They advanced to last season’s Western Conference Finals. And by all accounts, this year’s team is better than last year’s, mainly because of the offseason acquisitions of veteran centers JaVale McGee and Christian Wood, along with rookie guard Jaden Hardy.
But from where the Dallas Mavericks sit, the NBA’s so-called experts haven’t shown them any love, because they somehow apparently don’t’ think they have the tools to get as far as they climbed last season. Why the lack of respect?
“I don’t know,” forward Dorian Finney-Smith said after Monday’s practice. “I just work here. But we don’t pay attention to it.
“It’s a long season, it’s going to be a journey. It’s going to be an up and down year regardless of what we expect.”
In advancing to last season’s conference finals, the Mavs posted the fifth-best record in the entire NBA at 52-30. Plus, they have arguably the most dominant player in the world in point guard Luka Doncic, who is the odds-on favorite to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award.
So, why the obvious snub from the experts, who have the Mavs finishing between sixth and eighth out West?
“It’s the same thing as last year,” Finney-Smith said. “I still don’t feel like we get the respect that we should.
“I like being the underdog — even though I feel like people in the league know we’re not anything to mess with. I think they know we’re talented and they’re going to come to Dallas trying to beat us.”
Coach Jason Kidd took a light-hearted approach about this season’s surprising prediction for his team from the national media.
“I don’t think we’ve talked any about the standings,” he said. “I think we’re just worried about ourselves of making sure that we’re prepared and ready to go. Everybody has early predictions, and I don’t know if anybody has us going to the Western Conference Finals last year, so we’ll see.
“(Finishing) sixth and eighth? That’s better than nine and 10, so we’ll see what happens.”
The Mavs open the regular season Wednesday at 9 p.m. CT in Phoenix against the Suns, and will follow that up with their home opener on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT against the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s a Suns’ team that posted the best record in the entire NBA last season at 64-18, but were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Mavs, including a very embarrassing 123-90 loss at home in the decisive Game 7 of that series.
“We’ve got a new team, they’ve got a new team as well, so it’s a new year,” Finney-Smith said. “Obviously we had a tough battle in the last playoffs last year, but it’s a new season.
“We’re going to be excited to play and I bet they’re going to be excited, too. I expect that they’ll come out ready to fight and we’re going to do the same.”
Kidd doesn’t exactly believe the Suns will have some added incentives Wednesday because of what transpired the last time they met the Mavs.
“I don’t know if it’s extra incentive, but it’s one of 82 and sometimes as the season goes on we can’t remember who we opened up with,” he said. “Our job is to try to find a way to win the game on the road and again, understand we’re a different team than last year. So, we still are learning each other.
“They’re a very good team — well coached. We understand where we’re going and what we’re walking into. It’s Game 1. We understand that they will be ready. But we’ll be ready, it’s on the road and we’ll see what happens.”
According to Finney-Smith, the Mavs are looking forward to the prospects of proving the naysayers wrong for the second year in a row.
“When we get to beat everybody’s expectations,” he said, “that feels good – proving people wrong.”
With the Mavs surrounding Doncic with terrific perimeter shooters such as Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr, Maxi Kleber, Wood and Finney-Smith, management is excited about the prospects of this season.
“He’s a top three guy in the league,” Finney-Smith said, referring to Doncic. “I feel like he’s No. 1.
“When he’s on one defensively, he’s probably the best player in the world. But like I said, I just work here.”
And by working for the Mavs, Finney-Smith is not shy about analyzing this team and expressing its strengths.
“We’ve got a great team,” he said. “We’ve got amazing talent. It could be anybody’s night. We know what Luka is going to give us, but it could be anybody’s night besides Luka.
“Tim can fill it up, Spencer can fill it up, C-Wood can fill it up, and me and Reggie, we’re just going to get our open shots when we can get them.”
That’s the plan headed into the season opener.
“We’re a deep team,” Finney-Smith said. “Ten or 11 deep.
Kidd acknowledged the presence of the defending world champion Golden State Warriors as major factors out West, and added that the Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves should be much improved. But for the Mavs to reach the conference finals last season and hardly get mentioned this season after improving their roster is a bitter pill for the players and coaching staff to swallow.
“It happens,” Kidd said. “The West has gotten better for sure, and we have to understand that.
“For us we have to take care of ourselves and make sure that we’re executing the game plan and go from there.”
And the Mavs will “go from there” with a chip on their shoulders.
“We’re playing with a little chip on our shoulders because we were a top four team last year and we feel like everybody forgot that quick,” Finney-Smith said. “But it is what it is.
“It’s a new season and I’m excited. I’m just excited and ready to compete. I feel like the whole NBA – everybody – has gotten a little better this year.”
The Mavs just want a little respect because they feel they’re one of the teams that have gotten a little better this year.
Hardy averaged 17.7 points for the NBA G League Ignite last season – just one year out of high school – and has the capacity to take over a game from an offensive standpoint. He also has impressed the Mavs with his work ethics.
“Obviously, we’re two different players,” Finney-Smith said. “I just try to tell him, ‘Defense is going to get you on the court.’
“We know he can fill it up, but we’ve got Luka (Doncic), ‘So, we don’t really need you to fill it up that much. So, for you to get on the court you’re going to have to change the game. And that could be with your energy and stuff you can control, like your defense.’
Hardy took Finney-Smith’s message to heart.
“We know he can score, we know he can get in the paint, we know he’s a young talent,” Finney-Smith said. “So if he builds trust on the defensive end, it’s easy for him to get in the game.”
BRIEFLY: Now that training camp is over and the season opener is a mere two days away, forward Dorian Finney-Smith said: “We had a great summer and a great training camp and I feel like guys are tired of playing against each other. We’re ready to see some new faces and compete against somebody else.” Coach Jason Kidd added that: “I think the guys had a great training camp, had a good practice today, so I think we’re ready to go.”. .Guard Facundo Campazzo (5-10, 195) is expected to fill the Mavs’ final roster spot. “He’s walking around, so we’ll see what’s happening,” Kidd said. “I think he’s meeting with the physicals and stuff. Hopefully we’ll have something tomorrow.” Campazzo, 31, was a teammate of Luka Doncic’s when Real Madrid captured the EuroLeague championship in 2018, and he also played the last two seasons for the Denver Nuggets. . .The Mavs were 2-1 in preseason play. Was that enough games to get them sharp and ready for the regular season opener? “I feel like nobody is really prepared until about the first week,” Finney-Smith said. “So regardless of how many preseason games you play, I feel like everybody is still trying to find their rhythm. I rather have more (preseason games), but like I said, I get tired of talking trash to my teammates. I want to talk to somebody else sometimes.”. .Coaches from Texas A%M were on hand attending Monday’s practice, as guests of coach Jason Kidd. . .On what the Mavs can anticipate from centers JaVale McGee and Christian Wood this season, Finney-Smith said: “They give us an inside presence, offensive rebounds and help with the defensive rebounds. C-Wood can score in the paint, he’s got versatility and he can also guard multiple positions. We also got a rim protector with McGee.”
texasstandard.news contributed to this report.