5 Critical Revelations from Dallas Mavericks Training Camp
It has been a bit of a shaky start to the season for the Dallas Mavericks.
With their opener coming Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers in Tinseltown, Dallas will be without its superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, who will miss the first several weeks of the season after knee surgery; presumed starting center Chris Kaman, who is out with a strained right calf; and reserve guard Delonte West, who was suspended for the second time in the preseason last week, has been waived as of Monday, according to ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.
Nevertheless, there has been several positive and negative signs from this year about the team's possible success for the upcoming season.
Here are five of the biggest revelations about the Mavericks from this year's training camp and preseason.
5. Dallas Is Much Thinner in the Frontcourt Than Originally Thought
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Yes, the Mavericks have made significant strides to booster their frontcourt in the offseason.
Adding former All-Stars Chris Kaman and Elton Brand to go along with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki was expected to give Dallas its best trio of big men in a long time.
However, with Kaman and Dirk both out, one has to look at the rest of Dallas' big men and wonder if the Mavs will have enough to stay competitive. Brand will be in there at the start of the season and will likely have to take on a bigger role in the offense than he originally suspected.
However, behind him, Dallas does not have much to be excited about.
Brandan Wright should be a contributor this year, but he is still too frail to play center consistently and is very raw on offense.
Bernard James, one of Dallas' second-round draft picks, hasn't developed the way many had expected him too thus far and barely cracked the rotation in the preseason.
In fact, the Mavs may be forced to start recently signed Eddy Curry (yes, that Eddy Curry) at center until Kaman returns. If that is what the team has been resorted to, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge may have a field day against this team in the first week of the season.
4. The Team Will Rely Heavily on O.J. Mayo
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When Dallas was able to lure away O.J. Mayo away from Chicago, Phoenix and other potential suitors this offseason, it was clear he would be an important factor to the team's success this season and likely take on a bigger role than he had in any of his years in Memphis.
However, as the offseason neared closer to the start of the regular NBA schedule, Mayo's potential role in the offense continued to expand.
With Dirk Nowitzki not healthy and potentially not at his best throughout the season, Mayo will have to be the team's go-to scorer instead of the second or third option like he likely planned.
Mayo will also need to replace the perimeter scoring that Dallas had for so many years with Jason Terry.
If Mayo can be the dynamic player he showed in his rookie year in Memphis four years ago and mature enough to lead the team on the court, Dallas will be fine.
However, if Mayo struggles from the field and shrinks in big moments, it could be lottery time come next year for the Mavericks.
3. Jae Crowder Will Be a Steal
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Although he is still yet to play an NBA game, Jae Crowder is already being tabbed as one of the best draft picks in recent memory for the Dallas Mavericks organization.
Many thought that because he is undersized, Crowder's game would not translate well to the NBA level, which caused him to slip down into the second round of the NBA draft before getting snagged by the Mavericks.
However, thus far in training camp and the preseason, Crowder's game has translated extremely well, and he looks like a successful NBA player in the making.
Crowder put up 11.4 PPG in the preseason, including a 21-point performance against Oklahoma City, and trailed only Vince Carter and Chris Kaman in the team's scoring ranks in the preseason.
Crowder also shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, grabbed 4.5 rebounds and averaged nearly two steals a game.
Crowder has also shown tremendous defensive ability and never stops working on the floor, so if he can keep up his energy, he could be a huge factor right off the bat for the Mavericks this year.
2. Darren Collison Has a Ways to Go, but Could End Up Thriving in Dallas
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Darren Collison is no Deron Williams.
The Mavs were in the final two for Williams' services in the offseason, but lost out on D-Will to the Nets, so instead, they had to turn to backup options at the point guard position with Jason Kidd leaving town to play for the Knicks.
They settled on trading for former UCLA standout Darren Collison to be the team's lead guard hopefully for years to come.
However, Collison is not anywhere near the level yet that he needs to be if he is going to break into the upper echelon of point guards in the NBA.
Collison has been wildly inconsistent in his first three years in the league, which is why he is now playing on his third team in four years.
In the preseason, he didn't do anything horrible; he just never made the impact that he will need to make if he is going to lead the team the way Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle envisioned him doing.
Collison needs to work on his decision-making, will need to be more aggressive on offense and will need to do a better job of keeping his assist numbers up if he is going to start over Roddy Beaubois at point guard.
Still, all of the talent and potential is there for Collison, and he should be able to learn quickly and adapt to Rick Carlisle's style of play.
Collison will be given time to develop in Dallas, but he will also need to step up his game as the year goes on.
1. Dirk Nowitzki May Be Running out of Years
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Although every fan knew the time would eventually come, it's still hard to comprehend Dirk Nowitzki not going out there for the Dallas Mavericks each and every night and being one of the most consistently dominant players in the NBA.
After all, for the past decade-plus, Nowitzki has been doing just that on his way to being one of the top 20 scorers in NBA history.
Nowitzki seemed to have peaked in 2011, when he led the underdog Mavericks to a stunning NBA Finals defeat of the Miami Heat en route to the team's first-ever NBA championship.
However, last season, whether it was because of the lockout, the shortened season or just lack of motivation after winning his first ring, Dirk lacked the intensity that he usually brought and had a down season for his standards.
Now, Nowitzki has suffered a serious knee injury that will keep him sidelined for three to six weeks after surgery.
All of this begs the question: Just how much more does Dirk have left to give to the Mavericks?
This is not to suggest he will fall off the map. When Dirk returns, he is still going to be an All-Star-caliber player and lead the team.
But the days where Dirk dominates all game long and creates impossible matchups while knocking down everything he throws toward the rim may be a thing of the past soon, if not now.
Nowitzki is 34, and with his degrading health and age, one has to figure that at max, Dirk has three years left to be a great NBA player if he stays healthy throughout that time period.
If Dallas doesn't improve its roster, it won't win a title with its current group of guys, so maybe at some point, it would behoove both parties to part ways and give Nowitzki one last chance at ring No. 2 somewhere else.
It's just a thought and could be a year or two away from becoming a serious one, but Dirk's potential slide will be one of the biggest things to look out for this year for the Mavericks.