I’m an unrelenting optimist of the Dallas Mavericks. Really, I am. But this schedule, though. Dallas’ 2015-16 squad will look vastly different than last year’s team, this we all know (and some of us fear).
The Mavericks’ have a great chance to be a fluid, 3-point jacking juggernaut with a little more moxie in terms of perimeter defense this season as opposed to last year’s defensively (and sometimes offensively, if you factor in the Rajon Rondo months) challenged group which managed to scrape together 50 wins before a meek playoff exit against rival Houston.
That being said, their road to, say, 45 (or more) wins isn’t going to be any easier. While there’s only one four-games-in-five-nights stretch, the team will still play 18 back-to-back games before the All Star break. That’s enough for Rick Carlisle to grow back his unruly mop, have it turn gray, and fall back out again.
Can Wes Matthews otherworldly grit and all 17 of the Mavericks’ new reclamation projects reunite, Avengers’ style, and work a miracle? Does Dallas really have a shot at the playoffs? Another lap on the mediocrity treadmill? Only one way to find out.
Let’s start at the beginning. Dallas will have two chances in the first two weeks days of the season for all of those bad summer memories to resurface after opening on the road against Phoenix and the Suns’ newest plaything, Tyson Chandler on Oct. 28 before facing DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Nov. 11. Get the Vine app ready for that second one, folks. Fake smiles will abound.
Dallas plays New Orleans twice in a row (Nov. 7 and 10) before reuniting with Jordan and the Clips. Nothing like back-to-back meetings with Anthony Davis to break in Zaza Pachulia, eh? Sam Dalembert, are you listening? Sam?
Dallas has its only four-in-five stretch from Nov. 10-14 with the aforementioned games against the Pelicans/Clippers before taking on the Lakers on Nov. 13 (a Friday, creepily enough) and traveling to Houston after to complete the gamut.
If that weren’t enough, the Mavs have a three-in-four night roadie against Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Spurs. An extreme optimist could see Dallas at 8-6 at this point. The Mavericks have nine of their first 16 games of the road and will face nine playoff teams from last year in the first full month of the season.
December is a little better for Dallas with just 14 games (eight at home and six roadies) but it still plays two back-to-backs, although against significantly easier competition. Also, by this time, the Mavericks figure to have Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons back to reasonable health. What exactly IS reasonable health in the NBA?
The first back-to-back includes road games at Washington and the Knicks (Dec. 6 and 7) and the second includes trips to Toronto and Brooklyn (Dec. 22 and 23), which are both playoff teams, but a far cry from the titans of the West. Call it the NBA’s version of a Christmas present.
One thing that could make December a little anxious for Mavs’ fans is that 11 of the 14 games are against playoff teams from last year. However, one of those contests is against Portland, which figures to be down this season after losing four of its starting five players from last season, so the Mavs have that going for them. Which is nice.
Then there’s January. Oh boy, there’s January. This month could very well make or break Dallas’ season. The squad plays 18 games including 10 roadies. There are two back-to-backs in six days and five total in the month alone. FIVE.
The first two appear manageable with a road game against Miami bookended with a home contest against the Pelicans (Jan. 1 and 2), but just three days later, Dallas takes on Sacramento at home before closing out the season series against New Orleans the next day on the road at Smoothie King Center.
Jan. 12 and 13 feature a home date with Cleveland followed by a road game against the Thunder.
A road game to San Antonio on the 17th is followed by a home game against Boston and the final back-to-back takes place on Jan. 26 and 27 with road games at the Lakers and Golden State, respectively.
The back end of that third back-to-back (the Jan. 13 matchup with OKC) starts a three game stretch where Dallas faces three upper-tier playoff teams in the Thunder, the Bulls (Jan. 15) and the Spurs.
The Mavericks face 12 playoff teams from last year in January alone. And no, Portland is not in the mix that month.
If Dallas can get through January relatively unscathed and contending for a playoff berth, the Mavericks, in all seriousness, can make a serious push in February and March to recoup any lost ground. That’s a big if.
February features just 10 games and only four of those are against playoff teams from last year.
There’s one back-to-back with a home game against the Spurs followed by a road visit to Memphis (Feb. 5 and 6) and Dallas closes the month with a stretch of four winnable games (at Orlando, Philadelphia, Denver and Minnesota) with a final date with the Thunder sandwiched in on Feb. 24.
March has just one back-to-back at Sacramento and Denver (Mar. 27 and 28) and the Mavericks will actually see the Kings, Nuggets and Portland each twice in the month. Another team they’ll see twice is the defending champs with a home date on March 18 against the Warriors and a trip to Oracle Arena on the 25th.
Dallas closes March with a home game against the Knicks.
April could be a chance for the Mavs to catch their breath with seven of the month’s 10 games at home, but the final five games could all be against playoff-worthy teams with matchups against Houston, Memphis, the Clippers, Utah and San Antonio.
Let the hand-wringing commence! If anyone thought Dallas was going to have an “easy” schedule, the blinders should definitely be off at this point, but it’s plain as day the Mavericks are going to have their work cut out for them this season.
Last season, Dallas suffered several inexplicable home losses against the dregs of the East (a particular stinker at home against a depleted Indiana team comes to mind.) Suffice it to say if the Mavericks pull any of that this year, their playoff chances are effectively done.
With the team still under a injury-plagued cloud of uncertainty two-and-a-half months out, there’s really only speculation at this point about how Dallas’ 2015-16 fate will shake out. The teams figures to be much improved in some areas (3-pt shooting, perimeter defense) but will lack the post presence of Tyson Chandler down low and still has serious questions about rebounding. Depth is also a concern.
Will those new strengths offset any new weaknesses? How will all the new pieces fit? Will those playing with injuries find the wherewithal to withstand what already appear to be several brutal stretches in the schedule?
I heard one analyst on the radio today say he “just didn’t see 40 wins” on the schedule for the Mavs. His choice was 38. What do you think?