DETROIT – Thursday started as a typical mundane day on the road for the Dallas Mavericks.
“We had (a team) breakfast (Thursday) morning,’’ forward Harrison Barnes said. “The guys were all good.”
Then, a few hours later, things got turned upside down as the Mavs pulled off a blockbuster trade when they shipped point guard Dennis Smith Jr., center DeAndre Jordan, guard Wesley Matthews and two first-round draft picks to the New York Knicks for forward Kristaps Porzingis, and guards Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke.
It was a stunner in the fact that it caught the Mavs’ players off-guard, as their minds were focused on a game later that night against the Detroit Pistons.
“We literally found out right as we were getting ready to go to the bus,” Barnes said. “A couple of us were going on the early bus, and this happened.
“And I was like, ‘I was with these guys an hour ago and everything was all good.’ But it happens like that, but that’s the business.”
And the business of basketball from the Mavs’ perspective appear to be extremely good because of the impact they believe Porzingis will have while teaming up with rookie Luka Doncic. Porzingis stands 7-3 and has averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and two blocks after being the fourth overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.
In a way, the trade will likely have Mavs fans flashing back to the days when Steve Nash and Nowitzki were teammates from 1998-’04. That’s the roles Doncic and Porzingis will assume now that the latter is officially on the Mavs’ payroll.
Meanwhile, although he didn’t know about the trade beforehand — plus the fact he’ll miss Smith, Jordan and Matthews — the shocking trade received the seal of approval from the Mavs’ franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki.
“I think if you have a chance to add a franchise-caliber player like Porzingis, you just got to go for it,” Nowitzki said. “He’s got a franchise-type player game.
“He’s a perfect fit for the new NBA.”
Doncic, who has known Porzingis for quite some time, also is extremely happy with the Mavs’ new addition at power forward. In fact, Doncic and Porzingis were chatting it up and smiling together during halftime of Wednesday’s game in New York between the Mavs and the Knicks.
At that time, Doncic said neither he nor Porzingis knew a trade was looming that would make them become budding teammates.
“He’s an amazing player, so I’m really happy to have him,” Doncic said. “He’s such an amazing player and this could be a really good thing.
“He’s big, he can rebound, he can do a lot of things. I think he can be one of the best players in this league.”
Porzingis hasn’t played since tearing his left ACL on Feb. 6 in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. For that reason, Barnes would rather proceed with caution, although he knows there’s no denying the third-year veteran’s raw talent and skill set.
“He’s a great player,” Barnes said. “It’ll be interesting to see how he comes back from the ACL, but from all the reports that we’ve heard he’s been progressing well.
“And he’s a good guy off the court, so I think he’ll blend in well in this locker room. His ability to stretch the floor, his ability to create shots, the attention that he brings, just coming in here playing with this group, playing the way we play, he’ll fit in just fine.”
Porzingis can become a restricted free agent this summer, but Nowitzki doesn’t think that’s anything for the Mavs to be concerned with.
“We wouldn’t have made the deal if we thought he was going to walk (via free agency this summer), obviously,” Nowitzki said. ‘We know that we’re a great market, we’re a great franchise and we have a great proprietor and a great fan base, so we’re confident enough obviously that we can convince him to stay with us long-term.
“But in this business you never know. But hopefully he’s going to like what he sees, he’s going to get healthy and play well for us and with the team that we’ve got and go from there.”
The Mavs also are high on the addition of Hardaway, who averages 19.1 points and has a knack for stretching the defense with his perimeter shooting. Nowitzki, in fact, played the 2001-’02 season with Hardaway’s father, Tim Hardaway Sr.
Thus, Nowitzki becomes the first player to be teammates with a father and a son while playing with the same franchise.
“That’s sad, isn’t it?, Nowitzki rhetorically asked. “But Junior has got game. He’s fearless, he’s a little bigger than dad, and he plays the wing.
“But he’s as fearless (as his father) and can make shots, and he was a solid pickup.”
Coach Rick Carlisle didn’t talk much about the trade following Thursday’s 93-89 loss to the Pistons. On the one hand, Carlisle was feeling melancholy about the players who were traded.
Yet, on the other hand, Carlisle knows he has a few more powerful weapons he can draw up plays for.
“What I will say is we obviously feel it’s a good move for our franchise and our future,” Carlisle said. “Beyond that, guys got to past physicals, clear physicals and all of that kind of stuff, so it’s a little early to be talking about things.
“But right now I’m focused on the guys that we have here and we’ve got to figure out a way to win with these guys.”
In the meantime, Mavs fans probably need to prepare themselves for Steve Nash-Dirk Nowitzki Part II. That’s what the combination of Doncic and Porzingis is all about.