When the Mavericks open training camp with their first practice of the new season on Tuesday, they will begin the journey with boundless optimism.
That’s great. But it’s also only a starting point in the marathon process of rebuilding a playoff-caliber team.
Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber said this week that the team understands that, in the Mavericks’ first season without Dirk Nowitzki since 1997-98, an infusion of talent and the growth of young stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis is only part of the equation.
The first step is to build a foundation that will foster chemistry and keep the Mavericks tied together through good times and bad. That’s one of the key goals of training camp.
““There are a lot of things that I think we’re capable of,” Powell said. “And I think we have a great pool of talent and a bunch of guys with the right mentality.
“First and foremost, as a team, you want to be all on the same page. I think that’s just as simple as, once we start camp, we want to have the right messaging, the right focus and the right goals – and then carry that through the season and compete the best we can.
“Because the opportunities are there. We just got to do them together.”
Cohesion doesn’t happen overnight. On the bright side, the Mavericks have 10 players who were on the roster for at least some of last season. And that doesn’t include Porzingis, who was injured but traveled and practiced with the team late in the season and Seth Curry, who was a Maverick in 2016-17 during his best NBA season.
So continuity should not be a problem. Newcomers Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic and rookie Isaiah Roby will be charged with picking things up quickly.
But it’s not so much learning coach Rick Carlisle’s system as it is about learning how to play and coexist with each other.
“I think it’s going to be a fun season and we can’t wait,” Kleber said. “The most important things are energy, being close together and playing the right way because we have really good guys, amazing talent – especially with Luka and KP on the offensive end. I think we just got to get it together. That’s the most important part.
“That’s what training camp is for, to know your role and everything. You build a team around guys and everybody has a role. It’s going to be important for the team.”
The Mavericks will open up camp with six days of practice, the finale of which will be the open practice for fans on Oct. 6. They will start the preseason with a two-game trip that begins Oct. 8 against Oklahoma City in Tulsa, Okla.
At some point in the preseason, fans will get their first look at the Porzingis-Doncic pairing. Nobody knows yet whether Porzingis, who has been out since February, 2018 after a torn ACL, will be cleared to play without minutes restrictions or load management.
But when he is on the court with Doncic, it will be fascinating for all to see how the new pairing works together.
“I’m very excited,” Powell said. “They’re two extremely talented guys that have a skill set that balance each other very nicely. I’m excited to watch, as well as play with, those two. It’s going to be very exciting, for sure.”
Added Kleber: “I’m really excited because both of them have amazing talent and it’s very rare. And they’re so young. I’m looking forward to see what happens.”
As are we all.