State of the Mavs: Mark Cuban
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explains why the team is poised to surprise a lot of people this season.
DALLAS — After suffering his first losing season during the 2016-17 NBA campaign since agreeing to purchase on Jan. 4, 2000, team owner Mark Cuban fully expects the squad to bounce back during the upcoming 82-game schedule.
Seeing 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki miss 25 of the team’s first 30 games last season due to a right Achilles strain, Cuban watched helplessly as the Mavericks got off to a slow start before rallying to finish the year with a 33-49 record. The owner now expects the Mavs to rely on their continuity to learn from those downfalls, returning 11 players from last year’s team. And while watching rookie first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. integrate himself into the fold during preseason play, Cuban says he expects Mavericks fans to fall in love with the team’s style of play this season.
“I mean, we’re super excited about the season,” Cuban said while addressing the Dallas media on Monday. “I mean, obviously, there’s continuity for the first time in a long time where guys had a chance to play together last year and become better. But now, going into the season versus last year, everybody has got a better understanding of their roles. Harrison (Barnes) didn’t know what to expect. Now, we know he can be our go-to guy, particularly. Dirk obviously is Dirk, and he’s going to get us buckets. You’ve got Yogi (Ferrell) more comfortable. You’ve got [Dorian Finney-Smith], you’ve got Wes (Matthews) and you’ve got Seth (Curry) more comfortable, and I think that’s going to pay off dividends. I think the key to this team isn’t our talent, but it’s our effort. If we are one of, if not the hardest-playing team in the NBA, we’re going to have a good year. If we don’t keep up that effort, then it will be more of a challenge for us. We’ve got young guys for the most part, other than grandpa [Nowitzki], and we’re going to be athletic, we’re going to be fast and we’re going to be intense. I think fans are going to love just a bunch of good, good guys with good hearts that love the game. I think chemistry is going to pay off for us, and we all want to see what Dennis can do. I mean, we’re all excited to see him.”
Hoping Nowitzki can return to an elite form during his 20th season with the franchise, Cuban also expects the Mavericks’ supporting cast to elevate its play this year. Meanwhile, the owner hopes Smith can slide into the lineup and immediately evaluate a Dallas team that ranked near the bottom of the NBA in every major offensive category.
Last season, the Mavericks ranked 30th in the league in scoring while posting just 97.9 points per game as a team. Dallas also dished out just 20.8 assists an outing as a team, ranking 27th in that department. Meanwhile, the Mavs played at the second-to-last slowest pace in the league. But according to Cuban, that figures to change this season with Smith at the point.
“I’m excited about this team. I really am. I think we’re young, energetic, athletic and exciting. And Dirk leading the way is always key,” Cuban proclaimed.
“I mean, seeing us go and watching Dennis, it’s funny. When guys come in the league for the first time and they play with Dirk, they watch some of the shots he makes in the game. You just see them smile and shake their head, and you’re seeing the same thing now with Dennis. You see it with Harrison,” he added. “You know, with Dennis, he’ll go up, and there will be an athletic 7-footer who’s a shot-blocker, and Dennis gets up higher. And I think the other thing that he hasn’t really harnessed it yet is Dennis is fast. I mean, he’s easily the fastest guy on the team, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s the fastest guy end line to end line in the NBA. So, I think once he learns to harness that speed, watching him get a rebound and go coast to coast, fans are going to be fired up.”
Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday for the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Hawks. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game 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.
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (rest) — out