After rare workout, Mavericks get back to work knowing they ‘have accomplished nothing’
With a look of pure joy on his face that could be seen even with the mask on, Jason Kidd proudly made the announcement on Saturday.
“First training of the year, 2022, on the 22ndn/a (of January),” he said.
Due to COVID-19, injuries, a busy game streak and whatever else fate has in store for them, the Mavericks hadn’t had a full-fledged practice on a non-game day for much of the past. month.
They had that long-awaited first practice on Saturday. Everyone participated except Sterling Brown (left foot), who will miss Sunday night’s meeting with Memphis (6:30 p.m. warning).
But Luka Dončić shrugged off all lingering issues from the neck injury he suffered Thursday against Phoenix and went through all of training, with everyone.
“Today was a good day because finally we had everyone and we trained well,” said Maxi Kleber. “We haven’t had one for a long time. Competitiveness was really good.
And professional too. Both Kleber and Kidd said the Mavericks, having won 11 of their last 13 games, are doing a good job of staying grounded as they climbed the Western Conference standings. It’s not an easy thing to do, but now is definitely not the time to celebrate.
“It’s still a long season,” Kleber said. “So there’s really no time to celebrate anything right now. We haven’t accomplished anything. We’ve had a pretty slow start to the season, so now we’re racking up some wins. But we still have so much to understand.
Kidd said this team was not one to celebrate. Just like they weren’t the kind of group to worry about falling below .500 at 16-18 just a month ago. Winning 10 of their last 12 should also be treated professionally.
“Speaking of storms or (when) things are not going well, this team has always had good character, good rebound,” he said. “There was no panic when things weren’t going well for us early on offense or defense. We stayed together and tried to work out some of the things we had trouble with.
“We win games. It always helps with aches and pains. But I think this team has always been professional. . . no matter if we win 2 in a row or 10 in a row or lose two in a row, these guys always came back the next day to try and improve.
Curbing turnover: For long stretches this season, the Mavericks have been the best team in the NBA to retain the basketball.
But their per-game turnovers soared to 12.6 after receiving 35 giveaways in the past two games, including 19 against Phoenix on Thursday.
Dončić had eight and Jalen Brunson had six.
“We’re not freaking out about it,” Kidd said. “But when our backcourt has 14 turnovers, it’s going to be tough to win. These guys know it.
Kidd considers this an aberration. Since inserting Brunson into the backcourt starting lineup with Dončić, he has gotten everything he could have hoped for from this duo.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t tackle problems before they become habits.
In Saturday’s training, they had a drill designed to emphasize possession of the ball – by letting it go.
“We had some drills on not dribbling,” Kidd said. “(We were) using the pass, not holding the ball, and that was good.”
Oddly enough, when the Mavericks have their best ball movement is when they also have some of their lowest spin plays.
Recognition of Memphis: They had won 11 straight games before the Mavericks won in Memphis on Jan. 14. Since then, the Grizzlies are 2-2, but are still third in the Western Conference at 32-16.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league, if not the best,” Kidd said. “The last game (in Memphis) is a thing of the past. They’re as good as anyone in this league. They’re trying to find a way to win on the road.
The Grizzlies are coming off a 122-118 win at Denver on Friday and are paced by Ja Morant (25.1 ppg).