Dallas -- While the Mavericks ran through their last practice before the season opener, it provided one last chance to take a deep breath before the 82 game grind begins; one that could include a rough start.
"Our identity still is up in the air," says Mavericks center Andrew Bogut, "We tried to figure it out in the preseason, but that didn't work too well."
A 2-5 preseason didn't provide much promise for a team not expected to do much.
Newly acquired Harrison Barnes will have to do plenty more, after shooting just 27 percent from the field, averaging seven points and three rebounds in 20 minutes per game.
After signing a four-year $94 million dollar deal in the off-season, that production level isn't even close. Barnes and center Andrew Bogut are the biggest pieces in the Mavs new look.
"We're experienced, tough, and smart," says Mavericks head coach rick Carlisle, whose says he's not worried about Barnes' shooting touch, "We have other challenges that we're just going to have to overcome with resourcefulness and grit."
And what might those challenges be?
"Look we're an older group, especially our starting five so we have to play smart basketball," said Bogut. "We have to be the tempo setters. If we play into other team's hands, these teams are too young and fast these days."
The Mavericks are still breaking in their new practice facility in Dallas, but they're going through the same process they've undergone the last few years - integrating new faces. And it will be tougher this year due to their early season schedule
"The month of November is a beast," said Dirk Nowitzki.
10 of their first 15 games are on the road, with 10 of those against playoff teams from last season. Rick Carlisle's a master at maximizing what's on the roster, but the logistical issues that go with all that travel will make it tough.
"We'll know where we're at pretty quickly and we can build from that," said Bogut. "Throw us right into the fire and see where we're at."
Nowitzki has been through this all before and says while the off-season workouts were tough, he's looking forward to competing in games that count and making another playoff run.
"There will be some ups and downs," said Nowitzki. "You've got to fight through it, stick together, hopefully stay semi-injury free, and just let the ball roll."
The Mavs get the ball rolling Wednesday at 6pm against the Indiana Pacers.
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