By the time the Dallas Mavericks retake the floor on July 30, over four and a half months will have passed since they last played official NBA basketball. At the time, the goal was simple: play well enough to hold on to the seventh spot and maybe get lucky enough over the final 15 games to perhaps jump into the mix of teams ahead of Dallas in the 4-5-6 seeds.
At the time, that seemed like a bit of a pipe dream considering how banged up the Mavericks were. Injuries are a part of every NBA season and were a key reason why Dallas rarely played better than .500 basketball following their hot start to the year. As we work our way into regular basketball reading shape, let’s look at where the roster sits now compared to their injuries during the season.
Out for the year
Unfortunately, three Mavericks will not play a moment in Orlando following injuries which ended their seasons.
Dwight Powell went down with a torn Achilles tendon on January 21 versus the Clippers. His injury threw quite the wrench into the Dallas big man rotation, resulting in the eventual decision to cut Ryan Broekhoff and sign Willie Cauley-Stein (who is also missing Orlando for the birth of a child).
Jalen Brunson suffered a labrum injury in his right shoulder versus the Atlanta Hawks a month later on February 22 when Dwayne Dedmon took a cheap shot against him on an early drive in the opening moments of the game. Brunson initially made the decision to gut out the remainder of the year, but when the NBA went on hiatus on March 11, he and the team quickly made the decision to undergo surgery.
Courtney Lee underwent surgery for a calf injury at some point during the stoppage in play. The nature of the injury and specific details of the surgery are unknown at this point, though he will be joining the team in Orlando according to Marc Stein.
Superstar Injury watch
Both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis were bit by the injury bug repeatedly during the 2019-20 season. Doncic missed 11 games due to injury concerns or rest and Porzingis missed 14.
Porzingis came into the season after an extended period away from basketball following a 2018 ACL tear. Dallas was incredibly cautious with Porzingis early on, not playing him in back-to-backs to start the season. During a game on December 29 versus the Lakers he experienced some discomfort in his knee following the game and he would not play again until January 21, the same game Dwight Powell tore his Achilles. He did receive a platlet-rich-plasma injection at some point in early January of 2020. He also broke his nose in a game against Memphis in early February.
Doncic suffered a nasty looking ankle sprain in the opening moments of a game against the Miami Heat in mid-December. He returned after missing five games, then managed to resprain the same ankle in practice in late January. Doncic returned to action just before the All-Star break. On a February 28 game against the Heat, Luka injured his left thumb on a drive to the basket. That injury would bother him right up until the NBA halted the season.
In an interview with The Athletic, Doncic’s trainer noted the time off has allowed them to work on the areas causing Luka pain:
The time without games and without the hits he’s receiving (from) the games, for sure, it’s helped him. This was one of the parts of our work, actually, we put a lot of focus on it; on his ankle, on his thumb and on his wrist, also. He had a problem with his wrist when he came back. He still felt the pain in all of those three parts of his body. He felt pain in the wrist, thumb and ankle. He could not work properly, so we focused a lot on this.
A pain-free Luka Doncic paired with a rested Kristaps Porzingis should wreak havoc in Orlando.
The rest of the crew
The remainder of the Mavericks dealt with an assortment of issues which result with large athletic people play a contact sport which requires a great deal of cutting, jumping, and precision.
Seth Curry is a regular injury concern given his history, heck, and hurt his ankle in the final game against the Nuggets (which I had forgotten about entirely). This season he dealt with ankle injuries as well as a knee injury to start the season. The rest likely did him a great deal of good though he’d turned on the heat from beyond the arc in 2020.
Maxi Kleber dealt with recurring soreness as a result of a knee contusion, but like Curry the time to heal should be vital. The Mavericks need a healthy Kleber if they have any expectations of a run before or during the playoffs.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was one of the most consistent Mavericks health-wise all season, though he did have a hamstring scare (also in a game against the Lakers) but managed to miss only a few games.
Dorian Finney-Smith, much like Kleber and Curry, used the rest well as he’d been dealing with a hip contusion since early March.
In an unprecedented season, there’s no way to predict what comes next. For the Mavericks, injuries to a significant portion of the roster seems to undercut the hope for a playoff run because depth matters. And yet, their two best players are finally healthy for the first time together since the game against the Detroit Pistons in Mexico City.
Health will matter in Orlando, but there’s plenty of reason for confidence over the next month as we head towards the end of the regular season and playoffs.