis added 28 minutes and a season-high 14 rebounds in 34 minutes against the Spurs.
In the second half of the season, the Mavs will play 38 games in only 68 days.
Officially, Doncic is listed on the injury report as a right ankle, injury recovery, and Porzingis is listed as a right knee, injury recovery. Thus, rest becomes a premium.
“I know we rest players and we never do it based on the opponent,” Daigneault said. “It’s always based on what’s best for that player. When you’re doing that you’re doing it by prioritizing health, and that has nothing to do with the opponent or who you’re doing it for.
“So we try not to use that as bulletin board material. We don’t take offense to it.”
After Thursday’s game, the Mavs travel to Denver where they’ll play the Nuggets on Saturday. Then they’ll return home and play two games – on Monday and Wednesday — against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“Dallas is running their race and doing what’s best for their team,” Daigneault said. “We’re doing the same thing and the other 28 teams are doing the same thing as well.”