The atmosphere around the Dallas Mavericks is notably lighter than in years past, and the players themselves aren’t shy about acknowledging as much. Whether it’s Tim Hardaway Jr, Kristaps Porzingis, or members of the media observing practice and other availabilities, everything points to more positivity and fun than with the previous coaching regime in Big D.
And that’s great. It’s good knowing the team feels looser and more jovial than before, and the fact that seemingly no one had any parting words or comments about Rick Carlisle upon his departure earlier this Summer spoke volumes about the general sentiment toward him. There’s no doubt change was needed. But fresh voice or not, adversity is inevitable over the course of the season and that is when we’ll learn about how much this team has truly changed.
Given Jason Kidd’s sordid past as a head coach, which was brought into less than a pleasant light by the new Giannis Antentokumpo biography a few months back, it’s safe to say the Mavs coach himself will be tested in this regard. It’s easy to see and acknowledge where you went wrong in the past. It’s harder to hold to those teachings when things get tough.
If it weren’t for Kidd’s alleged “psychological warfare” in Milwaukee, this may not feel like such a big deal, but consider his commitment to maximizing and restoring Kristaps Porzingis to All-Star-caliber for a moment. It’s been stated numerous times that when Porzingis is physically and mentally right, he’s a legitimate star. The problem is having both of those aspects in sync with one another. Should the team enter a difficult stretch, such as last season’s early struggles with health and safety protocols, Kidd’s patience and commitment to change might waiver. If that happens, it’ll be difficult for him to get the most out of his second star and thus help his team reach its potential.
If the team can ascend to new heights under Jason Kidd, it’ll likely be the result of him loosening his grip on control, allowing Luka to be Luka, and understanding how and when to get Porzingis the ball so that he can regain his former superstar form and lessen the scoring burden on Doncic. He’ll also aid in the development of young players like Josh Green and Moses Brown, helping them not only contribute as the season wears on but carve out valuable roles in the rotation.
In short, levity is great, but whether or not the team is better suited to handle the rigors of the year won’t be known until they encounter actual adversity. When they do, they’ll reveal their true nature.