Optimism was in the air as Media Day took place at the American Airlines Center on Monday. The consistent theme that was discussed over the course of the day was the true value of the overall depth for the Mavericks.
The three keys that Rick Carlisle mentioned in terms of making this team different from last year:
-Focus on better consistency on the defensive end
-Protect the homecourt advantage
-Maximize their depth
Finishing inside the top 10 in terms of defensive statistics is a goal that has been set by the head coach. The Mavericks finished last season with 28 wins at the American Airlines Center. In order to be an elite team, Carlisle suggested that they need to win, "30-31-32 games plus." The main mantra for Carlisle that he really stressed during his press conference was, ""depth has to be one of the things that really defines us." Instead of being a team that was 8-9 players deep, Carlisle believes it is necessary for this team to be 9-10 players deep.
He did not hold back when asked about dealing with the challenge to work everyone in, "I don't care if guys are happy or unhappy about their minutes...It's not going to be about role definition, it's going to be about role acceptance." No matter who is starting or coming off the bench, the head coach believes firmly in the bench, "we're going to have 4-5 asskickers coming off the bench."
One of the newest members to the team that will be challenging for minutes is Dominique Jones. When I asked about the rookie Carlisle said, "He's a different kind of player than we have. He's a bigger, stronger, rugged scoring guard that is great off the dribble." He continued breaking down what he sees in Dominique, 'the fact that he's physical on both ends of the court will definitely keep him in the running to compete for minutes." It's going to be interesting to see how much time, if any, Jones will see action. The preseason action could go a long way to determine where Jones fits in the rotation.
Tyson Chandler was another new addition to the roster during the offseason. The big man commented on how the Team USA experience this summer was very critical to him and testing his health, "to be able to move with those guys and do it consistently really proved to me that I was back where I wanted to be." He also noted that the situation over the summer in which there was a sense of coming together and serving for the common goal could relate very well to the Mavericks. Chandler's stance on the situation, "if we all come together and we're all in it to win the championship, it doesn't matter what you play in there because you'll have a role in there."
All of the reports coming out for Roddy Beaubois seem to indicate that he is progressing well. He's out of his walking boot and back in sneakers. As of right now, there haven't been any setbacks and he is doing some spot shooting. He isn't doing any real running or jump-shooting just yet. Everyone is still hopeful that he won't miss any time when the games really count. Dirk gave a definitive response on the guard, "the future is in Roddy's hands." The question seems to be when does the future becomes the present? Jason Kidd suggested that Beaubois will come off the bench for most of all of the year. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Dirk can see Roddy's value, "he's that kind of guy that nobody can predict. That unpredictability he brings to the game is what we need." That unpredictability can go a long way with the thought that there have been a lot of times where the offense can get very stale. A steady dose of Beaubois could go a long way in creating havoc for opposing defenders.
Last season it was documented that Jason Kidd served as a mentor to Roddy Beaubois. It appears he has a new teacher, Jason Terry. "Roddy will be my shadow. He's going to follow me to the weight room, to the workout, to the you-name-it, to the hotel, to the bus. He's going to be my shadow," Terry said. "I'm going to have him so ready to do his job. He's going to be sick of me in the end." Does this mean the point guard experiment is over: No. Terry's knowledge as a "tweener" guard will be helpful for Beaubois. With all of the news of the rotation being in flux, this is another example Jason Terry has shown that he's a solid teammate and will do whatever it takes to help this team reach it's goal.
Many people in the organization believe that this team should be an elite team when it comes to the rebounding department. Statistically, they were in the bottom half of the league in the rebounding department. Adding Chandler's size with Haywood, Marion and Dirk have many believing that the Mavericks should be one of the better rebounding teams in the league, if not the best.
Competition for minutes will be something to watch over the course of the year. Kidd mentioned with a sly grin that he would openly volunteer to have his minutes cut to help out the team. He did comment that the depth and versatility that is at Carlisle's disposal is very exciting, "coach has so many different ways he can go and that's the beauty of this team." Kidd continued to comment on the versatility and how it will be a fun aspect for him as a veteran player, "you can sometimes lose focus, but with different lineups you gotta stay focused."
The competition should help this team out over the long haul as long as egos aren't bruised. I would expect that this training camp will be the most competitive ones in recent history for the Mavericks. Outside of Dirk at the power forward and Kidd at the point guard, all of the players know that nothing is set in stone.
Dirk believes Chandler could be an excellent role player, "he (Chandler) is a longer version of Eddie (Najera). He can really run the floor. If he can get us 2-3 layups or dunks in transition I think that already makes the game easier for us."
Dirk also commented that he went roughly three and a half months without touching a basketball over the summer. When asked about free agency, he mentioned that he weighed his options due to it really being the last big contract but his heart was in Dallas and, "it wouldn't feel right to put another jersey on."
This team truly believes in chemistry. Multiple players commented that the vibe of the team last year was very solid and that it is a rarity to have most or all of the players upbeat and providing a positive atmosphere to the team. That solid foundation should be able to help with any possible issues dealing with lack of minutes for certain players. The focus on the preseason and the early part of the year will just be working on adding the new parts to the mix and making sure everyone can continue to coexist and flourish.
The overall consensus I got out of the day is that many, if not all, of the players believe they really aren't that far away from getting the title. It's all in the little things and tweaks along the way that could really make the difference for the Mavericks.
"We know we have a good team here, what we want to be is a special team," Carlisle said. Basketball is back in the Metroplex, it's time to see if something special is in the air.