Despite the wandering anxiousness that muddles about during the NBA preseason in the days before regular season tipoff, there’s a stubbornly disobedient coolness that counteracts the anxiety, a coolness that can’t be described with words – only in action. The media sleepily stood in random groups in the corridor of the event floor of American Airlines Center on Monday afternoon, waiting for the Dallas Mavericks to emerge from their morning shootaround, casually bantering about the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the New York Giants that played out the day before, when OH MY GOD IT’S VINCE CARTER! The former Dallas shooting guard, who left the great state of Texas to sign with the Memphis Grizzlies during the summer, strolled over to greet the familiar faces of the Dallas/Fort Worth press he had come to know through the years. It was light and mirthful.
That same light feeling rolled over as the Mavericks, a team that defines the word “coolness”, emerged from the main court in a somewhat slightly soporific haze. They were collect and breezy as they greeted the press, either with a random fist bump or head pat, as they made their way into the locker room, acting more like happy schoolmates than star basketball players. It was Jameer Nelson who took to the mic, preparing to answer some serious questions.
And then teammate Devin Harris happened.
This is just one example of the playful nature of the Mavericks locker room, a playfulness that transforms on the court during game time. In Monday night’s preseason 108-103 win over Carter’s new team, all of the Mavericks starters (Nelson, Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Monta Ellis) all scored double digits, with Ellis and Chandler leading the way with 14 points. Their diabolical bench wouldn’t be denied either, with Richard Jefferson’s 13 points and Al-Farouq Aminu’s 12. Quincy Pondexter led for the Grizzlies with his 18 points, followed by Marc Gasol’s 17.
Dallas put on a strong performance in the first by drawing first blood with their seven points out of the gate. Minutes into the game, Carter showed off that he still “got it” after he leaped up to deny Nowitzki’s attack on the rim, and swatted away the ball.
It was Carter who would tie the game up 27-27 after he nailed a free throw with 32 seconds left on the clock. It would be the Mavericks, however, who would head into the locker room at the half with a 57-44 lead.
The Grizzlies decided to come out swinging at the start of the second half and pulled within 62-55 – which meant balls since the Mavericks would lead by 19 points going into the fourth quarter after Memphis wandered around the court looking like they overdosed on Nyquil. Despite attempting to get back in the game during the last quarter, Memphis would end up falling to the Mavs.
Head coach Rick Carlisle commented on his starting line after the game. “So far things are going the right way,” he said. “We have a quick week here because it’s busy and there is a lot going on and we have a back to back.”
Dallas heads to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Thursday night.