For Jason Kidd, the fact-finding never ends.
That much was evident when he addressed several topics, one in particular that he had hoped would no longer require a discussion.
But through no fault of anyone, it is. It involves the starting lineup.
The Mavericks have played 45 games and have 37 to go.
Kidd said at the beginning of this grind that he hoped to have a pretty good grip on this team by Christmas.
That hope long since has vanished.
Kidd said Wednesday he still is in the discovery phase of most aspects about this team, including who he will normally start alongside Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Dončić, Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith.
Lately, it’s been Maxi Kleber. But Dwight Powell remains and option and there are other possibilities, as well.
And so, the research continues for Kidd.
“I could be wrong, but I don’t know if we had more than 14 or 15 games with everybody,” Kidd said. “So this is still early in the season, unfortunately, for the whole group to be on the floor.
“It’s 15 games. That’s not enough games. So I can’t answer that today. Unfortunately we said by Christmas we would hope we’d have some answers, but COVID and injuries have put that aside.”
Dončić has missed 15 games. Porzingis has been sidelined for 16. They have started together only 17 times.
And, of course, other players have been shuttling in and out of COVID-19 protocols and some have been hit by other injuries.
“We’re trying to get those answers with this group being whole,” Kidd said. “Hopefully we can stay whole.
The bottom line, even with all the health problems, is that Kidd’s touch has been pretty much spot on, particularly lately as the Mavericks have been sizzling since Christmas.
Figuring it out: The lineup isn’t the only ongoing issue.
Kidd said he is trying his best to let his players figure things out on the court, particularly when things don’t go as planned.
Kidd is not a big fan of calling timeouts to reset things, a point he made abundantly clear Monday in the win over Oklahoma City.
Kidd said that when the Thunder cut a 22-point deficit to two points in the third quarter, he wanted to let his team coach itself, in some ways.
“Big picture is prepare to have all the answers for the playoffs,” Kidd said. “The dress rehearsal is that there are going to be times that things don’t go well. There’s a 17-2 run in the last game against Oklahoma,
“I’m not taking a timeout. We got to figure it out on the floor. There has to be growth. And I thought the guys did a great job of doing that. Normally, earlier in the year, that would have been a meltdown and we would have never come back from that. So that shows growth.”
Kidd said he’s never been a fan of coaches trying to artificially create – or stop – momentum.
“Do we have to take a timeout? Can we figure it out? Can we coach ourselves as players to stop a run or start a run?” Kidd said. “That’s just maturity and trust and communication with the group on the floor.
“As a player, I didn’t like timeouts. I’ve been involved with coaches taking a timeout when you’re up 20 and they score four points in a row, which can actually take the wind out of your sails and now you make it a ballgame. We’re a young team and we want to see how different guys react to different situations.
“We had a 20-something point lead and somehow our engines were turned off for whatever reason. It’s not the coach that turned the engines off, it’s the players. So there’s got to be some accountability. I think it’s interesting to see growth of guys being able to not rely on a timeout to fix things on the court. Championship teams have that ability and hopefully we’re growing this group to be that.”
View from afar: The Mavericks have been one of the NBA’s best defensive teams this season, particularly over the last month.
That improvement has not gone unnoticed.
Toronto coach Nick Nurse has a passion for defense and knows how hard it can be to get a team that wasn’t particularly inclined to play sticky defense to embrace that end of the floor.
“For me, it’s a real challenge in the NBA,” Nurse said. “It’s hard to coach defense in this league. What I think probably happened here is that they started in with a plan on what they were going to do on Day One and they continue to drill that and it’s a daily mindset that you put in from the start and you stay with it all the way through, building habits and building your foundation of how you want it to be.
“And then it takes hold. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with a lot of work and planning. And usually if you’re fairly tough-minded and a diligent coaching staff, you’re going to get them to do it. And he certainly has done that.”
Briefly: The Mavericks played without Sterling Brown, who was out with left foot soreness, Kidd saidMaxi Kleber and Reggie Bullock both were questionable on Tuesday, but were cleared to play . . . A reminder to fans that Thursday’s game against Phoenix is an early start (6:30 p.m. tipoff) because of the national TNT telecast.