Mavericks’ Success Hinges on Carlisle
It’s a new day for the Dallas Mavericks.
Gone are veteran mainstays Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, both crucial to the Mavericks winning the first NBA Title in franchise history.
Also gone is the stigma of being one of the oldest teams in the NBA on a year-in, year-out basis. Three rookies expected to make contributions next season along with newcomers Darren Collison (25 years-old) and O.J. Mayo (24) have Dallas heading more towards a youth movement for this upcoming season.
“We knew at some point that we were going to have to get younger and we were going to have to change,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Monday. “As painful as that is, it was a process that we were going to have to go through.”
The Mavericks held a press conference Monday on the floor of American Airlines Center to introduce five of the Mavericks key offseason additions. Mayo, Collison, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Dahntay Jones were all in attendance as both media members and season ticket holders alike were in attendance to size up the Mavs’ newcomers.
In total, Dallas has eight new faces that will fill out the roster next season which presents an interesting challenge for Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. With the bevy of new faces infusing the Mavericks roster this season, Carlisle’s acumen for developing cohesive units and getting the most out of his players will certainly be tested.
Luckily for the Mavs, their head coach appears up to the challenge.
“Having to integrate new guys, on one hand, is challenging but on the other hand our system’s going to change some and we’re excited about getting started,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to have 31 days [from the start of training camp] before we play our first game, which is going to be helpful for us because we’ve all got to get to know each other better and we’ve got to develop a team personality. At this point, we don’t know exactly what that’s going to be but we know we have good players.
“We know we have guys that are enthusiastic about winning [so] we’re looking forward to getting started on the 29th [of September].”
While Carlisle admitted that the team lauds veterans because of the wisdom they generally represent and the experience they bring to the table, the former NBA Coach of the Year is excited about the team’s new direction.
“We’re moving in a new direction from being extremely old,” Carlisle said candidly. “We were the oldest team in the league – I know we were last year – and the year before we were one of the older teams too. We consider age a good thing, because it means you have experience and it means that normally you have guys at the stage of their career where they’re really interested more in winning than individual awards. But we needed to get younger.
“O.J.’s in his mid 20′s, Darren’s in his early-to-mid 20′s, Dahntay’s not that old – Kaman’s younger than he looks,” Carlisle joked. “Elton’s been around a long time because he came out early but he’s 32-years old too, which is young in this league. We’re excited about it.”
Not only is Carlisle highly regarded around the NBA for his ability to put his players in the best situation to succeed on a nightly basis, he’s also gone through a similar drastic roster makeover before.
“We had this same situation going into my second year in Detroit,” Carlisle said. “We had eight new guys on a 15-man roster, so I have experience with doing this.”
Many new Mavs, including both Mayo and Collison, reported early to the Mavericks to get extra work in before the start of training camp. This has endeared them both to the team and to Coach Carlisle who believes that face-to-face, on the court learning is imperative to incorporate new players into a team.
“To me, it’s always easier for players to integrate into a system when they’re on the court doing it and not just hearing you talk about it,” Carlisle said. “We’re big into team building – getting guys together and doing things to get them to know one another. So when you get in those situations where it’s a foxhole and it’s two minutes to go in the game, guy’s have got each other’s back.
“Guys know that they’re playing for an organization and a franchise that has experienced those situations, that always thrives in those situations and not only is not afraid of pressure but thrives on pressure and wants to be in those situations. ”
In speaking with Dallas’ new-look starting backcourt of Mayo and Collison, Carlisle’s presence is a reassuring and stabilizing factor for each player. Especially for Mayo, who reiterated Monday that he took less money to join the Mavericks, the impact of a head coach like Carlisle on a perennial playoff contender with the Mavs is immeasurable. Mayo even sought the opinion of Mr. Big Shot himself, LA Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, to see what he thought of his former coach in Carlisle.
“It was a huge factor,” Mayo said of Carlisle’s impact on his decision to join the Mavericks. “Just looking at Coach Carlisle’s track record, he’s coached a lot of great players. One of my favorite players to come through this league and, of my time, to understand the game of basketball is Chauncey Billups. [Carlisle] had him [in Detroit with the Pistons] and I talked to Chauncey about Coach Carlisle and he said he’s a great coach to help me expand my game.
“Every summer you usually work on a weakness that maybe hurt you the year before but this summer I just give my whole package to Carlisle. I told him to get it together and polish it up where I can be effective night-in, night-out in this league.”
Putting that much trust in a new head coach right off the bat proves Mayo is intent on reaching his full potential in this league. This is a huge reason why Mayo showed up to the team early and eager to get started in preparation for the upcoming season.
“My whole thing is to give my game to coach and let him get better in every way that he feels I can help the team,” Mayo said. “That’s part of the reason I came here a month early, just to get acclimated to the coaching staff and the city.
“Our whole thing is competing and trying to get another championship. That’s the only thing on my mind.”
One of the most difficult challenges Mayo will face is going to be filling the void left by former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry. While the two have different styles of play and Mayo is currently slated to start the season at shooting guard, fans and media alike are going to compare Mayo’s production in Dallas to one of the greatest Mavericks’ players of all time.
“There are going to be a lot of comparisons to Jason Terry because [Mayo]‘s going to be filling that position in large part but O.J.’s a different player,” Carlisle said. “O.J.’s been here for over a month now, working and setting a great example for the younger guys and he’s really enthusiastic about being here. We’ve got to take his game and enhance it to the guys we have around him now.”
The other starter in the Mavs new younger and quicker backcourt, Collison, couldn’t help but rave to HOOPSWORLD about Carlisle’s potential impact on his game as well. What Collison says he likes most about the Mavericks head coach is that he has the ability to be hands-on without taking away players’ freedom on the court.
“You know, basically listening to Rick, he really lets the players play their games,” Collison told HOOPSWORLD of his new head coach. “He kind of changes what he needs to change but the first time I met with him, he told me to just play my game. He told me to play the up-tempo style that I’ve been playing and on defense, pick it up. That’s just my game and when you hear Coach say that, it makes it a lot easier. Anything he needs to say along the way, he’ll say it.”
Optimism is high around the Mavs HQ right now with both Carlisle and newcomers talking championship and believing this Mavs squad has the goods to compete with even the super teams in the NBA. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami HEAT – already penciled in by many for a June Finals matchup – apparently strike no fear in these Mavericks’ hearts.
“This is Dallas,” Carlisle said when asked of his team’s expectations this season. “We win championships here.”
Looking at the amount of talent sitting up there behind the podium on Monday, it was difficult to argue with Carlisle and the Mavericks’ collective confidence.
As it turns out, Dallas will be able to put its money where its mouth is starting with the season opener in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Oct. 30.