Halloween parties, rookie life in the NBA, and a repeating theme of coming home were all big topics of discussion at the Meet Your Mavs Luncheon Monday at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. It’s rare to ever see the entire team together outside of the gym, and it’s even more rare to see them cut loose and joke around with one another, but that was the case Monday afternoon as Mark Followill moderated a Q&A session with everyone in the organization, from longtime proprietor Mark Cuban all the way down to first-year forward Justin Anderson — who, among other things, was facing constant future friendly rookie hazing threats.
The luncheon, hosted exclusively for Mavs “Legends” — those who have been season ticket holders for 20-plus seasons — gives the organization’s most loyal, tenured fans a chance to see the players up-close and personal in a comfortable setting where they can relax, enjoy a meal together, and talk about the upcoming season.
There were plenty of highlights, and every player told funny stories or cracked a joke here or there. But here are some of the most notable moments of the luncheon:
– Chandler Parsons was the target of plenty of jokes, especially from Cuban and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle. When rehashing the team’s now-famous Halloween party, Carlisle said Parsons “looked predictably unusual.” Cuban, meanwhile, mentioned how excited he is that the team is rapidly returning to health. “We’re finally getting healthy,” he said. “You might have noticed even Parsons was walking without a limp, and with Chandler if he’s walking with a limp normally it’s because his pants are too tight.”
– Carlisle began his talk by praising the contributions of Dirk Nowitzki to the franchise and to Dallas as a whole. Before mentioning that the once-in-a-generation German has put together a career at a level we might never see again, he tried to put into perspective what Dirk has done for the Mavs, but even the coach came up short. “It’s really hard to fully appreciate what Dirk has accomplished in this city and for this organization,” he said.
– President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson was also in attendance, and his summary of the team was brief and succinct: “This team is high on chemistry and high on character, and they know what it takes to win big, and win big games.”
– The Mavericks made it no secret that they feel like they have something to prove this season. Many in the national media don’t even give the team a chance at the playoffs, let alone making a run in the postseason. Don’t think that’s gone unnoticed in the Dallas locker room. “Stay with this team,” Carlisle said. “Stick with this team. We’re gonna keep getting better, and better, and better.” Added Parsons: “Besides this room, nobody’s giving us a chance.” Wesley Matthews also chimed in. “No one’s really got us pegged to do much, and that’s fine,” he said. “That’s right where we want to be. Because we’re going to shock the world.” Sounds like these guys don’t need any more help getting motivated.
– Justin Anderson had a friendly exchange with Followill, although he did get upset when the Mavs play-by-play man mentioned he hadn’t noticed any rookie hazing toward the former University of Virginia standout. Anderson immediately blamed Followill for any future hazing that comes his way, and Charlie Villanueva and Wesley Matthews specifically promised the rookie to just wait. The announcer later invited Anderson, a media studies major in college, to join the broadcast whenever he liked. “I’m really good. I’m warning you,” Anderson quipped. Point taken. He hasn’t been here for long, but we’ve already seen how comfortable he is in public and on camera.
– Zaza Pachulia is a thoughtful guy. During his first session with the media in Dallas, he said he wants to play the right way, an assertion that pleasantly surprised even his own head coach. Pachulia has spent his entire career in the Eastern Conference and is now with his fourth team, and said playing for a “first-class organization” like the Mavericks is a special thing. “As a player, as an athlete, that’s where you want to be,” he said. “You want to feel wanted.”
– Wesley Matthews gave a terrific interview about heart, determination, and what it’s been like to succeed at the NBA level without even having been drafted after his senior season at Marquette. But the standout moment came when Followill asked him what it was like to play so soon following the shooting guard’s recovery from his serious Achilles injury. Matthews, nicknamed “Iron Man” and known for his toughness, quickly responded: “What injury?”
There are plenty of perks that come with being a season ticket holder, aside the obvious fact of getting to see these guys play in-person every home game. But the Meet Your Mavs Luncheon might be one of the most special luxuries of them all. It’s so rare in today’s public climate to see athletes drop their guard and just be themselves. Understandably, they’ve become very image-conscious in the Internet Age, where it seems like every move is captured on a camera phone and broadcast for all eyes to see. But once you break through that barrier — or, in this case, once they willingly break it down themselves — you get to see who these guys truly are. It’s a very cool sight.