They’ve talked about it privately for quite some time.
Now the elephant in the room has finally arrived.
Starting with Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks will open a five-game homestand that involves four of the toughest teams in the NBA.
Tip-off against LeBron James and the Cavs is at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
After dealing with James and crew, the Mavs will host Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, and then Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 16.
That will be followed by the lone breather on the schedule, a March 18 encounter with the Orlando Magic. From there it’s back to the grind as the Mavs close the longest homestand of the season with a March 20 game against Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Besides the Mavs (41-24), there are only seven teams that have won at least 40 games in the NBA this season. Three of those teams, the Cavs (40-25), Clippers (40-23) and Grizzlies (44-18), will be playing the Mavs over the next 11 days.
Another team, the 35-28 Thunder, would probably have at least 40 wins by now if not for the foot injury to the league’s reigning MVP, Kevin Durant.
With the playoffs set to start in a little more than a month, this homestand will tell a lot about the Mavs.
Following Sunday’s 100-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, forward Dirk Nowitzki said: “You don’t ever want to look too far ahead on the schedule; I never do. But we obviously know that our schedule is a beast going towards the playoffs.
“There’s one powerhouse after the next.”
Which is why, following a pair of offensive meltdown losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors, Nowitzki said the Mavs were in “a must-win” situation against the Lakers.
“This is definitely one we needed to have, especially after we just lost two in a row,” Nowitzki said, referring to the win over the Lakers. “We didn’t want to go in this home stretch with all these good teams coming in on a three-game losing streak.
“So it was important that we grinded this one out there in the fourth.”
To be frank, it’s not just this five-game homestand that concerns owner Mark Cuban. After this homestand, the Mavs still have two games remaining apiece against San Antonio and Phoenix, and single games against Golden State, Houston, Portland, Oklahoma City and Indiana.
“There’s no time off at all,” Cuban said. “So we’re going to have to step up our game, and that’ll be good preparation for the playoffs.
“It’ll get us in that state of mind, because in essence our playoffs start Tuesday because it’ll be brutal the rest of the way.”
Tyson Chandler was answering a question about the way the Mavs were battered considerably on the backboards during this recent three-game road trip when a teammate standing nearby chimed in with an interesting comment.
Chandler, who has been battling a left hip flexor, said of the rebounding deficiencies: “I think that also has a lot to do with me being banged up. Right now I’m not moving well and I’m not jumping well, so a lot of the loose rebounds that I normally get, I’m not getting.”
At that moment, 36-year old Dirk Nowitzki interrupted and said: “So now he knows how it is to play with no jumping or no lateral movement.”
▪ The Mavs will show a video tribute during Tuesday night’s game in honor of Cleveland forward Shawn Marion, who played for Dallas from 2009-14 and helped them win the 2011 NBA title.
▪ Guard Devin Harris (bruised right hand) is listed as day-to-day. He’s missed the past two games with the injury.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760