Their Open Practice was on Sunday, but the Dallas Mavericks were still talking about it 24 hours later.
Mostly, they’re talking about the very enthusiastic crowd of 8,600 that attended the scrimmage. And that two-and-a-half hours before the scrimmage started, fans were almost double-wrapped around American Airlines Center.
“It was the most energy-charged Fan Jam we’ve had in 12 years, and it’s not even close,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “When our guys ran onto the floor to warm up, the place exploded. It was really great.
“There was a lot of interaction between the players and the fans — all positive, all in a good way. I know people are very excited, and they have a right to be.”
Folks are understandably excited because with Kristaps Porzingis – he made the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2018 – pairing with last year’s NBA Rookie of Year Luka Doncic, the Mavs believe they have turned the corner and should be squarely in this year’s playoff conversation.
And Carlisle knows that will be a welcomed change considering the Mavs have gone through their share of rebuilding and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016.
“There’s certainly optimism,” Carlisle said following Monday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “Rebuilding is hard, so people are excited for the possibility of getting to the point where maybe you’re getting close to being through it. But I can’t read their minds.”
One fan who was open-minded and expressed his enthusiasm about the Mavs was Irving’s Aaron Hernandez.
“The reason I came (Sunday) is because I wanted to see my favorite players play and practice,” Hernandez said. “We got here around 8 a.m. and we were about the 20th people in line.
“I came with four of my buddies and we knew this would be the closest we’d probably ever get to see our team so close. Dirk Nowitzki is my favorite player of all-time because he inspired me to play basketball, but Luka Doncic is my second-favorite because I believe he’s the very best in the game right now.”
Meanwhile, Irving’s Ray Arredondo was so thrilled that he was able to sit so close to the court.
“We are sitting so close that we can reach out and touch the players,” Arredondo said. “All of my friends play basketball, and these are the people we watch on TV and try to craft our game like.
“Now we get to see them up close and in real life — it’s just surreal. There’s no other way I’d ever get to sit this close and see them if it wasn’t a free event for people.”
While the fans got a kick out of the Open Practice, so too did the players. Especially since so many fans came to the AAC on the same day the Dallas Cowboys had a pivotal home game against the Green Bay Packers.
“This is the best Fan Jam I’ve had in the 11 years I’ve been here,” guard JJ Barea said. “So that’s awesome.”
Of course, getting a chance to watch Doncic and Porzingis on the same court at the same time brought out the curiosity in Mavericks Nation. Particularly since they’re expected to be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA this season and beyond.
“I think we’re going back into the playoffs this year, and it’s the first time we’ve seen Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic play together,” Arredondo said. “They’re both foreign, which I think is kind of cool to see how much the city loves and embraces them like they’re one of our own.”
Carlisle certainly noticed that close bond between the fans and his team.
“Generally speaking, it’s not a great day for your training camp, although we did get quite a bit done beforehand,” Carlisle said. “So, all-in-all it was positive. Really, the thing that stood out was just the level of excitement in that it was really great to see.”
NO POWELL OR BAREA ON THIS TRIP
When the Mavs open the preseason with games on back-to-back nights against Oklahoma City and Detroit, it’s a trip center/forward Dwight Powell and guard J.J. Barea will not make.
Powell is nursing a hamstring injury that occurred during Saturday’s practice, while Barea is sitting out to rest after undergoing Achilles tendon surgery last January.
“I’m talking to (Powell) every day, but it’s good,” Barea said. “Dwight works so hard, maybe this is good that he takes a little break before the season.
“We definitely need him out there. So hopefully he gets better pretty quick.”
The Mavs will play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Tulsa, Okla., and will square off against the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday at 6 p.m. before returning home to host their preseason home opener on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Milwaukee Bucks.
BAREA AND OTHERS HAVE GOTTEN ‘SHORTER’
Since the NBA informed teams that they wanted them to reveal the correct height of their players, some players have suddenly lost an inch or two.
One of those players is Mavs guard J.J. Barea, who was originally listed as 6-feet tall, but is now a mere 5-10.
“I kind of knew that,” Barea said. “I was scared I was going to be 5-9, really. I was like, ‘Oh no.’
“But 5-10 was good, though. I kind of knew it. And my mom knew it, so that was all that matters.”
The heights are now being measured with the players’ shoes off. With his shoes on, Barea said he’s closer to 5-11.
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