Jason Kidd has already divulged his opening-day starting lineup. But as with others in his position, the Dallas Mavericks’ coach left himself an out — just in case he decides to alter that lineup for various reasons that will be advantageous for his team.
In essence, Kidd wants to have his best starting lineup on the court as the season progresses and as the Mavs sharpen their skills and prepare for the playoffs. More importantly, Kidd wants to see for himself if the two centers the Mavs acquired in the offseason – JaVale McGee and Christian Wood – can play together, or if they’ll be forever alternating for one another during the course of a game.
“We’re going to look at different lineups and see what’s better for the team,” Kidd said following Monday’s practice. “The season is where you can get those answers.
“It’s one thing to have continuity, but also being able to have answered the question of can two bigs play together, can they start together, can you go with C-Wood at the five, start him at the five. So we’ll look at a couple of things.”
Kidd has said when the Mavs start the regular season in Phoenix on Oct. 19, Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie will start in the backcourt, Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock will start at the forward spots, and McGee will get the starting nod at center. The second-year Mavs coach prefers to have two ball handlers on the court much at all times, much like the Mavs had last season with Jalen Brunson and Doncic before Brunson bolted to the New York Knicks over the summer via free agency.
“You look at Spencer starting there with Luka, and just Spencer being Spencer,” Kidd said. “You’re looking at being able to have two ball handlers out on the floor, and also I think those two playing together are a pretty good combination.
“And then being able to split those two so Spencer can come back and run that second group.”
That second unit will be headed by Wood, with an assortment of other players also ready to step in and contribute. Kidd views Wood the same as he views Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis – a big who can initiate the offense and who helped the Lakers win the 2020 NBA title when Kidd was an assistant coach under Frank Vogel.
“C-Wood can bring (the ball up the floor),” Kidd said. “He has that AD affect where he can rebound and kind of start the offense, so we have a lot of options with ball handling.
“So, we’ll look at them all and hopefully someone is going to jump up and take that position.”
Other players off the bench also know how to run the offense, according to Kidd.
“With the (second) group we have, Josh (Green) has gotten better, Frank (Ntilikina) is stable, and you look at (rookie Jaden) Hardy,” he said. “But you look at our bigs can handle too, when you talk about Dorian being able to bring it.
“We encouraged him last year to bring it. We’re going to do the same thing this year.”
ROSTER CUTS COMING WEDNESDAY: Coach Jason Kidd said the Mavs’ roster will be cut from 20 players to 15 on Wednesday following the team’s scrimmage.
The Mavs will play their final preseason game Friday night in Utah before opening the regular season on Oct. 19 in Phoenix.
“We had a really good practice today, we’ll go a little lighter tomorrow, then we’ll get ready for the scrimmage on Wednesday,” Kidd said. “And then it’s really the season will begin because Thursday we’ll start to get ready for Utah.”
The scrimmage will be akin to the Oct. 2 Fan Jam – minus the fans. That scrimmage ended with an 86-85 score that went into overtime.
Kidd is hoping for a similar aggressive-like scrimmage, saying: “The Fan Jam was a competitive scrimmage. Our roster will be cut down after the scrimmage.”
Besides the game Friday in Utah, the Mavs’ only other preseason games were last Wednesday against Oklahoma City and this past Friday against Orlando. With only three preseason games, it allows Kidd to have more than his share of practice sessions.
“You don’t get to practice a lot in this league,” Kidd said. “So, to have the opportunity to practice for a whole week — which we will never have again — is big in our eyes and it hopefully gives us the advantage.
“We’re just continuing to work on the plan. We’re not going to skip any steps. If the group doesn’t get something, we’ll stay there until they can digest it.”
KLEBER KNOWS DONCIC IS VIRTUALLY UN-GUARDABLE: Center Maxi Kleber has been a teammate of Luka Doncic in all four years that the superstar point guard has been in the NBA.
That means Kleber has enjoyed a front row seat for all the behind-the-back, between-the-legs, over-the-shoulders and no-look passes that Doncic has executed. But there are still passes Doncic consistently executes which has Kleber shaking his head in utter amazement.
“Obviously today he had like two passes where I was like, ‘How did the ball get through and how did he see him?,” Kleber asked. “But it’s good because we know that he does this stuff and we know to expect this in games, and you have to be prepared for that.
“Sometimes maybe for other people it looks like he’s doing random stuff, but in practice he’s actually working on those things and then you wonder in games how did he does it. In practice sometimes it might be a new move, but you always have to expect the ball and be ready to shoot.”
Kleber also explained how difficult it is to guard Doncic once he’s in an isolation situation.
“What makes it difficult?,” Kleber asked. “Basically everything. He can dribble, he can shoot, he can bump into you, he can post up. He’s posting up bigger guys. He just has so much talent.
“He’s just having fun with it and that makes it hard to defend because you think you take one move away and there’s no escape and no other move, no counter move, no nothing. And all of a sudden he finds a way to spin out and somehow shoots left-handed over his head and he makes those shots. So, it’s frustrating playing one-on-one.”
BRIEFLY: The Mavs are shaping up to have a very deep roster to the point where they’re at least three-deep at every position. And that depth can be a luxury. “I think it helps if health becomes an issue,” coach Jason Kidd said. “And then minutes. Not having to run up guys minutes if you have that kind of depth.”. .Center Maxi Kleber has been very impressed with the way rookie guard Jaden Hardy has carried himself throughout training camp. “He has a lot of talent,” Kleber said. “He’s super fast, super athletic, great work ethic, great guy. He’s super humble. When we joke around in the locker room, he’s a very cool dude. You can see his skill set on the court. He’s a very good ball handler — shifty. Now it’s just like for every other new guy, understanding your positioning, because it’s very important to have the right position. He’s so much fun and it’s going to be fun watching him. He’s very mature. The way he presents himself — very professional — and he’s doing the right thing. Now it’s just about understanding position and what does the coach want from you because that’s very important too, and then just keep working like he does.” Kidd said like with any rookie they have to understand who’s on the floor with them. “When 77 (Luka Doncic) is on the floor, you’ve got to wait for him,” Kidd said. Commenting specifically about Hardy, Kidd said: “Bad shots doesn’t do well. That’s just what rookies go through and they’re going to make mistakes. But he has the skill set and he’s worked extremely hard. But like most rookies, they’re going to make mistakes early and you want to see the growth of understanding how many times they make that mistake again.”. .Forward Davis Bertans didn’t participate in Monday’s practice as he continues to deal with soreness in his right knee. “But he’s feeling better,” Kidd said. “He’s doing full court running, so that’s a good thing to see him out running.”. .Throughout training camp, Kidd has consistently invited college coaches over to check out his practice sessions. On Monday, the University of North Texas coaches were on hand to watch the Mavs practice. . .When Kidd became the Mavs’ coach last year, he changed them from a team trying to win with their offense to a team trying to win with their defense. With that foundation now laid, Kleber said: “I think we’re a step ahead, for sure, compared to last year just because we have so many guys that understand the defensive schemes so we didn’t have to start at zero (when training camp started two weeks ago). I think overall it helps that we have so many players that just know what to expect and what to do on the court. And you can tell the communication is way better. Everybody just knows what to do, and that helps.”