Rick Carlisle was taking questions pregame Monday night and people wanted to know why certain players weren’t getting enough shots or if the overall poor shooting through three preseason games was a thorny issue.
He answered them dutifully. But then he cut to a more pressing concern.
“Right now, my job is to get our team’s mind more on defense,” he said. “And that’s a big deal.
“With respect to how much you score, the inverse side of that is what you can do to limit the opponent. And that’s a big part of it. The more you limit the opponent and get stops, the greater your chances will be offensively. This last nine or 10 days (of camp), we’re going to turn our attention far more to the defensive side. It’s so important. And we’re hoping to get some healthy bodies back later this week.”
Two of the Mavericks’ best defenders, Dorian Finney-Smith (left hip flexor) and Jalen Brunson (left hamstring) missed Monday’s exhibition against Oklahoma City, as did Dwight Powell (left hamstring). Finney-Smith and Brunson could return to practice on Wednesday before the preseason finale Thursday in Vancouver, Canada, against the Clippers, Carlisle said.
In the first three preseason games, the Mavericks had allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent or better in all of them.
They improved dramatically on that against the Thunder, who were playing without Chris Paul and Steven Adams, 40 percent of their starting lineup. They shot just 36.9 percent for the game. OKC made just 4-of-23 3-point tries.
The Mavericks did a much better job of making it tougher for OKC to score, evidenced by the 57-38 halftime lead and ended with a runaway 107-70 victory, the Mavericks’ first victory of the preseason.
POWELL NONCOMMITTAL ON RETURN
Injured big man Dwight Powell was suited up, but he already had been ruled out of all the preseason games as he recovers from left hamstring strain suffered in practice during the early days of training camp.
Powell said he’s only priority right now is doing his rehab to return as soon as possible. But having missed all of the preseason and most of training camp, his availability for the regular season would appear to be at risk.
“As soon as I’m healthy, ready to go, I’ll be out there,” he said. “We got a good team (of medical advisers) and they’ve had experience with it. We’re doing everything under the sun to get it right.”
Powell said he hurt the hamstring on a sprint during the practice session and added that he knew right away something wasn’t right.
“On a scale of finishing practice or not, I didn’t finish practice,” he said.
J.J. BAREA BEATING THE ODDS
Monday was J.J. Barea’s second preseason game and the fact that he’s barely nine months removed from a ruptured Achilles tendon is surprising to some folks.
But not his coach.
“I think he’s ahead of where most people thought he’d be,” Carlisle said. “I’m not shocked because he’s a guy that does remarkable things. That’s been his calling card.
“He’s been doing extremely well, no setbacks. This (second game) is big to build on the 12 or 13 minutes of the last game and keep trying to work on rhythm and getting your NBA game legs. That’s something that’s the bigger challenge.”
Former Maverick Wesley Matthews came back from the same injury in a similar amount of time. But he admitted that he didn’t feel completely normal until well over a year had passed from the time he was injured.
LOCAL CONNECTION GROWING UP FAST
The Thunder got plenty of mileage out of Terrance Ferguson last season, his second in the NBA, when he started 74 games alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
The slender, 6-7 Ferguson wen to high school at Advanced Prep International in Dallas. After a year playing in Australia, he was taken in the first round (21st overall) in the 2017 draft.
He wasn’t supposed to be a starter for the Thunder last season, but he ended up averaging 6.9 points and shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range.
“Everybody talks about the fact that he stepped into that role,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Andre (Roberson) would have been our starting two guard. So you got a player coming off his first year, learning the league, adjusting, played overseas one year. And now all of the sudden, he’s thrust into a starting role.
“He could not have handled that any better. In a lot of ways, he really helped our team. If he wasn’t ready for that role, we would have had a real void there. But he was really reliable on defense and as the year went along, he shot the ball a lot better. What he did last year is a little uncharacteristic of going from a guy who was getting his feet wet to starting and playing 25 minutes. It was pretty impressive being so young.”
Ferguson didn’t turn 21 until this offseason.
After 20 seasons with the Mavericks’ organization, vice president of basketball communications Sarah Melton announced she will be retiring, effective Nov. 30.
“I had a big dream to work in sports when I was a little girl in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and it came true,” she said. “It has been an honor to represent the Dallas Mavericks in this capacity.”
Melton has been a fixture at virtually every major (and minor) Mavericks function throughout her career, which spanned from Don Nelson to Avery Johnson to Rick Carlisle. Her last official trip will be this week’s preseason finale in Vancouver, Canada, against the Clippers.
“It’s a little crazy to be saying goodbye at a preseason game like this,” Carlisle said. “She’ll be on the Vancouver trip and we’ll have a nice dinner on Wednesday night in Vancouver in her honor. She’s one of the most amazing people I’ve come across in my 3½ decades.”
Longtime director of basketball communications Scott Tomlin will be promoted to VP of basketball communications.