Basketball in October. Real basketball in mid-October. I’m still processing the schedule change. I’m honestly not ready.
The NBA is stretching out the 82 regular season games over two more weeks, resulting in fewer back to backs and no four games in five night stretches. Instead of one or two games in October, the Mavericks now have eight games.
Of those games, five at home with three games on the road. Along those same lines, five of the opponents are from the West with three from the East. There’s also two back to backs somehow; I thought the goal of stretching out the season was to limit these? Given the quality of opponents, Dallas could be up to a rough start.
Each game will get a difficulty level: EASY, NORMAL, HARD and (rarely) VERY HARD. Given the quality of the West, it’s important to understand that I don’t think the Mavericks are going to do very well this year. But, since it’s the start of the season, I’m taking guesses based on available information.
Wednesday, Oct. 18th vs Atlanta Hawks - Medium - The Hawks are in a period of transition, which is a polite way of saying they should be very bad. The Dennis on Dennis match up (Smith vs. Schroder) should be fun and rookie John Collins is the kind of athletic forward that’s caused Dallas problems in the past. But the Mavericks have more experience and Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle, so in a home game, I expect Dallas to win.
Friday, Oct. 20th vs Sacramento Kings - Medium - Will Rick Carlisle actually start Dirk at center against a team with front court players like Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Skal Labissiere? The front court match-ups do not favor Dallas, even if the Mavericks play a more traditional line up. The Kings may well crush the Mavericks on the boards. Seeing how Dennis Smith does against George Hill and De’Aaron Fox should be interesting as well. The Kings are going to be better than people think this year. This might be the first Maverick loss of the season.
Saturday, Oct. 21st at Houston Rockets - Hard - Just how good are the Rockets? With the addition of Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute, the Rockets have talent and depth to challenge everyone in the West. It’s the first road game for Dallas against a team with a championship level roster (don’t forget James Harden). Though the Mavericks can get feisty with the Rockets, this is a probable loss for Dallas.
Monday, Oct. 23rd vs Golden State - Very Hard - The Warriors in the fourth game of the season? That’s mean, NBA. At least it’s not on the back end of a back-to-back? I’ll be interested to see how the Mavericks play following Houston, win or loss. Dallas doesn’t have the horses to run with the Warriors, but who does? I suspect the Mavericks try to control the pace as best they can and hope to catch Golden State on an off night.
Wednesday, Oct. 25th vs Memphis Grizzlies - Hard - If Dallas actually sticks with it’s small ball starting lineup through four games I’ll be surprised. If Carlisle rolls with it against the Grizzlies I’ll be shocked. Dirk, as great as he is, gets roasted by Marc Gasol these days. Apparently, Chandler Parsons is going to be playing too, which will be interesting at a minimum. I question Memphis’ depth, but this game should be a good challenge for Dallas.
Thursday, Oct. 26th at Memphis Grizzlies - Hard - Home and home series are rough. Home and home back to backs are worse. These two games are probably a split.
Saturday, Oct. 28th vs Philadelphia 76ers - Medium - The Sixers will never make sense. They have a huge amount of talent but do the pieces fit? Philadelphia may well put the pieces together next season, but this game is early enough that Dallas should give them a fight. The Nerlens Noel-Joel Embiid match up should be one for the ages, if Embiid actually plays.
Monday, Oct. 30th at Utah Jazz - Hard - The Jazz have given the Mavericks problems for years. Despite the departure of Gordon Hayward, Utah is still stacked with talent with something to prove. All-Universe center Rudy Gobert patrols the paint and newcomer Ricky Rubio should have their offense looking interesting at minimum. Dallas would be lucky to get out of Utah with a win.
Eight games and the Dallas Mavericks will be lucky to get out of the month at .500. It’s not that I’m negative about the Mavericks as much as I’m positive about the strength of the Western Conference. But .500 is a good goal for a team like the Mavericks. Maybe they’ll surprise me.
I’m ready for Dirk Nowitzki, Dennis Smith, three guard lineups, Mark Followill, Skin Wade, and Texas commercials. Let’s do this.