As training camp is set to start, Mavs will be different this season

When he thinks about how he helped the Dallas Mavericks reach the Western Conference Finals last season, there’s one thingchild that jumps off the table at coach Jason Kidd as he nears the 2022-23 season.

The Mavs are different. How much difference remains to be seen.

Gone is guard Jalen Brunson, who left the Mavs after four seasons and signed a very lucrative four-year, $104 million deal as a free agent with the New York Knicks during the offseason. But the Mavs, struggling with all sorts of problems bouncing the ball and protecting the rim, addressed those needs by acquiring centers JaVale McGee (70, 270) and Christian Wood (6-9, 214) in the summer.

The Mavs also added a pair of top-flight rookie guards in Jaden Hardy and Tyler Dorsey. All of this prompted Kidd to tell on Sunday:

“I think it will be a different team. This will be a different season so we’ll see what we have. I’ve always talked about Christmas being when you kind of know what you have and who you are, so hopefully we’ll know who we are by Christmas.”

The Mavs ended last season with the fifth-best record in the entire NBA and the fourth-best record in the West, 52-30. They then went on to defeat the Utah Jazz in six games in the first round of the playoffs and subsequently upset the top-ranked Phoenix Suns in the conference semifinals in seven games, including winning Game 7 in Phoenix in overwhelming fashion, 123-90.

Eventual NBA champions Golden State Warriors beat the Mavs in five games in the conference finals. However, last season was one Ja Vale McGeeSuccess considering no forecaster let them reach the conference finals for the first time since 2011.

“I think it’s huge,” Kidd said, referring to the Mavs’ performance in last season’s Conference Finals. “It’s huge for us to get there.

“It’s a great experience and we understand what it takes to get (to the NBA Finals) and then we fell short too. So there are a lot of things we can learn from this.”

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What the Mavs have learned is they need to rebound at a much more competent rate and protect the rim better. The Mavs finished 24thth in the league in rebounds last season at 43 per game, and their lack of work on the boards became a huge thorn in their side.

That’s largely why the Mavs reached and bought Wood in a trade with the Houston Rockets and also signed McGee through free agency.

Wood averaged 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Rockets last season, shooting 50.1 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range. McGee, meanwhile, won NBA titles with the Warriors in 2017-18 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, averaging 9.2 points and 6.7 rebounds and shooting a robust 62.9 percent from the field while he was in the last season only 15.8 minutes per game played for Phoenix.

“Look at McGee and what he’s doing, he’s a three-time champion so not only can he help us on the court but as a veteran,” Kidd said. “And then if you look at C-Wood and what he’s doing offensively and defensively, he can help us.

“As such, we’re excited to have these two as part of the Mavs’ family.” For us it’s about figuring out what we have and then getting to our strengths and again we have to defend.”

With media day scheduled for Monday and training camp starting Tuesday, the Mavs also need to figure out how to get superstar point guard Luka Doncic some much-needed rest. A three-time All-Star, Doncic played a lot of basketball for his native Slovenia last summer.Luka in the WCF close-out game.

In fact, Doncic was still playing basketball less than two weeks ago when Poland upset Slovenia 90-87 in the EuroBasket quarterfinals on September 15.

Kidd said he will speak to Doncic Monday morning to decide how they want to proceed ahead of the preseason opener on Oct. 5 against Oklahoma City and certainly before the regular season opener on Oct. 19 in Phoenix to give him some peace of mind To provide.

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“We’re going to come up with a plan of what he wants to do and then we’re going to go from there,” Kidd said. “And it will be fluid where we switch at some point.

“But I think the most important thing is that we will communicate early and talk about how it looks.”

However, Kidd knows the benefit of having Doncic still playing competitive basketball less than two weeks ago is that there won’t be any screams about him being out of shape in training camp like there was last season.

“He’s definitely on form,” Kidd said. “We don’t have to answer that question or worry about it.

“It’s just a question of how the training camp is used for him, especially if he’s playing a lot this summer.”

Additionally, the Mavs need to find a way to recoup the loss of Brunson, who averaged 32 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists as Dallas beat the Jazz 2-1 in the first three games of the playoff series , while Doncic did not breastfeed a strained left calf.

“You can’t get over[the loss of Brunson],” Kidd said. “First of all, you have to be thankful we had him last year and enjoy the success he helped the Mavs.

Spencer Dinwiddie goes to work.“We wish him the best of luck in New York, but we can’t replace him. We have to do it in committee because he brought so much to the table, not just on the pitch but off the pitch too.

That committee, replacing Brunson, will largely fall on the lofty shoulders of Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. In 23 games with the Mavs last year — including seven starts — following a season trade with the Washington Wizards, Dinwiddie averaged 15.8 points and 3.9 assists and shot 49.8 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent from behind the three-point strip.

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Meanwhile, Hardaway will return after undergoing season-ending surgery on February 1 to treat a fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. In 42 games — including 20 starts — before his injury, Hardaway was averaging 14.2 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Hardy and Dorsey are also hoping to gain some playing time in backcourt.

Hardy said: “I just want to come in and show the guys what I can do, show the team what I can do and just come in and just try to help the team get back to being competitors.”

After graduating from high school in suburban Las Vegas, Hardy averaged 17.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists while playing last seasonhardy for Ignite of the NBA G League.

“It was definitely a good year and learning experience playing in the G League from high school and making the leap to the professional level,” said Hardy. “But when I come in I feel like I’ve done a great job.

“The coaches helped me, the staff helped me, the players helped me. So I felt like it was a good experience and will help me in the long run.”

Kidd has seen enough of Hardy on film and in Summer League to know he can help the Mavs this season.

“Hardy’s a freshman and he’ll be able to get some (playing) time,” Kidd said. “The most important thing is that we don’t put him in a situation where he can’t be successful.”

As far as his team succeeds in his second season as manager of the Mavs, Kidd is prepared for the adjustments he’ll have to make with so many new faces on the roster.

“I’m ready,” he said. “If you look at the squad it’s different so I want to keep working to have that championship team.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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