With Dirk Nowitzki no longer leading the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room, it’s up to the team’s youth to set the standard and they plan on doing it together.
Mavs Media Day started training camp off with as much optimism and excitement as one could expect considering the team is coming off a losing season and watching its 21 yr team leader ride off into the sunset. There were smiles everywhere. Each player was really excited to show the world what they’ve been seeing in their own scrimmages prior to camp starting.
By the pure nature of “Media Day”, it is natural for fans to get overly hyped by all of the hope of a new season and the promise of better days with new and exciting players. There is always, however, a through-line that seems to unify teams at the start of a season.
For some teams, it’s getting to the playoffs. For others, its championship or bust. But for the new-look Mavericks, it’s about finding out who they are after Dirk’s departure from the franchise.
“You know, one thing that is a little scary, but also very exciting is this group of guys, led by Doncic and Porzingis, has a chance now to define what ‘Mavericks culture’ is going to be like moving forward,” said Rick Carlisle when speaking to the media from the team podium on media day.
This is notable because Rick, although in his 12th year with the team, has never known a locker room NOT led by the GOAT. Dirk was the culture master for this team before Rick got there and now that 7 ft tall void must be filled by the new-look Mavs one way or another.
With the team now sporting two primary young stars, it would seem obvious that it falls to Luka and KP to establish the NEW Maverick culture, but that might not be so easy.
For one thing, Luka is 20 yrs old. And while he is a floor general of spectacular ability, he might not be ready to be the leader of 17 men who are all older than him. And KP, while older at 24, he has only known a toxic locker room in New York that led to his somewhat inevitable departure from the Knicks. So while they might be the faces of the team, they might not be fully looked at as the glue guys to hold an entire team together.
The night before the team kicked off training camp, the team had a meeting where Coach Carlisle laid out how HE would like to see the culture come together, which he told Mark Followill and Chuck Cooperstein on the Mavs.com media day interview:
“Last night, I had a meeting with the team and the staff. And we talked about the importance of building a family feeling here…A family gets through hard times. A family has ups and downs, but they navigate through. And family functions when there is mutual respect. When there’s trust built and that there’s genuine caring…The players have to become a brotherhood.”
Carlisle went on to reiterate that this sentiment of a family is not something that is built overnight or because they had a team meeting. It is built by the relationships between the guys IN the locker room, organically, and with each teammate buying in. And when KP sat down with Mark and Coop (he had a GIANT smile on his face BTW), he said he feels like Dallas is almost European with its focus on family.
Jalen Brunson told Isaac Harris of Mavs.com that “If we are winning, I think it is because of how close we are.”
This sense of family and legacy could be all talk, but the media present that day and it’s evident in the videos that these players are energized. Not just because it’s a new season, it FEELS different to them. This team knows it has to do something special to make noise in this insanely packed western conference where superstar duos are on their schedule every other game, but they seem to be going about it differently.
The goal is to win and to make the playoffs, the same as every team, but the HOW looks to be important to this roster of players. And the show they are aiming for is to do it together.
Featured Image: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports