Culture of Hoops

Flashes of Light: Dallas Mavericks Coruscate in Home Opener

Fragments of the Dallas Mavericks’ opening day loss against the San Antonio Spurs still festered and rotted on the lips of the Dallas media circuit. The ghost of the loss followed the team back from the AT&T Center and sharply haunted the quiet floorboards of the American Airlines Center. Those pesky apparitions were quickly hunted down by Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle during Thursday morning’s pregame shoot around. “That game’s over with,” Carlisle said, sharply cutting off a journalist’s question regarding the loss. “We’re looking forward to tonight.”

Despite the lingering shadow, the mood that morning was humming with energy. Just the day prior, the Mavericks announced that they had signed guard J.J. Barea, a former Dallas player and fan favorite. As the players started to recede from the court after the shootaround, the media flooded in and mobbed the six-foot player who helped bring a championship to Dallas in 2011. The always jubilant and easygoing Dirk Nowitzki smiled at the press as he took off to the locker room. “J.J. is back! Telemundo is here!” the big guy playfully said as he skipped past reporters, leaving them to feast on his teammate.

While the rest of the NBA was hiding up LeBron James’ crack and motoring his every blink, the city of Dallas burst with excited roars as they welcomed Barea back that Thursday evening when he lightly jogged out onto the court during player introductions. LeBron who now? The roars grew louder as Tyson Chandler, another wayward Maverick, took to the court. The cries turned blaring when Dallas newcomer Chandler Parsons ran out. And finally, the fans ripped the roof off the house when their beloved Dirk emerged. Those same fans, who probably were thinking about consuming Drano cocktails after the loss to the Spurs during last season’s playoffs, showed nothing but utter glee. If the fans could run in slow motion on a beach set to the music of Air Supply to their impassioned Mavs, they freaking would. This is a brand new year. This is a brand new feeling. This is a brand new team.

Well, sorta.

There were only two familiar faces in the starting lineup from the 2013-14 gang, one in the form of a looming Dirk and the other a nimble Monta Ellis, while the rest of the lineup was composed of newbies (Jameer Nelson, Parsons) and one former Maverick (Chandler). And with that famous Nowitzki one-legged fade, the 2014-15 class opened up on the visiting Utah Jazz (0-1). The Mavericks came out of the gate locked and loaded as they led 11-6 in the first five minutes of the game, leaving the Jazz players scratching their heads, lost in awe at the confidence projected by the explosive home team. The Mavericks’ first miss actually came at the 6:49 mark when a Parsons three rimmed out. It was beginning to look like a snuff film was being shot on the court as Dallas Mavericks massacred the Jazz, leaving only bits of their imploding opponents on the ceiling of the arena as they waltzed into the second quarter leading 36-20. So … much … blood …

With nine minutes left in the first half, the Mavs were shooing 60 percent from the field and led Utah 43-24. The Jazz attempted to chip away at their opponents with little-to-no avail and left viewers wondering if they even had a pulse to work with as the Mavs offense continued to shred them, now leading 62-35 with three minutes left. By the close of the quarter, Dirk, Monta, Chandler, and Tyson had a combined 44 points, while the entire Jazz team had only 44. Dallas headed into the locker room with a 25-point lead, 69-44.

That’s when a tiny cat nap took place.

The Mavs started committing more turnovers in the third and looked somewhat sluggish as the Jazz crept within 15 points toward the end of the quarter. But Carlisle wasn’t worried, and calmly rotated his players. After three, Dallas was still resting on top, leading 93-73. Brandan Wright was all over the board in the last 12 minutes and put up 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, demonstrating the extreme, and often fatal, depth of this particular Mavericks bench. By the time the Jazz succumbed to their injuries, falling 102-120, Dallas was on a serendipitous high. Dirk and Parsons led the pack with 21 points apiece, while Al-Farouq Aminu set fire off the bench with 16 points. Derrick Favors topped out at 17 points and 11 rebounds for Utah.

“I’ve got to get my mind back to where it was,” Barea, who only scored four points, hummed to the press following his first win back as a Mav. “Every game here is serious and we’re trying to win every game and we’ve got the team to be in every game so yeah, I just got to get used to the pace again. The pace was crazy tonight—up and down—so I’ve got to get back to everything.”

“I thought he played well for a guy who just basically showed up today,” Carlisle said of Barea’s performance. “We are fortunate to get him back. And with this roster, we have so many guys who can contribute and we are uncertain exactly when everybody is going to play. But, he certainly showed tonight that he is a guy that is ready to go.”

If the season is any reflection of this first home game, it’s going to be a very splendid NBA season in Big D … but not for the American Airlines Center’s grounds crew, who are still probably mopping up all that Jazz blood as I type this.

Dallas heads east to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.

Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

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