Mavs chose continuity, fostering young talent over free-agent frenzy this summer

DALLAS — Opting not to make a big splash in free agency this summer after missing the playoffs during the 2016-17 campaign, the Dallas Mavericks feel like they’ll return to the court a better team this upcoming season simply by fostering their young talent and building continuity with the returning players on the roster.

Ravished by injuries last season, the Mavericks finished on the outside looking into the playoffs following a 33-49 campaign. The lackluster season placed the Mavs in the NBA Draft lottery for the first time since 2013, allowing the organization to select rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round. Now, the Dallas front office hopes Smith can immediately step in and help the Mavericks return to playoff contention. And according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, adding Smith to an emerging young core that already features 25-year-old leading scorer Harrison Barnes made it a successful offseason.

“I mean, we like what we have. You know, we’re not going to rush out with Dennis, Nerlens (Noel) and Harrison as a super young core,” Cuban explained in June of the decision to stand pat this summer in free agency.

“I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on, grow with and hopefully surprise a lot of people,” he added. “You know, once we have a better feel, we can talk about adding. But we’re not out there looking and saying, ‘We have to go find something.’ I think Dennis is going to be able to come in, play and hopefully have an impact his first year, and we don’t want to take anything away from that.”

Seeing 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season while being hampered by a right Achilles strain, the team got off to a sluggish 4-17 start without its leader. The Dallas offense also suffered without the No. 6 scorer in NBA history on the floor, ranking near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories all season long.

The Mavericks ranked 30th by producing just 97.9 points an outing last season and 27th while dishing 20.8 assists a game as a team. Dallas also finished with an offensive rating of 103.7, ranking 23rd in that department. Injuries certainly played a role in the Mavs’ offensive struggles as Nowitzki, veteran guard J.J. Barea and versatile backup Devin Harris all missed lengthy periods of time. But with Nowitzki healthy and re-signed for a 20th campaign, the Mavericks should see much more offensive success this season. And while plenty still hinges on the re-signing of the 23-year-old Noel, a restricted free agent, Cuban is confident that improved health and continuity with virtually the same roster could lead to more wins during the ’17-18 season.

“We had a lot of injuries last year, and the bad news is we had a lot of injuries that impacted our season,” Cuban confessed. “The good news is we ended up with Dennis. And I think with Dennis and a little more time together with Nerlens and our young core, I think we have an opportunity. You know, we made a run last year, and it didn’t pan out. But I think we’ll be a lot better.”

After injury-riddled start to ’16-17 season, Mavs’ Deron Williams has emerged as team’s top playmaker

DALLAS — Despite seeing another of their top contributors go down with an injury during the first half of Monday’s 109-101 loss at home to Charlotte, the Dallas Mavericks are confident they can remain afloat until their health situation improves thanks to the recent play of point guard Deron Williams.

Already playing without 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles strain), 26-year-old guard Seth Curry (right knee sprain) and veteran J.J. Barea (left calf strain), the Mavericks (4-15) would then lose starting center Andrew Bogut late in the first quarter Monday night due to a right knee injury. The Mavs would then valiantly put up a fight and lead by as many as 11 before eventually collapsing in the fourth quarter as Bogut’s absence was felt inside and on the glass. But with Williams appearing to return to his elite form in the last three games after addressing his own injury concerns earlier in the season, the Mavs believe that they can bounce back Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings.

“It’s been tough with the injuries for us,” Williams admitted after Monday’s loss. “It seems like we get one guy back, and somebody else goes down. It’s definitely been tough. We’d like to be a lot more healthy than we are. We’d like to have Dirk out there, J.J., me for more games and Bogut for more games, but we can’t control certain things. So, we’ve just got to keep on trucking.”

Williams has definitely done his part to help the Mavericks keep trucking along, dishing out 28 combined assists in the last two games as the team has tried to build momentum at home. To the delight of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, the three-time All-Star has also seemingly shaken off the left calf injury that forced him to miss eight outings during a nine-game stretch from Nov. 6 to Nov. 23.

Returning to the lineup during a 128-90 loss in Cleveland on Nov. 25, Williams has seen his minute restriction increase since clocking just 15 minutes during that game. Matching his season high by playing 37 minutes during Monday’s loss, Williams has recently stepped up with several injuries to the Mavericks’ core contributors. And according to Carlisle, the team’s success moving forward is directly tied to Williams’ health.

“Well, he’s doing a good job of distributing the ball, but I’m very encouraged by how he’s moving and how he’s playing,” Carlisle said of Williams’ recent play. “The shotmaking isn’t all there yet, but that’s coming. And it’s just a matter of continuing to work into the conditioning and rhythm aspect of it, but he’s playing very well. I like his effort on defense, too.”

Despite seeing his minute restriction extended to at least 30 minutes a game during the last three outings, Williams has yet to consistently find a shooting rhythm since battling his way back from the calf injury. Still, the veteran floor general has found a way to affect the game in other areas, emerging as the Mavs’ top playmaker and facilitator with a 7.2 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span.

Scoring 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting during a 97-87 loss in Charlotte last Thursday, Williams also dished out eight assists to keep his teammates involved. He followed that with a season-high 15 assists to go along with nine points during Saturday’s 107-82 victory over Chicago, making up for a 3-of-11 shooting night by committing only one turnover. Williams then continued to struggle finding the bottom of the net Monday with 15 points on just 6-of-18 shooting, dishing out 13 assists to just two giveaways as the shorthanded Mavs competed for the better part of 48 minutes before eventually falling. He’ll now attempt to rise to the occasion to help the banged-up Mavericks get back on track when they host the Kings (7-13) in the third outing of a four-game homestand Wednesday night.

“I mean, obviously, I think my teammates are doing a great job of getting open,” Williams explained. “We’re rolling to the basket a lot more, and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense. When you have a roll presence, someone like Dwight [Powell] and Bogut the last couple of games, they’ve been rolling and finishing, and that opens up three-point shots. And of course, when you have assists your team has to make shots. So, hopefully I can help them out and make some shots myself, ’cause I haven’t been doing that.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, hosting the Sacramento Kings. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. It will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Andrew Bogut (right knee injury) — out

Seth Curry (right knee sprain) — out

Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles strain) — out

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out

Game 14: Mavs vs. Clippers

Highlights: Mavs vs. Clippers

Check out all the top plays from Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Game 13: Mavs at Spurs

Highlights: Mavs vs. Spurs

Check out the top plays from Monday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs.

Game 12: Mavs at Magic

Highlights: Mavs vs. Magic

Jonathan Gibson led the way with 26 points and three other Mavs scored in double figures against the Magic Saturday night.

Despite piling injuries, Mavs take positives away from loss in Boston

Postgame: J.J. Barea

Mavs G J.J. Barea talks about the left calf strain he suffered in Wednesday's game against Boston.

DALLAS — Despite adding another name to their list of piling injuries Wednesday night in Boston before eventually falling to a hard-fought 90-83 loss on the road, the Dallas Mavericks returned home with a bit of encouragement as they prepare to face a Southwest Division opponent on Friday.

Already playing without 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness) and veteran reserve Devin Harris (right great toe sprain), the Mavericks (2-8) thought they’d receive a boost by the return of starting point guard Deron Williams to the lineup following a four-game absence with a left calf strain. Instead, the Mavericks would see Williams exit the game in the first half after experiencing tightness in his aching calf, forcing the three-time All-Star lead guard to the bench as the team battled without him. The Mavericks would then lose another key contributor in the backcourt during the fourth quarter when undersized guard J.J. Barea went down awkwardly while operating around a screen set by a teammate. And with Barea expected to be out of the lineup for an extended period of time with a left calf strain, the banged-up Mavs could find themselves further handicapped when they welcome in the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

“There’s no real secret. We’re just going through some adversity right now,” leading scorer Harrison Barnes admitted after posting a team-high 28 points on 12-of-24 shooting in Wednesday’s loss. “I think we caught a little bit of a break with J.J. You know, he thought it was his Achilles on the court, and then we found out it was his calf, so that’s good. But we’ve just got to keep fighting. I mean, we’re putting ourselves in position to win. … We’ve just got to be better in that situation, but we didn’t have a great first half. We battled back, we got right there, and we had a great opportunity to win. So, coming back home against Memphis, it’s a must-win game.”

Forced to leave TD Garden in a walking boot, Barea admits that he was pleased to learn that the injury wasn’t to his Achilles. However, with his team in need of every healthy body available, the 10-year veteran couldn’t deny his disappointment after learning that he’ll be forced to miss time.

Barea has filled up the stat sheet during the early stage of his 11th season, averaging 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists a game. He’ll now try to rehab his way back onto the court in time to assist in an early-season turnaround. That said, Barea admits that he will face an uphill battle in order to return to the court in the near future.

“It was awful. I never felt that before playing in my basketball career,” Barea said of the injury. “I thought it was the Achilles. The little bit of good news is it’s the calf. Hopefully I don’t need surgery or anything, but we’ve just got to wait. I never felt that feeling before, so hopefully it’s not that bad.

“You know, it’s been a tough start and frustrating,” he added. “You know, I was playing good. I know I was playing a lot, but I was playing good. I was helping the team out, and (Wednesday) we finally got in a rhythm there at the end and I go down. So, yeah, we’re going to do a good job of staying together. We’ve got a good coaching staff and good players, so we’re going to stay together, try to fight this out and get back strong.”

Seeing Barea go down with 7:37 remaining in Wednesday’s game, the Mavericks would begin to run out of steam after a valiant comeback in the second half. Still, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, there are positives that the team can carry forward in order to bounce back at home.

