The start of training camp is always full of question marks, although the health and fitness of players is less concerning than back in the old days.

I remember in the early ’90s covering the Houston Rockets when a player showed up for training camp and the coach said he was in his second trimester.

Those days are long gone. Players have too much at stake and teams are worth too much money to allow any player to get out of shape. And we’re learning that this applies to every player, including a certain Slovenian (more on that below).

But it’s still a time of uncertainty. Coach Jason Kidd was right at his opening news conference when he said “we don’t know what we have.” Nobody does for sure. Even the best teams make changes and a sports team is a fragile thing.

Think of the Mavericks as a big pot of chili. Take out one ingredient and it can change the whole taste.

That’s why we’re here to answer your preseason questions with our first Mavericks’ “Mail It In” question-and-answer session of the season.

Enjoy and congratulations to Jay, who won our first “question of the week” gift (a Mavericks’ cap). Expect contact soon, Jay.

Q: Are we going to hear at the end of the season/playoffs about how long a season it was and Luka is “out of gas” after he played so much in Europe this summer? JAY.

SEFKO: If Luka Dončić was 33, maybe that would be a concern. But he’s 23. He’s used to playing basketball year-round. And using the early portion of the season to play a few less minutes for the Mavericks is far more desirable than having Luka show up at training camp at 260 pounds. That leads to a grueling camp and early season to shed those unwanted pounds, as the commercials like to say. Give me a Luka that’s played a lot in the summer and had 10 days to do absolutely nothing, which is what he told Jason Kidd how he spent the 10 days after EuroBasket and before training camp. Kidd will find spots to rest the superstar point guard. And Mavericks’ medical guru Casey Smith will make sure of it. By the way, it was notable that on the first day of training camp Tuesday, Luka was not involved in any of the scrimmages that were opened to the media members.

Q: What are the chances Jae Crowder ends up back here? From CARLOS.

SEFKO: That’s been the hot rumor the last couple days as the former Maverick, Celtic, Jazz and Heat forward has not been at training camp. The problem is that the Suns aren’t likely to be in the mood to do the Mavericks any favors, given the events of last season’s playoffs. Plus, what would they want in return? And there is another consideration: if Crowder isn’t happy with the Suns because he won’t have his starting job anymore, where would he be with the Mavericks? Do you sit Reggie Bullock? Who guards opposing point guards if you do? Crowder certainly wouldn’t supplant Dorian Finney-Smith. If you’re looking for a more likely landing spot, I’d keep an eye on Memphis. When Ja Morant arrived in the NBA, Crowder still was with the Grizzlies before he was traded away. Morant apparently has a fondness for Crowder and Memphis has a few pieces that might be more appealing to the Suns.

Q: Should we expect any moves from the Mavericks before the season opener? From LUIS F.

SEFKO: Predicting that is like predicting how many Bud Lights I’ll have on any given night. Depending on the problem I’m trying to fix, it could take one or it could take six, as the song says. A lot of teams are hesitant to deal at this time of the year because they like to find out what they have. You can never tell about teams like Utah, Houston and Orlando, which might still be at various stages of their rebuilds. The Mavericks have some tradeable assets like Dwight Powell and a few others. But it makes sense to kick the tires on Crowder and see if the phone rings from other teams that might be a bit more desperate than the Mavericks are. They are not bereft of talent. And they have a player in Luka that everybody wants to play with. So patience will be a virtue for this front office.

Q: With the changes in the roster, how do you see the Mavs stacking up in the Western Conference? From KEN R.

SEFKO: Wanted to save this one for next week because it’s a great question, perhaps even swag-worthy. But only one merchandise or ticket winner per week. Looking at their roster realistically, you can make the argument that the Mavericks aren’t as good as they were last season. Jalen Brunson’s departure is a big loss. But with Tim Hardaway Jr. coming back and Spencer Dinwiddie stepping into the lineup, the lineup should still be solid. Depth is another concern. But bringing in the two new big men, Christian Wood and JaVale McGee, will improve things. So my opinion would be that, after Golden State, the LA Clippers and Phoenix (which I contend will still be great in the regular season), the Mavericks are bunched together with (in no particular order) Minnesota, Memphis, Denver and maybe the LA Lakers. That would be eight teams that seem destined to make the playoffs or at least the play-in tournament. I personally like Sacramento’s team and would have picked Oklahoma City as my trendy dark horse if they hadn’t lost Chet Holmgren for the season. As always, injuries will play a big role in how the West shakes out. But on paper, those seem to be the safest bets to succeed.

Q: Do you believe the Christian Wood sixth man role will be similar to Jalen Brunson’s role last year in that he’ll be starting by January? JAMES B.

SEFKO: I’m not sure it’s going to take until January, honestly. Wood was brought in to be a starter. But it’s OK if he comes off the bench, as long as he’s playing starter minutes. (And watch later today for a story on C-Wood at JaVale McGee as a starter for the first six minutes of each half might have some merit. And after the success he had in his first season as Mavericks’ coach, we have to put our faith in the fact that Jason Kidd knows this team better than we do. But he’s also flexible. And if something isn’t going well, he’ll change it. The guess here is that Wood will start more games than he comes off the bench.

Q: What is Dirk’s role in the organization now? @TEXASAMERICA.

SEFKO: I saved the hardest question for last. His official title is special advisor to the franchise. You may have guessed that that’s a broad job description. But to give you a little insight, Nowitzki said at his tennis tournament on Sunday that he sees himself more as a moral-support figure than anything else. He certainly gives opinions on personnel, if asked. But mostly, he’s in charge of playing with and chauffeuring around his kids these days. That could change with a more influential role in the organization at some point.

Twitter: @Esefko

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