With so much at stake for the Dallas Mavericks this season, they’re not about to play an unhealthy Jose Calderon in a preseason game.
Coach Rick Carlisle said it’s doubtful Calderon will play when the Mavs open preseason play against the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 tonight at American Airlines Center.
Calderon has been limited since he started suffering with a sore left hamstring in Wednesday’s practice.
The Mavs believe the injury occurred because Calderon has had a busy summer and just finished playing for his native Spain in the Euro Basket League about two weeks ago.
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“We’ve got to make sure that he’s going at the right pace here,” Carlisle said after Sunday’s practice. “We’ve got to understand that he’s been playing all summer — he was playing up until two weeks ago — wherever they were all over the world. There’s some grind to that. There’s some fatigue.”
With Devin Harris, rookie Shane Larkin and Calderon all nursing injuries, rookie Gal Mekel will likely play at lot on Monday night at point guard.
Signed to a four-year, $29 million free agent contract in July, Calderon is expected to be the Mavs’ opening day starter at point guard.
But the Mavs would rather have him ready and healthy when they open the regular season at home on Oct. 30 against the Atlanta Hawks than have him aggravating the hamstring in a preseason game.
“We’ll need him on the 30th — that’s when we need him,” Carlisle said. “But we’ve got to get him involved, but not at any kind of risk level that doesn’t make sense.”
Ever the optimist, owner Mark Cuban believes this year’s Mavs team has some of the same characteristics as the squad that won the 2011 NBA title.
“The willingness to move the ball — I think that made a huge difference in ,” Cuban said. “We pushed the ball to the open passer as opposed to just putting it on the floor, and I think you see a lot of the same similarities here. And I think that’s what fits well with Rick’s offense.”
While there are no members of the media picking the Mavs to win this season’s NBA championship, Cuban knows none of them picked Dallas to win it all in 2011, either.
Cuban also noted that of the eight Western Conference teams that advanced to the playoffs last year, three of them — Memphis, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers — have new coaches this season.
Two more, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers, could be without injured superstars Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant, respectively, for a while.
“The year we won it was a big fight from the third position, wherever we finished, to the eighth position, there were only a few games,” Cuban said. “That’s the way it’s always been.
“[Last year] teams that went deep in the playoffs changed coaches and have injuries, so I don’t think you can take anything for granted in the West and I’m certainly not saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to have the best team in the West.’ But we’re going to play the games and see what happens.”