PLANO – Like most everybody else, Mavericks’ third-year swingman Justin Jackson is eager to find out what exactly it is that the Mavericks have this season.
But, really, he’s also just as interested in what he hopes they don’t have.
Specifically, he sees a team that can be greater than the sum of its parts because the Mavericks fully expect to be a team that checks their egos at the door.
If there needs to be a theme going into the new era of Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic, it will need to be selflessness.
Well, that and rebounding and ball security and all the other things that are paramount to winning in the NBA.
“I’m excited,” Jackson said Wednesday at the Mavericks’ Hoop Camp at Prestonwood Sports and Fitness Center. “Obviously, we re-signed a lot of guys, signed some new guys, so I’m excited to see how we come together and how the season goes.
“There’s definitely uncertainty, but at the same time, we’ve got some good guys on this team. I don’t think egos will necessarily be a problem. So, I think if you take egos out of the picture, it’s going to be a lot easier.”
Teams that also check their feelings at the door often have better chemistry as well. That goes hand-in-hand with the idea of keeping egos in check, which isn’t easy. After all, players get to the NBA in part because they have loads of confidence. Putting team before self is not always easy.
The Mavericks have missed the playoffs for thee consecutive seasons. They have survived the painful rebuilding process and now have a pair of young stars in Doncic and Porzingis.
They have filled in spots around them with sensible additions and re-signed a lot of their own free agents to give the franchise some continuity, something that has been missing from the Mavericks (and a lot of other teams) in recent years.
Jackson hopes to be a significant piece of the rise that the Mavericks are expecting. He has a history of playing his best when he gets comfortable. In his third season at North Carolina, he bumped up his scoring average more than five points to 18 per game and helped lead the Tar Heels to the national championship.
It’s been an adjustment, to say the least, for Jackson – one that a lot of NBA players have to deal with. In college and earlier in their careers, most NBA players were on teams that played in the postseason. That’s made Jackson’s first season with Sacramento and last season, when he joined the Mavericks in February as part of the Harrison Barnes deal, tough to handle.
“I came into the league on a team that didn’t win many games, and last year, I finished up the year here and we weren’t in the playoff run,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be exciting to see when we’re actually playing for something at the end of the day. It’ll be really fun.
“I was blessed to be able to make two really long runs in the tournament in college. And now in my first two years (in the NBA) to be done when everybody else is still playing, it’s definitely a weird feeling. I think that’s why it kind of adds more excitement going into this year.”
Jackson figures to be battling for playing time with Tim Hardaway Jr., Ryan Broekhoff and Seth Curry at the swing positions. It seems unlikely that he’ll put in a lot of time at power forward, but if he does, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber will be in the mix behind Porzingis.
All that depth will be a good problem to have for coach Rick Carlisle.