LOS ANGELES -- Last night, playing their second game in as many days, the Mavericks were missing three starters. They were playing against the Clippers, their free agency rivals of this past summer. What a surprise, then, to see the likes of Dwight Powell and Raymond Felton and Jeremy Evans alongside Dirk, keeping things close for two and a half quarters before the expected blowout finally happened.
What is different about this Mavs team that allowed the preseason Mavs' squad to hang with the likes of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul so well for so long? The answer may be as simple as chemistry.
"I like our chemistry, I really like the vibe that the team has," head coach Rick Carlisle said when asked about the most encouraging thing about the team after two games. "They like each other, they help each other. I think we know who we are. And it's early to understand that. But we know we're a team that's dependent on one another."
As MMB's Tim Cato wrote the other day, Carlisle has certainly had his share of rebuilt rosters to shape and mold over the past several seasons, so he knows a little about what it takes to get guys to work together -- and what doesn't work. Before the
Rajon Rondo Dwight Powell trade last season, the Mavs' identity was also obvious early on. They were never going to beat you on defense, but DAMN, were they fun to watch. Carlisle even seemed to obliquely reference the end of last season as he continued: "[this team] understands that collectively is the only way we're going to get it done."
Dirk Nowitzki backed up his coach's statement in his own postgame comments: "Once we're all healthy, we can be a dangerous team. We've got a bunch of veterans that've been around 10-plus years, want to play with each other, want to win and want to compete." Of course, lots of players and coaches use platitudes like this, but both Carlisle and Nowitzki seemed genuinely happy to be able to talk about how much they like the composition and fit of the guys on their squad.
And after 18 years in the league, Dirk knows how this revolving door tends to work. "I've probably played with 1,000 teammates ... [y]ou learn in this game it's about business." But as he described how it felt to be out there again, you got a sense of pride and hope that you didn't get with last year's team.
"Honestly, we've only been together for a short amount of time, but I love the chemistry of the team," he said. "We're playing well off each other and we can only get better from here."
Chemistry may be a word lots of teams play lip service to, but the postgame comments after a bad road loss in the second game of the season were remarkably encouraging for a team that understands its best days are still ahead of them. We've already seen a glimpse of what the Mavs can do shorthanded, hanging well with the Clippers for those two-plus quarters. Parsons and Matthews, at least, should be back on Sunday, and we'll perhaps start to see if that chemistry can help them close out some games in a tough Western Conference.
Mavs players have moved on from DeAndre
Despite their owner's brash comments about the summer's free agency fiasco involving DeAndre Jordan, both Carlisle and Dirk brushed off any questions about it. Dirk, asked about whether he and Jordan had any contact since then: "we texted right after, and he made it sound like his mind was still open, and once he changed it I didn't hear back anymore. We were disappointed, but we had to move on as a franchise, and that's what we did."
Deron Williams' status uncertain for Sunday
Per Rick Carlisle, Deron Williams' status for Sunday's game against the Lakers is not yet known. "We don't think it's serious. The hope is we can get him going, but I don't have a timetable; it could be quick, or it could be a little. We'll just have to see."
Williams sustained what is now being called a left knee sprain (upgraded from a left knee contusion) in the season opener against Phoenix.