The Dallas Mavericks wrapped up their trip to the United Arab Emirates and play in the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2023 on Saturday. Despite dropping both games to the Minnesota Timberwolves thanks to a lackluster effort on both ends, the team is looking at the positives from the trip before it flies to Madrid to take on Real Madrid Tuesday.
“I thought the trip was a positive in so many ways when you look at the health [of the team],” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “We leave here healthy and headed to Madrid. We get back to work on Monday. We’ll have tomorrow [Sunday] off. But again, a lot of positives.”
Dallas shot 37.2 percent overall and 30.4 percent from deep on their way to a 104-96 loss on Saturday. But Kidd pointed to the team’s energy in the second half — the Mavericks cut the Wolves’ lead to two after a Dexter Dennis dunk with 4:33 to play in the fourth quarter — and not fouling as much as positive takeaways from the game.
He also acknowledged that his team needs to find a way to start games with better energy — something that became a common theme last season. He said trust and chemistry don’t happen in 10 days and two games for a newer and younger group of players.
Jaden Hardy paced the Mavericks with 22 points and eight rebounds. Luka Doncic had 18 points, five rebounds, and six assists. They were the only two Dallas players to score in double figures Saturday. They were also the only two players to score in double figures in Thursday’s preseason opener as well.
“I’m looking to come in and try and provide a spark for the team,” Hardy said after the first game in Abu Dhabi. “I feel like that’s going to be my role. Just coming in and bringing that spark.”
While preseason may be a warm-up for Hardy, Doncic and the team are taking a more cautious approach. Doncic played for the Slovenian national team during the FIBA World Cup and should already be near game shape, but he is recovering from a thigh injury. The coaching staff only allowed him to play the first half of both games.
“The key is obviously to get better, to get to know the team, but not to get injured, too,” Doncic said Thursday. “Not to play a lot of minutes because I’m going to play a lot of minutes in the season.”
While great for the NBA’s global outreach, the trip around the world to Abu Dhabi and Madrid could take a toll on the players when the regular season begins next month. Dallas got off to a rocky 3-8 start the last time it played preseason games overseas in 2018 when the Mavs took on the Philadelphia 76ers in China.
There’s no guarantee that the team will start any better this year. However, new Mavericks addition Grant Williams is echoing Kidd’s positive sentiments. He says he understands that he and his teammates won’t let the unusual preseason affect them.
“What I’ll say is it shouldn’t impact us,” Williams said. “We have to compete throughout the course of an 82-game season. We can’t really complain about starting [training camp and preseason] earlier. We’re basketball players. This is our job. We just have to make sure we take care of our bodies and are mindful of that and go out there and do our job.”