When Jason Kidd analyzes how the Dallas Mavericks were able to emerge as the 2011 NBA champions, there’s one word that keeps popping up in his mind.
Kidd was the point guard of the Mavs’ squad that took down the heavily favored Miami Heat in six games in the 2011 Finals. But he noted it wasn’t just the scoring touch of Dirk Nowitzki, the energy off the bench from Jason Terry, or the 3-0 record the Mavs had once JJ Barea was inserted into the starting lineup that got the Mavs over the proverbial hump against Miami.
“That wasn’t just our offense that won us the championship,” Kidd said. “It was our defense.”
Shoring up the defense is a priority going into training camp later this month. Kidd also doesn’t anticipate the Mavs relying on their 3-point shooting as much as they did in recent years. Thus, Mavs fans will see the offense tweaked a little bit, although two-time All-Star point guard Luka Doncic will still be the dominant presence on offense.
When asked how the Mavs will look this season, Kidd, in his first season as the team’s head coach, said: “I don’t think it’s going to change in a sense that we’re not going to take the ball out of Luka’s hand. He’s too good. We’ve added pieces to compliment him, but also (pieces that) compliment each other.
“But the biggest thing is the defensive side of the ball. We’ve got to pay a little bit more attention to detail. Understand we all have one goal, and that’s to win a championship. And we’ve got to get stops. The last time we won a championship here, we did get stops.”
Acquired in a trade with the Boston Celtics on July 31, center Moses Brown is expected to provide a defensive presence in the middle of the paint for the Mavs. Guard/forward Reggie Bullock, who inked a free agent contract with the Mavs on Aug. 6, also is expected to offer some defensive might on the perimeter.
“When it comes to shooting the ball, that’s one thing that I pride myself on, and obviously guarding the other team’s best player or guarding whoever on the other end,” Bullock said. “I take great pride in that.
“I’m just ready to be out there and be with my teammates — bring that respect to the squad. That’s my main focus. That’s my main goal for this team, and I’m just excited and ready to get started.”
Basically, Kidd wouldn’t mind if his players came to training camp – which starts on Sept. 28 – eating, drinking and sleeping about defense. That’s the mantra he plans to instill in his players on the opening day of training camp.
“We all know we can put the ball in the basket,” Kidd said. “But when you look at the little things – rebounding, playing a little bit better defense. If we can apply our energy to that, that’s going to put us in a different tier.”
Guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who signed a four-year, $72 million free agent contract with Dallas earlier this month, believes the continuity the Mavs have established will allow them to escape the first round of the playoffs this season for the first time since they captured the ’11 title.
“I think everybody has another year under their belt in their careers,” Hardaway said. “Moving forward, I really feel like just make sure we play hard on both ends of the ball, and make sure when we get to that postseason we get past the first round, second round, and try to get to that championship round to bring another trophy back here.
“I can tell you all this stuff, but we have to go out there and do it.”
Kidd said there’s also another important intangible the Mavs must become better at in order to win a championship.
“I think one of our leaders (Doncic) said it this summer – we’ve got to work on our chemistry,” he said. “Our chemistry has to improve.
“We are a family. There’s going to be disagreements, but we move forward and we help one another. I think that’s the biggest thing the fans will see is that this team is together.”
Additionally, Kidd acknowledged that the Mavs must make American Airlines Center a true homecourt advantage, a place where opponents’ stress levels go up once they enter the building.
The Mavs won Games 1 and 2 of last season’s first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers on the road, then came home and promptly lost Games 3 and 4. Then the Mavs went back to LA and captured Game 5.
However, with a wonderful chance to close out the series at home, the Mavs lost Game 6 at AAC and then dropped Game 7 back in LA.
“Understanding the experience that they went through last year is a prime example,” Kidd said. “Not being able to protect home. We have to protect home in that second season.
“You’ve got to find a way to win a game on the road. They did that. But they have to protect home. To win a championship, we got to be tied together and you’ve got to have a little luck.”