Breakdown: Will Mavs make it another 50?
The Mavs will play 19 of their first 31 games at American Airlines Center, but will be put to the test starting in February with 21 of their final 35 games coming on the road. Now, just because the early season keeps the Mavs in their cozy confines doesn't mean they'll be able to kick back and count the wins. The October-November slate is an absolute bear with the silver lining being that 10 of those first 17 games are at home. The Mavs will probably start the season without exciting guard Roddy Beaubois (broken foot), a disappointing scenario as they seek an 11th consecutive season of 50 wins and a third under coach Rick Carlisle.
Can they do it?
Here's my month-by-month look at the schedule:
October/November (17 games: 10 home, 7 away)
December (14 games: 9 home, 5 away)
Yes, the Mavs again get a nice, long stay at home, including a season-long six-game homestand from Dec. 7-17, and it would be nice to clean up on their home floor (remember how poorly the Mavs played at times at home last season), but the schedule remains awfully challenging. Dallas gets two looks at Al Jefferson in a Utah Jazz uniform, first in Salt Lake City (Dec. 3) where the Mavs struggle mightily, and then at the ACC (Dec. 11). The Mavs had a chance to pounce on Jefferson, but backed out and the Jazz made the deal with Minnesota to acquire the low-post scorer. The improved Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 13), plus the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns wrap up the six-game homestand and set up another killer end-of-the-month slate. It starts with a rugged, back-to-back pre-Christmas Florida trip at Miami (Dec. 20) and Orlando (Dec. 21). After a five-day Christmas break, things resume at home against the Toronto Raptors (Dec. 28) and then the Spurs.
January (16 games: 8 home, 8 away)
February (12 games: 3 home, 9 away)
This will be an important month for the Mavs with such a road-heavy schedule, but the real work might be going on in the club's front office. Mavs owner Mark Cuban has made it no secret that the Mavs will be looking to strike big at the February trade line. There will be several players under expiring contracts who will be wondering if they're staying or going, including Caron Butler, who was acquired at last season's deadline, and newly acquired center Tyson Chandler. On the floor, only half of the 12 games are against playoff teams. The notable exception is a home game against the new-look and considerably downgraded Cleveland Cavaliers (Feb. 7). Of course, a road trip to Houston (Feb. 12) is a fair replacement -- assuming full health -- as a playoff-caliber opponent that wasn't a year ago. A three-game road trip starts the month at Madison Square Garden against Amare Stoudemire and the re-made New York Knicks, then onto Boston and Charlotte. Despite the rough road schedule, this has to be a month where the Mavs make up ground heading into a brutal month of March.
March (16 games, 7 home, 9 away)
April (7 games: 4 home, 3 away)
Dallas can finish strong with four of their final five games at home. They start the month with one final back-to-back at Golden State and Portland (April 2-3) and play a final road game at Houston (April 11). The final home stretch includes Denver, the Clippers, Phoenix and New Orleans to wraup up the regular season on April 13.
Yes, the Mavs will make it 11 consecutive seasons with 50 wins -- but with little margin for error.
My final prediction: 52-30.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.