It’s been said before that only fools put a lot of stock in whatever happens in an NBA preseason.
You may remember the old Charles Barkley line that the only meaningful messages sent in December come on Christmas cards.
And, as a reminder, we’re in December for the NBA preseason instead of early regular-season games.
So we won’t jump into knee-jerk mode just yet.
But what the Mavericks did in winning twice at Milwaukee to start the exhibition schedule was prove that they have a strategy on how to deal with what clearly will be a season that requires attention to detail, resourcefulness and the ability to adjust on the fly.
All three of those are Rick Carlisle strengths.
And by extension, they should be Maverick strengths.
“We’ve done a great job of practicing hard and implementing it to the game plan and being able to execute it once we step on the floor,” said Tim Hardaway Jr. “Preseason is part of training camp. We just want to do the best we can to mimic what we’ve been doing in practice, playing good defense and communicating. And trying to be as resilient as possible.”
Carlisle said recently that the path to success this season is to work hard, get better and be ready for some unpredictable things that are “likely to happen this year.”
Remember, Carlisle is the president of the NBA coaches association. He usually has a finger firmly on the pulse of things that are going on around the league. Last year at this time, nobody in their right mind would have guessed that the season would be halted for four months.
Now we know just how uncertain things can be.
Through two preseason games, however, the Mavericks have shown that they have huge depth and that Carlisle isn’t afraid to dip into that deep trough. Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke and even rookie Josh Green have helped anchor the second unit and while Carlisle said after the 128-112 win Monday against the Bucks that substitutions won’t necessarily be like hockey line changes, what would be so wrong with that?
It won’t always work that way, but having a second unit that’s comfortable together could pay dividends.
And then there’s Luka Dončić.
He’s already being pegged as a frontrunner for MVP, and yet there are whispers that he is not in his best playing shape.
This is nothing new. People have been saying he could use some body sculpting since his rookie season.
Said the third-year point guard: “People on Twitter say . . . stuff. I’m not in my best shape. I will get there for sure. But I’ve never been a muscular guy, you know. What can I say?”
When he was ringing up 15 of his 27 points in the third quarter on Monday, he certainly didn’t look to be out of shape in any way.
Fast and furious: It’s been a whirlwind for the Mavericks’ six rookies, but five of them have seen some action in the first two preseason games.
“They’re doing extremely well, given the circumstances,” Carlisle said. “This is like getting put in a microwave and having to get heated up real quick.
“It’s just an unusual situation not having the summer league, not having a period of months to know what’s going on, maybe look for a place to live, that kind of stuff. But all things considered, these guys are all doing well.”
It appears Josh Richardson, the 18th overall pick in the draft, already has carved out a place in the rotation, thanks to his defensive instincts and offensive skills that might be better than advertised.
Briefly: The Mavericks had a recovery day on Tuesday and will be back at practice Wednesday in advance of the preseason finale on Thursday against Minnesota at American Airlines Center. As a reminder, no fans will be allowed at the preseason game, although no decision has been made about the regular-season home opener on Dec. 30 . . . Courtney Lee, who has been quarantined since signing with the Mavericks on Friday, should be able to join the team later this week. The hope is that, if Lee clears medical protocols, he will be able to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.