When a coach stresses chemistry and accountability, there’s no better way to show that he’s genuinely committed to it than playing everybody.
So that’s what Jason Kidd did in the season opener. Literally.
With remarkable results.
The Mavericks went 15 strong on Tuesday night and it paid off in the form of a 116-106 victory over the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center.
Kidd said it was decided at the team’s morning walk-through that all 15 active players would see action in the home opener. It was Kidd’s decision – but with some help from a three-player sounding board.
While Kidd didn’t divulge who was on that board, it was clear Luka Dončić was one of them.
“We all agreed,” Dončić said. “We have 15 guys that are able to play. I think it shows that we trust them. I think it was a good idea. All 15, they can play. And we got a win, so that’s what matters.”
The Mavericks improved to 2-1 with all 15 players putting in meaningful minutes and virtually all of them doing something to make a positive impact on the game.
Even what appears to be a minor health scare late in the game couldn’t dampen the festive atmosphere before the sellout crowd.
Kristaps Porzingis went out late in the third quarter with lower back tightness. He did not return.
But Kidd said postgame that it doesn’t appear to be a serious issue.
“KP’s fine – back tightness,” Kidd said. “They just held him (out), so we’ll see how he feels (Wednesday). The rest of the bigs played great.”
In fact, two of those backup centers were largely responsible for salting away this win.
The Mavericks had used a 13-0 blitz to start the third quarter to go up 70-60. But they couldn’t shake the Rockets.
They needed plays. And one play summed up the entire evening.
Moses Brown – yes, ostensibly the Mavericks’ fourth-string center – had a third-quarter blocked shot that turned into his monstrous dunk at the other end after a beautiful assist from Frank Ntilikina. Yes, Ntilikina – probably the last-string Mavericks’ point guard.
If you needed proof that Kidd’s idea to play everybody was working, that was it.
“It’s a really cool thing, right, because we talk about team sports,” Kidd said. “And to have all 15 play, and they knew that they were playing, it’s a really cool thing on opening night here where the floor has all the past players (names on the apron of the court), so those players will be able to touch the floor with their names out there was really cool.”
But about that three-man board? Who’s on it?
“We’ll let the council stay the council,” Kidd said. “It’s a communication thing. Talking to those three guys before, they wanted to do it. We always talk about 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 as part of the team and they tend not to get to play.
“But they come to work every day just like the starters or the rotation guys. This just shows what kind of character, what kind of guys we have in that locker room, which is really cool.”
Brown may have only played 3 minutes. But his two blocks and three points were a big reason in the third quarter why the Mavericks were able to maintain their advantage.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Dorian Finney-Smith swooped in from off the radar and pounded home a follow-up dunk. Full of energy, he then swatted away a layup try by the Rockets at the other end.
And yet, the Mavericks couldn’t spring free.
They were only up 106-100 with five minutes to play.
But the Rockets, who fell to 1-3, were incapable of making inroads down the stretch.
And the Mavericks got 11 points and a career-best-tying 11 assists from Jalen Brunson, not to mention 11 points in 9 minutes from Boban Marjanovic.
And, of course, Dončić had a monster game – and when doesn’t he? – with 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
But he had so much help in this one, it was almost too much to mention. And he was glad he was part of the confab that devised the idea to play everybody in the home opener.
“It’ll help a lot,” he said of the council. “The more you talk, the better, especially like these meetings – on the court, off the court. Talking solves things, so I think it’s a good idea.
“Today was the first meeting. Obviously, he spoke in the preseason, but today was the first official one. You just talk it out and we’ll be fine.
The Mavericks have had their home opener four times against Houston in franchise history. They had lost the previous three.
This time, it was different.
In so many ways, but mostly with all 15 players contributing.