On Monday, former Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki conducted a global conference call on behalf of the NBA and its 75th anniversary. One of the best players in the history of the NBA, he was recently ranked one of the 75 best players in the history of the league.
Nowitzki is still heavily involved with the Mavericks, being named a special advisor to the team following a spectacular 21-season career, winning the only championship in franchise history.
During the press conference, he was asked about Dallas’ slow start to the season. To this point, they have been worse than expected.
To him, it’s simple. It’s all about the injuries and not being able to stay healthy.
Doncic & Porzingis
The Mavs are fairly top-heavy, with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis headlining the roster. Those two players are the key to Dallas’ success, with the team struggling when one or both of them miss action.
To this point in the season, both have missed fairly significant time. There’s been times when the team is without one or even both of their stars on the floor.
Nowitzki spoke on the teams early struggles when the team is shorthanded.
“Yeah, I think we started off the season really well. I think what threw us back a little bit was some of the injury problems,” said the Hall of Famer. “I think it was first Porzingis missed, what, six, seven games with some back issues. Then he came back, started playing really, really well, then Luka rolled his ankle and I think he missed three or four games.”
The Mavericks have been up-and-down this season. As soon as things are trending up and they look like they’re ready to make a run, someone gets hurt.
That’s been a huge reason why the Mavs are hovering around .500 on the season.
“I just think that right when we try to hit our stride, we haven’t really been healthy,” said Nowitzki. “I think it showed if one guy of our best two is out we struggle to compete on both ends, and sometimes we lose, unfortunately games we should win. But if we’re all healthy and KP and Luka are both playing, I think we’re a very good team, so we just hopefully going forward, once Luka comes back now from his injury now, that we can stay healthy and make a good run.”
If the Mavericks can get healthy on a consistent basis, there’s no question they have the talent to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. What’s most important is being healthy throughout the playoffs, which has been an issue in the past few seasons.
The Remainder of the Season
Roughly a third of the way through the 2021-22 season, there’s still plenty of time to turn things around in Dallas. Additionally, the Mavs aren’t the only team in the West that have gotten off to a slow start.
Despite their underperforming record, the Mavericks are still firmly in the playoff picture at this point. With just one or two winning streaks over the next few months, they’ll be right back near the top of the Western Conference standings where they were initially projected to be.
To Nowitzki, it’s not time to panic with how long the season is.
“The good thing is it’s still early in December,” said the former Maverick. “There’s lots of basketball to be played still, so we’re hoping that we’re going to have a good run, but a good season always has ups and downs, so hopefully we’re over the worst and we can look forward and have a good run here going into the new year.”
Dallas has a roster that could make a splash in the playoffs. In the past two postseasons, the Mavs have nearly knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. If they’re able to get healthy, they’ll be in a second tier within the conference that will be a tough out in the playoffs.
“Our goal has always been, of course, make the Playoffs, hopefully get home-court advantage in the first round, which will be tough to do in a tough Western Conference. But we’ll see how the rest of this season unfolds, but like I said, if we stay healthy and we start shooting the ball a little bit better”
The goal for the Mavericks is to make the playoffs, and get out of the first round at minimum. With a new head coach at the helm in Jason Kidd, growing pains were expected. However, they’re to the point in the season where the roster should start to mesh and a new coach can no longer be an excuse.
If the Mavs can start hitting shots at the rate they know they can and get healthy, don’t be surprised to see them start to climb the standings.