Basketball is underway inside the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Dallas Mavericks held their first of 17 scheduled practices Friday evening in a converted ballroom. While the setting of the practice court—and in general—isn’t normal, the players and coaches are settling into a routine as they prepare for the season’s restart.
Dallas’ first practice can be described as effort to get the players’ bodies reacquainted to the game after such a long hiatus. As Seth Curry put it, they were “just getting our legs back under us.” That won’t last long, though, as the level of intensity will increase in the coming days.
“We’re calling this a ramp-up,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re starting from day-one. We’ve carefully planned the first three days. Part of this is taking a gauge to where our guys are physically. We got through this practice with no issues. A lot of it is getting back to doing movements that are NBA on-court movements.”
The players participated in individual workouts for almost two months leading up to the team’s departure for Orlando. They were not mandatory, but the players took it upon themselves to get back in the gym and get some work done. For some players, this was the first real opportunity to get in full training sessions.
“I would say I’m in decent shape,” Maxi Kleber said. “Our training staff did a great job of bringing us back to a level where we can start to compete five-on-five in practice. So, I feel very confident about that.”
During quarantine, Kleber couldn’t get in all the work he hoped because of his apartment living situation. However, he did find a hoop that he could shoot around on in the backyard, he says.
While it’s “kind of weird to be in a ballroom,” Kleber said, the conditions of the practice facilities are like what the player are used to. The only issue may be with the lighting.
“It’s not bad,” Curry said. “It’s like a practice gym really. It’s a little dark in some areas of the court, but other than that it’s like a type of practice gym. Once we’re on the court, it’s all about getting ready. It’s not too foreign or too different once you’re in between those lines.”
At the end of the day, the take away from the Mavericks’ first practice is that there was an extra bounce in everyone’s step. The players were ready to get back on the floor. They love the game and that’s why they’re willing participants in the NBA’s greatest experiment.
“It’s great to be back in the gym. Everybody misses the smell of the gym on a team basis. It’s one of the really special things about any sport,” Carlisle said. “We had a really great, productive practice. The level of enthusiasm is really terrific with our guys. They want to be back together on the floor, they worked extremely hard up until now. Things are real positive.”