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Previewing Preseason Game 1: Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks

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The summer's hottest war of words takes to the court on Tuesday.

Hey...wanna come play for us next year?
Hey...wanna come play for us next year?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Is there any history between the Rockets and the Mavericks?

Hahahahaha!

In case you've been hiding under a rock, these two teams have become perhaps the NBA's most visible hot new rivalry (save for Cleveland/Miami) after Dwight Howard chose Houston over Dallas followed by Chandler Parsons heading the opposite direction and an ensuing barbfest from Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey, which has had no shortage of coverage.

  • My recent take on the irony of Morey's comments is here.
  • Our own Kate Crawford does a nice job explaining why Morey is wrong about chemistry and analyticshere.
  • And the Mavs Moneyball roundtable addresses this hot-button topic.
  • And finally, the lighter side...a more appropriate take (meaning, not serious) via Grantland on how things will progress.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program:  basketball.

Does this game mean more than your typical preseason opener?

Well, kinda. Under normal circumstances this would be just your typical semi-meaningless scrimmage against a division rival. Because of the summer's festivities mentioned above it appears to mean a bit more. That's probably overstated as the Howard and Chandler deals are over and done and the rest is just theater. Now it's time to get to the actual game of basketball and the preseason is for getting everyone in sync, working out the kinks and making decisions on the final roster spots.

However, while the real battles won't begin until the regular season, let's not forget this is the first chance for many of these uncomfortable moments to present themselves. Howard has already been a Rocket for a year so facing the Mavericks is nothing new. And besides, the Mavs aren't the only team he rejected...he got a lot more boos when he visited Los Angeles. However, it will be the first time Chandler Parsons plays his old team and on the Mavs' side, who has been looking forward to seeing Jason Terry in a Rockets uniform? #awkward

And let's not forget Josh Powell began his NBA career with the Mavericks...okay, never mind.

What can we look for that's meaningful?

Dallas has 15 players under contract and that means the guys in training camp who don't have guaranteed deals are a long shot to make the team.

Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel are two players who are under contract but need more time to develop. How they perform in training camp and the preseason will surely help determine what happens next. Ledo is very young and clearly has skills that are likely to develop over time, so another year with the Texas Legends doesn't seem unreasonable. Mekel is a little older and coming into a point guard-heavy team in a point-guard heavy league. He spent most of last year injured and the general consensus seems to be that he seems to have the tools but needs to develop. Will he get the chance in Dallas?

It's uncertain how much Ledo and Mekel or any of the rest of the training camp attendees (Eric GriffinIvan JohnsonDoron Lamb and Charlie Villanueva) will get to play. The Mavs may be short on elite superstars but they are very long on solid, capable veterans. It may be that a viable dark horse may be the one who can provide something lacking in the rest of the roster; for example Charlie Villanueva would provide the only true stretch 4 backing up Dirk...if he still has the goods. Troy Murphy was the only recent attempt to have such a player and that didn't work out. But if Rick Carlisle would like someone to fill that sort of role, Villanueva might be the guy. Additionally, with Jose Calderon and Vince Carter gone, three point shooting will potentially be an additional need from guys like Villanueva and Doron Lamb if it seems that Jameer NelsonRichard Jefferson and Chandler Parsons aren't enough.

What else is important in the preseason that is specific to the Mavs?

For a good look at the Rockets, check out Josh Bowe's analysis in our first rundown of division rivals.

For the Mavs, with another season of heavy roster turnover, the starting five has been largely predetermined save for point guard. Rick Carlisle has only recently expressed he favors Jameer Nelson as the starter while bringing Devin Harris off the bench. Carlisle seems to appreciate Nelson's grittiness and leadership capabilities and how that flows with the Dallas offense will determine how much of a role Harris and Raymond Felton will garner. Carlisle has also praised the tandem of Harris and Brandan Wright pacing the second unit.

It's also an important time to experiment with Jae Crowder and see if his offense will catch up with his defense, or if we'll see Harris spending more time at off guard to provide that type of play.  

Overall, the Mavs are poised to be very strong with a number of variations to give Rick Carlisle a diverse set of options and the team basketball IQ is off the charts. It's going to be an exciting season and what better way to begin than with the our newest best enemies, the Houston Rockets.