By Dorothy J. Gentry
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the last two NBA teams to play a game before the League shut down as the Coronavirus pandemic began its nationwide spread.
In fact, it was midway through the third quarter of the Mavs game against the Denver Nuggets on March 11th when word came down that the season was being suspended.
Now, four months later, the Mavericks are preparing to resume their season and play basketball once more.
The NBA has finalized a comprehensive plan for a July 30th restart to the 2019-20 season including “stringent health and safety protocols” at The Arena at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Opening night matchups will feature the Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Clippers vs. the LA Lakers. The Mavericks tip of their eight-game NBA restart schedule facing in-state rival the Houston Rockets on July 31st at 8 pm on ESPN.
“This is certainly a new situation,” said Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlisle during a Zoom call with local media. “Never before have we gone through something like this in the NBA. Some people may look at it with trepidation. I look at it with excitement.”
Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson agreed. “This is something we never navigated before. It’s difficult and unprecedented. We are relying on the info we are getting from the league,” he said. “It’s not risk-free but there is an optimism and excitement about getting to Orlando and getting the Mavs machine revved up again,” Nelson said.
Dallas went into the NBA hiatus with a record of 40-27 (.597) and currently sits in seventh place in the Western Conference entering the restart.
Following their matchup with the Rockets, the Mavericks will face the Phoenix Suns (Sunday, Aug. 2, 8 pm CST), Sacramento Kings (Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1:30 pm CST), the LA Clippers (Thursday, Aug. 6, at 5:30 pm CST), Milwaukee Bucks (Saturday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 pm), Utah Jazz (Monday, Aug. 10 at 2 pm), Portland Trail Blazers (Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 4 pm) and the Phoenix Suns again (Thursday, Aug. 13, Time TBD)
Fox Sports Southwest will carry all eight of the Mavericks’ seeding games with Mark Followill, Derek Harper and Jeff “Skin” Wade calling the action remotely from their studio in Las Colinas, Texas.
In addition to the matchup with Houston, ESPN will also televise the Mavericks’ game against Milwaukee. TNT will air their game with the Clippers and NBA TV will show the team’s game against Utah.
Locally, ESPN 103.3 FM will air all eight Mavericks games with Voice of the Mavs Chuck Cooperstein as well as Brad Davis broadcasting from the Mavericks locker room at American Airlines Center. Victor Villalba will provide the play-by-play in Spanish on 1270 AM from the Univision Deportes studio.
On the media call, Nelson said “to my knowledge,” no member of the Mavs organization has tested positive for Coronavirus. On June 26th, the League announced that 16 NBA players tested positive for the Coronavirus of a total of 302 players tested. That number has since increased. All involved are aware of the growing COVID-19 spike in several states, most notably Florida, but feel they are prepared. Players will be tested daily, at least to start NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
Currently the Mavs are testing every other day, Carlisle said. “We’ll get on the plane in a week and we’ll go down to a situation that no one’s ever been in before,” he added. “Again, I view it as a very positive thing and a very exciting opportunity, and we will approach it that way.”
Despite their excitement to return to playing, the overall health of the Dallas Mavericks team is most important, Nelson said.
“Nothing is more important than staying COVID-free. Teams that stay healthy will have the best chance of going on a deep run and that is 100 percent the most important thing that our medical team is being meticulous about right now,” he said.