What happens when a young team, with essentially complete continuity to last year, plays an old team with a bunch of new faces to work in? We’ll find out Sunday. It’s at least reasonably likely it won’t look good.
Yes, I’m predicting a slow start to the season. But I’m not entirely sure it matters.
You're going to see a lot of people banging the drum over the coming weeks about the idea that, in a 66 game season, teams had better get it together in a hurry. That’s not entirely untrue, but it’s not because of the length of the season. Last year, the distance between the #1 seed (Spurs) and the #8 seed (Grizz) was 15 games. I reckon the Mavs aren’t going to struggle quite that long. The season is a lot shorter in time, but it's only a little shorter in games.
However, the scheduling requirements of a short season do mean the West is going to play a lot of West teams and the East is going to play a lot of East teams, which means that while your Miami Heat are going to be playing an endless series of nauseating ghosts of teams (your Raptors, your Wizards, your Lopez-less Nets and the like), your Mavs are going to be looking at the Thunder or the Lakers or the new-look Clips or whatever every week. There won’t be easy sections of the schedule to cruise through, and even when there are, it'll probably involve a back-to-back-to-back--the kind of thing guaranteed to make Jason Kidd's 38 -year-old back sore.
The point is, there may not be all that much wiggle room after all. But your Mavs will almost certainly make the playoffs and, frankly, that’s all they need. A lot is made about home court advantage or seeding, or whatever, but none of that applies to the Mavs. The Mavs don’t care about the road. They were 29-12 at home, 28-13 on the road last year. They played the Lakers on the road in the playoffs,a nd the Heat as well.
Non-issue, non-issue, non-issue.
But the long and short of it is this. It’s not, exactly, when the Mavs gel, it’s how they do it.
When you look around the West, it is possible to say with certainty that only two teams are SCARIER than they were a year ago, and that’s the Clips (by a lot) and the Thunder (by a little). Just so we’re clear though, despite how totally sick the Clips starting lineup is (Paul, Billups, Butler, Griffin, Jordan is one of the best out there), Eric Bledsoe is so far the best thing on their bench it’s hardly worth talking about. ‘Cept for all my Trey Tompkins fans out there.
The Lakers are less scary than they were. Denver is scarier than they were at the end of the season, but not as scary as they were when they had Carmelo (despite their surprisingly buoyant play without him).
The Grizzlies are scarier, with the re-introduction of Rudy Gay, so long as Zach Randolph is just as good this year. The Trailblazers didn’t get any better. It would take a minor miracle for the Hornets to make the playoffs again. San Antonio is a year longer in the tooth. And so on.
The West remains wide open, and that’s even if the Mavs start slow. When your goal is the championship, you have to beat the best. If you can beat the best, it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or on the road, or if you started out the sixth seed...
So let’s just say, if it takes our boys some time to figure out, it ain’t going to matter if what they figure out is good. This may take some time, but the important thing is, it certainly has every possibility of BEING good. Even very good.
Your championship defense begins now. Let's go get 'em!