TULSA, Okla. – The preseason is a time for experimenting, but not for taking any chances whatsoever.
With that in mind, the Mavericks will dive into one of the themes of their team quickly. Lineup flexibility will be on full display in the exhibition opener Tuesday night.
Kristaps Porzingis will sit out the first half of the back-to-back games to start the preseason. He presumably will play Wednesday in Detroit against the Pistons after sitting against Oklahoma City at Tulsa’s BOK Center. The Mavericks had an extensive practice Monday in advance of the road trip, so perhaps getting on a schedule of playing every other day with recovery time in between is optimal for the 7-3 Porzingis. He has not played in an NBA game since Feb., 2018, when he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
One certainty is the Mavericks will proceed cautiously with Porzingis.
His absence means more minutes to go around for other players in the opener, including Tim Hardaway Jr., who figures to go through some adjustments this season. The sixth-year swingman has been a primary offensive option the last couple of seasons, mostly with New York until he was traded to the Mavericks with Porzingis in February.
Now, he often will find himself as the third option in the arsenal for coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks with the offense running predominantly through Porzingis and Luka Doncic, although that won’t be the case Tuesday.
It’s clear that Hardaway is going to have an interesting role. He said last week that he knew he wasn’t going to be the guy getting 15 or 20 shots per game like he did the last couple seasons.
But he still will be leaned on for a lot of production, Carlisle said Tuesday after the Mavericks’ morning shootaround.
“He’s a winner,” Carlisle said. “He’s talked pretty candidly about the personnel situation and we’re going to look at a lot of different things during the preseason games with a mixture of him getting some starts and playing off the bench.
“No decisions have been made. We’ve talked a lot about keeping lineup flexibility. I think that’s one of the things that’s going to be a strength for us. And I think we have the kind of guys that will handle it well.”
Hardaway has been one of the Mavericks’ best players through the first week of training camp, Carlisle said.
“He’s playing the whole game,” he said. “He’s playing like a basketball player at both ends. He’s passing it, he’s driving it, he’s shooting it. He’s playing with a lot of patience and discipline and he’s a really important part of what we’re doing – one of our top players.”
PRIORITIES FOR THE PRESEASON
The Mavericks will star the preseason with three games in four days, but with 20 roster players, there’s no danger of overusing anybody.
After the three games in four days, there will be two days off before the fourth and fifth preseasons games.
“We’re trying to play hard and win,” Carlisle said of what he hopes to get out of preseason games. “Everything’s been productive, but now we’re playing another team. So it’s going to be interesting.”
Managing minutes, he said, should not be an issue.
“I don’t mind the schedule,” he said. “You’re going to get into this kind of stuff during the season. You just got to manage it right.