Mavs championship expectations in an unsteady pre-season

Mavs championship expectations in an unsteady pre-season

Credit: Getty Images

Dirk Nowitzki and Delonte West take a break from entertaining in Germany. (Getty Images/Odd Andersen)

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by DOYLE RADER

WFAA Sports

Posted on October 8, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 9 at 2:06 PM

Basketball is back. 

The Dallas Mavericks are in Europe to play two exhibition games before the preseason gets underway. After a first round exit in the playoffs last year, the Mavs entered training camp with higher expectations than many could ever imagine for a team with eight new players. 
 
“This is Dallas, we play for championships here. It’s as simple as that,” Rick Carlisle said earlier this summer, as the team introduced its five new veterans. Those sentiments remained as training camp began, as relayed by Jan Hubbard. “You show up, you’re playing for a title regardless of what people may or may not think about your roster, or how many new guys you have,” Carlisle reiterated. “We don’t care about that.”
 
Of course, we’ve heard sentiments like this before from coaches and players alike, dating all the way back to when Dr. James Naismith nailed up a peach basket. Tom Ziller broke down all the media day clichés, some of which apply to the Mavericks. So why does Carlisle keep harping on this point? 
 
These statements aren’t to placate the fans or drum up support for a team many view with skepticism. Carlisle is simply stating the goals and attitude that has permeated the culture of the Mavericks since he arrived. They won it all in 2011. Why should he say anything else or expect anything less? He is setting the tone, not predicting the future.
 
Key to all of Carlisle’s statements will be the cohesion of his team and, above all else, the health of his players. Unfortunately, training camp began slightly rocky for the Mavericks frontcourt. On the first day, new center Chris Kaman strained his lower back, sidelining him for several practices.  
 
The following day, Brandan Wright had to sit with a quad strain. In Saturday's exhibition premiere against Alba Berlin, Roddy Beaubois sprained his left ankle and had to be helped off the floor. Thank goodness for depth, right?
 
There are also questions concerning the backcourt. Darren Collison will start and push the pace (one of Ziller’s media day lies, in case you didn’t click the link, is “We’re going to run this year”) and freelance the offense.
 
However, there has been talk of Dominique Jones playing some point with Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Delonte West playing off the ball. Jones hasn’t seen much playing time during the previous two seasons so one can imagine that this scenario is a bit of a stretch even though his jump shot is reportedly better.  
 
Any player looking for minutes on this deep roster should focus on defense. That was the primary on the first day of camp and will be throughout the season. The “Allas Mavericks” belong to a bygone era.
 
All talk coming out of the Mavericks right now, aside from injury reports, should be taken with a grain of salt. As for now, the team will continue to meld, even with two players on the mend. Nothing is certain going forward, especially the rotation. 
 
The bar is set high and expectations are tempered. But and what seems to be forgotten is that it’s just training camp. Every team has the same record. There isn’t a dearth of talent in Dallas; in fact, this may be one of the deepest teams the Mavs have ever had.
 
That alone is bodes well for the grind of the regular season. As training camp progresses, players will carve out their roles and coaches will evaluate all that is before them. And pretty soon, the product of these early October practices will be on the court for us to enjoy.
 
On a sad note, the Mavericks released DJ Mbenga before he could even make it to Germany. Farewell, old friend. We will never forget you and your favorite food.
 
Follow Doyle Rader on Twitter at @TheKobeBeef.

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