DALLAS – What makes the Dallas Mavericks different is something that feels so mundane.
At any given practice, you will see Mavericks players pointing out instructions to each other, laughing on the sidelines, and looking as though they genuinely enjoy playing with and for one another. That’s normal, but it’s not that normal.
In the world of professional basketball, seeing a team enjoy each other to the level Dallas did last season, and after the first two days of training camp, this season provokes a sense of optimism from players and coaches that, together, Dallas will be able to punch above its weight in the crowded Western Conference.
The team’s belief isn’t a product of coach speak. It’s genuine and based on last season’s success and this season’s blank slate without a change in the overall approach.
“From day one, we bought in,” Dallas center Dwight Powell said. “Having open channels of communication is one of the things we are very good at. Open and honest communication is key. That is what helps us be successful.”
In practice Wednesday, the Mavericks’ communication was on display. The topic of discussion wasn’t necessarily exciting, but it was necessary – screening. And according to Powell, conversations surrounding what is a good screen or a bad screen or the angle a screener takes happened often.
“There are certain things we can do to give our guys advantages,” Powell said. “From top to bottom, we got to try and find those details to improve. That is where that communication comes in. It reinforces the good things and trying to correct the bad things. And it all works toward the final goal of winning games.”
Head coach Jason Kidd embodies the notion of what works best being a statement of honesty. He laments himself as “too honest,” and to some degree, he’s right.
During media day on Monday, Kidd easily stated that he would be bringing offseason addition Christian Wood off the bench. Last season, he announced his starting five at the start of training camp. And during the 2021-22 season, he bludgeoned home his classic talking point of the team being a work in progress, “the NBA season is a marathon, not a spring,” he always said.
So, it’s only natural that, in his second season as head coach, the spirit of candidness pervasively attached itself to the Mavericks’ players.
It’s how he likes things.
“Our biggest thing is communication,” Kidd said. “We talk to everyone, from staff to players. We have a lot of guys who take listening first seriously. The communication is high because this is a good group of guys, and they want to win.”
Dallas’ effective communication factored into a moment during Tuesday’s practice that displayed what Kidd wants to see from his team. Rookie Jaden Hardy took a shot on the fast break that wasn’t the best look his team could have gotten. The veterans of the group pulled him to the side and explained why.
Hardy took the constructive criticism in stride. He listened, taking in the advice that will only make him a more efficient player down the road.
That’s what sets Dallas apart. Though the roster may not boast a second star or third primarily ball handler, the team makes up for its imperfections by talking about them. Already, that is doing more than most teams in the NBA.
Last season, transparency curated winning. Following a deep playoff run, it’s clear Dallas is trying to conjure that magic again during training camp.
“That’s the environment we have here,” Kidd said. “This is an open table. Everyone brings something to the mat that we can discuss because it might just help us win a game.”
And if you ask Powell, it all starts with simply talking.
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.