Breaking down an NBA season can be done in many ways.
Five- or 10-game increments. Monthly analytics. All have their value.
But there’s one thing that everybody agrees on: the next two weeks – and the next eight days in particular – are signposts that are on everybody’s radar and Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday there’s no way to bypass either of them.
“There are two mile markers that are big right now: trade deadline and the All-Star break,” he said. “Guys tend to start thinking: Am I staying? Am I leaving? They’re human. And they hear things.
“So this is a time when the good teams that aren’t making any trades tend to run off five or six games and the teams that are worried about where they’re staying for All-Star break or are they being traded tend to have some slippage.”
The Mavericks had a fabulous January to climb as far as eight games above .500. They start February – and the season-long six-game home stand – against Oklahoma City Wednesday night. There also is a two-game trip to Miami and New Orleans before the All-Star break begins Feb. 18.
That’s why Kidd was happy to see what he called “a really good practice” on Tuesday after a day off on Monday. The Mavericks were coming off back-to-back games over the weekend, including a loss at Orlando Sunday.
It was the sort of time that Kidd knows from experience can be a dangerous situation for any team.
“You’ve been in this position before,” he said. “People start scheduling trips to Turks and Caicos, Hawaii, wherever the sun may be. You just try to let them understand they can do that, but we have a job to do and that’s to finish the first half of the season.”
The trade deadline of Feb. 10 comes before the All-Star break. Because of the Mavericks’ contractual situations (Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith are unrestricted free agents on July 1), they are destined to be mentioned in all sorts of trade speculation in the next week.
That doesn’t mean anything is going to happen, of course. There’s a reason why the rest of the NBA likes Brunson and Finney-Smith. Rest assured the Mavericks like them every bit as much, if not more.
“I try not to think about it at all,” Brunson said. “I see it. It’s kind of impossible not to see things nowadays.
“But I do what I can to block it out. I don’t really talk to my agent about anything right now. I don’t talk to my family about anything right now. I just focus on getting better every day and helping the Mavs win games. I try not to think about it. It’s impossible not to. But I try.”
The Mavericks’ home stand should afford them a chance to further pad their record before the break. Five of the six opponents are below .500 as February begins.
But the distractions will have to be navigated.
“It’s a job,” Kidd said. “That’s the small print on the contract that you sometimes skip over, that you can be traded. But if you put your best foot forward and you’re doing the right thing, 90 percent of the time, you won’t be traded.
“We have to help them through this because it’s just natural if you hear something that you’re going to think you could be traded. As much as we say we don’t, as athletes, we hear everything. Once we get past these two mile markers, then it’s a sprint to the finish.”
Injury update: The Mavericks hope to have Kristaps Porzingis back on Wednesday against Oklahoma City, but he is listed as day-to-day with a right knee bone bruise.
“He’ll continue to get treatment,” Kidd said. “I think it’s pain tolerance, I suppose. Hopefully this heals quickly and we get him back on the floor.”
Porzingis missed Sunday’s game at Orlando with the injury that knocked him out of Saturday’s win over Indiana after playing just 11 minutes.
The team also announced that Tim Hardaway Jr. underwent successful surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal on his left foot. There is no timetable for his return as Hardaway is likely to be rehabbing until the end of the regular season.
Kidd also said that Sterling Brown (left foot soreness) did non-contact work on Tuesday and is progressing.
Defensive focus waning? Kidd and his coaching staff have seen the same thing you have: the defensive focus has slipped just a little lately.
So Tuesday was dedicated to getting the Mavericks back in a better defensive frame of mind.
“We talked about it, and spent some time on it getting back to the core of what we’ve been drilling,” Kidd said. “We talked about helping each other and that’s the one thing we haven’t been doing is helping each other. We’ve kind of just let guys go one on one and hope they can get a stop.”
Kidd commended the players for continuing to buy into the defensive mentality that he is selling. But it’s a rugged time of the season in terms of mental fatigue, which happens when distractions like the All-Star break and trade deadline are looming.
“Guys are playing a lot of minutes and they’re tired and so you make some mental mistakes,” Kidd said. “So we have to talk about that and clean it up because the way you’re feeling (now) is going to be (the way you feel) in that next season if we’re lucky enough to get there and we can’t have those (lapses). So this is a good time to talk about it and how can we help you get better at that.”