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Mavericks vs Timberwolves Preview: 3 things to watch for as Dallas opens the preseason

Thursday’s preseason clash with Minnesota will be the first of three preseason games played outside the United States

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks will open their preseason schedule Thursday, taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves in sunny Abu Dhabi. It marks the beginning of a new era of Mavericks basketball.

Since the team made the conference finals in 2022, team executives have almost completely overhauled the team. Only five players from that team—Luka Dončić, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell—remain on the roster entering the 2023-2024 season.

The team made multiple additions this offseason that will take the court Thursday, including Seth Curry, who joins the Mavericks for the third time in his career. Grant Williams, Derrick Jones Jr, and the rookies Derick Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper promise to make Thursday’s games full of storylines and overreactions.

Here are three things to watch as the Mavericks start their international preseason road trip on Thursday.

Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving are back and ready to go

The all-star backcourt appeared in just 20 games last season after the Mavericks traded for Irving at the trade deadline. Now, with a full offseason together, the duo looks to take this team back to the playoffs this season.

In Irving’s media day interview, he said he and Dončić were sometimes too passive as a duo last season, and they felt pressured to answer questions about the team’s success while dealing with injuries.

Now, he’s looking forward to starting fresh on “day one” of a new season. The team won’t be perfect right away and the team will have to give each other grace, but Irving said the team will get to know each other on the team’s overseas trip.

It’s unclear how much Dončić and Irving will share the court during Thursday’s preseason opener, but when they do, it will be must-see TV.

The rookies are here

As previously reported, Lively II and Prosper may be in the starting lineup during the preseason. Thursday’s game will be the pair’s first chance to play with their new teammates and show off what they’ve learned in training camp.

Lively and Prosper ran with the team’s first group during camp, an exercise head coach Jason Kidd says is common for rookies. He mentioned putting second-year player Josh Green in a similar situation when he first became head coach.

“Put the young guys with the stars and see how they handle the situation,” Kidd said during his media day interview. “For those two, they’ve done a really good job so far. They’ve done the work since we’ve had them in July and August.”

Prosper said it’s been awesome to learn from the starters and they’ve helped him be his best self on the court. He’s looking to be a defensive stopper for this team while helping Dončić and Irving on offense.

“I’m going to be open a lot, so being ready for that pass, with Luka, you never know when he’s going to pass it to you, so always be ready and be ready to knock down open shots,” he said in his media day interview.

Lively has worked with former Mavericks center Tyson Chandler and said he’s learned a lot from Chandler already. Chandler tells him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear.

“I’m going to learn every day and I’m going to get better each game, each practice, each day and that’s going to get me where I need to be,” Lively said in his media day interview.

Kidd’s rotations

As with any team in the preseason, expect lots of lineups and variation within those lineups in Abu Dhabi. In last year’s preseason opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavericks played 15 guys –– Dončić was not one of them –– and no one played over 26 minutes.

With this year’s preseason taking place overseas, there may be more reason to play the core guys to give the fans a show, but keep in mind this is still preseason. As of publication, the team has 17 players on its roster per mavs.com, and all will make the trip overseas.

So, we may see some Dončić step-back threes and Irving crossovers, but these games are meant as a chance for the coaching staff to see what players can do in certain situations. It’s been a long six months since the Mavericks last took the floor, but keep expectations tame for Thursday’s early-day matchup.

How to Watch

Thursday’s matchup (11 a.m. CDT, 8 p.m. local) will run on NBA TV and mavs.com.