When the NBA season shut down on March 11, the Mavericks were like a lot of other teams.
They were running on fumes. And on achy joints and muscles.
It was the dog days of the schedule – the stretch after the All-Star break and before playoff intensity totally kicks in.
Luka Doncic was nursing nagging pains on more body parts than he cared to count. Seth Curry’s left ankle, knee and back were forcing him to miss games. Kristaps Porzingis was being rested anytime the Mavericks had to play on consecutive nights.
Other players had everything from illnesses to personal matters.
And, of course, Dwight Powell (Achilles) and Jalen Brunson (shoulder) were out after surgery.
Pretty much everybody else that wasn’t encumbered had to carry an extra bucket of elbow grease because of the health problems of the others.
In other words, while nobody is happy about the plight of society or the stoppage of NBA games, it wasn’t all bad news for the Mavericks.
This would qualify as the rare good that comes from a truly ill wind.
“We’re going to view anything that comes our way as some sort of opportunity,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “(We’ll) get healthy, get rejuvenated mentally and physically, while working at maintaining an edge.”
If the league returns to action this season – and owner Mark Cuban has said he believes that could happen – the Mavericks should have a much-refreshed roster that has had time to heal up its many nagging injuries.
Of course, every other team in the league has had the same opportunity. But for the Mavericks, it’s a bit more pronounced.
Their infirmary was full. And for Doncic in particular it was much-needed time to catch a breather.
Doncic takes a beating on the floor, hitting the deck often and creating contact with opponents because of the physical style with which he plays. Ice bags were his best friends after games.
Statistically, he had not seen a big downturn in his production. His scoring was down about a point in the 10 games he played after the All-Star break. His rebounding had dipped from 9.5 per game before the break to 8.2 after, but it was not enough to consider symptomatic of fatigue or injury.
His 3-point accuracy did take a slight downturn. He had shot under 30 percent after the break from beyond the arc, often a sign that the legs aren’t quite as springy as they were earlier in the season.
Getting away from the game should have some therapeutic impact for his body, as well as his mind.
On the other hand, the interruption in play put on hold what was a developing chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis – clearly one of the most promising aspects of this team’s present and future.
Porzingis said on an NBA Instagram interview this week that he and Doncic were hitting a great stride in the three weeks of action after the All-Star break before the coronavirus halted everything.
“I feel like me and Luka were really getting into a good rhythm playing with each other right before this whole thing happened and hopefully, we can get back to that as soon as possible,” Porzingis said.
That’s everybody’s hope, of course.
The Mavericks are eager to claim a playoff spot for the first time since 2016. That would be the payoff for an 82-game grind (or however long the regular season ends up).
For the Mavericks, this terrible virus has been a nuisance and a nasty threat to them and all of society.
But if the NBA escapes on the other side of this and resumes playing basketball, it should lend to a more refreshed and effective Mavericks’ team.