The NBA season kicks off this weekend after a long wait. The Dallas Mavericks, last year’s NBA champions for the first time in team history, are hosting the Miami Heat, their opponents in the NBA finals in the 2010-11 season.
For the Mavs, there are many new faces on the court, and several missing from last season’s championship team. The Mavericks lost three key players to free agency in the offseason, two of whom were essential to their success in the playoffs, center Tyson Chandler, and point guard J.J. Berea. In addition to the playoff starters, the Mavericks also lost Caron Butler who was injured and did not play in the playoffs last year, but who can be credited for his major contributions as a starter in helping the team with its success during the regular season.
The Miami Heat comes to Dallas this weekend with their team still intact from a year ago, including media favorites, and stars on the court, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh.
Both teams have added some talent to their rosters. The Mavs picked up Los Angeles Lakers starter, Lamar Odom, Boston Celtics guard, Delonte West, and New Jersey Nets starter, Vince Carter. All three of the new players for the Mavs have a pedigree with the NBA, but it is expected that Odom will contribute most at the beginning of the year.
The Heat added veteran, Shane Battier, a player who is viewed as a workhorse, and a great guy to have on the team because of his personality and leadership. Miami promises to deliver an outstanding team both defensively and offensively, especially with the addition of Battier.
Game 1, Christmas Day
Mavericks fans are being asked to get to the arena by 1:00 p.m. to fill in the audience for the television cameras during the raising of the NBA championship banner. I am certain they did not have to be told this, but the high dollar seats in the primary camera view are sometimes slow to fill until right before game time. These attendees are referred to by local radio celebrity Randy Galloway as “the North Dallas beautiful people.”
It has already been asked whether James and Wade will be on the court to watch the Mavs raise the banner, but according to ESPN Dallas’ Ben & Skin radio show, it won’t happen this way. There is already enough hate between the two teams that this little extra poke isn’t needed. The Mavs remember 2006 all too well when they lost to the same team in the finals on their own floor.
After all the hoopla and hype from the national media, and all the pregame style points are scored by videos of James and Wade, there will be an actual basketball game. At least, that’s the rumor around town.
The Mavericks have played very poorly in the shortened preseason. At times, it looked like they needed name tags to introduce themselves to each other. Coach Rick Carlisle will have a big challenge on his hands to make the game competitive.
Dirk Nowitzki and the X-factor, Lamar Odom
The heart and soul of the Mavericks, number 41, Dirk Nowitzki, is back, and he is always the key to the Mavericks regular season success. His consistency and versatility as a player are at the top of the charts.
The biggest challenge for Dirk, early in the season, is to work out a method to maximize Lamar Odom’s considerable talent. Both players will benefit from the fact that each is a leader, and a team player. For the future, the tandem of Nowitzki and Odom could be a formidable opponent to any team in the playoffs at the end of the season.
The impact of Tyson Chandler’s departure is difficult to determine, but his performance as a leader and tough player on the court are generally thought to be the added piece that won the Mavs a championship last year. He will be missed.
Odom, however, has the experience of going into a season defending an NBA title. Mavs fans have only seen Odom as an opponent in the past, and his impact will not be truly known until he and Nowitzki have played together for awhile.
I believe the Mavs will lose the game on Christmas Day by 12 or more points. They are nowhere near having an offensive scheme in place yet, and they will not win the game on talent alone. The talent on the other side is just as good, and arguably better, than what the Mavericks offer.
After the Mavericks play the first 20 games, I will be surprised to see a 10-10 record. I think it will be slightly worse than this. However, at the end of the season, I expect Dallas to end with 40 or more wins in the season’s altered 65 game schedule. They will be positioned somewhere in the bottom half of the Western Conference eight playoff teams.
With the tipoff of the season on tap for the weekend, however, just getting it all started again, along with a championship banner hanging in the rafters, will be exhilarating. Optimism will flow, and the hearts will be pumping for the team who owns the Dallas sports scene, the 2011 world champion, the Dallas Mavericks.Powered by Sidelines