For the Dallas Mavericks, the long interruption to the 2019-20 NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic has had its benefits.
When the season ended on March 11 after the Mavs rallied to spank Denver, 113-97, forward Dorian Finney-Smith (right hip) and guard Seth Curtry (left ankle sprain) sat out the win with various injuries. Guard Jalen Brunson also missed the Denver game with a sprain right shoulder.
In addition, All-Star point guard Luka Doncic — he will be wearing a new pair of Jumpman Diamond Low PE from Jordan Brand sneakers in Orlando — wasn’t exactly 100 percent when the season was suspended with ankle issues.
Thus, the long layoff – Saturday will mark four months since the season was stopped – enabled the Mavs to get completely healed before they restart the season with a July 31 game in Orlando against the Houston Rockets.
“Luka has had an ankle issue,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His style of play is a physical style of play offensively, and he gets on the floor a lot. He was banged up, as a lot of guys were.
“Dorian Finney-Smith and Seth Curry didn’t play the final game before the hiatus. Seth had an ankle, Dorian had the hip flexor that had been bothering him. And of course, you know we’re not even mentioning (Dwight) Powell and Brunson.”
Powell underwent season-ending surgery on Jan. 28 to repair his torn right Achilles tendon, and Brunson had season-ending surgery on March 14 to fix a labrum injury in his right shoulder. Neither Powell nor Brunson are expected to play in Orlando, but all systems are go for Finney-Smith and Curry.
“The answer is that these guys have had a chance to heal up, and the thing I like about the last seven or eight weeks, it’s been a gradual ramp up back into what is sort of the road to NBA conditioning,” Carlisle said. “And so, bottom line, Luka feels good, he’s working extremely hard, and I know he’s looking forward to playing.
“The thing that I’ve gotten from just being in the gym the last 13 days is our guys are excited about getting back on the floor and playing together and competing together, and I think that’s a really, really important thing headed to Orlando.”
Carlisle said he and Casey Smith – the Mavs’ director of player health and performance – discussed a plan to remain safe and COVID-19-free in Orlando, where the coronavirus is some of the worst in the United States.
The Mavs start training camp in Orlando on Friday and will have scrimmages against the Los Angeles Lakers (July 23), Indiana Pacers (July 26) and Philadelphia 76ers (July 28) before resuming the season against the Rockets.
“It’s not going to be a typical training camp where you jump in on day one and just go full bore,” Carlisle said. “Our players have done a great job of working on their individual conditioning with individual workouts with the coaches on the floor on a one-to-one basis, and also working with our strength and conditioning team led by Jeremy Holsopple (the Mavs’ director of athletic performance).
“So I feel really good about where we’re at in terms of our overall conditioning right now. But this is a different situation, it’s a different time, it’s a different set of circumstances, and, like so many other things involved in this endeavor, there’s going to be a level of fluidity as we move forward.”
Carlisle had heard arguments on both side of the table indicating whether the long layoff is a distinct advantage for a young or a veteran team.
“You hear that the more veteran teams will be fresh, you hear that the younger teams are more equipped, because they’ll bounce back quicker and they’ll get in shape quicker and stuff like that,” Carlisle said. “You can go either way with the discussion about that.
“I just think that whatever kind of team you have, you got to approach it that this is a great situation and a great opportunity. This is an extraordinary endeavor. I mean, no one has ever done what we’re going to do and attempt to do as a league in Orlando, so we really look forward to it. It truly is historic.”