By Loren Page
Dallas, TX — It’s as if the weather reflected the serious nature and business that the Dallas Mavericks are tasked with in 2018.
After an abysmal 24-58 record in the 2017-18 season, the Mavericks recognized that they needed to adapt to the evolution and change of the game. As I walked through the American Airlines Center for the 2018 Dallas Mavericks Media Day, the tone of the team was as noticeable as the drizzling rain outside.
Head coach Rick Carlisle focused on the change of pace that is taking hold of the NBA, and he pulled no punches during his press conference. With new center DeAndre Jordan’s rebounding prowess and rookie Luca Doncic’s speed and spatial awareness, Carlisle emphasized that this year’s game plan is “…about our franchise moving forward.” With such a heavy focus on being competitive to make playoffs, Carlisle established that the leader and face of the franchise, 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, will be coming off the bench this season.
Following Carlisle’s press conference, the soon-to-be 21-year veteran walked through the door. Nowitzki, who had started in all of his 20 previous seasons, stood by Carlisle’s words and agreed with the coach’s vision for this season.
“It’s all about winning at the end of the day,” Nowitzki said. “If I’m coming off the bench, we better keep a bike ready and a few massage therapists in the back.”
Throughout the press conference, there was this infectious attitude that speaks to the volume of chemistry this team has going into the pre-season. Despite saying he’s too old to get in on the FortNite action, Nowitzki would like to win a slam-dunk contest to add to his already impressive resume as an NBA champion, MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star. He briefly spoke about his new teammates, saying that he has no beef with Jordan and looks forward to seeing how Doncic adjusts as a rookie.
As Jordan busted through the room with a cough, he shouted, “Black Dirk is here.” He explained that becoming a Dallas Mavericks player was a positive change and that even after being in the NBA for 11 seasons, he can learn a lot from Dirk.
Of course, Jordan’s press conference was not going to end until he explained the infamous incident three off-seasons ago, when he verbally agreed to a deal with the Mavericks, only to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. It was because of this incident that the NBA shortened the free agency moratorium period, known unofficially as the “DeAndre Jordan Rule”. Jordan took the question in stride before enthusiastically replying, “Better late than never!”
And while players were asked about their thoughts on the recent sexual harassment scandal, it was Jordan whom eloquently summed up the serious and sad nature of it.
“There is obviously no place in work or home for emotional, sexual or physical abuse,” Jordan said. “There’s no place for that anywhere.”
To close out the press conference, Doncic walked up to the podium. Getting to know the European sensation that speaks four languages, and the matchups he has circled on the calendar are topics he embraced easily. He casually mentioned that he heard the FortNite questions that second-year guard Dennis Smith answered, and Doncic was playfully told to agree Smith was better at the game. When asked if he was going to the Drake concert next week, he pointedly stared at the assistants to make that happen.
While the future of the Mavs this season is all about adapting to change and implementing it, it seems that the team’s chemistry is a strong foundation to build on. The players expounded on the idea of a unique dynamic that is comprised of veterans and young players who are buying into Carlisle’s vision for this team.
As I walked out of the American Airlines Center in the wake of scandal and expectation, there was a sense of rebirth and a time to start fresh. With a sense of purpose and the makings of what could be a super team, this season is about changing this franchise’s history.