“We have to keep building, we have to get better, we have to get one percent better every day, every practice,” Porzingis told Mavs.com. “In practice and every game, we’ve got to go hard, we’ve got to keep building a culture inside the team and we’ve got to keep building an identity that we’re going to have throughout this year and going forward.
“That’s got to be one of the things for us, and (we have to) stick to that once we get going. Iron sharpens iron, as I say.”
Guard Courtney Lee chimed in with his own personal recipe for whipping up a route for the Mavs to the playoffs.
“Just by approaching things a day at a time, game-by-game, and making sure that we win the games that we’re supposed to win,” Lee said. “That’s the most important part.
“When you have those games scheduled and you let them slip away, those are the ones that come back to haunt you toward the end. So, making sure we can control what we can control for the most part, but definitely getting those games that we’re supposed to win. If you go 50-50 against the good teams and you beat all the bad teams, you’re a playoff team for sure.”
The Mavs’ quest for entry into the playoffs starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center when they open the regular season against the Washington Wizards.
Playoff enthusiasm is high around the Mavs’ camp and around the city as Porzingis is joining forces with point guard Luka Doncic, thus giving the Mavs a one-two punch that they hope can rival any in the NBA.
Doncic, 20, was last season’s runaway Rookie of the Year winner after bursting onto the scene from Slovenia and averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game. Doncic played as though he had been around the NBA circuit for four or five years.
Meanwhile, the 24-year old Porzingis will be playing his first regular season game since he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 6, 2018 game against the Milwaukee Bucks while he was a member of the New York Knicks. Before that devastating injury, Porzingis averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and an NBA-high 2.4 blocks per game and was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
A knee surgery, a trade and some 20 months later, the Mavs are hoping Porzingis can regain his stellar All-Star status. In the meantime, the Mavs are pointing to their defensive tenacity as a primary weapon needed to get to the postseason.
“Offensively we’ve got enough guys that’ll be able to score,” forward Justin Jackson said. “But defensively we just need to be a little tighter and be one unit whenever we’re out there on the court.
“When we’re on the court we have to be able to help each other, trust each other.”
Said Doncic: “It always starts with the defense. Everybody together fighting for every ball. And that’s our goal.”
Guard Jalen Brunson used a golf analogy in his description of laying out the road to the playoffs for the Mavs. In essence, Brunson acknowledged that having a short-term memory and forgetting about a tough loss and moving on to the next game is paramount to earning a playoff spot.
“We may have bad nights, but we’ve got to pick it up the night after,” Brunson said. “We can’t let bad nights turn into bad weeks or months.
“I think that’s the most important key for us is just staying consistent and having each other’s back. We’ve got to stick together for the full 82 (regular season games). It’s a long season.”
Continuity is also a buzzword that’s been thrown around training camp when describing the Mavs. Bonding with the new players – Delon Wright, Boban Marjanovic, Isaiah Roby and Porzingis – is a must when the stakes are as high as reaching the playoffs in the ultra-tough Western Conference.
“Continuity makes the season-to-season transition easier and smoother,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve had a lot of teams over the last seven or eight years that have been with a bunch of new guys, so we’ve been down this road before. It’s exciting in a certain way, but there are a lot of adjustments to make as you go.
“We are younger than we’ve been, really, from top to bottom, so that presents some challenges just because younger guys require more patience. But we’ve got a good group, they’ve had a good camp, and they are doing a lot of things together on the court and off the court, which is great.”
And for the Mavs’ fans who have been missing out on the glory and prestige that comes when their favorite team qualifies for the playoffs, Jackson had a comforting message.
“We appreciate all their support that they’ve given, even over the years when we haven’t made it to the playoffs,” he said. “But that’s our goal.
“We’re working for that each and every day. With their support and with all the work that we’ve put in, hopefully that’s what we’ll reach.”