With the roster now appearing to be finalized — barring any trades before the start of training camp in late September — the re-tooled Mavs now know who and when they’ll play as the NBA released the full 82-game regular-season schedule Thursday.
There’s no Christmas Day game and no Martin Luther King Jr. day game. Dirk Nowitzki and his new pals won’t be on national television at the rate that they were a season ago as defending champs. Still, the Mavs will have eight games on TNT — including the opener at the Lakers — seven on ESPN, seven on NBATV, one on ABC and two on ESPN Radio.
None of it means this won’t be one of the more intriguing seasons of Cuban’s ownership. At the moment, just about anything — from being lottery bound to a top-four finish in the Western Conference — seems possible.
We take a look at five games to circle, and why not start with the opener?
No. 1: Mavs at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 30
Not only will it be the first real game for a Mavs club that features five new key players around Nowitzki, but it will also be Steve Nash‘s debut with the Lakers. And for that matter, since we’ve already mentioned Jamison, he’ll also be wearing the purple and gold for the first time. The big question as of July 26 is if Andrew Bynum will still be calling the Staples Center home or if Dwight Howard be manning the rim and playing alongside Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Nash?
No. 2: New York Knicks at Mavs, Nov. 21
Coach Rick Carlisle predicted that Jason Kidd would receive a standing ovation when he returns to the American Airlines Center. We won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s right — and he probably is. Two-fifths of the Mavs’ championship starting lineup will suit up for the Knicks as Tyson Chandler makes his second trip back to Dallas since the title. Kidd’s last-minute departure to the Big Apple was stunning, but in retrospect it’s allowed the Mavs to add a bit more shake-n-bake to their backcourt with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
No. 3: Mavs at Boston Celtics, Dec. 12
A trip to the Garden is always special, but now that Jason Terry will be writing ctc on his green and white sneakers, it’s extra special. And don’t think that Terry, who played eight seasons with the Mavs, won’t want to drill about 15 buckets from downtown and send his former team out of town with a loss. Terry never wanted to leave Dallas, but he knew he was no longer in their plans. He’ll try to fill the very large shoes of Ray Allen, who took his talents to South Beach. Terry won’t make his Dallas return until March 22.
No. 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Mavs, Jan. 18
It’ll take a few months for the Western Conference champs to make it Dallas, which isn’t a bad thing since the Mavs will need some time to break in the new rotation. Although Dallas is a drastically different team than the past two seasons, consecutive playoff series have elevated the Thunder to the top of the Mavs’ rival list, or at least just notch below the Spurs. This game will show the Mavs how far they’ve come or how far they still have to go.
No. 5: Mavs at Brooklyn Nets, March 1
Who knows if the Nets will have Dwight Howard by this first meeting of the two teams, but this game is all about Deron Williams, who spurned his hometown Mavs to re-sign with the Nets as they move to Brooklyn. In the grand scheme of things, this game will mean little, but the free-agent process was emotional for Williams and the two teams, and that could make this the most intense Mavs-Nets game of all-time. Less than three weeks later, Williams will make his return to Dallas. He won’t be staying.