Leavin’ on a jet plane…
Day 5 of training camp has concluded and the Mavericks are on their way to Europe for two exhibition games. By all accounts things are going well.
Bullet points for the second few days at camp:
• Cruisin’ with a Bruisin’
Chris Kaman and Brandan Wright remain the only players injured but both appear to be healing faster than expected. Wright is likely to play in the upcoming exhibition games in Europe but Kaman’s status is still uncertain.
This early in camp there is no reason to do anything other than take it slow and easy so as to facilitate a full recovery. The Mavericks are renowned for having some of the best trainers in the league and it shows.
• Young ‘uns
The rookies continue to play well and are receiving a lot of guidance from the older veterans. Josh Akognon continues to impress and ended the last day of practice in a three-point shootout with Dirk, O. J. and Roddy.
• Taking Care of Business
Carlisle has already praised all the older veterans for coming to camp in shape and has continued to praise the young guns as well. Dominique Jones, in particular, had a very productive summer, voluntarily participating in the summer league and making the All Summer League Team along with rookie Jae Crowder. Roddy Beaubois has been the last player off the court more than one day and it appears overall there is a lot of enthusiasm for putting in extra time and effort.
Despite his minor injury, Brendan Wright also looks to have prepared well over the summer, the oft-injured Wright, who had a breakout season last year and stayed injury free, still had trouble at 210 lbs. with some of the bulkier big men in the league. He reportedly spent a large portion of his summer working on offensive moves and adding bulk so he can handle the pounding inside the paint.
Darren Collison’s play is drawing comparisons to J. J. Barea, which is the type of defense-splitting penetration that was sorely lacking last year. Of the various significant talents lost after the championship season, Barea’s contributions have been acknowledged less than Tyson Chandler but were significant and it will be important to have that kind of spark again.
Rookies and veterans alike seem to feel as if there is some good chemistry building and we’ll get a nice early look during the European tour.
• We’re Bad, We’re Nationwide, We’re Global
The team took a day off for the Mavericks Masters golf tournament but practiced again Thursday before heading off to Europe. Both the Mavss and the Boston Celtics will be opening the preseason overseas, as Jason Terry and the Celtics start things off Friday in Istanbul.
Dirk makes a homecoming in his native land to the usual hero’s welcome as the Mavericks first stop is Berlin where they will play their first preseason game Saturday at 1 p.m. CDT in Berlin against Alba Berlin. Chris Kaman also has connections to Deutschland having played with Dirk for the German national team in past Olympics.
Needless to say the trip home from Dirk will be nothing close to a relaxing visit with family and friends as the whirlwind tour for the greatest European player in NBA history will have no room for downtime between practices, media events, a special awards dinner and much more. Dirk managed to convince the NBA to obtain some 100 tickets for friends and family. His hometown is Wurzburg, about five hours from Berlin.
DMN’s Eddie Sefko also reports “Dirk Nowitzki, of course, got the largest applause, followed not to closely by equipment manager Al Whitley. Not quite sure how that happened.” Yay equipment!
For their second game the Mavs travel to Barcelona, Spain where on Tuesday they’ll face FC Barcelona Regal at 2 p.m. CDT. Prior to that, Dirk will get his first taste of a little relaxation when he watches soccer superpowers FC Barcelona and Real Madrid face off on one of their semi-annual games.
Both games will be carried on NBA TV. Check your cable provider for listings.
The Mavericks resume their preseason schedule on the 15th, heading down I45 to face the Houston Rockets. The regular season begins Oct. 30th with an interesting matchup between the new-look Mavs and one of the presumptive favorites to win the championship next spring, the retooled Lakers. Steve Nash is apparently enjoying his new home and has stated it’s the best team he’s ever played on, which is not surprising. It’s gonna be a lot easier to let go of that lingering affection for Nash now that he’s in the purple and gold.
• Ongoing Outlook
The team seems to be coming together nicely and in particular, the development of Bernard James has been critical. While the Mavericks made huge upgrades in the post by adding Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, Kaman and Brandan Wright also have a history of injury problems and sure enough, that’s been the story of training camp. Elton Brand is also past his prime and is undersized for an NBA center so James’ development is critical to the Mavs success this year, especially since having a defensive stopper in the middle proved to be a critical factor in winning the Championship two years ago.
The guards, on the other hand, are plentiful and overachieving. It appears the coaches are going to have a difficult decision in determining who, if anyone, has to take a back seat. The exceptional display of Josh Akognon complicates that as well but it’s certainly a good problem to have. The Mavs may need to think seriously about freeing up space for a reserve center based on the current situation and fortunately, they have so much talent in the backcourt that there is certainly plenty of coverage should they opt to sign or trade for another big man.
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