The Mavericks opened training camp Tuesday with about as much good health as a team can realistically expect.
J.J. Barea, who missed the last half of the 2018-19 season after rupturing his right Achilles tendon, went through virtually all of the first practice session. Kristaps Porzingis, last year’s blockbuster addition who missed the entire season after major knee surgery, was a full participant. And Tim Hardaway Jr., who had left tibia surgery for a stress reaction that cut his 2018-19 season short by 11 games, also had no limitations.
About the only player who was legitimately hindered was newcomer Delon Wright, who is dealing with what he said is a minor hamstring problem.
“It feels good,” Wright said. “I just tweaked it a little bit. It’s been about a week and a day. I’m looking to come back soon. I’m still moving around.”
Said coach Rick Carlisle: “We had a great first day. Delon Wright was limited, but he went through a good bit of the non-contact stuff without any issue. Barea went through the majority of the practice live and did real well.”
Barea said the key for him coming back from a serious injury like the torn Achilles is patience. He missed the last 40 games of the season after suffering the injury at a game in Minnesota.
Barea said that, when the preseason games start, he won’t exactly fall under the heading of load management. But it will be a sensible approach to coming back from what can be one of the most devastating injuries in basketball.
“Not load management,” he said. “It’s just that I have to relax, don’t go too crazy early. Pace myself and try to get to the highest level when I get there. I feel good.”
Porzingis has been eager to get started with the Mavericks’ portion of his career. And his presence on the practice court Tuesday was a terrific sight for his teammates. And Carlisle.
“It’s Porzingis’ first real practice from start to finish in quite some time,” the coach said. “And he did terrific. A very positive first day. Good energy, a bunch of great guys going hard. So it’s a good starting point.”
Hardaway said on Monday at media day that he was 100 percent. Carlisle echoed that.
“He went through the entire practice without issue,” he said. “He had a really aggressive summer of rehabbing and training. He had a really strong day. He’s one of our top players.”
Lineup clue? Rick Carlisle has made it clear that starting lineups with this team will be fluid, although he’s relatively confident that Luka Doncic at point guard and Porzingis at power forward will be in any variation of the five players on the court for the jump ball.
Beyond that? It’s kind of guesswork at this point, although Carlisle sounded like a coach who is sold on his starting center when he was asked about Dwight Powell, who is going into his sixth season.
“He’s constant energy, force, brings all sorts of intangible team elements to the equation with how he approaches it,” Carlisle said. “He’s physical. And I think him and KP together makes sense from the standpoint of a physical guy next to KP is good for our team.
And Dwight’s been a really effective player for us the last two or three years as a five man that really creates problems offensively with rim runs, rolls to the basket, offensive rebounding. And defensively, he’s just persistent as heck and he gets after it.”
Ring it up: Delon Wright spent more than half of last season with Toronto before getting traded to Memphis. The Raptors went on to win the NBA championship.
Wright said he’s hearing that he’ll get a ring for his contributions during the first half of the season and the other three seasons he spent in Toronto.
“They say I’ll get one,” the 6-5 guard said. “And I’ll gladly accept it. I wouldn’t wear it around, saying I’m a champion. But I’m glad to (have been) a part of that team. And I’m happy for those guys.”
Wright’s role grew through his years with the Raptors. Plus, he learned a lot from Kyle Lowry. Ultimately, Lowry’s presence, which along with Fred Van Vleet being drafted, cut into Wright’s playing time.
But he still had an impact. And learned plenty in the Raptors’ previous seasons in the playoffs.
“My third year, I was able to have a significant role,” he said. “I helped them win a (playoff) game against the Wizards. Playing in the playoffs, that’s valuable minutes.”
Briefly: Carlisle said Dorian Finney-Smith will almost certainly play more power forward than small forward this season. “In today’s game, I’ve made him aware that him playing five is also a possibility when we go to smaller lineups,” he said. “He’s shown that he can guard virtually any position on the floor, including centers. In year four, I look for him to take another step up.” He added that Dorian Finney-Smith would likely be a top-15 pick in the 2016 draft if teams had a do-over . . . Carlisle said defense is being stressed over offense early in camp, but that one overriding constant trumps everything: “We really are just trying to keep it as simple as possible. (It’s been a) shorter training camp the last two years. If you try doing too much stuff, you can create confusion and shoot yourself in the foot. And you don’t want to do that.”