DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks got hot at the end of last season, going 7-3 over their final 10 games to earn the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
However, the Mavs, who finished 42-40, were a beaten-up club by the time their first-round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder began.
Franchise icon and former regular-season and NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki had a bruised right knee, while point guards J.J. Barea (groin), Devin Harris (thumb) and Deron Williams (sports hernia) were all ailing by the time the postseason started last spring, and the Mavs bowed out to OKC in five games.
At the time, Dallas was also missing Chandler Parsons, who underwent surgery to repair a torn right meniscus in March and was lost for the season. He signed with the Memphis Grizzles this summer as a free agent.
Earlier this week, the Mavs started training camp on the practice court at American Airlines Center with several veterans being limited in practice.
Harris is limited after having surgery to remove a bunion, while Williams is also being eased back into things after sports hernia surgery this offseason. Nowitzki, 38, heads into his 19th season in the Association after signing a two-year, $50 million contract this summer, a deal likely ensuring that the Big German finishes his Hall of Fame career in Dallas.
As Nowitzki continues edging closer to 40, Carlisle and his staff continue to find ways to manage his workload, whether that’s his minutes during the season in games or practice time during training camp or between games.
Dirk is excited about the offseason addition of Andrew Bogut, who was acquired in a July trade with the Golden State Warriors, but after representing Australia at the Rio Summer Olympics, Bogut will also be a bit limited in camp, at least in the early stages.
“Well, we have some health things we’re continuing to work on a little bit. We got a couple guys that are going to be a little limited early in training camp. We want them to work their way into it,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said earlier this week.
“Dirk [Nowitzki] is going to do something similar to what he did last year. We’re going to be low on the contact side to start with him to start with and then he’s going to work into it. A little bit [of the same] with [Andrew] Bogut, Devin Harris had the bunion surgery, so I think for the first week he’s going to be a little limited.”
Carlisle also stated that even though Williams was limited this summer due to his sports hernia surgery, the veteran point guard should be able to practice for most of the preseason.
“He [Williams] has got to work into things a little bit,” Carlisle said. “I expect him in practice the majority of the time, but we’ll see. As far as the games go [and whether he plays or not and how much], some of it will be pre-planned, other stuff we’ll be evaluating on a day-to-day basis.”
Last season was one where two key Dallas starters in Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and the now-departed Parsons (knee) were both coming off serious surgeries the previous campaign. Both regulars played a good deal last season and made notable contributions, but there were times where it showed that neither was back to their pre-injury form.
However, Carlisle feels now that Matthews has a full season between him and that surgery to repair a torn Achilles which he sustained nearly two springs ago in Portland that Wes should really shine in a Dallas jersey.
“I know Wes is excited that he’s now well over a year removed from the injury and much of the rehab, and he’s had a terrific summer. He’s in the best shape of his life. He’s ready to go,” Carlisle said.
And Matthews said as much during a recent appearance in the Dallas community.
But the biggest wild card on the roster in terms of health remains Williams, a guy who when he can remain upright can still make big contributions. However, unfortunately for the Dallas-area native, D-Will has earned the “injury-prone” label over the past few years, a tag one of his veteran teammates hopes he can finally shed this season.
“Well, I actually think at times last year [Williams] was our best player,” Nowitzki said. “When he was healthy and he was moving well, he made big shots for us. He was actually our crunch-time player. At times, we ran big plays to him and he delivered for us there.”
Of course, that was not the case at the end of last season, when Williams spent much of his time on the sidelines and in the training room.
“It was unfortunate he got hurt and he hobbled at the end. He tried to go, but he was just not 100 percent,” Nowitzki said. “In this league, if you’re not 100 percent, it’s going to be tough. Hopefully the hernia surgery helped him out and he’s going to have a healthy year for us.”
Because if anyone knows what a healthy D-Will can do when he is 100 percent and at his most effective, it’s the former regular-season and NBA Finals MVP.
“He’s tough,” Nowitzki said of Williams. “He’s a big guard. We can post him, he can run pick-and-rolls, shot the ball well from three, he’s a very versatile point guard. Hopefully he can play injury free and have a heck of a season.”