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With the NBA looking at a return, the Mavericks eye playoffs

It’s been 90 days since the NBA suspended action but the Dallas Mavericks could be heading back to the court with playoffs soon to follow
Credit: AP
A person on a bike rides past a large banner hanging outside American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, in Dallas, Thursday, April 16, 2020. The banner, which has a Mavericks logo on it, thanks first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS —

With the calendar hitting June, it has been three months since there was live NBA action. 

The last Dallas Mavericks game of the 2019-2020 season was all the way back on Wednesday, March 11 against the Denver Nuggets. That same night, Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Utah, forcing the NBA to suspend all gameplay. 

With the virus escalating into a global pandemic, there was already an uneasy feeling in how much longer teams would continue to play. Dallas even gave away horse head team-branded hand sanitizer to fans that night. 

The Mavericks' 113-97 victory was the last game to finish that night before the NBA shut operations, followed by the other major sports leagues, then the country itself.

For the last 13 weeks, those on an NBA roster have been in the same limbo as their fans, sheltering with their families, looking for basketball hoops, and awaiting word of what would come next.

Where did we leave off? 

The unexpected break between basketball games led to a lot of reflection on what an incredible season this has been for Luka and Co.

  • Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists during his age 20-21 season. The Maverick single season record is 29.5 points per game by Mark Aguirre in 1983-1984 and 9.7 assists per game by Jason Kidd in 1995-1996.

  • When Luka Doncic started the 2020 All-Star game in February, he was the first Dallas Maverick to be voted in since Jason Kidd in 1996.

  • Seth Curry, who returned this offseason with a 4-year deal, is currently the league leader in 3-pt. % for active players at 0.443. 

  • The career years from Seth Curry and Tim Hardaway complementing Doncic and Porzingis have led the Mavericks to the highest offensive rating in the league, with 116.7 points scored per 100 possessions.

  • 11 days before the shutdown on his 21st birthday celebration, Doncic sang along in perfect Spanish to a song that bears his name with Borinquen royalty J.J Barea and Bad Bunny. That seems like some sort of Mandela-effect lucid dream now, but it really happened.

  • A more believable reality is the promising chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis that developed as the year progressed. 

With Doncic turning it up in his second year, the 2019-2020 Mavericks got to a 40-27 record before the pandemic shut the league down. One of the benchmarks for a playoff contender during a normal season is crossing the 50-win mark. 

Even if Dallas had gone .500 with their remaining games prior to the suspension, the team would have likely matched the win total of the 2013-2014 edition, the 49-win 8th seed that took eventual champion San Antonio to a cathartic seven games. A couple breaks here and there, and surpassing the 50-win 2014-2015 team that saw Rajon Rondo ruin Tyson Chandler’s short-lived homecoming is not out of the question. 

The Mavericks are currently the 7th seed, but only three wins separate them from 3rd seeded Denver. There is certainly a real opportunity for moving up the standings and avoiding a 1st. round matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the loaded Los Angeles Clippers.

Dallas will most likely finish with their 3rd best win total to close out the decade even with a shortened season, a positive trend for a franchise that averaged 56 wins a year from the 2000-2001 team that upset Stockton & Malone to the 2011 team that conquered Kobe, Durant, Harden, and LeBron on their way to the team’s first championship.

What’s Next? 

After months of contemplation, the league announced its plan for a relaunch of the 2020 season during a Board of Governors meeting on June 4. 

The Mavericks will be one of 22 teams sequestered at the ESPN/Disney complex in Orlando, Florida. The remaining teams left off had no shot at the 8th seed for either conference, so the league decided there was no reason to risk their invitation to fill out the schedule.

Eight of the original remaining games on the schedule will be completed, and all teams reporting to the complex will be housed at the facility until the team is eliminated from playoff contention. 

The Memphis Grizzlies sit as the 8th seed in the West but are seven games back of Dallas with eight games to play, so the Mavs are a near certainty – let’s call it a Laura Miller guarantee – to make the playoffs. 

Visitation will be restricted. The only audience at the games will probably be other players waiting for their own games. Players will be routinely tested and teams will be granted replacement opportunities if a player tests positive and needs to be removed.

Maverick players must report to the team by June 21 as COVID-19 testing will begin the following day. Training camp 2.0 starts June 30, with teams beginning to travel to Orlando on July 7. Transactions will be reopened – a sort of second free agency period – prior to re-starting the season on July 31.

This will be very very weird, but it is making the best out of an impossible situation. When the season was suspended in March, the possibility of returning to basketball seemed minute. 

Now the Mavs will have a chance to let Luka and Porzingis loose once again. Just to finish the season is a win for the Mavericks and the MFFL’s.

The last two teams standing won’t leave the complex until October, with an NBA Finals Game 7 schedule date pushing the last possible day for this season to October 12.

Can Luka be the new Mr. October? 

What are you most looking forward to seeing with the return of the NBA? Share your thoughts with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv

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