Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and GM Donnie Nelson on NBA restart: “It’s not risk-free but there’s a level of excitement and optimism.”
In 30 days the NBA will resume play on its coronavirus-interrupted season. Until then, what seems like a million tiny steps must be taken. Wednesday was the first with mandatory workouts for the 22 teams going to Orlando. Many teams also held media availability, including the Dallas Mavericks.
Their Zoom session featured head coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson offering updates on the team, workouts, roster, state of mind and more heading into the NBA bubble.
“With today being the first day of mandatory workouts, it’s now official. This is certainly a new situation,” said Carlisle. “Never before have we gone through something like this in the NBA. Some people may look at with trepidation. I look at it with excitement.
“This is an amazing opportunity for us.”
The tone in the Mavs practice facility, Carlisle said, is very positive, great energy. The guys have been working extremely hard. Casey Smith (head trainer) and their staff have done a tremendous job of creating an environment that is not only safe and positive but one where our players have been able to get a lot of work done. Our players are excited.”
Nelson echoed Carlisle’s statement.
“This is something we never navigated before. It’s difficult and unprecedented. We are relying on the info we are getting from the league.
It’s not risk-free but there is an optimism and excitement about getting to Orlando and getting the Mavs machine revved up again,” Nelson said.
“There’s obviously a lot of fluidity with what we are in, in terms of things now and when we leave. It’s totally new territory,” Carlisle said. “There are new questions asked each day that aren’t in the 113-page memorandum but the league has remained very flexible and maintained a fluid approach.”
“The challenges are that these workouts are one-on-one workouts and up until today they have been voluntary,” Carlisle said. So players will have to get acclimated to playing together again.
“Participation has been tremendous top to bottom. We’ve had great participation with guys that are in town and we’ve been able to get everybody back in town which is great.”
“This is the kind of thing where you can look at all the variables, all the procedural things all the detailed aspects of it and look at it as a very daunting type of thing,” he said. “Or you can look at it as hopefully a once in a lifetime opportunity to go into a completely unique environment with a completely unique kind of opportunity.”
COVID testing, the bubble process
“We are testing every other day. We’ll get on the plane in a week and we’ll go down to a situation that no one’s ever been in before,” Carlisle said. “Again, I view it as a very positive thing and a very exciting opportunity and we will approach it that way.”
Despite their excitement to return to playing, the overall health of the Dallas Mavericks team is most important, Nelson said.
“Nothing is more important than staying COVID-free. Teams that stay healthy will have the best chance of going on a deep run and that is 100 percent the most important thing that our medical team is being meticulous about right now,” said Nelson.
Carlisle said they won’t begin team practice until around July 10th or 11th, “once we get down there, quarantine for a couple of days and clear testing.”
At that point, the team will have about 18 or 19 days from when they start to when the first game is played, Carlisle explained. There will also be two or three scrimmages with other teams, two or three days off then the games begin.
Inside the NBA bubble representing the Dallas Mavericks will be Keith Grant, longtime Mavs assistant GM, Nelson said. Donnie, Mark Cuban and Michael Finley will “come and go.”
Dallas Mavericks roster
“We are up against it in some ways. Three of our guys who have been very good players will be unavailable,” Carlisle said in reference to Dwight Powell coming off Achilles surgery, Jalen Brunson who had shoulder surgery 3 months ago and Courtney Lee, a recent addition to the Mavs disabled list.
Powell is on the floor “doing light shooting and agility work, jogging on the treadmill, Brunson is doing pretty much everything while working on strength and flexibility,” Carlisle said. All three will make the trip to Orlando.
Carlisle addressed Willie Cauley-Stein who has opted out of the bubble as he prepares to become a father. “We understand that and appreciate that he talked to us early about it and opened up an opportunity for us to sign Trey Burke,” Carlisle said.
“He was with us last year and played very well for us. He impressed a lot of people with his approach, how he could score the ball and improve defensively,” Carlisle said. “We are looking forward to having him back.”
Regarding the team’s depth chart, Carlisle acknowledged that after signing Trey Burke to replace Cauley-Stein, “we’re going to be a little small”. Dallas has three available payers who are taller than 6’7″.
Donnie Nelson’s projected Dallas Mavericks starting five as Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith and Kristaps Porzingis.
On signing Trey Burke versus another big: “We felt we had more of a need at backup 1, or 2, scoring off the bench role,” he said. “He knows our system, been with us, understands us and Rick trusts him.”
Said Carlisle: “We don’t mind adjustments and challenges. My 12 years so far has been a lot about trying to take adversities and turn them into positives. I’m looking forward to it.”
Absence of fans
Carlisle said he doesn’t think the quality of play or intensity in the game will be affected by the absence of fans.
“I don’t think it will affect intensity. This eight-game set is such as a short period of time, it will happen over two weeks,” Carlisle said. “All the teams are playing for something every single game.
We’ve just come off a three-month layoff where there’s been great anticipation about getting back on the floor so the quality of play in terms of shot-making, that may be a little challenging at the beginning but that’s it.
“As to how the environment will be without fans, my understanding is that there will be sounds, lights and thinks like that, Carlisle said. “I’m curious. I’m looking ahead with great anticipation to see exactly how this thing will play out.”