If you knew nothing about the Mavericks’ season except their 18-16 record, you’d probably think they’ve underachieved compared to some lofty preseason expectations.

You’d be wrong.

While erasing the events of the last two-plus months might sound like a good idea, all those side trips to COVID-ville, lost battles to Mother Nature and untimely injuries to key players have created the fabric of what might just be a season to remember, rather than one to forget.

That they survived the first half of the season with a winning record is remarkable.

Check out the laundry list of things that went wrong:

  1. The league caught most teams by surprise by starting the season before Christmas. Most people, including the Mavericks, had expected a mid-January start. This meant players who were training (or not) for a January start now had to fast-track their conditioning process.
  2. Kristaps Porzingis was particularly impacted. He was coming off knee surgery and the Mavericks all along were targeting a January return for the 7-3 Porzingis. The bump-up of the schedule meant his training camp would come on the fly during game action.
  3. The Mavericks’ schedule was front-loaded with a slew of road games (13 of their first 20) and while fans mostly weren’t at any of the arenas, it still made for a busy travel schedule and that wear and tear is compounded by . . .
  4. The COVID-19 realities slapped the Mavericks hard. Half of the playing rotation, including three starters at the time, were lost for a week or longer and aside from the physical toll the coronavirus takes on anyone who contracts it, the mental hurdles coming back from it aren’t easy, either. Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber, Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith all had to deal with isolation and recovery. The Mavericks were 3-8 during the last 18 days of January, playing with a skeleton crew and having one game postponed before that stretch.
  5. We all know that MOM stands for Mean Old Mom. But in this case, Mom was Mother Nature. She shut down Dallas and most of Texas with a winter blast that crippled normal business, including the NBA. The Mavericks lost eight days of the schedule and while the practice time was nice, it was a further disruption of an already disjointed season.
  6. And during that winter storm, the one constant the Mavericks could always bank on, Luka Dončić, developed a sore lower back. He played through it when the games resumed, but it was determined that he needed a break on Wednesday, particularly with his All-Star obligations on Sunday.

The Mavericks certainly aren’t the only NBA team with problems that have largely been out of their control this season. But the way things worked out, the fact that they got out of the first half of the schedule as well as they did is commendable.

Plus, they’d be in the playoffs if the season ended today – at least the play-in games that the seventh through 10th seeds will have to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

What the Mavericks did in the final three weeks of the first half schedule is put themselves back in the ballgame.

“The care and the want is showing at a high level right now,” said Tim Hardaway Jr., whose willingness to come off the bench has been a big mental (and statistical) boost for the Mavericks. “And it can get better. That’s the scary part about it.

“It’s great that we ended the first half on a great note, We just got to make sure when we come back everybody, everybody’s on their P’s and Q’s and we know what’s at stake.”

Rick Carlisle has watched this team trouble-shoot its way through the hard times. And while he’s not into sweeping statements about the sate of the Mavericks’ union, he acknowledged after the first half wrapped up that the Mavericks have, for all practical purposes, done what they needed to do.

“We’ve done a lot of good things the last three weeks, which we had to do given all the other circumstances,” Carlisle said. “There’s a long way to go. And then when we pick up out of the break, it’s going to be even busier than it was in the first half.”

The second half of the schedule has 38 games in 68 days. It starts with three games in four days coming out of the break. Only three times during the 68-day grind will they have more than one day off between games.

Clearly, practice time will be hard to come by. Plus, the threat of COVID-19 will continue to hover over the league.

“Very busy in March and in April and in May it’s even a more dense schedule,” Carlisle said. “But we’ve been up against it all year. We just got to keep moving forward, keep working at getting better, keep working on our defense and go from there.”

And be thankful that they did not get buried after getting dealt some tough cards in the first half of the season.

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News