Considering their numerous health issues and numerous minutes restrictions, the Dallas Mavericks believe they haven’t played all that bad so far this season.
Especially after they just finished their toughest 13-game stretch of the season while saddled with a lot of injuries.
The Mavs own a respectable 13-9 record, which is good enough for the No. 4 seed in the always tough Western Conference. That high seeding comes although owner Mark Cuban said his regular starting lineup has only played an average of 12 minutes together.
“We’re right in the thick of things, and that’s all you can ask for,” Cuban said. “A better way of saying this is we have a lot of room to improve, a whole lot of room to improve.
“We can play far, far better than we have so far.”
Small forward Chandler Parsons (knee surgery) and center JaVale McGee (stress fracture in left leg) remain under minutes restrictions. Meanwhile, guard J.J. Barea has missed the last five games with a sprained right ankle, and Devin Harris hopes to play Wednesday night when the Mavs host the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Center after he missed Monday’s 104-97 win over the New York Knicks with bruised ribs.
I think we’re getting there, but now the challenge is ... getting regular lineups and just getting minutes with our regular lineup, because now we’re having to play a lot of makeshift lineups to balance things out with the minutes restrictions. I think our starting lineup has played an average of 12 minutes together, and that’s not going to cut it over the course of a season.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
Cuban said he’s hopeful that all minutes restrictions will have been lifted and everyone will be healthy by the end of his month.
“I think Chandler should be freed up to go [play] back-to-backs and unlimited minutes next week or the week after,” Cuban said. “JaVale, right around the same time.
“Wesley [Matthews] is obviously past that now. Deron [Williams] is past that right now.”
Whenever all the players are healthy and the minutes restrictions are a thing of the past, the Mavs will be faced with a different set of challenges. Mainly, where will the minutes be doled out.
“I think we’re getting there, but now the challenge is once we get — particularly Chandler back for full minutes — just getting regular lineups and just getting minutes with our regular lineup, because now we’re having to play a lot of makeshift lineups to balance things out with the minutes restrictions,” Cuban said. “I think our starting lineup has played an average of 12 minutes together, and that’s not going to cut it over the course of a season.
“That’s got to get a lot better.”
The Mavs firmly believe things will get better as they get healthier. In the meantime, the flip side to the health issues is that the Mavs’ bench players are being thrown into the fire, and that could be beneficial in the long run.
“I’m encouraged that our health situation seems to be trending in the right direction even though Harris missed most of the game [Sunday against the Washington Wizards] and [Monday against the Knicks],” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s going to be OK; Barea is doing a little bit better.
“Parsons is feeling a lot better and playing better, so we’ve got to stay the course.”
The Mavericks went 4-0 vs. Eastern Conference teams during their 13-game stretch in which they went 8-5 overall. Dallas beat the 76ers, Celtics, Wizards and Knicks.
The schedule also gets a bit more manageable for the Mavs, who just completed their toughest 13-game stretch of the season, which included 10 road games. The Mavs were 8-5 in that stretch, including just 4-5 against the West.
Also, the Mavs have only played eight home games and 14 on the road. They’re 5-3 at home and 8-6 on the road.
But the Mavs know somewhere down the road, the schedule will tip in their favor. Right now, they just want to be healthy so they can put up a more fair fight.
“It’s a long process when we set out at the beginning of the year,” Carlisle said. “We knew it was going to be well into December before we were anywhere close to being fully healthy.
“We’re making strides, but we’re not there yet.”