Dirk’s 20th season
Come watch Dirk Nowitzki's historic 20th NBA season with the Mavericks, which kicks off at home Oct. 18!
For the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the Mavericks will begin their season at home.
The Mavs will open against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 18. As it happens, those two teams also squared off in the club’s most recent home opener, a 118-109 Dallas win. This year’s home opener is significant for several other reasons, however. First off, that night will mark the beginning of Dirk Nowitzki’s historic 20th season. He’ll become just the second player ever to play 20 seasons for only one team, joining the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. This is a season to celebrate his legend, longevity, and loyalty, and he’s also got a chance to catch Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list. It will also be the highly anticipated NBA debut of Dennis Smith Jr., the No. 9 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. He’s declared he hopes to win Rookie of the Year, and his journey toward achieving that goal begins Oct. 18.
Finally, you might think that date looks a bit early for a home opener. You’re right. The NBA made an effort to stretch out the regular season across a couple extra weeks in October to cut down on back-to-backs and completely eliminate four-game, five-night stretches for all teams. This is the earliest season opener for the Mavericks since the club’s inaugural season in 1980, when they kicked things off against the Spurs on Oct. 11. More days off should keep players fresher and cut down on DNP-Rests across the league. That’s a win for fans.
Dallas will play four of its first five games and five of its first seven at home, with other contests coming against the Kings, Warriors, Grizzlies, and 76ers. All of those games are intriguing for their own reasons. Smith Jr. will square off against Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox for the first time (more on those matchups later), the Warriors just won the NBA title in June, the Grizzlies are a division rival and feature former Maverick Chandler Parsons, and this could be Mavs fans’ first chance to see Philly’s Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — who were both injured the last time the Sixers came to town — and No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz.
Mixed in will be the team’s road opener, a visit to division rival Houston on Oct. 21. The Rockets beefed up their roster this summer by trading for superstar point guard Chris Paul, and they might not be done yet. For those keeping score at home, Dennis Smith Jr. will have to play against De’Aaron Fox, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Mike Conley (twice), and Markelle Fultz in his first 11 days on the job. Sheesh.
As for more of the nuts and bolts of the schedule, check out the chart below, which measures back-to-backs, homestands, and road trips for the upcoming season.
|4 Games, 5 Nights||0|
|Longest Homestand||4 (3 times)|
|Longest Road Trip||4 (twice)|
|Total Miles Traveled||46,218|
|National TV Games||6|
The Mavs’ first four-game homestand comes from Nov. 14-20, when the Spurs, Wolves, Bucks, and Celtics all roll through town. That’s a heck of a lineup, and it should produce some excellent games. Minnesota traded for star wing Jimmy Butler this summer, and Boston added Gordon Hayward in free agency. In addition to Kawhi Leonard, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Isaiah Thomas, that’s a lot of starpower for the Mavs to deal with in a one-week span. Wesley Matthews will have to go to work defensively against most of those star wings, while Smith Jr. will continue his daunting opening month as an NBA point guard.
There’s no way around it: The Mavs’ first two months of the season are very difficult, or at least they seem so on paper. Dallas plays the Spurs, Thunder, and Wolves twice each in the first 21 games, and all three teams are favorites for top-4 seeds in the Western Conference. The good news, however, is that only nine of those 21 games will come on the road. The Mavs play 15 of their first 24 games within the friendly confines of American Airlines Center, where the team has maintained a winning record for 19 straight seasons. Last year the Mavs opened up with a vicious road-heavy schedule, so it’s nice to see them get a chance to find their stride at home this time around.
As mentioned many times already, Smith Jr. will be finding his stride most of all, especially if he’s the starting point guard. The early portion of the schedule is jam-packed with showdowns against some of the best point guards the NBA has to offer, but some of the matchups I’m most excited to see him in involve his fellow rookie floor generals. Smith Jr. was the fifth point guard selected in the draft, which came as a surprise to many after his impressive showing in the Las Vegas Summer League. There’s going to be some extra attention paid to his meetings with his fellow rookies, especially because he could very well be competing with many of them for end-of-season rookie honors. Here are the dates those guys visit the AAC.
|Opponent||Rookie PG||AAC Dates|
|Philadelphia||Markelle Fultz (No. 1 pick)||Oct. 28|
|LA Lakers||Lonzo Ball (No. 2)||Jan. 13, Feb. 10|
|Sacramento||De’Aaron Fox(No. 5)||Oct. 20, Feb. 13|
|New York||Frank Ntilikina (No. 8)||Jan. 7|
It might be unfair to heap all this expectation on Smith Jr.’s shoulders before he even puts on the jersey for the first time — at least outside of his rookie photo shoot. But the point guard position has become perhaps more demanding in today’s NBA than ever before. Whether he’s the starter or a backup, he’s going to carry a ton of responsibility, and he’s going to be learning on the job while facing some of the best players in the NBA. It might not always be pretty — a player’s rookie season is never always pretty — but it’s definitely going to be exciting to watch.
Some more about the schedule: Each team plays 82 games, including four against each of the division rivals. Dallas will play each Eastern Conference team twice, and the rest will come against the West. The Mavs will play six West teams four times (twice each at home and on the road) and four of them just three times each. The chart below shows how many times Dallas will play each team.
|Western Conference Opponent||Home/Away Matchups|
|DEN, GSW, LAL, MIN, OKC, SAC||2/2|
|LA Clippers, Utah||1/2|
In addition to each of the 15 Eastern Conference teams, Mavs fans will get the chance to see the Clippers and Jazz just one time each. Due to a combination of free agency and emojis, the Mavs and Clippers have become pretty serious rivals in recent years. It’s always a raucous atmosphere when those guys come to town, so make it a point not to miss that one on Dec. 2. The Jazz, meanwhile, are retooling after Hayward’s departure in free agency. Their only visit comes on March 22, so by then they should have established exactly who they are. Their last three visits to Dallas have all resulted in overtime thrillers, too.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will visit Phoenix and Portland only one time each this season. That means fewer Pacific Zone tipoff times, which I think we can agree is good for all our sleep schedules.
So now we know when the Mavs’ road back to the postseason starts, and who they’ll play and when. Now all that’s left is for the games to be played. Rest assured that a lot of things will change in this crazy league between now and October, let alone now and next April. For as predictable as many fans make out the NBA season to be, it’s pretty safe to say no one saw most of what happened this past summer coming, and no one has any idea how things are gonna shake out now that so much has changed. That’s what makes this league so great.