Trailing 39-31 at the halftime intermission, the Mavericks were outshot by the Celtics from the field through two quarters, 39.5 percent to 31.1 percent. The Celtics also held a 33-20 rebounding advantage, overcoming their nine turnovers in the first half with a dominance on the glass. Boston’s 43.4 percent shooting then just slightly bettered Dallas’ 41 percent at the other end to conclude the night, adding a 53-32 rebounding edge to overcome 19 turnovers. And after seeing his team battle against the odds to remain competitive, Carlisle says the Mavericks will have something to build on entering Friday night’s matchup against Memphis.

“Our level of force, I think, was better in the second half. Our defense was better, which got us into some transition situations. And Barnes carried a big load for us offensively in the second half,” Carlisle confessed. “I really loved our fight, particularly in the second half, and we’ve just got to stay with it.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Friday, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Devin Harris (right great toe sprain) — out

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out

Deron Williams (left calf strain) — questionable

Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness) — questionable

With their veteran leaders out, Mavs’ young contributors gained valuable experience at Golden State

Practice Report: Harrison Barnes

Mavs F Harrison Barnes dishes on his game against the Warriors, being the focal point of the offense and more.

DALLAS — Albeit in a 116-95 lopsided loss to conclude a difficult back-to-back on the West Coast, the Dallas Mavericks’ young contributors gained valuable experience in a hostile environment Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.

Taking the floor without 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness), starting point guard Deron Williams (left calf strain) and veteran reserve Devin Harris (right great toe sprain), the Mavericks (2-6) tried to carry over the momentum of Tuesday’s 109-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to begin their daunting road trip. However, after undersized guard J.J. Barea, swingman Wesley Matthews and starting center Andrew Bogut all logged at least 29 minutes in Tuesday’s victory, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle opted to give the veterans a scheduled rest the following night against the reigning Western Conference champions. And although the Mavs didn’t have enough firepower at their disposal to keep pace with the Warriors on Golden State’s home floor, Carlisle says the team’s youth movement gained experience that could prove beneficial down the line.

“In the first half, we were all disappointed. The second half was 100 percent better,” Carlisle confessed. “I think we got off to a 24-8 start, and we ended up winning the half by 10. A team like Golden State that has the stars and has a loud building, these guys have got to experience what that’s like at the beginning of a game. You can’t duplicate the experience that they got, but it was painful in the first half.”

Surrendering 14 three-pointers to the Warriors in the first half on 20 attempts from behind the arc, the Dallas defense allowed 66.7 percent shooting from the floor through the first two quarters. Golden State also held a 23-21 rebounding edge in the half, overcoming seven turnovers to lead by as many as 33 before taking a 67-36 advantage into the intermission.

The Warriors then finished the game outshooting the Mavericks, 58.1 percent to 39.5 percent, overcoming a 42-39 rebounding disadvantage and their 15 turnovers. But after the young Mavs outscored the Warriors in the second half, 59-49, new addition Harrison Barnes and second-year standout Justin Anderson say there was plenty of positives that the team can build on going forward.

“In the first half, it was kind of like a deer in headlights. It was kind of like the scouting report went out the window,” the 24-year-old Barnes admitted after scoring 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in the loss. “We were just out there playing. But I think, once guys settled in, we did a much better job.”

“It was settling down and toughening up,” Anderson added after scoring 16 points, grabbing eight boards and dishing seven assists. “You know, we started getting to the rim, crashing more, getting rebounds and being aggressive. … We kind of put that together in the second half. The first half was more about trying to feel our way into it. And against a team like this, you really can’t feel your way into things.”

Taking the floor with a starting lineup of Barnes, Anderson, point guard Seth Curry, undrafted rookie Dorian Finney-Smith and third-year big man Dwight Powell, the Mavericks sent out a first unit with all five players 26 years old and under. All told, the Mavs played nine players 30 years and under during Wednesday’s loss, giving Carlisle a chance to evaluate his young core. However, with the Mavs hoping to be at full strength Monday night in New York to begin a road trip on the East Coast against the Knicks (3-4), Carlisle admits that he looks forward to having his proven veterans back in the lineup.

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle shares a team health update and looks ahead to the upcoming road trip.

“These guys are getting valuable experience,” Carlisle said of his young contributors. “Right now, the story is we’ve got to get our veteran guys healthy and get our team back together, and then get our formula right. That’s where we are. And right now, the realities of our situation are dictating who’s playing.

“I think we need to transition the team young. That’s a fact,” the coach added. “I think we all know that. And so, you know, we’ve worked hard to get this roster of younger guys together. They’ve all earned their way on the team, and so we work tirelessly with them. You know, they’ve produced in situations where needed, but first-year guys seldom hold up on an every-night basis. That’s just a fact in this league. But right now, they’re helping us bridge this difficult situation with injuries.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return home before traveling to the Big Apple to begin a two-game road trip on the East Coast, matching up against the New York Knicks next Monday night. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center next Friday, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Devin Harris (right great toe sprain) — out

Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness) — out

Deron Williams (left calf strain) — out