The Dallas Mavericks thought Luka Doncic could be back to play the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.

However, due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Doncic’s return from left ankle soreness is delayed. He entered protocols on Wednesday after being on the bench against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, joining five other Mavericks who can’t play because of the NBA’s current COVID-19 outbreak.

Dallas’ official total of players in health and safety protocols sits at six, adding insult to what has been a disappointing first 30 games of the season.

So, what’s next? 

Just when daybreak felt like it was peering over the valley of darkness that has been Dallas’ season, the organization is dealt another blow.

Currently, Dallas sits at 15-15 and looks like a team closer to the NBA Draft lottery than playoff contention. The Mavericks sit 20th in the league in offensive rating (108.5) and 25th in 3-point field goal percentage (32.7).

Without Doncic returning anytime soon, those numbers may not be getting better.

Yes, Dallas signed replacement players in Marquese Chriss, George King, Carlik Jones, Brandon Knight, and Theo Pinson. And though those players may be good in their own right, their production is not close to what Doncic brings to the game.

Meaning, things in Dallas may get worse — far worse — before they get better. Replacement players are just that, replacement players. And though the COVID-19 outbreak is league-wide, Dallas is already behind the eight-ball with its numerous injuries and lackluster performance.

Jason Kidd will have a tall task getting the most out of a roster full of replacement players. However, how confident can you be when Kidd has struggled to get the most out of the actual players on the roster?

The cliche saying goes, the darkest moments are always just before dawn. For Dallas, it can’t get much worse than this.

Related Dallas Mavericks reading: 

“Payback! Mavericks teal a win against Minnesota.” 

“Hardaway Jr. could be the answer to Dallas’ offensive struggles.” 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.