For the last time this season, the Mavericks will play the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
For the last time ever, they will play at Oracle Arena as the Warriors will open their new playpen across the bay from Oakland, Calif., in San Francisco for the 2019-20 season.
No matter what happens in this meeting with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors, the Mavericks can learn a thing or two from the NBA’s most dominant team of this decade.
Mostly, they can be comfortable in the knowledge that drama is not exclusive to teams that are struggling. In fact, the most successful teams often have the most drama. But handling commotion comes with the territory when you are an elite team, or striving to be elite.
While the Mavericks must sweat out contract negotiations with Kristaps Porzingis and hope to hit a home run (or at least a solid double) in free agency this summer, the Warriors have to worry about keeping a monstrous team together.
There is always a free agent looking for more money or a bigger piece of the spotlight. Most notably, Durant has created a stir by not talking much about his upcoming free agency. DeMarcus Cousins will have a similar situation when he can pick his 2019-20 destination this summer.
Same with Thompson.
And, of course, the pressure is squarely on the Warriors to win their fourth NBA title in the last five seasons. Anything less will be considered disappointing.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to handle any craziness from both within and outside the organization when you are loaded with talent.
But, the point is that no matter what team you own, run, coach or play for, there are always issues. Some big, some small. But all with the potential to change and in some cases mess up chemistry.
In reality, the Mavericks actually are in pretty good shape when it comes to being drama-free.
Their biggest concern going into next season will be playoff-centric.
Last season, everybody knew the playoffs were a faint hope at best and most likely a pipe dream.
This season, the playoffs were a flickering hope, but even as good as Luka Doncic has been, the team knew before the playoff deadline that major changes were needed, so they made bold moves.
Next season? The playoffs will be expected with Doncic, Porzingis and perhaps a couple of impact newcomers via free agency and/or the draft.
What the Mavericks, and in particular their young stars Doncic and Porzingis, will learn is that pressure and, invariably, drama go up when a team improves, which the Mavericks are doing in solid increments.
The good news is that the Mavericks have no stress as a team going forward for the last 10 games of the season. They are gutted in terms of manpower with news that Tim Hardaway Jr. is out for the remainder of the season with a stress reaction in his left leg. Beyond Doncic, the remainder of the healthy roster is mostly filled with players who are trying to prove they deserve roles on next season’s Maverick team.
They like Justin Jackson, who did well in his first start as a Maverick Thursday night in Sacramento, the team that traded him to Dallas in early February in the Harrison Barnes deal. The team will have to make some decisions with other players, too. Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, Devin Harris, Trey Burke and J.J. Barea all are unrestricted free agents this summer. Who returns in 2019-20 is one of the priorities for management going into the summer.
That may not qualify as big-time drama. But if the Mavericks hope to make big strides in the next year or two, they can bank on having more challenges in the future. How you handle them is the key.