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The Good and the Bad: making sense of the first week of Mavericks basketball

From first half troubles to leadership councils, we’re surveying the takeaways from the first week of Mavericks basketball.

Dallas Mavericks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Editor’s note: this was turned in prior to the Thursday night game against the Spurs

Once a season kicks off, it can be difficult to keep up. Even with a more traditional schedule this season, every day brings nonstop NBA news, and we often miss the details that make a season unique.

This is The Good and the Bad: a look at the little (and sometimes big) things that make up a Mavericks season. Just like last season, every couple weeks we’ll dive into the things that jumped out and made us cheer, scream, laugh, and cry.

GOOD: Team joy

The offseason was a mess. A playoff exit after an embarrassing Game 7, The Athletic’s bombshell article detailing front office dysfunction, a GM firing, a coaching exit... you know the drill.

As if that weren’t enough, it’s been odd to see people in the Mavericks organization, and on the periphery of it, feel so comfortable placing blame for the previous bad vibes on former head coach Rick Carlisle, a coach who helped lead the franchise to its only title and was beloved by both Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki.

But I get it; Carlisle was always clearly hard to play for. He was nearly perpetually frowning and clashed with players — including, evidently, Luka Doncic. It was time for a change, no doubt, and it’s great to see the team enjoying being around each other and playing together. Whether that’s because of life without Carlisle or not, it will pay off in the long run.

BAD: Team spacing

There are always growing pains when a new coaching staff tries to change the structure of an offense, especially when most of that team has been playing together in a different system for some time. The first few games of the season have featured weird spacing issues and obvious confusion about who is supposed to be where.

This play from Tuesday isn’t even the best example of the issues, so I’m sorry Josh Green that you have to catch part of this stray, but what is happening here?! The idea of the set — Porzingis showing a pin down for Bullock, only for Bullock to set the screen for Porzingis so he can flash to the top of the key — isn’t bad. And even though it’s sloppily executed, it gets KP the space to operate.

BUT. Maxi Kleber is looking to fill to the top of the key while Porzingis is still there, as Reggie Bullock looks to space at the opposite break at the EXACT SAME TIME Green also moves to the break? And because Green can’t stand still, he cuts to the lane, where Porzingis has decided to drive, allowing four defenders to camp near the lane as Porzingis fades.

This ain’t it.

GOOD: Leadership councils

Jason Kidd played all 15 active players before the end of the third quarter of the home opener in a game that was close for too long. After the game, Kidd said that decision was made after a request by the team’s Leadership Council™. The hall-of-fame-point-guard-turned-coach would not divulge details on the player trustees, perhaps forgetting that he had already given away the secret in a previous podcast interview.

So. The council (consisting of Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis) made the request that everyone gets to play in the home opener and Coach Cool™ said okay. And you know what? I think that’s great. I think it’s fine. People losing their minds need to relax.

Does a Leadership Council sound like something fit for The Skulls (2000) instead of The Dallas Mavericks (2021)? Yes. But let’s have fun. Let’s get weird with it. Folks, we’re not even a year out from this team awarding a plastic wrestling belt for good defense.

GOOD: Flashes from the bench

Anyone who isn’t intrigued by end-of-bench players Moses Brown and Frank Ntilikina have never had fun and don’t believe in dreams. Thanks to the LC (above) both Brown and the French Prince made an appearance in Tuesday’s game, and let me tell you, outside of Reggie Bullock’s play, these two provided what might have been the most exciting three minutes of the game.

Brown HUSTLES. There isn’t a ton of tape of him with the Mavericks (yet), but there is zero doubt that he is putting in effort on the floor — and from the reporting, in practice as well. It may be chaotic at times, and he may have minimal offensive weapons, but Brown has something intangible. And Ntilikina’s dime is pretty slick, too. So was this. Give me more of the prince, give me more of Brown’s active hands and full court gallop.