Christmas came early for Dallas Mavericks fans this year, as the NBA announced the end of the lockout and decided that the 66-game schedule would begin play on Christmas Day. The best part about this early Christmas present is that the reigning NBA champs will receive their championship rings and raise their first championship banner in front of the Miami Heat, the team they beat in last year's finals, on their nationally televised Christmas Day season opener.
With the rest of the NBA schedule to be released later this week, the Mavs must focus on re-signing many of the key components to their championship run before training camp starts on Dec. 9.
The main focus will be the re-signing of All-Defensive Second Team center Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks' 5-man and best defensive big man the team has had in years will probably take somewhere between three years and $35 million or four years and $44 million to re-sign, but he is the team's main focus and should return.
Another player the Mavs must focus on re-signing is backup guard JJ Barea. He provides a change in tempo off of the bench that no other player in basketball brings to the table, and with the 38-year-old Jason Kidd not getting any younger, the likelihood of fatigue and injury is just getting that much greater. Barea will probably look to take $3-4 million dollars a year to re-sign.
After securing Chandler and Barea, the team will likely look into signing either Caron Butler or Brian Cardinal.
Whether the Mavs can obtain Butler will depend on if he wants big-time money or if he will settle for less in hopes of repeating as NBA champs. Obviously, the Mavs would love to keep Butler as he is the second-best scoring threat on the team after Dirk Nowitzki, but probably not for more than the $10.5 million they paid him last season.
"The Custodian," Brian Cardinal, proved to be an excellent situational player last year. The fan favorite was able to provide the team with an end-of-the-bench guy who they could trust to call on if need be. The 34-year-old will likely re-sign with the Mavs for the veteran minimum, it just depends if the Mavs want to spend the money on Cardinal.
The only offseason acquisition the Mavericks made was a draft-day trade for shooting guard Rudy Fernandez from the Portland Trailblazers. Fernandez has been playing in Spain for Real Madrid during the lockout and recently injured his knee, but reports indicate he should only be out a week and will be healthy in time for camp.
The best player in Dallas Mavericks history, Dirk Nowitzki, finally filled the one void in his resume by winning NBA Finals MVP. Dirk had one of the best playoff runs in NBA history as he cemented himself among the legendary players who have ever played the game of basketball. If the Mavs hope to repeat as champs, they must continue to get the same play out of the seven-foot German that they got during the playoff run.
Although the NBA schedule has not been released, the league has released the format for the schedule.
Of the 66 games to be played, 48 of them will be played in-conference. The Mavs will play their division rivals four times each—twice at home and twice on the road. They will play two other Western Conference teams four times and the rest three times.
The out-of-conference schedule will consist of playing every Eastern Conference team at least once and three of them twice.
A final stat to take note of as we head into the 2011-2012 NBA season is the current Mavericks streak that is most likely to end—the Mavericks have a league-leading 11 consecutive 50-win seasons, a streak that is in extreme jeopardy as the Mavs will have to go at least 50-16 to keep it alive.
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