The Mavericks will roll out their new look for the first time Saturday in the preseason opener at Milwaukee.
With newcomers Josh Richardson, Wes Iwundu, James Johnson and draftee Josh Green, among others, the Mavericks will have lots to figure out in the three exhibitions before the regular season opens Dec. 23.
They have forged through a short training camp that came after an offseason that was shorter than normal, too.
Things could be worse, though. The Mavericks so far has been lucky that their camp has not been sabotaged by any coronavirus-related issues.
“The schedule is what it is,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got to take it and turn it into as many positives as we can. We do have quite a few guys back from last year, which helps from a continuity standpoint. But the new guys are catching up quickly.”
The Mavericks will have games in Milwaukee on Saturday and Monday to start the preseason, which ends Thursday at American Airlines Center against Minnesota.
Like virtually all preseason games, the Mavericks will likely shuttle in a lot of players. They currently have 20 players after Friday’s signing of Courtney Lee. They can carry 15 on the final roster, plus two-way players Nate Hinton and Tyler Bey, who do not count against the final roster.
Pinpointing a starting lineup is problematic in the preseason, although it’s clear that Luka Dončić, Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell and Tim Hardaway Jr. seem likely to be on the floor for the jump ball when games start counting.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke also have had lots of experience as starters and could fill in until Kristaps Porzingis returns from knee surgery in January.
Lee signs: As was widely expected, the Mavericks signed Courtney Lee on Friday.
The 6-5 Lee played for the Mavericks from January, 2019, to the end of last season as he was brought to Dallas as part of the seven-player Porzingis trade.
The 13-year veteran has averaged 9.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in his career, playing 811 games with Orlando, New Jersey, Houston, Boston, Memphis, Charlotte, New York and the Mavericks.
Lee, who will join the team after clearing medical protocols, will wear No. 45.
Follow the leader: The departure of J.J. Barea will be felt on the court, of course. But what about the locker room?
Barea may have been the smallest Maverick, but he was big on heart and carried a big voice in the locker room.
So who inherits that vital job of being not only the vocal leader in the locker room and on the court, but being able to command the respect of teammates by just doing all the little things that leaders do.
Coach Rick Carlisle gave a simple answer.
“Luka Doncic is our main leader,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. We have other guys on the team that have an important leadership presence. (Dwight) Powell is a guy who comes to mind immediately. (Jalen) Brunson as a leader of that second unit comes to mind immediately.”
A lot of Mavericks know how to set a good example. Throw Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis into that mix, too.
Barea said that if he could hand off a ceremonial baton, he knows to whom he would give it.
“It’s a really young team,” Barea said. “If I got to pick somebody, I’ll go with Dwight Powell. We’ve been together for a bunch of years now and if guys learn from him just by watching and listening, they’ll be good professional players.”
Changing of the guards: Carlisle now is going into his 13th season as the Mavericks’ coach.
He has seen players go that have been pillars to the Mavericks’ franchise – most notably Dirk Nowitzki.
But he’s also witnessed in the last two years the departures of Barea and Devin Harris, two of the best guards the Mavericks have ever had.
And he knows they had a special bond.
“When Barea and Harris played together, they would get that backdoor (play) at least once a game,” Carlisle said. “And there was one team – I won’t mention them – they got it four times against them.
“They just had that sense and understood the situations. They were like surgeons working together on a medical case. It was so fun to watch.”