Coach Rick Carlisle, who has been known to run a tight ship as an NBA head coach, has loosened things up for the Mavericks during this unprecedented trip into the NBA’s bubble at Disney World.
In strange, unique times, Carlisle believes it’s important that flexibility be on display.
To that end, he’s giving fans a chance to not just peek behind the curtain, but feel like they are a part of the action as the Mavericks ramp up for the season’s restart later this month.
“Under normal circumstances over the years, I’d be pretty vigilant about keeping practice closed, and stuff like that,” Carlisle said. “But we’re in a different time. We’ve got to open this up, give our fans not only a glimpse, but a real strong view of what’s going on.
“We have a young team and it’s important that we’re having fun. It’s also important that we’re giving as much access as we can to our fan base.”
And so, the Mavericks have allowed their social-media specialist virtually unlimited access to everything, Carlisle said. Much of that content can be found on mavs.com.
Everything from practices to meetings to even COVID-19 testing has been fair game.
On Sunday, a video of Luka Doncic kicking in a shot soccer-style blew up on Twitter.
Carlisle understands his team and also understands the fact that the NBA needs to re-engage with fans as quickly and as passionately as possible.
He has encouraged his players to have as much fun as they can, while also keeping their eye on the ball. Carlisle had a tee time on Monday – the first day off for the team since they arrived last week – to play golf with Seth Curry, J.J. Barea and assistant coach Darrell Armstrong.
Carlisle is trying to lead by example when it comes to filling the significant amount of down time that everybody has in the bubble.
“I brought my exercise bike down, some weights, so I work out every day,” Carlisle said. “I also had a piano sent down here, a keyboard. That’s another thing to do to pass the time and work on something constructive and try to get better.
“The rest of the time is spent either at practice, meals or on Zoom calls with the family.”
The Mavericks have a team room at their hotel that is adjacent to the team room for Oklahoma City. Memphis also huddles in a nearby room.
That close proximity with other teams at the same hotel makes this a bit of an NBA melting pot.
“We run into players and coaches from other teams a lot,” Carlisle said. “And we’ve got a great bus driver. We got a guy that’s really into all different kinds of music. He’s a bit of a jazzer. Every time we get on the bus he’s got some music blasting. He’s a cool dude.”
Not surprisingly, there is no contact with anybody that is involved with food preparation. The Mavericks get their meals delivered and they can either eat them at tables in the team room or take them to their room.
There are no buffet setups because of the coronavirus situation.
Of course, the Mavericks are in Florida to do a job. Their exhibition games begin on July 23 against the Lakers. Their first regular-season game is July 31 against the Rockets. There will be eight of those and then the playoffs begin in mid-August.
Carlisle offered a candid assessment of the first three days of practice.
“We’ve had three very productive days as we ramp up – I like where we’re at,” he said. “It’s important that we all view this as a ramp-up and not an ease-in. I really feel like there’s a pretty significant difference. When you ease in, it’s just a little too casual sounding. Ramping up means you’re going hard all the time, but every day we’re picking up the level of stuff that we’re doing. After three days, things are good.
“The first day on a 1-to-10 scale was about a 4 in terms of how hard we were going. Then it was probably a 6 or 7 (on Saturday). (Sunday) was about a nine or 10.”
Carlisle said the day off on Monday came at a good time. He also said the primary focus, so far, has been on a couple of areas that he believes will be critical to success given the way this season has been stopped and now is scheduled to resume.
“We felt coming into this restart that it was going to be really important to focus on the defense and free throw shooting,” he said. “Defense is hard-nosed, sitting down, going hard, protecting your teammate. Free-throw shooting, there’s not a lot of creativity involved, you just got to get a routine. But you got to understand the importance of it.
“Offensively, we’re not really putting anything new in. We’re doing a lot of review. And this gives us a chance to also scrap some things that aren’t needed with our present makeup. Simplicity is always an important thing in my view. But you also got to have the details covered as best you can.”